Opening hands to receive

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

~ from Ring Out, Wild Bells, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Surgery is canceled. I just got the phone call from the doctor. After several reviews of the ultrasound, the radiologists feel that the area of question on my ovary is resolving. It would be silly to take out a perfectly healthy ovary. So as of right now, I don't even need follow up with the gynecology team. I should be dancing around. But this constant roller-coaster ride really has me reeling. I go from watchful news on Monday, to frightening news on Tuesday, to perfect health on Thursday? What is wrong with this picture? It really reminds me what I have always known...just like the mechanics who work on our cars, and the repairmen who fix our appliances, doctors and nurses are artists, not clairvoyant. As they try to fill in the blanks on my life's tapestry, there are some mistakes, and some stops and starts, and some differing opinions.

Basically, this news leaves me rejoicing that I can have fun with my family next week. Reinforces the fact that I can't weep at the first foretelling of bad news, nor can I dance with abandon with each glimpse of happier days to come. I just can't handle that type of up and down emotionally. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Let's walk methodically up the mountains and down into the valleys. I really can't stand the tumble from top to bottom.

Today: praise God there is no cancer obvious on my ovary. Praise God that I don't have to face menopause on top of all else. Praise God that Amy is walking, talking, laughing, skipping, feeding herself. Praise God we are together, and that we will have a whole year's reprieve from radioactive iodine.

Tomorrow: pray He heals this cancer. Pray the tumor marker test miraculously goes down rather than up by next November. Pray our suffering is lessened in 2010. Pray we glorify God in joy next year instead. Pray for health. Pray for peace. Pray for endurance. Pray for willingness.

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming
for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We'll live to know You here on the earth
~ Never Let Go, Matt Redman not be discouraged, for the LORD your God
will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

The silent embrace

I found this on Zach Nielsen's blog the other day, while I was preparing to post my latest cancer news.


from the blog of Chris Brauns:
If you aren’t suffering terribly right now, you know someone who is. John Piper (12/27/09) preached on suffering and Romans 8:15-25 at the Village Church who recently learned that their young senior pastor, Matt Chandler, has a malignant brain tumor. (See these posts on suffering).

Piper introduced his sermon by stating that the first thing believers should do do with those who are suffering is hug them. No words. Just silent hugs. But, Piper also noted that those who are hugging must have a place to stand. That is, if we are going to make it through the suffering in this life apart from anger and bitterness, then we must know sound doctrine and how suffering fits with the plan of God.

If you can only listen to a few minutes of this sermon, it will be a wonderful investment of your time.

Listen here.

Out of the fry pan...

It gets tiresome to report bad news. We are, at the moment, jumping out of the frying pan and directly into the fire.

My oncology appointment went...well and poorly. Well in the sense that, because of my current lifetime dose of radioactive iodine, and the amount I am expected to need in the future, I won't have an ablation at this time, nor will I have another scan until November, 2010. That is excellent news, as I hate to be separated from my family for the long periods necessary after the iodine scans.

Then came the bad news. I have two tests each time I go for a scan, the whole body scan, which looks for iodine uptake: this came back relatively normal, with minimal uptake in my neck and lots of uptake in my pelvis (typical as the iodine is eliminated by bowel and bladder). Secondly, I have a blood test for a tumor marker (thyroglobulin). My tumor marker, which had been mildly positive even after the surgical removal of my cancer, was completely negative after my ablation: the best news possible - it appeared that all of my remaining thyroid tissue and cancer was killed by the ablation! At three months post, in March, my tumor marker level was 0.05, considered "undetectable". Remember the celebration?

Now my thyroglobulin is 2.5 ug/L. That's 50 times higher than it was just seven months prior. Yikes. While it is still within my doctor's "acceptable" range - meaning I don't need another ablation (treatment) dose of radioactive iodine in January - it is high enough to confirm that there is active cancer somewhere in my body. It is somewhat concerning that not much showed up on the scan, because that means we still don't really know where the cancer is lurking or whether or not it is still susceptible to the radioactive iodine. Both my endocrinologist and OB/GYN surgeon are very concerned about the mass on my ovary in light of the new lab test value. The OB/GYN has previously said it is probably a cyst, but this was without full understanding of how my tumor manifested in 2008. Of particular concern is the appearance of the mass on ultrasound, as well as the similar level of growth following a pregnancy. There is still a chance that the mass could be a large hematoma that is not being reabsorbed, or an abcess.

