Linda Kesner ~ {Walk Worthy}
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I don't have all the emails copied in here in the format that I want them yet -- spacing maybe be a little off & it will work better with date references hotlinked ...
I didn’t start much before the diagnosis – I may add those “what could it be?” emails later.



June 1, 2005

>> Did I miss Liz's report on what the MRI had to say or how her mother fared over the weekend? <<

pain beyond measure
grace beyond measure
please pray for my mom Linda, my dad Bo & my siblings: Matt, Rach, Mark, Luke, John, Kenny, Timmy
L



June 2, 2005

>>We are praying for your mom. Did they find the cancer yesterday at the Dr. visit or did you seek another opinion? Please let me know if I can do anything to help. Leslie <<

Thank you, Leslie.
Rachael had called the dr while I was at Bible study & was told that the MRIs were abnormal & mom needed a bone scan so that was done Tuesday afternoon. Rachael spied the paperwork which said they were looking for metastatic disease so that we had a bit of time to prepare for that. Curt was gone most this week (should be just in about now) & so I went out to Rachael's so she wouldn't be alone & two other friends came out & we had a wonderful time of prayer. Wednesday morning Rachael contacted the dr again & asked to have the bone scan read right away & the dr's office called back to say there were multiple tumors on mom's bones & they would refer to an oncologist (providentially) the one we had already decided upon because she was someone Rach's friend from the Tuesday night prayer knew. So Rach' friend called the dr & the dr's nurse & within an hour the oncologist called Rachael & said here's the plan, go to the ER & we can get something really started fastest that way. So, I've just come home this evening from going to the hospital yesterday at noon (which makes for a very, very long day). The drs have not offered a definitive diagnosis -- they very, very strongly expect to determine that it is lymphoma which they tell us is the best possible outcome given her symptoms. Any other form of cancer probably would not be treatable, lymphoma probably would be. Mom is very scared looking, she was desperately ill by the time we got her to the ER yesterday. It was just so, so bad. Our dad has been working in Pennsylvania & so he had to quit his job in order to fly home this morning, but he is here now & I am glad though it was so hard to see him come in, it just said how dire the situation is, and it is so hard to see Mom & Dad in pain that way & Dad trying to care for her.

This morning the surgeon removed lymph nodes from her neck area & a bone marrow sample was also removed from her back for biopsy. Hopefully we will know the results tomorrow though it's possible it might be Monday before we hear. And it's not until then that the dr will tell us anything so I'm hoping to look on the internet tonight & learn anything I can (though I really should be asleep!).

Thank you so much for your prayers. I think we can get through the weekend but we might be looking more for babysitting services this summer, we'll just have to wait & see how this works out & how much time Rachael & I need. If Mom can be at home we can take our children there however many days a week we're needed. If she has to be in the hospital a lot it will be more difficult for us. But this week we have had wonderful friends to offer their service to us & we so appreciate it.
Liz



June 4th, 2005

Dr has come this morning with definitive diagnosis of lymphoma -- I'm going back up there now.
So much has been very hard for us, but so much has been eased for us by wonderful, blessed friends & family. We've got a family room (I think is meant to be for the whole floor!) right next to mom's room & that's really helped with so much family being there, we can eat there, we can rest there -- it is a blessing. The drs are being very aggressive, treatment will start right away (within hours).

Specific prayer requests: Mom is starting to develop pnemonia -- and this scares her very much -- please pray that as she is able to sit up more today that the antibiotics will be quickly efficient & effective to arrest the pnemonia & strengthen her body. Last week on antibiotics she got much sicker.
Pray for wisdom, insight with understanding, for the oncologists, Dr. Weibel & Dr. Olsen, that they would know what course of treatment to take.
Pray especially that Mom (Linda) would be encouraged in heart, soul & body, she is scared & felt worse last night & was very upset that she felt so bad before she even started chemotherapy, how would she have any strength to fight it. Also, she seems to feel like she's done something wrong to cause this or that it is her fault that she's incapacitated -- pray against that! Pray that she would see that WE are there, that it is OUR fight, OUR diagnosis and that death & decay in this world just screams out for Christ's blessed redemption. Pray that Rachael & I especially would see & take every opportunity to minister to all, especially the younger brothers.
Thank you!
Liz



June 6, 2005

[An update on my mom, Linda: her body is still having difficulty stabilizing blood-levels, they continue to transfuse almost daily; diagnosis Saturday was lymphoma & chemo was started Saturday afternoon; she has developed pnemonia & borderline diabetes; more test results expected today on spinal fluid involvement; she's having a rough time emotionally (as a mom, seeing what a drain this is on all of her family & feeling like she's getting worse & not better). Also, my dad had to quit his job to come home to be with her & the financial issues in general & now this hospital cost in particular greatly troubles her.]

Sent this off to the church -- today (Monday) is being particularly rough. Mom was nearly manic all weekend, must be the drugs, she talked non-stop. But she's feeling much worse today. Dad & Rachael are there now & I'll go trade off with Rach in a couple hours. Mom is feeling defeated, the pnemo is not better. She did rest well last night & we praise God for that mercy. The family room has been shut down for renovation & that has made it harder for us to be up there. We're having to take special precautions now (which I don't entirely understand) but we have to check in with the nurse, scrub hands, remove all flowers from her room & she cannot have any fresh fruits or veggies (even from hospital meal service -- that's the part I really don't understand). Kenny got sick (vomiting) last night so we're a bit scared about that, don't want to give her anything. They're transfusing more platelets now. Red blood cells look good though & we are very happy to see any improvement in anything!
Pray particularly today for her emotions, that she would recognize the lies of satan meant to defeat her; that the voice of Truth would shout out comfort and peace to her soul; for her body, that God would provide a defense for her in place of her immune system to protect her from germs; that her body would efficiently & effectively clean out the dead cells that the chemo has destroyed; that her bone marrow would begin to work excellently again to provide the red & white cells (the good ones) & platelets that she needs.
Thank you all so much for your support in prayer!
Liz




June 12, 2005

I took Mom home Friday evening, but yesterday (Sat) she was developing a fever. She did NOT want to go back, but the dr clearly told me if she had ANY fever to bring her RIGHT back. So we did. I spent from 10pm to 10am there -- most of it in the ER which was not comfortable for any of us. My poor dad went out to try to sleep some in the van. About 6:30 they put us back in the same room and I could not keep back the tears. I didn't think Mom would see, because she can't see well, but really, I guess she just saw two of me so it looked like I was crying twice as much -- or at least from 4 eyes rather than 2. She was not happy to be there (guess I already said that) and she cried when the same nurse & same dr came in. The dr said he was not surprised at all to see her back, that's just the nature of the beast. I think we’ve been given sort of a rosy outlook, like we can treat this for 6 months & then it will be over. But the long term remission rate is not very high. And she's starting with so many problems...we just can't seem to get past the infections. Her white cell count, which should be 4,500 to 10,000 is just 200 (both the chemo & the lymphoma are attacking her blood levels). So she has virtually NO protection from infection. Hopefully no one will come to visit her. My dad is taking Tim, right now, and Tim has not been feeling great but I think if he & Mom both wear masks & he washes up before going in & doesn't touch her hands or face...oh, I am just praying, praying that she will be safe. She's had so many antibiotics this week & this morning that you'd think she should be able to shoot down a rampaging bacteria. But I didn't tell Dad not to take Tim because Tim is so, so scared. Dad said Tim did not sleep all last night & that when Dad fixed him breakfast this morning that he just sat down at the table & sobbed. I just don't know if my heart can hurt any more. It feels like we are not sharing the burden but rather taking on everyone else's & it's multiplying. I know that Dad is very worried about us kids spending our time & energy up there. He was upset because the chemo is dangerous & we're all still in the childbearing years -- & he thought maybe all of us & all the kids should stay away. I know he will be fried when he finds out Rach is pregnant. She is being careful and I talked to the oncologist about it last week & he indicated that there was not a big reason for concern so long as she is not caring for Mom in the 72 hrs following chemo (& the rest of us are to wear gloves during that time). She was a bit concerned about being around Mom when Mom was radioactive (during/after the bone scan) but once she read that that could be a problem she tried to stay several feet away from Mom for the 48-72 hrs following.
The pneumonia/pleurisy is still a problem, painful when she coughs, breathes deep or moves much. She still is moving around better than she was when she was admitted on the 1st. She is back to being extremely fatigued though -- a side effect of the chemo killing off her blood cells & her body having to process it all. The dr doesn't know what is causing the fever today (not high), he did say she had a yeast infection & a sore in her mouth (another expected side effect of chemo). She had some weird feeling yesterday like something was stuck in her throat, maybe also the yeast infection, dr says (he doesn't know).
I talked to her this morning about perseverance -- hupomeno, right? in the Greek. Press on. Even (especially) when you have NO IDEA of the how or why you got to this point. It's a constant battle though, especially for her feeling so, so tired, to think that fighting is possible. She cried when we got home Friday night & told Dad she still just hoped she would wake up & this would all be a nightmare.
I'm going to try to get some rest.
Pray -- that God would put a hedge of protection around her, a supernatural defense from germs since her natural one is decimated;
-- that her bone marrow would respond quickly & perfectly to make the new blood she needs (I was just sick, sick when they were taking blood out for tests last night -- she NEEDS her blood);
-- that we would all seek to do what is right & good in the eyes of the Lord (Deut 6:18);
-- that Dad, Luke, Matt, Rach & I would be strengthened to rotate care (it is NOT safe to leave her in the hospital alone -- but it is hard for us to be there 24/7, especially with all the kids -- pray that God would make & show the way so that we could walk in it).

