New Site Info

facingcancerwithgrace.comYou can find Facing Cancer with Grace at its new site facingcancerwithgrace.com. There you can find more about our journey as well as information and resources for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer.

 

You can also find information for writers and anyone into creativity at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

I hope to see you at both of my sites!

heatherericksonauthor.com

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Facing Cancer With Grace Has Moved

Thank you so much for your interest in Facing Cancer With Grace. To better serve the needs of my readers, I have moved the blog to my website, Heather Erickson Author/Writer. Please check it out and sign up for my free newsletter while you are at it. I look forward to giving you great content at the new site.

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The Worst News-Part 2 Dan’s Perspective

This blog post is part of the continuing story of our family’s journey facing my husband’s cancer with the grace that only the Lord Jesus can give. If you would like to read the story from the beginning, go here.

My mom and dad usually leave just after Christmas to spend the winter months in Texas. It had become clear that things were looking bleak in my cancer battle, so they decided to stay in Minnesota and help in any way that they could. I argued a little, feeling guilty that they were forgoing their usual plans because of me. I soon realized that I would do the same thing if my one of my children was battling for his or her life. It would be a great blessing to have them with us as we went through this part of our journey. II am very thankful for their unselfish decision.

When someone is diagnosed terminally ill and believes in both divine healing and in the benefits of modern medicine, it is a constant, sometimes frustrating balancing act. As time went on and it appeared various drugs were taking effect and helping, it became a challenge to not have faith in the drugs instead of the Lord. My prayers went from, “Lord, heal me,” to “Lord, let the drugs would work.” Let’s face it, when one is terminally ill with little chance of survival, any time that we are granted, any healing, and whether or not the drugs work is up to our God. Our hope is in Him. Even though the Lord has blessed us with lifesaving medication, our faith is not in the drugs but in God, himself. I have found myself wrestling with the guilt that I am taking chemotherapy rather than handing my life over to God, and at times I still struggle with it. Ultimately, my daily prayer is with the psalmist, “Lord, I pray that I will live and not die and declare the works of the Lord.

Many in the faith believe we have a right as sons of God to live 70-80 years without health problems and then just die of natural causes. That sounds good and I’m all for it, but I’m not sure I see it happen to believers any more than unbelievers.

Many believe healing is part of salvation and is in the atonement. There certainly are scriptures that appear to suggest that. Often those who believe this will say that by His stripes we already have been healed. Again, I get the reasons for this interpretation, but if I am already healed, why do the scans show cancer? The response from those with this belief is that the provision for healing is already there and one can freely tap into it, yet we don’t.

Whatever the truth on healing in the atonement is, there are comparatively few believers having much success with our “right to divine healing. While miraculous healings do happen, if our healing is in the atonement, there should be more. Perhaps as some suggest, we just haven’t learned how to access that healing through the same simple, childlike faith that saves us.

One thing for sure, it isn’t as simple and automatic as some seem to suggest. I’ve become a little weary of well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters endlessly quoting to me the magic formulas to healing that seem to seldom work. Either we understand them [the verses] wrong, or we have a long way to go in learning how to implement the promised healing.

I would have a couple of weeks off from all treatment and I expected to feel great and get some things done. Instead, I seemed to have some kind of chemo hangover that kept me dragging for nearly the entire treatment break. Soon enough, the time arrived for what would be my third course of treatment in a little over two years’ time. The first two were oral and while they had their own sets of side effects, they were tolerable. This treatment his would be given via infusion and promised to be the greatest challenge yet.

You can learn more about Dan Erickson, his family, and his ministry at his blog,”Dan’s Pulpit.” Follow “Facing Cancer With Grace,” to read our continuing story.

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The Worst News- Part 1 Dan’s Perspective

This blog post is part of the continuing story of our family’s journey facing my husband’s cancer with the grace that only the Lord Jesus can give. If you would like to read the story from the beginning, go here.

I had been on Afatinib for six months. It was the second type of treatment I would try, and it was again time for another CT scan time. The scan would take place on a Monday. We were uneasy because the results of the last scan were less than encouraging, so were hoping to see the results as soon as possible.

On Wednesday, it was Heather’s birthday and we went out to celebrate at a local restaurant. We had been seated and just before we ordered, I saw on my phone that the results had just come in. Should I open it up and read it while we were on our special date? We would never be able to relax and enjoy our night with those tests sitting, unread, in the inbox. We decided to open them once we had ordered our meal.

As the waiter left the table, order pad in hand, I opened up the email and read the opening comments from my oncologist, “Daniel, unfortunately, lymph nodes are growing and we’ll need to discuss IV chemotherapy at our visit on Friday.” We were instantly devastated. We read on to see what the radiologist had to say. He enumerated location after cancerous location that had grown significantly in only three months. He then he proceeded to list several new areas where cancer had spread.

