Thursday, December 17, 2009

Under Surveillance

Since my last blog, I underwent a cyst aspiration procedure. Inside my abdomen and outside my colon, at the site of the surgical site, I developed two cysts. It caused a narrowing of my colon near the rectal area. Last Wednesday, Dec. 9th, a very long, thin needle was inserted through buttocks (into my right check to be exact) to extract whatever was inside the cyst. Before that happened, I was sedated and run through another CT scan. Then I waited to hear the pathology report. What was growing inside of me now? Seems I exchanged a grapefruit size tumor for an egg sized cyst. Hopefully, I lost the cancer in the switcheroo.

Yesterday, one week later, I had my follow-up visit with Dr. Ampuero. Finally, the “What next?” question would be answered. He told me that he was “cautiously optimistic.” My CA-125 (the cancer marker) remained remarkably low. After two tests, the fluid from the cyst was cancer free. My red and white blood cells were bouncing back. His physical examination confirmed the removal of the cyst and blockage. All of that’s good news, right? But something he said gave me pause. “Now we will keep you under surveillance.” What? Was I a suspect in a crime?

The term “under surveillance” originated as a legal term that means to keep a person under close observation or supervision. Or it describes one in custody or under suspicion. However, now the phrase is used in several venues:

• Police surveillance: The investigation of criminal activities
• Electronic surveillance: The use of electronic equipment (like a nanny camera) to observe activity.
• Vigil/watch: This describes placing someone under guard or observation for their protection.
• Stakeout: In anticipation of a crime a person has under-cover police observation around the clock
• Disease surveillance: The ongoing systematic collection and analysis of data about an infectious disease that can lead to action being taken to control or prevent the disease.

My surveillance falls into the final category. The doctor explained that this cancer “could” return. I must accept the possibility. It happens. But they would be watching. I now am on a schedule to ensure that this disease remains in remission. I will see the doctor every two months for six months, then twice every six months, and then annually. Each visit will include blood work and a physical examination.

I’m not sure I like being “under surveillance.” It has that “big brother is watching” kind of paranoia attached to it. Am I looking in the air for black-op helicopters, or outside my window for suspicious men smoking in their cars? Then, as always, God’s Word comforted me. He reminded me, that more importantly HE is watching me. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life… Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 5:25-34). I must live in the now. And right now, I am cancer free. That’s enough for today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I've been had!

November 18, 2009

“I’ve been had” is a phrase from the 1800’s that means to get someone under one’s power or to place another person at a disadvantage. The expression employs the verb “to have” in the past tense. says it means to be outwitted, cheated, or deceived. Perhaps some of you made a bad investment…maybe not the likes of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. But, you put your precious nest egg in the hands of someone who took full advantage of you. When the dividends didn’t come pouring in, you knew you’d “been had.”

Another phrase that merely swaps the words and tense “has been” means something a little different. A “has been” describes someone who has outlived their fame. The slang version suggests that someone’s light has “burned out.” During the 80’s Paul Ruebens, aka Pee Wee Herman became a big hit through his T.V. show Pee Wee’s Playhouse and his movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. But in July 1991, after deciding to take a couple of years’ sabbatical from showbiz Pee-wee, Reubens, was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida. From that moment on Paul Rueben became a “has been.” He’s yet recovered the fame and fortune of his past.

These terms don’t apply to me, technically. But I feel like a victim of the verb “have” as it shifted into past tense. I take umbrage with word “had.” Today, in my treatment of cancer, I passed the Rubicon of “I have cancer" to “I had cancer." For the last six months, I’ve been thrust into the “cancer club.” You don’t join it voluntarily. But once you’re diagnosed something profound happens. Almost immediately you flip into the “fight or flight” mode. Me, I landed into fight making crazy moves the likes of Trinity from the Matrix. I threw all my physical fortitude, mental metal, and spiritual underpinnings to meet cancer head-on. And I was playing to win. All of my internal mechanisms shifted into high alert. Because I was “on guard” I really didn’t take the time or energy to emote, wallow, whine, or worry. I saved that energy for the battle.

At 9:00 on November 17th 2009, I had my last chemo. My CA-125 cancer marker is ridiculously low and everything other indicator has risen to the challenge. While the nurse was prepping my port, I began to weep. To Skip and Sherry it probably looked like a teary response to the injection of lidocaine, the awful tasting saline flush, the insertion of the port connection, or IV of poison beginning to drip in my veins. But it wasn’t any of those. I was ready to seriously sob because I couldn’t believe that this was the end. It felt so surreal. Somewhere along the journey I had adapted. Cancer treatment became my “new normal” But after today I would have to learn to live in wellness once again. I pondered, “Can I really let my guard down? “Is this really the end?” “Will another shoe drop?” “What now?”

I confided in the nurse about my feelings. She said, “You’re response is very common. Most people struggle with putting cancer behind them or in the past. It’s a real paradigm shift. Also, we’ve been your safety net. You could face this disease because you had a team fighting with you. Today you go home to finish the healing on your own.” What a weird sensation. She was right. The very thing I dreaded 6 months ago…walking into a chemo treatment center…was now a thing that had brought comfort and healing. I suppose the sensation is similar to soldiers in battle. They learn to live at the "code red" alertness level. They must run on adrenaline for their entire tour of duty. They develop and enjoy comrades in arms with whom they sympathize, draw strength, and derive comfort. But when it’s time to go home they are expected to shift seamlessly back into a calm civilian life. Come on, it has to tweak with their minds and emotions…just like me.

This week a good friend, author and speaker Ken Mansfield, told Skip something that really comforted me. Ken joined the cancer club right as I did. Although he fought a more virulent colon cancer with radiation as his treatment. He said, “Tell Lenya that cancer is the little “c,” but Christ is the big “C.” How profound. Believe me, that’s where I will throw my energy, my transition, my future! Jesus Christ was my comrade in arms and now He'll be the comforting arms I will find my rest. He walked with me through the hospital. Now He will now walk me safely back to my home sweet home.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Long Time, No Chat

It’s been a couple a weeks since my last update. The colonoscopy confirmed that I have two cysts, about the size of a walnut, growing in my abdomen near the incision site. At first the doctors thought that another major surgery was inevitable. Admittedly, the news shocked our family. I remember, with acute detail, the pain and recovery that the first surgery entailed (just months ago). The Heitzig household geared up for round two. Nate, Janae, and Skip all offered to take turns at the hospital and for home convalescing. I’m blessed to have such support. But my radiologist and surgeon conferred and determined that a less invasive procedure could remedy the situation. A long thing needle will be inserted through my hip region to aspirate the cysts. Thankfully, they’re located in an accessible area. Hopefully, this will relieve all my symptoms and allow the docs to do a biopsy without an incision. Whew!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Time Warp

October 18, 2009

Science fiction describes a phenomenon known as “time warp” that somehow forms a time and space continuum which bends, folds, or warps itself together creating a dual state undetected by the average observer. For instance, in one dimension time might rush forward at the rate of a year per second while in another plan time eerily suspends in a virtual standstill. I believe that sorrow, suffering, and a host of other ailments are catalysts that force humans into that “time stands still” reality. It’s the only way to explain how I can be at home convalescing at a snail’s pace while my loved ones race into the future by leaps and bounds. Their dizzying pace leaves a faint blur in their wake. In my best Yoda voice I warn, “Too fast you are going. Have accident, you will.” The Jedi’s, from the imagination of George Lucas, possess the secret of the time warp…jumping back and forth between continuums. One episode you see Yoda blissfully contemplating life on a distant planet and the next he’s traveling at warp speed to destroy the Death Star or save a princess.