But the most likely option is cancer. Thyroid cancer growing on my ovary. Metastasis.

I am scheduled for an ultrasound tomorrow to get another look at the mass, which can now be felt from the outside on my lower abdomen. I will have surgery at 10 a.m. on Monday, January 4th. My surgeon will start with laparascopy, and then move to an open abdominal incision if it looks like either cancer or abcess. Obviously, recovery from a laparascopy - as well as an outcome of finding a cyst rather than a tumor! - would be highly preferable. I would beg for prayers to that end.

I am trying not let worry carry me away. What would it really profit me, at this point? I can't do anything beyond what I've already done. I suppose I should have had it removed earlier, but it just didn't work, with cancer scan and Christmas filling my schedule. It is altogether too reminiscent of my original diagnostic experience with the original cancer in June, 2008. The constant reassurances that it would be so improbable to have that large of a cancerous tumor suddenly appear on my ovary. The nagging feeling that I knew this was coming - this specific thing. I read several articles (preview here and here) about this rare occurance last year when researching prior to my ablation. And I just had a gut feeling it would be me in those shoes. I don't know why. That just means I won't be shocked if it's cancer, I guess.

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.
~ Jesus, I am Resting, Resting by Jean Pigott, 1876

More celebrations

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep...
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast
That, whether there be shine or gloom o'ercast,
They always must be with us, or we die.
~from Endymion, John Keats, 1817 ~

Wet snow almost made us house-bound in Wisconsin. We traveled intrepidly, and arrived in time to make snowmen in the slushy cold.

Achingly beautiful, my passion poesy, glories infinite.

Oh, the bliss of grandmothers, new pillows and new books!

Merry Christmas to all - and to all a "good night"!

Christmas comes but once a year...

So I summed up my new resolves:
Too much love there can never be.
And where the intellect devolves
Its function on love exclusively,
I, a man who possesses both,
Will accept the provision, nothing loth,
--Will feast my love, then depart elsewhere,
That my intellect may find its share.
And ponder, O soul, the while thou departest,
And see them applaud the great heart of the artist,
Who, examining the capabilities
Of the block of marble he has to fashion
Into a type of thought or passion.
~ from Christmas Eve, Robert Browning, 1850 ~

Our very own Christmas miracle: Amelia, vibrant, effusive, intact. Alive.

Loving on the uncles.

Sweetness of cousin-twins.

May you enjoy the last breaths of this breathless Christmas season - the dark velvet nights with pinpoint cold stars; the feet of fresh snow blanketing the ugliness of the frozen earth; the warmth of a child's breath in and out on your cheek; the tensions and intense love that make our families family; the joyous squeals of kids over new toys; the last of the Christmas cookies; a glass of port wine; lights flickering in the dry evergreen;
silent nights and busy days.

*more photographs to come from the Thul celebrations in the next days!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

~ The Three Kings, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~

Merry Christmas! We had our reunion on Monday, and then opened presents as a family Monday night. The kids could barely go to sleep, and will be up with the birds, I'm sure - to play with all their new toys!

Desperation & drudgery

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turn my collar to the cold and damp

~Sound of Silence, Paul Simon, 1965

Tired of telling you, you have me
When I know you really don't
Tired of telling you I'll follow
When I know I really won't
Cause I'd rather stand here speechless
With no great words to say
If my silence is more truthful
And my ears can hear how to walk in your way

In the silence
You are speaking
In the quiet I can feel the fire
And it's burning, burning deeply
Burning all that it is that you desire to be silent, in me
~ In the Silence, Jason Upton

Here it is again, this old familiar place, where the rubber meets the road. We survived the separation, we survived cancer again for a 3rd time. Now we wait for results. And survive the consequences of cancer. They are never easy: taking yourself to the brink of hypothyroid death, taking your children to the edge of sanity, taking your husband into a new realm of miserable coping. Mouth sores are healing, and now my hair is falling out in chunks and my skin is dry and numb. My fingers and toes are completely dead, like chunks of wood I haul around with no purpose. My eyesight is blurry, my body aches, especially the joints in my arms, legs, hands and feet. I feel as though I'm on the brink of another double kidney infection - but it's just my body in its inability to handle the slough and crud that builds up over time in every cell and joint and space. Pain reaches a peak around 11 a.m. and then improves with a nap (meaning the laundry and cleaning still isn't getting done), peaks again just after dinner, and improves when I take my daily Synthroid dose at 8 p.m. Add to that the symptoms of hyperthyroidism because of the high dose of Synthroid! My body is getting deliberate double messages. Never a good thing. My heart rate is 140 between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. Weird! Especially for me - I usually run very low on the heartrate spectrum, around 55 during the day and around 40 at night.

