Thursday, April 30, 2009


If you are a man over 40 and you don't, YOU SHOULD! Ray and I are feeling the need to educate our blog readers with some facts, along with the emotions coursing through both of us on this blog. Did you know that prostate cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in men, second only to lung cancer? Yep, No. 2. Why? Well, one reason is it's not a cancer that shows early symptoms. When actual related symptoms appear, it's usually fairly well along. Another reason is that this is more of a "personal" cancer and a lot of men do not like the screening tests. Also, men tend to not to go doctors in general. That's the bad news.

The good news is that when detected early, prostate cancer is treatable and curable in a lot of cases. So how do you detect it early? You have your doctor order a PSA in your latest blood test.

What exactly is a PSA? Here's some important information from the site Us TOO .

"Prostate-specific antigen is a substance that is normally produced by the prostate gland and a small amount of PSA can usually be detected in the blood. However, if the prostate begins to make too much PSA, it could be a sign of an enlarged prostate (also known as BPH – benign prostatic hyperplasia), inflammation, or cancer. The doctor will draw blood and measure the PSA level.

"Although the exact definition of “normal” PSA level continues to be debated, Us TOO suggests that the following ranges be used:
  • Establish a baseline by age 40 if you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer, but no later than age 45 for all other men.
  • Track your PSA score over time. PSA doubling time and PSA velocity are currently thought to be better for telling how aggressive a cancer is than knowing your current PSA number.

"We are all unique – PSA levels vary from person to person."

Ray and I cannot stress enough how important it is for all you """older guys""" to get checked out. It's really an easy, simple and quick test plus some blood. Isn't your life worth that much?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I woke up afraid this morning. Afraid of what? To be honest with you, it's almost 11AM and I'm still not sure. All I know is that I feel that familiar sickness creeping deep within my gut, telling me that something is coming, something that I definitely will not like. I really hate this feeling. Still, it plagues me.

Why should I fear? God is NOT a God of fear; he is a God of hope and faith and righteousness. Some folks say fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. I'm sure this is some of it. The adversary screwing with my mind. Some of it, too, is that Friday's coming. Friday is the day we find out if the cancer has grown or spread. And although the decision has 99 and 44/100ths percent been made on what we are going to do about this, it could. . . and I emphasize could. . . be modified by what we hear on Friday. There could also be a good report on Friday, that the cancer is totally contained and we get those beautiful words, 100% curable. So why am I playing Darth Vader and dwelling on the dark side?

Maybe it's because I hear a verse playing around in my head. Although I love all Scripture, there are some verses that are a little more ominous to me than others; case in point: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Co. 12:9 NIV) I have repeated this over and over with my hands in the air, worshipping my heart out, in church and at home, where it's safe. But if the worst should come to pass and I become extremely weak (read that "alone"), will His grace be sufficient for me? Right now, I can say yes to that; when push comes to shove, I'm not so sure. So for now I will rest in the eloquent words of the man I admire most in the Old Testament, King David:

"I will have no fear of bad news; my heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." (Psalm 112:7 NIV modified to make it personal to me)

I love King David because he was so real. He made mistakes. He sinned willingly and deliberately. He committed some real whoppers, but. . .he knew how to repent and please God. He knew what was important to him. His final answer was God. And for that, to the day he died, he was still a man after God's own heart. Oh, that I will be a woman after God's own heart, no matter what. . . no matter what, Lord.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


What does cancer look like? I never really thought much about it until we ran into a good friend of mine and her husband in the store last week. Her husband hadn't seen Ray in awhile. They, of course, knew about his cancer. It had been awhile since the men had seen each other. Now, admittedly, Ray has lost some weight, but he's not emaciated or anything like that. He's got about the same amount of gray hair he's had for the last few years. I haven't noticed any new wrinkles. He looks like. . . well, he looks like Ray, the guy I've been married to for over 36 years. However, that night, my friend called me up and said her husband was shocked. He said that he felt Ray was trying to look like nothing was wrong, but he could see he was sick. He said something in his eyes and the way he carried himself gave it away. That threw me. I still can't see it. Am I blind to it? Is it because I don't want to see it? Is it because I see him every day and sleep with him every night? Not sure.

