Monday, November 7, 2011

Today is Officially My Day!

...well at least in the City of Johnson, Arkansas! Seriously, it is! Let me explain and overload you with pictures to prove it!

Pat and I have a Springdale address but vote in Johnson (don't ask me for an explanation!). Johnson is a small town separating Fayetteville from Springdale.A member of the Johnson Area Fire Department (JAFD), Danny Farrar, attends CrossChurch with us. He has been so amazing through all this by giving us his personal cell phone, adding me to the JAFD prayer list, and we all remember the fire truck making a personal visit for the kids! Well, he out did himself this time! The JAFD and Mayor of Johnson held a little ceremony for me last night. I received the 2011 Honary Fire Chief for Bravery award! This is the first time JAFD has ever done something like this. Here's the Fire Chief presenting me the award:

Now you might all want to sit down for this one! The mayor then presented me with an award that I had no idea about! I quote "Proclamation of the Mayor of Johnson, Arkansas Be It Known To All that Tuesday, November the Eighth, Two Thousand Eleven Shall Be Known as Sarah Fries Day in the City of Johnson, Arkansas." I kid you not, this is for real!

Oh and how can I forget to mention I was awarded with an actual fire jacket and helmet!

Here's a picture of me with the Fire Chief and the Mayor with my sweet awards!

Now go ahead and laugh but here I am giving my acceptance speech! I totally wasn't expecting to do that, but I made my way through it (ugly cry face and all!!).

A prissy firefighter and a cowboy firefighter having a blast in the fire truck!

Now for all the pictures in front of the fire truck! Here's the mayor and his wife!

My family support! My dad hated missing but he was out of town for business. Additionally, Pat's family wasn't able to make it due to his Grandma going to see Jesus yesterday. Keep them in your prayers if you think about it.

The AMAZING Johnson Area Fire Department!!! Seriously some of the sweetest guys I've ever met! We are truly blessed to have this team protecting us!

Danny Farrar is the man on the left with the white shirt. I forgot to mention his wife made our family one of the best meals we had (chicken and dumblings)! These people are truly who make this trial in my life so much easier to cope with. And I mean how special can they make a girl feel?

That was truly the experience of a lifetime!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Update and Video

(iPhone pic so quality isn't great but I know some of you just want to see me to know I'm doing as good as I say I am!)

So we just got back from Houston for our latest report. The MRI showed that the tumor is stable, meaning it isn't growing or reducing. While I would have preferred some reduction, the Neuro-Oncologist persisted that stable is a good thing and a good place to be right now. He explained that the cancer cells are slow growing so we should expect them to take some time to reverse the growth. They thought I was really doing good symptom-wise, so they went ahead and increased my chemo dosage. I was only getting about 75% of the recommended dosage, so hopefully this will help reduce the tumor at a more timely pace (in my impatient eyes!). Additionally, the doctor told us that I could be on chemo for a year or even two. We haven't really heard that yet, so it was a bit of a surprise but honestly if it is working lets keep doing it! With this increase I could use some more of your awesome prayers! Please pray that the increase dosage doesn't mean an increase in symptoms! And also pray for the chemo to be doing it's job (preferably in a timely manner!). I'm actually starting the 5th round of chemo tonight.

So an upside to this new life is that I have a new platform! I get many opportunities to share how I can still have joy in a time that should bring so much pain. Also, how faithful and present Jesus is in ALL times of our lives. I have shared with individuals, audiences, and TV cameras! I can relate to pain and suffering in others lives like never before. Here's a link to a video that I did resently. It's a video I did for an organization called Laugh for Healing. They help people and families going through major events in their lives.

I also was nominated by my amazing SIL for a makeover that local news station partnered with a company. Here's the video for that:

Thanks for your support and hopefully I can get Pat to write something beautiful soon! Also I will load some pictures and get back to a semi-normal blog!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Support & Love

I stumbled upon a Good Morning America video this morning that left me a wreck (in a good way)! I sent it to a few people, but thought it could touch more people too!

I was struggling with how to blog it and if I should wait for Pat to blog it since he's so good with expressing himself with words! Then low and behold, my dear sister-in-law, Angela, put it into words for me! Click here and read what she wrote (which also left me a wreck!). I'm warning you grab kleenexes even if you don't think you are a crier. Click on her video link and be sure to watch all three videos. They should just play right through.

This is a good time to thank all of you for following along with our journey and especially sending those prayers up for US. No words could express what that truly means to me.