But is time warp just a thing of science fiction? What evidence exists to illustrate this “dual state” phenomena? 1) During the holidays, take your kids to visit their grandparents. And you’ll hear Mimi say, “Oh my, just last year you could sit on my lap. Now you can carry me on your back.” To little Susie, last Christmas seems like a decade ago. For Grandma time whirled by, while for Susie time crept ever so slowly. Or 2) Offer to assist your child with homework (preferably math). Like me, you’ll proceed to methodically do the assignment in long hand, taking just a few hours of your time. But then uber-child walks in, pulls out a computer, and hits a series of keys to find the answer in seconds. You remain stuck in an outdated era while they exist in a new fangled generation. Both evidence of this strange time warp.

So last week a dear friend emailed and challenged me to stop being uber-Lenya. After reading my blog about being A-type and a heat seeking missile, she felt I must move more into the “stand still” time warp. To be honest, I thought that I already was moving in slow motion. But in truth, I can’t help but push the envelope…even in illness. But changing time warps is not for amateurs. It takes great stamina and acumen to leave light-speed for chillax mode. The untrained padawan hits a couple of walls and stumbles through some crash landings before getting it just right.

This week I had one of those hiccups. As I told you, my lower digestive track is wacked. There is a narrowing of the incision site. I have colitis. And there is something external to the colon causing pressure. Most of Tuesday night I was up and vomiting profusely. By the AM I had unbearable cramps. By 8AM I could barely lift my head. By the time my dad got me to the doctor’s office, Dr. Ampuero said, “You were just minutes from being admitted to the hospital.” Through my dad’s sage advice and divine intervention things turned just in time. But Wednesday I had another colonoscopy, which confirmed the above diagnosis. This Wednesday I’ll have a CT to determine the identity of the unknown entity pressuring my colon. Today I have blood work. I am fully in the life at the speed of jello time continuum. I don’t plan on flying anytime soon.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Roadblocks and Detours

Road Blocks

Most people know me as a “full speed ahead” personality. I’ve even earned the nick-name “Heat Seeking Missle” when assigned to a task or project. It’s not uncommon for me to ask others if they want my involvement because I’m either engaged or disengaged. You don’t want to stir the A-type unnecessarily. Naturally, the slower pace of recovery and treatment goes against my robust nature. I attribute most of my weepy days as chaffing against my inner stirring. This little lamb struggles when “He makes me to lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2).

Detours and closed doors really frustrate me. I don’t like to be thrown off course. Yesterday, at my fourth chemo session I hit a “slow down dangerous curves ahead” sign. First of all, all my blood work looks fantastic. The Dr. can’t believe how healthy and strong my numbers look. However, I am having some symptoms with my digestive track—urgency and frequency. Let’s just say I have to be acutely aware of bathroom placement throughout my day. While doing a physical exam Dr. Ampuero detected something, larger than a walnut, growing outside my colon wall at the site of the anastomosis. This seems to be creating a narrowing of my colon which explains my symptoms. He ordered a CT scan. But I must wait two weeks as the chemo already compromises my vital organs and the contrast die from the scan would be too taxing. So I’m on a two week detour.

Let me tell you about woman who encountered a detour, Debbie Lascelles who was known by her friends as, “the Texas cream puff.” She knew all the current make-up techniques; could style her hair into the perfect “Texas-Do” and could paint her nails to match any outfit. But there were some things Debbie couldn’t do, like change a flat tire. She had adopted this philosophy of life: “Don’t learn to do something you don’t want to end up doing.” For instance, never ask your husband to teach you how to use the lawnmower unless someday you expect to be trimming the grass. I’ve been told Debbie wouldn’t even screw a new license plate onto her car. Instead, she asked an able-bodied maintenance man working on staff with her at the YWAM base in Tyler, Texas to do the job for her.

She was at the top of her class when graduating from nursing school and was voted the most likely to succeed. Everybody knew Debbie was destined for a prosperous career and would probably marry a doctor. But God interrupted her plans by calling her to the mission field, despite all her previous protests. At thirty-five years old, she and three other like-minded Christians joined Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM) on a mission trip to the Sudan. They were to bring much needed supplies: clothes, medicine, and books to a remote village in the middle of the steamy jungle. The team was also asked to teach their native brothers how to win their enemies to Jesus.

It was a sweltering hot day as they loaded the supply truck. The cream puff was melting. She poured herself into the seat next to another missionary dripping with sweat and fastened her seatbelt for the bumpy ride ahead. They knew that they must travel all day to make their destination before nightfall or they would be lost.

Halfway through the trip a tire blew, and their hearts deflated. The only way to change the tire in that heavy-laden truck was to empty its contents. When the team finally overcame their obstacle, too much time was lost. They’d never reach the village before dark. Disappointed, they decided to turn back.

Rumbling out of the afternoon sky came the sound of airplanes. Their escorts feared the worst, “Those are enemy bombers! Everyone hit the dirt.” Debbie the debutante was now sweaty, dirty, and scared. But to her amazement, the planes roared by without noticing the team or the truck. Like heat-seeking missiles, the bombers remained locked on their target: the very village Debbie had been headed for. The time of detonation? Just before dark. A flat tire had saved their lives.

For Debbie, when God said, “No” His loving hand had placed a roadblock in her path. Has God answered one of your prayers with a deafening, NO? Have you turned back from a desired destination because an obstacle impeded the path? Take time to reflect on the reasons why. Perhaps God was protecting you from a bad decision or attempting to lead you to greener grass. Be sure not to miss supernatural surprises in unexpected places—including the ones you’ve missed.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Present of Your Presence

October 3, 2009

When it comes to the five love languages my dad speaks “gift-giving” fluently. From pearls to purses and cars to a fur coat, he has showered me with gifts galore. Although I love the things, he includes himself in the package. Every summer he spoiled all four of his kids with a Disneyland extravaganza that included rides, treats, and souvenirs. He was the biggest kid among us riding every ride and eating all the junk! And when his grandchildren were born he continued the tradition. Dad emulates my Heavenly Father “who loved the world so much that He gave…” (John 3:16). Giving reflects God’s heart.

