Monthly Archives: June 2005


A good weekend with family, we had. Saw Star Wars last weekend, I finally did. Write like Yoda, sometimes, I do (just for fun – it’s got nothing to do with the chemo, I promise, though I’ve often wondered how he got those ears…).

I apologize for not posting updates more regularly. I do feel indebted to all of you who take time to check the website for recent news, and I enjoy telling my story. It’s just that there’s so much life to live, and so little time to live it. While in the hospital, not only was there a greater desire to post changes in my health and in my heart, there were more changes to post, and more time to post them. Now that I’m home, there’s so much more life to live! Nevertheless, I desire to share my story and my heart, and I will continue to do so at least weekly. So continue to check in when you can, and know that your eyes and ears are much appreciated! The awareness that my condition and my words may spur someone on to seek God in prayer lends strength to our ability to press on and in through difficult times.

It’s interesting to me, too, that we as ordinary people are so willing to suffer (sometimes extraordinarily) so long as whatever benefits there might be as a result of that suffering are shared by many – or at least by more than ourselves. The apostle Paul writes about his and his companion’s suffering in the first several chapters of his second letter to the believers in Corinth. In chapter four, he writes, “We who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you… All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”

Contrary to the assumptions of most eastern religions, suffering in and of itself carries no power to change a man for the better. Suffering is a bad deal. It’s ultimately a consequence of sin and evil in a fallen and broken world. It’s a weapon of the wicked. And while it may serve as the context in which many, even apart from God, “build character,” it always and ultimately succeeds to destroy something. But when we submit suffering to God as a sacrificial burnt offering – ourselves and our comforts being the sacrifices smoking on the altar – He is able to make that particular chapter of our story the basis for so many beautiful chapters to come, in our story and others.

We do pray for the suffering to pass – to be lifted or removed – but when it remains, this is how we pray: that He would make the suffering (a weapon of the wicked, intended for our harm) into a tool of His own – a means to His ends – that His beauty, His goodness, and His glory would be known by many. And we continue to pray that the suffering would be lifted, knowing that He is able, in John Piper’s words, “to use Leviathan as His brush.” And because we’ve seen such strength demonstrated so clearly in the Cross of Christ, this knowledge gives us the strength to persevere and press into our Maker, in the midst of circumstances that would otherwise destroy our faith in the goodness and nearness of the One From Whom All Goodness Comes.

We have seen our circumstances in this cancer serve as the grounds for many to seek and serve God. And because of that, we are daily grateful to God for letting us play such a role in what is ultimately His Story. Rich Mullins wrote it once in a prayer, and I’ll wrap up this portion of my “update” with his lyrics here:

Jesus, write me into your story
Whisper it to me
Let me know I’m yours

The day following the writing of my last update, I received a phone-call from the oncologist on call at Regions saying they had found an infection in my IV port, and that they needed to admit me to the hospital for a couple of days immediately. With nicer words, I said NO WAY. I had fought a fever most of the week, and had kicked it just the day before with an immune system that was on the rise. I was feeling the best I had felt in a week! Jen and I had made plans to do IKEA for breakfast (great potatoes, bacon, and Swedish pancakes!), I was lined up to go see Episode III with a bunch of friends, and I was intending to play guitar with our praise band Sunday morning (which also happened to be Father’s Day). So essentially, I asked if there was any other way.

The doctor said she’d check with the cancer ward and infectious disease center and call me back. Jen and I prayed immediately. Within ten minutes the phone rang, and we were told I must visit the cancer ward once a day for IV antibiotics over the weekend, and head to ER if I got so much as a cough or a fever – otherwise I could stay home. Later the nurses on 8 East (the cancer ward) told me that was really quite remarkable – apparently this particular doctor always goes by the books and never changes her mind.

We had a great weekend (I did see Star Wars). And I’ve been on daily IV antibiotics since then. Another great thing was that they’ve let me administer it myself since Wednesday (it’s the coolest thing – pressure loaded grenades of the stuff that I can wire up to my IV and walk around with in my pocket). So Jen, Aedan and I drove north to Fargo and Grafton, and spent a good deal of time with my family. I love my family, and miss them already. It was Summerfest in Grafton, so Aedan saw his first parade. He loved it. And I had my Oof-da Taco and mini-donuts. So we both made out pretty good. (Not to mention the stiff North Dakota wind allowed us both to fly a kite for a few minutes!)

