The Last Battle

Much has happened since the blog was last updated in August, but I feel as though Jenna’s story has too much to offer to let it sit idle in my mind. And though I will skip a lot of the details, it is my hope that you will experience both Jesus and Jenna as you continue reading. Also, make sure you give me a little grace as we all know that Jenna was a far superior and far more inspirational writer :). As for the title, it comes directly from Jenna as she told me in her last week that it was a book I HAD to read (and which I am now reading; The Last Battle – Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis)

The month of September brought a lot of hard days. Mentally for me; physically for Jenna. More and more often she felt ill, and many days she could only lay in a ball on the couch to ease the pain. Yet, throughout all of it, she never complained. She still had full confidence in complete healing from the Lord. As the days and weeks moved forward, good days were fewer and farther to come by. My heart took a beating that month as I could literally do nothing to ease the pain of my wife. All I could do was bring her things she needed and sit with her as she battled the pain. Looking back I now cherish these moments.

And yet, even as good days diminished, she fully expected to go Harry Potter World at the end of September. The plan was for a 5 day Nutritional impatient stay at Cincinnati Childrens Liberty to get her energy and nutrition up, and then be on her way with her wonderful Lexington friends. To say she was excited would be selling it short.

And so, we packed our bags and headed for our inpatient stay. To make things even better, our doctor (whom we love) was on service at the Liberty campus that week. It all seemed perfect to set us out for new adventures. The first few days went as planned. Jenna received nutrition, and I ran a few errands in Cincinnati a little each day – we all know how much I needed to get out of the hospital to stay cheerful:)

Our plan only took us as far as those first few days. Beyond that, I came face to face with the realization that the world is out of my hands. As much control as I wanted to have / thought I had, I learned quickly and painfully that this world doesn’t respond to my plans, my wants, or my hopes. Day 3 or 4, I’m not exactly sure, brought news that I’ve dreaded since we started walking down this road again. The pain she was having wasn’t caused by any fluid (which we were hoping). The pain was, in fact, coming from a partially obstructed bowel caused by ever-expanding cancer tissue. This, an inoperable, no solution scenario. And so we could only wait. Dreadfully wait.

By the time I came to realize what this actually meant, Jenna was already being heavily sedated at her request to minimize the pain. This meant that our conversations became very short lived as she slept more often. As the week went by, Many of our dear friends and family came to see Jenna. To say their goodbyes. To comfort me.

My heart aches as I re-live these experiences for the first time as I write this post. But these tears are good tears; tears of loss, but tears of joy and cleansing. To watch the lives of those she impacted show up that week was beauty in a pit of despair. To see Jenna when she was awake inquire about the lives of those who visited and deflecting her condition showed her heart and her love for others beyond herself.

In the few times I was able to speak to Jenna the last few days, there are glimmers of light in what felt like the darkest darkness I will ever experience. She would frequently inform the doctors that she was DNR (do not resuscitated), she would mention “how awful would it be to be with Jesus and then wake up back here in all this pain”. She had no fears. She spoke of the great banquet she was going attend and “eat all the food” and to run again. To the very end, she was not shy to share how excited she was to go and be with Jesus. In fact, just weeks prior the only complaint I ever heard her say was when she was feeling terrible, “This sucks, I want to go and be with Jesus”.

Her heart was right where it needed to be. At peace and eagerly waiting to be with her Savior. On October 2nd, at 2:12am, Jenna came face to face with the One whom she LOVED and gave herself to; and she was fully restored and fully healed. No more pain, no more tears. The life Jesus promises us was fully revealed to her on that day.

 

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this..?

JOHN 11:25,26

In the past 3 months, rarely does a minute go by where I am not grieving. Sorrow is found easy and often. It lurks at every turn. Questions and doubts come and go. Yet I am surrounded by an amazing community of friends and family that are determined to walk, sit, and lament alongside me in this. Each day comes with different challenges, a journey which I may share in future blog posts should I feel there is something of depth to share.