We'll have to get her room back arranged, just cleaned it out Friday afternoon & there we are again. We had verses all over the walls & cards from the kids. Luke will bring it back tonight. We've been blessed with several believing nurses & we have been told that both the oncologists we've dealt with are believers as well. Rachael took some scripture & information to a man she talked with up there, a believer whose father is doing very poorly with lung cancer, and the father was now open to listening to the Word -- pray that it changes his heart. Thank God that we know that our spiritual lives are redeemed & safe IN HIM, even though our physical bodies are decaying.
Love y'all, Liz




Mom Update, June 16, 2005

"Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
'The LORD is my portion, 'says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!'"
Lamentations 3:22-24

It's been a tough week, being back in the hospital after we left Friday hoping to never return. Mom's fever has subsided without any specific infections other than the pneumonia/pleurisy ever being identified. Dr. Weibel, our oncologist, feels that the massive antibiotics that Mom has been given have controlled the fever/infection & thus need to continue while we wait for her immune system to recover somewhat from the chemotherapy. Because Mom's blood counts (red cells, white cells & platelets) all continue to be very, very low, she will have to remain the hospital at least into next week. However the counts are rising -- praise the Lord for that! Very slowly, but rising is a great improvement & gives us renewed hope & will give Mom renewed strength -- please pray for her bone marrow to produce exactly what she needs.
The pain in Mom's left side continues to bother her significantly; the doctors told us last week that that was caused by pleurisy but it has not abated much and Mark was concerned that we need to be sure that it is not a problem with the spleen so I asked the internist today about that specifically & he ordered yet another set of x-rays -- apparently nothing new showed up (we'll ask when we see him again tomorrow morning). What I was told Sunday early am was that effusion (fluid accumulation) continued around the lower left lobe of her lung (consistent with the pneumonia & pleurisy). We are praying that this will clear up & Mom will have relief from the discomfort.
Mom has gained a lot of water weight from the fluids that are poured into her daily through the iv line; this has caused her ankles & feet to swell up & the doctors are concerned that the fluid accumulation could spread to the lungs so we're trying get Mom to move around more, to keep her feet up and we're not forcing her to drink more fluid any more. Hopefully this will help to get her fluids balanced a bit more but one of the main concerns when she was admitted both June 1st & again last Sunday was dehydration (I don't think I understand how you can have both excess fluid & not enough fluid -- another question for the doctor).
What Dr. Weibel, the oncologist told us on Wednesday was that Mom's case of lymphoma was not the typical case, where a patient can have 6-8 treatments of chemotherapy, eradicate the lymphoma & go on with their life. Because Mom's has gotten so widespread the doctor anticipates that it may well take additional treatment after the 6 months of chemo in order to get the disease into remission and at the point of remission she thinks we'll likely need to consider harvesting Mom's stem cells from her bone marrow to have for a stem cell transplant. That will be a way down the road but Dr. Weibel thinks that may be necessary to try to get the lymphoma completely destroyed. She came in as I was working on my Deuteronomy bible study & so I told her how it was hard for me to keep up with an hour of study a day (with my now topsy-turvy schedule) but that studying Deuteronomy was great at this point because it is Moses' sermons to the Israelites as they prepared to go fight their enemies (the enemies of God, actually) and remove those enemies from the Promised Land -- so many applications for the battle we are fighting here. Dr. Weibel said that she agreed Moses would be a good leader for this battle, that it may take some wandering through the wilderness but that we were indeed aiming for the Promised Land (what a blessing to have doctors & nurses who are believers!).
Another point of discussion with Dr. Weibel was that the neurologist that visited Mom on Monday feels that there is Central Nervous System involvement, even with the clear spinal tap that was done June 2nd. Rachael had done some research last week & noted that often several spinal taps will come out clear before a sample shows cells so this was sort of anticipated. Because the bone marrow was so full of the cancerous cells, because there is cranial nerve involvement with the numb chin and the double vision, and because the dura (brain & spinal cord covering) is thickened, that is enough for the doctors to make a clinical diagnosis of CNS involvement. Dr. Weibel asked the neurosurgeon to come by today (Thursday) and he explained to Mom & Mark how they plan to insert an Ommaya reservoir under her scalp that will allow access to the dura so that brain/spinal fluid can be examined and so that chemotherapy can be given directly into that space. It is sort of like an iv that goes into the CNS rather than into a vein. It will remain in place for the duration of the treatment and appears as no more than a bump under the scalp. So now we will have both the chemotherapy into her veins every 21 days & the intrathecal (into the dura) chemo as well (I don't know when that will begin but they anticipate that it will be twice a week, I think she said). The neurosurgeon is tentatively planning to do that surgery next Wednesday, if Mom's blood counts are high enough, which will keep her at St. Francis a bit longer (& it's beginning to get fairly boring there).
Mom is awake and moving around so much better this week, it is very encouraging to see. Her color has been good since Monday and she takes walks around the 7th floor each day. We have to walk out into the elevator lobbies to see trees but I think she was so glad to see some green after laying the bed for longer than ever before. We had to get rid of all the flowers after her blood counts continued dropping, and the view out her window is of a hospital wall & occasionally the helicopter coming in for a landing -- so it's nice to move around & see a little more. She has to wear a dr's mask over her mouth & nose to help protect against infection but she's not wearing the pirate eye patch this week, at least (it left Tim speechless, and Pirates of the Caribbean is one of his favorite movies).
Mark and Tim have already had their hair shaved off -- they both think they look great .
I hope an email every 2nd or 3rd day will help us to keep everyone updated without you all having to call & beg our answering machines for information as we run back & forth to the hospital & to babysitters! If there are others who want/need to be added to my list, please let me know their email addresses (Melanie maybe?). Email works well for me & it would help us to be sure that we're communicating with everyone who is sharing our concern. Hopefully in the future there will be less to report - just continued improvement. Thank you all so much for your support! Continue to pray that the doctors & nurses would have wisdom and compassion in their treatments, that the medical interventions would work just as planned for Mom's good only & always, and that our hearts & minds would be strengthened for this battle.
Liz, for all of us
Be strong & of good courage...
and the LORD, He is the One who goes before you.
He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you;
do not fear nor be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:7b & 8




Mom Update – June 18, 2005

* * * Be anxious for nothing,
but in all things, by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Philippians 4:6-7 * * *

YEAH! Mom got to go back home this afternoon, quite unexpectedly after the pronouncements of Thursday that she'd be in the hospital another week. Thankfully Mom remained fever-free most of the week (on massive iv antibiotics) and all of her blood levels (white cells, red cells & platelets) continued to rise and are all above panic-levels. Those levels should continue upward until the next chemo dose, at which point they will plummet again as the medicine does what needs to be done to try to eradicate the lymphoma.
Mom is feeling pretty well, still a little more tired than normal but SO much better than she has felt in weeks (at least since Easter). She looks great too, especially in the two new periwinkle colored loungers she's worn most of the last couple weeks -- the color complements her very well. I think she was pretty pleased with the new fuzzy socks I picked up for her a couple days ago too, so comfy. Louise & Patsy were laughing at how great her hands looked, longer nails than Mom has ever had before & soft from not doing her normal yardwork as she rested most of this spring. (Though we all know Mom would rather have worker hands and be her normal self.)
We were so blessed on Thursday to see again the Lord working through this difficult circumstance. Because the chemotherapy targets rapidly growing cells in the body, the hair follicles are affected -- & that is why many people loose their hair during the course of treatment. When we warned Tim he said this was okay with him but he did hope Mom's hair would grow back in black! Anyway, Mom wanted to get her hair cut a bit shorter. I thought there was a salon at St. Francis; they advertise one, but that service has been eliminated. So, I called Rachael to see if she could do it & she called her friend Sandy who has given and given and given to Mom and to Rachael & I in the last couple months. Sandy called a friend of hers, Bev, who is a hairstylist in Sand Springs. Bev said she was so busy, not only did she already have appointments Thursday evening but also was pretty well booked solid through the weekend. Well, you know that we were praying, even about such a minor thing as hair. And then Bev's Thursday evening appointments called to cancel and she was able to come with Sandy early that evening! She did a GREAT job, and the four of them had a wonderful time of fellowship and praise as well. Mom's hair looked so wonderful even Doctor Weibel complimented it first thing Friday morning when she came in with the good news that we could go home on Saturday. Bev refused to let either Sandy or Rachael pay her, saying that God would take care of it. What a blessing and an encouragement! May God richly repay each of you for the love you have shown us.
On Monday we will check with the neurosurgeon to get the final details and time of the procedure on Wednesday to insert the Ommaya reservoir so that spinal fluid can be easily accessed and direct chemo to the Central Nervous System can begin. Dr. Benner said he anticipates that Mom will need to stay for observation on Wednesday night and hopefully return home Thursday. Then the next round of chemo will begin either Monday or Tuesday of the following week.
Liz, for all of us

* * * Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.
Deuteronomy 4:39 * * *



Update – June 20, 2005

I've got SO MANY phone calls out today, called the brain surgeon's office to find out that they are CLUELESS, how reassuring is THAT? And I can't move forward much without info from them. Financial situation is SO SO bad, I do not know what to do. I don't think Dad will be that upset because he's just sort of fried like me, it all means nothing at this point. Not sure what has happened to make it so incredibly bad, but pray for us to know what our options are & what to do. Still have no idea how the med bills will play out (that's on my ever-growing list of Figure This Out). Today is definitely an I NEED CHOCOLATE day.
I am somewhere between overwhelmed & numb. I told Greg this morning that it was just weird that I can read/see/hear things & accept them as true but not feel impacted. Like, I read this morning
CNS lymphoma is associated with poor prognosis and only 29% and 14% of the patients with primary and secondary CNS lymphoma respectively survived beyond 1 year.
And it stopped me for a minute then I just went on. And then my brother (helping me work through the finances) said he'd tried to total it up last night (we stayed at my parents' house until about 10:30 & then I had to take my kids home & my brothers were still working) and he thinks there are huge bills at ridiculous interest and now all these medical expenses will add on to that. And of course at this point my dad is not employed, they're without any income, and facing enormous medical bills. But again, I just sort of accept it without even as much stress as if someone said I owed $100 on something (THAT would probably cause me big stress). This just, I guess, is so big that it doesn't even have the associated stress. Maybe my adrenaline is such that I can't ramp up to that level of stress. Or God has just numbed my brain (some days it DOES feel pretty numb ).
I did get the earlier e-mail & was thinking through what might help. The difficulty at this point is that the situation is so fluid that we hardly know from one day to the next where/what will be going on. Greg did say last night that we had to cut down on the eating fast food -- I think it seems like not so much to me because it's usually him & the kids eating & I'm up at the hospital & not seeing it. He & I DID get to go out last Wednesday together for my birthday and I splurged on the $7 piece of chocolate cake -- which lasted through 3 people & 3 days so maybe it was worth it?! Pray that I know whether or not to bring up the Advance Directive (Living Will) issue with my parents before the Wednesday surgery.
I dreamed one night that I totally forgot to do this week's teaching preparation -- so I've got to get to that , always afraid I'll forget something . . . see you Tuesday morning.
Liz

