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December
22
2020

December 21, 2020

Our dear praying, caring friends,

Tonight, a picture is worth even more than a thousand words. Take a look at the attached meme and rejoice with us. 

The second picture is of nurse Melanie who, along with several other nurses, has become so dear to us. We had the joy of giving each of them a Christmas bag which included a custom candle made by Robert’s daughter Julie, and my book, The Wonder of His Name. These women have blessed us greatly and we wanted to bless them in this small way. 

When we got home, we were greeted by a group of friends who met us in the driveway with banners, cheers, some tears, and singing: Joy to the World and Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. These families have steadfastly loved and prayed for us; we have been mostly isolated for months, and it meant so much to see their faces. Hugs will be had once it seems safe for Robert. 

Robert’s first chemo treatment was on my birthday, September 3. His final treatment (we trust!) was today, the week we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Our hearts are full and grateful. 

He is scheduled for a PET scan on February 3, which we hope will confirm the findings of the last scan. 

It has been one year since Robert’s cancer journey began—first melanoma, then non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Two cancers, two surgeries, six months of anemia, and six rounds of chemo have taken a toll on his body.  Please join us in praying for my DH to regain strength and for his hemoglobin count to go back up. Normal is 14-18; Robert’s has been as low as 5.1 and no higher than 9.1 since June. He may need another blood transfusion next week. Our doctor has told us that the weakness and anemia could last another five to seven weeks. 

That said, we could not be more grateful to be at this point tonight. Another Post-it note for our gratitude room! “Tis grace has brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.”

Even as we celebrate this milestone, we are mindful that for many, their story does not (yet) have a happy ending, as ours seems to have at this point. Their pain and loss are still unrelenting. 

We cannot fathom the mysteries of His providence. But we have never been more sure of what we have clung to throughout this year with, at times, raw, naked faith: Heaven rules. And God has promised to give strength to His people and to bless His people with peace. See Psalm 29:10–11. It has been true in 2020, and it will be true in 2021 and beyond. 

May He be your portion, your hope, and your joy in this season, as He has been ours. 

Merry Christmas! 



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December
2
2020

December 1, 2020

Our dear friends,

The last time we updated this page, we were awaiting official results of Robert's latest PET scan. The news at this halfway point in his chemo treatments could not have been more hopeful. What a joy to hear Dr. Douce say things like "complete response" and "no sign of disease." 

Day after day, we have prayed that the Lord would touch Robert's body and that the chemo would do exactly what it is supposed to do--nothing more and nothing less. As far as we know at this point, that is exactly what has been happening. Thanks be to God!

All along, we have resolved to give thanks whether or not the results were as we hoped. We have purposed to trust and worship God on the days when we found out (twice) that Robert had cancer, as well as on the days when we received good reports on his progress. Our days and lives are in His hands; for this we are deeply grateful.

Robert had his fifth chemo treatment yesterday. That means, Lord willing, only one more to go! The final treatment is scheduled for Monday, December 21. Then ... Merry Christmas! Another scan will be scheduled approximately six weeks later. If that is clear, then Robert will have his port removed--one year from the time he received the first cancer diagnosis. Heaven rules. 

Due to COVID and Robert being at higher risk, we have been hunkered down at home, which we plan to continue through December and into the New Year as Robert regains his strength. So many dear friends have helped to meet our practical needs--delivering mail and groceries, creating a makeshift studio in our basement so I could continue recording for Revive Our Hearts, and providing an amazing Thanksgiving meal for us to enjoy, to name just a few. Color us grateful. 

Robert continues to be anemic; he has had fourteen (?) blood transfusions and we anticipate possibly needing another one next week and again following the final chemo infusion. He also has intense waves of tiredness come over him throughout the day. We were told all of this was to be expected. And this sweet man still never complains.

We are thankful for the soul-filling views we enjoy from our home and for all the twinkling Christmas lights and candles that warm our hearts and help us to savor Jesus, the Light of the world. (We debated about whether to go to the trouble to get our house decorated for Christmas this year, since we wouldn't be able to host guests during this season as we normally love to do. We decided it was worth doing, just for the two of us to be able to enjoy together on these cold, December days and nights. We were right.)