But the best present my father ever gave me was his presence at key times in my life. When divorce shattered my family at the age of eight he traveled from California to Michigan to surprise his kids on their first Christmas without him. Dinner was interrupted by a knock on the door and in walked the skinniest Santa I’d ever seen. He beckoned, “Sit on my lap and tell me what you want.” I thought, “I’m not in the mood for a present.” Just then Santa’s eyes twinkled as he pulled off his white beard. Underneath the disguise I discovered the loving face of my dad!

When I broke my leg downhill skiing in high school, healing included 6 weeks of traction. While I was literally pinned down to the bed, my dad again made the long trip cross country to consult with the doctors. He ensured that I received the best treatment possible. And he didn’t come empty handed. He brought an envelope full of hand signed photos from celebrities including Mac Davis, Buddy Hackett, and Liberace who all wished me a speedy recovery. They decorated my room, drew praise from the hospital staff, and reminded me that I’m not alone.

Ever since my cancer diagnosis last June, dad promised to start every day of my treatment with a phone call. For over 120 days, between 8:00 and 9:00 AM he’s rung me up to talk about everything from politics to my prognosis. But before the calls came the hospital visits. All six day he showed up with a token of his love like flowers, Starbuck, journals, and jammies.

This week Dad once again offers the gift of his presence as he accompanies me to chemo number four. He’s already thinking of distractions like playing cards or cracking jokes. He’ll run out at lunch time to pick up whatever I’m craving. Through his actions I’m reminded of God’s promise to David the psalmist, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Do you know someone who’s fighting an uphill battle? Are there folks in your neighborhood who are all alone? Can you think of an acquaintance from church who're convalescing at home? Reflect your heavenly Father by offering them the gift of your presence. And if you show up with a token of your love, all the better.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Great News!

Just a quick update to let all my blogging friends know the best news EVER. I'm going to be a grandmother. Nathan and Janae' are about 10 weeks pregnant. The baby will arrive about April 27th. As you might guess, we are thrilled. God is so good! Do you have any suggestions on names to call a grandma? I am old-fashioned, so grandma is just fine. But as you've come to realize, I love to play with words. What names do you use for grandma?

Baby Heitzig!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

September 21, 2009
Dog Day Afternoon

Do dogs have emotions? That seemed like a harmless conversation for Christian friends to enjoy over lunch. While ordering salad Gretchen (names have been changed to protect the innocent) extolled the incredible smarts and heart of her pooch. “I just know that Fido (again a pseudonym) senses when I’m sad and cuddles up to comfort me. He’s so sweet.”

With deadpan delivery, I replied, “You think your dog sympathizes? You’re projecting human emotions onto an animal.”

Heads spinning like Regan in The Exorcists they intoned, “You don’t think dogs have feelings?

Awkward. “Animals don’t have a soul,” I defended, “which the Bible describes as the seat of emotions. And only humans have emotions.” I protested that this conversation put us on a theological slippery slope. We were headed to dangerous Creation vs. Evolution territory.

“Well, my dogs gets sad and happy,” said Tiffany (not her real name), “and no one can tell me otherwise.”

I countered, “Have you ever seen a cow cry over an amazing sunset?”

“Everything you attribute to emotion can be explained by instinct, trained response, or reflexes like Pavlov’s dogs,” I continued. Little did I know that I’d started something close to the Middle East Crisis at our table. To save the friendship and our appetites we agreed to change the subject. But knowing my friends like I do, I knew we would each run home to google and gather evidence for our side of the argument.

Dog lovers (and I consider myself one) don’t hate me for the following facts. But in Bible times dogs get a very bad rap. They were half-wild creatures that roamed in packs often feeding on refuse, including dead bodies. The term “dog” referred to impure people since they are considered unclean. False prophets were called dogs as well as those shut out of the kingdom of heaven.

The nicest thing mentioned about dogs in the New Testament was a conversation between Jesus and a Gentile woman who defended her need for Jesus’ healing touch as much as the Jewish people. “Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28 NKJV). Note that she did not elevate a dog to the level of a human, but demoted herself to the low estate of a dog.

So, where am I going with this? I don’t think there’s time on a blog about a bald woman with cancer to debate this issue. Truthfully, I’d love to change up the conversation for a bit. Talking about oneself continuously just feels self indulgent. (See, I just referred to myself in the third person.) I’m not going into denial or anything. I just don’t want to become the poster-child for peritoneal cancer. I’ll continue to update you. However, would it be okay if we talked about other stuff, too?

All my friends know that I adore my dog, Winston. He’s the most brilliant and precocious canine in the universe. Every night he indulges me when he comes to bed and allows me to pet him for as long as he can endure. Then with a harrumph he moves to the end of the bed…as far out of my reach as possible. I’ve heard that a pet (specifically petting them) lowers the blood pressure. So there’s my proof. I get emotional gratification from my dog and since he’s a pack animal my grooming him proves that he’s the Alpha. But my affection for my dog doesn’t warp my Biblical basics.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hooray for Half Time!

September 20, 2009

Hooray for Half-Time!

Cheerleaders spring into action when the whistle blows half-time. While teams hit the locker room, the squad flips into formation. The funky music and their fancy moves infuse the audience with fresh hope for the game’s final outcome. Will my team get the win? When does coach call the game-changing strategy? Who runs the eye-dropping upset? Half-time—full of potential! Just as many minutes lay ahead as those that have fallen behind. It’s the shining moment when anything seems possible.

On the other hand, half-way just doesn’t sound as thrilling as half-time. “Hey, I’m half-way through War and Peace; just 700 pages to go.” When working toward a PhD, hearing “I’m Mid-way with only 5 more years of study and a dissertation to write,” sounds daunting. And no NASA astronaut wants to make it half-way to the moon. Am I right? One term leaves you wanting more, but the other overwhelms you with so much more to come.

Last week I hit my half-way chemotherapy mark. I should be optimistic. “Woo hoo, I’m half done!” But I’m having a hard time looking at three more installments with excitement. The first series have caused a level of fatigue indescribable to those who have not undergone this type of treatment. I play possum like a pro… Awake enough to hear the news on the television, but lacking the energy to open my eyes and see it, too. For a few days, things just don’t taste the same. Even drinking water leaves an after taste, something akin to morning mouth. My digestive system functions like a preview of “Alien vs. Predator.” Who’s living in my intestines and what does it want? And today my hands twinge slightly with a tingling neuropathy. That could end my beading career.

So I’m asking how to change my half-way mentality into half-time momentum. You know the glass half-full or half-empty scenario. The answer is knowing that Christianity is not a solo sport, but a team effort. My previous blog likened perseverance to running a marathon. But running alone leads to isolation and defeat. So today, I recognize my teammates. First, the strategy from my Head Coach Jesus ensures ultimate victory over sickness and sin. The course He’s marked doesn’t end in a ribbon decorated park, but at heaven’s pearly gates where there is no pain or hurt. He’s, also, enlisted fellow competitors to show me success by running ahead with endurance. I can almost hear my half-time cheerleaders rallying in the grand stands, Give me an “L!” “L!” “Give me an E!” “E” Give me a….

