29 September 2012

If it doesn't Challenge you, It won't Change you!

I'm not as smart as I used to be... I don't learn as fast as I used to... I don't multitask well anymore... I have trouble hearing the changes in the music... I have a high risk of seizures under stress... I'm no where near in peak condition, I'm not sure I'll ever be as strong as I was... I have soooooo many excuses and reasons not to keep trying to teach Body Pump, but I still LOVE the program and how it helped me to believe in myself and set aside the excuses I used to use.  BUT...

This battle of mine is NOT a Journey!  So many people refer to some one's battle with cancer as a Journey.  I think a journey is something that you want to do, something that will be a fun and maybe even a challenging experience.  Like college kids backpack around Europe and call that a journey of a lifetime.  Experienced climbers call making it to a peak, a worthwhile journey to the summit.  Yet, in the Old Testament, Genesis 22 when Abraham was tested by God and told to climb a mountain to sacrifice his only son, do you think he would have for even a second called any part of the climb a journey?  No.  It was a test... a trial, one that no one wants to ever face.  In the Old Testament, "trial" is a noun from the Hebrew word sara that probably means "bind, tie up, restrict".  So a trial in that case is a time in life when one is bound or restricted.  Yeah, my battle with cancer is no Journey, it's a TRIAL.  But I can tell you this, my God is not threatened by my doubt nearly as much as He is glorified by my faith.  So, knowing that I just keep praying Mark 9:24, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

I feel like it is VERY fitting that when I finally got brave enough to try to learn a new Body Pump release (I haven't even opened the last 4) that one of the instructors on the master DVD made the statement, "If it doesn't challenge you, then it won't change you."  Has being diagnosed with cancer challenged me? Yes and more importantly, it has changed me.  Sometimes I want to focus on all those negative changes in me that I listed instead of viewing them as challenges that have caused much personal grief and growth.  Some of these changes have been for the better... I'm more determined to life life intentionally.  I want to build strong relationships.  I want to seek God for my strength.  I don't grieve the time that passes as my children grow up and they change, I'm so very thankful to be witnessing and influencing them!  I've heard people say, I don't want to turn 40... I just keep praying that I will get to see 40.  God may not heal me on the terms that we selfishly and persistently pray for, but I will let him use me no matter what. 

I finally have a real reason to learn this release too because one of the morning instructors has a broken finger and asked me if I would like to team teach the new release with her next week.  I'm so excited to have some real motivation to move past all of those excuses and learn a new release with new music and new choreography!  Am I having to work harder to learn everything than I ever had to before?  Yes... but now I realize challenges aren't limits... they are opportunities to see positive changes in myself!

Body Pump 83 has my new favorite Bicep song, "Stronger [What Doesn't Kill You]" by Kelly Clarkson.  Today at launch I was just there as a participant and much to my surprise the other instructors invited me to the stage for this song.  Of the 70+ participants in that class today, only a small handful even know I am in this trial called brain cancer.  Most of them also don't even know that I'm a certified instructor.  But today, I "stood a little bit taller because" I really believe "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"

For those of you trying to keep up with my health details: 
I have an oncologist checkup with extensive bloodwork on Oct 2nd; Chemo Round 14 (of 18) starts on October 7th;  an ultrasound of my uterus on Oct 11th (chemo has my hormones confused so this is just a precaution because my periods have changed and I'm dealing with anemia); Next MRI followed by Oncologist visit on October 30th; Chemo Round 15 on November 4th.  I do weekly bloodwork and am also seeing a Physical Therapist to help with some balance issues and left side weakness that have been frustrating me.  It would be so nice to just wake up one morning and not have to think about cancer and doctors and bloodwork and all the expesnses associated with all of this.  Some days just keeping up with my household chores, all these specialist appointments, and taxi-ing the kids to and from school is daunting and I appreciate your prayers.  Lately for some reason, Wednesday evenings have been very hard on me... physically and emotionally, so if you think about me will you please pray for me. 


24 June 2012

Moments of Impact

"I have a theory...my theory is about moments, moments of impact. My theory is that these moments of impact, these flashes of high intensity that completely turn our lives upside down actually end up defining who we are." - quote by Leo from the movie, The Vow

I sat and watched The Vow with my wife (of course, the sweetheart fell asleep 1/2 way through) and all I could do was sit and cry.  I thought about the moments I spent with her these last 13 years, 7 months, and 24 days.  Some up, some down, some that have changed our lives forever.  But moments that will forever bind us together, define who we are not only as a couple, but individually.  I am not perfect.  I have made my fair share of mistakes.  But there is nothing in this world that I would not do to have my wife beside me.  To hold her close and feel the warmth that radiates from her.  And these last 4986 days have been, by far, the best of my life.  And I would not change that for the world.