As I read through books Jenna found comforting, I stumbled across a highlighted passage in Tim Keller’s book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering:

Now I have found freedom in anchoring my days and nights with Jesus’ spirit. To live one day at a time without fretting over tomorrow frees me and soothes my suffering. With renewed trust in Jesus comes renewed love, hope, and faith. My focus turns from my pain to His love. I have discovered a new treasure – the gift of pain is the gift of God Himself. In the end, He alone is truly my delight and comfort. I have learned the meaning of Psalm 119:71: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”

Psalm 27:4 will now guid my journey till the end “One thing I ask of my Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to seek Him in His temple.”

 

I can say with confidence; this has been Jenna’s heart through this journey. She suffered joyfully, something I hope to learn from her as a final gift she left for me to receive. Her confidence in Jesus speaks volumes and was displayed by the way she lived; by the way she suffered.

As I near the end of my writing, this post was written to share the gap between Jenna’s last blog post and October 2nd. After that came another whirlwind of events and emotions in itself. As I sit here, I would ask that if you are feeling compelled to help Jenna leave a legacy, there are two very good options.


 

– Help establish Jenna’s Young Life endowment fund to send kids to camp every year! (www.jennayl.com)

– Visit www.childrensmn.org/give and select “other” under gift designation and type in “OTST & Jenna Henderson” in the comments to designate your gift. These donations will go towards researching treatments and cures for Jenna’s specific rare ovarian cancer.


Finally, if you were unable to attend Jenna’s funeral, you can see it here.

Thank you all for your continued prayers, the meals, the visits, the tears and the laughs, as I no doubt need them often.

– Scott

Scans and the plan

What a week! Scott and I started the week out with the Great Darke Co. Fair, which is the only way to start off a week. If you’ve never been, you need to find a way to go. It’s in his hometown of Greenville, OH and it’s nothing short of wonderful. I got pushed in a wheelchair along with all the old ladies, and got to eat all the great fair food.

Tuesday rolled around and that meant scans. I got a CT scan, and we found out yesterday at our chemo appointment that the tumor in my abdomen has grown more than they’d like to see, but the one on my lung has stayed the same, which is good. We were expecting this, although I have been feeling “good” lately so we wouldn’t have been surprised if there were no growth either. I say “good” because I have been feeling “good” lately, but my good is not the same as your average person. My good usually means I still move super slowly and can’t walk very far without tuckering out, along with stomach discomfort.

So, yesterday we did not get our regularly planned chemo, but moved on to the next treatment plan, which involves immunotherapy. So we will get Pembrolizumab IV once every 21 days, and I believe that will be an overnight inpatient in order to get it approved by insurance. This is an immunotherapy used a lot in melanoma and lung cancers. There are a few hurdles to why we don’t feel great about this drug in my case, but it has been used in random tumors before and done really well. It’s never been tested with my type of tumor, so I’m hoping mine will be one it works well with. So a prayer request would be that my body would find a reason for this drug to target my cancer cells. The second immunotherapy med I will get, we started yesterday. That is Azacitidine, which is a subQ injection in the skin for 7 days then off for 28 days. This drug will wake up cells my body hasn’t used since it was an embryo  in hopes that my body will recognize my tumor as foreign. The Azacitidine hopefully will act as an enhancer to the Pembrolizumab. So we will give this combo a few months to do it’s thing and then scan to see what is happening. The goal of these meds isn’t for the tumor to stay the same, but to shrink. So pray for that.

We also found out yesterday that when my short term disability turns into long-term, I lose my status as employee, which means I lose my insurance. This is a BIG DEAL. That switch happens Sept 29. We just finished our out of pocket costs for this cycle (july-june), so it’s especially sad to have to figure out what to do about insurance. We’re looking into everything. I would even do paperwork at home to stay an employee if they’d let me. I don’t know what we’ll do and I’m pretty sure Scott is stressed, but I do know that God will take care of it. He always does. So I’m resting in that.