This is my half-time prayer, to, “take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong” (Heb. 12:12-13). I'm pretty sure I got another half-a-game in me.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dash or Long Distance?

Lenya in Ephesus beside Nike sculpture

Driving along Rio Grande, on the way to church this morning, I witnessed the final stragglers push through the last mile of the New Mexico Marathon. Some still ran, others managed to race walk, and a few drew fresh energy from road-side encouragers. But others looked like they’d barely limp across the finish line. The scene jogged this thought, “The race of faith isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon!” After nearly 70 days battling this illness, I feel tired. I’ve been a trooper muscling my way through surgery, CT scans, and gruesome procedures. I’ve hurdled past chemo, hair loss, and nausea. But about now, with four more treatments to go, I'd like to be done. I don’t want all the attention or the slow speed of recoup and recovery. I know that others have suffered longer and deeper. I’m fully aware that God knows my dusty frame and exactly how much it can take. But sometimes trials seem to linger just a little too long. After you round one corner, another curve takes its place. “Hey, who keeps moving the finish line?”

Perhaps living “life at the speed of Internet” breeds impatience. If something doesn’t happen instantly, then it’s a nanosecond too long. Think of it, in just one decade we abandoned snail mail for email. And now that’s too slow. Today, we text and twitter in real time with a lexicon of abbreviated phrases instead of grammatical sentences. There’s no need to drive to the local library to research on the micro-fiche scanning endless films to find your data. Now, from the convenience of your own home, just tip tap your way to Google to retrieve exhaustive and instant results.

FYI, the Bible doesn’t offer short-cuts, abbreviations, or a face-track to faith. The writer of Hebrews coaches us to, “run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Emphasis lies upon the word “endurance.” It describes both the mileage as well as the mind-set the runner must achieve. The Greek translation means patience, continuance, or waiting; implying a great distance. However, endurance can also be interpreted as cheerful or hopeful; describing a godly attitude. For Christians our journey should be long and light-hearted.

I’ve drawn inspiration from Bill Broadhurst who entered the Pepsi Challenge 10K race in Omaha, Nebraska. Ten years prior his left side became paralyzed after an aneurysm damaged his brain. One July morning he joined 1,200 lithe-looking runners at the starting line. The crowd lurched at the gun shot start. Bill threws his stiff left leg forward, pivoted on it as his right foot hit the ground. His slow plop-plop-plop rhythm seemed to mock him as the pack faded into the distance. Sweat rolled down his face, pain pierced his ankle, but he kept going. Six miles and two hours and twenty-nine minutes later, Bill reached the finish line. A man approached him from a small group of bystanders. It was Bill Rodgers, the famous marathon runner and winner of this particular race. “Here,” says Rodgers, putting his medal around Bill’s neck, “You’ve worked harder for this than I have.”

So know I must learn how to plod when all my life I’ve plowed. It’s not about the dash but the distance. You might say that I’m in training for the big one. Sure I may have a couple of 5Ks or 10Ks under my belt. But life is a marathon. I’m assured that once “I have finished the race…there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Common Denominator

September 1, 2009

Common Denominator

Mathematicians instruct us that a common denominator is a quantity into which all the denominators of a set of fractions may be divided without a remainder. Put more simply, a "Common" Denominator just means that the denominators (the lower part of a fraction) in two or more fractions are the same. But the term has sociological meaning, too. It describes an attribute common to all characters in a category or a shared trait; as in “Unbelievably, everyone in their family shared the common denominator of being left- handed.”

For human beings, pain is the common denominator. None of us escape its grasp. Eventually, everyone you know will walk through a season of suffering. It comes, uninvited, to the infant born with special needs and in equal measure to the senior citizen whose genetic predisposition blossoms into disease late in life. You’ll find it on the streets of Harlem as well as the mansion in Hollywood. No race, religious affiliation, or gender is exempt from its grasp. Whether you possess diplomas, trophies, stocks and funds, or great social standing; pain serves as the great equalizer. In a world full of diversity, it’s the one thing we all share.

So why do we act so surprised when we encounter pain? What makes us think that we are the one exception to the rule? Do we really expect this unwelcomed visitor to pass us by? James taught that we should expect trials not avoid them. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). That sentence is packed full of punch. First, the word “count” is an accounting term that implies that you can take this statement to the bank. The second key term, “when” indicates time. James doesn’t suggest “if” one day you might suffer, but “when” you get hit, it’ll hurt. Thirdly, pain comes in a variety of forms. “Various” means multi-colored or diverse. In other words, suffering comes in many shapes and sizes; there’s one form that perfectly suits you.

By now, you’re thinking this is the most downer blog you’ve ever read. Well here’s the good news. Jesus was more emphatic in his prediction of pain, but He also had a common denominator remedy. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). With Jesus pain will still hurt, but it also brings the prescription for peace. Also, it won’t be permanent. We can overcome any situation this world throws our way with God on our side. Jesus promises to transform pain into peace both here and in the hereafter, if we’ll just let Him.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tip Of The Hat

A tip of the hat is a traditional greeting or a sign of respect. Additionally, the term means to honor someone who’s doing a fantastic job, as in, “Let’s give Scott a tip of the hat.” Today I’d like to tip my hat to the body of Christ, the miracle of God’s making, who have upheld me through my suffering season. You have empowered me through prayer, covered me in kindness, and blessed our household with generosity.

We are part of a community of individuals designed to function as a unit. We truly are better together. Paul said, “The members [individual] should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26). Through the power of the Spirit, I realize new strength. By God’s grace, my sorrow abounds into joy. In your love, I find quiet rest.

Perhaps Lucy from the famous Peanuts cartoon can portray the courage of our collective stance better than I. Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and then threatens him with her fist if he doesn't.
“What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?”asks Linus.
“These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”
“Which channel do you want?” asks Linus.
Linus looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”

As Christians we should be organized because we are…
Fellow citizens: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints” (Eph. 2:19).
God’s family: “Now you are…members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:1).
His holy temple: “In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

What has been the result of all your kindnesses in my life? Yesterday was my second chemo. I told Dr. Ampuero that last week, I ran one mile during my 2 1/2 mile walk since he’d told me "you could do anything you feel like doing.” His eyes jumped open wide, but he looked very pleased. He said that trials prove that chemo patients who exercise recover better than non-exercisers. But here’s the best news! There’s a blood test, called CA-125, a "cancer marker" for abdominal/female cancers that has a normal range of 0 - 19. Before the surgery my marker was elevated to about 110. Today, it was down to the low end of the average at 7. Multiples tests, surgery, and 2 chemo treatments down with just 4 more toxic drips to go. I'm more than half way through this ordeal and flourishing. Okay, I felt tired and nauseated. But after taking my little yellow pill and a nap I felt much better.