This essay was kind of born that night as I began seriously thinking about how cancer changes you and, in particular, this gentleman's wife. She is one of my dearest friends. She has had cancer for 21 years. She has been written up in many medical journals for her long fight against this insidious disease. She is not doing too well now and we may be coming into the home stretch. Does she look sick? No, not really. Oh, I know her very well and can tell when she's tired or the meds are doing her in. Lately, her breathing is affected since her lung cancer has returned. But if you don't know her and you look at her, all you would see is a sweet, middle-aged lady. Or would you? I'm so close to her, I'm not sure. Would someone else react to her as her husband did to my husband?

When I had cancer, did I look different? I had people tell me I looked pale. I didn't lose much weight. I was a little weak, but I looked like. . . well, like me. My sister-in-law had breast cancer. I wasn't with her during this time. I wanted to be, but couldn't. She sent pictures, though. She looked like. . . well, her. She lost her hair for a time. That gave it away. But did she shrink into nothingness, her beautiful blue eyes turning stone gray? No. Her smile still lit up her face and her voice was still her usual cheery self. The principal at my daughter's middle school has the same type of cancer my husband has. He had to tell me. I couldn't tell from looking at him. He is a big man. He's still a big man. His color is good. His eyes are bright. His smile is the same.

So. . . back to my original question. What does cancer look like? It looks like my husband, my dear friend, my sister-in-law, me a few years ago, the principal at my daughter's school. It may look like that person in line next to you at the grocery store. It may look like your child's teacher. It may look like you a few years from now. The bottom line is that it looks like all of us. Treat people kindly. You just never know. They may have cancer, too.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I decided that aside from various and sundry ramblings, on Sondays I'm going to post some of our favorite music. Ray is a singer. He has a beautiful tenor voice. I just sorta warble along, but I sing. Hey, God considers it a joyful noise, even if nobody else does. LOL Music means a lot to both of us and when we are down, we crank up the Christian tunes, certain ones more than others. This one. . . well, let's just say I think I wore holes in a couple of CDs. It's in the car, it's on all of our computers, it's everywhere.

We were married in a little tiny ceremony many, many years ago. So when we reached our 30th anniversary, we decided to do a rededication and have a "real" wedding. I even got to wear a white dress! It was a blast, even though I was deathly ill at the time. I wouldn't have traded that day for anything in the world! This song was our recessional and the whole church was out of the pews and into the aisles, singing and King David dancing to it.

So without further ado, here is the incomparable Paul Wilbur singing "Days of Elijah" from the album, Jerusalem Arise!


Did you notice this little guy on my post entitled, "Ms. Pac-Man Rides Again?" I decided he needed a name, so. . . meet Caiaphas, the Cancer Cell! (Check out John 11:49 if you don't know who Caiaphas was in the Bible :) What you may not know is that this Caiaphas was lovingly created by my dear friend and co-host on the Grace Talk Soup Podcast, JoJo Tabares ( . When we first discussed my "day mare," JoJo told me to forward her the draft and she would design him for me! Caiaphas was the second try and he was perfect! This is what I battle in my head daily. Keeps me going in the gym! (That and the fact that I need to be physically strong to help Ray when he's recuperating from surgery.)

So. . . JoJo. . . not sure how I can thank you for designing Caiaphas so perfectly. I can say that my prayer for all of you reading this is that you have at least one friend in your life like JoJo. I can't even describe to you the blessing she has been in my life. I love you, sweet pea!


I hesitate to write this one, but the thought came to me that if we are truly going to help anyone, including ourselves, we will have to write about all of it, the good, bad and the ugly. Last night, it got supremely ugly around here. My head says it was just the boiling over of emotions, fears and the like. My heart is still upset, afraid and shook. It will blow over, of that I am sure. Still, "here" was a place you did NOT want to be last night.

It all started innocently enough. I was trying to get some information out of Ray, who is basically a quiet and peaceful type of guy, in stark contrast to my highly emotional self. He's been feeling like I've been badgering him into my way of thinking about all of this. Maybe I have. . . some. I guess I feel like I know a little bit about this from having been there before. And maybe sometimes I forget how different the two of us are and how, oftentimes, we arrive at the same destination by wildly different paths. Suffice it to say that my innocent question was perceived the wrong way and it started an argument. The argument led to a full-fledged fight. The fight led up to a moment so volatile that, at one point, he came rushing at me, screaming and threatening. It looked like he was going to attack me. You feel like you know someone after a 40-year relationship, right? Guess what? Cancer can bring out parts of you no one ever knew were there before. I'll admit to you right now that it scared the crap outta me!