As Sheryl Crow says in the video "when you're diagnosed with cancer everybody around you is diagnosed as well." Additionally another lady in the video tearfully expresses that "they always loved on me and never made me feel like a burden." Those two quotes really spoke to me, but the entire video is spot on!

Thanks for loving me through it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Update 8/2/11

Just wanted to give a quick update on how Sarah is feeling.

We've spent the last week in and out of doctors' offices seeking diagnosis for Sarah's nausea. Long story short, all the gastronomical tests were, essentially, uncircumstantial.

The good news is that Sarah has felt marginally better the past few days, and has been prescribed some medication that seems to be helping.

We take another visit to Houston at the end of August for a standard two-month follow-up. Hopefully, Sarah continues to feel better, and we have a great visit/report.

On a side note, something really cool occurred this afternoon. Sarah absolutely loves her primary care physician, Dr. Furlow. He has prayed with us in his office, and has spoken countless words of encouragement to her and I since her diagnosis.

Though they have never met, Matt Chandler, a pastor in Dallas, has significantly challenged Sarah's faith through his faithful fight against brain cancer.

We were not able to see Dr. Furlow last week, when Sarah first began feeling sick. He was on vacation. When we finally got to see him today, he (again) had many encouraging words for Sarah and I. While on vacation, he was able to spend time with Matt Chandler at Camp Kanakuk family camp, and brought with him countless stories about the energy, faith, strength, and normalcy of the life he is able to lead.

This type of connection between two people who have encouraged Sarah, independently, is unexplainable apart from the providence of God. Good stuff!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Good Grief

A good night's rest has been hard to come by lately at the Fries house.

For about two weeks, Sarah has been very nauseous. So nauseous, in fact, that she has not had more than a daily popsicle or snow cone since her nausea commenced.

Please pray for her. The onset of this recurring sickness is a bit unexplainable since it began prior to starting her second round of chemo treatment. Of course, her symptoms have been exacerbated by her treatment over the last four days. Fortunately, she takes her last second round dosage tonight. We are praying for relief. Please join us.

Times like this are tough, very tough. There's no getting around it. I'd like to say that she, I, and the kids are able to breeze through it, unscathed. We're not. This stuff can keep us at night. Whether she can't kick the physical side effects of her treatment, or my mind is racing trying to figure out what to do, there's quite a bit of tossing and turning in the master bedroom!

Fortunately, we've had a few things to celebrate during this time. Since we first learned of Sarah's preliminary diagnoses in February, we've asked that God use us for His Kingdom purpose. Over the past two weeks, we have been able to share our perspective of Sarah's trial with a young couple, with students, with a friend whose job is at risk, with group of young men, and with a couple of men with a vision to find stories that can be communicated to encourage others in our region.

It's been encouraging to reflect on how this prayer has been answered, and we look forward to more opportunities like these.

I've been asked recently, "If you had four minutes to drive home a message about what you've learned through this trial, what would it be?"

I'm going to give myself literary license to ramble for a moment. I hold old man hours. The only reason I'm up this late, anyway, is because I can't keep my mind from racing (and Sarah told me I needed to update the blog). I'm hoping this helps to settle me down.

When we talk to people about the last few months of our lives, I think it is easy for people to begin putting themselves in our shoes, specifically Sarah's shoes. But, we didn't ask for opportunities to share this story so that people would have pity on her, or us. We hope that God uses our story to change lives, and that it gives hope to people in the midst of any type of trial.

More than once, I've asked myself the question, "What good can come of this? How's this good for Sarah? For the kids? For me?"

There's a great promise 1 Peter 1: 3-9. It's worship-inducing stuff. Read it for yourself. Here's what I hear when I read it:

"Pat, you have a Father in heaven who loves you so much He sent His son to die for you. And, because of Jesus' resurrection, you have hope. By His mercy you are promised a perfect inheritance in heaven. God knew that you would face trials in this imperfect world, and that those trials would lead to grief. Grief is fine; it's even necessary. God knew that, through your grief, your faith in Him would be tested. He knew that you would ask questions like, 'What good can come of this?'. But, grief produces genuinely tested faith. And, genuine faith is more precious than gold, more precious than your health, more precious than your wealth, and even more precious than your family. Whether you live to be 8 or 108, your time on this earth is just a 'little while.' By your faith, you have an eternal promise that is untouchable. It's imperishable. Rejoice! No matter is taken from you (health, job, whatever), you have not lost your most prized possession! Encourage others to take the step of faith to obtain the salvation of their souls, and love for their Savior."

