Friday, February 28, 2014


If there is a honeymoon stage to the cancer journey, ours is over.  Crude, raw reality has arrived and made its presence known.  I saw it come in the front door, take its shoes off and sit down in my living room.  The nerve!

It is not pretty.

It is certainly not welcome.

But deep down, I knew this would have to come at some point. Whether sooner or later,  the point is, it comes to everyone.  It is part of the journey that everyone has to face.  And I have realized it is a critical point in the walk.

How will I respond in the face of this ugly, unwanted, cruel  reality?  I can´t change it.  I can´t get rid of it.  I don´t like it.  I can´t quit.  I can´t forget about it. I can´t move far away from it.  I somehow must  learn to live with it.  This is acceptance - not acceptance in a ¨giving up¨ sense, but acceptance in ¨cooperating with reality¨ sense.

We have heard a lot of ¨advice¨ on this already:

¨You have to be strong for your daughter; don´t let yourself fall!¨
¨She´s going to be fine, just keep thinking positively.¨
¨Just declare she is healed!¨
¨I have no idea how you´re still standing; you´re amazing.¨

I don´t feel amazing.  I just feel tired.  She is not yet healed, so why would I say what is not true?  That seems like a Christian form of denial.  I believe she can be healed with all my heart, and I will keep asking for that.  But until she is, I won´t say she is.  As for positive thoughts, I do ask God to help me focus on His good movement and blessings around us in the midst of this because much of this battle is in the mind and that focus is helpful.  As for being strong for my daughter, Yes! I work on that everyday but I also choose to let myself ¨fall¨ in front of her or with her when sad or overwhelmed...sharing those tears & emotions is releasing and an important part of embracing our own humanity in all of this.

Why do I feel the need to explain myself to people?  Perhaps because they are constantly saying these kinds of things to me, to us.  And actually, it is helping me to develop my own kind of Reality Theology:

1.  This reality is real and it is ours.
2.  We don´t have to like it.
3.  We must deal with it.
4.  God is with us & still remains ¨a very present help.¨
5.  Coming to terms with reality is one stage of the journey common to all.
6.  We must find a way to accept this difficult reality while fighting it at the same time.
7.  We are in charge of carefully choosing our weapons for this valley.
8.  We are free to both fight and embrace our humanity at the same time.

I want to be like David, a strong warrior in every sense when it was appropriate and a tender, honest poet & lover of God who unashamedly poured out his raw emotions before God and man.  He was both things & I totally love and admire that.  

Would you pray that God would call forth from within each one of us the Tender Warrior inside?  That He Himself would be our Personal Trainer in this Arena of Reality each day, teaching us, reminding us, strengthening us, letting us grow in our self-permission to be real at each moment of struggle, sharpening our skills to be all we need to be at this stage of the journey.  

Life really starts here & now...just like real life starts for the couple when the honeymoon ends.  The honeymoon is necessary - but it doesn´t last forever.  It is just preparation for real life - where it all starts to really count...where we really live what we know to be true.

Isn´t that, after all, really living?

Photo by:  AlicePopkom

Friday, February 21, 2014


Some people say ¨it must be so great to be thin and be able to eat all you want!¨

And it is - unless they take your stomach out.

It is - unless you have to fight for every calorie you put in.

It is - unless you throw it up (all the way from your intestines).

It is - unless you keep losing kilos.

Some people say ¨she´s going to be fine!¨

And she is -  except when she´s discouraged.

She is - except when she´s crying out in pain.

She is - except when she´s lonely & bored & has cabin fever.

She is - except when there are doubts.

Some people say ¨she can graduate next year.¨

And she can - but not with her best friend.

She can - but not with the ones who have been like family these 4 years.

She can - but not without a lot of necessary changes & sense of loss.

She can - but it won´t be the same.

Some people say ¨we´re praying for you.¨

And they do - and it moves the mountains for us.

They do - and it tightens the net of this great big Family we have.

They do - and our spirits cannot remain unchanged.

They do - and God smiles.

Some people say ¨how can we help?¨

And they do - and tears of gratitude slide down our cheeks.

They do - and we are not alone.

They do - and the tangible support carries us through rough days.

They do - and we are all blessed.

Some people say ¨we have no words...¨

And they don´t - they just sit with us.

They don´t - they give us gifts of countless prayers.

They don´t - they bring speechless flowers with an aromatic balm.

They don´t - they just stubbornly stay by our side.

We are grateful mostly for what is behind the words of so many people - LOVE.

Thank you all for your words...and for your silence.

Please check DAILY UPDATES in the tabs (The Latest, Blessings and Prayer Requests) for up-to-date information.

Photo by: yokofurusho

Monday, February 17, 2014


Good-byes are really important in the cultures we´ve lived in.  You must say Hello AND Good-bye with a kiss when you arrive and leave a place.  When someone visits your house, you walk them out to the street, even to their car.  

On Saturday, we were happy to say GOOD-BYE to Quirón Hospital!!

And to Room #407!

It was a great room, but.....ADIÓS!!

Adios, ICU!  Adiós, visiting hours 1-2pm and 8-9pm!  Now we can see her whenever we want!! haha!