The really great thing about yesterday is after such a crazy day full of stressful news, I got to go straight to a fancy spa with a sweet co-worker to get fancy agave nectar pedicures. One of the care managers at work gave my co-worker a gift card for us two to go get pampered, and it was absolutely the most perfect thing that could have happened. I haven’t had a pedicure in 15 years I’m pretty sure, and let me tell you, I love them. This place (The Woodhouse Day Spa in Kenwood), was so fancy. I walked in and they offered me a drink and took me to a relaxation room while I waited for Annie. Then we went back to the pedicure room where I got to sit in a fancy massage chair with warm things around my neck and my feet in warm water. I wasn’t even too ticklish! Oh man. It was perfection. Thank you so so so much for that amazing generosity (you know who you are):)

In other news, girl trip to Harry Potter world is up and running smoothly for now. We have 15 girls going, so watch out, Orlando. Please be praying that I’ll still feel good when that rolls around at the end of September.

Scott and I are taking a day at a time over here, so we’re doing pretty good. God’s word keeps proving to be exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it. It’s funny, Scott can tell the days I spend time with Jesus in the morning versus the days I don’t (embarrassed money emoji would go here). This morning was really sweet when I was reading 2 Corinthians. In 1:9-10 it says, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” The paragraph right before it was all about God’s comfort for us in our trials. The word of God is literally alive and active, and I am so thankful for that. He always gives me what I need when I show up to listen.

Thats about it over here. So to recap, we need prayer that these new immunotherapy drugs would work against this tumor, as well as for insurance to work out somehow (preferably without Scott having to get a job that won’t allow him to be with me). And as always for healing. Whether that be through these drugs or straight up God, we’ll take whatever. But mostly that our eyes would be set on Jesus. We love you all! Thanks for following along and for praying.

LONG update

I am the worst updater! I apologize. I can’t tell you how many times I thought about sitting down to write a blog, and just kept putting it aside. So much since I last checked in!

Treatment wise, we’re still doing the weekly Doxil (IV chemo in the hospital) and now the oral Pazopanib daily. We will be doing scans here soon to check on how effective this is. If it is effective (slowing the growth or shrinking it), we’ll continue on these. If it is not effective, we will move to a couple immune therapy drugs (if insurance will allow it in my case). So that will be a big prayer request should we need to move to the next option. These drugs aren’t typically used in cases like mine, so it may be a fight to get them. Still feeling good with the weekly chemo, which is great.

July has been CRAZY! We’ve been to 4 states, traveling every weekend. We are excited to stay home for a bit this month. The first weekend of July we went to Philadelphia for a wedding. Our YL teammates daughter got married, and they rented out a B&B (it was to die for). They gave us what I’m pretty sure was the master bedroom there (way too sweet of them), and just let us hang out and enjoy for a few days. It was so perfect. We relaxed a bit with our sweet friends there for a few days, and on the last day, when we all left, we headed to New Jersey with our friends the Boyce’s and the Bohl’s. We went to a sweet little town that I lived in during 7th grade. I grew up in NJ basically from 1989-1999, so the one year living in this town doesn’t compare with the almost 10 years of north Jersey, but if you’ve ever been to Spring Lake, you’d understand why we chose it. It is right on the shore, and full of gorgeous giant homes, a sweet little main street with candy shops and pizzerias. Turns out it was $10 per person to go on the beach (?!), but we hung out on the boardwalk and walked around. I brought them for slices of pizza and then italian ice in a neighboring town before we headed back to PA.

The next 2 weekends were traveling to and from YL camp. My favorite week of the year. Scott and I drove behind the bus so I could recline and sleep on the way there and back. In short, it was an amazing week. I had to stay in a room separate from the hs girls, and had a little golf cart to get around quickly, so it looked a little different than other years leading, but was still great. I essentially went for one girl going, which made it really relaxing and awesome. We had the sweetest cabin of girls ever, who wanted to spend all their free time together and threw gummy bears up on the ceiling until they  stuck. Love them. We got to dive into who Jesus is, and what he offers us. We got to have intentional and deep conversation every day with our high school friends. Which is the best thing in the world if you ask me. We got to see some sweet friends walk over from death to life, and I just felt so thankful to be allowed to be a part of this amazing thing God is doing in hearts.

