Monday, September 19, 2016

Chemo, Baseball, Haiti... A Family Update...

A few days before my first surgery August 18th, we had my sister-in-law at Ash Aspen Photography take family photos. We are really happy with how they turned out! Below is one of our favorites! Here is the link if you want to check them all out.

How am I feeling?  The last time I updated, the kids were starting school and I had gotten news of needing another surgery and a chemo start date. Since that last update, I had surgery to remove some skin and a port placed for chemo on Sept 2nd. Unfortunately, a non-serious complication developed from that surgery requiring a third surgery 6 days later. Those were a tough 5-6 days for me and to be honest, I was in pain and feeling pretty discouraged. Thankfully, since then, I've been feeling better and better each day, so much so, that I've been doing normal activities for a week now. It's been a blessing just to feel mostly normal. We got the pathology report back from the skin removal and it was cancer-free and we now have clear margins. We have been praising the Lord for that good news!

Tomorrow is the big day: Chemo Start Day. It feels like the beginning of the next big phase in this cancer fight... one that should last 4-5 months. It's hard to think ahead over the next few weeks as I have no idea how I will feel or what life will look like. Please be praying with us for minimal side effects and good tolerance. I'm told to expect to start losing my hair around 2 weeks after the start. I've also been encouraged to mention every little thing to the nurses/doctor. Seems like they have ways to minimize/control many of the side effects. 

Rob is going to Haiti for 5 days Next Week.  Please be praying for him as he travels and for the rest of us here at home.  We will have help if we need it, but it will be hard for him to be gone.  Rob is excited about seeing the team in Haiti.  The visit will be packed with lots of reunions and planning meetings.

Last week, I enjoyed participating in a class the American Cancer Society offers called "Look Good, Feel Better." I was one of six ladies with cancer participating, and I was by far the youngest one! It was a lot of fun learning make-up tips and tricks as well as understanding skin care during chemo. We also explored hats and scarves and some of the ladies tried on and picked out wigs. (You won't see me in a wig, it's just not me). We went home with a goody bag of free products. It was fun.

The kids have adjusted very well to school and we are starting to fall into a routine. In fact, we are already at the point where it is hard to get two of them out of bed in the morning. Somehow that makes everything feel normal!

Drew has been playing fall baseball, a dream come true for him. He is loving every minute and really learning a lot and improving. He's had two games so far and his team has won both of them. It's been fun to go to his games on Saturdays and cheer his team on. He's had his first strikeout, hit, walk and groundout and has played a few different positions in the field. 

Many of you have asked how you can help or have said to let you know if we need something. Please, keep praying! And the words of encouragement mean more than you'll ever know. We know there are SO MANY of you lifting us up. It is such a testimony of God's love, goodness and faithfulness. After surgery, a friend set up a meal sign-up and it has been a huge blessing to our family. Since chemo is starting, she has extended it into October. If you are in South Jersey and want to help out in that way, here is the link to sign up.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

We Missed Our Flight Home...

"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." Proverbs 16:9

When we left Haiti on June 1, we had big plans for the summer. We had prayed through these plans and felt they were God-directed. Even looking back at how some plans weren't quite coming together before we left makes me realize that they were God-directed. He knew what we were going to find out on June 23rd. 

My cancer diagnosis sure threw us for a loop, as it would anybody, but on top of that we were faced with so many questions and decisions to make: where to go for treatment, choosing the treatment option best for us, where to live, where to send the kids to school, etc. We were faced with so many changes for how we thought our summer was going to look and even bigger how the next year is going to look. Through July we were able to still do many of the fun things we had planned, but once August rolled around we had to put off our plans so we could instead make new plans to start treatment. At this point, all the changes suddenly seemed more real than ever. Now we weren't just talking about cancer treatment, I was starting treatment. Now we weren't talking about where to live, we were moving into a house. Now we weren't getting the kids ready to go back to school in Haiti, but registering them for school in the US.

Yesterday, August 30, was the date we were were supposed to fly home to Haiti. Many of the other missionaries have already returned or return in the next few days and the kids' school for the last 5 years starts on Monday. Yet we aren't home. We weren't "supposed to" still be in the States on this date (at least according to our plans.) More and more we are realizing that life and ministry in Haiti is going on without us.