Your helping hand reminds me of a story about a Vacation Bible School teacher whose class was interrupted by a new student who had one arm missing. She was afraid that one of the children might comment on his handicap or embarrass him. She began to end the class they way she always did by asking the class, “Let’s make our churches,” she said. “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s...” Suddenly she panicked and stood speechless. The little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Davie, let’s make the church together.” This story may be seen as a parable of our search for oneness in Christ: to put our inadequate, handicapped lives alongside the lives of others and to pray, “Let’s make the church together” (Unknown source).

I will never be able to thank you individually for your concern. You’ll never get the warm hug you deserve. You might not see the amazing ways God answered your quiet prayers. But this much I have learned; something done for another member of the body of Christ comes back to bless the doer. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one succeeds, we all succeed. Please reach out this week in small and simple ways to give hope to one of God’s children in pain. What goes around really does comes around. And then we’ll offer you a tip of the hat.



Monday, August 24, 2009

Oops, I Did It Again!

Britney Spears terrified fans in 2007 when she walked into Esther’s Hair Salon in Tarzana, CA and told the stylist, “I want my hair shaved off.” The proprietor, Esther Tognozzi, said “Well, I’m not doing it,” suggesting that perhaps the pop star was having a hormonal moment and might feel differently in the morning. Ms. Spears grabbed the buzzer and began shaving it away herself. TMZ ensured that the scene would live on in infamy--playing it relentlessly for months on end. As usual, there’s a story behind the story. Bad hair weaves had damaged Britney’s beautiful blonde locks to the point that she complained the extensions were too tight.

Today, more than ever, I have greater sympathy for the teen idol. Chemo hair hurts. It causes a sensation similar to the one you get after taking your hair out of a ponytail that you’ve worn all day. This morning I couldn’t take it anymore and it became obvious that my badly damaged hair couldn’t be salvaged either. Just like the diva, I reached for the electric razor to do what must be done.

Hope you don’t mind if I indulge in a little red neck humor. You know you need to shave your head when:
…there’s more hair clogging your shower drain than there is on your head.
…you scare yourself when you look in the mirror.
…it takes a lint brush to clean off your pillows in the morning.
…blow-drying your hair creates a cyclone.

What does it feel like to watch your lengthy locks fall from your head into the bathroom sink? At first I wept. But mid-way through (picture me with half a head of hair), I started to giggle. This turned into a laugh-out-loud moment. And then I felt empowered by taking my journey into my own hands. I decided I’m not a victim, I’m a victor! We have a choice in the midst of disease, divorce, debt, or despair; we can press into our faith or flounder in the flesh. I followed the footsteps of Paul.

The apostle met far greater adversaries than cancer. He was thrown into prison, shipwrecked, beaten, ridiculed, abandon, starved, robbed, left for dead, and eventually martyred. I can’t find one Scripture where he felt sorry for himself. He kept his eyes on Jesus rather than his troubles. The apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).

I don't know the trials you face. But I do know that you, too, can follow Paul as he followed Christ.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Remember Goldilocks’ quest for perfect porridge, a cozy chair, and a comfy bed? She sampled a trio of options in each category that ranged from too hot to too cold and too hard to too soft. Eventually, she stumbled upon the things that were “just right.” It's true, life really does imitate art. We all encounter some duds before identifying the ideal. For instance, how many pairs of jeans do you try on before purchasing the ones that fit “just right?” Don’t get me started with bathing suits; just the term creates spontaneous rolling of the eyes and heavy sighs in most women.

Well, it’s time for me to trade my golden locks for a wig. Believe me, I tried on some doozies before getting it “just right.” I named the red one "Mrs. Roger Rabbit." Let’s just say, “va, va, va, voom!” The brunette made me look in the mirror and say, “Hello, mother.” No offense to mom; she’s beautiful, but no one wants to look like their mother, right? Next was the long, blond bombshell. Immediately I parted it into ponytails and began speaking with a Swedish accent. “Yah, dis is so not me.” In the end, the one that was “just right” was the one that looked the closest to normal; it was the one that suited me the best.

I confess that last night when I ran my hands through my real hair and multiple strands came out, I gasped. Then I did it again, just to see if it was a fluke; more hair. Once more…just to be sure. Oh no, it’s really coming out—not in clumps but equal opportunity thinning. I silently walked Skip to the sink to show him the carnage with tears rolling down my cheeks. Of course, he hugged me and said all the right things.

This morning I could still wash, dry, and style it to look presentable. But I know that the days of freeing my follicles are numbered and thankfully, so are my hairs. The Lord said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:33). By next Wednesday, the day of my second chemo, I'm pretty sure I’ll be able to count them too. The doctor assures me that when it grows back, I will have curly locks. Imagine that. I pray that it’ll look just right.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Weaker Vessel

Stefanie Farley, Suzanne Friesner, Nedra Farley, Lenya Heitzig, Hanna Farley, and Janae' Heitzig

Peter dubbed women as the “weaker vessel” (See 1 Peter 3:7). I think he meant it to be a deferential, honoring term. I’m all for knights in shining armor, but the women I’ve encountered lately are certainly not weak. In fact, I have drawn such strength from their courageous reservoirs that I attribute much of my wellness to their influence.

My sister, Suzanne, left this morning after seeing me through the first round of chemotherapy. Walking into the nicest of such facilities reduces the stoutest of hearts to feeling like a lab rat. When she scanned the sterile environment with its bags, tubes, and needles full of dread, her eyes began to well. I thought, "Uh oh, she’s going to start boo hooing big time. If she starts, I won’t be able to stop." But no, she straightened her spine and with heroic resolve cracked a joke, “The scariest thing in this room is the scale hiding in the corner; dare me to get on it?” she asked. From that moment on, I knew we would persevere with laughter and love.

Seeing others who had joined the chemotherapy club long before me, smiling with shining heads, strong hearts, and Sudoku puzzles, made me realize that I’m following a legacy of fighters and survivors. I would take a seat beside them, Bible in hand, and show the world that another “weaker vessel” could do it.

Recently, I wrote about the unique ability women possess that men do not. Friendship between women shape who we are, soothe our troubled hearts, and support emotional gaps in our marriages. Scientists in a landmark UCLA study now believe that spending time with our friends actually relieves stress which manifests in upset stomachs. Previous to the study conducted by coauthor, Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Heal at Penn State University, scientist supposed that stress caused a rush of hormonal reactions in the body triggering the flight or fight instinct in humans.

But the new data reveals that women have a greater repertoire than men due to the hormone oxytocin released during stress that causes us to make and maintain friendships with other women. Instead of running or raging, oxytocin encourages us to tend to children and gather other women for support, which counters the stress and produces a calming effect. Drs. Klein and Taylor describe this female response to stress the “tend and befriend” syndrome.

