Monthly Archives: January 2006


I’m home already. Home and not dead. Boy, do I have a story to tell.

The chemo went incredibly well. My friend Jessica began the same stuff (an IV drug called Cytoxin – emphasis on “toxin”) just a day before I did, and she was on her way home as I was checking in Tuesday afternoon. So we were hopeful. And for good reason. I took my bag without any nausea whatsoever. By midmorning Wednesday we were planning our escape, and the doctors were getting my discharge papers in order.

A fun part of this particular hospital stay was the fact that it was the last time I’d be needing my port (all blood tests from here on out will require I be poked for the draw). The tubes in my chest were scheduled to be pulled, and a nurse from radiology came up to my room at 11am for what was supposed to be a pretty painless and benign procedure.

The procedure itself wasn’t so bad. In fact, I videotaped it. Set up a camera at the foot of my bed and chatted with the nurse while she numbed up the site with local anesthetics (you should’ve seen the needle). Then she pulled out the tube – the one that goes directly into a main artery near my heart. All was fine – for about five seconds. Then I immediately got sweaty, nauseous, short of breath. I began coughing uncontrollably, and a horrible pain was growing in my chest.

As best as I could, I asked the nurse if this was normal. She calmly replied, “Honestly, I’ve never seen this before.” Then she ran out of the room. My nurse brought in cold, wet washcloths for my head and neck, and a vitals machine to monitor my blood pressure and pulse (my pulse went from 70ish to 120 in a split second). The radiology nurse was calling her superiors downstairs for counsel.

Dr. Siy was called out of a meeting and was in my room in minutes. Being the good friend he is, I asked him to be honest with me and knew I could expect a straight answer. “Could this be a blood clot?” I asked him between coughs. “We can’t know for sure, but it could be. Hang on. Let’s ride this out for awhile longer.”

Twenty minutes passed before the pain in my chest began to subside. It took another hour for my breathing to return to normal. My blood pressure and pulse stabilized, and Dr. Siy ordered for an echogram machine to my room to check my heart. All was good. By mid-afternoon, we were back on the homeward road.

Both my oncologist and Dr. Siy, as well as the radiology staff speculated – while we can’t know for certain – that I had the beginning stages of a heart attack. A piece of dried blood likely broke loose from the tubing as it was pulled from my chest. That blood clot likely took about five seconds to hit my heart, where my heart worked on it for about twenty minutes, and then it just dissolved. My body absorbed it, or it was simply zapped by God. I was praying, as you might imagine. And whatever the case might be, there’s no doubt that God delivered me through.

So I’m home now. Home and quite tired. Easily winded. We’ve heard from Jessica’s family that she, too, has been rather exhausted. But quite thankfully, we’ve both found the right combination of anti-nausea meds to hold the yucks at bay. We’ve still got chemo shots to take at home, both this week and next. Then we buckle down for the potential counts crash that’s expected to follow this course. February requires us to visit the clinic for blood counts twice a week for the whole month. So you could pray with us that the crash wouldn’t be nearly as extreme as it could be, that we’d succumb to no infections, and that the recovery would be quick.

But for the most part, we’re done. Done with the tough stuff, that is. No more Cytoxin. No more heavy duty, knock-you-on-your-butt kind of drugs. And I’m incredibly thankful God has brought us to this place. We taught Aedan today to say hallelujah. If you can say hallelujah, and even if you can’t really mean it – I’ll “mean it” for you – say one for me. Hallelujah!

Still His, and still Here,


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I’m scheduled to hit the hospital today. They’ve got a bed reserved for me and everything. This is my last run in Round IV. When I’m through with my stay they pull the tubes out of my chest, send me home for another week of chemo shots, then give me a month or more before we begin maintenance therapy – which will be a walk in the park compared with what they’ve done to me this past year.

The light at the end of this tunnel is so bright now I’m squinting.

It will be a nice reprieve. I came down with a fever Thursday night. Spent some time in the ER on Friday. Was sent home after three hours without having done the proper tests. I have things I could say about that, but this isn’t the forum for bad-mouthing the fine people our insurance companies pay so much money to take care of us. In any case, the fevers got worse into the weekend – at one point near 103 on Tylenol. Headaches, body aches, night sweats, loss of appetite, etc… but it seems to have passed.