The kids are so, so sick with this latest cold. I am stressed as I watch Amy deteriorate because of asthma and lung gunk. She is requiring nebulizer albuterol for her asthma every 3-4 hours today. She still has good energy. I find I am so much more paranoid since her encephalitis in October/November. I don't want to miss something and end up in the hospital with her over Christmas. Of course, how could I know. I just have to trust, and be watchful, and try to hand it over to God.

I feel as though I've descended further into darkness since coming home, rather than emerging as I expected. God feels very, very far away today, as I struggle through the inconsequential and exhausting work of motherhood. Just being alive in my own skin feels like work. I feel depressed, knowing this is my lot for so many more years, even if it is only once a year in the future. How can I survive this? How am I going to ever bring glory to God through this? I feel miserable, I feel like everyone around me is miserable as well.

And then, just for perspective, at least I am not going through this today:

Baking cookies (and other normal everyday pleasures!)

In America, a parent puts food in front of a child and says,
'Eat it, it's good for you.'
In Europe, the parent says, 'Eat it. It's good!'
~ from John Bainbridge's Another Way of Living ~

Snippets from my last evening at home before I left for my iodine scan. It was a pleasure reuniting with my husband and kids today. And a LOT of work! If only the motherless home stopped spinning. Mine looked as though it had kept spinning with a vengeance, flinging it's contents hither and yon. The children are needy and ill, I am tired and still suffering side effects, and various stresses of life are catching up to my dear, hard-working husband. Please keep praying for us!

Using this broken reed

I walk with bare, hushed feet the ground
Ye tread with boldness shod;
I dare not fix with mete and bound
The love and power of God.

The bruised reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.
~ John Greenleaf Whittier, paraphrasing Isaiah 42:3 in The Eternal Goodness

In the past week, my blog has been viewed in 25 countries and territories, including U.S. & Alaska, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Norway, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands, South Korea, Bahrain, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Serbia, Jordan, and Singapore. The Internet is a powerful tool. John Piper speaks out about its potential use in advancing the Gospel. It is sobering to view the statistics to my own humble site, that has grown out of my personal pain and struggle into a way of connecting with people all over the world. Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3)

Crying out/celebrating Christ

Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"
~ Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book, Book I

I just can't seem to break out of this funk. This blog is helpful to me so often - of late, I checked back to remember my own radiation timeline from last time, and also how I felt post-dose. It is amazing how much you block out of the bad stuff that happens. I am thankful for the forgetfulness - except that it also makes it feel as though it is the first time I've felt this low. Reading back through entries from December, 2008 and April, 2009 have helped me put this experience in perspective - turns out, it is exactly the same each time. And yes, my housework and homeschooling escape me for about a month afterward. So I guess that just helps me relax into it - this is something to be survived, and I can forget about how awfully I am failing at all of my roles, and know that someday soon it will start to get better again.

I folded my laundry tonight. It now sits in piles about 3 feet high off my dining table. But it is folded. I no longer have to hunt every morning for socks, underwear and clothing for every member of the family. It feels like a giant load has been lifted. Silly things make me happy.

Tomorrow, we start our weekend long celebration of Jesus' birth. You and I were so important to God, that omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful invisible, that He sent His Son to die, on the cross, tortured, broken, crying tears of blood. Whatever depression I suffer in these dark days post-radiation, they are not my choice. Jesus took on that depression, so much deeper than mine, by choice. Because of love. How could I possibly capture in words, typed words, how I feel about that sacrifice?? What a Savior. Hallelujah, Christ is born!

Go in peace and joy to love and serve the Lord. We go in the name of the Christ Child. And the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, goes with you and remain amongst you now and always. Amen! Alleluia.

Please join us in praying for Aaron's college friends, the Nathes, as they expect the birth of their 4th child, a son, who will die within hours of his birth. His name is Jake. His brother, who died 4 years ago, was named Josh. Visit the Nathe's blog here. Read their ongoing story by clicking "journal".