I have not handled this journey well, at times.  Not at all.  There are things I am still trying to figure out.  Things that I wish would come easy, things I wish I could change.  But these moments, even the ones I mess up on, can only (eventually) make things stronger.  But what I have to focus on are the things that I can change daily, moment by moment, that can make me a better man.  A better father.  A better husband.  Most days I wake up and go to work, and I completely miss the point.  The point of this incredible life God has blessed me with.  All to often, we go about life and take for granted the lives we touch on a daily basis - heck, even our own life right in front of us!  And I for one, am saddened by my misfortune.

Another line that Leo says in the movie is actually his vows - "I vow to love you now and forever. I promise to never forget that this is once in a lifetime love. I vow to love you and no matter what challenges may carry us apart, we will always find a way back to each other."

I don't want to give up, give in, take the easy road.  Why would I want to do that?  Did Jesus take the easy way out?  Did John the Baptist or any of the other disciples for that matter take the easy way out?  So, honestly, what gives me the right to take the easy road?  Challenges come.  But fighting is harder.  Staying the course is harder.  Taking the road less traveled is harder.

I want to live my life in such a wife that my wife will fall in love with me all over again.  That is my goal for the next 5,000 days - to make the next 5,000 days even better than the last 5,000 days.  Because if I can do that, if I can live my life in such a way that the love of my life will fall MORE in love with me, than I have fulfilled my purpose in life.  And isn't that what we are all striving to do?

The next 5,000 days are going to be the best days I have ever known, for as Robert Frost once said, "two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."

Natalie's diagnosis is just a moment in a sea of moments, and I will not let that define us. Our moments range from our first childhood memory, to learning about and believing in Christ, to knowing each other, to falling in love with each other.  What does the rest of our history hold?  Dying?  What about the pieces in between love and death?  A tombstone has your birth year, a dash, and the year you die.  What matters is the dash.  And the sum of all of our moments make up that dash.  The sum of all of the moments of our lives...that is what counts.

David  ~

07 June 2012


Looking back on May, I think I can honestly say it was a fantastic month for our family.  We were able to spend time together and make some fun memories. 

Since May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month I thought I would start with an update about my brain and the tumors attacking it! 
I watched "We Bought a Zoo" with the kids.  It was very therapeutic for all 3 of us and Kirstyn is really thinking about why she has been so mean to me lately.  She seems jealous of David's time w me and his long hours at work, she just struggles to articulate the pain and fear in kindness and she's not alone in that!  Please continue to pray for my babies and us as we continue to process my cancer diagnosis!  David watched it that night when he got home from work and said he sobbed through the entire movie.  Again, I was reminded I should read more reviews and summaries before I just rent a movie to "entertain" us.

I had an MRI with contrast (that's the shorter less detailed MRI) and it showed no new tumor growth.  That is good news since what I have is expected to grow.  What my doctor explained is that since an MRI doesn't show cellular level we can't know if the cells are not dividing anymore or are just dividing much slower now.  Either way, no new evidence of new tumor growth is good news.  Hopefully the chemo will continue to shut down the blood supply to the tumor and stop the growth and then start killing it so that we can see a decrease in tumor size!  I also completed round 9 of chemo in May.  My next doctor appointment is on June 12 and I'm scheduled for round 10 of chemo to start on June 17.  My next MRI with profusion (long one with more detail) is scheduled for July 5th.  Of course all of these appointments and chemo start dates are contingent on my weekly blood work. 

The first big event in May was Mother's Day.  This year we didn't go to Arkansas like we usually do because David was working Saturday and Monday so I didn't want to make the trip alone with the kids.  We did however get to go to lunch and sit on the patio at my favorite place... Joe T Garcia's with David's mom and dad.  It was a very nice relaxing day together.
Seems like most of our BIG activities all happened during the last two weeks of May that I will from this point forward refer to as "The 2 Week Mommy Marathon"!  We had James' last week of pre-school, James' 5th Birthday (the actual one), James' 5th Birthday Party (he asked if he was 6 that day...), Memorial Day Weekend (which in the car business means David works NON STOP), Kirstyn's last week of school including 2nd Grade Awards Ceremony and End of Year Party.  Whew!  At least David and I managed to work in a date night too!