“This calming response does not occur in men," says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone — which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress — seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.” As a result men tend to isolate their feelings, which has significant negative health repercussions.

The old adage is true "united we stand, divided we fall." Maybe the key is that we are the weaker vessel, but when we come together we make one strong stand. So what about you? Maybe you don't have close family or friends, but you can find sisters in Christ in the Women at Calvary. We all need someone else to stand with in our hard times; I hope that you will step out in faith and engage in a small group. Maybe you will be the strength that someone else needs to persevere in laughter and love.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

For Better or for Worse…

It’s not easy being married to a man made of superior genetics. He’s tall and thin, blonde haired and blue-eyed. I promise he eats what he wants, when he wants, all day long, and has never gone up a pant size. After 28 years of marriage he’s had a headache once—one time! He’s smart and talented; he still corrects my English gaffs and I write books! He plays the guitar (electric and acoustic), the base (electric and acoustic), the piano, and the harmonica. He photographs on a level that should be shown in a gallery in Santa Fe or New York. He just rebuilt his '42 Harley and we all know about his silver tongue oratory skills. Truly, I live with a renaissance man.

With all his amazing talents and abilities there’s an area in which he did not excel. Whew! That would be in the realm of coddling, cuddling, and care giving. I’m not saying he doesn’t care, he just doesn’t know how to show it. It’s like expecting a father to be a mother. The nurturing skills just don’t come naturally to him. If I need sermon suggestion…he’s the man. If I want to take a road bike expedition…he’s the guy. If I need the lawn or car maintained…he’s on the job. But ask for help washing your hair, preparing Cream of Wheat for breakfast, or getting dressed in the morning and things go south...that is up until recently.

I’m convinced that your prayers and God’s grace have transformed Skip into a saint. He’s on top of my complicated medicine and supplement schedule. He has accompanied me to every doctor’s appointment and takes notes. He ordered and assembled a teak wood bench for my showering needs. He keeps the wily Winston (our Airedale) brushed and bathed. At bed time, he places a beverage and crackers on the nightstand, just in case I feel nauseous. He tweaks the thermostat, adjusts the curtains, fluffs the pillows, and hands me the channel changer. It seems that my worst is bringing out the best in him.

Today he will escort me to my first round of chemotherapy. He’s made sure that my sister will be by my side throughout the eight hour ordeal and he will bring us lunch mid-day. Then, after the toxic drip, he’ll bring me home and tuck me in bed. I know when I wake up that he will have been hovering the whole time. What a comforting thought.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hi all!

I just had the best couple of days with my dear friend Dianne Saber. She flew in from California to hold my hand for a chemo cut. She also talked me into waxing my eyebrows. You're probably thinking, why cut your hair if it's all gonna fall out anyway? Well, I'm a control freak. When the Doctor says, "Your hair may fall out." I think, "Not if I cut it first." That and I couldn't stand the thought of discovering long locks on my pillow, hair brush, or drain. So, I made a preemptive strike. I think the "new do" suits me. I also bought a matching wig. Yep, when the hair goes...I have a back up in the exact same color and style. When you see me, you'll never know what's real or not. At least, that is my plan.

Thanks for all your love, prayers, and concern. I feel surrounded by God's love and saints.



Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting an Upgrade

Every time Apple comes out with the latest, greatest gadget my guys jockey for position into long lines for the “must have” upgrade. The iPhone rolls out a 3G and immediately they’re hooked up (I have to confess, I detest electronic devices at the dinner table. Grrrrrr!) It’s no wonder that most of us look at getting an upgrade as a good thing. We dream of a flight attendant calling our name over the loud speaker to say, “We’re upgrading you to first class. Sorry we overbooked the flight.”

My grandest string of upgrades occurred during 1996 when the New York Yankees competed with the Atlanta Braves for the World Series. John Wetteland, the Yankees clean-up pitcher who led the American League with 43 saves, invited me and Nathan to come see an away game in Atlanta. Because we knew John, his name opened the door to untold opportunity wherever we went in Atlanta. It unlocked a hotel room at the Ritz Carlton after the Marriott overbooked our reservation—all expenses paid! Shopping with the team family members brought amazing discounts. It gained us entrance to the Yankee locker room and even provided seats on the team bus right next to Reggie Jackson. Nathan and I felt like we landed in a dream. And it was a dream come true!

Today I received an upgrade I could live without. I learned that my Stage 1 cancer was elevated to Stage 2. Yes, the pathology from my lymphs, omentum, colon, and abdominal fluid were all negative. On the positive side, it is not a clear cell carcinoma, which are notoriously virulent. Dr. Ampuero was astounded at how quickly I’m recovering from the surgery, saying, “You’re well ahead of schedule.” He added that youth and strength are on my side. However, since my hysterectomy in 1998, there’s no knowing if the peritoneal cancer originated elsewhere, like my ovaries or uterus. That and anything that impacts the colon brings unsolicited upgrades.

This Wednesday I have more blood work. On Thursday, I undergo a procedure to implant a “port” into my chest to receive the chemo. Next Tuesday, August 4th, I receive my first of six rounds of chemotherapy. The toxic cure will be a combo of Paclitaxel and Carboplatin. Most likely I’ll lose my hair, be fatigued, and have a compromised immune system until the first of the year.

On the average, the awesome upgrades I’ve received have far outweighed the aggravating ones. I will rest with Job on this thought, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Going Up the Down Staircase

Skip and Lenya sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome

Doesn’t that phrase remind you of a mysterious message out of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series? Stairs are not marked, like highways, with white and yellow lines informing drivers to stick to the appropriate side of the street. Escalators, however, are direction specific. Everyone knows that you don’t go up these down staircases. In fact, it’s dangerous. When Nathan was a toddler he tried to tackle them backwards. You guessed it, his fingers got jammed. They shut down the apparatus. And I looked like the world’s worst mother.

Did you know that ancient Israel possessed designated up and down staircases? On the Southern Temple Mount you’ll find one of the most impressive archeological discoveries. First, you’ll see the Western and Southern walls in their full height and grandeur. But leading up to them, you’ll also encounter the Southern Steps that rise up to the Huldah Gates and into the temple itself.

Astoundingly, some of the stairs are authentic as they lead their way up from the City of David. Common people climbed these steps on their way to worship. The city’s rabbis and elders met there to make important decisions. One can actually say that Jesus probably walked “right here.” “In the 1970’s Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was visiting the steps near the southern wall. When he realized that Jesus had walked here, he said he was more excited to stand here than on the moon.”

