Saturday, May 23, 2015

One Step at a Time

Medical Update:  We know that it will take up to six months for the stem cells to perform their healing work, but I am already noticing a few changes.  I now have feeling in my left foot and can even wiggle my toes on that foot for the first time in years and my back seems to be stronger.  On Tuesday, with two funerals at church and a visit to a dear friend in the hospital that evening, I walked more and longer distances at a time than I have in quite a while.  Along with diet and exercise, I am very optimistic about the benefits of these latest treatments.

When we were in Cancun, Larry wore his “Faith Path” t-shirt one day.  As I was walking behind him, the message on the back of the shirt was a great reminder of what it is going to take on my pilgrimage to be healthier. 

Sometimes the hardest part of starting something new or continuing what has begun is to take that first step each day.  I must be willing to do my part to help ensure the best results.

I also want to be intentional about taking that first step on my faith path each day.  That journey will make a difference both now and for eternity.  May I purposely choose to walk humbly, obediently, in reverence, in service, and in accordance with God’s laws for His name, glory, and renown.   

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him.
Deuteronomy 8:6

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Joshua 22:5

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
Isaiah 26:8

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.
Psalm 128:1

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.
Proverbs 4:14

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Waiting, Going, and Giving Thanks

We’re home after receiving the stem cell treatments in Cancun, Mexico.  And now we wait for the stem cells to begin their work.  Some changes will come in the next few weeks while others could take up to six months.  Along with the waiting comes the gift of hope.

While we wait, I keep going.  It will be important to continue exercising, walking longer distances at a time, fine tuning my diet, and living life to the fullest. 

All the while, I want to have a heart that gives and expresses gratitude.  God is good all the time and His presence and blessings have been evident during these days.  I’m grateful for the prayers and encouragement of family and friends.  Whether it was a big, small, or a somewhat insignificant request, you were willing to pray on my behalf.  What a gift that was to Larry and me.  By the way, I think I was the calmest I have ever been while flying, even with a slight bit of turbulence.  Our prayers were answered!  I’m also thankful for the doctors, nurses, and medical team at Galenia Hospital who are willing to continue the stem cell treatment at this time.  I could not have asked for better care or treatment.  And I am so grateful for Larry.  He takes to heart Jesus’ command for a man to love his wife like Jesus loves the church.  His kind servant spirit makes even the difficult times hopeful and bearable.  It has been a sweet time and gift to have these 10 days together.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
I Chronicles 16:34

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Psalm 107:21

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Psalm 118:1

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:57

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 14, 2015 - Day 9 in Cancun

I wish there was a way to adequately describe the expectations, excitement, anticipation, hope, joy, and amazement at God’s provision of this incredible day that I have prayed for these past three years.  God is amazingly good.  Your prayers are continuing to be heard and answered.  We have been very aware of God’s love and care during these days.

This morning started out with a special blessing.  When we arrived at the hospital, the regular elevator that we were going to use was out of order, thus the need to use the one just around the corner.  On the wall in front of the elevator, the following statement had been painted on the wall:  "Some things have to be believed to be seen."

The amazing thing was that this profound statement was written in English, and only in English, in a hospital that predominately speaks only Spanish.  I did ask Larry to go back on that same elevator just to see if the writing was still on the wall.  If the main elevator had been working, I would have missed that.  What a gift that has been for me.  It reminded me that Jesus talked about the importance of believing so we could see.  Lord, I want to believe and see today and every day.

As we entered the elevator, four other Celltex stem cell patients from Houston entered.  They looked at us and two people at the same time said they had seen me on TV and another said he saw our picture and the article in the paper.  Then the woman said, “You were wearing a blue jacket.”  We started off with a good laugh.  Oh well, so much for thinking I was incognito.

I began the morning with Gabriel inserting the IV.  Because of your prayers, he was able to get the IV in on the first stick.  Then the hydrating began for the stem cells.  Dr. Herrera also came in to see us just to check in and say hello.  I was able to thank her again for infusing the first stem cells last Friday when Dr. Salazar had an emergency.

Next, Dr. Salazar came in for the preparation and infusion of the 250 million stem cells, 50 million more than expected.  He commented that I was very calm and he could tell that we were spiritual people.  They once again had me confirm my name on my cells and let me hold them.  Before the cells were infused, Larry read a few scriptures.  He took my hand to pray and Dr. Salazar reached for and held my other hand during the prayer.  It was a special joy to thank him for infusing my cells and accepting Celltex’s invitation to perform the stem cell treatments along with the other doctors and nurses.