On James' actual Birthday we went as a family to Chuck E Cheese to play games.  We had a great time but the definite highlight of his Birthday was getting to take his picture with the Mario on the side of the road on the way home!  He was standing there waving at the cars because a new video game store was having a grand opening.  James started screaming... look its Mario, a big one!  I've never met a REAL Mario.  So fun that it really is the little things that kids just love! He is still talking about getting to meet Mario the very first day he was there.  We are still slowing down to wave at him on a very regular basis.  Poor Mario, it's been rather hot here already!

For James' birthday party we had a fun swimming party at the YMCA indoor pool.  The theme this year was "Where's My Water" after the iTunes game that he loves to play.  Since Disney hasn't released any products to go with the game other than the tshirt I was able to buy for him, I decided to take on the challenge and decorate his cake.  (I purchased a chocolate cake from Costco so I didn't have to bake too, just decorate!)  James loved his Swampy cake and that is all that matters!

Also, thanks to Disney, my kids have been seeing advertisements about other kids having parties with themes around giving to others.  Kirstyn is so proud that she asked for and was able to donate food to the Backpack ministry at church, but James started asking what he could do for his party that would help others.

After much discussion about what he likes, he concluded there were just too many kids that didn't have hats to wear and in his opinion that is tragic... especially kids with no hair.  So, we asked that his friends not bring him presents but bring hats for him to donate to kids with cancer so they can wear them if their hair has to fall out.  He ended up with 27 hats and $15 to spend on more hats! He is excited to take them to donate them to a Children's Oncology Unit. 
(He ended up going to Arkansas for a week after his party and this week has been in an all day camp so as soon as we have a moment we are going to deliver the hats!)

And I just liked these pictures of James (notice he even has a swimming hat!) with his cousin Bryton and this picture of me with my mom and little sister Neida.

Well, there was my May recap!  More blog posts to come very very soon!  Next up...  My ONE year celebration or a more serious one that I have had spooling in my brain for a few days now. 


04 May 2012

April Whirlwind

April 2012 has proven to be a major Whirlwind for our family for MANY reasons. 
Here in Arlington we started the month off with a major Tornado.  The 4 of us at the time of the storm were all in different locations and all in the path of destruction.  We were all a little emotional and shook up but safe and sound and that was the most important.  I waited the storm out in the walk-in at our Fuzzy's Taco shop with a good friend and several strangers that won't soon forget me.  Kirstyn was in duck and cover position at her elementary that was only a block from some very major damage.  She told me the next day, "Mommy, I know we are just supposed to pray inside our heads at school, but yesterday when the building was shaking, I was crying and praying out loud!"  James was at his pre-school where they took all the kids into the designated shelter to play games... he had no idea that there was even a storm.  David was in Dallas at a training class and his cell phone calls to me were not coming through, he just knew several tornadoes had been reported in Arlington so when we finally got in touch I already had both kids and we all made it home safe with only minor damages compared to many of our friends.  (Hail damage on our vehicles, new roof has already been put on the house, new bedroom windows, and still working on picking out new garage door... details really overwhelm me now but we are using an awesome contractor and David is taking care of everything that reguires financial decisions.) 

Our friend, Chris took these amazing pictures for our Easter Card.  I love these words to an old hymn we used to always sing in church for Easter Sunday and this year they are so true for our family!

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
and life is worth the living just because He lives!

David and I went on TWO dates.  That might be a record for one month!  We went to a Ranger game with my college roommate Angela and several of her friends and then we got to go to the Bass Hall to see the Ricky Nelson Remembered concert.  I was feeling like I had won the Date Night Lottery.

We made lots and lots of fun memories!  We went to a friend's house for a Crawfish Boil and Kirstyn had so much fun playing with her food.  James wanted nothing to do with the little critters and made it very clear that he didn't want food with eyeballs on his plate!  I enjoyed visiting with several friends from back in our college days.  David ended up at work late but there was still plenty of food when he finally made it over!  YUM!

David had his best month so far since he started selling for Sewell Infinity of Fort Worth. He was very busy and we are all very proud of his hard work... God is so good!  When he needed to deliver a car to a customer in Austin, the kids and I packed a bag and met him down there and enjoyed a Sunday of site seeing and eating!  We had so much fun touring the capitol building and visitor center.  Both of the kids have been learning Texas history in school so they were so excited to be recognizing things all over the grounds and in the buildings.  On our way home we were able to stop by and have Blue Bell Tin Roof Sundae ice cream with my Uncle Johnny.