Yet I am embracing this place we are calling home for the next year or so. Embracing the experiences our kids will have at a new school and living in the US. I'm not sure I am embracing cancer treatment, but I'm doing my best to "roll with it" and so far, recovery from surgery has gone much better than I anticipated. This new path is all so much more "real" than ever. My "assignment" for the next year is not what it has been the past few years (missionary, bookkeeping, menu/team planning, teaching, etc) but rather receiving treatment to rid my body of cancer. This means being still and waiting, which is not easy for me! My prayer as I go through each step of this journey, is to take each step relying not on my own strength, but on the strength of my Heavenly Father, to carry our family through this trial and bring us all into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him.

The kids started school today! Here they are ready to go:

Drew ,6th grade, Tessa, 5th grade, and Braden 3rd grade.

Treatment Update...

We got some disappointing news last week from the pathology reports after surgery. The primary tumor was closer to the skin than they could see in films and scans. What that means is they weren't able to say they got a "clear margin." To be sure there was no spread to the skin, I will go back in this Friday, Sept. 2nd, for a small surgical procedure to remove about a quarter-sized area of skin. At the same time I will have a port placed for chemo. Both of these things are same-day, out-patient surgery.

We met with the medical oncologist yesterday and now have a chemo plan. Chemo will start Tuesday, September 20th. I will receive two drugs once every two weeks times 4. When that is finished, I will receive another drug once every week times 8. If all goes according to plan, chemo will take about 4 months.

Prayer Requests...
  • Pray for a smooth surgery and port placement on Friday, September 2nd. Pray for the surgeon and for a positive report of "clear margins" after the skin is removed (meaning all detectable cancer has been removed plus a good cancer-free margin around the site.)
  • Pray for the kids as they adjust to a new school, as well as school in the US. Pray they will make friends and quickly feel like they are a part of the class. Pray for them as they adjust to a longer school day and get back into the homework routine. Pray for a good adjustment to new curriculum.
  • Pray in advance as we anticipate the start of chemo on Sept 20th.
Thank you and we love you all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Short Update from the Thompsons...

Surgery is done, and it went extremely well.  Becky was able to go home within 24 hours of finishing surgery.  Frankly, we are amazed at her progress.  She is certainly tired, and moving slowly, but we are grateful that her spirits are high, the incisions are clean and doing very well, and physical range of motion is more than we anticipated.  God is answering the prayers of many.

Here are some updated praises and prayer requests...

  • Praise for good surgery.  The Dr.'s were very pleased, we are pleased, and the at home nurse was amazed at the good work that the Dr.'s did.
  • Praise for coming home so quickly and praise that the recovery has not been as hard as we expected it to be.  This doesn't mean it isn't hard! ;)
  • Praise for the HUGE numbers of people praying and supporting us.  Watch for another update on this soon.
  • Praise for meals coming over the next couple of weeks from friends.
  • Pray for continued recovery.  Pray for no pain, greater strength and endurance, and no infections.  There are drains involved, and we are praying those drains stop draining quickly so they can be removed.
  • Pray for good follow up appointments on Wednesday, Thursday, and next week.  We are expecting to hear from the Dr. on Thursday how successful the surgery was.  After surgery, they run tests to make sure they got all the cancer.   These results also will determine how aggressive we need to be with chemo.  Pray for good news and shorter chemo!
  • Pray for us as we anticipate chemo starting 3-4 weeks.
  • Pray for the kids as they prepare to start school on Aug 31.

Tessa, yesterday, with her 10 year old
Birthday gifts from grandparents.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Treatment Update and Prayer Requests...

After what feels like a million doctor appointments, consultations, tests, a second opinion and being flooded with information and statistics, it is finally time to start treatment. So ready or not, here we go...

Surgery comes first and is scheduled for this Thursday, August 18th. Please pray for the surgeons, for clear steady hands and wisdom during surgery. I expect a 1 to 2 night hospital stay and then home for recovery. Please pray for us as family during the recovery time, as Rob will step up into many of my usual responsibilities and for the kids as they adjust to Mommy resting more.

