Monday, November 05, 2012

The good things about brain cancer

Dear friends,

We are all on a journey in this life. For some, it's a roller coaster of events, for others a free fall, for some an adventure worth sharing. I've been in all of those groups and more. For now, I'm on a journey through inoperable brain cancer. Not mine, but my older brother Roger's. I wish it were mine.

He has the worst of the worst diagnoses: inoperable stage 4 glioblastoma. There are no promises of hope for him from doctors or friends, or even family. We all know the truth. This cancer is a killer.

Or is it?

As they say, "The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings." And she ain't even warmed up yet.

The other day, Roger's step son Jeff found a remarkable website produced by a survivor (Yes, an 8 year survivor) of glioblastoma. It's full of hope, a road map to treatment that works, and the plan of salvation included. How good is God? I pray this will be my brother's story one day, too. I want him to live much longer than 12-18 months. Eight years or more sounds great. And so I pray for God's best plan, His perfect will for Roger.

In the meantime, Roger is mining gold from this journey and sharing it with others. Read his Apogee Newsletter today and see what he's found lately. I hope I add this correctly. feed://

And while you are at it, please pray for him. I love him so much!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I had a couple of fun memories of Roger and me as kids. One was my favorite game when I was about six or so. As a perennial cowgirl, I fantasized about living on Dale Evans and Roy Roger's ranch. Roger, at 10,  would fulfill my imagination by taking all four maple dining room chairs and arranging them by two's on his twin sized bed and covering them with a blanket. I'd get inside with some sort of belt or tie for my reins and drive my "stagecoach" with yelps and "giddy-aps" while he shook the bed violently from the sides and front, making "horse whinnies" and trying to overturn my stagecoach. Thankfully, that never happened, as we'd have been marched to the jail house for sure. My mother, and possibly my dad, put up with this nonsense and noise with a rare benevolence on a weekend afternoon. Those rare times stand among my favorite memories. 

Here we are sixty years later with a lot of our life road traveled, but our times together are still a treat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Here's the Deal

Where's Virelle been? Learning to live with loss. I took some time off from my blog to deal with losing both our parents this spring, whose deaths made the family loss count at 9 for the past several years. Devastating, yes, but real life. Didn't have any extra words in my heart to share. Since that time, my amazing older brother Roger has been diagnosed with a very deadly brain cancer, and for some strange reason, I need to blog about it. To share it with you. So hear goes.

He'd had some small symptoms while visiting with us, just the annoying little memory losses we all experience from time to time in our senior years. Most of us joke about them, but he did not. In stead, he called his doctor who suggested a CT scan and an MRI when he arrived home in Omaha. Call it God. The tests showed a stage 4 glioblastoma, pretty much a death sentence. Roger is only 71 and remarkably strong and healthy. This was a game changer for us all.

"Lord, I'm not ready to lose my brother," I cried in my kitchen. "You have to rescue him. He still doesn't know You, and that's my heart's biggest desire. What are you going to do about this?" Three days later I mopped up my tears and formed a prayer team, "Roger's loop." Some of these folks pray like pit bulls. I love that about them. Others are new to prayer, some are not even sure God exists. But most people, when you ask them to pray even for your sick dog, will at least try. I knew they would. And God was listening. He always is. My prayer was two fold: "Lord, please bring Roger face to face with you now. Help him believe. And give Roger a story in this cancer that is all about you. Something only You could have done." And I watched and waited. Still am.

In the meantime, my dear husband Steve put me on a plane to be with Roger during his first brain biopsy, a life-threatening situation all by itself. His wonderful step son, Bill, was there doing all the real logistics. I just wanted to be with my brother. Actually, half the world wanted to be with him, too. He is loved by so many. And it was a week I'll never forget. Roger, my big strong "I can handle it" brother, suddenly knew real weakness, perplexity, something totally out of his plans. He became among the bravest people I've ever known facing brain surgery like that. Most of us would be crying out for help, or blaming Heaven. Roger is stoic in his acceptance of life. Only four years ago he returned from a business trip to find his beloved wife Nancy on the bathroom floor, dead from an aortic dissection. His heartbreak has been indescribable and has fostered years of insightful writing in his Apogee newsletter. Look it up.

Now I'm learning about life in a new way. "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." I'm God's child, his heartbroken daughter, looking to her Heaven Father for yet another miracle of grace in His bag. Another like the one he gave Steve's dear sister Sue who lived healthy, beautiful eight years after extensive surgery for pancreatic cancer. No one lives after that, but Sue did. And God gave the miracle. "One more, Lord! Please, one more!"

I wait, trusting God more for His perfect will every day. It may not be my idea of perfect, but if it's His, I know that's good. It's the best possible outcome. I believe it.

Will you believe with me? Will you pray for Roger, too? I thank you. May you find the real God I know, perfect in His plans, but always listening for His children's cries.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

On Grieving at Easter

Steve and I are sloshing through grief at very slow speeds. Some days feel almost normal, and others not so much. I can't imagine what it's like to lose a spouse or a child. Grief is heavy, and slippery. It doesn't stay put on a shelf, or come out at convenient times. Even with losing two parents after all these years, the memories adhere to your heart and don't fade. At some point, those memories will become a great comfort. Now they can be painful.

Cory TenBoom said, “People grow old, but emotions do not grow old.” Very true. Feeling childhood emotions is not childish, but very real now as I remember a birthday cake my mother made twice, after the first party was spoiled when I woke up with mumps. Steve remembers misty mornings on Chautauqua Lake when his strong daddy rowed two young boys and their fishing poles miles in a rented boat, going after “the big one.”

It is a quiet morning before Easter. And where are our parents now? Rejoicing in heaven with generations of faithful family, friends, but most of all with Jesus. I think they are but a breath away. We are this side of the veil rejoicing with them, wishing we had one more morning together.