Then it devolved into a crying jag on both our parts. We talked. That was the good part. It still wasn't settled. We argued some more. It went on like this for what seemed like forever. I collapsed into a pool of tears on the floor. (For those of you who know how difficult it is for me to get up off the floor, you'll know what a big mistake this was :) He tried to talk to me. I wouldn't listen. Back and forth we went.

Finally, maybe due to nothing but sheer exhaustion, we settled things out. . . sorta kinda. I think we're in agreement. He says we are. This morning things look a little different. It's like the memory of a bad dream. I know the kids heard it. Not good. Still, I feel weary and exhausted and wrung out like an overused dishrag. Say a prayer for us, okay?

I guess the moral of this sad tale is that no matter how confident you think you are, no matter how united you think you are, a stressor like cancer can cause you to act like folks you're really not. My friends, if you are in this type of situation, never forget these two verses:

1 Peter 5:8-9: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And. . .

John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. (Both NIV)

We forgot for just a moment last night. That's all it took. Lesson learned. But. . . Dear Lord, why do some lessons have to be so hard?

Friday, April 24, 2009


There. I said it. I...Have...Cancer. Until now, I just couldn't speak those three simple, terrible words. I would say, "I've been diagnosed with cancer," or, "I had a biopsy and one of the samples was bad." It's as if avoiding the direct statement -- I have cancer -- could make it not real, not mine. But it is real. It is mine. Other men have the same kind of cancer, indistinguishable in the lab. But those are their cancers. This one is mine, invading my prostate, attached to my cells.

I have cancer. If I face it I can fight it. By naming and claiming this cancer as my personal enemy, I put my entire self -- body, mind and spirit -- in battle mode. Medicine, attitude and faith together will defeat it.

I have cancer. By taking charge of that reality, I can accept and even embrace the help I need, from friends, co-workers, church members and family. I can let go and allow my wife to be strong for me as I recover from surgery. I can surrender to the perfect will and healing power of my Lord and Savior.

I have cancer. Cancer does not have me.



I had originally intended this blog to be the writings of only my family, but this piece so touched me I had to put it here. I have been getting studies from Rinah Shalom for a long, long time. Her credits are at the bottom, in case you feel inclined to partake of her work. Enjoy the wisdom this beautiful Friday morning! I am going to do my best to follow it.

The Mayonnaise Jar

A professor stood before his philosophy class
And had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly,
He picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar
And proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students,
If the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles
And poured them into the jar.
He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open
Areas between the golf balls.

He then asked
The students again
If the jar was full.
They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand
And poured it into the jar.
Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full.
The students responded
With an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced
Two cups of coffee from under the table
And poured the entire contents Into the jar, effectively
Filling the empty space between the sand.
The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor,
As the laughter subsided,
'I want you to recognize that
This jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things -
God, family, children, health,
Friends, and Favorite passions –
Things that if everything else was lost
And only they remained,
Your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter
Like your job, house and car.

The sand is everything else.
The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,'
He continued, 'there is no room for
The pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time
And energy on the small stuff,
You will never have room for
The things that are
Important to you.

So... When things in your life seem,
Almost too much to handle,
When 24 Hours in a day is not enough,
Remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

Pay attention to the things
That are critical to your happiness.
Play With your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time
To clean the house and fix the disposal.

'Take care of the golf balls first --
The things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand
And inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.
'I'm glad you asked'.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'

Thursday, April 23, 2009



First off, let me say that I am DEFINITELY NOT a video game aficionado; my kids are. Once the games got past the skill set needed for Tetris and Mario Kart, I was outta there. (And I’m not very good at Mario Kart either!) However, I have been going to the gym daily in an attempt to get stronger for when Ray needs me after whatever he is going to do to fight this cancer. I have my own medical issues. I am in pretty good basic health, all things considered, but was left with some mobility problems. So strength training is a must if I want to be a full and Godly help-meet for him.

So there I was, kicking some serious tushy at the gym and, as frequently happens, my mind started to wander. As usual, I was thinking about hubby’s cancer. It sorta kinda occupies my thoughts these days. I’m not petrified or even really scared anymore. I guess I’m just somewhat nervous about it. So even though I should be taking it a bit easier on the torture devices. . . ooops, I mean gym equipment. . . I was really pushing it hard.

