Update Thirty-Seven

Hi fellow prayer warriors!  This is Linsey here.  The house of peace is a bit lonely without Christina to share in “our dog voice”  If you have spent any time here you know what I am talking about…if not..you may have to come see for yourself!

God has also been taking me on an amazing journey of faith.  It seems to all culminate in two questions, “Linsey do you trust me? & “Linsey am I enough for you?”  Let me tell you….those questions provoke a ton of thought, prayer, tears, and joy.  A few nights ago I went to see the movie “August Rush”  on Christina’s recommendation.  So I jumped in the car got my nachos and diet coke (in honor of Christina)  and watched the movie in an almost empty theatre.  What a great movie.  The overall theme of love and loyalty was really moving and of course led me once again to become the broken sprinkler I seem to be these days:)   When I got home….I bought the soundtrack and sat down to draw…after a bit I flipped through my Bible and rested on Ephesians.  I read the first three chapters and at the end of chapter three, I (once again) ended up in tears.  (I know you are shocked)  But these tears were different.  I was so overwhelmed in that moment with the LOVE that Christ has for me.  It is truly amazing.  I realized that I do not live my life like I believe that He loves me that much.

I pray that out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with POWER through his Spirit in your inner being.  (I love that the power dwells in us. God just reaches out of his riches and gives us the measure we need)  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, (Wow…Paul is praying that our foundation must simply be the LOVE of God.  We must be rooted and established in that LOVE to have Power!)  to grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. (This part especially stood out to me… love that surpasses knowledge….Our circumstances don’t always make logical sense but if we are rooted in Christ’s love…that surpasses our weak minds to be able to follow his will.)….that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ( I can’t even imagine what being filled with all the fullness of God feels like)  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen. (this is something I often forget.  GOD is really bigger than anything that comes our way.  If we are rooted & established in his LOVE we will be able to travel in his will.

I just wanted to share that little piece of my journey with you. I pray we all find ourselves overwhelmed with God’s love rather than overwhelmed by our circumstances :)

Love ya,

Linsey……now….on to my amazing partner in faith

Christina Update:

Hello Friends!

Can you believe December is just days away?? Amazing how time flies! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good memories and thankful hearts. My Thanksgiving weekend really… couldn’t have been better. I was able to drive out to Pasco right after my radiation appointment on Wednesday morning and spend a very long and fun weekend with family. My mom, her two sisters and their families were able to make schedules work to be all in the same place this Thanksgiving. The VanDykes drove all the way out from Montana as did my brother Jesse. Ryan drove over from Portland on Friday. So fun!

Newburys

  • Uncle Russ: band director, hunter extraordinaire, known for his stalking skills due to his excellent elk bugles his willingness to douse himself in elk pee.
  • Aunt Loralee: color guard instructor and choreographer for school functions: amazing cook, great question asker, best hostess ever!
  • Cousin Chris: going to school for music, gifted worship leader, instigator of our traditional late night Taco Bell run every time we’re able to see each other.
  • Cousin Anna: studying theater in school, gifted actress, artist, and dancer. She’s a brand new brunette and is taking a class on stage combat and taught me a few moves so watch out!

Vandykes

  • Uncle Randy: Owns a hardwood floor business in Montana, in another lifetime was known for his blond mullet and purple spandex. I think he should bring them back!:)
  • Aunt Jennifer: Homeschooling mother of four girls, prayer warrior, Spirit-filled worshipper, hilarious and unpredictable keeping us all on our toes.
  • Cousin Jade: the prettiest tree I’ve ever seen (thanks to Anna’s makeup and costume classes:). She’s a  fun, deep, quality girl:)
  • Cousin Gabriela: the liveliest sunflower I’ve ever seen (thanks again to Anna) Infectious laugh, great fort builder:)
  • Cousin Chloe: the cutest bird I’ve ever seen (thanks once again to Anna:). Sweet, smiley, one of a kind.
  • Cousin Laila: FULL of Life!!! Kept us laughing the whole time!