On the downside, there’ve been some pretty miserable mornings. I wake up some days in a lot of pain. But it all goes away in an hour or less. My back pain is gone all but evenings. And the antibiotics loosen up my GI a bit so I’ve been eating like crazy (gaining weight, too!). And the ladies at Emmaus have made downright sure we haven’t gone hungry (boy, can those Lutheran ladies cook!).

It’s very likely that my Round 2 of chemotherapy be postponed a week because of this infection. I wrap up my antibiotics tonight, then we wait three days before the next blood culture, and the results determine whether or not I’ll need a new IV port. Of course we’re praying that it’ll be all clear, but a preliminary blood test earlier last week suggested there hadn’t been enough of the antibiotic in my blood on a regular basis to clear the infection. So once again, we’re praying for a miracle.

If the chemo is delayed, my first day will be Tuesday, July 5th. If all goes good that first day, we may be able to turn in our plane tickets Wednesday for a pair of seats on a flight to Colorado – IF all goes good. It’s going to be cutting it close. We’ll be talking with my primary oncologist tomorrow to clear the way. I guess we’ll know more in a couple of days.

Again, thank you for taking the time to read this. If from time to time you check in, and I haven’t posted a new update for days, and you have the time, go on to read some of the rest of the site. I’ve been writing for years. Some of it’s dated – four or five years back – but it was genuine at the time. So treat it like you would an old snapshot. Many things have changed since then, but that was me once upon a time.

Please be praying for Aedan. Jen took him to urgent care tonight, and we were told he has a small case of pneumonia. He’s sick. Just got sick this afternoon. And man, is he sad. Pray he’d heal up quickly, and of course, that I wouldn’t get whatever it is that he’s got.

That’s it. Until next time…

Still His,

Categories: Cancer | Leave a comment


Well, it’s been a hard week. My Monday blood count gave some pretty low numbers. Apparently my immune system was crash-landing: another pit stop along the road to recovery. I did catch a bug of some sort, and fought a mild fever for two days. This morning I was rather miserable, actually, and kind of sad. Body aches, headache, and this persistent pressure in my gut. Not to mention the fatigue…

Funny how misery – however slight (when life was “normal,” a simple interruption to the comforts and conveniences of the day could qualify) – puts us at a crossroads: there’s always a decision to make. “Bitter or better.” Some people say it’s about attitude. I disagree. If God isn’t a realized Mover in your reality, then I suppose it is about attitude. But I know my attitude: it’s generally pretty bad. I’d rather be comfortable. I’d rather be naturally happy. I’d rather not have cancer (more specifically, I’d rather not have to do chemo).

This morning I brought my bad attitude to Jesus. Boy, does He dress things up. He put my body to rest along the way to boot. I prayed. I watched Jesus and listened to His words as I read a chapter from the gospel of Matthew. My heart changed. I was suddenly crying with gratitude for so much. When you watch God as a bone and flesh, bare feet and whiskers man in this broken world (where people get sick, have bad attitudes, do things they’re not supposed to) you see and know the heart of God. It’s pretty cool. He did some things pretty quick-like (calming the storm, healing some sick), but mostly He worked patiently, even slowly. He taught about His Kingdom, and began building it in the hearts of what would become His People, one person at a time.

That’s what He’s doing still. And Jen and I know beyond a doubt that what He’s doing in our lives is a good thing. He is changing my attitude, because He’s shaping me. He’s shaping us. He’s doing a marvelous work in our church. He’s alive in our family. I’m not sure I can put to words the comfort – even the joy – God has brought us these days. Much of it has come through the cards, gifts, emails, meals, and care that many of you have sent our way, but much of it seems to comes straight out of the blue – from a passage of scripture or a situation that just “clicks” (when things fall into place at just the right time, like they were scripted or directed) – God has affirmed again and again that He is in this. That this is His deal, and that He’s doing it for our good (that we’d be better made for His good…)

I did go see the doctor this afternoon. The folks in the Cancer Care Center at Regions really rock. We did a chest x-ray: the tumor is gone. Wiped clean (it’s nice to have my chest back). My white-blood count is on its way back up, and I’m still scheduled to start Round 2 in just over a week (the next 4 rounds of Chemo are primarily to skunk the cancer and keep it from growing elsewhere – or ever coming back). But I do have a bug of some sort, and it’s up to my body to fight it off.