There are two sets of Huldah Gates at the top of the Southern Steps. The “double gate” lies right beneath the al-Aqsa mosque, now behind the Turkish wall. If you look to the right or east several dozen yards you’d discover three blocked gates that make up the eastern Huldah Gate (the triple gate). Ingress into the temple came up the Southern Steps through the western Huldah Gate. Those departing the temple left through the eastern triple gate.

However, there was one exception to this traffic pattern. A person ending their mourning or being restored from excommunication would walk up the down staircase. This precedent is found in Masechet Midot, chapter 2, mishnah 2. Why did the rabbis include this ritual? For comfort and consolation. The person who returned to worship after suffering would encounter those leaving the temple, face to face. And as each passed by, they would speak a word of blessing or encouragement. “May God bless you.” “Welcome back to God’s House.” “God restore His joy and keep you.” Imagine how the absentee attendee felt?

This weekend, I got to walk up the down staircase at Calvary. Holding my husband’s hand, I walked out onto stage to see God’s people after a month of discovery, diagnosis, surgery, and recovery. And they clapped their hands, laughed or cried, and called out words of encouragement to me. I was uplifted on angel’s wings. If you’ve been avoiding church because of sorrow or sin, won’t you come in the door backwards? Saints are waiting to welcome you home with a smile and a blessing.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4



Thursday, July 23, 2009

Go For A Walk!

Walking works wonders after surgery. As excruciating as it sounds, dangling your legs off the bed and hitting the floor brings amazing post-op benefits. Most abdominal patients start their ambulatory therapy within 24 hours after surgery.

So why is it so important to get moving? It's because walking prevents a host of complications that follow an operation. First of all, lungs become depressed from anesthesia as well as getting dried out from receiving oxygen as we lie in one position for a protracted period of time. Therefore, changing positions and doing some deep breathing helps prevent Pneumonia.

Secondly, walking gets your guts going again. Often abdominal surgery shuts down our intestines and these organs are ornery. They don’t like being messed with; sometimes it takes a day of two for them to get over it. But walking will let them know that they need to get back to work. Gas, appetite, and bowel function depend on the activity of walking.

Finally, a stroll several times a day builds up stamina. Gentle exercise strengthens your muscle and metabolism. The old axiom, “Use it or lose it” really does apply. The more we plow through the pain the better we’ll feel.

I couldn’t help but see the spiritual parallels between physical exercise and walking by faith. In fact, Scripture exhorts saints to get moving! Jesus commanded the paralytic man, newly healed from his infirmities to “Rise, take up your bed and walk” (Mark 9:2). Sounds like the Great Physicians knew the benefits of walking long before doctors discovered it.

And then there is Paul, the biped of the faith. He told Christians to walk through a variety of circumstances. On the positive side he said to, “Walk in the steps of the faith” (Rom. 4:12) and that “we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Contrarily, he warned us not to walk in the flesh, or as the ungodly, or the disorderly.

The Bangles made walking like an Egyptian popular, but my personal favorite Scriptural swagger is found in Colossians where we are told to walk like God. “Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him” (Col. 1:10). Maybe you have not had abdominal surgery like me. Perhaps the Lord has cut away a bad habit, or an unhealthy relationship, or something you thought you really needed. The best medicine I can offer? Go for a walk! Get up and get going! Show God that you’ll walk with Him through the valleys all the way to the mountain top.

See you on the trails,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“M” Is For The Many Things She Gave Me…

Lenya and her mother, Nathan's wedding

Mothers have the magnificent ability to change hurt into hope, especially my own mother. From the moment she heard that something was wrong with my tummy she began planning ways to make it all better. Mikey, the nickname her father gave to her, arrived in Albuquerque three days before my surgery. This morning she departed, after willing me back to wellness and working tirelessly so that my convalescence was comfortable. She also returns with good news. The pathology report came back yesterday. My lymphs, omentum, and estrogen and progesterone uptake systems are all clear. The tumor remained intact, adhering to but not invading into the colon. Yes, I’ll need chemo, but largely as a precautionary measure. Stage 1 cancer is the best worst news a girl could get.

Believe it or not my mom spent all six nights sleeping on a tiny, tough fold-out mattress beside my hospital bed. In the night, we reminisced like school girls--she held my hand to ease the pain, and served as bull dog to keep visitors to a minimum and nurses attentive. The key to a quick recovery? Bring your mother to the hospital! They’ll even taste test the food, which is notoriously worse than airplane fare. She lost six pounds trying to stomach the stuff.

Upon arriving home, she did all the heavy lifting: changing sheets, cooking, cleaning, and keeping up with my new health regiment. We laughed and cried; watched movies and made necklaces; and walked up and down my street for much needed exercise. No one can field phone calls, flower deliveries, or meals like a mom. Don’t get me started with her recipes. The Swedish apple pancakes that she calls “Dutchies” are to die for. Chicken Wellington wrapped in puffed pastry, simply divine.

So today, I move into the next phase of recovery. Flying solo. I’ll admit it, I’m going to cry. Cry because I’ll miss her. Cry because I’m so blessed to have a mother like her in the first place. And cry because the Lord knew what I needed before I was even born. And when I’m done crying, I’ll rejoice for the woman she’s raised me to be and hope that I love as deeply and sacrificially as she does.

Here’s the song of homage she sang to her mother and I now I serenaded it back to her:
M is for the Many things she gave me,
O means only that she’s growing Old.
T is for the Tears she shed to save me,
H is for her Heart of purest gold.
E is for her Eyes with love light shining,
R means Right and Right she’ll always be.

Put them all together, They spell MOTHER.
A word that means the world to me.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Night Watches

Paul's song begins at 1:30 on the video.

Pain speaks volumes, if we’ll just listen. I’d like to think that I’m an active listener, both to God and others. Yet, there are times His still small voice must be dialed up to ten. C. S. Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Anyone who has had abdominal surgery will attest that the pain has a voice. Day three after my surgery, the O.R. nurses came for a visit and said, “We always like to visit our big belly patience on day three.” I didn’t know whether to be thankful for the care or insulted by the term. What they meant was that surgery that invades the bowels rises to a special level of concern. They’re right! I had three surgeries in 1998, the final culminating into a full hysterectomy. But this procedure was the grand-daddy of them all!

Those in my special club also know that a key piece of advice is to stay ahead of the pain. Once you let it get a good grip…it takes some management to put it back into place. So far, I’ve been managing the pain like a champ during the day. Oh, but, the night watches. They sneak up on you. I take my last medication on my bed. And then about 6 hour s later, about 2 hours too late…I get the wake-up call.

Each night, what awakens me is not the discomfort, but my own voice. I’m stirred by the sound of my own prayers. They are sweet and strong. I hear me calling out to Jesus or asking the Lord for help. Last night Skip asked, “Honey, what are you saying?” In a semi-conscious state I replied, “I think I was praying.” Then my sweetheart reminded me that my pain management was past due.