Brother Jesse: One of my best friends, gifted musician, loves the outdoor Montana lifestyle, never sure if he’s serious or joking, hilarious!

Mom: One of my best friends, gifted violinist and violin teacher, natural leader, texting makes her nervous, has faith like a rock

Ryan: beautiful heart for the Lord, not scared of the unknown – truly resting in the Lord, loves people, energizing:)

As you can see I was surrounded by a pretty incredible group this Thanksgiving.  Each one has been a blessing and encouragement to me in unique ways. Hanging out with this group, although, we were missing a few, is one of my favorite ways to spend time. I was SO thankful to be able to take a break from radiation and get lost in the laughter and good times. We had great food, a few naps, good movies (August Rush – great movie… all 16 of us went:). We played fun games (thanks Anna and Adrienne) and made forts complete with shelves, a window seat, and a t.v/laptop (thanks Ryan and girls). We stayed up late, ate Taco Bell, talked a lot, had a worship night… the list goes on and on and on:)

Sunday was an interesting experience. My cousin Chris had been asked to lead worship and he recruited my brother to play cello along with his band. So Chris and Jesse came home after rehearsal on Saturday and Chris tells me he told Chad (who was giving the sermon that Sunday) that I was in town and Chad wanted to know if I’d be willing to get up and share my story in church. I think I had a “no way! huh uh!” out before Chris even finished his sentence.  I am NOT, repeat NOT someone who feels comfortable with thousands of eyes staring at me… especially if I am also expected to put coherent sentences together! I knew though, as queasy as my stomach felt, I’d have to say yes. This is a part of my journey. For whatever reason, I know the Lord is calling me to openly share my story, whether it be in person, on this website, or in front of big crowds. Every time I get that urge to shut down, and turn internal he gently reminds me that even if I don’t understand why, I need to be willing and excited to share God’s glory in the midst of my situation… otherwise it will be wasted. There’s a thousand lies that threaten to keep me from that – I’m not a good public speaker, I might faint or fart or cry or something (I only cried:), nobody wants to hear about this, this is something I need to handle on my own, I just want to be normal and not be known for being “the girl with cancer”, someone else has a more worthy story…

Through all those lies though… I heard very clearly the Lord say, of course you’re going to get up there. Of course it’s not comfortable for you but that’s why you are going to get up there out of obedience and trust me to provide you with the words. You have a story to tell that is very personal to you, but in being willing to share it you have the opportunity to impact many lives with MY truth. This is a part of why you were created. I LOVE YOU… and can do all things through you if you just walk in obedience.

Well who can say no to that? I did get up there and share.. both services. It actually went really well. It was more of an interview format which really helped keep things comfortable. I prayed a ton and so did a few others and God most definitely gave me words to share in a coherent manner – without which I most likely would have found myself staring wide eyed and open-mouthed at the congregation with little squeaks and grunts coming out. Not good. Long story short, God is good and so unbelievably faithful. I would like to thank Chad and the church for receiving me so warmly, and thank you to so many for your kind words after the service. I serve a good and gracious God. He is the STRENGTH of the timid, the VOICE of the silent, the HEALER of my soul, and the PROVIDER of all good things.  He is the God of the impossible… how fun is that?? ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE WITH GOD!

I encourage you friends if you have situations in your life that just look impossible… with health, relationships, forgiveness, restored joy… you name it, God can handle it. He’s just waiting for that prayer to place it back in his hands and trust him to restore it for his glory. Again one of my favorite passages – can’t get enough of it. II Cor. 12:9-10 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Hallelujah! Amen!

Love you so much! Only 9 days of treatment to go!!! Yahooo!!!!