There's no guarantee of health, healing, or even personal well being. There is, though, a promise that our faith is refined through our trails. That imperfections in our faith come to surface, and we have the opportunity to respond. Our perspective is shifted towards eternal hope.

If you are in the midst of a trial, I hope these verses, and this message resinate with you. Please pray with us, that we would have more opportunities to share this message with others.

Now, I can sleep.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Houston Report

We just left Sarah’s consultation at MD Anderson. The big news of the day: Sarah will have chemotherapy for at least six months. This is a good thing! In fact, it is a great thing! Let me try to explain.

As you might remember, surgery removed 90%-95% of Sarah’s tumor. The goal of the 30 days of radiation was to reduce the amount of residual tumor that remained. Sarah’s oncologist, Dr. Conrad, estimated that the amount of residual tumor was reduced by 50% through the radiation therapy. So, for the math majors (Angela), this would mean that approximately 95%-97.5% of the tumor is gone.

The tumor’s response to radiation therapy is a good sign that it will respond just as well to chemotherapy. This is considered a mild form of chemotherapy that Sarah will be able to take at home by mouth with very little side effects. She will take 5 pills a month over a 6 month period. Ultimately, the goal of chemotherapy is to further reduce the amount of residual tumor. She will certainly be on it for 6 months, and will later be determined whether another 6 months treatment is beneficial. During this time, she will go back to MD Anderson for a MRI/check-up every two months.

A few people have already had questions or concerns about Sarah’s upcoming chemotherapy. We want to make certain that you know that this is a good thing. This is the next step towards Sarah’s recovery. Dr. Conrad is still very positive about Sarah’s progression. He suspects that after chemotherapy, Sarah will be on a very easy maintenance plan of Accutane. Sarah thinks that’s pretty funny and looking forward to great skin!

All is well. Thank you for your prayers. God is sovereign through all this!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Doing Great

Everyone has been asking how I'm doing and I realized it's been a while since I blogged! Honest answer is I'm doing great! I feel really good and I'm getting most of my energy back. Most of all I'm loving being home with my family! I return to MD Anderson on June 16th-17th to figure out prognosis and future. I will be sure to update then too. The love and support I feel right now overwhelms me and takes my breath away often! Short and sweet blog (like me, wink wink) but wanted to catch everyone up on how I'm feeling. Praise Jesus!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Are For Me

Just wanted to share a song and artist that have really been encouraging me through this time. Please take the time and give this song a shot! It's a great reminder.

Radiation update: Almost done with the 5th week which I was told today is usually the hardest week. Umm...yes it is! Nausea has really been such a struggle. I haven't been able to eat or drink or even smell or look at food much the last 4 days, BUT today I got a new med that will hopefully do the trick. Thanks for the prayers! I'm on the home stretch!

Love to all!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Many things have surprised us through this journey so far to say the least! If one thing has stuck out the most to Pat and me, it is how generous people have been to those of us who are suffering. It has definitely hit Pat and I hard. It has taught us how we can use our resources better to help others in need. Literally, almost EVERY single day we receive some sort of surprise from people we know and even those we don't know. We are so grateful for every single gift. Here are just two examples that can help brighten a friend of yours in time of need!

First, this gift many of you contributed to. I'm still reading through them (I can't make it very far without crying!!). My amazing SIL, Angela, organized this gift and put a lot of hard work into it! She asked you all to leave a comment for me on her blog so she could put together a scripture/encouragement ring. She also consolidated comments that my mom received from Facebook. She made it look so pretty and bright. Here's the finished product:

The second gift I want to share is one from my maternal grandma, Granny Pat! Let me just say that she has given me a special gift every time I left NWA for Houston, which has been at least 5 times! She even bought Pat some fancy after-shave to impress the nurses because I got a pedicure to impress the doctors!

Here's her latest gift idea. She made me a cute reversible bag in bright colors and filled it with 30 individually wrapped gifts. The premise of this gift is that everyday after my radiation treatment I get to open one gift. This gives me something to look forward to after I finish my treatment for that day. Is that not a great idea? So far I have opened lip glosses, kitchen gadgets, fingernail polish, fancy chocolates, pj's, slippers, etc. So much fun! Here's a picture of a 1/2 empty radiation goodie bag:

Like I said, these are just two of the many gifts we have received over this 3 month journey. We are so so so thankful to everyone for helping us out and brightening our days!

