Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good News

Loved Ones,

We received an email from Ray's doctor regarding a test he had last week. The test measures the presence of tumor antigens in Ray's blood. It is imprecise, but offers an indication of the chemo's impact.

When we began this journey, this test measured almost 3000. It dropped to under 700 at the time of Ray's last scan. Wednesday it measured under 50.

This was exciting news for us! Especially today, when we were feeling a little crazy for being here!

We do not know exactly how the tumor test will relate to the progress that will be shown on the scan. We are praying that the cancer will be gone and that the scan will be clean. Though this would not end our battle, it would be an incredible sign of progress. One we hope would make potential future treatments possible and clear.

We know that God is the author of our progress and future. We believe that the healing we have seen in Ray is because of God's power and your prayers. And, we believe God's complete healing may occur at any time -- maybe even now. So we pray for discernment and faith for us and our doctors as we interpret Ray's progress.

Last. We did not get even a raindrop here in Austin. We are closely monitoring the MD Anderson weather line to determine whether or not it will be open Monday. It looks promising, dependent on the city's water supply.

Thus, we pray for God's wisdom and discernment as to how best to work out the logistics for the trip -- when to go, what route, whether or not to bring our kids, etc.

We will do our best to keep you updated, while recognizing that power/internet access may not be available. Once we see the doctor and have tests (all scheduled for Monday) it will be until Thursday before we meet with him again so we won't know the results unti l then.

We cherish your prayers.

"I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" Jeremiah 32:27

not alone and not afraid --

kristin and ray

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Watch

Loved Ones,

We had a good day in Austin. It was hot and sunny. The girls and their cousins played at a splash fountain. We saw old friends.

Ray is very tired so he rested much of the day. But he was able to come with us to the splash fountain and we were so glad. The hurricane is supposed to hit later this evening. We are only expecting to get a few inches of rain but we are eagerly anticipating the report of the hurricane location, etc.

We look forward to another day in Austin before we travel to Houston and we are excited to spend time with family and friends here.

A friend sent us this verse a few days ago. It is the perfect one for tonight.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold on a day of trouble; he protects those who take refuge in him, even in a rushing flood.” Nahum 1:7-8a

not alone and not afraid --
kristin and ray


Hi All,

I wanted to clarify. We are NOT in Houston right now! Though we are determined to get to MD Anderson, we are not crazy and are safely waiting out the storm in Austin. We will travel to Houston on Sunday provided the storm is over, and the Med Center looks like it will be open. If not, we will stay put. As always, THANK YOU for your prayers, but I wanted you to know that you do not have to pray for our very life and limbs. At least not today!

xo kristin

The Eye of Storm

Loved Ones,

As you know, usually when I use a title like that it is figurative. Today literal! Almost! We are here in Texas. We left even earlier than we had planned, packing up in about 45 minutes after hearing that airports may be closed tomorrow due to Hurricane Ike! So here we are!

We are thankful that we arrived safely, and we are praying that MD Anderson, which is currently shut down, will be open in time for our appointment on Monday. And, that we can get there! We've heard horror stories about the traffic after hurricanes. But we are here. And we are determined.

If MD Anderson is closed on Monday, our appointment will slide to Thursday. This would be a bummer because we would then have our follow up on the following Monday 9/22, potentially delaying chemo even farther.

Though Ray is always glad for the break, we don't want to give our enemy any foothold!

So we pray for God's perfect timing for all!

We also pray for God's restoration for Ray. A special friend who arranged our travel made it incredibly easy, flexible free tickets, no lines, so it went so smoothly. We are so very grateful! But Ray was tired from his low hemoglobin already! So we pray restoration and protection from any illnesses, especially while his body builds up the white blood cells.

The plane ride here was one of the bumpiest I've been on. As I held on to the edge of my seat and put on a smiling face for the girls, I reflected on the purpose of the bumps. Well, they get my attention! They focus my prayer! But it was when the ride grew calmer that I saw what I think is another purpose. They increase our joy. Those sweet little sleeping faces. All four! Joy. And when the bumps subside, we feel the joy all the more dearly.

Oh, our prayer, for the bumps to subside!

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. To whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? Isaiah 46:4-5

not alone and not afraid --

kristin and ray

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Good News and Preparation for Round Eight

Loved Ones,

I have good news tonight! This evening we got an email from Ray's doctor saying that the pathology test they did on Ray's biopsy rules out hereditary gastric cancer. To say that we are overjoyed is not enough!! We are so incredibly grateful for this answer to prayer. We are still waiting for final results from more complex genetic tests, but we think this is a definitive result -- making our wait for the more complex genetic breakdown a lot less stressful.

Another piece of good news tonight is that Ray's white blood cell shot is approved for Round 8! So we are very thankful for that as its necessity has been shown this week! We are also appreciative to Ray's company who helped us navigate this isse.