This journey has taken quite a toll on Robert's body. That is hard to watch. But his spirit is mighty (2 Cor. 4:16). And our hearts, marriage, and home are a sanctuary where we are experiencing the sweet presence and peace of Christ--with lovely music proclaiming the Christmas story playing in the background.

One more thing: We could not be more grateful for all the medical professionals who have served us and cared so well for my precious husband throughout this year. During Thanksgiving week, we had the joy of sending/delivering notes along with a copy of my newest Advent devotional and a "Heaven Rules" wall calendar from Revive Our Hearts, to about thirty of these new friends that we appreciate so greatly and have grown to love. They have done so much for us; we wanted to do something to encourage and bless them in return.

For multiple reasons, the 2020 Christmas season is not turning out to be what any of us would have imagined this time last year. In the midst of whatever challenges or altered or canceled plans you may be facing, may your heart be turned to the One who made the journey from heaven to earth that first Christmas, to bring us salvation and grace. And may you find hope and rest in Him. 

Heaven rules.

PS: In case you've not seen it, we've attached a link to a short Thanksgiving video the ROH team produced about the gratitude wall in our home. "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 136:1). 

October
30
2020

October 29, 2020

Our dear friends,



 


We have some sweet praises to share with you. 


 


Last week was the first week since June that my precious (uncomplaining) husband did not have a single medical appointment or procedure—no blood draws, tests, treatments, etc. Many weeks he has had three or four or more, so this was a lovely respite. 


 


Apart from increased tiredness and dizziness (which we were told would likely be the case), Robert has continued to tolerate the chemo well.


He had a PET scan this morning—an answer to prayer, as our insurance company agreed to cover it. 



We did not anticipate getting the results back until next week. This morning Robert said, “Regardless of what the scan shows, we’re going to trust and praise the Lord.”


 


Much to our surprise, we received a voice mail this afternoon from nurse Jennifer letting us know that “the results look great“ and “Dr. Douce is very pleased.” We’ll get more details when we meet with the doctor next Wednesday, before chemo #4 on Thursday (Nov 5). This good news brought forth much rejoicing in our home and another post it note on the gratitude wall! 


 


When we prayed together tonight, Robert thanked the Lord for our many praying friends all around the world—“It’s like having gifts piled up around the tree on Christmas morning,” he said. We feel so richly blessed and wonderfully buoyed by your encouragement and prayers. We could not be more grateful. 


 


We are also mindful of others we know who are suffering pain, loss, and discouraging test results at this time and who are choosing to cling to Christ, even when the outcome is not that for which they have prayed, believing that God is still good and worthy of their trust. They are making the gospel believable to all those around them. 


 


We pray for them—and for you:


 




“May the Lord give strength to His people;

may the Lord bless His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11)




 


Even as the foundations of our world are shaking in this season, we join you in proclaiming with confidence and joy:


 


Heaven rules. 


 


 

October
16
2020

October 15, 2020

Hello, dear friends. 

We are grateful not to have had much new news to report! The past few weeks have been pretty uneventful, which in itself is a blessing. 

We are deeply conscious of your prayers. The Lord is hearing and answering those prayers and giving us much grace and peace. 

Today was Robert’s third chemo treatment. That means we’re halfway through, Lord willing! 

His hemoglobin level has been fairly stable: 9.0 this week. The doctor told us yesterday that Robert doesn’t have to get any more blood draws (or transfusions) until just before the next chemo on Nov 5. Yay! There has not been a week since June that he hasn’t had to give or get blood, sometimes multiple times a week. We are celebrating the reprieve. 

Also, we have a PET scan scheduled in two weeks (Oct 29), pending approval from the insurance company (a prayer request). That should give us a sense of how well the chemo is working (our doc is hopeful that it seems to be effective, based on what he can tell at this point). 

The doctor expects that Robert’s anemia will continue until we get past chemo and that it may even get a little worse toward the end of the treatments. Other than the dizziness and tiredness, however, Robert is feeling well overall, for which we are so grateful.

We have received so many encouraging notes, emails, texts, cards, meals, and other kind gestures. We could never adequately express our gratitude for all of the love and care we have received. Day after day, we are given more blessings to add to our gratitude wall. (We’ve been encouraging others to start something similar. Gratitude really is the best medicine for discouraged, heavy, weary hearts.)

