Archive for the ‘Leukemia’ Category

Marrow

…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life…,but with precious blood,as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  1 Peter 1:18-19

Ask any blood cancer or disorder survivor about the value of blood and you may get a more intense answer than you were expecting.  As a rule we don’t think about blood much unless it starts coming out (and then we are kind of disgusted) or when it fails us.  God established the value of blood from the beginning when he created the universe.  It has been interwoven into the fabric of his covenant with mankind over the millennia, taking shape in the Law and being fulfilled in the person of His son Jesus Christ.

God tells Cain that Abel’s blood is crying out from the ground. (Genesis 4:10).  Reuben sees the judgment for Joseph’s blood (he didn’t know what had happened to him in Egypt) when Joseph tests the brothers. (Genesis 42:22)  Blood on the door posts signaled the angel of death to pass by the homes of the Jews and. (Exodus 12)  Blood figures prominently in the sacrificial worship instituted by the Law of Moses, including being dabbed onto the ear lobes, thumbs and big toes of the priests.  The shedding of blood is God’s reason for not allowing David to build His temple. (1 Chronicles 19:10)  Solomon writes in Psalm 72:

He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save.  He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, And their blood will be precious in His sight;

The prophets decry the spilling of innocent blood over and over. Ezekiel describes its cleansing properties.  They set the stage for the compelling atonement to come in the person of the Messiah,

Jesus would proclaim “For My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” establishing a new standard of life for mankind, redeemed life, shortly before He is sacrificed on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  This fulfills the enormous body of blood theology that God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit inspired many different men to write, establishing the great value of the tainted blood of creation. They gave just a taste of the value of the blood of the perfect Lamb, without spot or blemish;  all God …all Man…all love…come to be the savior of humanity.  He provides us a pathway to renewed relationship with our creator.  It is the relationship that we were created for prompting the author of Hebrews to say:

“how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…” Hebrews 2:3

This is the value of blood, that God values the blood of every human being and desires that the atoning blood of his Son will restore the relationship so long broken.  This is so great a salvation and so great a power in the blood of the lamb how can we who know not proclaim it to a lost world.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…”

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June 18th

Another great piece by my wife and ministry partner Allana.

5 years. It’s a big deal. It’s a little surreal being here in this moment. Isn’t it funny how when you are walking through the thick mud of life that it can feel like it’s inching along, but then it seems as though you blink and you are standing on the mountain top and you just marvel at how far you’ve come.

I knew from the moment that I was diagnosed with leukemia that the road would be a difficult one to travel on. But I wasn’t the least bit ready for HOW difficult and to be very honest, how lonely this road would be.

FightThe fight inside yourself between who you used to be, who you want to be, and who you are is extremely tiring. This is real. I’m going to be totally transparent.

I’m thankful for every single person in my life who reached out to me during that time. The love and support, from so so so so many helped me through! I will be forever grateful. Even to those who never spoke to me and yet still prayed for me and my family. Each one of you made the way a little easier.

A few have continued to be an active part of my life through these years of cancer and transplant recovery. You know who you are. Thank you so much for supporting me, loving me, praying for me and endlessly cheering me on. Thank you for caring enough about the old me to press through to love the new me…. even when it took me SO long to accept and grow to love the new me too.

Thank you for seeing me as strong and courageous, even though those who are closest to me saw my very strong and very real battle against sever anxiety. You didn’t judge me. You just loved me where I was, yet continually giving me messages of God’s truth. For this I am grateful because it has helped me heal from my fear.

Thank you for understanding that it has been a very slow process for me to even want to leave my house. After being away from my home for 100 days while in Cleveland, and that doesn’t even count all the hospital visits before that and a couple afterward, as well as the monthly trips to Cleveland over the past 4 years…. when I was home, I just wanted to be home and not go anywhere. This is for sure a new me. I know for some, especially for Samantha, this was extremely difficult to get used to. We were always busy doing something and going somewhere and it was weird to have mom just want to sit on the couch and snuggle with her family.