Chemotherapy will start a few weeks after surgery. They will look thoroughly at the cancer removed during surgery and use that pathology as well as how many lymph nodes they find affected to decide the course(s) of chemo. The oncologist sees two options for chemo that depend on the aggressiveness of the cancer they find. I may receive a less aggressive and shorter course of chemo or a more aggressive, longer duration and multiple drug course of chemo. It is also highly likely that I will have radiation once chemo is finished. That decision is also dependent on how many lymph nodes are affected. Right now we know there is cancer in one lymph node, but surgery will reveal if there are traces in other nodes.

I can't say enough how much we feel your prayers. We are seeing God taking care of needs that we didn't even know we had! I have never felt so loved by my Heavenly Father as I have since we received this diagnosis. He is using so many of you to show us His tender, loving care for us during this time.

How can you pray?
  • Praise for the providence of God through the faithfulness of His Church in our life.
  • For successful surgery August 18th and good healing and recovery.
  • For wisdom for the oncologist as he makes a decision on the course of chemo and wisdom when to start in relation to surgery healing and recovery.
  • For our family, as we adjust and learn what life is going to be like over the next months.
  • For our kids as they start school August 31st: for a good transition to a new school, new friends, and life in the US.
  • For Rob, as he takes primary responsibility of caring for our family over these next months.
  • For Rob, as he continues his role of Haiti Field Director from a distance and picks up some additional development roles made possible by his presence here in the States.
  • For the RMI team in Haiti as they step up in responsibility and leadership over the next year.  They are more than ready and more than willing, but they will be stretched in new ways as ministry continues at an aggressive pace.

On our way to go clamming and crabbing with
G-Mom and Pop Pop.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Overwhelmed with Gratitude...

We are just overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness...

When we came to the US for a 3-month furlough, we never expected to find ourselves staying here for a year. Cancer was not on our radar at all. Within three weeks of landing on US soil, we were stunned and looking at a much different reality for the year ahead than we ever imagined.

Since my cancer diagnosis, life has been a whirlwind of doctors appointments mixed with working in the fun things we had planned. We've really been able to enjoy fun times with our family and with extended family and cousins. Rob and I still got to take the 2-night anniversary getaway we had planned months ago. We are really thankful for these opportunities amidst the madness of a million appointments.

As you can imagine, we've been working hard to figure out our living situation for the next year and make a decision on school for our kids. When we first arrived, Rob's parents graciously made it clear to us that we could stay with them as long as we needed to, even if it was for the whole year. In fact, we've set up beds for the kids and fetched some other furniture to help settle them in here. We desired a place of our own as a family, but we couldn't imagine how we were going to afford to go out and rent a place, furnish it, etc, while maintaining our home in Haiti, and paying for medical expenses. It just seemed an impossibility. In the meantime, Rob reached out to supporting churches in the area to see if they knew of any housing available at a minimal cost.

In the course of a week, the Lord opened some doors that we never expected! A supporting church of ours who has a sister church in Haiti, owns a home right next to the church and have offered for us to live there. It is perfect for our family and we are really excited. They are working on a few maintenance issues as well as replacing some things in the bathroom and we hope to move in before my surgery. Rob spent yesterday demoing the shower to prep it for replacement and the kids and I spent yesterday cleaning. We are gathering furniture and all the necessaries for a home (kitchen, bedding, etc) and so far we've bought very little. God is providing what we need from different places, family and friends who have extra of this or that to help make this our home for the next year. We are beyond thankful!

Did I also tell you about our vehicle situation? A friends of ours in this area left in March for a two year missions stint in Africa. She left her SUV with my brother's church to be used as needed. We already had planned to use it for the month of July while we were here. Well, she's graciously allowing us to use it for the year while we are here. It has more than enough room for our family. God is good and is revealing His love to us so many ways.

Figuring out where to live has helped us make a decision about school for the kids. My alma mater, The Pilgrim Academy, is only a ten minute drive from our new home. We visited last week and the kids are excited to get registered there in the next few days and start at the end of the month. One of the things they were worried about was going to an American school. It's the first time for all of them! Rob and I felt that a smaller Christian school would be the best transition for them for this one year (the public schools are quite big here). We are thankful for how supportive the school has been already. The kids are excited to go to school where two of their cousins are.