Our world seems to be at a boiling point. Beyond that, we have friends who are walking through deep waters. How we all need hope and perspective. The attached sunset picture was taken from my study tonight. The moment took my breath away. Be still my soul. Worship Him. All is well in heaven and all will one day be well on earth. 

We love you and give thanks for all you mean to us. May He give you strength and bless you with peace, as He has promised (Psalm 29:10-11). 

Heaven rules. 


September
26
2020

September 25, 2020

Our dear friends,

 
This has been an encouraging week. 
 
• Robert’s spinal tap came back negative for cancer in the cerebrospinal fluid. Thank you, Lord! 
 
• No blood transfusion needed this week! Another praise.
 
• Our hematologist and nurses were all really encouraged by the increase in the hemoglobin count to 9.1. This leads them to believe that the chemo is working and Robert's body is starting to produce more red blood cells. (Medical professionals, I hope I’m saying this correctly.) 
 
• The second chemo was happily uneventful (nurse Melanie is a gem, as is nurse Jennifer down the hall in our hematologist’s office—both show up repeatedly on our gratitude wall!). Thus far, Robert has been tolerating the chemo well. Given that he had no nausea during the first round, the doc says it’s possible he may not have nausea during the other treatments. Yet another reason for gratitude! 
 
We said to each other today, “We’re going to give thanks for each good day; and if and when the hard days come, we’re going to give thanks then, too.”
 
• Robert’s daughter Julie flew in on Wednesday and will be with us through the weekend. I love seeing the way she and her dad love and encourage each other. Julie was able to join me to help get Robert settled into his chemo infusion yesterday—see the sweet father/daughter pic attached. Today Julie helped Robert deal with several boxes of old papers. They found some real treasures; lots of other things are headed to the shredder :)
 
A friend told me this week that my DH is a man of “gentle grit.” She’s right. I love this man and am so grateful for the opportunity to be at his side on this journey. We are both deeply grateful to have you at our side, as well. 
 
May you experience His presence and peace each step of your journey in this season. 
 
Heaven rules. 
 
Psalm 29:10-11
 
 

September
23
2020

September 22, 2020

Dear praying friends,

A quick update:

• As we anticipated would be the case, Robert’s hair began falling out on Sunday—most of it within about an hour. Yesterday we went to a salon where Nikki finished the job and shaved my precious husband’s head. She was so kind. She recently lost her grandfather to cancer and we were able to encourage her as she encouraged us. We left her with a copy of our book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, which we “happened” to have in our car. Our appointment ended with tears and hugs. This exchange was a sweet blessing in our day. I think Robert looks great with his new ‘do! See what you think from the attached pic :) I sure love that smile and the warm, grace-filled, others-centered heart it represents. 

• The spinal tap today was mercifully uneventful. Robert is feeling fine—so grateful for that. As always, the nurses and staff at our Lakeland Hospital were a blessing to us. We should have the test results within a week. 

• Our big news is that Robert’s blood work this morning showed that his hemoglobin count is up to 9.1! While still low, that is the highest it has been since mid-June. Sweet Melanie, the nurse at the transfusion center, called to give us the report and to let us know that Robert will not need a blood transfusion tomorrow (Wed)! Were you able to hear our joyful response?! This will be the first week without a transfusion since he was first diagnosed with anemia. After leaving the hospital, we went to Panera to celebrate, and we are praising the Lord for this wonderful encouragement. We wanted you to join us in giving thanks. Lots of post it notes to add to our gratitude wall today! 

• We will meet with our hematologist tomorrow morning and Robert is still scheduled for his second chemo appointment on Thursday. 

Thank you for joining us on this journey. 

Heaven rules. 

Psalm 29:10-11


September
21
2020

September 21, 2020

Beloved friends,

 

Robert has fared fairly well with the first chemo treatment, for which we are grateful. He continues to have chronic anemia. Our docs suspect this is being caused by the lymphoma, but won’t know for sure until they see how it responds to treatment. This precious man is uncomplaining, even while struggling with dizziness, shortness of breath, and endless prodding and poking. 