I did go into see my doctor yesterday – on his orders – and we ran all the proper blood cultures and x-rays. He saw me and said if the cultures didn’t turn up with anything – and so long as my fevers stayed below 100F and I felt alright today – that we’d go ahead with things as planned. I asked him what “alright” was in this case. He said a headache, mild fatigue, and a little bit of nausea every now and then wouldn’t dissuade him.

So that’s where we are today. Jen will drop me off at Regions around 11 o’clock this morning, and if there’s not another update posted by 10 tonight, it means they’ve got me in a bed on 8East, pumped full of chemo and well on my way to being done with all this junk.

But praise God, in Christ, that they’ll be sending me home cancer-free and more ready and able to pursue health for the sake of His kingdom and His glory than ever before!

And in a poetic stroke of providence it just so happens that a Dr. Jerome Siy is the doc on duty at 8East this week – starting tomorrow. His was the first white coat Jen and I saw upon arriving at Regions eight months ago. And what a friend and brother he has become!

So pray with us that I could run this final lap well – head high and not limping. I’m going into this a bit sub par – the fevers took some meat off my bones, and wore me out – but we know it’s not my strength that matters as much anyhow. We have found (again) that it is the mighty hand of God that holds our hearts over the deep waters. And though dark and scary, cold and wet as it may sometimes be, it is as safe as the sunshine if we are His.

And His we are.

More to come on the other side…

Grateful still,

PS: Prior to the fevers, we had a GREAT week! And Saturday was Jen’s birthday. Mike and Lisa drove up from Zumbrota and helped make the day fun and special.

PPS: The chemo to come slows down the GI. Please pray for me accordingly. Gracias.

PPPS: My friend Jessica started her last pass (the same as mine) on 8East yesterday. It looks like we’ll get to finish this thing together! Pray for her, too. (Go to, link to the visit page, and type in Jessica Lutz to read her story.)

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What an incredible week! I haven’t slept much. For the last ten nights, with the exception of two, I’ve slept little more than 2 to 3 hours per bedtime. No naps during the day, just a jazzed-up version of me; like a 14 year-old boy on a one-week all-nighter sustained daily by gallons of Mountain Dew. Only the sustenance in my case came from a steroid I was taking with the chemo. But that was for my body – we know what hard-pressed fatigue can do to a mind – way down deep, the Spirit of God’s been uplifting my heart.

I began tapering off the steroid late last week, finishing my last dose Sunday. It’s a crazy experience, really. Like an emotional and mental mid-western prairie thunderboomer – fun to watch from a distance, but really crazy underneath. These next couple of days should see some return to normalcy, if not a brief afternoon nap or two. I’ve got this week off to recover my white blood counts, which have been battered quite a bunch by these latest treatments. But aside from mouth sores and things of that sort, we haven’t seen any infections.

There really have been rich moments amidst the frantic physical and mental activity spawned by the medications. My long nights awake in bed (or at the keyboard) have been sweet. Even during the day, in the midst of conversations I’ve had with friends (or in some cases, total strangers) I’ve found myself a bit wet around the eyes sharing or discovering how GOOD God has been to Jen & I this last year.

Good? Did I forget? A little sunshine in the head maybe? Delusional? Selective memory?

No, I remember. I remember well enough never to want to do it again, nor would I, in my most carnal state, wish the same experience on anyone in the world.

But I’ve been processing the bits and pieces of the whole lately. The experience itself is too much to package nicely, and I don’t intend to ever oversimplify the horrors of suffering or the work of God in the midst of it. But there’ve been moments, and conversations, that have helped make clearer to me what was going on in the long dark of Moriah.

Most specifically this last weekend, as I chatted with several close friends of mine out at the Association Retreat Center (WI), gathered there for a youth worker’s retreat. (I loved the drive between here and there so much I locked my keys in my car Saturday afternoon so I could drive back and forth from Bloomington again for a spare).