"Look among the nations and watch --
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe . . . "
Habakkuk 1:5




Wednesday Surgery, June 21, 2005

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy...
Psalm 107:1 & 2

We're getting ready for the neurosurgery procedure tomorrow, Mom is to be at the hospital at 11:30am. The surgeon is Dr. Ben Benner who assured Mom & Mark that he has performed this surgery many times and rarely has any complications. As I explained in the June 16th email, it is basically a port, like an iv opening into the space above the brain where the cerebrospinal fluid is (not actually into the brain). It doesn't extend out of the head at all; it's under the skin, so it will not be noticeable. I will try to email again tomorrow evening to let you all know how the procedure went.
All of the us (kids & grandkids) visited with Mom & Dad on Father's Day or today. It occured to me after we got back home that Mom was not squinting/winking, trying to see while suffering double vision, like she has been since the Memorial Day weekend. Rachael called today while she was there (making a blackberry cobbler -- yum!) to say that she'd talked to Mom about it and Mom reports that her vision is basically normal across her field of vision except the far left. This is a terrific improvement! Just last week the neurologist told us that they would hope that her vision and chin numbness would resolve with treatment but there is no way to predict that and it could be permanently damaged. So we are certainly rejoicing that she can see -- except that what she got to see was 3 sons & 3 grandsons with nearly shaved heads, and they all look pretty silly (especially the one that got sunburned!). Not only are we thrilled that her vision is improved, but also encouraged at this sign that the chemotherapy is working to restore her body to health.
Please pray that Dr. Benner, the anesthesiologist and the nurses that come in contact with Mom tomorrow will be skilled and compassionate in their care; that Mom would be protected from any infection in the surgery or the hospital; that her body would continue to experience restoration and healing; and that we would all seek after spiritual health with as much fervor as we are seeking after physical health. God bless you all!
Liz, for all of us

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
And He delivered them out of their distresses...
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalm 107:6, 8 & 9




Mom Update – Thursday, June 23, 2005

...consider it all joy [consciously determine to face it with joy], when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [or endurance or perseverance].
But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,
who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:2-5

Hallelujah! Such an awful-sounding procedure is over with quickly and successfully and Mom is back home resting already.
After waiting hours in pre-op, Dr. Benner got the Ommaya reservoir placed just as he wanted it and Mom spent the night on the neurosurgery floor last night. I asked him this morning to describe the device to me (I looked online for a picture of one -- of course -- but didn't find one); he said it is half-dollar sized with a convex rubber cap and the tube extends 4 inches through the brain into the very center. I did not realize it did indeed go through the brain! Overnight we struggled to get the room temperature comfortable; first Mom was very cold & I turned the thermostat up & got her another blanket but then she developed a fever so Rachael took the blankets off, turned the thermostat back down a bit & the dr ordered Tylenol for her. Thankfully the fever abated and Dr. Benner felt like it was likely just a side-effect of the general anesthesia & not a concern at all.
Dr. Weibel used the port this morning to withdraw a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid and to insert one syringe of chemotherapy. It was a painless and quick procedure. Rachael visited with Dr. Weibel while she was doing it and Dr. Weibel said that Mom would be famous next week when her case was discussed at an oncology seminar. We are hopeful that the experience and wisdom of these doctors will be always & only helpful to Mom's treatment.
Next week on Monday Mom will have a doctor's appointment with Dr. Weibel, an x-ray to check on the status of the plural effusion (pleurisy) which is still painful for Mom, and to receive the 2nd round of CHOP chemotherapy. On Tuesday she will return to Dr. Weibel's office again for an all-day session receiving the first round of Rituxan, a monoclonal antibody (whatever that is), which is usually a very effective part of cancer treatment. One oncologist, Dr. Olsen, described it as a guided missile, able to track down & destroy the lymphoma cells. It does often prompt an immune system response at the first treatment, such as hives, chills, difficulty breathing, so it is administered very slowly & under constant supervision.
Pray that we would all have a healthful, restful, peaceful weekend. Thank the Lord for His continuing mercies towards us, and pray that His name would be magnified and glorified in this and all trials of our lives. And if you want to pick any blackberries, call then come on out to the house & get some (be sure to wear bug spray)!

Liz, for all of us

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.
You also be patient.
Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
James 5:7-8




Mom Update – June 29, 2005

"I delivered to you first of all that which I also received:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
and that He was bureid, and that He rose again the third day
according to the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Mom has sailed through her chemo treatments (on the wings of prayer) thus far. On Monday she received the CHOP chemo that is the standard care for lymphoma and she also had another intrathecal treatment into her cerebrospinal fluid (through the Ommaya reservoir). She had the first treatment with Rituxan (the guided missile antibody) and had no noticable side effects - thank God for that. This morning she was out in her garden picking flowers!
Dr. Weibel would like for Mom to have a port inserted (as an outpatient operation) to do future chemotherapy, so that would take place a couple weeks from now. Also in a couple weeks the staples will be removed from the surgery that inserted the Ommaya reservoir under her scalp and she will have the intrathecal treatment again.
Dr. Weibel also encouraged Mom to get out and do things -- go to the movies, go to church, go to the mall. I told the doctor that if Mom started going to movies and the mall, I would wonder just what they were giving her! The point is just that Mom should make every effort to live a normal life in the midst of the disease and the treatment, so gently encourage her in that as you feel led. She is still very tired but so much improved from the way she felt throughout May.
Please pray that Mom would be protected from infection or toxic overload as her body processes the chemotherapy and that we would have wisdom in dealing with the medical bills and insurance issues. God bless you all!

Liz, for all of us

"Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved bretheren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:57-58




Today, what IS today – July 1, 2005

We're back to the dr's office today -- I did get two whole days at home with my kids but Mom & Dad issues took up a great, great deal of my time (on the phone). And I cried a lot so it wasn't exactly quality time. Pray for me to do better with the kids -- I've got to learn how to deal with resting and trusting in God rather than mourning a death that's not even certain much less come to pass. How do I do that? I've been telling myself DeEtta & Paul's "choose joy" but it is hard. I am not happy about this, not happy at all. I feel cheated. People are supposed to live 76 years, right? I'm wanting to have a toddler-style hissy fit & say that I have a RIGHT to have my mom for at least 76 years. Which I well know is not at all true, but that's what I am feeling. Or I want to say here are all the really good REASONS why she can't leave now (like Tim is just 17 & he NEEDS her, she's got another grandchild on the way & we want her to KNOW that child, she hasn't seen her grandkids grow up, my Dad NEEDS her . . . )
I did find out a small bit of good news, my Mom's insurance hasn't run out yet (like I thought it had on Monday). With just our scheduled treatments, it WILL run out well before the end of the year but maybe not in July or August so I can put that worry off for a little bit. I was so scared that I would take her in there for a treatment we hope will save her life & they would say, we're going to have to have that $20,850 for this treatment in cash.
Scrapbooking Friday is today and I really have to go because Greg is supposed to close up the building at 11:15. I think I would like to be around friends. I didn't go last month because we were at the hospital. I can't believe this has been a whole month -- one month today. I'm going to cry now just thinking about it. Pray that I don't cry all day. I know I will cry tonight. I think I've only worn mascara two days out of the month (& that was not a good plan those days). I've totally stopped worrying about my hair at all. And now I have a stupid sunburn that hurts like the dickens (whatever that means).
Chemo class with my mom & dad both from 9:30-11:00;
kids will be with Greg's mom so I have to drive them down there (will take over an hour) & they're not excited, weather is going to get ugly but at least it's not so hot; I'll probably go to Rachael's for lunch with my parents or maybe over to Greg's mom's to see my kids;
appointment with financial counselor for me & my dad to try to work on a budget -- I can't IMAGINE that that would go well, pray that we make some progress or that I could just see clearly how to help.

Liz



[Non-Hodgkins loop] More Questions than Answers – July 3, 2005

>> I believe technically what I had is CNS lymphoma with brain involvement. <<
We don't have experience with high-dose (well, I don't know if it's high dose or not, actually) but my mom has been diagnosed with secondary CNS lymphoma. Her spinal taps thus far have been clear but because her bone marrow is full of lymphoma, she has had cranial nerve issues (double vision, eye-tracking difficulties with one eye in one direction, and a numb chin), and her MRI & neuro exam showed that her dura was thickened, the neuro & onc determined that was sufficient for a clinical diagnosis of CNSL.
About a week & a half ago she had an Ommaya reservoir inserted for the intrathecal treatments. The first treatment was methotrexate, hydrocortisone & one other drug beginning with a c. The second treatment was 4 days later & will be a regular every 2 weeks of depocyte. She's also receiving CHOP for the systemic lymphoma.
We've only had this cancer diagnosis & known our oncologist for one month, actually a day short of a month. We've been told she's fairly aggressive in her approach to treatment. That is always something I want to know about my dr -- is this a conservative wait-&-see approach or an aggressive one & why. I wish we had more time to talk to the onc & better understand what is going on. Like you, we've got more questions than answers.