This past weekend we went to Houston TX for a consult with docs at MD Anderson. We had to spend thousands of dollars to essentially talk to a doctor for 30 minutes, and while that is frustrating, it’s good we went and had that conversation. Texas is HOT. I will not ever live there. I don’t know how anyone does. Scott and I spent a lot of time napping in our air conditioned hotel room. The first day there was just travel, the second day we waited 3 hours to see a doctor for 5 minutes, and the third day we finally had a helpful convo with the doc. So we reported back to our doctor, and the next day we went to Waco (FIXER UPPER!!!!)! We got to see Common Grounds, a little coffee shop that one of the first season couple’s owns. We went to Clint’s store (Harp Designs), and his house is right next door, which was one of my favorite fixer uppers they ever did. Then Scott and I headed over to the silos where Magnolia Market is, as well as the bakery, the seed and supply shop, outdoor lawn games, food trucks, and basically everything beautiful. Scott informed me that our friends set up a little private tour (so sweet!), so we got to go up to see the offices and got a birds eye view of all that was happening on the grounds. I got some pretty things, and before I died of heat, we left and headed to catch our plane in Houston. Whirlwind!

So now we are home, I got some more Doxil yesterday (by yesterday I mean almost a week ago, I almost finished this post then pressed pause for a bit). Our sweet kitten is growing, but still seems so tiny to me. She is so sweet, loves rubbing her face against ours. I’ve been feeling so much better than a month or so ago. I’m moving around on my own better, haven’t had any shortness of breath (or fluid drained for that matter). I still have other annoying issues with my body not functioning normally, one of which is my low appetite and weight loss. I’m debating talking to the docs about getting a feeding tube in my stomach so I can get feeds throughout the day to try to reach my calorie goal. I have got to stop losing weight. I feel like I look scary.

As far as prayer goes, we’d love prayer that the Doxil and Pazopanib would be working, pray still for full healing, pray for appetite and weight gain. Pray that Scott and I would be leaning in hard to Jesus. I know this season holds a lot of growth and closeness to Him if we’d allow it.

A few random things, I recently celebrated my 15 years since I began a relationship with Jesus, which, now that I’m 30, is half my life! Crazy. It’s so awesome to watch how faithful He has been. I had no idea when I set out the adventure He’d have ahead, but man I’m so thankful for a God that never leaves us or forsakes us. I read Psalm 119:50 the other day, and it says “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” I love that having life is not mutually exclusive from affliction. Just knowing Jesus gives life in any situation. I’d take him and all this craziness over perfect health without him any day.

Last thing! Sorry! I read this in Jennie Allen’s Restless the other day and felt called out and challenged. She is talking about her friend who is in a coma with young kiddos at home and asking God why. Did he forget about her? Forget how much she loves him? That her kids need her? She was walking in the lobby of the hospital (by a cross statue) and heard God say to her the following:

“I have forgotten nothing. And I am not passive about my approach to this problem. I deal. I deal with this sickness and pain and death. I do not forget. I bleed out for this. So as you walk past me on that cross, Jennie, into a room that feels out of control and full of suffering, don’t see a weak, distant, forgetful God. You see a God who tells oceans where to stop and a God who tells evil where to stop. You see a God who bleeds out for those you hurt for. You see a God who suffered first. I AM with you. And I have a plan here.”

Just real good stuff. I love that God weeps and mourns with us. That he walked the path of suffering first so I could look to Him for comfort. To leave on a really fun note, our sweet wedding photographer, Cara Dee, offered recently to give us the proceeds from her mini sessions, which is the sweetest, but on top of that, she said she’d be passing through our little town, and would love to take our pictures as well. We got our photos in the mail the other day and basically love every last one of them, but I picked a few favorite to throw in here:) If you’re from Lexington, hire her to snap your pics!

treatment & life update

Hey everyone! So for the past 2 weeks I’ve said almost daily that I would write a blog update, and obviously failed, but not today! All credit probably goes to the 2 units of blood I got yesterday giving me the energy for this. So an update on where we are as far as treatment goes, if you could picture a list with numbered options of treatments on it, we are 3 down the list with 2 options crossed off. So right now we are doing weekly Doxil, which is an IV chemotherapy, but thankfully I haven’t had any typical chemo side effects. We will add another med here soon that will be orally every day, with the fun side effect of turning my hair white (eek!). Please pray that these drugs would be stopping or slowing the cancers growth enough to stay on it. The problems with the other things we’ve tried is that they weren’t slowing it enough.