God bless you all!
Christina

Update Thirty-Six

Dear Friends,

Christina met with her radiation oncologist yesterday and he called her boring (and that’s a good thing).  No nausea, no headaches, no double vision, no seizures, just a few huge bald spots.  We are so thankful for the “boring” part of this treatment.  It is so mysterious to be treated for something you cannot see and cannot test and won’t be looked at until 3 weeks after treatment ends.  Only God knows what is going on in that beautiful little head.

Christina wore a hat to treatment yesterday so everyone was curious and concerned about how much hair loss had occurred.  She smiled and said, “It’s because I just rolled out of bed and didn’t have time to fix my hair.”  The young resident (Chris) who designed her treatment was also there yesterday.  They checked out the extent of the bald spots and then after awhile he tilted his head and said, “I think that if you parted your hair on the other side, you’d completely cover all the bald spots.”  That was so caring and kind.  Dr. Rockhill (radiation doc) laughed and said he never makes hair style suggestions!

Last weekend Christina rode the train to Portland (thanks Ryan, for the business class seat).  She returned to Solid Rock for Sunday services, met Ryan’s family and friends, went out for pizza, watched movies, made a short video for Keen shoes, attended a wedding, and in general had a great time.  She said she felt “normal”.  She’s longing for normalcy.

Last week we also had a wonderful dinner with our new ballerina friend, Jessika, who is giving us tickets to the Nutcracker.  We can’t wait.  Her mom, Kari, a long time friend, brought us a great dinner.  We shared our stories of God’s greatness late into the night.

Tomorrow, after treatment, we leave for Pasco to be with the aunties, uncles, and cousins galore!!  We’re taking a good supply of Purell to help keep the germs down to a dull roar.  Ryan will join us on Friday.  Everyone’s excited to meet him and to finally see Christina.

As I was perusing Romans 8 today, I came upon some favorite verses that are becoming more real everyday.

Romans 8:16-17  “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Anything we walk through in this life is not worth comparing with what is coming.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the reality of our inheritance as children of God.

1 Peter 1 says that our inheritance is kept in heaven for us and it can never perish, spoil, or fade.  The certainty of who God is and what He does, and the absolute reality of His peace and power and love and compassion is filling me up to overflowing.  He is carrying us and He is able to do so!!!  Every once in a while, it seems God pulls back the curtain on my vulnerability and weakness just to remind me that He is doing great things.  A wave of loneliness, fear, or a feeling that I could not possibly do the next task (usually something very simple like going to the grocery store) sweeps over me.  I recognize my need and just as quickly as I see my fragile self, I am filled again with peace and an eternal perspective and power that I cannot explain.

Also in 1 Peter it says that as we believe in Him, we are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.  His joy is inexpressible and glorious.

I cannot explain these things nor do I understand them.  I do know that He is hearing your prayers for us and He is faithfully meeting every need plus so much more.  Thank you for your continued support, friendship, notes, and prayer.  You’ll never know how much difference your love makes in our lives.

Love to you all,
Jo Dee

Update Thirty-Five



Well Friends,

It happened. I started growing bald spots:) It all started Friday morning, the day I sent out my last update about getting ready to lose hair. I was taking a shower and washing my hair when I suddenly realized there was hair clinging to my hands and not so much to my head! I pulled at it for a while fascinated at how much was coming out, then I realized I might look in the mirror after and find myself half bald if I don’t knock it off.

So I finished washing my hair (very carefully) and looked down at the drain… it was like a small animal hanging out in the shower with me. Yikes! More hair than I thought!

The good news is I have not yet had to shave my head because the bald spots miraculously are mostly hidden – huge as some of them are!:) There always seems to be some layer of hair that just barely covers each spot. Fun:)

Hair continues to fall out but not as drastically as the first few days, sometimes I wish it would all happen at once so I know what I’m dealing with here. But then I guess it’d be pretty shocking to be talking to someone one minute and mid-sentence half my hair falls out all uneven like – Whoosh!

