Saturday, October 31, 2009

Good News!

A trip to Corinth to see the oncologist yesterday dispelled some of the apprehensions we have had in the last two weeks. He did not express much concern over my intolerance of the chemo dose, nor over the reaction to the Neupogen shots which he had discontinued. He put me on a new treatment schedule, saying that it's not unusual to have to experiment with the schedule before finding the right one for a particular patient. So, I restarted yesterday and will go back in two weeks, thus eliminating the week when I only had chemo. If my white counts go down again, he will reduce the amount of Neupogen given. He was not surprised with the symptoms I experienced following the shots; I was since I had not reacted that way the last time I had it three years ago. The good news is that we're back on track!

Sarah and Drew have been here playing in the yard this morning. Finally, we have sunshine again! Just hope it holds for them to get in some trick or treating tonight. Marty reports that it is rainy and nasty in Raleigh. She made Christopher the cutest bear costume and if I can figure how to move one or two from her e-mail to my photo page, I'll share later.

I'm glad for a relaxing Saturday. We had somewhere to go or something to do every day this past week and that makes me tired. Tuesday we spent the day at an older adult outing at the Presbytery camp about 1 1/2 hours from here, got home about three, then went out again at five to a Parkinson's support group meeting for another 2 1/2 hours. It rained all day, but fortunately we rode on the church bus to the camp and left the driving to Tommy. Wednesday we had window coverings installed in the living and dining rooms. A good church friend had made them and we enjoyed visiting with her and her husband who came to do the installation. Tom had his Botox injections Thursday afternoon. The neurologist had suggested putting them around the eyebrow area to help with the squinting and facial movements there. He must have injected him fifteen or twenty times--I lost count. Tom said it didn't particularly hurt, he has had no reactions or sorness and I think I already see some improvement. Yesterday, late in the day, I was dozing on the couch, the doorbell rang and there stood the man bringing Tom's new lift chair. With our new additions, I have rearranged a bit of furniture and have a little more to do to get things just right. The rest of today might not be so relaxing after all. Still there's lots of SEC football on TV and it might be more enticing than getting the house straight again.

Tomorrow is Commitment Sunday at Humboldt when pledges for the coming year will be brought. I keep calling it Celebration Sunday. Actually, it is both. We commit our gifts because of the covenantal commitment God made with us, because of the new covenant in Jesus Christ; and we celebrate God's promise, God's gifts and then share the Lord's Supper together. That is always a celebration!! It will be a good day. I hope your worship will be blessed.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's Hear It for Technology

A young friend of ours is doing her student teaching in Perth, Australia. One morning last week I answered the phone and there she was calling to say "hello." Two things about her call struck me.

Time and space was first. I had just finished my morning coffee and it was bedtime in Perth. She sounded as if she was right next door, yet is on the other side of the world. Modern technology allows us to keep up with each other, not only by telephone, but also by e-mail, Facebook, blogs, etc. How can this be? I will never understand how these things work, just take for granted that they will.

The second thing came from the conversation itself. Though Lala, our friend, is having an experience of a lifetime, she misses the familiar things of home and fall in West Tennessee. It's spring in Australia and Thanksgiving is unique to the United States. She misses fall color, the costumes of Halloween and looking forward to Thanksgiving with family and friends--not to mention Alabama football.

Our conversation made me think of just how much we take for granted, things both great and small. We enter a dark room, flip the light switch and expect to have light. Fall approaches and we expect to see leaves changing color; we anticipate a winning season for a favorite football team; we carefully plan how we'll spend our holidays. We take tomorrow for granted, but there is no guarantee.

Recently, I have been reminded once again of that very fact and of the uncertainty and fragility of life. That can lead to dread and fear of tomorrow. What I know is there needs to be a balance between the two. It is unreal, ignorant really, to march through life never thinking about tomorrow and it's downright morbid and unnatural to focus on the "what ifs" of tomorrow to such an extent that we live in constant fear. Trusting God, knowing that God is in charge is the answer. Talk to God about your fears. Life is uncertain; tomorrow might reveal news we don't want to hear or usher in some monumental crisis. In such times we need to cling to the promises of God, particularly, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Faith replaces fear.