I’ve also got this terrible mystery pain in my back. It’s what’s keeping me on pain medications. Crazy pain. My Oncologist said he’s really got no clue why I’ve got it. I’ve an assumption it’s got something to do with the fact that I was in bed for a month and lost over 20 pounds in the process – call me presumptuous – in any case, those of you who pray, please pray for my back. If this pain would go away I could ditch the pain meds, and that would help free up my digestive system to do what it’s supposed to so I could eat like crazy and get nice and plump for Round 2. I’ve got 10 days to fatten up like a Thanksgiving turkey. I haven’t gained much since the weekend, though I haven’t the pressure in my gut I had just days ago. I’m still enjoying food.

In fact, funny story: Jen and I split a Whopper Jr. at 10PM a few nights back. It was with a certain degree of trepidation that we unwrapped the burger and put it down (and abandon, mind you – it was so good!), but since then I’ve felt much better. Of course you all prayed and I ate apricots and drank hot prune juice for three days, but BK? God “moves” in mysterious ways, indeed…

It’s been a far more relaxing week than last (I’m still ditching prednisone) – which has been necessary, as I’ve been susceptible to bugs and all that – and I’ve many people to thank for the respite. Mostly though, Pastor Tom Gilman and the volunteer student ministries staff at Emmaus. This is seriously an exciting time to be youth director at Emmaus. There are great things happening, and we’ve got great people riding the wave. And I’ve a feeling, if youth ministry’s anything like surfing, we’re making beach bum lifers out of the whole bunch.

I intend to see Star Wars Episode III this weekend. I’ll probably spend a little time Saturday afternoon putting my last unopened Star Wars Lego toy together, watching Episode II to get up to speed. The hype, of course, has died down (and I’m ready to see Batman), so I’m feeling the need to manufacture a bit on my own. My main concern at this point is that my mouth and belly will be up for a bag of popcorn. I love movie theater popcorn.

Jenny and Aedan are awesome. It’s going to be sunny here in days to come, so we bought a pool for Aedan. He’s been so great! So happy and responsive to my being home… he dances, sings, tells stories, and laughs at every page when I read him Dr. Suess’ “Hop On Pop.” And he’s sleeping lots. Jen (if I may speak for her here) is rarely happier than she is when she’s home caring for her two boys. She just glows, and makes home such a fun and pleasant place to be.

So, know always that your prayers are more than appreciated – they’re vital. When they’re prayed to the Living God (the power has never been in the prayer, but to the One to Whom the prayer is prayed) He hears and responds, and moves in the hearts and lives of His People, and by His grace, we belong to Him.

That’s probably it for the weekend. I hope to write another more substantial “letter” in the week to come summing up this first month. Otherwise I intend to post another update early next week. Thanks again to all of you for your concern, and the time you’ve given to read all of this…

Peace to you.

Gratefully His,


Categories: Cancer | Leave a comment


Been home for one week now. In many ways, perhaps, the best week of my life. (This Update may have to count for three or four – so grab a cup of your favorite java and read on…)

This morning, I went to church with my family (first time in five weeks – it was glorious!). Yesterday, I took Jen to the Guthrie for a delayed Mother’s Day date. We walked through the Sculpture Gardens for a few minutes following the play. It had just rained. And cleared. I saw the spoon and cherry up against a postcard Minneapolis skyline for the first time… alive with my bride… alive outside… just really alive.

My apologies for going seven days without any word here on the website. It’s been a busy week.

God’s been so good to us.

My first round of chemotherapy passed without a hitch as Wednesday’s drugs (6/8) cleared my system this weekend. Or almost – I’m still having issues with my digestive machine. Not the issues you’d expect from a Crohn’s patient, perhaps. But discomforting moments, nonetheless – reminds me of harvesting on my dad’s farm when the swaths were still a bit damp (some of you may get that). This may be an issue off and on over the next six months. When you pray for us, you could keep this one near the top. I’d appreciate it. I love eating. And I’ve got roughly tons of weight to regain (I’ve held a steady average of 116 this week in spite of GREAT FOOD, HUGE MEALS, and a stubborn GI).

The other annoying sign that the chemo’s still floating around are my tingling fingertips. Big deal. I’ve been told that will come and go, too.

I’ve decided I’m going to write up an update devoted specifically to explaining my chemotherapy – the extent to which I understand what to expect over the course of the next six months, at least. Some people are curious. And it’s sort of educational. I’m learning stuff, anyway. And much of it’s really fascinating.