The hilarity of it would almost make the sudden drop worth it!:) I can think of a dozen funny scenarios… ordering at Starbucks, sitting in church, at the hair salon… FUNNY:)

Anyway, so thank you all for your hair follicle prayers. When it first started coming out, I had to work through a few emotions dealing with wow, this is finally happening and wow my appearance could be drastically changing and I have no control in it.

It’s been a good process and good to realize that SO many people go through this and even though it’s easier said than done… shaving my head shiny bald would be not so bad at all. A little cold in the winter months, but definitely less money spent on shampoo and other such hair products.

I think Linsey secretly wants me to lose my hair because she thinks wigs sound like a lot of fun!:) If you know Linsey, you know what I mean:)

Ooh I thought I should also let you all know that in case you have been praying for radiation in real time (5:00pm) my time is getting switched to 10:45am starting tomorrow (Thursday).

Still praying every session for those good brain cells to be protected and those cancer cells to die, and the ol’ hair follicles to not be receiving permanent damage.

I love the radiation therapists I work with. It takes something special to do what they do and I am so thankful for them!

I could most definitely use prayer for the fatigue which is starting to set in. Beyond the nap every day, I’m now just starting to wake up feeling tired and unrested and already excited for the next time I get to sleep. A little sad…:) Any prayers you may send on my behalf, would be absolutely appreciated!:)

My heart remains joyful and steadfast. Again these situations, although frustrating at times when I want so desperately to feel healthy and normal, are not what truly affect my heart as long as I’m staying in close communion with my Lord. If I have the Lord, I have all I need – if everything crumbles around me, Jesus my rock never fades away.

Sometimes this is hard for me to comprehend and even remember… but I understand it in my heart and it always remains my prayer. THANK YOU for continuing to pray these prayers for me.

I pray them for you as well. May the Lord be all you need. If your entire world gets stripped away… I pray you can truly find everything you need in Jesus Christ. Circumstances always come and go but our Lord truly is the only thing that remains constant, and the ONLY thing that will ultimately satisfy you.

Love you all!

Big Hugs and Shiny Bald Spots,
Christina

Update Thirty-Four & A Half :)

Hi friends :)

This is Linsey here….since I am the keeper of the website…I decided I needed to write a little ditty to let you all know (as if you don’t already) how amazing my roommate is.  I was able to spend the weekend and first half of this week with Christina and MAN I miss that girl.  Our house is definitely void of silliness!

I was sitting here thinking about the last few months and how God has ROCKED our worlds in a way we couldn’t even image.  That first weekend Christina complained about double vision and headaches….we decided it would be a good idea to have a two-on-two basketball tournament (above picture)…JoDee about spanked us when she got to our house :)  Well…we didn’t know she had a brain tumor!!  I will have you know that she totally dominated me….even with the motor skills part of her brain taken over by that stinky tumor!  I am afraid for the re-match.

All that to say…..we never know what our future holds…we only know that we can TRUST in the God who hold our future in His hands.  I am blessed beyond measure to know Him and to be able to trust the life and health of my best friend to his more than capable hands.

I have a few thank you’s of my own!!

  • Thank those of you who read this website…may it only be a breath of the Lord Jesus Christ to your hearts.
  • Thank you for all the prayers you have lifted up on our behalf.
  • Thank you Christina, JoDee, & Everyone involved for allowing us to walk this Journey with you.
  • Thank you LORD that Christina has her memory, mind, & HUMOR :)
  • Thank you LORD in advance for the Glory we will experience through this trial.

Love ya’all
Linsey

Update Thirty-Four

Hello Everyone!!!

After tonight’s radiation I will only have 19 more days of treatment to go!!! Wooooo!!!!! That may sound like a lot, but starting with 33 it feels like they’re whittling down pretty fast.