Yes, some of these changes haven’t been awesome like I’ve been in an inward fight that has left me more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life. There has been more times than not that we get to church, I find my seat, I sit through greeting time, once service is over, I basically run to grab Nisa from the kids’ area and out to the car, barely looking anyone in the eye. I am sorry if you have been offended by this. It isn’t personal…. I’ve been tired, I’ve been dealing with things inside, I’ve just needed my space. Thank you for those who have loved me through this very strange time in my life.
I know it’s also been difficult to deal with my chemo brain – man, it is a real thing and something I’ve struggled with so much. Forgetting everything. Like really scary bad forgetting.

But, some of my changes haven’t been all bad. In fact some very good changes have come through my cancer fight and recovery.

I am more bold. I find I say what I think. Though this has been a learning curb to try to keep my sweetness while sharing something tough with someone. I’m less afraid to give my opinion. I have more confidence. I’m even more closer to God because HE has been the only ONE who has been able to walk with me through every single moment. Every single frustrated hissy fit while trying to desperately find the old me and hating the new me. He has stayed with me speaking truth to my heart when I was feeling unlovely. I’m so thankful for a personal God who loves me even when I’m being difficult and that He still finds me precious. There are no words to describe my gratitude of God’s love. He continues to rescue me and save me and this is why I cry so much through worship. He’s such a loving God.

For Sam and I this has been a very strange and difficult journey. Yet, one we both feel so blessed to have gone through it. It’s been… well… interesting…. trying to figure out our roles with each other – where does husband and wife fit in with caregiver and patient?! We both have had to go through some freak out moments and time to heal from the whole experience. Cancer changes people. Not just the patient but everyone in the family. It’s been frustrating and scary and yet exciting and wonderful to take our commitment to each other and fall in love with who we both are today. Our marriage is held together with so much Holy Ghost Duct Tape – there’s not much that could break us apart now 😍

Yep. This sure has been a journey. A painful yet joyous roller coaster journey. 5 years. There’s so much more to share…. I’ve been pretty quiet over the last couple years….. I have a feeling, that may change. 😉 I think I’m ready to start speaking again.

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BMT Departure

This is Allana’s Facebook post from five years ago on June 5th as we prepared to head out to Cleveland Clinic for her Bone Marrow Transplant.

Today is the day Samuel and I will pull away from the house, hand in hand, but with so many questions not answered. Our kids will wave to us goodbye, but with so many things unanswered. I will not go into this thing cocky and say it will go this way or that.
But this is what I am sure of –
God completely adores me.
God is walking with me.
God is my healer, my complete healing may be here or in heaven, but either way, He heals.
God will help me during the lonely times, the times I miss my kids.
God will give strength to my husband.
God will help my family here in Toledo.
God is going to be very God. I’m not sure what THAT will look like but I know He will show HIS glory in this.
This journey has taught me a lot and is teaching me still.
I will give God praise forever.

And now 5 years later…..

5 years ago today was THE very hardest day of my life.

Samuel’s brother, Paul, came all the way from Boston to drive Sam and I 112 miles away from home. I got in the car, smiled through the tears and waved goodbye to my 5 kids and my mom and we drove to Cleveland for my Bone Marrow Transplant.

I knew the risks. I knew there was a chance that this could be the last moment my kids saw me alive. Once we drove out of sight of the house, Paul put on some worship music and even though none of us said much, I know my mind was in a state of constant prayer. I hated leaving my children. Even baby Nisa had to stay at home this time. It would be too dangerous for us both for her to be there with us. I would be in Cleveland for 100 days.

After some time driving, Paul and Sam went to get coffee. This song came on and it touched my heart so much.

Are you standing in the midst of a crossroad? Do you know which way you are going but you have no idea what to expect there? Have you had to say goodbye to someone you love? Is your heart filled with deep pain you aren’t sure how you are ever going to get out? Are you in a fight for your life? For your heart? For your soul?

