What is this?

What is this? I don't really know, other then a continuation of my updates and writings that I was sharing previously on Caringbridge of this journey through cancer and now widowhood and single parenting.

Maybe it won't end up being anything at all, or maybe it will be a glimpse into my heart, my life, my current situation, my testimony.

Whatever it becomes, I am touched that you are interested.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Home Together

We have been home together since Wednesday night. I am so thankful that we can finally be together, Brandon, Aria and I. I feel complete again.

We had the opportunity to do a baby dedication last night. It was very important to Brandon and I to be able to dedicate Aria to God together and with Haley and David (Godparents) present, and God granted us that time and a lot of family were able to be there too.

We have been working on trying to make a few videos for Aria from Brandon. It's difficult to know what to say for her sweet 16 birthday, graduation, wedding and such when she is only 8 weeks old. It's heart wrenching.

This all feels so surreal. God is giving me the strength I am needing to get through. He may even be extending me some numbness, or I may just be in a level of shock. I am trying to just keep on keeping on, and be in the present, and not really allow myself to continually realize what is going on. I keep repeating that there will be plenty of time to grieve later, right now I need to soak up every moment with my husband. 

I am trying to embrace a Dr. Seuss saying that a kind arfcom-er sent to me: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened". 

We have had so many visitors and supporters. Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, organizing, holding Aria, bringing groceries. I didn't have to do a thing to figure out where the hospital bed would go or the furniture. 

I truly know the meaning of 'When I am weak, He is strong'. God promises this, and He has not forsaken me or Brandon. Brandon's strength through this is astonishing. He is ready to go home. 

I told him last night what the doctor had said to me, that she has always said 'If God saw me a good person, He would take me home from kidney disease'. He will just get more and more sleepy, no pain. This brought him a lot of comfort.

We, Brandon especially, are so grateful for all the support everyone has been showing us. The fundraiser, gifts in the mail, a raffle on Ar15.com, the sales from 50 special edition triggers, and more all are bringing so much more then monetary comfort at this time. Brandon is not worried about how the extensive medical bills will be paid. Hopefully I can start a small college fund for Aria that will grow with her. I will not go into serious debt from this. Knowing this, Brandon has found peace. So thank you, each and every one of you who has generously given to us, you have given a life changing gift to Brandon, myself and Aria.


I will update as I can. I am trying my hardest to hold it together, and writing about it takes me close to breaking, and I just can't do that yet. I need to be strong for Brandon and Aria. 

Please pray for comfort and peace for Brandon and strength for all of us. 

I continue to pray for a miracle, for complete earthly healing of his body. But I love him too much to pray for more time if he has to continue to suffer. It's a hard prayer to pray...

To share, follow or donate to Giveforward click HERE. (Just a reminder since there has been confusion - the purple 'donate today' button on this page is a donation to CaringBridge, not to our Fundraiser.)




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Next Steps

I wanted to just give a basic update of our journey.  Forgive me for the lack of finesse in this update.

We believe we will be getting released from the hospital today or tomorrow, just waiting on finalizing the details for home hospice care, and getting the proper equipment there and set up.

Brandon is very weak, and very fatigued, but not in pain.  

We have had lots of visitors, close friends and family from all over the country coming to visit and help.  We are so grateful.  I can't even express how dizzying and confusing and difficult this is, and would be impossible without all the help to myself, Bonnie, Roger and David.

We plan to go home with home hospice care, and according to Brandon's wishes, do our best to transfer to a facility at the end.  We need your prayers that God allows us the ability to do our best to meet those wishes, both with timing and finances.

We are incredibly humbled by the outpouring of donations to the Giveforwardfundraiser for us.  As we make some very difficult decisions, it has truly ministered to our spirits to have that to allow us to do our best to meet Brandon's wishes.  And, as much as it has comforted me, it has comforted Brandon so much more.  Without life insurance (denied since diagnosed so young) this is truly helping to calm his financial fears for Aria and I.  So I thank you, not just for Aria and I, but especially for ministering to Brandon.  

And, I have to add a quick incredibly humbled, appreciative, and truly astonished Thank you to the ARFCOM community.  I have no words for how kind and generous you all have been, and I hope you know how much your community has been an amazing part of Brandon's life.  And our marriage - I often asked him to poll arfcom on a debate or question.  We laughed over many posts together, and something from the forum was a topic of discussion for us nearly daily.  To see the impact of this community click HERE.