I took Kirstyn to an event called "Spin Out Autism" and we took along friends of ours.  Kirstyn and Gracie were interviewed by Chevy Hometown Kids and should be appearing on cable on Saturday morning very soon.  We were unable to hear anything the girls were saying so I'm nervous excited to hear what all they said about why they were there Hooping and supporting a cause that helps kids with Autism.  We were all wearing blue shirts in support too!

I was asked to start teaching a regular Body Pump class at a local gym on Monday mornings at 5:30 am and if you know me, you already know that I said yes!  Prayers appreciated because I'm nervous about how that will work during my monthly chemo weeks. 

David's company had a huge summer picnic at the Texas Rangers game.  We were all given t-shirts to wear and had a great time going to the game as a family!  Kirstyn decided that our shirts needed some help to look like 'girl' shirts.  We even sprayed her down with body glitter!  I think David said there were around 3,000 employees and family members that attended the game.  It was really fun to look all around the stadium and see huge sections of seats filled with blue Sewell shirts!  We were seated in sections with each of the dealerships so our family got the opportunity to get to know the families of the people David works with every day.  Kirstyn and James both made new friends that they can't wait to see again soon!

We finished the our crazy busy fun month of April at the Gregg Pearson Invitational golf tournament and dinner.  This foundation has been an amazing support for our family since my cancer diagnosis and we will forever be grateful.  David and my Dad played on a team with two of our good friends and they had a very good time!  The kids had a blast playing in the bounce houses and Kirstyn got her face painted.  I got to meet several people that have been praying for me and mailing me encouraging cards for almost a year now.  It was so nice to put faces with these names that are so special to us.  I was also featured as one of their "Fighters In Focus" and for that I was humbled and honored.

All that in the midst of our day to day activities and I completed Round 8 of chemo.  My next oncologist visit and MRI is scheduled for May 15th.  Round 9 of chemo is scheduled to start on May 20th.  This blog actually feels very "normal"...  we are working very hard to minimize the power that the cancer has in our lives and we really appreciate all of your prayers and encouragement!


28 February 2012

Living Strong?

I have been reading Lance Armstrong's book "It's Not About the Bike".  The book is only 232 pages but it feels more like I'm working through this book rather than just reading.  I can relate so much to so many of the things that he says.  In one of his very first paragraphs he says In bike racing... "you don't fly up a hill.  You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else.  Cancer is like that, too.  Good, strong people get cancer, and they do all the right things to beat it, and they still die.  That is the essential truth that you learn.  People die.  And after you learn it, all other matters seem irrelevant.  They just seem small."

People keep telling me that they can't believe that I keep going to the gym and working out so hard.  See, I feel like I just HAVE to.  I WANT to.  I am now learning how to articulate that...

No one said anything like that to me when I was extremely obese...  then, it was "great job... keep up the hard work"... as if then it was the best for me to work out because it would help me to loose weight (it was and I needed the pushes to keep trying).  Never mind the difficulties involved when trying to exercise in a room full of 'fit' people believing that I would never look like them, be able to endure like that, be that coordinated.  I lacked the self confidence to even believe that I was capable of being better than I was in that moment.  Somehow, with lots of encouragement (and blogging), I found that self confidence.  I moved from the back of the group fitness room to the front.  I introduced myself to the instructors so that they would know my name and hopefully push me to my limits even on days when I was just in the building to use the childcare!  I got stronger, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  I dealt with fears.  I found the same girl at the gym that was smart and strong enough to excel in math and science in High School, College, and in the world of Government Defense Contracting.  I pushed myself.  I let others push me.  I found limits that I didn't know existed and pushed right past them.  I got certified to teach Body Pump and found a confidence and alter ego that was capable of pushing myself to the max while encouraging and challenging others to do the same!  I didn't stop there... I got AFAA certified so that I could teach other group fitness classes!  I was taking step classes all over Arlington and Fort Worth trying to find my favorites so that I could figure out what my specific style of step would look like and how I would challenge others! 

But that's about the time that I experienced a seizure followed by brain surgery and a cancer diagnosis.  Something Lance Armstrong describes as racing down a hill on a bike feeling accomplished for climbing that mountain, only to be smashed into a ditch by a 4x4 pickup truck!  A moment when you are grateful to be alive but just plain pissed off by such a sudden and major derailment in your training. 