I want to encourage you to listen to this slow song that declares truth. It’s funny that the guys were gone through this entire song. I listened with tears streaming down as my heart once again stood back up and walked forward with courage to do what I needed to do.

5 years later, I can tell you… the battle was difficult. Being away from my kids for so long was torture. Living day by day not sure if my family would see me again was scary. BUT GOD. But God was there in every moment. God helped me and gave strength to walk to my 9 sessions of full body radiation. God gave me courage to go through the hardest chemo treatment yet. God helped me hold on to the hope in HIM while the docs destroyed my bone marrow to give room for my new marrow. God helped me when I ended up with an infection that circled quickly through my blood and they weren’t sure I was going to make it. God gave strength to my husband to endure watching his precious wife get a hair away from death.

But what if…. what if I had died? Would God be less faithful? No. God would still be faithful. I would be dancing on streets of gold while HE took care of my family. I’m glad our story is different. I’m thankful that my family didn’t need to endure THAT type of trust and faith in God….

I do want to take a moment and ask you to say a prayer for the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, who have had to say goodbye to someone, especially those who have died from cancer or from a complication from a cancer fight. Another cancer warrior, Amy Beth, that I met in Cleveland had a similar story to mine, only she was pregnant while diagnosed, passed on from this life to another leaving her husband and young son. She went through her transplant just fine but the complications afterward took her life. My thoughts are with Amy Beth’s family and so many of my friends on here have had to say goodbye to a family member or close friend to cancer.

I would love it, if you would place in the comments the name of someone you love who has won the battle of cancer in heaven so that today I can pray for their family and friends. Also put a name down of yourself or someone you love who is currently fighting against cancer or if you/they are in the midst of the 5 year recovery. I would like to pray for you/them also.

God does hold everything in His hand. It doesn’t always turn out the way we want, but HE is Always Faithful! HE is always there to help us. I believe it.

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I wrote most of this piece five years ago.  We had recently gotten back to Toledo after 4 months in Cleveland following Allana’s bone marrow transplant and after weathering what was easily the greatest test of our lives.  I can remember hearing this song that morning and feeling the impact of the words more than I had ever.

TisSoSweet

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,Just to take Him at His word, Just to rest upon His promise and to know ‘Thus saith the Lord’

Wonderful words penned by Louisa Stead over 200 years ago ring true today.  She lived in a world that served up tragedy on a regular basis just the same as we do today.  Even as we struggle with the trial of Leukemia the trials of this world impact so many others all around us.  A young bride is bereft of her husband on the way to her honeymoon.  A mother and grandmother passes away.  A child is desperately ill.  Families are losing their homes.  All these things rock the carefully manicured lives that we try to prepare for ourselves and those closest to us.  It is in the midst of grief and turmoil that the words of this great hymn begin to make sense Jesus, Jesus how I trust him.  How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er.  Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus oh for grace to trust him more.”    It really makes sense because it is grace that makes our trust possible.  I have in my life attempted to trust by study, by effort and by ostrich (sticking my head into the sand).  I can attest to the fact that these paths to trusting our Savior do not work.  In the end they magnify the turmoil and most often leave one sensing an ever increasing gap between God and oneself.  We end up feeling unloved and that God has somehow failed to keep up his end of the bargain.  Thoughts like, “But God I have done everything you asked…”; “Lord I don’t know what you want from me I can’t do anymore…” tear at our faith and bring in a spirit of defeat that can be more devastating than the tragic events themselves.

It is when by grace we detach our faith from circumstance and effort, relying on the Holy Spirit, simply fanning the flame of the gift that God has given each of us through whatever circumstances occur because we are convinced that He will guard us and the Gospel He has entrusted with us through the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 1:6-14).  Paul follows up this impassioned guidance to Timothy with the difficult circumstances that Paul found himself in and the sustenance that God provided to Paul.  I think that even in his chains Paul would have sung Louisa Stead’s lyrics with an honest heart.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

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Our Story

There are times

in the Christian walk when it is clear and obvious what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.  However those times, at least for me are few and far between.  When God asks us to walk a particular road there are times when we never (perhaps until we are in the glory of His presence) know the rest of the story.  There are other times when we are far past that path and have moved to other roads of His choosing that He honors us with a glimpse of the rest of the story.