All of a sudden, I am seeing black spots before my eyes. HUH? I grab for my pulse. It was right where it should be for that level of activity. What gives? The spots increase. Now I’m really seeing things. UH-OH, they're growing legs!!! By now, I’m pretty sure I’m not getting enough oxygen so I start slowing down my pace, but . . . oh, no, they’re looking back at me!

They’re taunting me, laughing at me, coming after me. Now I know something really bizarre is going on or present circumstances have totally pushed me off my rocker. . . provided I had one to begin with. I inch closer to the evil things and then it hits me. These aren’t some freaked-out floaters in my line of sight. They’re not little spiders coming at me from the woods surrounding our home in some warped day mare. These are. . . RAY’S CANCER CELLS!!! Well, honeeeeeeeeee. . . now I’m mad. I turn into Ms. Pac-Man and attack! I start gobbling them up. I start beating them up. I start tearing them up. I’m all over those things with every inch of my being! How dare they attack the one I love!!! I’m gonna show them a thing or two!

Then, as I’m having a grand old time in super destruction mode, out of nowhere comes a huge, black gun. It’s big and heavy. I can barely lift it. Still, I drop into a proper crouch position and heft it onto my shoulder. Looks like just the perfect thing for a little wholesale slaughter on those cancer cells, which, by the way, are still coming at me, mocking me, laughing at me, threatening me, my husband, my family. I pull the trigger. BOOM! The recoil almost knocks me down. But then. . . where’s the ammo? HUH? Who gives someone a gun with no ammo? (Even in a fantasy this is a big no-no.) Is this a bad joke, only a bad dream after all? I still have cancer cells to kill. I NEED AMMO!!! And then, floating above me, I see the ammo. . . only it wasn’t a bullet, it was a prayer! The word “prayer” comes flying out of the gun. It lands on one of those black, ugly, disgusting things from the pit of hell. The black thing goes up in a blaze of glory, shrieking as it literally gets smoked out of existence. Now THIS is fun! I quick grab up the gun again and start firing as fast as I can. I’m really gaining on them now. I am thoroughly enjoying the insane shrieks every time I hit one and how their creepy bodies writhe as they go up in smoke. TAKE THAT!!! AND THAT!!! AND SOME MORE!!! It was like the original Batman show of my teens. . . SLAM!!! SPLAT!!! KNOCKOUT!!! KAPOW!!!! I actually see the words in the comic bubbles, just like on that old TV show.

I drop the gun and start chasing the few that remain. I am simply gonna jump on them, beat the snot right outta them and finish the job. NO MORE CANCER!!! WOO HOO!!! And then I feel a tap on my shoulder. “Hey, leave me alone, I’m havin’ some righteous fun here!!!” I feel it again. My eyes snap open and. . . the lady next to me is wanting to know if I’m going to move off the machine so she can use it. Then, as she tries to giggle quietly into her hand, she asks me, “What did that machine do to you?” What's she talking about? She says, “It sure looked like you were trying to kill it from over here.” She giggles some more as I sheepishly climb down off the machine so she can have a go at it. It is only then that I realize I have been fighting Ray’s cancer cells in my mind. It was a very real and colorful visualization, albeit a humorous one. It had to be humorous. That’s how I handle everything, by laughing. If not, I’ll start crying. The laughter keeps some of the pain away. Ray always says that life is way too important to waste it taking it too seriously. He’s right. :)

I finish my workout. I am assured I will not be barred from the gym, despite my attempt at destroying their equipment. They know what I’m going through. They are all supportive. It’s a God thing. However, they did request that I post the following disclaimer, for future reference:



Hubby and I went to Bible Study last night. Our Pastor is away in Europe. His son spoke. It was good. He touched on a lot of things that have been floating through what passes for my gray matter these days. One statement, though, hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. He said, "Sometimes you just have to go through the trial to grow your faith." Did I want to hear this? No. Did I need to hear this? Yes. Wanna know a secret? I knew this. I needed the reminder. I'd rather forget.

Years ago, when I was lying in my hospital bed, everyone telling me I was dying, the saints from our church would come flying into my room and excitedly proclaim, "I have a scripture for you!" It was always Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God." It was always the same. "Be still and know that I am God." As much as I love that scripture, when you're sick to the point of death it is not what you want to hear. You want to see the skies darken, an intense bolt of lightening appear out of the blackness and a booming voice from heaven proclaim, "Be thou healed. . . like NOW!!!" It didn't happen. "Be still and know that I am God." Sometimes you just have to go through the trial to grow your faith. Did my faith grow then? Yes.