Quick update on me: Sort of started out as a sad day because I found my first patch of hair-loss from radiation. Bummer! But still praying that I don't lose anymore. I can still cover this patch up for the most part. It is pretty close to my scar which still doesn't have much hair on it yet. I will try to get up enough courage soon to take a picture (it has more to do more with my chubby cheeks than the hair!!). I have also been hit with more nausea and tiredness these last couple of days. Tomorrow I will be 1/2 way through my radiation treatment, so this is about the time I should expect to get these symptoms. Still trying to remain positive and get plenty of rest!

Thanks again for all the support and encouragement. My mom and I miss you all and are ready to be back in NWA!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hooked Up!

Everyone has been asking how I'm feeling, so what better way to tell everyone than to blog!

I have 9 radiation treatments under my belt and 21 more to go! So far I feel about the same besides occasional nausea and fatigue. The doctors say I could possibly see hair loss, skin reactions, loss of appetite/nausea, etc. closer to 3-4 weeks into the treatment. EVERYDAY (except Saturdays and Sundays) at 8:45 I get my radiation therapy and I have the same 3 extremely nice and bubbly radiology therapists at each of my treatments! The treatment only takes approximately 15 minutes. I counted today and I get "zapped" with what appears to be a purple light 76 times every treatment. No worries, I can't feel it!

The questionable part of the treatment is the mask! I think it might make some people cringe. I have this plastic, netted mask as tight as possible over my entire head. If that's not bad enough for most people, then they snap that mask with my head in it to the table! So yes, I'm attached to the table by my head and couldn't escape even if their was a fire in the room! Here's the weird thing....I kind of find it relaxing! I think the Lord knew what he was doing when he made me weird!

The purpose of this lovely tight mask is to make sure I'm in the exact same position for every treatment. You can see masking tape and marker on my mask, that is where I get the radiation. I think it's pin-pointing a small area. I have the tape on both sides like you can see and then another one right over my right eye brow.

Hope that helps everyone understand a little better into my new temporary life! I know the Lord is continuing to work on me through this so keep the prayers coming! Also, keep praying for the family members that have to put up with me!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Treatment to Start Thursday

I have to make this very quick because this laptop is about to run out of battery, and I left the power source at home.

Here's the skinny: We met with the radio-oncologist today. Sarah's radiation treatments will start on Thursday. We still don't know if chemotherapy is necessary. All the additional testing is complete, but the neuro-oncologist is out of town. We plan to get a hold of him next week to learn whether or not chemo is in the deck of cards. Regardless, radiation starts Thursday. Sarah was fitted for mask that holds her head still during radiation.

Sarah's last day of scheduled radiation is May 25th. She will remain in Houston until then.

We continue to receive many cards and calls of prayer and encouragement. Thank you very much. I'll have to elaborate a little more when I get this plugged in!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Madness

This is, typically, one of my favorite times of the year. Daylight extends further into each evening, a round of golf becomes more plausible, and of course, it doesn't get much better than four weeks of tournament basketball.

With certainty, though, you can expect a March shower to ruin a day of golf, a cold front to disrupt an outdoor family event, and only one team in the tournament gets to win their final game of the season. This is the madness of March.

This weekend's visit to the hospital epitomized March Madness. We were thrown a curve ball. After believing, for weeks, that Sarah's tumor was a Grade I or Grade II Astrocytoma, we learned that it is Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma. Our neuro-oncologist did explain that, while classified as Grade III, it seems to be low on the Grade III spectrum (a few tests are not yet finalized). Nevertheless, Sarah will begin a six-week radiation regiment in Houston in a couple weeks, and chemotherapy is a real possibility.

Regardless of the classification, it's still only 5% of the size it used to be. For that, we are very grateful.

Each year, I fill out a bracket. Back in the glory days of Arkansas basketball, I would spend an inordinate amount of time conducting a thorough research on every team in the tournament. This may surprise you, but, despite all the research, I never had a perfect bracket. Nobody ever does. We never have all the answers.

Nor do we know all the details of this diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. I doubt that a selection committee would make us a top seed.

Not many miracles start with great odds. I'm convinced God, (like Lynlee), loves a Cinderella story. We have faith that He can heal Sarah's cancer. Stories like ours give Him "One Shining Moment".

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Update from Sarah!

Hey everyone! Thought I would stop by and give Pat a break from the blog updates! Just be prepared for a little less creativity and a less fluent way of putting thoughts into writing! He's a tough act to follow, but I figured everyone was ready to hear from the patient herself!