Wow… So much for the dinner. The waiter showed up with our meal and could see that the happy occasion had become very somber. We had lost our appetites. We picked at our food while trying to find something positive in the email which we were now reading over again. Nothing at all could be found to lift our deflated spirits. All of it was bad news. We boxed up the food and went home to spend the night on the internet, trying to figure what how life was about to change, yet again for the worse.

As one might expect, at the beginning of their battle, a cancer patient is first given the drugs that have the best chance of success. After that, the second best, and so on. We knew that IV chemo wasn’t as effective as the newer pill forms of chemo, so there wasn’t a huge amount of comfort in the fact that the older, traditional chemo was next. The side effects would be even worse than those of the last two medications.

As we did our research that night, we came across two drugs that were in trials, drugs which were both created for patients who had grown resistant to Tarceva and Afatinib. The results so far in the trials had been quite encouraging for the lung cancer world. In the back of our minds was the fact that few with stage IV lung cancer survive beyond 5 years, so a 50% chance of a drug working to extend life is quite a big deal. We gathered information on the trials and we would go to my appointment with Dr. E, armed with hope. The next morning I quit taking the pills which had let me down.

Dr. E also came up skunked in the good news category. The cancer was growing aggressively, in more places than ever. Something had to be done soon. Starting IV chemo would be the next step. We discussed the trials I had found online. Dr. E did some further research and thought they did show some promise for me. Unfortunately, the trials were not being done in Minnesota, so for the time being, the IV chemotherapy still seemed like the best option. The trials were on the fast track for approval, which sometimes happens when the first two phases of trials show good results. Hopefully, the new drugs would be available more conveniently and covered by insurance in the near future.

You can learn more about Dan Erickson, his family, and his ministry at his blog,”Dan’s Pulpit.” Follow “Facing Cancer With Grace,” to read our continuing story.

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The Holy Spirit-Lord And Giver Of Life- By Dr. Gordon Anderson- Heather’s Perspective

This blog post is part of the continuing story of our family’s journey facing my husband’s cancer with the grace that only the Lord Jesus can give. If you would like to read the story from the beginning, go here.

During the first two years of Dan’s cancer journey, I had become quite discouraged by the “Christian response,” to what we were going through, both at the small church that Dan was pastor of, and at the mega-church our family returned to when he no longer had the ability to pastor. In fact, I had completely withdrawn from being active in our family’s church, partly due to lack of energy, and partly because I had become gun-shy, so to speak, because of the unintentionally hurtful things that so many people said. I would attend worship services each Sunday but always hurry to my seat in the balcony, hoping to avoid conversation with anyone. I had also been attending the local Catholic parish, by myself, where I feel far more supported on a personal level. More importantly, in the prayerful quiet of kneeling and liturgy, I feel incredibly close to God Himself. We have all had to rely on our faith to cope with the things this world can’t make sense of.

On November 23, 2014, we had a guest speaker at our family’s church, Dr. Gordon Anderson, President of North Central University in the Twin Cities. That morning he gave the most incredible message called, “The Holy Spirit—Lord and Giver of Life.” I wanted to buy a thousand CDs of his message and hand them out to everyone I met, because his message of love and compassion toward those in the midst of difficult times, isn’t preached nearly enough.

Dr. Anderson spent a good portion of his sermon, speaking from the passage of Genesis 1:1-3.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis1:1-2).”

Dr. Anderson pointed out, “The Holy Spirit was there. God created a dark, mess, and He was there. God was there, hovering over the mess. We tend to think when it’s dark that God’s not there. That’s not true. It was dark here [in Genesis1:2] and God was there.

“When it’s dark and cold and empty and meaningless and makes no sense, the Holy Spirit is there. In your life, there will be times when it will be dark and cold and empty and meaningless, and no rhyme or reason or shape or life to it, and God is hovering over that mess!”

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light Genesis1:3)”

Dr. Anderson reassured us, “God can turn the lights on. God is big and powerful. [Although] He does seem to take time and have a process.”

Even though we believe this, we don’t always feel it, and we just want God to hurry up and turn the lights on.

Dr. Anderson continued, “So what should we say when it’s dark, messy, meaningless, and we can’t see, feel or hear God, and we feel life is unfair? Here’s what you should say:  You should say, ‘it is dark, messy, meaningless, and I can’t see, feel or hear God, and I feel like life is unfair.’  That’s what you should say! You say, ‘Well, that doesn’t sound like faith.’ Denying reality is not faith. Trivializing pain is not faith. Discounting the reality of this dimension of human existence is not faith at all because those things are very, very real.  …This being Christian business is not about discounting suffering with some throwaway line like, ‘God is on the throne.’ This doesn’t always match up with the reality of our existence.:

To hear someone echo my feelings publicly in the church was so wonderful. It meant that despite what so many had insinuated, I was not without faith when I grieved the fact that my husband had cancer. We were not without faith because Dan chose to continue to take chemotherapy, rather than to test God to give him a miraculous healing.