Next week is when they tell me I should start losing clumps of hair (in those four radiation fields)…sounds like it could look pretty goofy. I have no idea if next week I will be shaving my head because of drastic hair loss, or I’ll just be wearing a lot of hats to cover some funny-looking bald spots on the top of my head, or if nothing will happen at all. I decided I’m really okay with any of those options. Of course I’d love to keep my hair if it were up to me, and I’d love for the hair loss not to be permanent (which could be a possibility), but in the end… it’s just hair, I have to remember that. I sometimes laugh (not because I should be;) at the male cancer patients who complain about losing hair when it’s like an inch long… come on fellas you can get that back in just a few weeks!:)

So yes, next week hits the 3 week mark where they say all the side-effects can start kicking in (between 2-3 weeks). Hair loss, fatigue, brain swelling, headaches, nausea, skin irritation/burns. I haven’t felt anything yet. Yes! And it’s also very possible that because of all your prayers I may continue to have very minimal side-effects through this whole process.

After all, during my recovery from surgery I never had any seizures, incision infections, loss of coordination or cognitive brain function (not any that wasn’t already missing anyway;), AND my vision returned to normal!!!

All of these things, they told us had a high likelihood of happening and I’m confident your prayers and God’s powerful hand is what made the recovery process so easy and fast.

I put these side-effects completely in his hands and if he knows it’s best for me he can take them all away and make this like an extended vacation in Seattle (just with annoying visits to the hospital every day:) But if that’s not best for me, he can allow me to feel exactly what I need to, to the degree he desires. I trust him totally with that too… and know whatever happens (whether its crazy difficult, moderately annoying, or easy as a summer breeze), I know he walks with me. He stands in the fire with me, and the fire cannot harm me. It roars around me and puts fear in many hearts but the only thing it can burn are the ropes (my “circumstances”) that hold me down. I have not even the smell of smoke on me, but can through my journey in the fire, retain the sweet aroma of Christ. That, I never have to lose!!!

Amazing! For more on that, read the book of Daniel:) It’s a good one:) This weekend I get to take a little break from the Seattle routine and go to Port Angeles for the weekend. Ryan will be picking me up in Seattle and making the beautiful drive with me. Should be a lot of fun!!:)

Not that things haven’t been fun here… I’ve had a visit from Ryan last weekend, roommate Linsey staying with me for the first half of the week and my mom here for the last. I might have also squeezed in Nertz games and CPK with Mandy, a late night movie with Linsey (like old times) and a little shopping before Wednesday’s radiation. I can’tsay this week has lacked much on the Fun-o- Meter:)

I most definitely miss all of you in Portland and find myself longing for the normalcy of life as I knew it just a couple months ago where brain tumors and cancer were the furthest things from my mind. I know though that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and really I look back on my “normal life” and find it amazing that these past 2 “difficult” months have been absolutely rich spiritually and full of experiences/conversations with friends and family that I wouldn’t trade for the world. “Normal life” can actually look pretty boring and lifeless at times.

It’s amazing looking back how I got so easily consumed with non-important things, I hope my perspective has permanently changed in many of those areas! I’ve learned I shouldn’t be wishing for different circumstances but instead allow God to reveal his glory by being my strength as we walk through these present circumstances together. The Bible says “His strength is made perfect in our (my) weaknesses.” His strength isn’t made perfect… when I’m strong too:) Darnit:)

I’m feeling the need to share some of the things I’m thankful for. There are so many, I need to get some off my chest before I explode!

After all it is Thanksgiving month:)