Rather than take tomorrow for granted, be grateful for it. Thank God for His promise to be present with you; celebrate the seasons of life, the seasons of the year; express your love for your family often; stay in touch with friends; be submissive to who God wants you to be each day of your life. Be an active participant in your life!

I started out thinking about modern technology and how it keeps us close to each other; I close thinking about prayer and how it keeps us close to God.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The journey since I last wrote has continued to take us on a winding path and also on a path full of potholes. I don't have to tell you about potholes. They are annoying and can be really hard on tires. There have been some places where we've lived that it seemed that potholes were never fixed. You just learned where they were and tried to avoid them as best you could. In other places, crews were out fixing them as soon as one occured--or so it seemed. You can learn to live with potholes, try avoiding them or be really grateful your tax dollars are at work to fix them.

Potholes in the journey of life are much the same. You can learn to live with them and try to avoid them or you do have the option of asking your heavenly Father to fill them as only He can. I guess you might say that this week I've dealt with all three approaches.

We hit on pothole number one last Friday learning that the neutrophil count was too low for treatment and encountered a slight problem in how I would get the necessary shots. I would need one that day and one a day Monday through Friday of this week. Monday and Friday would be taken care of because I had to go to the clinic in Corinth for lab work and I'd just take the shots there. By Monday one of my oncology nurses had located a pharmacy in Jackson that would sell me three shots and a Session member in the Humboldt church found me nurses to administer the injections. Pothole filled.

The second hole was brought on by the medicine itself. It caused severe back pain that rendered sleep almost impossible. Pain medication dulled it some, but made me nauseated, so anti-nausea drugs were prescribed. After the third shot on Tuesday, I was one sick puppy, complete with fever and chills. A call to the clinic Wednesday morning resulted in a quick trip to Corinth for more labs and to be seen by the nurse practioner. Who could take us on such short notice? I called a friend in our Thursday Bible study and she didn't even hestitate--just said, "Ill be there in fifteen minutes." After a bag of fluids that included more anti-nausea meds and vitamins we were on our way home. Another pothole filled.

Incidentally, the shots were discontinued. The white count has risen some and today I have felt much better. There may be bigger potholes in the road ahead. If the chemo takes such a quick hit at my cell counts and I cannot tolerate the drug that remedies that problem, the hole can become too big to fill, but for now the holes are full and the path continues, winding as it is.

God has me by the hand, leading me around the curves, helping me avoid potholes when I can, teaching me how to live with them when I can't and He will keep them filled so I can drive across them. Please pray that I can tolerate the treatments and that my cell counts will not drop.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's Next?

This morning I think I know how the Israelites must have felt when they had no food nor water, grumbled, then relied on God's provision when all else failed. Yesterday we encountered yet one more bump in the road in this journey of treating my cancer--a neutrophil count too low to receive the chemo. I was/am not happy! In the midst of learning a few weeks ago that treatment would have to resume, hope loomed bigger than life itself: hope that is founded in a faithful God; and hope that the new treatment would straighten out some of the crooked paths in the journey. The hope in God's care and healing is as constant as ever, even if I do wonder a bit more about what's around the next bend and why I'm being led there. But, the hope in the treatment has diminished. How like the Israelites! Do I just trust completely when all else fails?

Briefly, this is the story. A treatment cycle consists of three sets of infusions, given a week apart. The first and the third includes both the non-chemo drug that is supposed to cut off blood supply to the tumors; the chemo drug is given all three times. After two infusions of chemo my blood counts took a tumble and the ones most important to receiving chemo fell to unsafe levels, meaning I could not get the third infusion yesterday and had to start shots to boost my white count. There was also a warning about the platelet count. I had thought that the chemo drug this go around was more gentle on the system. The nurses said, "Maybe so, but your system is already compromised by all the chemo you have had in the past." Not exactly words I wanted to hear.