As I reached for my pills, God spoke. Seriously, I heard an audible harmonious voice. Somehow I’d brushed my iPhone with my wrist and had unwittingly engaged the iPod. Singing sweetly out the darkness, came the melodious tune of my dear friend, Paul Clark. And wouldn’t you know it, my favorite song, “Abide.” The lyrics promised… “The more I go on with the Lord, I find that I cannot afford, to stay away from His side, It’s in the vine I’ll abide…”

I asked Skip, “What is that?” He told me he thought it was my alarm. I assured him that I don’t use the alarm or 90% of the other apps on my gadget. He asked me to pass the device. “Hmmm,” he said, “It turned itself onto shuffle.” Those who are close to me know that I have never downloaded a song or know how to shuffle. But God did! He sang sweetly to me in the night watches.

David said, “When I remember Yo u on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice” (Psalm 63:6-7).


The Heitzig family, Paul Clark, and friends

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thankful for the pain…

It’s times like these—the unexpected pains, the unplanned detour, the unannounced upset—that make me realize how lucky I am. Oh I know we don’t believe in luck, but God’s good hand of providence. But sometimes the word luck just makes you feel special. It captures the seemingly random blessing we do nothing to deserve. It means having unexpected good fortune. Believe it or not, that’s how I feel about my recent health crisis. It took a malignant tumor to emphatically underscore how incredibly blessed I am!

Saul the zealot turned Paul the apostle understood this concept of blessed bummers. God foretold that He had selected Paul as a fortunate man who would experience triumph through trials. The Lord said, “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).

It is my joy to testify that each morning, as I rise; I experience God’s incredible faithfulness. He has been good to me every moment of my life, not just the fun ones. And in the evening, as I recline, I’m acutely aware of God’s especial grace and kindness to me…much more apparent than in prosperity.

David understood that walking in long shadows highlighted goodness and mercy as his lifelong companions from God. They would join the Psalmist beside still waters of refreshing or scary encounters with enemies. I’m blessed to share the purposeful pain these saints enjoyed. I have joy for this journey and anticipate that great doors of opportunity will open along the way. My cup overflows!

Something Matthew Henry wrote helps me frame unexplained pain. Once, when he was accosted by thieves and robbed of his wallet he wrote these words in his diary: "Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not someone else."

Thank you for all your prayers and well wishes. They have been treasures.



Monday, July 13, 2009

Hi Friends

Thank you for your love and prayers the past few days. It's been a tough road, but today I feel that I have turned a corner. Today I had an Armenian nurse come in and poke my stomach--she told me I should do it, too! I'm not so sure I want to take her up on that. Then I went outside for a walk. The Albuquerque sunshine is always therapeutic. My family has been a source of constant comfort. I am still physically weak but my spirit is strong.

I'll check in with you soon. I know that God's good hand is with me every second of this journey.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Out of Surgery - Women's Ministry Update

Lenya is out of surgery; the mass was a malignant stage 1 cancer. The great news is that it was fully contained and they were able to remove all of it.

Once her body recovers from the surgery, she will have to have some chemotherapy treatments to make sure it is all gone. The surgeon and oncologist are very optimistic, as is Skip, and the prognosis is very hopeful.

She is resting and knows that God is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts; please continue to pray for her and her family.

You are welcome to send cards to:
Lenya Heitzig
Women at Calvary
4001 Osuna Road NE,
Albuquerque, NM 87109

Also, in lieu of flowers, Lenya has requested donations for Women's Ministry Bible study scholarships. To make a donation, please contact the Women's Ministry office at (505)338-3654.

The Women at Calvary

Tuesday Afternoon Update

Today [Tuesday] I had my very first colonoscopy. Ewww! Since I was asleep for the procedure, I don't remember much. It was the prep the day before that was the hardest. I'll spare the gory details. However, this morning I was 5 pounds lighter...not a recommended weight loss program. The great news is that they did not find anything! They captured a shot of the tumor pressing on my rectal wall, but it had not invaded the bowels.

No solid food again today or tomorrow. However, I feel strong. Okay, tired but strong. We arrive at the Hospital at 6:15 AM for a 7:45 surgery. My sweet mother will spend the night in my room.

Thanks for all your love and prayers. I am certain that they are sustaining me throughout this storm. "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (Isa. 26:3).



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Surgery Update

Good morning,

Great news, my surgery has been moved to an earlier time on Wednesday. Rather than 1:00 PM it will be 7:45 AM. The doctors and staff will be fresh and ready to go, although I may still be sleepy!

We feel loved! We have received many prayers of love and encouragement over the past few days that we feel wrapped up in the Father's arms! Thank you for your continued prayer as we continue on this journey.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Good Morning,

Thank you for you words or encouragement and prayers. I have had incredible peace throughout the whole discovery process. Skip has been an angel...barely leaving my side. The Dr.s have been strong advocates on our behalf. To have nearly a dozen test in 4 days...incredible! Also, to move from discovery to diagnosis in a week's time is amazing. I have every confidence in their care. More importantly, I trust the Great Physician with my life!

I have a couple of pre-op tests on Monday [today]. I have a colonoscopy on Tuesday. My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday 7/8 at 1 PM. Dr. Francisco Ampuero GYN/ONC will perform the procedure. It is a small, highly professional facility. I will have a private room and top notch care.

The surgery will require a vertical incision from my belly button to my pubic bone. The mass is so large that it displaces several vital organs. Therefore, they need to open my abdomen wide enough to pull it out in tact and without compromising adjacent organs. Doctors say that the good news is that the tumor is encapsulated. It hasn't adhered to other organs, rather it imposes upon them. It is a consistent density. And it has not created fluid in the pelvic area. The even better news? My surgeon called me "thin with almost no belly fat!" He's now my new best friend.

My mother is flying in on Tuesday. They say I will need someone at the house for 2 weeks to help out. She'll be here for the entire time. Recovery time is expected to be 2-3 months.

Thanks for your love and prayers!



Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lenya Heitzig: A Letter from Pastor Skip

Posted: Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dear Church Family,

It's been quite a busy and eventful week at our home and I wanted to let everyone know what is going on in our personal lives. Lenya has been feeling quite a lot of pain lately (and believe me Lenya doesn't let on much when it comes to pain--she just plows ahead). So here's the run-down:

Monday: Lenya's ObGyn detected a pelvic mass upon examination. An ultrasound exam confirmed a 15cm mass present (the size of a large grapefruit)

Tuesday: Blood tests and a pelvic CT scan revealed that the mass is encapsulated(a good thing) but displacing other organs in the area.

Wednesday: CT scan of the lungs was done along with more blood tests. These showed an elevation of cancer cells in the bloodstream.

Thursday: We meet today with a gynecologist to assemble a surgical team and schedule the removal of the mass.

The Heitzigs are really doing great. We have complete peace from God and are thankful for the way God sustains us. Honestly, we feel so blessed to have each other and with God's strength we'll march through this battle like we have other battles before it.

God bless you,