So to answer the question I'm asked most...How are you feeling? That's a complex answer and I looked really hard on Google to show you a picture, but it's not really a search friendly explanation. In a nutshell...I feel like a sausage that someone packed too tightly into the casing! Funny but so true! Steroids are my newfound enemy (even though I know they are helping me get better day by day)! If the steroids have a side effect, I got it (all 20 of them). But the good news is that they are slowly fading me off of them and there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

It’s crazy, but I rarely think about the actual incision until Owen (at 2 years old) asks me to put a hat on. He does this every hour or so! He also makes comments about the choo-choo train tracks on my head! I love the kid's honesty! I got my staples out today, so we will see if he still thinks they look like choo-choo tracks!

So, the incision isn't that bad. It goes from the top of my right ear lobe right, behind my hairline, to an inch past the midline of my head. I'm not really taking any pain meds anymore. I get a slight headache on rare occasions when I over-do it a bit, but that's it. Awesome, and praise the Lord for that!

So what I can and can't do? I still have kept a pretty laid back schedule. I fatigue pretty quickly. I'm still not supposed to lift the kids or anything over 5 lbs (challenging!). I haven't driven since the diagnosis (Jan. 31st) due to the pressure the tumor was putting on my optic nerve. I haven't had the visual disturbances since the surgery (Praise the Lord) so I probably could drive, but I'm not sure my "sausage link-like reflexes" are quite up to speed with the other drivers! I mean when your neck is a similar size to your shoulders and cheeks, it's hard to turn your head in a split second! I know you are all thinking, "Sarah, you are being so hard on yourself." I know because everyone has said that, but trust is pretty close and if you know me well you know I have to find humor in everything! It's my best coping mechanism!

I know people are also wondering if I lost any skills when they removed some of my brain tissue, good and bad. Well, so far, no. At least no one is telling me! I know some of the functions of the frontal lobe from school, so; of course I've been testing myself on some of those skills. They typically include high executive functioning skills like organization, memory, behavior, personality, and problem solving to name a few (we are in the clear because these haven't been strengths of mine for quite some time now!). So, am I normal? Probably not, because I don't think God ever intended me to be "normal”. Am I still quirky Sarah who laughs at everything? YES! Also, a plus is that the tumor on my right hemisphere which is likely most people's non-dominant side of the brain.

Emotionally? I'm doing pretty well. Do I have my bad days where I just beg and cry to God? Yes, not very often, but they do come around. Emotions have been very interesting during this journey. For the most part, I haven't dwelled on the situation (which is another coping strategy of mine). I just ignore it until I can actually take a step to fix it. We have been keeping life as normal as possible around here, which has been beneficial for me in this area. I think I've been pretty strong, but I'm still reminded of my weakness, too. Overall, I'm hanging in there just fine and KNOWING the Lord is going to do great things through this. I was telling the Lord today that I'm not sure how he's going to use me through this, what I'm supposed to be learning, or even if I'm ready, but every ounce of this pain is so worth it to know that just one person could benefit from my story and possibly grow closer to Him or even better yet know who HE truly is for the first time. So. Worth. It.

I would also like to sincerely THANK every single one of you. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to feel all the encouragement and support from so many people. A day still does not go by that we do not get a card in the mail, facebook/twitter/blog message, flowers, dinner, money, gift cards, fruit baskets, text message, voicemail, etc. encouraging us in our journey and letting us know we are being prayed for. I want you to know that we have read and cherished every single one of them. We are so humbled by everyone's responses and concern. It truly takes our breath away and has helped us fight this battle even stronger. Thank you doesn't seem like enough words to say, but from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!

I'm ending my novel with this: I am truly a blessed woman to be surrounded by an amazing family. Most of you know how great they are without me even going into details, but they have surrounded me and not let me fall even one inch. Parents and siblings, you all know what ALL you have done for us, and again forever thank you. Now to have all gotten to see an amazing side to my "beyond perfect in my eyes husband" through his blog posts. And yes, he is that amazing. It is breath-taking to me that God could and would create such a perfect person for me and then make sure I found him! I did. I found him and tricked him into marrying me, and I'm so glad I did. You have been a rock babe, and thank you for carrying me through with you. We are going to make this great!

Love to all and we are still praying for a great pathology report from Houston. Our next appointment is March 25th. It's going to be good!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Still Waiting

No news is typically good news. In our case today, no news is, likely, postponed good news! We arrived in Houston today, only to learn that official pathology is not yet available. Long story short, we have to come back in two weeks to get the OFFICIAL report.

Typically, pathology is available tens days after surgery, but the pathology team wanted to do a few more tests on Sarah's tumor. It sounds like the pending tests are usually reserved for low grade tumor cases.