But then what do you do?  You get on the bike, go home, nurse the wounds, and restart your training with new limits to push through or allow to heal.  He says even when he got so sick it was a struggle just to go on a short 30 min ride, he did anyway, because he could...  because when he was riding he felt alive and it was a perfect reminder to keep fighting and pushing.  That made so much sense to me!  Going to the gym for a class was on my schedule and a part of my life just like brushing my teeth, getting dressed, and cooking dinner.  Not always something I wanted to do, but always something that I needed to do. 

I can remember the day last summer that my doctor said it was okay for me to return to 'routine' activities and I asked her about going to the gym.  She said, sure, you can go and ride a bike or walk on the treadmill.  I made a face and said I wanted to do a Body Pump class!  (I'm pretty sure David was holding his head on by rubbing his temples, he knew what was coming, he knows how stubborn I am.)  She said she had never heard of that...  so I pulled out my iPhone and showed her a video. She showed it to her nurse and physician assistant and they all three said, "YOU did this before?  Wow.  Ouch."  I proudly said, I taught that before and want to again!  They then realized I was strong and willing to fight this disease with all that I could muster if they would just let me LIVE in the meantime.  As soon as I was able to convince my doctor, David, and my mom that I would survive the experience...  I drug myself out of the bed and into some gym clothes and talked someone into driving me to a pump class!

Last week when we saw the oncologist, I asked her how many more monthly rounds of chemo I would need to do.  I don't know why, but as we are approaching the one year mark I guess I expected some kind of change in my treatment regiment.  I was wrong.  I was caught off guard.  She said, "well this is round 6 of probably 18-24 rounds of chemo."  Wow.  I have to keep taking this stuff for another year... at least.  I was (and still am) devastated.  Here I am getting stronger in so many ways but I still have so much fighting ahead of me.  I hate "chemo week" each month.  I hate waking up for 6 days straight feeling like I have a terrible hangover... like my head is pounding as if I didn't sleep, thirsty, and nauseous.  Yet worse because the only fun I had the night before was swallowing some nasty smelling pills, having to sit up straight for an hour so that it would go down and hopefully not burn my digestive tract, and then falling asleep by 9 sometimes in a puddle of tears only to wake up knowing I have more mornings just like that one to look forward to tomorrow.  On off weeks, I have to get lots of blood work done.  Then every other month I have an MRI... sometimes a simple one that is only 30 minutes long, but other times a 2 hour MRI.  I have one of the long ones coming up on March 20.  I hate having to be so still in a tiny noisy tube for 2 long hours, but I do like that it gives my oncologist so much detailed information about this cancer that we are on a mission to kill... to remove from my body... all the while trying to keep my body strong enough to keep fighting.

At the gym, my new favorite game to play is "excuses".  I started this with my new friend Virginia.  She was about to give up.  She made some comment about her age or her knee (I honestly don't remember)... I just remember that I said, "oh, if you want to compare excuses... I'd love to play!"  She laughed and took me on.  I won!  I showed her my brain surgery scar and told her I was currently going through chemo.  She took a drink of her water and we pushed each other through the rest of that kickboxing class!  Not two weeks later in a pump class, Virginia was behind me again and another woman was beside her.  She was groaning and made a comment about being too old to finish this class, it's just too hard for a woman her age she told me... and commented that I was still young.  I told her that I love to compare excuses, did she want to play?  Virginia laughed and said, "say NO, she will win and you will be challenged..."  The other lady played anyway and lost in our game of excuse comparison.  She finished that Pump class and pushed herself right past some limits she was putting on herself.  Now they both get near me when they can... we push each other.  I don't want to be treated like I'm sick but I'm still careful!  I always make sure there is someone in the room that knows where my seizure meds are located in my bag along with where my phone is and how to contact David if needed.
I just really struggle with the extra challenges that this disease puts on the people around me.  It has added a tremendous financial burden to our budget and specifically to David. When I have "sick" days, it makes Kirstyn ask and worry that I might die during the night. When I spend an entire day at the doctor for MRIs and reports, it makes James ask if I'm going to have to go away and stay at the hospital.   In many ways, we have all had to grow up a little sooner than expected.  Our faith and love is growing stronger.  We are trying to be much more careful with our words.  I still have moments of short temper, quick words, and deep depression...  Writing helps me think it through and your responses challenge and encourage me.