Every day I wake I sing Your song
It's the anthem of my life

In the house of God
Is where I find my peace
It's where I find my

is heaven
One day Lord, I will live
In Your courts, You'll find me
In worship at Your feet
Hide me now
In the shadow of Your wings
Where I will be
Where I will be...

I know You hear my every cry
And petition that I make

Tomorrow, I will be home. That nasty little "suspicious nodule" growing on my right vocal cord nerve puts my voice in jeopardy. I rarely sing in public, but today I lifted my voice...these words, about another home I'm missing. What a homecoming that day will be! What a reunion! Tomorrow will be a glimpse.

Finally, His answer comes

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:7-8)

I have asked this, sarcastically. I asked God if Theodore was the price for my sins. My many sins. I have sneered at him, in my soul - this God who says He is all-loving, all-powerful, ever-present, merciful, provident, healing, providing; Savior, Deliverer, Shield, Redeemer. Taking my child, the child I never even asked for, planting that child in me, in a place He knew it would die. What is the purpose of that, God? Are you just trying to prove to me that you are, too, just, jealous, righteous, mighty, The Judge? (see The Names of God)

I've sneered, and repented, and sneered again. Cried in brokenness, begged for answers, flailed about in agony, and questioned the foundations of the earth. That is what bringing me to the bottom of my faith looks like. This is where I think the bottom is: this baby, this death, is what I cannot reconcile with my current idea of God: who He is, what He cares about, how He acts, what He loves. Here, at the bottom of my faith, is the only place that God can build me. All the layers above have already been torn down and rebuilt with deeper understanding and trust. Here, at the bottom, is the pain of the wrecking ball as it crashes through my assumptions and ideas - all wrapped up in my humanity, imperfect and fraught with error. Here, He who is gracious, merciful, loving, cares to build me. Has not turned from me or forsaken me - rather, marked off this turf of my soul as a construction zone. GOD AT WORK, the big signs should read. When you see a Christian flailing about in agony, tears flowing from eyes that are normally decidedly dry, this is what it means. GOD AT WORK.

GOD AT WORK sent me here, to the old familiar book of Jonah, the story I learned as a 5 year old, to understand. Now I have a new bottom. I have received an answer for why He would plant that baby in me only to have it wither and die. All the other answers I've pondered seemed trite and ill-fitting: sparing the baby from life under the curse, teaching me about His miraculous power, making me suffer for my past sins. That's not it. This is.

Remember Jonah? Went this way and that avoiding God's "stupid" plan to save Ninevah. Swallowed by a fish (think Pinnochio and Gepetto). Finally obeyed and preached the Gospel to Ninevah. Then got angry with God when God showed mercy and didn't destroy the city after all (making Jonah look like a liar).

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah, so that he was faint.

And Jonah asked if he might die, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he said, "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die!" And the Lord said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

I "pitied the plant" - my baby, Theodore, for whom I did not labor, nor did I make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. God was showing me a spirit of mercy and pity. He was showing me how He feels. Who is He teaching me to pity instead of despise? Help instead of laugh at in their (consequential) distress? Who do I think I am better than - that God wants me to help, to love, instead?? Why do I despise people, and why did it take the death of child to teach me this? Was that really necessary God? Was the scorching east wind and beating sun really necessary?

He has a purpose for each of us. Really, wouldn't it be better, in a way, if we all went straight to be with Jesus like Theodore? This baby I lost - he will never flail about in agony, or have questions without answers, or lose, or suffer. His purpose, his reason for being created, wasn't the same as mine. I ache deeper today knowing perhaps his purpose was to teach me something. I wish I had already learned that lesson so that I could hold him instead of learning from him. But I cannot truly lament where he is now. I lament for my suffering, not for his. My purpose is, apparently, to suffer. God will use my suffering for something just as he is using Theodore's lack of suffering to teach me.

Yes, that's how hard the lesson has to hurt. I am stubborn. I don't learn when I sit under a cloudy sky in comfort, watching the city and waiting for it's destruction, when I'm cool. I am the scoffer - the one who sees the decisions people make and waits for the consequences to beset them. I don't want to be the scoffer anymore. I want to be the woman who see the decisions people make and waits to see God's hand of mercy. Prays for God's hand of mercy. I want to be the feet that deliver God's hand of mercy.