There was a day in the middle of October – I’ve written of it before – that I’ll remember as the darkest day of my soul. Two weeks of treatment – spinal taps, injections, pills, IVs – had left me for dead. I was so incredibly tired and sick that every day the darkness hung about me like a cloak of death, though the autumn weather beyond our walls was the finest we’d had in years. I would slowly step around the house like a zombie, lips and legs quivering, stomach reeling, with a backache and a heavy, heavy heart. Those two weeks were to be the first of five of the same. I couldn’t even console myself with the thought of being “halfway through.”

It was the long day and night before I was to go in for the top of week 3. My communion with God the previous week had included listening to a few messages on suffering and praying grateful prayers in response to the truths made plain. But mostly, what I had been saying to Him for days on end was just “Would you quit this, God? I can’t take it anymore!” Clenched fists and jaw and all.

To contrast that attitude with the one in which I welcomed the diagnosis in May is to start seeing why my heart had become so heavy. I had thought myself willing to go through whatever pains God would see fit to lead me through, knowing He intended good to come of it, and that His ways of doing things really were the best, especially for those who believe. (Ever notice psalm 23’s “paths of righteousness” lead INTO and “through the valley of the shadow of death?”)

Now here I was in October telling God that if He wanted me to go further, if He wanted me to go deeper in – to take another week of chemo and submit my body to the smashing once again – that I wasn’t going to do it. (I’ve told the details of this story elsewhere. Here I only wish to lift the curtain on what was going on in my heart.)

In those moments, I began to wonder what that meant for my God and me. Was my devotion so fickle? Was my faith so weak? Was my love so fair-weathered? If the Shepherd leads on, and the sheep refuses to follow, does that sheep still belong to its Shepherd?

I discovered in those moments that I didn’t love God as deeply as I thought I did. I saw my devotion to Yahweh for the shriveled, leprous hands they were, and my heart for Him as the pitiful mess it was. And with clenched fists and jaw and all, I asked the question, now what?

“Am I still yours, Abba?”

The answer I got I’ll give with an image, rather than a word. But being that image exists only in my imagination I must first give you words:

Our son Eli is a month old now. He sleeps well most of the time – often on top of the covers between Jen and I in our bed. One night recently he woke startled and upset. He was screaming scared, eyes closed tight so as not to see the darkness that really was around him, clumsy little arms flailing about in front his face. I leaned into him, put my face next to his, where my breath could mingle with his own. His flailing hands caught my cheek, and he calmed instantly.

In my darkest moments, I too closed my eyes tight. I too flailed the arms of my heart about in front of my screaming soul, grasping in the spiritual for something solid to hold on to. Something steady like an anchor, or a hand…

But what I found was a face. A face I could feel in the darkness. A face right next to mine. And not a fair face, either. But a whiskery face. A face that knew suffering, that knew the darkness, that knew the pain. And on those whiskery cheeks, as He pressed them to mine, I felt the warm, salty tears of One who could care for me like no other.

Abba loves His own not because we’re lovable, and not because we love Him, but because we are His. And we are His only because of Christ.

And we do Him a dishonor if we are not as honest with Him in and about our pain as we are with each other. Acknowledging the realness of our hurts in real words to God affirms how real we know Him to be. And this, I believe, really does bring Him glory.

I hope to unpack more in the days to come. Or years, for that matter. For it seems God has seen fit to let me see His goodness in the land of the living.

Next Tuesday (January 24), I’m scheduled to check back into Regions for my final crash, pending my counts recover enough between now and then to proceed. My friend Jessica, who’s neck and neck with me in this protocol (she was diagnosed with Leukemia as I was with Lymphoma – our treatments are identical) will be there that week as well. When we check out after 3 to 4 days (this is the expectation, at least) we’ve only one more week of the Round at home, then have a full month or more to recover before beginning maintenance therapy.

I’ll need time to rebuild my body, and I intend to – better than before, we hope. It’d be nice to come out the other end liberated from the problems I’ve had previously with my wrists, my jaw, and my gut. Health is good for ministry and life (while necessary for much of life it’s not as necessary for ministry). And I got a used set of golf clubs for Christmas I’d really like to be able to swing by next fall.