  • I am so thankful to be here in Seattle just a couple hours from both my parents and everyone down in Portland. Doing treatment in a place like Houston totally separated from everyone would have been really hard.
  • I’m thankful for this house we are staying in! What a gift to be able to spend these 6-7 weeks in a beautiful cozy home right by the hospital instead of a hotel room!
  • I am thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend with my mom and dad. I’m pretty sure I have the best parents in the world!
  • I am thankful for the prayers of so many that surround me.
  • I am thankful for all the gifts and encouragements that continue to pour in.
  • I am thankful for friends (far and near) that have stood by me unwavering, through phone calls, visits, emails, letters.
  • I’m thankful for Ryan. Hard to put into words.. out of the blue and unexpected. I’m just thankful;)
  • I’m thankful for feeling the healthiest I’ve felt in months!
  • I’m thankful for a speedy recovery after brain surgery.
  • I’m thankful they decided to save my hair during brain surgery so at least I’d have a couple more months to enjoy it:)
  • I’m thankful for the wonderful knowledgeable doctors that I’ve been able to work with.
  • I’m thankful that Mandy lives in Seattle, we finally get our dream of living in the same town:)
  • I’m thankful that radiation will be done before Christmas.
  • I’m thankful that Starbucks and Coldstone are nearby.
  • I am thankful God never leaves me… he comes as close as I ask him too.
  • I am thankful that no matter how hard things get, it is comforting and even exciting to know that God can and will use this story to touch lives for his glory.
  • I’m thankful for computers, cell phones, and internet that make communication SO easy… though I’m still trying to get better at it;)
  • I’m thankful for IBC and Solid Rock and so many other churches for all your prayer, love, and support – and for being a beautiful picture
  • Thank you Lord Jesus for being my everything. You are my joy, my provider and my strength. I love you with all of my heart. Thank you all for continuing to check up on me. Your love continues to both overwhelm and humble me. Thank you again for your comments, emails and other such lovely things… you bless my heart.

Until next time…

Peace to you.

Love,
Christina

Update Thirty-Three

Dear Friends,

Christina continues to do quite well with radiation.  She’s had no side effects to this point and she’s completely off the “tumor” medicine.  Dr. Rockhill said to expect the hair to fall out in the next 2 weeks.  The good news about the hair is that she is getting radiation from 4 different “fields” (areas of the head) so the hair loss will probably be temporary instead of permanent.

We also had a very good appointment with Dr. Chamberlain (her lead doctor).  I had many questions about the new lab report from the UW.  They classified her tumor a little differently–still a grade 3–but they left out the astero designation and called it anaplastic oligodendroglioma.  Along with her codeleted chromosomes this should make it a “well-behaved” tumor responding well to whatever treatment she has.  He said, “If you have to have a grade 3 brain tumor, this is the kind to have.”  I also asked him why her P53 tumor suppression cells are overexpressed if it isn’t an astero tumor.  He said, “That’s the puzzle.”  Oh well.  I guess you can’t have answers to everything.

Other good things from this particular visit included–

  • almost 0% chance that she will have to go back on the “tumor” pill for brain swelling from radiation.  YEAH!!!
  • after radiation she will have a followup MRI and appointment in January.  Hopefully, they will say that everything looks great and see you in a couple of months.
  • If it doesn’t look great, Christina will have some additional imaging and testing to determine the next step.  (That means that more surgery and chemo aren’t going to happen right away.  Perhaps a few months of normal life!)

I was listening to my new Ipod yesterday (thanks Tammy for the techno help) and I heard a song that made me stop and think.  It’s a very upbeat song recorded by Hillsong United–easy and fun to sing–hard, hard, hard to live.  So for your deep heart challenge, here are a few words.

TAKE IT ALL

Searching the world the lost will be found
In freedom we live, as one we cry out.
You carried the cross.  You died and rose again.
My God, I’ll only ever give my all.

You sent Your Son from heaven to earth.
You delivered us all–it’s eternally heard.
I searched for truth and all I found was You.
My God, I’ll only ever give my all.

Jesus, we’re living for Your Name.
We’ll never be ashamed of You.
Our praise and all we are today
Take take take it all.
Take take take it all.

As for us, we are grateful for your calls, letters, gifts, emails, comments on the website, prayer, hugs, smiles, tears, and overall love.  When tempted to feel alone, it takes only one little glimpse at the cards or comments to understand the beauty of community.  You are an amazing bunch!

Much love,
Jo Dee