They did affirm, again, that Sarah's tumor looks to be low grade. A few times, it was even referred to as "very low grade".

So, we still don't have anything official, but the feedback sounds like we can expect good news soon.

Back in Houston

We just arrived in Houston. I've failed to mention that we were coming back today to meet with the Oncology team. We're currently waiting to be called back for Sarah's first appointment, and the second one is at 1:00.

We hope to leave these appointments with a very clear understanding of the official diagnosis and prognosis. We are, of course, praying for an exceptional report.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Acceptance Speech

Thousands of people have made the month leading up to Sarah's surgery not only easier, but memorable.

Friends, family, complete strangers, neighbors, and co-workers have prayed for Sarah, offered all help imaginable, delivered gifts, and spoken endless encouraging words to Sarah, me, and our family.

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote our pastor, Nick Floyd, a note that he shared with our Cross Church Fayetteville family. In it, I mentioned that we are overwhelmed by the response of our church family, but not surprised by it.

That sentiment remains true. Thank you, Nick, and church family, for walking through this with us!

I don't know how many times I've thanked Damon McDonald, but he deserves another one just for being Damon. (Shameless plug: Buy your next vehicle at Everett Maxey.)

The best part of our two trips to Houston was that we, never once, worried about our kids' well-being or state of mind. I hope this isn't overly sappy, but Michele and her family mean the world to us. This month has reminded us how special their family is.

Upon our arrival on Sunday, we immediately noticed a clean (and organized) garage and a manicured yard.

These two acts of service, alone, were absolutely awesome! Sarah raved about it all the way to the front door!

Then, she raved some more when she opened the door and saw this:

This is all the handy work of our great friend, and talented designer, Kirsten Blowers. Check out her store, Rifraff, on the Fayetteville Square.

We watched the Academy Awards a few nights ago. I'm pretty sure that if I knew, for months in advance, that I had a 20% chance of winning the most prestigious award in my profession, I'd have something put together. Not many movie stars do. What's the deal? No time to jot a few words down between sets? Maybe call up your favorite script writer, and ask for a favor? At least scribble down the 20 people you want to make sure to thank on the napkin of your favorite 5-star restaurant...

Some of the fumbling around can probably be written off as a lame attempt to show a little humility. "I can't believe it!" Yeah right.

Well, we can't believe it. We never left for Houston thinking we would come home to all this. There wasn't a 20% chance of this happening when we left. We don't know what else to say accept, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" (Sound familiar?)

We don't know who to thank, either. We've tried to put all the pieces together, but it seems that a few people may be too gracious to let us know they had a part in it. So, thank you Kirsten, Elaine, Michele, Angela, Rachel, and whoever else had a hand in our little home makeover.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Coming Home.. For Now.

Wednesday and Thursday were two steps forward, but today started as a step back. Sarah was dealing with a bit of pain last night and this morning.

A doctor removed her turban around 7:00 A.M., so we have full view of Sarah's incision. A few staples are covered by a scab, so we don't have an official count. Preliminary estimate is about 38 staples.

Sarah's surgeon stopped by about an hour ago. Dr. Weinberg has been a huge blessing. Not only did he remove 95% of the tumor, but he has also been very encouraging to Sarah. (His name is Dr. Jeffrey S. Weinberg, and he is the most impressive doctor I have ever met.)

Physically, Sarah is recovering very well. They initially told us that we would be here 3-5 days. Since Sarah is recovering so quickly, he said that we could leave tomorrow morning. We will still be coming back next week to meet with Oncologist and Radiation Oncologist.

The removal of the turban brought with it a wave of emotion. We've had to convince Sarah that she doesn't look like a monster. Dr. Weinberg reminded her (and us), again, t0 expect a long recovery process that includes good and bad days.

Since we learned of Sarah's diagnosis, we have prayed that our lives do not return to "normal". We expect things to be better than before. The old "normal" was just that... "normal".

Our expectation is that this bump in the road propels us into exceptional living.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

She Really Is Okay!

We were, finally, allowed to see Sarah at 4:00 today. She is going to remain in the holding room until about 7:00 or 8:00.

We'll laugh for a long time about the first couple of things that she said to me. I'll keep the first to myself, but the second was, "Did I miss any good fights?" I'm pretty sure she was talking about her VERY innocent parents... maybe not. Either way, we're in trouble. She was out for half a day, but she hasn't missed a beat.