This is on a more intimate note, but please pray that God brings me continued supernatural strength.  I am terrified.  Everyone else has their primary physical support person to lean on through this, and I am loosing mine.  I can not fathom how I will navigate this without Brandon.  God will get me through moment by moment, day by day.  He gives and He takes away, and I am so thankful for the man He gave me for the past 10 years of my life.  He just gave me so much in one person, so many roles in my life will be missed when needed most, especially father to Aria.  Abba Father, Aria and I need you like I've never known before.

Prayers:
-Comfort for Brandon; spiritual, physical and emotional.
-Strength, peace, wisdom, and guidance for all of us.
-God's guidance and provisions for our care arrangements 
-Safe travels for all those coming to support 
-Blessings multiplied for all those who have donated to help us.  

To share, follow or donate to Giveforward click HERE. (Just a reminder since there has been confusion - the purple 'donate today' button on this page is a donation to CaringBridge, not to our Fundraiser.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hold Tight

Whether it the middle of a fight or the middle of just another night, for just a moment- make sure to hold your spouse tight. Hold their hand, wrap your arms around them, or ask them to wrap their arms around you. If they ask why, say it's for Brandon & Christina . Be thankful for them and for having them next to you.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Baby Love

I caved in and brought Aria to the hospital. I have no idea when Brandon may get to see her otherwise and he needs some baby love, and it's nice for me (emotionally and b/c of nursing) to have them both in the same place for a little while. It is so hard to have to be apart from either of them to be with the other one. 

I asked my favorite nurse her opinion and she said that as long as we covered her, brought her straight in and straight out, and were careful about handling her, she thought it would be ok. She also called housekeeping to have them sanitize everything first, which was very kind of her. Regardless, please pray for God's protection over her health visiting at the hospital.

I'm already a germaphobe, so literally I washed my hands and sanitized like every 10 minutes. My parents and bestie Haley took her for a walk outside so Brandon could rest for a little. Thankfully God blessed us with such a good baby she barely made a peep the whole time she was here. 

Brandon loved getting to hold her on his lap for a little bit. I think baby love is the best medicine. And maybe wifey love too...

He also really enjoyed getting to finally see my dad with Aria (this is his first visit since she was born). 

We thank you all so much for your prayers. I can update that the swelling is a bit more stable, though likely building up around lungs again. His kidney functioning has remained at the same level for the past 24 hours. It's not good, but it hasn't declined further. 

Nausea has been very difficult. He has to get potassium infusions and it causes him extreme nausea. He has not eaten much and has lost a lot of weight. 

We are so very grateful for God's blessings. So many have rallied behind us and supported us. I am immensely humbled. God has timed my mom's visits perfectly, and my friend Haley's visit perfectly, that I have not had to spend a night alone in the house lately. 

I also am beyond words about the generosity of friends, family, friends of friends, forum friends and complete strangers. The fundraiser set up for us on giveforward has blown me away. Today Brandon and I prayed for everyone that has donated to us. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, thank you. 


Prayers:

-significant improvement with Nausea

-ability to eat

-Improved Kidney functioning 

-improved potassium levels w/out daily infusions

-less swelling

-no more fluid building up around lungs

-no progression of cancer 

-miraculous healing!

-comfort, peace, strength and rest for Brandon (and all of us).

-protection over Aria's health


To share, follow or donate:

https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/srh5/brandon-s-journey-with-the-big-c-?utm_source=giveforward&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=dashboard&shareid=2565902

Friday, August 22, 2014

Back to the Hospital

This is going to be very brief, I just want to update for prayers.


Blood work from yesterday afternoon showed that kidney functioning has decreased since being home. Coupled with needing to get a left Thorosentesis (draining of the fluid around lungs) on Wed, and on the right side today the doctors chose to re-admit Brandon to the hospital tonight to test and monitor what's going on. 


I'm not going to sugar coat it, we are all feeling weak and weary and very upset. 


I am grateful for my mother in law being here with me now, one of my best friends dropping everything to spend the night with me tonight and the timely arrival tomorrow of my other best friend staying here for the week. 


All I can pray is just 'God, please help'. I don't have words anymore...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Answered Prayer

Last night we specifically prayed for rest for Brandon. In the past month he has barely been able to sleep at all, only getting an hour to hour and a half stretch at a time before being woken up by any one (or multiple) symptoms or side effects of the numerous issues at hand. Be it terrible nightmares, intense dry mouth and throat, pain, nausea, etc. 