Lord Jesus, Father in heaven, You have dealt so kindly with me. Thank you for sparing me the death of Amelia. Thank you for the less painful loss of a baby I never held or nursed or knew. Thank you for teaching. Thank you for caring enough to appoint plants in my life, thank you for being brave enough to risk our relationship, sending me to the brink to question you and everything you have placed in my life, thank you for worms and east winds. You are good. You are God. I am so weak and ignorant. I praise you for making something of me, for destroying the bottom of my faith again and making the pool that is Your love ever deeper and wider through these trials and wrestling sessions. You are an awesome God. I will never, ever understand the depth of you, God. Thank you for this glimpse. Help me use it for your glory. Thank you for turning my tears of pain and anguish and anger into tears of joy and humility and understanding. You are merciful, God. I love you and I want to serve you. Thank you for letting me even though I suck at it.

He became sin
Who knew no sin
That we might become His Righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross

Love so amazing
Love so amazing

Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

All our hope is in You
All our hope is in You
All the glory to You, God
The light of the world
~ Jesus Messiah, Chris Tomlin

Bitter draught

Dead fall
Fallen leaves
Frozen grass
Cancer patient

I feel the swift descent
into pain,
heavy heart
I know deeper the tears of blood
He shed in Gethsemane

On your knees
In the garden
Cold dew mocking

Plunged underneath
the surface of this pseudo-death
I drink your sufferings
Fill my belly
My mind

So that when you resurrect me again
to richness, beauty
Transplant me
from death to life

I remember



Scan is done. Waiting for results on Monday. Impression showed minimal residual uptake in the neck and no evidence of metastatic disease. Lots of residual uptake in my abdomen - this is normal, and just means I haven't eliminated the radiation yet. I will wait until Monday morning to return home, try to minimize holding the kids, and sleep in a separate room for another week.

Another day away

Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
Let us know;
Let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.
~Hosea 6:1-3~

Tonight I am lonely and tired, and wish I were home in bed with my husband. The side effects took full effect today: sores in my mouth and throat and the rest of my digestive tract, nausea, a little vomiting, muscle soreness, extreme fatigue, and general feeling of being low. Low energy, low mood. Waiting rather anxiously for the results of my scan tomorrow (although be forewarned, I will just be guessing as I won't get the doctor's impression until Monday, December 28). Hoping there is no uptake and I can go home Monday morning!

I-131 recommendations

I have searched long and hard for information regarding safety after taking I-131 when around children. I finally looked hard enough to find some great recommendations, solidly based on science. And some mathematical formulas for calculating the dose of radiation I am emitting at any given moment after I receive my pill. I've received criticism from other cancer patients for choosing to stay away from home so long after my treatment and prior scans. That criticism makes it hard for me to stay away, because, believe me, I would prefer to be at home with my kids if I really believed it to be safe. I also think that criticism stems from the lackadaisical approach to nuclear safety our country has recently taken in order to eliminate in-patient management of patients post-radioactive iodine intake. It is important that someone on this vast Internet speak out about what is truly safe for others. Because going home and holding your children 24 hours after you receive I-131 is most certainly, scientifically, NOT safe.

For a treatment dose of 33 millicuries or greater, the recommendations are:
Try to minimize time spent with young children. Children under 12 must stay in a separate residence for the first 7 days. Maintain a 1 meter distance from children under 12 for 7 days. Eliminate holding children under 12 for 14 days. Minimize holding children under 12 for 21 days.

For scan doses 3-10 millicuries, the recommendations are:
Try to minimize time spent with young children. Children under 12 must stay in a separate residence for the first 3 days. Maintain a 1 meter distance from children under 12 for 5 days. Eliminate holding children under 12 for 5 days. Minimize holding children under 12 for 7-14 days.

These recommendation are culled from the University Health Network and the Health Physics Society. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission puts the annual dose limit for minors (under 21 years of age) at 0.5 mrems of total effective dose. Adults in the general population can receive up to 1 mrem annually. Radioisotope sodium iodide 131 emits 2.3 mrem/hr/mCi at 30 cm, meaning my 5 mCi of I-131 is emitting 11.5 mrem/hr at 30 centimeters from my thyroid. In plain English, this means that you hugging me for 1 minute means you receive 0.2 mrem of radiation. That's almost half of the ANNUAL dose limit for a child. That holds true for 2-3 days after I receive a scan dose of 5 mCi (as I did today at 12:30 p.m.). 1/1,000th of my scan dose could mean thyroid cancer for my child. That means my scan dose must be divided in half many, many times by elimination through my urine before it is safe for me to hold my child. As a co-sleeping mother, that alarms me. Enough to keep me away from my children for days. To strictly adhere to the guidelines I've been given - guidelines that are specific to my living situation, my dose, and my known elimination rate of I-131 as calculated by prior uptake scans at specific time lapses from previous doses.