Immediately, questions began to nag at me. Does this mean I've reached the point where being treated is worse than waiting on the disease to take over my body? Will I have to choose between quality of life and quantity sooner, rather than later? Am I depending more on the manna than the God who provides it? What does this mean to everyday life?

When I left the clinic yesterday one of the nurses was trying to find a way for me to get my daily shots next week without having to drive to Corinth everyday. In the past, I have had the option of administering the shots myself or going to the clinic and, chicken that I am, chose to have Tom give them to me. This day in time, that's not possible: #1-he can no longer do that and #2-the insurance companies have created such a nightmare that criteria for payment dictates how the drug is administered. The answer to the question regarding everyday life, at least for next week, is to arrange trips to drive to Corinth Monday and Friday for labs and shots and maybe everyday for shots. Answers to the other questions are not as easy.

I had two thoughts in some sleepless hours before driving to Corinth. We need to specifically pray for my blood counts. I reread the information sheets on the two drugs I'm taking and a warning light went off in my head when I read common side effects of the chemo. I determined then that blood levels would be a specific prayer request. Little did I know I'd need an answer to that prayer so soon! The second thought contains a bit of irony. For the almost three years we've lived here we've been making regular trips to Corinth, Mississippi. What some of you may not know is that Corinth was the site of some important battles fought during the War Between the States. In fact, some of the economy of the region rests on tourism, which in turn is based on that time of conflict in our country. Isn't it a bit ironic that my battle with cancer is headquartered in Corinth? Oh, well! Maybe you have to be a Southerner to be touched by the significance.

Meanwhile, I've gotten sidetracked from completing my sermon for tomorrow, a message that will include God's pattern for giving, God's provision for His people and God's promise when we respond. May your worship of our unfailing God be blessed!

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Tom and I took a stroll down memory lane this weekend, though my memories possibly are a bit more pronounced than his. We spent about four hours Friday at the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame Museum and still didn't see it all. In addition to the permanent displays, there were two special exhibits on the life and career of Brenda Lee and one on the Hank Williams family. I think I read every word and listened to every song in the Brenda Lee room, all the time reliving my teenage years when she was really coming into her own. By the time we got to the Williams exhibit, we were tired, needed lunch and to get back to the hotel for some rest before our big night out.

What I didn't remember was how smeared the lines were between rock n' roll, bluegrass, country, gospel and even cowboy. Rock and roll stars and country stars sang each other's songs, giving them their own particular twist. Seeing Carl Perkins' blue suede shoes brought back memories of weekends when we would gather at friends' houses, stuff ourselves with chips and dip and dance until curfew. Hearing Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey made me think of Saturday afternoon matinees, complete with the weekly serials. A quarter would get you into the movie, buy popcorn and a coke and you'd still get change! Those are just a few of the things we remembered.

The best, most comfortable and satisfying memory has to do with my introduction to country music. The happiest years of my childhood were spent living as a part of Aunt May and Uncle Barnard's family. Saturday was a big day at our house. We would spend the morning cleaning house, getting in wood (both for heat and the cookstove) and keeping the dishes washed while Aunt May did the weekly baking. After lunch all six of us (2 adults and 4 children) would take our places in the red Ford pickup and head to town. Aunt May went to the grocery, Uncle Barnard always had somebody to talk to, the two little ones would hang out with one parent or the other and Julia and I would walk to the drug store for an ice cream cone. At night, after all was made ready for Sunday, Uncle Barnard would turn on the radio, tune into the "Grand Ole Opry" and we'd go to sleep with the sounds of laugher, banjos and people telling their stories in song. What a memory! Wandering through the museum made those Saturday night memories come alive. I could almost hear Uncle Barnard's footsteps in the hall.

Friday night was two hours of solid toe tapping, leg slapping, hand clapping melody and stories. We had a great time!! Word of advice: if you ever go, include in your ticket the fee to be picked up at your hotel. We're glad we did.