Liz in OK
I will lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121




Re: [Non-Hodgkins loop] More Questions than Answers – July 5, 2005

>> My thoughts always go back to, 'why does the Lord make us suffer so with disease?' . . . I dont think I was such a bad person to be punshished like this. <<
Oh, Kim! What a huge hard struggle life feels like sometimes, wrestling with big questions.
That's why I was quoting Ps 121 -- "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
God created all things good -- He said so Himself over & over in the account of creation "and He saw that it was good" and when He created people in His own image, He looked at His creation & saw that it was "very good." That is how God made the world, and when He redeems us for all eternity, that is how it will be again for those who are His own. But now, because we've chosen to do our own thing, to go astray, to do what is right in our own eyes, the consequence is death & decay in this world. Sickness is part of death and decay. And usually sickness is on a person because of being in the world -- not as a punishment for specific actions. I don't see in the bible where God ever indicates that a certain level of sin in your life sets you up for a certain level of difficulty/suffering -- instead it says in Ephesians that we were SO BAD, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.." reached out to us in our wickedness to save us by His grace (Eph 2:1-10) -- so it's not logical to me to think that you are a bad person and that is why you're being punished.
Jesus Himself said that in this world we would have trouble, but we should have our hope not in the world but in Him, because He has overcome the world. There are so very many verses of comfort in the Psalms & in the New Testament (if you'd like a list I would be happy to send those to you). What I see repeated in Scripture is that God or Christ usually does not remove the difficulty but carries us through it -- like Peter sinking in the storm, Jesus didn't make the storm go away but held Peter's hand to strengthen Peter in the midst of the wind & waves. Same thing with Daniel, with David, with Joseph . . . that's how God works in our lives -- I see God actually redeeming these awful situations to use for His own glory when we submit to Him & look to Him for wisdom and peace and joy. One night my sister even prayed that God would make the devil very sorry that he ever afflicted our family in this way because we pray that we would come out of this fire purified like gold -- not loosing faith, not lacking in trust, but growing ever closer to the Lord. And we are finding His grace sufficient as we are weakened, oh, every few days it seems like the situation with my family gets more difficult and yet God is still carrying us through. And we are getting to know Him better. And I think that is exactly WHY He is allowing this in our lives -- that we would know Him better, love Him more and that His name would be glorified in our lives.
Have hope!
Liz in OK

"...as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart...
For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed . . . that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4




And Now On the Homefront – July 7, 2005

I think we're all just going to have to start reciting "the trials of this present time ARE NOT WORTHY TO BE COMPARED with the glory that will be revealed" -- all day long we're needing to recite this. Do you remember the time in your life when Heaven seemed like a good idea maybe later but I would never want to go NOW . . . and now I can't wait to get out of here.
I think this is just part of God's plan, to show us that life here is so fraught with tensions & difficulties & sins, to make us long more & more for Him and for R+ness. MAN, I am going to be SO DISAPPOINTED if 2007 comes & goes.
Liz



Mom Update – July 13, 2005

** Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.
In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me.
Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works...
You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God. **
Psalm 86:6-8, 10

Mom has received another intrathecal (into the cerebrospinal fluid) treatment this week and is scheduled for outpatient surgery tomorrow (Thursday) to insert a port under her collarbone for the continuing CHOP-R chemotherapy. The procedure will be at St. Francis again, in the afternoon.
We set up the appointment to speak with Dr. Strnad, another oncologist in Dr. Weibel's office, who will be able to give us more information on the lymphoma and on whether Mom would be a good candidate for a Stem Cell Transplant (which he does himself). The consultation with him will be in a couple of weeks, following the next intrathecal treatment.
Mom's third CHOP-R chemo will be next Monday, provided the bloodwork is acceptable. This week her red cell count was very low and we discussed a transfusion but since it was right at the "need to transfuse" level and because Mom was feeling improvement in her fatigue level, Dr. Weibel said we could wait and see on next Monday if the levels are (hopefully) improved. Otherwise, they will transfuse at that time and the chemo may have to wait a day. Dr. Weibel was very impressed at how much better Mom was looking and feeling.
Please pray that the port insertion procedure would go safely and quickly, that Mom would continue to be protected from infection, and that we would each see God as so great, so faithful and so near.

Liz, for all of us

** Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth;
Give me singleness of heart to fear Your name.
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
For great is Your mercy toward me,
and You have delivered my soul from the depths..." **
Psalm 86:11-13




Mom Update – July 25, 2005

"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all."
1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

Dearest Family & Friends,
How restorative it is to have a less eventful July than June!
Mom continues to feel much better than she has in months. Dad was telling Dr. Weibel today that he thought Mom had done more in the last week than she had done since March. We are so thankful that she is improving.
Mom had her regular CHOP-R chemo last Monday & so is now in the period of lowest blood counts -- and low they are! Once again she is neutropenic (unable to fight infection) and is also anemic (which makes her tired) and thrombocytopenic (low platelets = unable to clot well). This is not good, but is also not unexpected. She is going to have a couple units of blood transfused tomorrow (Tuesday) which will take all day and so we had to reschedule the appointment with the stem cell transplant doctor (Strnad) until Friday afternoon.
The lab reports on the CAT scans were promising -- they show that the lymph nodes are not as swollen as they were with the previous scan on June 1st. They are still swollen, but are obviously responding to the chemotherapy. Dr. Weibel was pleased with these results. She gave Mom another chemo treatment into the CNS fluid and another shot to stimulate red blood cell production, thankfully it was a quick appointment today. Tim got to stay at Rachael's house to swim today & tomorrow while Mom is visiting the doctor's office and outpatient clinic for the transfusion, so he is happy -- and it has been SO SO hot here, swimming is necessary for anyone outside.
Thank you so much for continuing to pray. This week please pray that Mom would rest and that her body would be strengthened to produce blood in perfect ratios of red & white cells and platelets and that Mom would again be supernaturally protected from infection, if that is the Lord's perfect will for her. We praise God's name for His great grace, strengthening us all spiritually and physically and emotionally during this challenging trial.

Liz, for all of us

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you...Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 23-24




Mom Update – July 30, 2005

"In You, O Lord, I put my trust...
For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name's sake,
Lead me and guide me."
Psalm 31:1a, 3

Dear Family & Friends,
On Friday we visited with Dr. Strnad who is in the Cancer Care practice with Dr. Weibel, Mom's regular oncologist. Dr. Strnad performs stem cell transplants (SCT). He encouraged us by saying that Mom looked very good for someone with her level of disease at her stage of treatment -- he fully anticipated that she would reach a remission through the CHOP-R treatment that she is currently receiving. However, he explained that the amount of lymphoma present at diagnosis (which was extensive for Mom) is a strong predictor of prognosis, so based on their experience, they would predict that the lymphoma would probably come back and when it came back it would be worse. That's why we were meeting with Dr. Strnad, because the most hopeful course of further treatment is to have a stem cell transplant, or stem cell rescue, as soon as Mom reaches a remission.
A stem cell transplant is very similar to a bone marrow transplant, but less invasive. In a bone marrow transplant, marrow is typically removed by sticking needles into the hipbone. In a stem cell transplant, the stem cells are collected from the blood through an IV catheter (stem cells are pulled out & the blood is put back in). In either type, the aim is to harvest the cells that will make new bone marrow. Then the patient is given high-dose chemotherapy, enough to kill all of the bone marrow in the body. Then the patient's own marrow-producing cells are re-infused, through the IV again. The primary danger is that while the stem cells are engrafting (beginning to take hold and grow again), the patient has no immune system defenses against any form of infection. Typically there is a time period of about 10-14 days before the body starts rebounding, producing new red cells, white cells and platelets.
Dr. Strnad said that Mom should be a good candidate for an autologous SCT, meaning she would have her own stem cells collected and re-infused. If for some reason her bone marrow does not respond completely to her current chemotherapy so that it could be used, then a allogeneic (donor) transplant might be considered -- but at this time the doctors do not anticipate that at all and it is actually a much higher-risk procedure because of the chance of rejection.
The insurance coverage issues continue to be troubling. At this time, we don't think that Mom's insurance will cover this procedure at all. We will be appealing to them and we will be seeking out other possible sources of assistance. Dr. Strnad indicated to us that time is of the essence, he would not want to delay treatment at all from the time of Mom's remission, in order to not give the cancer any opportunity to return.
Thank you all so much for your continued prayers in the midst of your own busy lives. Please pray that Mom's chemotherapy treatments would continue to be effective at killing the lymphoma and thank God with us that she has experienced such good progress with such slight side effects. Please pray also that we would have God's wisdom and guidance in dealing with the financial aspects of this trial and that we would glorify Him for his wondrous provision.

You are each a blessing to us!
Liz, for all of us

"Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord."
Psalm 31:23a, 24




Mom Update – good news & bad news – Sept 24, 2005

Lead me by Your truth and teach me
For You are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in You.
Psalm 25:5

I haven't written anything in weeks, as we've gone along on a fairly even keel, learning nothing new -- but we appreciate greatly knowing that we are still in your thoughts & prayers as so many have asked how Mom and the family are doing.
The good news is that Mom has finished the last of the 6 scheduled chemo treatments with only minor side effects, mostly fatigue. We are so glad that the lymphoma has responded well (died off) with the CHOP-R treatment and that it has not made Mom sick & she has not had any more infections.
The bad news is that the insurance company has reached the limit of what they will pay this calendar year. And not only will they not pay out any more, they also will not process the bills through the PPO which adjusts the bills downward somewhat. Additionally, they have as a policy to not cover any transplant related costs at all. At this point, all costs the rest of the year, and any stem-cell transplant costs, will fall directly upon Mom and Dad. Obviously this is distressing and we are looking at any and all options for both treatment and payment. Please pray that we would have wisdom in knowing how to proceed -- we are in dire need of it! Yet we are so thankful for God's provision up to this point.
And for right now, we get to wait some more. After Dr. Strnad indicated in July an extreme need to hurry, Dr. Weibel is indicating a need to be patient. It is rather frustrating for all of us and especially for Mom who really wishes this process would move along and get resolved (Dr. Weibel told her, nicely, just to get over that). We will wait almost a month and then do extensive testing to determine whether or not the lymphoma is in remission. We can't foresee what treatment might be needed this year or next, and how to go about paying for it, until those tests are done and the results are in -- which will be early in November. So, we're either learning patience or fighting against it.
The doctors have clearly indicated that because of the extent of disease Mom had, further treatment is necessary whether she has reached remission or not. What that will be, and when, are what the testing will help to determine.
Mom is feeling rather tired, and a bit scared, I think, of the tired feeling because that was her primary symptom of disease. Any encouragement you can offer her by visiting or calling or writing a note would be so appreciated. Luke has been staying at her house much of the time and of course she's got Tim & Thor to keep her company. The doctor has continued to say that Mom has done remarkably well through the course of treatment and that the fatigue is just the effect of chemotherapy.
• Please pray for both the doctors and the family to have wisdom and discernment regarding future treatment.
• Thank God and rejoice with us that we are making progress against this disease and moving forward with the life He's given us.
• Pray that we would take every opportunity to seek God first in the decisions that lie ahead.
As always, we love & appreciate you!
Liz, for the family

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!
Look on my affliction and my pain,
And forgive all my sins...
Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
Psalm 25:16-21