So now we are in another growth spurt. Is my faith growing now? Yes. Do I want to go through the trial now knowing it is to grow my faith? No. I'm stubborn like that. I want it all to go right. I know Jesus said that we will have tribulations, but not to worry as He overcame the world. I have the head knowledge, but my heart is still sad. However, to quote a very wise young man, "Sometimes you just have to go through the trial to grow your faith." So be it, Lord. So be it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


We don't live in a vacuum. My husband's cancer has also affected our children. Our "baby," now 13, has begun expressing herself through her writing, usually in poetry or in song. This is what she wrote:


One hug to show you care
One kiss to show you'll always be there
One day to tell me you love me
One hour to show me we'll always be
One minute to show you'll be by my side
One second to show you won't run and hide
One touch to tell me you're sorry for anything you ever do
One kiss from me to show you I love you.

Copyright @2009 Lilly Ives

Some kidlet, huh? :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I had lung disease for 17 years. I prayed for strength and courage. I got it. I beat it. I went from eight lung meds down to one. . .and then down to none. My diagnosis was COPD; now it's mild asthma. I haven't even used an inhaler in years.

I had cancer. I handled that, too. I prayed for strength. Once again, I got it. I no longer have cancer. I beat it.

I had MRSA. I prayed for strength and, once again, God was good. The docs say I still have it somewhere in my body, but it hasn't actively reoccurred in almost seven years. As far as i'm concerned, it's gone. I beat it.

Throughout all of this and a lot more, my husband was the watcher. He was never sick. I always joke that at our wedding, I got the "poorer" from the "for richer, for poorer" part and he got the "in sickness" from the "in sickness and in health" part. He took care of me. He dressed me. He bathed me. He fed me. He set up my meds and my IVs. He took care of the kids when I was sick. He did whatever was necessary. He watched. He waited until I was whole again. Still, I felt it was me going through it. I was the one who had to be strong. I was the one who beat my diseases, with God's help. He only watched.

Now the tables are turned. My husband has cancer. For the first time in many, many years, I am the watcher. I am strong, right? No. Actually, I'm a mess. I could handle it when it was me. I can't seem to get a handle on it now that it's him. I've prayed for strength and courage. I'm receiving it. Still, I am a nervous wreck most of the time. I take care of him. I bathe him. I hold his hand during uncomfortable and frightening procedures. I do whatever's necessary. I'm watching. I'm waiting until he's whole again. Do I have peace, the peace that I will win the fight like I had back when it was me? Am I as assured of victory as I was when it was me in that bed? Not yet. I'm still watching. I'm still waiting.

Watching is hard. I think it's harder than being sick, actually, especially when it's your other half, your soul mate, the God-given love of your life. I've been with him since I was 15 years old. That was long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. All of a sudden, the thought struck me that I could lose him. It hit me hard. Real hard. After all, doesn't the Bible say we are one flesh? "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24, NIV) How do you lose half your flesh and still function? I know there are many who can answer that question for me. I just haven't been able to wrap my head around it quite yet. Not so sure I even want to try.

I never knew watching could be so hard. I look in the mirror and now see the same look on my face that I saw on his when they told him to put my affairs in order, that I was dying. He couldn't handle it. I couldn't talk at the time. I was too busy trying to keep breathing. In my dazed and drugged state, I thought it made him weak. He was the watcher. He should have known how to handle it. Now I'm the watcher. I'm not weak. I simply don't know how to handle it. My heart goes out to him for all the times he watched and waited and despaired of ever bringing his wife home to his kids again. Forgive me.

I thought I had the hard job, getting well. Now I know that the hard job is being the watcher. Want to know my theory on why watching is the harder job? I think it's because you finally understand what having no control really means. When it's you that is sick, you can marshal your willpower, get your good cells attacking the bad ones, positive talk yourself right out of that bed. You can't do that for someone else. So you watch. And you wait. And you pray. You pray that the doctors are wrong and it will all work out just fine. I'm praying now, not for strength and courage, but that it will all work out fine for him. For us. I can't marshal his inner forces for him. All I can do is pray. And watch. And for now, that will have to be enough.

"I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you." (2 Kings 20:5 NKJV)