So we continue to depend upon your prayers for much, and are grateful daily that there are people praying. We are excited here for the opportunities to come express our gratitude in person. Some sort of road trip someday, perhaps? I like driving.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 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 8:35,38-39

I believe this now more than ever.

Still His,

Jeremy ~

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When Aslan came back to Narnia, the ice began to thaw. The snow melted. The forest floor became green with grass. Trees budded and blossomed. Wildflowers sprang up all over. And the river began to run again. Peter, Lucy, Susan, Edmund, the Beavers, and all else in Narnia watched it happen all in a matter of hours.

That is the nice thing about fairy tales. Especially children’s fairy tales. The good things can happen quickly. A few pages and the 100-year winter is over. You stand there surprised holding an unexpected Christmas present, with the promise of an exhilarating adventure before you by the end of the day.

My life has felt like a fairy tale this week. The last seven days have been unlike any I’ve known for months. Came out of the blue, really. We were expecting for so long that the two months after Christmas were to be difficult. Like the last long haul, or the pushing in childbirth. Instead it feels more like we’re watching a warm sunrise on a summer morning. On the deck. With watermelon and kiwi in a dish.

I’m a week and a half deep into my last intense phase of chemo. I’ll visit the clinic again on Wednesday for another IV of drugs, and then have a one-week hiatus before my last stay at Regions (which looks like it could be more like 2-4 days than a week), after which they’ll pull my tubes and send me home for a week or two before I begin maintenance therapy.

A pleasant surprise, indeed. I’m not quite sure how I was so misinformed. Or how we misunderstood. But it just looks easier than we thought it would. And after such a long fall (and December), the view comes on us like a two-blink change of seasons.

Add to that the fact that this Round hasn’t been too terribly trying so far, and you’ve got a pretty happy me. Steroids keep me up and busy all day (and most of the night). Eating much – I demolished a 4-course meal at Don Pablo’s on a giftcard late last week – I’ve gained some weight. I’ve found enough gumption and grit to bust ice off my driveway, finished cleaning the garage (parked a car in there for the first time in 2 years), and took my bride on a fancy date.

It was our anniversary weekend. Ade went to Grandma’s for the night and Mike & Lisa came over to watch Eli. Jen & I did pasta at home and drove into downtown for a concert at Orchestra Hall. Dressed up and all. Fourth row front and center, 25 feet behind the conductor, for two hours of crazy good Beethoven. I cried (smiling big) for the whole first piece. Seven minutes of a sobby, happy me.

We’ve had our trials here this week, but they’ve been mostly relegated to the realms of parenting and sleep management. Aedan’s taking his time healing up from his bug, and he’s handling the “I’m-a-big-brother” phase only oh-so-well. Lots of work for Mom and Dad around here. Eli’s sleeping alright. I seem to be the one up all the time, but it’s got nothing to do with being a Daddy. Steroids. And a really slow digestive system. A few candid prayer requests uttered at church Sunday morning seem to have moved me along some, but this would be one thing for which we’d like continued prayer. Chemo can shut down a GI track. And it’s crazy what a backed-up system of toxins can do to a body and a mind in just a very short while. Ten days last July proved to be a nightmare of physical, emotional, and spiritual proportions that I’ll never forget.

But again, all this aside, it’s been a very good week. I asked a lady in church yesterday morning how her winter was. Silly me, it’s only one week into January. But it feels so much like springtime in my head that I can’t help but be a little giddy. When a warm morning dawns upon a long dark night of the soul, the most natural thing to do is to get out of bed and stretch before that light. And I feel like stretching.

The rivers began to run in Narnia when Aslan was on the move. The waters began to rush. Have you heard the noise of rushing waters? Isn’t there force in it? Isn’t there life? Isn’t there longing? Makes you want to go where it’s going. The Bible says the voice of the Lord sounds like rushing waters. I can hear the waters rushing again, and it’s bringing strength to my soul.

Thank you for laboring with me through your prayers for this day. If I’m not yet through with this in my body, I think I can say the shadow has passed in my heart. God be praised!

Still His,

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