Mom Update, Dr’s appointment tomorrow – November 2, 2005

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,
in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Dear friends & family,
I want to begin by acknowledging God's mighty hand guiding us through the trial of Mom's illness and I want to testify to His great goodness in large and small blessings. Please pray for us especially today and tomorrow that we would all trust with all our hearts and that we would know that He directs our paths!
I have added several names to our email list of people who might not have gotten any previous updates -- this email relates to Linda Kesner, my (Liz Garrison's) mother.
We have gotten excellent news before the visit: THE LYMPHOMA IS IN REMISSION! All of Mom's tests have come back essentially clear and so now we expect the doctor to recommend tomorrow that Mom immediately begin preparing for a stem cell rescue/transplant (SCT) which will entail removing & storing stem cells from her blood, undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, then having the stem cells re-infused to regrow her bone marrow.
Mom still is not feeling well and I do not know if that will impact the doctors' recommendation on the timing of the SCT. At the initial consult in late July, the SCT specialist predicted a 20% survival without the SCT, an 80% survival with the SCT and a pressing need to accomplish the SCT immediately following remission.
The insurance difficulties continue -- please, please pray about that for us today and in the coming week. It would really help me to know that many were joining with me in prayer so that I can feel confident that whatever the outcome, God is indeed directing the path of Mom's treatment and no works of satan are being built up in our lives or our hearts. We believe that the Board of Trustees of the insurance fund want to help us by providing payment if they are able. But the doctor's office, after repeatedly promising a letter that would detail the need and the costs of the SCT procedure, still has not provided this letter and the Trustees are meeting on Monday November 7th. That is our only known hope for having the SCT paid for (& it still would mean that Dad & Mom have to pay their deductible & out of pocket expenses of $6000 in addition to the $20-30,000 in medical bills that insurance has not covered in September & October). The stem-cell transplantation specialist is himself out on an extended medical leave but is expected to return next week -- I do not know what that means for Mom's treatment.
We are working on a website that will detail current developments, prayer requests and provide information on how to make tax-deductible donations for those who have asked. I will let you know when that is up & running.
Thank you SO MUCH to all who tied a knot on the prayer quilt -- that is a wonderful ministry and a beautiful, tangible symbol of the love & power of God working through the prayers of His people.
God bless each of you!
Liz, for all of us

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,
casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Be sober, be vigilant;
because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Resist him, steadfast in the faith,
knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:6-11




Mom Update – November 4, 2005

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust."
Psalm 91:1-2

Dear friends & family,
As expected, on November 2nd the doctor explained that all of Mom's test results show no evidence of active lymphoma. Her strong recommendation is that Mom go ahead right away with a high dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue.
The reason is this: the prognosis for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is determined in large measure according to the International Prognostic Index -- and the extent of Mom's disease by this indicates about an 80% probability that the lymphoma will come back & come back worse.
But the chemotherapy that was used this summer to treat Mom succeeded very, very well -- much better & quicker than either of her doctors expected. For that reason, it is expected that a very high dose of chemotherapy, enough to kill all of Mom's blood cells could (again with 80% probability) kill all of the cancer & she would be cured. But if you kill all of someone's blood cells, they can't produce blood, that's the reason that a stem-cell rescue is needed. It is from the blood stem-cells that other blood cells grow, so some of Mom's cells would be removed from her blood, preserved during the chemotherapy and then re-infused after the chemo to begin growing her new blood-producing bone marrow.
The oncologist/hematologist theorizes that Mom's lymphoma arose early this year & strengthened so quickly as to render her completely incapacitated and critically ill within only a few months. So, he does not want to give that cancer any time to rejuvenate itself. Doing the procedure now gives Mom the best chance at continued life.
The insurance fund Director, Consultant and Trustees are meeting Sunday 11/5 at 2:30 pm, again that evening and then as a whole group on Monday morning to consider whether or not they can and will cover the stem-cell procedure. In their policy, all transplant procedures are excluded and all expenses over $150,000 in one calendar year are excluded -- so they would have to grant us exceptions on both cases. It is not likely, but it is possible. Please pray this weekend and Monday morning that God's perfect will would be done in Mom's care and that we would receive clear direction on how to proceed.
If the insurance fund denies our request, we might be able to ask OU's facility in OKC to accept her as a patient at a reduced rate, but they will not tell us how much that might be but the procedure there would be inpatient so it would be much more expensive overall.
Please pray with us that Mom would continue to improve, it is so slowly that she is frustrated. She has been unable to care for her own household and her family's needs (and her garden!) since April and she would so much like to feel better. Please pray about the financial issue, that we would know how best and where best to try to proceed with the stem-cell transplant.
For those of you that are interested in updates or in contributing, friends of the family have set up www.LindaKesnerFund.com to coordinate that effort. And we greatly appreciate it!
God bless you all!
Liz, for the family

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
Psalm 91:3-4




Mom Update – November 7, 2005

"Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land . . . "
Deuteronomy 8:6-7a

Dear friends & family,
We have heard from the insurance fund & their decision is to deny part & approve part of our appeal -- but still a huge victory.
They will not let us use 2006 funds beginning right now.
But they will increase 2005 funds, for everyone under this insurance policy, as of Nov. 1st & move the limit up to $200,000 -- giving us an extra $50,000 and also giving any other families in similar situations the same extra funds. This will not be retroactive beyond last week so it will not pay for Mom's chemo in September (at about $10k) or her tests in October (which I'm guessing will total over $10k).
They will approve the stem-cell rescue for partial payment, up to the additional $50,000 -- which is $36,500 short of the estimate from the dr's office. It may be that we can get some decrease through the PPO repricing, it may be that we can get some break on the drug costs (drugs are $80k of the $86.5k). As I think about the need met & the remaining need, I will just have to make a list of all the mountains I've seen God move this year -- it will be a great encouragement to me the rest of this experience & the rest of my life. In fact, and this is great!, the insurance fund director said to me "by the grace of God we were able to raise the limit." If I didn't believe, it might be unbelievable. Thank you for your prayers!
I have contacted the oncologist's office & they've now referred Mom's case to the partner who specializes in stem-cell & bone marrow transplants. The coordinator will work with the insurance fund & the dr's office's financial department & hopefully let me know in a day or two whether we can go ahead right now, whether we will need to raise more money before starting or whether they still will not be able to accept Mom as a patient.
Please pray that Mom would both be & feel strengthened physically & encouraged spiritually & emotionally. The oncologist talked with Mom & I back in June & borrowed from the bible study I was working on at the time, telling us that this would be a long wandering in the wilderness but that we were for sure headed to the Promised Land -- keep your eyes also on His promises, remembering all He's brought you through!
Liz, for all of us

"When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you."
Deuteronomy 8:10




Mom Update – November 14, 2005

"...my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart is appalled within me..."
and so what am I to do? . . .
"I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands.
I stretch out my hands to Thee..."
Psalm 143:4, 5b, 6a

Dear Family & Friends,
Please pray for us today as we work to sort out Mom's treatment options. We have spent countless hours this summer and fall trying to be ready for the time when Mom could proceed with the stem-cell transplant . . . and we seem to have hit a wall.
The doctors and nurses and coordinators at the doctors' office where Mom has been treated are either in conflict with one another or not communicating with one another. In the last week and a half we have been told
- it is not unreasonable to do nothing at this point
- waiting a few weeks will make no difference to Linda's treatment
- Linda will die because the family is not acting to get her treatment immediately.
Surely you can picture the hysteria THAT ONE caused for us.

We notified the doctor's office last week of the additional insurance money, were told they were working out the details and would get back to us. We followed up mid-week, offering to do anything necessary to speed the situation along & were told again, no hurry, it's being worked out. And then we were told Friday morning that insurance would NOT pay for the procedure (which is untrue) and that no longer would $80,000 cover it, we would need $500,000 and they would not do it there for us anyway. This is after being told the last 6 months that it was "no problem" and THEY even suggested to us that we do the procedure & then take bankruptcy.
I requested a referral and copies of all Mom's records at that point and was told that under HIPPA regulations, they do not have to provide records immediately, they have a window of time in which to accomplish that.
So, I am working diligently to retain self-control (& control my blood pressure) as we also work diligently to get Mom's records and find another doctor, probably at OU-HSC in OKC. Please pray that we move forward with the perfect plan for Mom.
Great news -- since last Tuesday Mom is feeling much, much better. She feels some energy returning, her hair is growing back and possibly Dad will be able to come home in the next week or so to spend some time with her before the stem-cell transplant.
Mom also was given the Prayer Quilt recently, it is just beautiful -- to Nancy & all those who tied knots, THANK YOU.
Thank you so much for your continued prayers. Please visit www.LindaKesnerFund.com for continued updates or to print out flyers.
Liz, for all of us

"Let me hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in Thee;
Teach me the way in which I should walk; for to Thee I life up my soul...
Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God;
Let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground."
Psalm 143:8, 10




Mom Update (to family) -- November 22, 2005

a quick update to the family:
Back in July, the dr at Tulsa said Mom needed the transplant right away after the chemo -- it's now been 9 weeks since she's had any treatment. They understood that there was no more insurance (which is not correct) and they told us to go to OU which is a state facility and that OU could perform a SCT on a sliding-scale basis & it would be affordable to us.
At OU -- as I feared -- the dr says the SCT will actually be more expensive. His recommendation was to wait until January when Mom should/might have more insurance money available but to have an additional chemo treatment right now to get her to January. Which runs the pricetag up another $20k. And the insurance situation is rather iffy -- they only agreed to pay for a SCT because it was cheaper than another round of chemo, less than $100k, now it may not be so the insurance co could say that they won't pay any of it.
Doesn't it make your head hurt trying to understand this mess? My advice to everyone is Do Not Get Sick, it is too much work!
Another consideration Matt & I discussed last night is that since it has already been 9 weeks & we do not know what the cancer might be doing, it would actually get some of the chemo to Mom a lot quicker to have the regular chemo treatment (which probably could be done next week) than to go through all the SCT prep before getting chemo (which probably would take at least 3 weeks maybe 4 or 5).
Another very distressing thing was that this dr felt like the SCT would only improve Mom's chances of beating NHL to about 50-50, rather than 80-20. That was not encouraging. And he said their 100 day mortality rate for SCT at OU is about 3%.
We're praying and will be talking to the financial counselor at OU hopefully today to see more clearly what the options are dollar-wise. And then I'll have to go to the insurance director & see what exactly the coverage is & will be - they still have not sent anything at all in writing.
Liz