She's asked that I take pictures to document the day, but I'll have to wait to post those until she gets her private room. No cameras allowed in the holding room.

When we get in the private room, I'll try to wrap it all up.

Out of Surgery

Sarah is out of surgery, and in a post-op holding room. She will be there for another hour until we can see her, but she is "awake".

There was only one surprise during surgery... and it was good. Going into surgery, our doctor thought that he could get 80% of tumor out. It turns out that he was able to get 95% of it out!

Preliminary diagnosis is still Grade 2 Astrocytoma. Official diagnosis will be determined by March 11th.

More details to come, but that's the skinny. We hope to see her around 4:30.

Thank you all for your prayers. It has been a pretty taxing day for us, but your prayers, and the company of our friends and family here at the hospital made it MUCH easier.

Day of Surgery - Update 1

I just left Sarah's side in the surgery holding room.

She is still in great spirits. The anesthesiologist had just visited her, so imagine she'll be feeling extraordinarily well very soon!

We will get updates every couple of hours. The medical staff here is amazing.

Here is a link to a picture of the operating room, and Sarah's surgeon (Page 4 and 5). MD Anderson


Saturday, February 26, 2011


Do yourself a favor, and read Philippians 4:10-13. Really, do it. The rest of this won't be very good in comparison. After you read it, listen to "The Secret of Contentment". Even if you have no interest at all in this "stuff", take a chance.

Here's a summary of 90% of my conversations:

"How's Sarah doing?"
Me: "She's doing fine/good/great/well?"
"Good, good, how are you?"
Me: "I'm doing fine/good/great/well."
"Good to see you. You're in our prayers/thoughts."

I like these conversations. It's good to know that people are thinking about Sarah, and lifting her up in prayer.

But, this exchange, very rarely, goes much deeper. I walk away with a multitude of thoughts: "He thinks my head is in the clouds." "She doesn't believe that I am feeling okay." "Am I really okay, or am I just numb?" "I wonder if this is a denial phase, and all my thoughts will change in an hour, a day, a week."

I have a friend, and co-worker, who doesn't allow surface conversations. He always digs deeper. We had some meaningful dialogue one day, each of the last two weeks.

I also have three brothers who are absolutely incredible, and have each influenced my life, whether intentionally or accidently. A few years ago, a brother and I had a lengthy conversation about life, in general. At the end of the phone conversation, he encouraged me not to let another year pass whereby I did not pursue that which makes me happy. He said that I could figure it out now, or wait until I was much older... better sooner rather than later.

The next day, I started reading about contentedness. I've spent more time reading about contentedness than any other aspect of faith over the last four or five years.

I hope you took time to read and listen to what I recommended above. It's a life changing perspective.

Reflecting on this passage, and talking with my buddy at work last week, I realized that, at times, I may be confusing contentedness with stoicism. Being stoic is not liberating at all. It doesn't bring joy in the midst of trial, and it doesn't allow to you to love, care, and sympathize for someone who is suffering. I know because I slip into that mode very easily.

True, biblical, contentedness does bring freedom. It does bring joy. It's comforting to those who are suffering.

Sarah's diagnosis has detached us more from this world than any other time in our lives, and caused us to focus more on the things of heaven. That breads happiness.

Chalk one up for "Good Things coming out of Unfortunate Circumstances". Let's chalk up a couple more.

Please continue to lift Sarah up. Her surgery is at 7:30 on Wednesday morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sarah and "O"

We have a date. Sarah will have surgery on Wednesday, March 2nd. We have to be in Houston a couple of days early for testing.

We did learn a couple of things while at MD Anderson today. Dr. Weinberg showed us the MRI images. While Sarah's tumor is on the right frontal lobe, it is a little further back on the lobe than we first thought. Better said, there is brain tissue between Sarah's skull and the tumor. We also learned that they would not be able to remove 100% of the tumor because blood vessels have infiltrated the backside of the mass. Any damage to those blood vessels could result in a stroke, which could lead to paralysis, etc. If the mass is as slow growing as they believe it is, trying to get it all out is not worth the risk.

I am not sure what this means, or how/if it changes Sarah's prognosis, but we will know quite a bit more after post-surgery pathology is available. Depending on the biopsy results, additional treatment could follow. We pray that such treatment will not be required.

Sarah will have a pretty sweet scar that will span from one ear, across the top of her head, to the other ear (about an inch inside her hairline).

Typical of a mother, Sarah might be just as concerned about missing Owen's 2nd birthday as she is about anything we learned today.