Though our outlook for the next few days is still somewhat uncertain, we are learning to live with that! And our prayers are a little more specific tonight. First, it looks less likely that we will depart early for MD Anderson. So, we are really praying that Ray can get chemo as scheduled so we don't have to delay going to Houston. We pray that his white blood cells have increased enough to get treatment tomorrow.

We also pray for improvements in Ray's numbers across the board. We pray specifically that his bilirubin and AST have come down. This would give us a lot more confidence going into the next scan next week. And we have big prayers for big improvements in that scan! So confidence would be great!

In addition, we are praying that weather will not impact our travel or time in Houston. Hurricane Ike is scheduled to hit there this weekend! We just pray that we can travel safely there and that there will be no flooding in the med center! (This sounds impossible but we are told it happens!!)

Last, we ask for continued guidance for every step of this way and for courage and peace as we talk to all of these doctors.

We can't wait to meet with Ray's doctor tomorrow, see how Ray's numbers look, and find out the plan for the next few days!

We want to tell you that the prayerful emails flooded us today. Thank you. Words cannot express our gratitude for your very willingness to shoulder part of our burden, bearing us up under your collective arms.

In good news or in bad, in times of waiting or times of rejoicing, we are sustained by the fact that the Lord's very heart goes out to us. A friend sent us today a story where a widow's grief moves Christ to action. “When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Don’t cry.” (Luke 7:13) As he comforted her, he restored her son.

We are emboldened by Christ's healing; we are comforted by his compassion.

"O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
Isaiah 30:19,21

not alone and not afraid --

kristin and ray

More Prayer Requests

Loved Ones,

What a long day! We got Ray's white blood cell count back this afternoon. His white blood cells are very low, possibly too low for chemo this week. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do at this point as we are too close to chemo to artificially boost them in any way.

We also received Ray's liver numbers. They are hard to interpret. One had a significant drop which was great to see. One is stable which is fine. Two others are increasing which is not great.

His hemoglobin is also very low which is one of the reasons he's been so tired.

All of these numbers are very confusing. We've spoken to the nurses and they tell us that it is possible Ray's white blood cell numbers will improve by Wednesday. So we are optomistic.

If the numbers don't improve, thus delaying chemo, we're checking into the possibility of moving up our trip to Houston, allowing Ray's scan to be moved up, potentially even later this week.

As we're learning all these things, Maggie flipped off the stairs (landing on her head) and Lucy threw up all her dinner! Calgon take me away!!

We cherish your prayers in this time. This morning we had so many wonderful emails. And it was so wonderful to have them, especially as things got trickier this afternoon!!

We do not even know how to pray in all of this because we know that we do not know enough to know the best thing! We are thankful again and again that ALL things work together for the good of those who love him.

‘Do not fear for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you for I am your God, I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand’ Isaiah 41:10

not alone and not afraid --

kristin and ray

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Breath of Life

Loved Ones,

Thanks for all the emails back to Ray from his message last night. Believe me, he read them all, and they all meant a great deal. He had a good day today. We went with his whole family to the White Sox game. Boy, that was a special treat. It was great to be together. If only the Sox won the game!

We have a big week ahead of us, and an even bigger week next week.

Tomorrow we have labs to see Ray's white blood cell count and if he'll be ready for chemo on Wednesday.

Wednesday we see Ray's doctor at Northwestern. Ray will have a tumor marker test so that will give us an indication of the progress of the chemo on the tumors. We will also get a liver function number either Monday or early Wednesday. This will also help to inform us on the continuing impact of Ray's chemo. He's been feeling a little fuller so we are really praying that the fuller feeling is just a chemo side effect, not a change in the size of his tumor.

Also sometime this week (probably Friday) we'll hear the results of one of Ray's genetic tests. This could potentially rule out the hereditary cancer so we are really praying that it will. We are praying that God will spare our family from any more cancer! And this is a heartfelt prayer!

After round 8 concludes on Friday, we'll travel to Texas on Saturday. God has paved the road ahead of us in every way so that our travel will run as smoothly as it can. Still, traveling with the girls and Ray just off chemo will be tiring for Ray. So we are praying for extra energy.

Our first doctor appointment at MD Anderson will be next Monday. This will be followed by scans, tests, and then a follow up visit with the doctor. Our trip there will serve two functions. One, the scans performed there will show us the progress on Ray's liver (this would have happened anyway at Northwestern, but since MD Anderson requires their own scans, we timed the visit so that he does not have to repeat the scans right in a row.) The second reason for our trip is just to get the benefit of another cancer expert in terms of clinical judgments regarding chemo treatments and potential future options.

So. Now you know. Both the schedule, and our prayer needs. Of course I'll write with more, but I just wanted to lay it out for you so that you know and can be praying.

Interestingly, both last Sunday and this Sunday we've been sent similar Bible stories of healing. In both the stories, the breath of God or God's servants brought people from death back to life. Today our story was about dry bones -- that came to life.

"Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' " So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. Ezekial 37:4-6, 9-10

We are praying that God's breath will be on Ray this week and next, restoring him to full and healthy life.

not alone and not afraid --

kristin and ray