"so we make it our goal to please Him" 2Cor 5:9




"My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God and He will hear me."
Psalm 77:1

Dear Family & Friends,
We are still waiting, not knowing what will come next.
We have seen the hematologist/oncologist at OU who specializes in stem-cell rescue, and he agreed that that procedure would be beneficial for Mom. But he suggested a path we hadn't even considered, to do another chemotherapy now and wait until the beginning of next year to do the SCT. At this point we have absolutely no idea if treatments are being suggested in Mom's best interest or completely driven by insurance benefits (or lack thereof). The insurance issues which should have been somewhat cleared up are still complicated (as the insurance fund has continued to tell providers that Mom has no coverage). Mom's oncologist in Tulsa, Dr. Weibel, has served Mom with notice that Dr. Weibel is refusing to treat Mom any further & now we will have to find a new doctor. We've tried to get the additional treatment at OU, to get another opinion from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and to get in to see another oncologist in Tulsa -- all to no avail, thus far.
It feels to me like an enormous, insurmountable logjam. And so I am praying, and have asked my family to pray & now ask you to pray, that the logjam will break and our path will be clear. Pray that God's perfect will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Pray that we would each remember that God's word to us is to not grow weary, to not lose heart. This is such a frustrating battle.
Thank you so much for your kind words and your continued prayers. We love you & thank God for you. Mom's medical fund contributions continue to grow bit by bit and that will be a wonderful help to us in paying the bills from September and October as well as showing the doctors our intention to pay future bills for chemotherapy and stem cell rescue. (The websites are www.LindaKesnerFund.com and www.transplantfund.org.)
Liz, for all of us

"You are the God who works wonders..."
Psalm 77:14a



Prayer-filled Mom Update – December 26, 2005

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
1 Peter 1:3

Dear family & friends,
How thankful we are that we have a living hope through Christ's work -- rather than a hope simply in comfort & ease in this life. I've had to greatly remind myself of that this weekend as our plans all went topsy-turvy! We were encouraged this weekend in church to pray along the lines of the familiar hymn "Jesus, Lord and Master, I give myself to Thee, for Thou in Thine atonement didst give Thyself for me" -- acknowledging His Lordship, and beginning each day with the realization that it's not all about me, my earthly goals & plans, my limited view of reality. Along with Mom, Dad & Matt & Kaye & John & Luke & I spent a large part of our Christmas Day in the Emergency Room at St. Francis. We left turkeys in the oven & rushed to the hospital as Mom developed a fever & became extrememely weak. Rachael & Curt got to host an impromptu dinner for 20 since the Christmas party at Mom & Dad's obviously would not occur this year.
The update on Mom, and the plea for prayers:
Mom has struggled all week with a rash -- which does appear to be shingles though the doctor she saw on Tuesday did not think it was & did not treat it then as such. The virus does appear to have moved into her eye & now she risks losing sight in her eye. Please pray with us that God would be merciful and heal this virus with no lasting effects to Mom's eye. We ask it if it is God's will, and in either case we pray that He would work mightily in us to remind us that it is so much better and more needful to see with His eyes than to see with our own.
Mom has had a severe gallbladder attack and the surgeon last night recommended that her gallbladder be taken out. He could see a gallstone even on her June CT scans so he does not think it is something that will resolve on its own. Mom also has an umbilical hernia so he will try to repair that at the same time. He has scheduled the surgery, which hopefully can be done laparoscopically, for Tuesday morning at 10am. Please pray that the surgery is simple and successful and that Mom is strong enough to heal quickly without additional infection.
We thank you again, so much, for your continued prayers for us and for Mom. If you have a desire to make a donation to help us with the medical expenses, we would greatly appreciate that. Information is at www.LindaKesnerFund.com or www.TransplantFund.org (designating Linda Kesner).
I pray that you each had a very blessed Christmas.
Liz, for all of us

"In this (the living hope, the inheritance He has for us, the protecting power of God) you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, [being] more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ"
1 Peter 1:6-7




Mom Update, Tuesday afternoon – December 27, 2005

They have decided not to do the hernia repair (to simplify things as much as possible) & will go ahead with the gallbladder removal about 10-11-12am this morning - they've just gotten the go-ahead at 9:20 so they won't be doing anything at 10, I imagine. Rachael said Mom's fever was down to 99 this morning & she had just had a partial dose of Tylenol apparently. Last night it was back up to about 104 & that's why the infectious disease specialist said don't mess with the hernia, just get the gallbladder out so we can determine if that is the problem or not.
Will let you know how it goes.
Liz



Mom Update – December 28, 2005

Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Dear family & friends,
Mom is still struggling to recover from illness -- would you please be in prayer for her today?
The surgeon successfully removed her gallbladder on Tuesday morning & said it was extremely inflamed & enlarged. It was decided by the doctors not to try to repair the hernia at all since Mom's fever was still so high and there is concern that she might have an additional infection -- beyond the gallbladder & shingles.
Thankfully, the shingles outbreak seems to be improving and her eye appears to be alright thus far.
Today she is extremely uncomfortable from the surgery and so she is drugged up & trying to rest. She does still have a fever, even after the surgery and several days of IV antibiotics, so the doctors are continuing to culture her blood & to reassess antibiotic use to determine any additional course of treatment that might be necessary.
Again & still, we so appreciate & crave your support in prayer for the whole family. We thank you, and thank God for you.
Liz, for all

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure,
whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy
-- meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8




Mom Update – January 9, 2006

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you;
He will be with you.
He will not fail you or forsake you.
Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

Dear family & friends,
We have rejoiced, even while Mom was hospitalized & again this past week, to see God's provision in so many, many ways. He truly cares for us fully and tenderly and magnificently!
Mom's visit with Dr. Selby at OU will be this week and we ask you to pray specifically that he would have wisdom and insight as he guides Mom's treatment. Pray also that we would see this experience, and offer this experience, as for God's glory. Please pray that we would continue to feel God's own Spirit strengthening us & leading us.
We had a BIG birthday party for Tim this weekend as he turned EIGHTEEN! He had us light all the candles (on dozens of cupcakes) and he waited outside until we turned out ALL the lights in the house and then he & Thor came in like starters on a professional basketball team while the whole family cheered (& laughed). He is playing b'ball for CHS, and Curt pointed out that he's nearly the leading scorer in the history of the Kesner family (having scored several 3-pointers).
Mom says that she's not feeling bad but she's not feeling good. The shingles have nearly cleared up and she doesn't appear to have any long-term effects from it, for which we are very grateful.
I know that several of you that receive these updates have spent the Christmas season, or even the past year, facing health struggles or heartache of your own -- please know that we are praying for you as well, lifting your names before the throne of grace & truth.
Liz, for all of us

...be strong & of good courage . . .
Deuteronomy 31:7b




Mom Update – January 12, 2006

If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations (enemies) are greater than I; how can I dispossess (conquer) them?’
you shall not be afraid of them;
you shall well remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt:
the great trials which your eyes saw
and the signs and the wonders
and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out . .
You shall not dread them (your enemies) for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.
Deuteronomy 7:17-19a, 21

Dear Family & Friends,
Thank you so much for your continued prayers, yesterday was a very hard day as we waited to hear what horrible, frightening thing Dr. Selby had to say to us. It is such a comfort to know that my own continual prayers were just a part of a flood that was reaching the ears of our Lord and Savior.
After a long, long wait the doctor came in & very simply confirmed that the lymphoma has spread to Mom’s brain.
But he thinks that it is very treatable with steroids and radiation. He has referred us to a radiation oncologist in Tulsa where Mom will have daily radiation treatment for 2-6 weeks then we will try again to proceed with a stem-cell transplant. Mom started the steroid prescription last night to both reduce the tumor and to reduce the brain’s swelling around the tumor. Dr. Selby said she should begin to feel better within a day or two! Her symptoms have not been severe and unfortunately for our diagnostic talents, the symptoms of a brain tumor are similar to the side-effects of chemotherapy – in early October we were convinced she had a brain tumor because of the confusion and difficulty walking and lethargy, but at that time she did not. She has continued with the same symptoms and she’s not active enough to note some of the newer effects so when we got this news on Monday we were shocked and dismayed.
The doctor pictured this as more of a set-back than a tragedy; he was fairly reassuring in light of such an ugly diagnosis. The biggest change is that it increases the time that Mom definitely needs someone caring for her, presenting challenges to us. And unfortunately, any delay gives the lymphoma time to return in other places. Please continue to pray for strength and healing for Mom and for God’s perfect provision. As I pointed out to so many last summer, I am always encouraged by listening to a particular song on a cd that Rachael gave me when Chris Tomlin sings “How great is our God . . . sing with me, how great is our God . . . then all will see how great, how great is our God.” That is a heart-felt prayer in this situation: that we – you and I and all around us – would see clearer and stronger and know more & more completely how great is our God – mark it down to always remember.
We love you.
Liz, for all of us

You shall therefore (because of your great, mighty, awesome God, 10:17) love the LORD your God,
and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. ...your own eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD which He did (mark it to remember).
Deuteronomy 11:1 & 7




Mom Update – February 4, 2006

BUT now, thus says the LORD...
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Isaiah 43:1-3

Dear Friends and Family,
What a month! Let me begin by saying that we heartily thank God for the blessings He Himself has put in place to sustain us through this experience – timing such that Dad could be home for weeks at a time, a large family willing & able to share the challenges, and love enough to sacrifice and serve and overlook a multitude of difficulties. God alone has provided all that. (And we look forward to the days of eternity when those blessings will be in full measure and without the death & decay of this world.)
Mom’s radiation treatments are completed. She is scheduled for another round of scans this coming week to see if the NHL remains in remission throughout her lymph system and if the brain tumor/swelling have decreased in response to the radiation therapy. Dr. Selby at OU & his team are still aiming us at a stem-cell transplant as soon as possible. If the scans are clear/acceptable next week then the other pre-SCT testing will begin right away. Certainly we are praying for God’s perfect will to be done.
In order to treat the brain tumor/swelling, Mom has been taking steroids. Prior to this past week Mom was unable to walk by herself, had lost significant control over her left hand, could not read or write, and had various other physical and perceptual difficulties. Most of these issues have been resolving in the last week and easing the physical burden on Dad of caring for her. But the steroids have made Mom basically manic and her brain does not seem to rest at all, which is hard on her and those around her. I would still encourage phone calls, but please understand that the drugs do affect how a person thinks and talks, and Mom’s personality is more boisterous than normal.
Please continue to pray for Mom’s healing and that God’s Spirit would open the eyes of our understanding through the physical difficulties to see the spiritual realities, that we would know Him better and love Him more. This week, pray that as wait to hear of the test results that we would rest and trust completely in the grace of God, in any circumstance.
We cannot express thanks enough for those of you who have prayed for provision and those who have contributed money to the NTAF fund. The fund will cover much of the remaining 2005 expenses and start covering the 2006 deductible & copay of $6000 -- this has enabled Dad to stay home for December and January and into February, caring for Mom, driving her to & from her many appointments, overseeing her medication, and his favorite: doing all the cooking & cleaning. I do not want to trivialize it at all -- I hope you can imagine the incredible value that your giving has been to us. Updates on funding & Mom’s condition continue to be available at www.LindaKesnerFund.com.
God has also graciously given us joy and distraction this week – the attachment is Baby Joseph David Branch (Rachael & Curt’s new baby) born Friday afternoon at 3:26pm, weighing 7-14. Dad & Mom were able to get to Rachael’s house just in time to hear his first little cries. What a blessing.
Liz, for all of us

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is in the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit
Jeremiah 17:7-8




Mom Update – February 25, 2006

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing...