Surgery is in the next few weeks to start treatment. I will post an update on that in the next few days, including specific ways you can be praying for us. Please don't stop praying. We are convinced it is the prayers of many that are getting us through each day, each decision, each situation, and we are thankful.

God is providing for our needs in amazing ways, ways we could never have imagined or expected, and we are thankful. All glory to Him!

Here we are in front of our soon-to-be home away from home...

Friday, July 8, 2016

Encouraged by Good News...

These last two weeks have been some of the hardest in my life. I'm sure Rob would say the same. One of the biggest things I want to say to everyone who read the difficult news of my breast cancer diagnosis is "Thank you!" We have never felt more loved and supported and prayed for than we did this past week. I think the thing that has impacted me the most is the peace I have felt knowing so many of you are praying for me and Rob and the kids as we walk this difficult path. We have a long road ahead and many hard decisions to make, yet we have confidence that we do not walk through this alone. For that we are immeasurably grateful.

We got some very good news today. It has been a week of many tests and doctor appointments and we are not finished with all consultations, but we walked away from today very encouraged. After MRI and PET scan results, it was confirmed that this is an early stage cancer and is contained to one small tumor and one lymph node. For those of you interested, it was classified as T1N1M0, which as best I can tell is stage 2a. This is very encouraging in that with that classification comes a very good prognosis. Because of my age and the fact that it is in one lymph node, it does seem that chemo, radiation and surgery (not necessarily in that order) will be necessary and will give me the best prognosis in the long term.

My next steps are to meet again with the medical oncologist, who now has all the pathology and test results to give his recommendation for whether we do chemo before or after surgery. Also, we met with the surgeon and radiation oncologist today and our minds are swimming with information and statistics. The biggest decision I need to make is what type of surgery to have. We'd really appreciate continued prayers as we pray through and consider all the information we've been given to decide the extent of surgery to have.

Even with all these doctor appointments and tests, we've really been able to enjoy our vacation week with Rob's extended family. We've had beach days, pool days, a Fourth of July BBQ, a fun day at the waterpark in Wildwood and lots of family fun. It's been a good week. We are looking forward to spending time with my side of the family next week as well. All these activities are things we had originally planned for furlough, and we've been glad to still have this precious time with family.

Please continue to pray, it accomplishes much!
  • Pray for clear direction for the extent to surgery to have 
  • Pray for my team of doctors as they consult to develop a clear recommendation regarding a treatment plan
  • Pray for wisdom as we decide whether obtain a second opinion
  • Pray for us as as family. We hope to still be able to continue in the next few weeks some of the fun plans we had made and looked forward to for the last 2 years in Haiti. There are going to be many changes in the weeks and months to come, please pray for Rob and the kids as they walk through this with me.
Written with much love and appreciation,

Friday, July 1, 2016

Difficult News...

We have some difficult news to share... We recently found out that Becky has breast cancer. We are shocked and stunned to say the least. We had no concerns when we came to the US. But, during a routine mammogram, something seemed suspicious and required followup. After further investigation, including a biopsy, they have confirmed that it is breast cancer.

As you can imagine, we have a billion questions with no answers. But, here is what we do know...
  • God is able. God is in this and will use it for His glory and our good. We trust him.
  • Dr. appointments have already started. There will be 5 within the next 7 days. We are in the information gathering stage, including lots of scans and tests to determine the correct treatment plan. So far we have been told to expect surgery, chemotherapy, and likely radiation. But, a firm treatment plan can't be finalized until we know more.  Next major appointment is next Thursday when we will develop a treatment plan after seeing the results of all of these scans.
  • We have heard story after story of women who have had breast cancer and have survived. This encourages us.
  • We have many who love us, will pray for us, and will walk through this with us. It is a blessing to have friends and family who equally honor/trust the Lord and who will encourage us to remain in him. We need this and lean on this.
  • We are currently in NJ with family and plan to remain here for treatment.
  • Although we don't know what the future looks like, we know we can't return home to Haiti on schedule.
  • We will take this one day at a time, trusting in and looking for the purposes of God. Again, he has purpose in this for his glory and our good.
  • Please pray earnestly for all of us, Becky, Rob and the kids, as we continue through this journey.
Need some encouragement?  Read the recent writings of a friend of ours over at the Unlocking the Bible blog. You can check it out here.

Rob and Becky