Sometimes we are “the rest of the story” for someone else.  Early in Allana’s battle with Leukemia we were both in a dark place.  The realities of Chemotherapy had begun to set in. We were separated from our children because of the epidemic levels of illness in the Toledo area and Allana’s dropping immune levels.  The nature of the Leukemia and the length of the battle ahead was becoming apparent.  The response of our faith community, friends and family was amazing.  They were all definitely the boat that God provided to keep us afloat in the storm, but still the waves, the wind and the darkness were overwhelming.  Into this storm walked a young nurse.  She was not one of our regular nurses, in fact we never saw her again.  She came in to the room during her shift and told us that she had heard we were believers and asked if she could pray with us at the end of her shift.  The prayers of many, all kinds of prayers, have been a comfort and strength throughout many trials in our lives, so of course we said, “of course”.

When the end of her shift came, she arrived as she said.  She was so young and seemed so small in comparison to our plight.  Don’t get me wrong we appreciated her heart and the prayers of everyone who lifts us up to God’s throne, but our expectation was perhaps a little wind for our sails.  However God knew that at that moment we did not need a little wind in our sails.  We needed light to shred the darkness and we needed to FEEL the presence of God.  This little nurse began to pray and called down the fire of heaven into that hospital room (and yes I am crying as I type this).  The darkness and the storm shredded in the light of God’s presence.  I can certainly imagine the joy of a mariner caught in a seemingly endless storm when the sun breaks through to warm his face.  I honestly don’t remember what happened next, it is lost in the overwhelming presence of God. I am sure that we thanked her.  I doubt that she realized the importance of her obedience to God in our battle.  I have told this story a number of times, but I don’t know if she has ever heard the rest of the story.  I hope so but that decision rests in the hands of God.  We are so blessed when He imparts the rest of the story into our lives but as His children we can be assured that the rest of the story is amazing.

 

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Why

The question was actually posed to me some time ago by a young German woman. I had befriended her and her husband in an online game that I was playing. She quickly became aware of my faith and one day as we chatted about life she abruptly posed this question.

Why do you serve God? What does he do for you?

My mind quickly went to all the theologically correct answers that I had learned over the years but quickly discarded them. First of all I don’t think her English was up to taking in a bunch of “Christianese” (and my German was certainly not up to conveying anything other than hello and thank you). Secondly my guess is that perhaps somewhere she had already heard the platitudes. She was looking for something more intimate, more personal. She really wanted to know , why did Sam Guidry (or Flamefanner as my gaming friends know me) choose to serve this god. I gave her an answer. I do not even recall what it was, however it set me to thinking and so I give you:

Five Reasons that I serve God: Personal

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.       Hebrews 4:15

We have reached reason number four.  Reason number one is that God consistently amazes me.  Number two is that he is unconditional.  I can count on him regardless of my circumstances.  Number three is that he lets me see myself as he sees me, not as the world would paint me or as circumstances color who I am.  The fifth reason is wrapped up in all of these.  He is not some distant being who manipulates the world around us and requires things of us.  He engages us, amazes us, impacts us and shows us how he sees us through the lens of Jesus Christ and all His wonderful promises.

How amazing it is to be personally engaged by an omniscient God.  He always knows just what I need even when I don’t.  I was recently looking at the Caring Bridge journal that I kept as we walked the journey of Allana’s Leukemia.  It was toward the end of her first course of chemotherapy.  Allana was at her weakest (until the bone marrow transplant treatments).   We had been battered by the brutal side effects of the chemo.  Allana had just lost her hair.  It was at this dark hour that an omniscient God engaged us in a most personal way through a young nurse.  This is not to make light of the incredible support and care that he provided through His people and directly through the ministry of the Holy Spirit but at this time, at this moment we needed something special.  I am guessing that that something special came through a young lady who may never know the place she holds in our hearts. I will let the Caringbridge post speak for itself.