One last note: the half-life (rate at which a substance is eliminated by half by the human body) of I-131 is 8.1 days. Not until two half-lives of I-131 will I be considered "safe" to have frequent, close contact with my children (holding them or sleeping with them). This means 24.3 days. So by mid-January, I can resume normal life. Until then, I do have to worry about exposing my children - and others - to dangerous radiation. The last thing I want to do is cause one of my offspring to suffer in this same way.


We have believed, and yet you have helped our unbelief. I confess at times I have accused You of sleeping in the boat while the wind and the waves raged around us, but I know deep in my heart that You do not slumber or sleep. You have been ever watchful, ever mindful, and ever good. Thank You, Father, for keeping us in faith.

~ from a father's Prayer for the Last Day of Chemotherapy for his young son

Here I sit, a cab drive away from the hospital, safe in a warm, dry Wi-Fi hotspot. Procrastinating. I should be hustling to write a paper that is overdue for the class I took an incomplete in this past semester. But cancer crowds out all productive, academic thought. Cancer brings you to your knees, in your heart. Makes you face your mortality. Makes you confront the idea that you really cannot take care of anything, you can make no promises, you can persevere through nothing. Your endurance, strength, pride, will-power: all diminished to a meaningless, futile and hostile flurry in your breast, the ill-begotten striving of a powerless, prideful creature who has no say in the whirl of the universe that surrounds and encompasses. This cancer that grows within is a force with which I cannot reckon. It could rob me of my most priceless years, watching these children grow, shepherding their hearts and healing their hurts. Yet what it robs from me is pride. It forces me to realize that it is God who fills them, shepherds them, heals them. Not I. It forces me to realize that perhaps God has more for me to do from heaven than he ever intended me to do on earth.

So I bow, internally, in this crowded beehive of humanity, maintaining my 3-foot distance. Protecting people from the poison that boils up and exudes from me this day. Pray. Confess. That I, too, have accused Him of sleeping in the boat while the wind and waves rage about us. I understand, deeper today as ever when I am cloistered for these scans, that He may be silent; He may be invisible; He may not answer yes. But He is here, for He has promised (He who can promise) I will never leave you, nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

One last fling

Cancer is really cool in one, specific way: it slows time, crystallizing life in the still frames, making each moment sweeter and more precious. When life is good, life is really, really good. It's that old dog, Perspective, barking at my door. One last day to soak up my kids, one last day to make everything count. One last day to make memories. It always feels like it could be the last day of your life, as you pack your bags and their bags so that you can be apart for a week just before Christmas. It brings home the reality that you've been ignoring for the past three months: But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32)

Rosenmunnar: an old Swedish recipe that has only three ingredients: 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, creamed together; add 2 cups of flour, just mix. Form in little balls of buttery happiness.

Get the kids in on the fun:
have them put a thumbprint in each cookie, right in the center. Fill their thumbprints with your favorite preserves (ours is boysenberry for these cookies). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until just golden brown around the edges.

Try to take a rest on the couch while the cookies are baking.
If you have kids around, they will most likely see this as:
A) a great opportunity to cuddle,
B) a great opportunity to wrestle.

Once the cookies are cooling on racks, head outside to eat some snow. Makes any cookie taste sweeter. If you can't get the sleds to slide on the ice-crystals formed by the below zero weather, why not just roll down the hill for a while?

Serve up some hot cocoa in fine china to go with your cookies.

Top with some perfect dimples in icy red cheeks.

Glory in the morning sun and the effusive beauty of baby skin.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor: seconda's smile...

...stories on the couch...

...and a head-banging piano lesson from best friends.

In other, random things I've enjoyed today, the music of Pomplamoose matches my mood this season.

Tomorrow is my last morning with my kids for the week. Then off to all those things I haven't done since March: coffee alone with a friend, lunch at another friend's home, bowling, a party with Aaron's co-workers, nights alone, sleeping on my stomach and staying up till all hours and sleeping in. Pray me luck!