Our memory lane trip on Saturday was in the area of academia or self help. The Parkinson's symposium presented by the neurology department at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine could not have been better. It falls among our memories because we have attended once before and because some of the information presented underscores things we have already learned/experienced. Current research encourages hope in all who are affected by this terrible disease.

Another memory to be satisfied was to have been a stop at the Loveless Cafe, a favorite place of ours where we have been going for about twenty years. Well, we did stop at the Loveless, being admitted by a highway patrol officer directing traffic in and out of the parking lot. There were so many people there it looked like a fireant hill that had just been disturbed! We were told the wait for a table was two hours. No way! We walked over to the little store, bought a couple of pounds of bacon and went somewhere else. That was a disappointment.

This morning I hurredly dressed and went to church in Humboldt. Someone else was preaching so I slid into my seat just as things were starting. After the service I enjoyed visiting with folks, but an old memory crept up. Someone mentioned a couple they hadn't seen in church recently and one lady said that the gentleman couldn't get used to a woman preacher. Two people standing beside me were shocked: one said he'd never heard that and the other was embarassed that the statement had been made in front of me. Later, I assured her that I was not offended--and I'm not. I remember the twelve young men who walked out of preaching class when one of the three women students were on the schedule; I remember the church staff person who announced that someone needed to visit Mr. X and that the preacher who wore a skirt should not come (I went anyway); I remember the dear lady who wanted to meet me even though she let me know she didn't approve of women in ordained ministry (she later changed her mind). If I only reflect on the first part of the memory, I am saddened, but if my reflections include the resolutions of some of those situations, I am encouraged. God chooses people to serve in different places, in different ways. Whether we are male or female, Southerner or Northerner, black or white, the same Spirit is at work in our hearts and we all can be of service and in service with we submit to that Spirit.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

God's Paintbrush

Evidence of fall abounded on our trip to Corinth today. Bradford pears, sweet gums and sumac have begun their slow transformation from green to red to burgundy; soybean leaves are more yellow than green; some cotton stands in the fields, stripped of leaves, just waiting for the ground to dry out enough to get the heavy pickers in the fields. Other cotton has yet to be defoliated so both leaves and the beautiful white balls on which so much of our economy rests are seen. Dead corn stalks remain, row after row, also waiting for the ground to dry out enough to get equipment in the fields to turn it under. Even the dogwood in our front yard has tinges of pink, every leaf a promise of the red that is to come. To everything there is a season and everything is beautiful in its time.

The treatment last Friday was tolerated very well, though I think I felt the effects of the flu shot for about 24 hours. Sunday afternoon and night I slept so much and so hard, Tom said he had to touch me to be sure I was still breathing, but by Monday morning I was back to normal and resumed regular activities. Today I only had one drug and was in and out of the infusion room in less than an hour. Wow! That was great. What's even greater is I feel fine!!! Shopping for groceries once were home again was the tiring event of the day, but we took a deep breath, rested our feet and went to Wenesday night supper and Bible study in Humbolt. It was the pause that refreshed.

Presently, I'm washing a load of clothes, getting ready to pack for a trip to Nashville. Saturday, the Neurology Department at the Vanderbilt Medical Center is presenting its 11th annual symposium on Parkinson's Disease. We attended in 2007, but had to miss last year so we're looking forward to this one. They always present the latest information available and give ample opportunity to ask questions. We decided we'd make a little mini-vacation of it and spend two nights there rather than one. We'll play things by ear, except for Saturday and eating at one of our all time favorite restaurants on the way home and reservations at the Grand Ole Opry Friday night.

I am more than half finished writing Advent Meditations for this year and again, having a wonderful time with them. If you'd like me to publish them on the blog site, please either e-mail me or add a comment at the end of the post and I will if enough are interested. The other exciting thing I'm doing--in addition to being at Humboldt--is teaching Joshua in a PW circle. We start Monday. I hope FOPC women haven't spoiled me. Their response always added fuel to the study and their insights taught me much more than I taught ever them. In the list of things I miss about ministry at FOPC is the complete relationship I had with the women!