(Insert "my son is the best" prose here). It's crazy to think that Owen is two years old. It's definitely been a happy two years. I could go on, but if you know "O", you know exactly what I'm talking about. He is, hands down, the best (no bias; if he looked like a baby ostrich and screamed like a peacock, I'd say so).

We can't wait to see him and Lynlee! Hopefully, we'll make it home tomorrow. Those kids, and their mama need some lovin'!

Thanks again for everybody's prayers and well-wishes. Special thanks to all who have helped get us in and out of town, watched our kids, watched our house (get hammered with snow), fed us a meal, watched our dog... the list goes on. Thank you,

Pat & Sarah

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Skinny

We are leaving for Houston tomorrow morning to ensure that we beat Artic Front #2! Sarah's consultation at MD Anderson is scheduled for Thursday morning. We still don't have a surgery date, and we will not have one until that consultation.

There's quite a bit going on around here. Otherwise, I would elaborate a little more. The reality is that we do not know what to expect (in terms of timing) until we are down there.

My apologies for the matter-of-fact-ness of this update.

I'll do better next time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quick Update

They discharged Sarah from Washington Regional on Wednesday after all the CT scans came back negative. That was good news! Discharge instructions were for Sarah to rest and take life easy until MD Anderson gave us a call to come to Houston.

A MD Anderson scheduler called today. They are just waiting on MRI & CT scan images from Washington Regional, then they will schedule us. We had hoped that these images were already there... but they're not. Bummer.

Those images should arrive at MD Anderson on Monday, and they think that we will know our surgery date Monday night. The surgery date can't come soon enough!

We appreciate everyone's prayers and well wishes.

Sarah is still doing very well. We got out and celebrated a couple of birthdays with friends tonight, and had a great time.

Keep the prayers coming!

Pat & Sarah

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Uncommon

Common: Headaches, migraines, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, moodiness (I might get in trouble for this one), aggressive behavior (and this one), physician appointments, MRI, CT scans, emergency room visits, diagnosis, prognosis, and even tumors.

The Uncommon:

A Divine Appointment. We've been praying for an answer to migraines that Sarah has battled for the last couple of months. After a visit to a neurologist and a little vision trouble, Sarah decided to schedule an appointment with our optometrist. Not an optometrist who we bat our eyes at every six months, snag a box of contacts from, and never see again. An optometrist who God put in our life years ago, even before we ever visited her for an eye exam. Who knew that Dr. R. would be the first to discover abnormal pressure on Sarah's optic nerve. That was Friday.

Answered Prayer. With Dr. R.'s help, we scheduled a MRI on Monday morning at 11:15 to figure out exactly what was going on. We were operating under the old adage that "no news is good news", so we felt pretty good when 5:00 rolled around without any communication back from the neurologist. Five minutes later I learned that Sarah had a "mass" on her right frontal lobe. After weeks of prayer, though, we had an answer.

Crazy Peace. Sarah is a champ. My sister-in-law, Ang, describes Sarah's current state much better than I can. Please read. Granted, we have had our moments (and will have more), Sarah has been incredible. I called her at 5:15 on Monday to let her know about her mass. When I arrived at Lynlee's gymnastics practice at 5:45, I found Sarah giggling with another mom (who we love very much). Truth be told, I heard her before I saw her! Those who know Sarah know how that works. We followed doctors' orders, and headed to the ER.

Amazing Friends. We were greeted at the ER by three great friends (and pastors of Crosschurch Fayetteville). They were there before us... waiting on our arrival... ready to give us hugs, laughs, and smiles... ready to love us. More friends and family arrived. Before we were admitted, we had an entourage.

Diagnosis. After a couple of hours in the E.R. waiting room we got to hear Sarah's (tentative) diagnosis. Chances are, Sarah has a low grade astrocytoma. These are, typically, benign. This could all change, but that's what we know now. Very soon, we will take a trip to MD Anderson to have the "racquetball-size" tumor removed.

Here is what we know the future holds: an ordained day, followed by an ordained day, followed by an ordained day. In the backs of our minds, we definitely have expectations. Like many of you reading this, we have prayers that we lift up throughout the day. It's easy to get wrapped up in all the medical stuff. All the facts. We believe the power of prayer, faith, and trust are just as real.

Lift up the prayers of your heart. We definitely pray for the wisdom of medical staff, peace, comfort, healing... you name it.

If you can't think of anything else to pray, pray that we have MANY more opportunities to experience the uncommon as I have described above. That's when we feel the presence of God. Our prayer is that many of you experience it too.

Pat & Sarah