Dear Family & Friends,
Mom’s care is moving quickly now in preparation for the stem-cell transplant. She had CT scans & MRIs last week; the CTs were clear & the MRI showed that the brain tumor & swelling are thankfully smaller, responding as hoped to January’s radiation therapy.
This week Mom had a bone marrow biopsy & an analysis of her cerebro-spinal fluid, those also were clear of noticeable cancer cells.
Next week Mom will have tests of her heart and lung function to determine if she is strong enough to undergo the high-dose chemotherapy. And if those tests are fine, the procedure will be scheduled to begin soon after.
The actual stem-cell transplant or stem-cell rescue is a small but vital part of a larger process. The stem-cells do not act in any way to eliminate cancer; it will be the chemotherapy that will work to kill cancer cells that are presumed to be still in Mom’s system but in small enough quantities that they are not currently detectable. Here is a overview (I’m trying to be brief, but details are much more in my nature than brevity!)
• finish testing
• receive injections of Neupogen to stimulate Mom’s marrow to produce more blood stem cells
• have another catheter implanted above her heart for the stem-cell removal & the chemo treatments
• have 2-4 days of apheresis, processing Mom’s blood to remove & collect stem cells which will be frozen
• be admitted to the hospital, OU’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Presbyterian Hospital in OKC
• begin 2-4 days of high-dose chemotherapy (this is about 10x higher doses than regular chemo)
• wait 1-3 days for chemo to destroy the blood-producing bone marrow (which hopefully will eliminate remaining cancer cells)
• re-infuse Mom’s own previously collected & frozen stem-cells (just like a transfusion of any blood product)
• wait 1-3 weeks for labwork to show that the stem-cells have engrafted & begun to produce new blood cells
• Mom will remain at OU until levels of white cells, red cells & platelets reach certain levels
Further information is available at these & other websites:
http://www.nhlcyberfamily.org/treatments/sct.htm
http://www.marrow.org/PATIENT/nhl.html
As soon as we know exact dates, we will let you know.
Mom has been very tired following the radiation therapy. If you talk to her, encourage her to get some exercise, very low-level exercise. The prospect of such a physically difficult procedure is somewhat frightening, but the last two months of experiencing the effects of the brain tumor and the medications have been so very hard and complex, we are immensely thankful to be moving beyond that. Please pray for grace and peace – that the entire family would both exercise & experience grace and peace in great measure, holding to the Lord, our strong tower. We are awed & thankful for the many blessings God has bestowed upon us in this situation. Please do continue to pray for Mom’s healing and that she would be strengthened in body and in spirit for the months ahead and that we would know how to minister to her and to each other.
God bless you all!
Liz

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
Martin Luther




Mom Update (just to the siblings) – Thursday 3/2/06

Just sending this to the siblings (but I don’t have an email address for Rudy & Patsy) –
The CT scan last night showed that the tumor has grown since the MRI on Feb 8th. This is very bad news and certainly puts the stem cell transplant in jeopardy. The SCT specialist at OU will confer with the SCT specialist in Tulsa & will let us know what the options might be. That probably will be later today or more likely tomorrow morning. Mom has started back on the decadron (steroid) & she seems better this morning than yesterday. She still can carry on a conversation fine, it’s her motor abilities that are so severely affected. She is at St. Francis. The doctor last night just told us that there is significant swelling of the brain – I asked if it was the tumor & he said no, but the CT report clearly said that the tumor is increased in size. So all Mom knows is what the doctor said in the ER & that she’s getting steroids to make her feel better.
We are greatly saddened & disheartened, but never without hope, because our hope is an eternal, unchangeable one – our hope is IN an eternal, unchangeable One.
I will be gone from 12:30 – 4 (will be at the hospital from 1-3) this afternoon then I think I’ll be home this evening & will go to the hospital early tomorrow morning.
Love y’all -- Liz

Rom 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Rom 8:24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he {already} sees?
Rom 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Rom 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for {us} with groanings too deep for words;




Mom Update – March 3rd, 2006

[Jesus said] “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33b

Dear Family & Friends,
We continued this week with more testing in preparation for a stem-cell transplant. But as many of you know, Mom had troubling symptoms mid-week that had us pulling another all-nighter at the Emergency Room of Saint Francis hospital. Since Mom’s treatment with steroids ended she has gotten increasingly tired and has had difficulty walking. The fatigue may simply be the result of her radiation therapy. But the balance and motor coordination got much worse on Wednesday and the doctor at OU recommended that Mom have testing that evening. A CT scan indicated an increase in the swelling in her brain. Mom will probably need another MRI to give us a reliable comparison of the actual tumor. The doctors prescribed steroid treatment again and Mom began to improve very quickly, for which we are thankful. She was able to get out of bed and walk around with help on Thursday and by this morning (Friday) was able to walk a few steps by herself so she was released and back home by lunchtime.
We will wait to hear from Dr. Selby at OU as to how he wants to proceed from here. In the meantime, we’re going to enjoy the beautiful weather tomorrow with a work-day/picnic at Mom & Dad’s house, God willing.
Please pray for us since we (& the doctors) certainly need wisdom as we face another change in the expected course of treatment. Pray also that the steroid treatment will be effective in reducing swelling and allowing Mom to function as close to normally as possible and that Dad would have wisdom to know when it would be helpful to use additional medication to alleviate side-effects of the steroids. You could pray for me, that I would rest comfortably in the knowledge that God is in control -- rather than seeking any comfort in trying to know and understand this situation myself. I continually thank God for His precious and powerful promises that offer us unshakeable hope.
God bless you all!
Liz, for all of us

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts,
to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7




Mom’s Update – Friday March 3rd, 2006

Mom is back home.
We spoke to the Tulsa oncologist’s assistant this morning & she basically told us that Dr. Selby (at OU) would have to look at the CT himself & maybe an MRI & then he would decide what to do next. So basically, they told us nothing. The doctors in Tulsa have not said that the tumor was growing again or that there was any problem with the tumor. The symptoms and the test seem to indicate that, but the doctors did not say that.
The discharge papers say that Mom was hospitalized for a possible Ommaya reservoir infection -- which no one ever mentioned at all, nor was Mom receiving antibiotics other than one dose of Levaquin this morning.
I asked the nurse at OU to clarify all this for me & she indicated that there needed to be a good comparison, which probably means Mom will need another MRI, and that they would let us know more definitively maybe early next week.
The steroids are helping & I asked for prescriptions for medications to help Mom sleep and to not be so manic while she’s on steroids, so Dad can use those as needed and maybe the steroids won’t be as much of a difficulty as last time. Our plan is to have a picnic out there tomorrow & enjoy the nice weather & each other.
Liz

2Cor 12:9 And He has said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is perfected in weakness."
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.




Mom Update – March 7th, 2006

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

Dear Family & Friends,
Finally we’ve heard from the doctor, and the word is to wait still more. (Without doubt I have MUCH more to learn about patience and trusting!)
The stem-cell transplant specialists in Tulsa & OKC have conferred again & Dr. Lynch in Tulsa is hopeful that perhaps the swelling that compromised Mom’s motor coordination last week is an effect of the radiation and the tapering off of the Dexamethasone. So, now Mom is back on the Dexamethasone and we need to wait a bit longer to see if the swelling will resolve. Dr. Selby at OU has ordered an MRI to be done in 3 weeks and then he will reevaluate Mom’s condition.
Please pray that we would seek the Lord daily rather than trying to figure it all out on our own. And pray also that we would enjoy the blessings He’s given and grow more like Christ in the face of our challenges – and I will be praying the same for all of you, our much-loved and much-loving friends & family!
Liz, for all of us

Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Jehovah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.
Isaiah 26:4




Quick Update on Mom – 3/16/06

In case anyone didn’t know, wanted to be sure you were aware that Mom is back home today (hmm...what day IS it? oh, yeah, Thursday).
We really didn’t find out much to explain the weakness, but she was a little stronger yesterday & today, not able to walk by herself though. I am coming to hate the hospital, I shouldn’t say that, but I am so tired and they did absolutely nothing to help Mom there, just made us all more miserable.
The doctor here in Tulsa, Dr. Lynch, said it was not workable for us to list him as doctor in emergencies & thus expect him to make treatment decisions when Mom is Dr. Selby’s patient, not Dr. Lynch’s patient. He suggested that Mom visit him in his office sometime in the next couple weeks. It would be fine for her to have more oversight of her situation but I am very concerned that we could have another doctor-situation (don’t know what else to call it) where the doctor gets mad for no apparent reason & refuses to see Mom. Pray for both doctors to be completely merciful and cooperative and not arrogant or possessive.
There was a slight indication that Mom might have a bladder infection so she’s taking antibiotics. The CT, they said, showed no change from the last scan a couple weeks ago, which is surprising/puzzling in a not-good way. Mom still has the appointment on Monday to have an MRI (& neck-chest-abdomen CTs) so perhaps that will give us a better idea of what that situation is. The doctors both in Tulsa & OKC figured that the weakness was likely due to steroid use, but since the brain swelling showed no decrease on the new CTs, they did not feel they could reduce the steroid dose at all.
John is planning to leave to go on a pipeline job this weekend, he has been a great help at the house the last few months. Cheryl is coming for a couple weeks and that will help Dad too. I guess I’ll not think beyond that for now, other than to thank God for the provision He has already made, and continuing to trust & pray for help as needed. This is really, really hard. Please pray for Mom & Dad, for John as he travels, for all of us.
Thank you! Liz

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.