None of this changed my situation, but it did take away much of the guilt that had lingered in me over the things people had said in the past years, trying to be helpful, but instead being hurtful.  I had been affirmed.

Since I don’t have thousands of CDs of Dr. Anderson’s message, I thought I would include it here so that if you are facing a trial, perhaps something in his message will speak to you, or affirm your feelings. If you are watching a loved one, or even someone you barely know, going through an ordeal, I hope that this can give you another perspective of how to respond. I wrote to Dr. Anderson, asking permission to include this in my book, and he responded so graciously, saying that it would be fine, that he was glad that what he had to say was helpful, and that he would be praying for our family. What a wonderful servant of the Lord, he is!

You can learn more about Dan Erickson, his family, and his ministry at his blog,”Dan’s Pulpit.” Follow “Facing Cancer With Grace,” to read our continuing story.

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More Than A Hiccough- Part 2 Heather’s Perspective

This blog post is part of the continuing story of our family’s journey facing my husband’s cancer with the grace that only the Lord Jesus can give. If you would like to read the story from the beginning, go here.

Normally when we get scan results, they are sent right to Dan’s, “Mychart” account. This time, they never came. We waited over the Fourth of July weekend and told ourselves that the lab, or Dr. E, may have fallen behind in their work because of the holiday.

Finally, after the long weekend, Dan had his monthly oncology appointment. The cancer was back. We weren’t prepared for those results, so it really hit us hard, almost like hearing for the first time that Dan had cancer. The best method of battling his kind of aggressive cancer wasn’t working anymore.

This news brought a whole new set of emotions, but Dr. E quickly recommended another medication from the same family as Tarceva, the medication that Dan had had a love-hate relationship with for the previous 18 months. We researched Afatinib, the new medication, and were encouraged. The side effects and the chance of response sounded similar to Tarceva. It sounded like he would just change pills and hopefully the cancer would obey and flee.

Taking the new medication was uneventful. In fact, it seemed that the new medication would be easier to tolerate than the old one. Throughout July, Dan had far more energy than he had when he was on the old treatment. As August came he continued to dutifully take the Afatinib tablet at 6:30 every morning. He began to feel less energetic and achy, almost as if he has the flu. And then diarrhea hit…and never stopped, in spite of taking two daily medications to prevent it. Also, his fingernails and toenails became infected. We thought the new medication would be easier on Dan, but soon it was tougher for him to tolerate than the old one. I always pray that he doesn’t get discouraged by the limitations that cancer and the treatment have placed on him.

In the fall of 2014, Dan returned to Pacem in Terris, a hermitage retreat in St. Francis, Minnesota for another couple of days in the woods alone with the Lord. The following week, I planned to go for four days and three nights. This was something of a tradition for Dan and me. Each visit to Pacem in Terris is a wonderful, unique experience; a chance to spend time with the Lord in silence.

During Dan’s retreat, three of his friends went as well, so they could meet together to pray after dinner each night in the main house. It was a spiritually invigorating time. I couldn’t wait to go, myself, but when I finally was able to, I struggled more than I ever could have imagined I would. As night approached, it became unbearable. It seemed I was plagued by the feeling that I was should be spending the finite time we had with Dan. I felt selfish. It wasn’t true, but I couldn’t shake it. Then I felt guilty for not putting God above my husband. It was too late to leave, but I knew that as soon as day broke, I would be heading home. As much as I wanted to be alone with God, I couldn’t bear being away from my family. It became very clear to me that it would be a long time before I could go to Pacem again.

Dan’s birthday would soon be upon us. Ever since Dan was diagnosed, our family has observed his birthday with a celebration of life. November of 2014 was no different. Nearly all of the Ericksons gathered at Pizza Flame, a local pizzeria, in honor of the wonderful gift of Dan’s life. Several people shared their thoughts with touching sentiments that spoke of how much they loved Dan and were grateful for God sustaining him. We had pizza, a cake, and a wonderful time being together with thankful hearts. What a wonderful thing it is to have such a supportive family. We are so thankful for the Lord giving us the gift of time.  We have been blessed beyond measure!  We continually ask the Lord for many more years together, for Dan’s life, and for his well-being.