 

Here's what our week looks like (as far as we know):


  • Last evening, as expected, most of Robert's hair fell out in about an hour. Today (Monday) we have an appointment to let a pro shave his head and finish the job. Robert is approaching all of this with a sweet spirit and some humor along the way. My love, respect, and gratitude for him know no bounds--hair or no hair. 
  • Tuesday -- Robert has a spinal tap to be sure the lymphoma is not getting into his cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Wednesday -- pending his blood count on Tuesday, he is scheduled for another blood transfusion (#14). Robert's daughter Julie is flying into to spend several days with us; I love how these girls love their dad and how he loves them. 
  • Thursday -- chemo treatment #2, starting at 9:30 ET


We are taking this one day at a time, accepting what our Father has appointed for this season, receiving daily infusions of grace, and practicing the daily discipline of adding post-it notes to our “gratitude wall.” We may need to add on another room before this is said and done, to make space for recording His multitudinous mercies to us! A grateful heart is our life-preserver on this stormy sea. 

 

The attached pic shows our latest entries -- written last night after the hair loss episode. 

 

Your continued prayers and encouragement mean more than you can know. May He give you strength and bless you with peace in whatever you may be facing this day, as He has promised (Psalm 29:10–11).

 

Heaven rules. 

 

 

September
12
2020

September 12, 2020

Good morning, beloved ones. Here's a quick update on my DH (dear husband):

Robert seems to be tolerating the chemo well. Thus far, he has not had nausea or other noticeable side effects, for which we are so thankful. The anemia/extreme tiredness have continued, as have the blood transfusions (as well as some further tests). The hope is that as the lymphoma is treated, his hemoglobin level will begin to go back up. We are deeply grateful for the medical team the Lord has placed around us and are trusting Him to give them (and us) wisdom for each step of this journey. 
 
Our gratitude wall continues to fill up (see attached pic).
 
Heaven rules. Psalm 29:10–11

The following reflection, composed in the middle of the night last night, puts words to some of my thoughts in recent days as I've watched my precious husband's body undergoing this ordeal, and as I have experienced a deeper level of the mystery and marvel of being "one flesh" with this man--and of our being one with Christ.

These Bodies


I lie awake, still

Hours before break of day

My body contoured close to yours

Hands intertwined

Your body mine

My body yours
 


Gloriously created

Image bearers we are

You, a son of Adam

Formed from dust

Me, Eve’s daughter

Taken from your side
 


I lie awake, still by your side

Your breathing heavy

Your body carrying disease newly discovered

Twice now

Your body assaulted by rogue cells

Unseen by us

Scarcely understood to us

Our bodies one


Month upon month (midst a pandemic)

Your body

Poked and prodded

Scanned and scoped

Uncovered and examined

Shaved and cut open

Skin harvested and grafted

Hair cut short

Before there is none

 

In waiting rooms, emergency rooms,

Hospital rooms, recovery rooms
 


Dignity stripped

Pain quietly endured

Sleep eludes by night

Pursues by day

In this strange, new season

Our bodies inhabit
 


Transfusions and infusions

Your blood taken

Blood not your own given

Nurses in hazmat

Inject killer drugs

Meant to destroy those deadly cells

Your body a battlefield

Our bodies are one
 


Your body—my own

Long strong and whole

For now, broken and sick

Once young and vigorous

Now feeling weak and weary

Inglorious
 


Your body, dear Lord Jesus

Once young and strong

From newborn Infant to full-grown Man

A Temple

Then torn down

Dignity stripped

Spat upon and scorned

Assaulted by strong, angry hands,

Sinful bodies
 


Your body beaten and broken

Your blood poured out

Given for us sinners

That Your blood might cover us

And run through us

 

Your lifeless body raised

To endless life

Now a glorious body

Ascended and seated on high

Forever
 


Our bodies are Your own

Consecrated

A temple
 


We lie before You

Hearts intertwined

We come to You for

Our daily infusion of grace

Your holiness for our sinfulness

Your strength for our weakness
 


I lie awake, still

Just before break of day
 


As we cling to You

Hope rises

Our frail, broken bodies

Will be raised, redeemed

Made new

A temple for our God

Glorious

Forever

 

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” (Phil. 3:20-21)