Holding the 250 million cells for IV cells
and 100 million cells for lymph nodes

Dr. Salazar and Gabriel

Stem cells being infused

Then Dr. Felipe came in to perform the lymph node treatment.  As a MS patient, this particular protocol is offering additional hope for a better quality of life.  Larry was able to be in the hospital room for all the procedures today.  Dr. Felipe showed him what he was looking for and let him watch the procedure.  I have made it a point to let all the doctors know that hundreds of people were praying for them also.  During the procedure, Dr. Felipe asked if I was tolerating the pain OK.  I assured him that when you pray for a miracle you can tolerate the expected pain.  I could feel your prayers and God’s presence.  The deep breaths and slow exhales helped.  At the end, the doctor told Larry that I was calm, relaxed, and a great patient.  I assure you that was because of God answering your and our prayers.  I was also able to thank Dr. Felipe not only for his work of hope today, but also for the years of medical study, preparation, and sacrifice that made today possible.

Dr. Felipe showing me the stem cells and
confirming my name

Dr. Felipe

Dr. Felipe and Debbie

Thanking Karen

Thank you, Lord, for this incredible opportunity.  May my life show my gratitude and make a difference for the gift of these infusions.  Let the next chapter begin!!!

Tonight we were able to tell our waiters goodbye and thank them for their service.

Prayer requests:
Safety as we travel home tomorrow
Wisdom as I work on diet and exercise in the coming days

Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
Psalm 30:2

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
 who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalms 139:14  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May 13, 2015 - Day 8 in Cancun

We started the morning with breakfast and then went to Tony’s room at the hospital so Larry could share some scriptures and pray with them before the stem cell treatment began.  Last night, Larry printed off the scriptures at the Business Center in the hotel so they would have them to read again and could take them home with them.  The toner was almost gone.  When Larry reported the problem to the front desk person, they had him email them what he wanted to print and then brought it to us.  The best thing about that is that they probably took time to read the scriptures, too.  We spent time talking and visiting with Tony, Karen, and their son for a while and then went downstairs to walk. 

My path to walk is from the hotel all the way down the long main hall of the hospital, past the cafeteria, and to the pharmacy at the end of the hall.  Larry stepped it off and one round trip is about a quarter of a mile. We pretty much pass several of the same workers every day and greet them.  Several have stopped to talk as we walk by.  That’s one of the nice benefits of walking slowly.  Some now smile and say, “Exercise.” Larry continues to enjoy the exercise/weight room/steam room each day.

From hotel to hospital

Down the long hall

Past offices
The hospital cafeteria

Past the Pharmacy

Back to the hotel

The hotel

We have eaten several breakfasts and a few lunches at the hospital cafeteria.  The menu is in Spanish and English so we are getting pretty good about pointing to what we want in Spanish so that Amalia can order for us.  She understands very little English, but a smile and our limited Spanish are greeted with sweet expressions and appreciation.

Amalia and Debbie in the Hospital Cafeteria

Tomorrow’s the big day.  We will meet at the hospital at 9:00 a.m. for this final round of treatments.  I will need to fast once again before the procedures.  First I will have an IV to hydrate me and then the infusion of 200 million stem cells through the IV.  Finally I will have two injections of stem cells in the lymph nodes in the groin area of both the right and left legs.  Since I have not had this treatment previously, I’m not exactly sure what to expect.  That might be a good thing.  I’m assuming the treatments will be over around noon.

Prayer requests:
God to be glorified in ALL that happens
A smooth insertion of the IV (My tiny, rolling veins don’t always make this an easy process, especially after fasting and no water)
Calmness for the lymph node injections
For each of the stem cell treatments to reach their potential to bring about healing
For Larry and me to be able to adequately express our gratitude and hope to the medical personnel, hotel people, and waiters and waitresses
A great last day to rest, relax, and enjoy God’s provision
Smooth flights on Friday

Today’s Bible reading had some verses that are very special to me.  What a sweet blessing and great reminder.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 10, 2015 - Day 5 in Cancun

This has been a relaxing and enjoyable day.  I have walked more than I have in a long time.  At breakfast we had a long visit with the other family that is here for stem cell treatment.  It was a sweet time of fellowship.  This afternoon Larry was able to exercise, swim, and relax while I walked and read by the pool.  Tonight I was treated to the Mother’s Day buffet at our hotel.  We heard from all 3 boys and I was able to call and talk with my Mom.  It has been a very special Mother’s Day indeed.