You can learn more about Dan Erickson, his family, and his ministry at his blog,”Dan’s Pulpit.” Follow “Facing Cancer With Grace,” to read our continuing story.

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More Than a Hiccough- Part 1 Heather’s Perspective

This blog post is part of the continuing story of our family’s journey facing my husband’s cancer with the grace that only the Lord Jesus can give. If you would like to read the story from the beginning, go here.

We had always been told by Dan’s oncologist that the Tarceva was not a cure. Its purpose was to extend his life while giving him a better quality of life than would other types of chemotherapy. Even though Dan would have monthly lab work and oncology visits, he didn’t have to be hooked up to an infusion which would make him feel ill for days after. We were able to find a rhythm in our lives and a manageability of something unmanageable.

We were told that the wonderful response that Dan had to the Tarceva, the shrinking of the tumors and lymph nodes, the easing of the pain in his back, the retreat of the cancer would all be temporary. It could last a few months or perhaps even a few years (though that wasn’t likely). The cancer would eventually become resistant to the Tarceva. We knew that at that point, Dan would have to change his treatment plan. Still, we prayed that the healing was permanent; that somehow Dan would be the exception.

Dan had CT scans every three months. He had MRI’s on his brain every six months. He had the occasional bone scan. Each time, they looked better than the last. Then, we felt like we could plan the next three months of our lives, and not think about the frightening alternative we had dodged yet again. I always dreaded these times. If the scan showed that the cancer was progressing, we would have to bid the Tarceva, “good-bye.” What would replace it? What would life look like with a new treatment, (and would it work)?

In April of 2013, we purchased a townhome. It was Dan’s desire that the girls and I have a place to live and to make memories there as a family in case he died. The townhome was perfect because we would no longer need to shovel snow or mow the lawn. We soon settled into our new home and began remodeling the lower level. We turned one large open space into 3 bedrooms for the girls, along with a bathroom and a laundry room.

While remodeling the basement, it was amazing what Dan was able to do each day.  Most days he didn’t even take his usual nap.  During that time, I also completed real estate school and became a licensed Realtor.  Often it felt like we barely had time to come up for air.  So many people helped with the work at the house. We were overwhelmed with gratitude.

Eventually, Dan began to feel very tired each day, and much more physically weak than normal.  It didn’t take a lot for him to “overdo it.”  It was a big adjustment for him since he has always been quite active, and the first to volunteer to help someone else.  Being on the receiving end of such kindness without being able to reciprocate was hard to get used to.

Learning limits isn’t an easy thing to do.  I reminded him of when Rheumatoid Arthritis first hit me with a vengeance four years earlier. He often had to tell me to rest and conserve energy so that I would be able to do things the next day as well.  Now, with the shoe on his foot I would say, “A wise man once told me…” with a smile.  Then we’d laugh, knowing how hard good advice can be to follow at times.

So, he began to do just one thing a day.  That enabled him to keep going. It may be going out for coffee with a friend, working on a small project at the house, or spending time in the garden with our 2 youngest daughters.   We had a community garden for the 2 years.  The second year, we wondered about whether or not we should sign up for a plot. Would it be too tiring? Would we end up with a weed patch due to neglect? Ultimately, we decided that it might be therapeutic, and it was. It was also a lot of work, though, and Dan began to feel breathless after just fifteen minutes of watering. It would be our last year with a garden.

Our 3 adult children live on their own, and we regularly keep in touch with them. It was difficult, especially for Josiah and Emily who lived in California. When someone you love is ill, it is hard to be so far away. They continued to pray for their Dad to experience a miracle.

Our younger three, still at home, were seeing their Dad with all his challenges first hand every day. They are very loving and were soon his biggest cheerleaders. They would have emotional setbacks when it came to dealing with the reality of having a parent with cancer, but remained strong in their faith and optimistic that they would have many more years of great life as a family.

April of 2014 was also time for Dan’s quarterly CT scan. The report wasn’t as glowing as in the past. “Something,” showed up in the area where the original lung tumor which started all of this, had been.  At that time, I was very nervous about waiting the full three months for the next scan. Because of how aggressive the cancer had been in the beginning, I didn’t like the idea of allowing anything, no matter how “small,” to continue to grow in Dan’s body.

I asked Dr. E if she was confident that we could safely wait another three months for the next scan. She looked me right in the eyes with a sense of assurance and said that we definitely could. Because of what a wonderful oncologist she is, I felt that pushing for an earlier scan wouldn’t be beneficial. I did, however, dread the CT scan Dan would have in July of 2014. Dr. E was right about waiting, and I was right to be concerned.

You can learn more about Dan Erickson, his family, and his ministry at his blog,”Dan’s Pulpit.” Follow “Facing Cancer With Grace,” to read our continuing story.

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