Any parent to a newborn knows how lack of sleep can make you feel crazy, let alone when it happens after major surgery and 6 weeks of living nightmare Brandon has been through. 


We cried out to God to please, please give him some rest last night and God answered that prayer with a 3-4 hour stretch of sleep! 


Not only that, but Aria slept through the whole night last night for the first time. From 10pm to 6:30am. What blessing from God, and in my opinion, no coincidence. It was Jesus saying 'I hear your prayers, and will bless you beyond your needs'.


Please join us in prayer for continued rest for Brandon.


God has also been answering prayers for support for us through all of you in the many ways I mentioned in the previous journal entry. 


Some of our dear, dear friends have been kind enough to start a fund raiser for us as well to help with the mounting medical expenses. We feel so deeply appreciative to every generous donation and gift to us. It is very hard to admit needing help of any kind, let alone financial, but God is teaching me that accepting help is not a passive action, it is allowing others to meet a calling God has put on their hearts. He has reminded me how serving others has ministered to my own heart, and to allow others that same opportunity, whether it be in prayer, actions or donations. 


I will do a detailed post about this soon, but if you want to follow the fundraiser, share it with others or donate you can click HERE or visit:

https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/srh5/brandon-s-journey-with-the-big-c-?utm_source=giveforward&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=dashboard&shareid=2565902 

Please note that clicking purple the 'Donate Today' button on the Caring bridge site donates to caring bridge to help with funding this free site, not to us. There has been some confusion with this, and I very much believe in donating to keep this free service available to keep friends and family updated, however I want for your donations to make sure to go where you intend them to go. :) 


There have been a few donations made to the Caring bridge site in honor of Brandon and I want to thank you so much, both named and anonymous, whoever you are!


Praying specifically for more rest, emotional and physical strength and leaps and bounds in recovery.


God bless you all for joining us on this journey. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Home!

Brandon was released from the hospital yesterday late afternoon. Aria and I met him at the doorstep. He was so excited to see her finally, it had been 9 long days. 


The large vertical incision and other wounds on his abdomen won't allow him to hold her yet, but it's so nice for us all to be in the same place again, for him to see her smile and hear her coo. Hopefully soon he will even be able to change her dirty diapers. :)


Transitioning to home has been difficult. Our bed is quite high and very soft, not ideal for recovering from such a major surgery, so he is camping out on the sofa and David is spending the nights on the love seat. We are doing our best with oral pain management, but need your prayers for healing relief. 


At this point we are just taking it one hour at a time, and one day at a time. 


God has been faithful and has provided for many of our needs, often through your generous hearts and hands.


The meals you have provided have been such a blessing to us. We have quite a few gift cards to restaurants and whole foods that will help in the upcoming months. A neighbor is mowing our lawn, friends came to watch Aria and clean and organize, cards of well wishes, diapers and frozen meals have been sent, even checks to use for whatever need arises, and more. Even the car dealership has been incredibly kind in sending someone to our house to get signatures needed for paperwork (shout out to Planet Hyundai in Golden for your exceptional customer service). We feel so blessed. Thank you for taking care of us in this difficult time. 


Truly this time has been made possible by friends and family. Brandon's parents and brother have been available day and night, someone staying every night with Brandon either here or at the hospital. My mom coming out multiple times and taking days or nights with Aria so I could be with Brandon. God has been faithful, He is meeting our needs. 


Specific prayers are for quick healing, pain relief, reduced swelling, improved kidney functioning. 


Thank you!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Still in Hospital

Brandon is slowly recovering from surgery. Well, I guess his recovery from surgery is pretty much on target. It's the other issues that are seemingly slow to recover from.


Currently he is resting out some anemia which causes extreme fatigue. He had a blood transfusion on Friday so we hope that he starts feeling better on that aspect soon. 


The doctors are trying to get his anticoagulation levels in the therapeutic range to continue treating the blood clot. We seem to be making progress there, getting off the Heparin IV and on to pills tonight.


Right now it seems what we need the most prayer on is his kidneys. Please pray for his kidneys to be able to start recovering and functioning properly. Brandon is still incredibly swollen, a few days ago he had about 50 pounds of water weight on him which is incredibly uncomfortable and limiting, and also indicates low kidney functioning.