I made up my mind a while ago that I was going to fight this as hard as I could while continuing to live the best I know how.  I get frustrated, I get depressed, I deal with paralyzing fear, I seek the face of Jesus, and I ask for prayer and encouragement.  I want my kids to continue to learn from me.  I want to keep challenging myself.  I want to keep learning.  See, with or without cancer, I'm still the same stubborn me! 

But I'm slowly and humbly realizing that I really am an example of LIVING STRONG.  So do me a favor, put aside what ever excuse you are currently using and try to do something that you know will be rewarding but difficult... just make sure the end result will be worth it and focus on that, because the journey there may be much more challenging than you expected!

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” - Aristotle

18 February 2012

My Chance to Share!

Last Monday for the Arlington YMCA fundraising and Livestrong program kickoff luncheon, I was asked to share a little about my cancer story and how the Y has helped me.  I was honored to be asked to speak in front of many people that I have never even met.  Many of my friends have asked how it all went...  I actually felt very good about my talk and was more than overwhelmed when I received a standing ovation at the conclusion of my talk.  For those of you that were not there, I thought I could at least share the notes that I made for myself:

(I introduced myself as a group fitness instructor and told them if I got too nervous, I would calm down if I just made them all do pushups or squats...  we got started with a little laugh and I calmed down and was ready to share.)


I’ve been overweight or obese my entire life until, after having a daughter, I made up my mind to get healthy.  I put on my facebook page that I was on a mission to be healthy through Bible Study, Clean Eating, and Exercise.
My original "life" verse:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:12-13

My Y Journey:

Jan 2011 – was recruited by Downtown Fort Worth YMCA to launch Body Pump first to the corporate offices and then to the members.  Took on only one class because I was teaching two per week at the time at Golds Gym and subbing Pump both at Golds and LOA.

Feb – Golds shut down very unexpectedly and I started working out more and more in both the Arlington and Fort Worth Y’s.  Mostly because I was looking for the best step classes to learn to be a step instructor myself. 

March – passed AFAA certification planning to teach step classes in addition to Pump and not long after that I stopped teaching pump in Fort Worth.  My kids just loved coming to this Y for kid fit and the playground.

June 1 – at probably the most physically fit time in my entire life.  I took a step class here and had my kids not been so tired I would have driven over to LOA for a late pump class.  Instead we went home and all did our normal routine.  When I woke up on the next Thursday morning I was in the Neuro ICU at Plaza medical center in downtown Fort Worth and my husband had been through hell.  I had had several seizures in my sleep, he had performed CPR while waiting on the ambulances and I had been first taken by ambulance to MCA and then transferred to Plaza. 

June 7 – the swelling in my brain had reduced enough that they were able to do brain surgery to try and remove as much of the mass they had discovered in my brain as possible.  It was determined that I had oligoastrocytoma (two kinds of brain cancer) and they were only able to remove about 30% of the cancer.

While in the hospital the Ditto PTA moms brought me a big bag of everything – from restaurant gift cards, movie gift cards, bowling, scholarships to camp Thurman, and one that was huge…. A note saying that my kids were given scholarships to any of the Arlington Y summer day camps that they wanted to attend…

After seeing my oncologist in Dallas we determined that I would begin an intense 6 weeks of both chemo and radiation to try to slow the aggressiveness of my cancer.  I began that on July 18th.  See, no one tells you that when you are diagnosed with cancer, you also need to win the lottery.  Pharmacy bills start to look more like car payments and are then stacked on top of paying for weekly blood work, monthly MRIs and oncologist visits, and on and on…  At the end of July and August my kids attended 3 Y summer day camps at NO COST to us and loved every minute.  It was something I would never have asked or applied for but it was such a huge blessing because it allowed me to rest without those little worried eyes glued to my every move.  Since that 6 weeks of treatment I have continued to do one week of monster chemo per month and I come to the Y several times per week even when I don’t really feel up to it because it is normal for my kids and they love the kid fit program and playing with the other kids.  I love that they get tired too and I can trust knowing they are being taken care of.   
I want to make sure that I am making memories with my kids and keeping myself as healthy as I can... spiritual, physical, and emotional health all work together!