Mom Update – March 21, 2006

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to {obtain} an inheritance {which is} imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5 -- a rerun in this space, but the verses I am reminded of this morning

Dear Family & Friends,
Once again I’m coming to you, asking for prayer, asking that you hold our family before the throne of God, that His tender mercies would rain down upon us.
Mom’s health appears to be deteriorating yet again. She is not able to walk even with the walker at this point and she appears to be losing vision again and exhibiting other symptoms presumably caused by the brain tumor (it’s on the right side so she has motor & vision difficulties on the left side). Obviously this causes both physical challenges in Dad’s caring for her & emotional challenges for Mom & all of us. Mom is still able to stand with assistance, for which we are so thankful, because it makes caring for her still possible. Mom’s sister Cheryl has come to be with her for a couple weeks & we are immeasurably grateful for that opportunity as well.
All through this illness the doctors’ expectations have not matched with reality. Initially the doctors expected that the cancer would not respond to treatment and they were all very surprised that it did respond so completely. They expected the NHL would return in her marrow or lymph nodes but it attacked her brain. They thought the radiation would eliminate the brain tumor but it did not. Isn’t that just the story of most lives, what we think will happen does not happen and instead we so often find ourselves in a situation we never would have expected. Here’s the comfort – I define myself, as my mom would define herself, as being who am & what family I am in & where I am living -- but above all, in the hands of God. I am Liz, daughter of Bo & Linda, wife of Greg, mother of Katie, Jacob, Josh, Peter & Paul, in the country of America, in the state of Oklahoma, in the hands of God. And while an emotional storm surges and rages all around me, washing over me & threatening at times to push me to the ground, there’s my foundation: I am in the hands of a loving God that I know and trust. My mother is in the hands of God. Think about that – brain tumor or no brain tumor, our future is secure. Secure!
Because I love you all let me clearly say, my future is secure, as the truth above says, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you do not have security and a relationship with Christ, let me reiterate the words of Paul in 2nd Corinthians 5:20 “as an ambassador for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Because you do not know what else your life holds, please consider this plea today. And feel free to contact me any time by any means if you want to discuss Christ or salvation or hope – I would love nothing more. You also may look at these websites for a fuller explanation of the gospel, the good news: www.tulsabible.org/truth_matter.asp and http://www.tulsabible.org/Gospel/.
I have collected verses, poems and songs over the course of the last many months and kept them in a Word file, if anyone would like to get those as an attachment, I would be happy to send those to you, to share the comfort with which I have been comforted by God.
Please pray for us this week. Pray that we would seek to glorify God by trusting in Him; pray that Mom would be strengthened in spirit and in body, and Dad too because this is very hard on him physically. Thank you for your prayers, your cards, your visits, they are a needed encouragement to us. Mom still is talking on the phone, but it seems to be distressing to her for people to call & ask “how are you?” Please pray about this, continue to call her because it is a needed distraction in her day, but perhaps think of topics other than her health to discuss or begin by saying that her voice sounds strong or she sounds cheerful or something similar. Share with her what has encouraged you recently or tell what flowers are blooming where you are. Please know we appreciate you greatly and we pray for God’s blessings upon all of you & your families!
Liz, for all of us

In this [our living hope, our inheritance, our salvation] you greatly rejoice,
even though now for a little while, if necessary,
you have been distressed by various trials,
so that the proof of your faith, {being} more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire,
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
and though you have not seen Him, you love Him,
and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him,
you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
... fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-9, 13b




The doctor said – March 22, 2006
(just to siblings)

Cheryl wanted me to be sure to email her brothers – Luke if I leave anything out or am not clear, jump in & hit reply all –
the dr said that while the NHL in Mom’s lymph system appeared to be controlled (nothing up on the CT scans), that the brain tumor was not controlled. In fact, the dimensions he gave us are roughly twice as big as the CT showed less than 3 weeks ago. And certainly in Mom’s condition, she could not survive a stem-cell transplant. As weak as she is, Dr. Selby said that such an arduous procedure would kill her rather than help her.
He had 2 options & said it was entirely up to the family to decide, he would help either way.
There is a type of radiation called Cyberknife that might be used against this sort of tumor. Dr. Selby really did not have any information at all on whether it would work, how long it might help, how much of the tumor it might get rid of or whether it might in fact be harmful. He said he would help us to contact the hospital in OKC that uses Cyberknife or to try to find a facility in Tulsa that does it. Rachael has already talked with St. Francis’s cancer center where Mom had the January radiation therapy, they are getting Cyberknife capability in July but do not have it now. At both St. John/Tulsa & St. Anthony/OKC there was no one answering the phones late this afternoon & Rach just left messages requesting call-backs tomorrow (Thursday) morning. (Dr. Selby had spoken with the gamma knife radiation oncologists & they said that gamma knife would not work on a tumor this large.) Dr. Selby did say that if we wanted to try this, it needed to be done right away – he said to get back to him within 24-48 hours.
Otherwise, the second option would be hospice care or palliative care. This was really very, very hard for Mom to hear.
Mom & Dad did not ask at all about prognosis time-wise. I did ask what would we expect & Dr. Selby said that he would expect a continuation in the decline (it is evident day by day) in Mom’s abilities. She could only barely bear any weight on her legs today. She can still use her arms well enough to eat or to wave or wipe her eyes, though those abilities are clearly diminished. She would get more tired & want to sleep more – she already sleeps a lot. He said she might have emotional swings from minute to minute because of where the tumor is located but she really has not experienced that up to this point. He would expect that vision and hearing would be compromised or fail – she is already having vision problems. He said headaches would be expected but she really has not been bothered by that much.
We are obviously distraught. We talked about it a little on the way home & over dinner tonight & I think that they do want us to investigate the Cyberknife treatment & see if it offers a reasonable hope. Best case scenario would be that it would greatly reduce or eliminate the brain tumor, Mom would get stronger physically & then would still need a stem-cell transplant. It’s entirely possible that the radiologists will say that it would not be effective or that there might be substantial side effects. We don’t know at this point.
I’m just praying without ceasing for them, for us to have wisdom, for God to have mercy.
Mail me back if you have questions or if you research Cyberknife & have anything to add.
Liz

1Cor 15:57 thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ



Please pray for us – Mom Update 3/30/06

Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders.
Psalm 72:18

Dear Family & Friends,
We so desire the encouragement of your prayers right now. Mom’s condition appears to be worsening so quickly that our hearts are just breaking. It is so so hard that the tumor is making her emotions a wreck – it’s not the way Mom has always been & it is very distressing to us to watch her despair. We are continually trying to comfort her, to help her take every thought captive, to set our hearts on things above – but she doesn’t have the ability to hold on to our words for any length of time.
Please continue to pray for physical strength for Dad as he takes care of Mom. Pray that we would have wisdom and discernment straight from God as we desire to take care of Mom the absolute best we can. Pray that each & every one of us (all of you included) would have spiritual truth & comfort in this painful trial – that it would serve to make us know God better and love Him more. Please pray that every one of the devil’s works in this situation would be completely obliterated and that God would make a marvelous work to His glory that would endure for all generations.
If you are moved to pray WITH Mom rather than just for her, come out to the house or call & do that. Prayer is our comfort. The precious & powerful promises are our comfort. We love you all and we thank you (& watch out for tornadoes – SEVERE today as Tim would say!).
Liz for all

And blessed be His glorious name forever;
And may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen, and Amen.
Psalm 72:19




Mom Update – 4/6/06

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children,
To such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.
Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Psalm 103:1, 8, 11, 17, 18, 22

Dear family & friends,
I wanted to let you know that we are continuing to care for Mom at home and we continue to request your prayers for all of us.
We’re traveling a road that is very rough, but filled with hope because of the precious & powerful promises of our Lord who traveled the road Himself and walks beside us now. We know that should the Lord will it, He can heal her completely even now; and we know that should the Lord allow this illness to take the life of her flesh, that she will pass from our side to His own.
Please pray that God’s truth would shine forth in our words and actions and our very lives; that grace and mercy would abound all the more. And, oh, the grace and mercy of God toward us is beyond measure already – Mom rests comfortably and in no pain whatsoever (which defies medical explanation), she talks with us, she knows us as much now as ever and we are all close enough to be with her very often and – hallelujah – Dad has been able to be with her constantly since December with very little financial stress – blessings beyond measure.
We continue to pray for you, for the many on our email list who are experiencing trials of their own – may His hope be yours in fullest measure, now and always & may you see this light & momentary affliction working for you a much greater weight of eternal glory!
Liz, for all of us

And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord,
all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect;
this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit
2 Corinthians 3:18 JB




Mom Update – April 9, 2006

Liz asked me to send this:

Linda Kesner entered fully into the glory of the Lord
surrounded by her husband and her children.
As Proverbs 31 was read
when the light of the setting sun fell fully on her face
she took her final breath here and smiled.

For we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
2 Cor. 5:7-9


Arrangements through:
Cleveland Funeral Home
Services tentatively planned for Thursday, April 13th.

The phone at the Kesner home has been out since the bad weather last week, please try their cell phones if you need to contact the family.
Greg




Mom’s Services – 4/11/06

The celebration service of Linda’s life will be held at First Baptist Church in Cleveland on Thursday, April 13th, 2006 at 10:00am, officiated by Dr. Larry Wilson. Interment will be at Sinnett Cemetery, Keystone, OK. Services are under the direction of Cleveland Funeral Home.
First Baptist Church is on Crestview Drive, just west of Hwy 99/North Broadway Street (east of the Cleveland cemetery, south of Wal-Mart).

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to Him purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. If God is for us, who can be against us? …Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:18, 25-26, 28-29, 31b, 34b-35, 37-39

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 33:27