Once he comes home we will have a home health care nurse coming by 2-3 times a week - checking the wound and colostomy as well as vitals. Not sure what else, but hopefully that will be a little help to us. 


He wants so bad to be able to come home and actually see his daughter. Of her 6.5 weeks of life he has barely had a week with her. It's utterly heartbreaking. He is such a good dad and was looking forward to this chapter in our lives so much. My heart crumbles to pieces just wishing they could have each other right now, and that I could have my husband back. I miss him terribly. I want to hug him, and just be held in his arms. I pray God will allow us those opportunities soon.


We have been asked to share some specific prayer requests:


-Improved and healed kidneys

-All swelling to go away

-Protection with the blood clot

-Strength for Brandon's body to fight

-No further complications

-Cancer to be stagnant while we recover

-Wisdom and direction for doctors 

-STRENGTH and PEACE for us all on this journey.

-Earthly healing!


There is much more that we are praying for every moment of the day, but those are what is on the forefront of my mind. 


Thank you all - we have been truly humbled and blessed by the support we have been receiving. I will post more on that soon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Praises & Prayers

Praises:

-God's Protection over Brandon with these complex issues

-The blessing of health care and the ability for treatment. We have some of the leading specialists in numerous fields consulting and visiting. The nurses have been absolutely phenomenal.

-God providing us strength. For Brandon's body, mind and spirit. For us caretakers to be his strength alongside him.

-Support God has provided to us through putting a need of ours on your hearts to meet, be it prayer, meals, child-care, lawn assistance, cleaning, fellowship, errands, chores, cards, gift cards, overnight help and more. Friends and family have been an essential part of this journey.

-Hope. Our hope must come from The Lord and His promises to us no matter what the circumstances. It's an extra blessing when our circumstances can give us some tangible hope as well. Brandon is slowly but surely turning the corner from this 5 week nightmare.

-Aria. What a blessing. She brings so much love and joy to us. She is a motivation for Brandon. She is a laid back baby, and nursing has gone very well despite all the odds against us. 

-My health, again, despite all odds, has been fine. My lupus is in remission, a rarity after birth and among such intense stress. God has blessed us tremendously with this.

-My husband. He is so strong. The way he has faced this is truly inspiring. He has handled every step of this with faith, kindness, love and grace. God has used Brandon to strengthen me in this battle. His faith is so strong, and he is sharing it with everyone who is around him. God is working through him in beautiful ways.



Prayers:

-Pray for God to continue to bless us in all the ways expressed above.

-For healing from surgery with no complications and his GI system returning to optimal functioning

-For the cancer to be stagnant in this time of healing from surgery. 

-For wisdom for all the doctors treating and consulting on Brandon's case.

-For continued progress in healing daily. 

-For direction from God on our next treatment steps, and for Him to open or close doors to other treatment facilities and make all the pieces; timing, finances, etc. come together.


Thank you and God bless you all!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Improvements

Ahhhh....finally! We feel like we are turning a corner!


Yesterday Brandon was able to get the NG tube taken out. (Tube that went down nose and empties stomach contents). That was the biggest milestone and celebration yet. That darn thing was so uncomfortable and made it hard to sleep at all. He was able to then actually drink something. I scoured the hospital vending machines and cafeteria and we sampled a handful of drinks - landing on Blackberry or Grapefruit Izzy as the winner. 


David spent the night at the hospital with Brandon last night and for the first time in weeks Brandon was actually able to rest for hours at a time. 


Today he is permitted a liquid diet, and had some creamy potato soup. Hopefully tomorrow he can have a soft food diet! There has also been talk of possibly getting released Saturday or Sunday. 


His INR (blood clotting factor) got to a critical level yesterday (11), so doctors suggested staying in bed to reduce risks of uncontrolled bleeding. Thankfully today the number has gone down to 3 with the use of vitamin K, and walking around will be the goal for today. This will help healing and continue to encourage the GI system to wake up and get working at full strength.


We are feeling so encouraged! We have been really relishing the little victories like Popsicles and drinking. Though when you look at it they are hardly 'little' victories at all! They are reminders of God's faithfulness and provisions. They are steps toward healing and coming home!


We are hoping today or tomorrow they will allow Brandon to be wheeled outside for a visit with Aria! 