Some of it’s fascinating like a backache. Which is what I’m pondering as I write this. This past week and next is a weaning period for me from a combination of steroids and pain medications. Both tend to have a direct effect on my digestion (and my mind), so I’m holding off a bit while I write and wait for dinner. Pardon me if I seem a bit distracted…

I spent much of the beginning of my first week home doing what I could to prep our youth ministry volunteers for summer programming. We’ve got a good crew. I was able to spend a few hours with Emmaus staff Tuesday morning – good friends, all of them – and sit in on several Bible study/prayer groups from the WWII generation that happened to be meeting at the building that day. Wednesday night I stopped in and saw the youth group. Three bald heads, I saw. Man, what a bunch!

Afternoons have been a collage of activity and fatigue. With high doses of prednisone early in the week I was a like a racehorse in need of frequent (and sometimes lengthy) naps. My mind, and sometimes my mouth were running nonstop. I’d dream without sleeping (a crazy effect of the chemo). I had things to do. People to write. Calls to make. And then I’d crash, and couldn’t do a thing.

Tuesday afternoon I was on an AM radio talk show here in the Twin Cities. KKMS 980. Pastor Tom Brock (I’m unsure of the correct spelling of his last name) was pinch-hitting for Todd Friole and graciously interviewed me on-air. A good man, that guy is. He sat in his office earlier in the day and patiently listened to my over-the-phone/prednisone-jacked/I-really-needed-a-nap-just-then version of my story, which I think went way back to when I used to help my mom peel potatoes on the farm up near Roseau…

Speaking of Roseau. My hometown. I’ve got to say it’s been fun reconnecting with you all. I realize I haven’t had much opportunity to “connect” back – just yet. Nevertheless, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the emails, cards, and occasional phone-calls from good folk like you. Aside from my family, church family, and closest friends, you’ve been the community nearest to me through this time. Many thanks to Bro Jeff Olsen for the article in the paper. I can’t wait to be well enough… we’re hoping right now for a few days (or an afternoon) at the county fair. I could use a good burger, and some mini-donuts, and an uf-da taco.

I start my second round of chemo (2 of 5) on Monday, June 27th. We aim to do everything as an outpatient – meaning I don’t plan on going back to the hospital, but will spend a few hours every other day in the Cancer Care Center at Regions in Saint Paul. Round 2 lasts roughly one month – same as Round 1 – some of the same medications plus a bunch of others. My immune system is expected again to take a hit. Whether it crashes hardcore or not, and how quickly it recovers, will be what determines if a hospital stay is necessary.

It’ll also be what determines whether or not we can fly out to the 2005 Free Lutheran Youth Convention in Colorado during the final days of the conference. I was slotted to speak there this year, and the FLY Committee has graciously offered to get us there yet for a few days if I can go, yet the medical odds at this time I’m told are 50/50.

So you could pray for that.

We trust God to arrange what’s right. He’s really done that so far. Good grief.

It has been so good to eat. It has been so good to sleep. It has been so good to have so many other things to do when I’m not sleeping and eating! I noticed my breathing this morning – I can breathe and it doesn’t hurt! I haven’t had a fever in two weeks! The tumor is shrinking, leaving my body, and I haven’t gotten sick! My 3-6 week hospital stay lasted just 14 days from the day I started my chemo! We have an incredible family taking care of so much… so much! All this we believe to be provision straight from the heart and hands of God.

The Almighty can be trusted. Watch Jesus in the Gospels. Read Job. Catch a glimpse of His peace at work in the hearts of his men as you read the Psalms. He is SO GOOD!

If my cancer has merely served as a backdrop for Jen & I to have discovered so intimately the Compassionate Heart of our Maker as we have this past month, even if the suffering is for seasons to come, it is SO INCREDIBLY WORTH IT!!! God in Christ Jesus is captivating. His love empowers and enlivens. His love dresses up the dull life with vision to see things that are invisible otherwise – stuff that makes the dullest life drip with purpose, meaning, adventure, and BEAUTY!

May He continue to form OUR hearts as you join me in this journey – thank you for joining me in this journey.

My apologies for not having new pictures up yet. My good friend and webmaster flew to India Wednesday. He was here for a day last week. Good guy, he is, that Kevin White. His wife, Robyn, is posting updates for me while he’s away (10 days – Go Robyn!), but the picture thing was one thing that took more explaining than he had time to tell. So, when we can, we will.

Until then, picture Jen and I standing in front of a huge spoon and cherry against a postcard Minneapolis skyline (I’m still very bald, very thin, and very white – but very happy!), or Jen, Aedan & I laughing on our couch at home (I discovered this past week that my boy loves watching baseball! So I’m back into baseball, I guess. Just like that.).