"To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable." - Erich Fromm.  And at only 33 years old, this has never felt more true!
My new life verse:
"Because she loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name. She will call on me, and I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her. With long life I will satisfy her and show her my salvation." (Psalm 91:14-16 NIV)

We all need to keep in mind what Abraham Lincoln said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” 

The YMCA and the Livestrong program fit this quote better than anything else I’ve ever read:  said by the character Thomas Hunter in Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy
“Most men and women will yield to the strong currents sucking them into the seas of ruin.  Only the strongest in mind and spirit will swim against that current.” 
Thank you Arlington YMCA for being a part of helping me have a strong mind, body, and spirit!


Like I said, it was an honor to be asked to speak and I pray that the scriptures I shared touched someone and I know that so many people are watching and many are telling me that I inspire them.  That feels like a big responsibility, but guess what, we are ALL being watched by someone, especially our kids, so make your actions count for good and keep in mind that the people you are watching will make mistakes because none of us are perfect... encourage and push forward!  Thank you so much to those of you that take the time to encourage me, pray for me, and challenge me!


31 January 2012

"Normal" to Natalie...

1.  conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
2.  serving to establish a standard.

When Natalie originally started this blog, she named it Normal to Natalie so that the world could see what is "normal" to her on a daily basis - how our lives really are in regards to our kids, work, faith, etc.  This new journey we are on with Natalie has really made me think about what is "normal".  As Christians, we are called to be a part of this world, but different from the world.  As Romans 12:2 in the NIV Bible says, "Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...".  We are to be transformed through God and by God, not be transformed by what the world tells us or wants from us.  Yet circumstances love to come about that make it hard to continue that constant transformation process.   And a lot of times the circumstances are far beyond our ability to overcome (in our case, cancer), and can make us question our faith, our love, our strength...ultimately our will to live.

So how ARE we doing?  As mentioned in previous posts, we get asked this question a lot.  And no fault of their own, I know they mean well, and hey...people just may not know what else to say.  And we don't mind talking to people about it.  But we just don't necessarily have an answer.  Our first response (well...at least MY first response) is usually "fine", or "good".  I just don't know what the person is wanting to truly know.  I mean, I honestly haven't slept good in 6 or 7 months.  I STILL wake up at night to check on my wife, sometimes even waking her up in the process because I am checking for pulse or breathe.  Most days, I feel like I am in a fog, which I can overcome this with copious amounts of caffeine and prayer, but how do I tell someone how I am?

As father and husband, I am to encourage and lift up my family in prayer on a daily basis, and trust me...I have.  Probably more than I have the previous 8 years I have been a father, and the previous 11 years I have been a husband.  But why now?  Why does it take a hard circumstance?  Why wasn't I acting this way, praying this way, before this new journey?  Why does it take hitting bottom for us to figure out a way out?  What are we afraid of?

I am reminded of what Colossians 3:2 says in the Message version of the Bible - "Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from His perspective."

Here are a couple of other Bible verses I have been reading lately:

Proverbs 4:23 - "Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts"
Romans 12:1-2 - "...Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.  Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead fix your attention on God.  You'll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

So normal to us is a little different now, and I really don't know how we are doing most days.

I mean normal compared to what? :-)

Well, I now know the definition of oligoastrocytoma, and as I mentioned before, I know that grey is the color of brain cancer. I still work at Sewell and am getting used to the long hours, even though it is hard most days.  And I am thankful for my family and my friends.

And normal for Natalie is now making sure the kids stay on a routine even though most day she doesn't feel like she wants to. She really is a hero in my book for all that she does when I am not around (which is a lot recently, it seems).

I am far from perfect, nor do I try to be. And unfortunately it did take this circumstance for me to try to be a better father and husband. But all I have is now, all WE have is now. I don't want to shuffle around, in a fog. So I will take this opportunity to look up.

Until the next blog post, please don't wait until you hit bottom to be a better person, a better husband, a better father.  Why not start today?  Look up...

-   David D.

28 January 2012

Faith of a Child

I love how my kids get these crazy ideas and dreams in their heads and get so excited that they don't even notice all of the obstacles.  James has been watching and helping Kirstyn and I make some t-shirt scarfs for her to sell for the Imagine 320 project at church and he has been helping me around the house to earn money for his 320 Piggy Bank.  I've enjoyed all the extra help getting the clothes out of the dryer just by planting a dime or penny or two per load.   

Well, today on the way home, James saw a coke can on the side of the road.  He screamed at me to stop the car... he wanted to jump out and get it and ride the rest of the way home in the back of the 4Runner.  He starts telling me all about how when he was at Pappy's (my dad) house, he got to run down the dirt road picking up yucky cans, throwing them in the back of the truck, and then ride on the tailgate until they saw another one.  Then he tells me how when Pappy gets lots and lots of cans he sells them for money...  He needs to do that too for his Piggy Bank cause sissy is selling shirt scarfs! 