Thank you all for your prayers! I hope to have time to share more details of the past few days soon, but I just wanted to share the good news as soon as I had a chance! 


Please pray for continued strength and healing and pray away any complications.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What a Day

I have been able to spend the past 2 nights at the hospital with Brandon.


This morning Brandon and I were weak and weary. We prayed specifically for strength, hope and to strongly feel God's presence, just for today - we needed it today. Tomorrow we will worry about tomorrow. 


Not long after God answered those prayers. A visit from the amazing surgeon who did Brandon's first surgery 4 years ago. He was not on call on Saturday for this surgery, so it was done by one of his associates who is a very skilled surgeon, but lacks the finesse of a bedside manner.


The surgeon encouraged Brandon to get up and moving a bit today, since that helps the healing process and gets the GI system waking up. The sooner that happens the sooner the dreaded NG tube (tube down nose into stomach that empties the stomach contents) can come out that has been in since Friday. This has been one of the most difficult obstacles of this for Brandon. And a reward for getting moving a bit and tolerating the NG tube hopefully only 1 more day, is being permitted a Popsicle, a very welcomed and desired item for post surgery - especially with an NG tube and adding how long it has been since Brandon has been able to eat or drink anything, let alone enjoy it.


So we got out of bed, into a chair, and standing for a few minutes then savored every bite of a Popsicle. This was only possible by the fact that God provided enough STRENGTH to withstand the task of getting moving just enough. 


There were a few moments throughout the day that brought on a frenzy of anxiety, scrambling for nurses, and a lot of pain for Brandon. For myself, God truly STRENGTHENED me to not panic in the moment and stay focused and strong for Brandon, definitely a power not my own. 


When asked about his opinion on the tumors, the surgeon expressed that he felt it more likely that these tumors have been growing for some time, and likely did not grow in the 6 weeks since the PET scan that did not show their activity. Some tumors grow a certain way that their presence isn't shown til they reach a certain extent and absorb the sugars that show on PET scans. Obviously this is where God answered our prayers for HOPE. Hope that this all didn't just happen in 6 weeks time, but slowly over months or even years. 


We can't be guaranteed anything, yes, the 6 week theory is possible. I battled with myself over embracing this hope. Our hopes over the past 7 weeks have gotten crushed over and over and over. I asked God why do You give us this hope if we are only left devastated? How many times can we surrender our fears to hope, and why would we continue doing so only being left shattered?


He told me clearly that hope is His gift of strength for today. When we have hope, it lifts our spirits, gives us an opportunity to find joy and optimism. If we surrender hope to fear what do we have today? Misery, endless pain and a day lost of it's opportunities for glory. And we only have today. We only have right now. Ultimately what is going to happen is going to happen, and we can have a path of misery and fear leading up to it or we can have a path of hope and some joy leading up to it. 


So as I look back at the day, with it's peaks and it's valleys I can not deny that God made himself incredibly KNOWN to us today, and I am so thankful. 


I go to bed tonight thanking God for His faithfulness today. Ultimately we are called to find our HOPE in The Lord and his promises to us, not in the tangible things of this world. But I feel incredibly blessed when He gives us a little added booster of hope to hold on to.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

After Surgery Update

This is a difficult post to write.

The surgeon removed multiple tumors, one fist size, another golf ball sized. Because of the location Brandon now has an ostomy bag. 

There is an inoperable tumor remaining. It is involved with major blood vessels and the kidney ureter. In the upcoming days we will be discussing with the oncologist whether to move forward with chemo once he is recovered to attempt to prolong life or preserve quality of life by discontinuing treatment. At this point we only have time, and we don't yet know how long. We will probably consult CTCA or MD Anderson for a second opinion. 

We are devastated. I am definitely in shock, it's a strange feeling to have. I did not foresee this. I truly did not want to believe this could be the outcome. I can't even wrap my mind around it. I am terrified and hurting so deeply words can not express. 

Brandon is handling this news with amazing strength and grace. He is in a lot of pain, this was a very extensive surgery.

This is yet another blow, what feels like another worst case scenario. It is going to be the most difficult journey of all of our lives, but we will not loose our faith. It has been tested and it will continue to be tested, but we have to cling to what we know of God, no matter how bad it hurts.

Brandon asked to please pray for pain relief.

And I ask that you pray for a miracle and time. Time with quality of life. 

Thank you all for your prayers and for walking through this with us.