Couldn’t be doing this without your help. Your prayers, your words, your ears and eyes (knowing there’s someone to write for makes it so much easier to write). Thank you all near and far for your part in this.

We are being led and held by Good Hands.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” II Corinthians 4:17

His more and more,


Categories: Cancer | Leave a comment


Goodness. God bless Ambien.

I’m getting sleepy now. It’s ten to eleven Sunday night. My wife and boy are tucked in and sleeping, and I’m soon to join them. I’m home.

Came home Friday – all day Friday. Seems sometimes it’s a whole lot easier to get yourself into the hospital than it is to get out. But we made it. Jen & Aedan are my little troopers. They put in the longer day… trips to three different pharmacies with waits anywhere from 1-2 hours a piece. But we’re home now. And boy, is that a great thing!

My first round of chemo obviously went better than expected. I credit the strength of my God for such a turn around. The medicines are great and rightly applied also, but trace all that stuff back to its origins and it was still His idea in the first place. A very cool mind, He’s got. In any case, I get to finish Round 1 this week sleeping in my own bed. Waking up in our room is just heavenly.

My parents came down Saturday. We’ve relaxed and done what we can to make home a better place for me to BE ALOT in the months to come. Creating a friendly little hobbit-hole where I can easily work, rest, write, eat, be a dad, be a husband, heal, make music, and keep in touch with the rest of the world all at the same time (relatively speaking). It was a great weekend – the perfect combination of productivity and peace. Barbequed chicken and asparagus, hanging blinds and bathroom hooks, fixing an air-compressor and watching rain clouds roll through. The best was watching my boy, though. Should see him play… wish you could see him watch his daddy.

All day Friday, especially once we got home, he’d look at me as though he were expecting to blink and wake from a dream. We’d laugh, tickle, kick a soccer ball, bob our heads to some Jazz, then he’d just stare at me with these eyes that said something like, “you’re really here, aren’t you?”

Yes, I’m really here.

While I’m home, and feeling well often, these next few weeks are still chemo weeks. Though I take my last chemo drug at Regions this coming Wednesday, the therapy stays busy in my body for a full 5-10 days following the final treatment. Then they give me a few weeks to ramp up strength, weight, and immunity before we begin Round 2.

As Round 1 comes to a close, I’m at home with a countertop cluttered with medications that I’ll be weaning from over the course of the next two weeks. I explain this here not just because I think some of you are curious, but to paint a picture of our day to day reality here that’ll best equip the community of support and concern you’ve all been to us this far.

While the chemotherapy continues to break down the cancer, I’m on high doses of steroids (yes, prednisone again, my friends) to jack up my body enough to deal with the toxins. Super high doses for a little guy like me. Prednisone does many things. I don’t bulk up, but I puff up. I eat A BUNCH (as much as the sores in my mouth will allow). Most significantly, my mind moves faster and more randomly than ever before – this means I both have the capacity to get much done (which is good) and to get anxious and agitated (which is bad) all at the same time. It all depends on the time of the day, the situation, when I last ate, and how much pain medication I’m on that particular moment.

The important thing for us here these days is routine and predictability: rest that can be spontaneous when necessary; good visits (and we love good visits) that are planned ahead and cleared well before the doorbell rings. While I have the strength and capacity of mind on my side, I hope to spend what time I can in preparing the ministries I’m involved in for the days to come when I may not be as available.

All of this to say, if you have my cell-phone number, please continue to use that for updates or to announce a potential swing-thru. Leave a message, and let us call you back. If we haven’t returned the call in a few days, assume that the time wasn’t good, and leave another message when you might again be available. We seek to see as many of you as we can (and be encouraged by your presence – and I don’t mind showing off my little boy) we’re just trying to be as cautious as necessary so as to space out what good there is and not burn out in these first few (and perhaps more fragile) weeks back home. Thank you for your understanding in this.

There will be more to tell in days to come. As the 2-year chemotherapy plan begins to make more sense to me, I will pass it on in this same way. These updates seem to be read. Be absolutely positive I read all your emails. There have been days your words have been manna to me.

As time and strength allows, I hope to write more about this. There are so many stories within the story – just another part of The Story that The Grand Author is composing with all of our lives. There is beauty and there is sorrow, and I anticipate sharing in whatever way the Master Pen allows. I can’t wait for that. For this, really.

Alright, the Ambien is working now.

I should go bed. My bed.

Life is good. (Apart from you, O Lord, I have no good thing.)

Still His,


Categories: Cancer | 1 Comment

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