The other was through a nurse, a young lady in the healing profession who stood over and for Allana tonight and prayed her heart out. The presence of God filled the room as she proclaimed healing and peace and blessing over Allana and myself. The uncontrollable tears that are for me a sign of a special stirring of the Holy Spirit (Lord anytime you can come up with a different sign for me I will really be ok with that!) came and I think all three of us just bathed in that presence. God truly directs the steps of His People and he directed her to be at the right place, at the right time and then used her to bless our socks off.

Today was a day of weariness, loss and some pain but more importantly today was a day that God reminded us….again…. that Leukemia has won nothing. The Victory is won and Jesus is His name.  Caringbridge, Allana Guidry January 25, 2013.

And yes, my eyes are full of tears again.  How can they not be when I have such a great God and Father who loves and cares for me in such a personal way?  While the circumstances may enhance the intensity of God’s personal intervention here, it is only one among a multitude of instances.  As Allana and I have moved along in our faith walk He has repeatedly engaged us in a deeply personal way that helped us to grow and mature in our faith (the great unconditional impacting the conditional).  Whether it was speaking the phrase “fan into flame” so deeply into our hearts or inspiring Allana to proclaim the “True Beauty in Christ” that is our true identity.  He has moved us to be in just the right places for the growth that we needed throughout our time together.  Separately he turned our hearts to Him at a time when we were both dealing with the repercussions of our own poor decisions before bringing us together, companions on the walk of faith.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39

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As I sit here waiting for Allana’s last appointment here at The Clinic for some time, I am reflecting on God’s intervention in those early days of treatment. After a tumultuous first round of treatment at Flower Hospital where God intervened in a miraculous way, we were referred to the Cleveland Clinic.

Caring bridge Post 02/08/2013:

…This is not to say that Thursday morning went super smoothly, the keys to the rental car that my parents were driving ended up locked in the trunk right at the time that we were supposed to leave. But God had it under control, AAA arrived in record time and the hospital said they were able to shuffle things for us. He brought Jeff T and Larry B to our door on a prayer walk and they prayed for both Allana and I this brought us peace in this moment of turmoil. However neither of us had peace as to which way to go. I wanted
her admitted and the treatment started right away, but I knew it was out of fear NOT out of an understanding of God’s will.

Allana seemed to be strongly leaning towards delaying or even discontinuing treatment, especially if all the tests were clear. She so desperately wanted to stand on complete healing.

After the bone marrow test and the discussion with the doctor it was time for the rubber to hit the road.The doctor started to move on the assumption of admission and I stopped that and said we had a few questions.We asked our questions but they were really immaterial to the prayers of our spirits with the Holy Spirit for clarity and peace.

I waited for Allana to make her objection and prepared to engage the doctor for her, but she looked up and quietly said, “let’s do it”. I turned her head towards me and looked her in the eye, ” You don’t have to.It is YOUR decision.Are you sure?””I am sure.” she replied. Instantly the peace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit rolled over us. The outcome was what I had wanted all along but the path I had been headed on to get their was not going to bring the peace that I was desperate for, even though the end would have been the same; the road would have brought more fear and lessened my clarity with the Holy Spirit.

We do not serve a God who holds or a faith that promotes that the end justifies the means.  In fact I would suggest exactly the opposite is true.  Our faith in Jesus Christ is one where the means justifies the end. Paul tell’s the Philippians:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; Philippians 1:27

The verse starts with Monon, only, alone.  This one thing do, Paul says.  It is not about the result.  That is in the hands of God.  It is about the means.  We can arrive at God’s intended result and be so far outside of His peace because we did not conduct ourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ, we did not walk according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4).

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