I told him he couldn't ride around in the back without his car seat and seat belt in the city of Arlington, but that I could do a post on Facebook asking our Arlington friends to save their cans for a week or so.  Then, we could collect them from their houses and I would take him to the scrap metal place and he could make his money for his bank.

I'm so thankful to Jesus for trusting David and I with these kids.  So glad that they continue to dream BIG!  Now, I'm Imagining ALL of the BIG things Kirstyn and James will do that have an ETERNAL impact! 

Eph 3:20


18 January 2012

Little Girl, Big Heart!

First I have to say that God gave me Kirstyn to do everything from test me to challenge me.  She is just as girly as they come making her very opposite from me.  I actually decorated her room in Raggedy Ann and Andy so that it would be primary colors and not pinks *sigh*.  At least she still loves it!  She is also very artsy fartsy...  I blame my sister for those genetics.  I mean, I have a degree in Software Engineering and Math while David has an MBA in Finance.  Kirstyn wants to grow up and be a rock star or a famous dancer and maybe a painter (yes we have been praying for her future husband since before she was born!).

At church we have started something called Imagine 320.  Eph 3:20 says, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us."  Essentially, it is a ministry initiative as our response to God's challenge to "throw off everything that hinders us"... and for our church that is debt that needs to be paid off!  I was selfishly sitting there thinking, God you will have to do this, especially in our lives.  We can barely pay our bills right now and when you add in my doctor co-pays and the $300 a month that I have to spend on prescriptions I just start to get frustrated with how tied down I feel by my cancer diagnosis!

Sunday, the guest pastor Dr. John Bisagno preached a challenging sermon about what growing churches are doing...  At the end, he had all of the Middle School and High School students stand up, then he did something unexpected.... He pulled out a huge stack of $5 bills and started handing one to each student!  He then paraphrased the parable from Matthew 25 and challenged the kids to turn that $5 into as much as possible and bring it back to the church (also with the promise of a prize from him for the teen with the biggest return). 
Kirstyn's ears perked up! 
She looked at me and said, "How much is yarn?"  I told her around $2. 
She said, "Will you give me $5 to turn into more?". 
I said, "Sure.  What's your plan?"
"I can buy yarn, crochet MeMe a scarf (she's had 2 lessons), and then sell it to her for $20...cause even if it isn't that great she will love it and buy it.  Then I will have $23 to bring back to church."
I said, "Great idea baby, and you sure know your MeMe."
*I could see the wheels spinning*
"And actually, I could buy more yarn and make another scarf and sell it to DeeDee!"

This smart girl that actually may grow up to do amazing things in the business world!  Either way, she is sure to make an ETERNAL impact for her Jesus!

I've been really praying about this and trying to think of some way to help her turn $5 into more without her spending 10+ hours making crochet scarfs...  I got on Pintrest on a Mission while she was at school yesterday!  I found a way for her to make scarfs out of old tshirts, fast and easy, and so far for free so she still has her first $5! 

Watch out friends.... soon she will be selling them!!!  (And we would love to take old tshirts off your hands if you have them!)  She is so excited and thinks it is just funny that we are cutting up Daddy's old undershirts!

I love how big her heart is.  I love how she is willing to take on any challenge without worrying at all about all the things that could go wrong in the process.  I love how she challenges me to not be so analytical and more creative!  I am so thankful that God uses my kid to humble me in the privacy of our home!

Back in November when Kirstyn turned 8, after a few discussions she decided that instead of just having a Birthday Party and getting presents from her friends like always, she wanted to change things up a bit.  (We did tell her she would have to get rid of many existing toys before she would have room for more...  I've already mentioned how much her grandparents love her!)  Her change....  She asked her friends to bring donations for the Weekend Backpack Ministry at our church!  Look at the haul of food that she got to donate!  This ministry feeds 86 elementary age children in SW Arlington! These kids have been identified by the counselors as only eating free breakfast/lunch at school but not on weekends. So they take home a backpack of food on Fridays that they return on Monday's. There are 6 children at the elementary Kirstyn attends (we have no idea who)... Food/money is ALWAYS needed to keep this ministry going! I'm so glad that she is 'getting' the bigger picture!!!

We serve a Big God and sometimes He uses my little girl to remind me just how amazing He can be when we allow Him to work through us!