Adiós, time of uncertainty.

Adiós, tubes & cables & beeping machines!

Adiós, helpful nurses with LOTS of needles!

Adiós, flowers.  (Actually, I´m taking you all home with me!)

Adiós, 104 stairs up to Jenna´s room!

Adiós, intravenous nutrition of 2500 calories a day! 

A HUGE Adiós to hospital food!!!

And some of the real-life sad ones:  Adiós, cute belly.

Adiós, belly button.

Adiós, stomach.  You will be missed, but it is for the best.  God knows.  
(We will take more time later to say good-bye properly to these important losses.)

Adiós, hospital.  We will be back to visit the Drs. and nurses but probably will not 
spend the night again, so:  Adiós!  Au revoir!  Bislamah! 

 Hello, new room!

Hello, new life post-surgery!  I´m coming back at ya!!

THANK YOU for walking this journey with us; your support has been so life-giving!

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Alfredo went by the hospital today.  They told him there were no Jennas there.  This is true.  It is also my fault since yesterday I was so happy to have Jenna come home and so busy cooking stuff that she could eat that I forgot to do an update!  (I did, at least, put it on facebook.)

So, before this happens to anyone else, here´s the update:  She´s Home!

The Drs. say there will be pain for a while and she will need to work on progressively eating and adding things to her diet if they set well.  She can do this at the hospital or at home, so the choice was obvious.

She has approximately a month of convalescing to do.  She is sleeping and resting a lot, eating something small every couple of hours and back to her own environment and home-made food.  :)
(She decided hospital food is somewhere between airplane food and camp food.)

The only meds she needs is an analgesic and something for circulation which I have to give her as a shot. That is kind of cool since I´ve never done that before!  I told her as soon as she´s walking enough we don´t have to do that anymore.  That would motivate me!

We celebrate this moment and are thrilled to be together here at home again.  Thanks for praying with us!

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Today I didn´t see the glory.
Today was clouded with pain and tears.
It was overcast with a fog of doubt.
Today we lost our way and went backwards instead of forward.

They say there is a ¨fellowship in His sufferings.¨
But as I helplessly watched my daughter´s painful afternoon,
I watched her struggle to find that see His see the glory.

Drs. and nurses came & went all day.
Visitors came to try to cheer & encourage.
They all bring a certain balm.
We opened windows, played music, prayed silently & out loud.
The tears still trickled.

People keep saying there will be a ¨greater glory,¨
That God must having amazing purposes in all this,
To show Himself glorious to all around.

But I couldn´t see it today.

Just pain & tears, fatigue & discouragement.
And we have just begun this road...
that´s the hard part to me today.

Maybe tomorrow.

Open my eyes, Oh Lord.

Let me see Your glory...

         ...even in the unglorious days.

Photo by: Wendy Longo

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


We have been blown away by the number of people praying for Jenna and our family.  We have never seen anything like this.  Not only are people we know scattered across the world praying, but friends of theirs (whom we don't know), circles and groups and chains of others that they know as well...Wow.  You are all making our burden lighter and we want to say:  THANK YOU, GRACIAS, MERCI, SHUKRAN!!!

Every prayer is a gift to us.  Every prayer of faith is precious to God.  We are humbled by this act of love in our daughter's favor.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

So far we know of people praying in the following places.  If you are praying and your country of residence is not on there, please let us know! It blesses us - and God´s heart to see this.  :)

Costa Rica
El Salvador
Hong Kong
Saudi Arabia
South Africa

Photo by:  Sabreena

Sunday, February 9, 2014


¨Do not fear.¨
But there is some fear - life is scary right now.
¨Rejoice always.¨
But sometimes I can´t see past the colour grey.
¨Trust in the Lord.¨
But I don´t understand anything He´s doing right now!
¨Be strong.¨
But today I feel anything but strong.
¨Just believe.¨
But what if He can heal but chooses not to?
¨He loves you.¨
But I´ve never seen this kind of love before...

I am reminded of these things I know are true and I agree in my head that they are.  But in my soul there rage many ¨Buts¨.  They whisper and confuse and frighten me.  My soul turns them over, fights when able, cries when necessary, gets angry when I recognize lies and gives up when exhausted.

I need others to hold me.  To lift me on wings of prayer.  To gently remind me of the Shepherd´s true character.  To walk this road with me.

I need them to remind me of God´s ¨Buts¨...

¨But God called...¨                                                            Gen 3.9
¨But God remembered...¨                                                         20:3
¨But God has seen...¨                                                               31:42
¨But God will give...the answer...¨                                           41:16
¨But God will be with you...¨                                                   48:21
¨But God intended it for good...¨                                              50:20
¨But God lets it happen...¨                                                   Ex 21:13
¨But God did not answer him that day...¨                        1Sam 14:37
¨But God will never forget the needy...¨                               Ps 9:18
¨But God has surely listened & has heard my prayer...¨            66:19
¨But God is the strength of my heart...¨                                     73:26
¨But God is my King from long ago...¨                                     74:12
¨But God raised him from the dead...¨                               Acts 3:15
¨But God promised him...¨                                                         7:5
¨But God was with him...¨                                                         7:9
¨But God has shown me...¨                                                        10:28
¨But God has helped me...¨                                                        26:22
¨But God demonstrates His own love for us...¨                 Rom 5:8
¨But God in his grace gave...¨                                             Gal 3:18
¨But God had mercy on him...¨                                          Phil 2:27
¨But God´s word is not chained...¨                                  2 Tim 2:9
¨But God disciplines us for our good...¨                            Heb 12:10

My life is uncomfortably real and not very easy today.