Time to put clothes in the dryer. Years ago Tom's mother had a combination washer/dryer. It took up very little space in the kitchen, but one load of clothes could take hours to complete. Imagine what it was like waiting on diapers to wash and dry! But since my options were either going to the laudromat on Saturday or to Mom's I didn't complain. The only good thing I remember about the combination machine was not having that added step of transfer--spoken like a lazy person. Funny how things from the past crop up! I'd best head to the laundry room, separate things and get on with the drying process. Mom went from a wringer washer, to the front loader and hanging things outside, to the combination to a washer and dryer that sat side by side. That was progress. I wonder what she would think now of all our even more modern conveniences.

What was beautiful about your day today? Be grateful!

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, October 03, 2009

It's All About Life

There was a homecoming of sorts when we went to Corinth for treatment yesterday. A new face occupied the chair of my beloved Ava, receptionist extradornairre' and my special Christian sister. She now has added responsibilities and an office of her own. The chairs in the infusion room had been rearranged and organized with a table between every two--nice touch. Jerry, the head nurse had a new hair do, but the same efficient, smiling presence. On the table by my chair was a book paying tribute to oncology nurses. As I thumbed through it, I couldn't help but think about the oncology nurses who have touched my life, especially Terri in Roseville who we credit with saving it in 2006. God has given special gifts to these nurses!

In the lab I only had to weigh--ugh--and have vitals done. My weight was eight pounds more than it had been in Memphis on Monday and the blood pressure much lower. Is it better to have a more ideal blood pressure or weigh that much more? I had asked the nurses Monday to leave my port accessed so as to avoid another stick and the tape had blistered my skin. Why didn't I remember that from hospital stays? It felt so good to get the tape off and the blisters soothed.
I settled in my infusion chair, with Tom by my side, went through the pre-meds and read yet another set of information sheets on the two new drugs.

Legally, manufacturers have to list any and all possible side effects--I know that. After all, this is my sixth time to begin treatment for cancer and I am married to a lawyer. Still, it is a bit disconcerting to read about all the possibilities and to learn that things you might have been told were not problems, are in the realm of possibility. For instance, because I'm the driver in the family, I always ask if there will be in problems in my driving myself. No problem. Possible side effect read: drowsiness; avoid any activity that requires alertness, such as driving. On the drive home I struggled several times to stay focused--could have been the drug, could have been the overall effects of the day. I repeat: clots, compromised blood counts, etc. can be life threatening, but so is cancer!

So far this morning, all is well. A few precautionary pills have been taken and I've begun the seemingly endless glasses of water I'm required to drink. One of the pre-meds I take causes sleeping problems the first couple of nights after infusion. Last night was no exception, so I got up and did some sermon work. They told me my arm would be sore from my flu shot and it's not--guess I'm a tough old bird. Time will tell about the other "possibilities."

Tomorrow as we begin stewardship focus at Humboldt, I am preaching on remembering, based on Deuteronomy 8:1-10. It fits with the overall slogan for the month: Because He gave - - - We Give. In my first year in seminary I did an indepth study of this passage, complete with translation, word studies, commentary, and sermon outline. It has come in handy. God called the Israelites to be careful to be obedient to His commands and to remember how He led them all the way in the wilderness. Isn't it amazing how appropriate the passage is for us to remember God's leading as we prepare to make our annual pledges? Isn't it amazing how appropriate it is for me as I begin treatment again? Isn't it amazing how appropriate it is as we celebrate Worldwide Communion Sunday? The Holy Spirit has definitely been at work in this preparation! Tomorrow I'll focus on just the first three verses, then after a guest preacher next week, will pick up the remembering thread for the rest of the focus. Read the passage and you too will be reminded of God' deliverance, God's constant provision and God's promise for blessing. We are called to obey, to remember and to respond!

Pastor Margaret