I am feeling much less sore from the spine treatment.  My energy and strength are improving.  We are praying that these are the exact treatments I need for improved health.  The next treatment will be on Thursday.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Thessalonians 5:18

May 12, 2015 - Day 7 in Cancun

The morning started off with me putting my contacts in the opposite eye of where they were supposed to be.  When I went to read, I immediately recognized the problem and went and switched them.  Oh, that I would be as quick to desire to correct every choice from the beginning when it is not what it is supposed to be.  I also learned that it doesn’t matter how hard and long I push the volume button on the computer, if Larry’s ear buds are plugged in the volume is silent. 

We walked again after breakfast.  I was a little slower, but we did it.  My gait seems to be changing some for the better and using muscles in a different way in the process.  As long as we are praying for a miracle, I am asking God to heal my back and ability to walk.  Two more days and we will have the final day of treatments for this trip.  We walked again this afternoon.

When we were deciding where to stay for our trip, we looked at the resort hotels along the coast.  When we settled on the May date for treatments, we found out that the Sheraton had just opened a new hotel that adjoined the Galenia Hospital.  It was much more reasonably priced and seemed to be the best choice for us.  I don’t think it was by accident that this place was where we needed to stay.

Between the hotel and hospital, we have had great places to eat.  With the hotel being so new, there have not been many people eating there, with the exception of Mother’s Day.  Some days we have been the only ones there so we have had lots of attention by the waiters and really gotten to spend time with them.  These places have been a big answer to prayer for me since I really wanted to keep with my diet.  The chef at the hotel, Pedro, has been wonderful about making me a combination for a meal, even if it is not on the menu.  He is most pleased when we compliment his efforts and express gratitude.

Chef Pedro

We have enjoyed getting to know our main waiters, Odaliz Suzetthe, Oscar, and Antonio.  Odaliz Suzetthe is a college student from Mexico City.  She will finish her first year as an international hotel management student next week.  She works at the hotel from 3:15 – 11:00 p.m., goes home, studies until 1:00 a.m., then goes to school from 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  She knows we are praying for her as she takes her finals starting on Saturday.  Antonio has become more confident using his English with us this week.  After hearing us use our limited Spanish, he knew he was safe.  Oscar heartily greets us each day.  He calls Larry “Pastor Larry.”  He has a wife and two children.  After our meal, Oscar freshly grinds the coffee beans and makes Larry a cup of coffee.

Debbie, Odaliz Suzetthe, Oscar, Larry

Debbie, Antonio, Oscar, Odaliz

Tony and Karen have become very dear to us.  After dinner last night, we spent over an hour visiting.  Tony will have his last treatment at 8:00 Wednesday morning.  They moved his time up an hour and he wanted to make sure Larry knew so he could pray for him again before he has the procedure.  It’s amazing to see Larry minister, not because it’s his job, but rather his lifestyle.

Karen, Tony. Debbie, Larry

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and posts.  We feel them and know God is faithfully answering for our good.  You are loved and appreciated.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015 - Day 6 in Cancun

We are staying at The Four Points by Sheraton which is connected to the hospital.  Since the hotel opened in February, everything is so modern, clean, and well kept.  We have been blessed by the service, food, and hospitality.  The 5th floor of the hotel is the home of a gorgeous pool, an exercise room and sauna, and lots of places to sit and visit.  We enjoy getting to spend time there.

This morning Larry and I were up early so we could go to the 5th floor roof of the hotel to watch the sunrise.  Even though the skies were somewhat cloudy, the view was still gorgeous.  I took my Bible to read in the cool of the morning.  No one else was there.  It was a great way to start the morning.  

Just wanted you to know that as I read I Thessalonians 3 I stopped and thanked God for all of you and prayed for you as we know you are blessing us with your love, encouragement, and prayers.  Verses 8 and 9 state: 

For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”

Thank you for being joy givers and standing in the gap with your prayers during these days.

Today I have already walked several laps.  We’ll walk more before and after dinner.  Larry has enjoyed the exercise room.  The discomfort from the intrathecal procedure is almost completely gone!  I’m grateful I was able to have the more involved procedure first so I have plenty of time to heal before the next round.

Please continue to pray for:
Continued strength, energy, and stamina to walk longer distances
For us to bless, encourage, and sincerely thank the waiters and waitresses, hotel personnel, and hospital people we see each day.

Sure am enjoying being with Larry during these days.  What a precious gift from God.