¨But God...¨

That´s all I really need to know.

Photo by: La Wendeltreppe

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


No father has practice at walking into an ICU to see their own child.  We haven´t done it very many times yet this week but Dad has yet to do it without crying.  Poor guy.  I think men naturally want to fix things.  Dad has always been a rock for her, a tower of strength, the one who protects her.

He can´t protect her from this.

This sense of helplessness must feel disabling, sobering, completely disarming.  He doesn´t know what to do.  Here´s the hard truth:  there is nothing he can do.  He can only pray and kiss her and blink back salty-sweet tears.

They are sacred tears.

There will be a bottle in heaven where his tears are kept.  My bottles will be many more (!!), but I think a Dad´s bottle is especially cherished by The Good Shepherd.  They are tears of virility shaped by suffering, tears of strength melted by hardship, tears of softening through the years crafted by valleys & crags.  They are man-tears of tenderness. They are man-tears of a worshipper.  They are man-tears of love.

We have a friend who says all guys over fifty start crying more.  ¨It´s hormonal!¨ he says.  You know, a male version of men-opause.  There is something to that.  If you´re not fifty yet, just wait!

However, whatever the age-factor has to do with it, we know he certainly has good reason to cry right now.  And let me just say this:  his tears are precious to me.  They will be precious to her when she hears of it. They are precious to the Saviour who knows our path right now.

I am glad to have a man who loves me, his children and God with man-tears.

P.S.  He will probably cry when he reads this...all the more for his bottle!!

Photo by: LZdR

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


What parent can describe the emotions of seeing your child in a hospital bed with tubes everywhere?  There is a tenderness that wells up inside you, years of memories that rush in threatening to engulf you,  an utter sense of helplessness at not being able to ¨make it all better¨ like you used to.  In this scene there is at once both fragility and courage and you are filled with awe at the inner strength of your child, of their will to live, of their beauty and determination.

You would take their place in a heartbeat.  Love is like that.

You would do anything to relieve their pain and suffering.  Love is like that, too.

We have barely seen our daughter since she went into surgery yesterday and we can hardly wait for her to wake up from her second surgery today and look into her hazel eyes, to whisper ¨Im right here,¨ to just be near her.  The Dr said she´s very strong and we agree that yes, her strength is gentle but stubbornly ever-present.

She´s gonna kick this thing...and we´ll be watching and cheering.

UPDATE:  Yesterday´s surgery was very successful in the Dr´s eyes.  They took out her stomach and found 3 other small tumors while they were in there (previously unknown) which they removed.  They did the localized chemo wash in her abdomen for an hour or so and then closed her back up.

Today she started bleeding and they had to give her blood to try and stabilize her and then take her to emergency surgery to find where that was coming from.  There was an artery which was bleeding and they closed that up.  She is stable again and sleeping.  Can´t wait to see her tonight!

Recovery will take about 6 weeks.  She will be in Intensive Care for several days and then be transferred to a regular room.  She will probably be 2 weeks in the hospital before coming home.

Please check The Updates section for daily information and prayer requests.  Thanks for standing with us!

Photo by: prevocdoc

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Today I am in mourning.  For a stomach.  Maybe that sounds crazy to you, but if they were going to cut your daughter´s out, you´d cry about it, too!

Can you mourn an organ?  Because that´s what I´m doing today.

I can´t believe this is modern medicine!  I can´t believe this is necessary!  We have tried to avoid this road, but in the end, counsel led us to this place.

It is a hard place to me today.

My daughter will lose her stomach.  Not that it´s a pretty organ.  It´s just functional.  You don´t think about it much unless it hurts you.  But most of us like to eat and my daughter is no exception!

She is one of those people you hate who can eat all they want and never gain weight.  She got this from me and I got it from my Dad.  When my Dad was in the army, they said he had the highest metabolism they had ever seen.  I´m pretty sure she outdoes him!  Now she will struggle to keep weight on.

The Drs. say she will live ¨almost normally¨.  What does that mean?!?!  Will she be able to fulfill her dreams to travel to distant places and fight for justice?  Will she still be brave and eat snails in the streets of Istanbul or fiery Thai noodles in Chiang Mai or spicy pickled beets in Beirut?

Or will she have to say, ¨Sorry, I can´t eat your lovely food; I have no stomach.¨??

Will she not be able to make a gourmet meal with friends and joyfully say (as she is known to), 
¨There´s a party in my mouth!¨??

Will she feel hunger if there is no stomach to growl?  If something sets wrong, can she throw it up?  Will she ever have that ¨butterfly¨feeling again?

I´m the mother and I think I´m supposed to have some answers - but I don´t.  Only questions.  And mourning...for a stomach.