Since I reported in last, a lot has happened. I had another 900+ mL drained off my right lung, I had a 3 day inpatient stay to get my body used to TPN and lipids so I could get IV nutrition everyday at home. We did great with it in the hospital, but for whatever reason, when we got home and did it (it is an infusion that runs for 8 hours), it made me feel so awful. I threw up every time. So we are going to try without the lipids and see if I can handle it better. It would be a great load off if it would work, because it’s 80% of my nutritional needs, and I need like 4000 calories a day. With no appetite, that is impossible. So I guess another prayer request would be increased appetite/ability to eat and gain weight. I’ve lost around 20 lbs since this all started, which is no good. Looking sickly over here.

We are still waiting on MD Anderson in Texas to call with an appointment, which should be any day now, so I’ll try to keep you posted on that. Yesterday was chemo #2, and we were all ready to go home after, when we learned my hemoglobin was 7, and that I would have to stay to get 2 units of blood. So we ended up being at the hospital for almost 12 hours yesterday, yuck. On our way home Scott let me pick up a pizza, and when we pulled off to get it, we got a flat tire in the parking lot. Our sweet new kitten had been home all day by herself in the laundry room, we were so sad. I have a coworker that thankfully lives right by there that came to the rescue. Scott patched the tire and put it on with the help of her hubby, and we finally made it home.

Oh yeah, you read right. Scott bought a kitten! She’s the tiniest thing ever (can sit on my regular iPhone 6), and so sweet. Her name is waffles. I’ll include a picture.

In other news, my co-workers threw a benefit dinner for me on Monday night at Frida in Covington. It was amazing. They all organized baskets to raffle off, the food was incredible, the entire restaurant voluntarily opened just for us. They also donated $1000. People, seriously go eat there. It’s adorable, amazing food, the sweetest area, you have to go support them. I think the benefit raised over $6000. So thank you so much to everyone who came and who made it happen. Scott and I are so blown away.

On that note, I’ll post a video here because typing words won’t do justice, and we can’t possibly write thank you notes to everyone who has supported us financially through our go fund me page, or just sent checks in. There are hundreds of you, literally. So please, if that’s you, watch the video! You can watch that video here at Vimeo, Go check it out there, please, especially if you are someone who has given to us in any way, shape, or form!

This morning I listened to an old Rend Collective album, and the song Lighthouse came on, and I almost couldn’t believe I didn’t connect the dots sooner. So many people have cast this vision over Scott and I of steering a boat into harbor outrunning a storm, and this song is so perfect for that vision, and so encouraging. My favorite lyrics as I was listening this morning were, “my lighthouse, my lighthouse, shining in the darkness, I will follow you…I will trust the promise you will carry me safe to shore.” and “fire before us, you’re the brightest, you will lead us through the storms”. So good for my heart this morning. Just a reminder He is going before and behind us, and because of that we can face each day full of peace.

Y’all, one last thing. For my birthday, Scott let me order wood signs from my friend Angie. She has an etsy shop, Thirsty Heart Designs, that is incredible. She specialized in hand lettered items. So we gave Angie a couple of our favorite verses in Isaiah, and she wove them together and delivered our signs yesterday. I’ll leave photos of those below as well. Go check her Etsy store out here!!

Thanks for sticking with me. Love you all. Thank you for praying. Jesus is our only hope right now, and while it’s a sad and hard situation, it really is a blessing for Him to be all we have. Because we know in that that He is all we need.


Leslie + Troy | 5.14.16

It’s finally time for Leslie and Troy’s wedding pictures! Sweet Leslie has been so patient. I know Leslie from work. We started within a few weeks of each other. When Troy popped the question we went into planning mode at work whenever we had a few minutes. So being able to see this day come to life for her was so fun. Leslie and Troy’s wedding day (in MAY) was freezing! It was so cold, and all the grass was soggy from the rain leading up to the wedding day. The ceremony had to be moved to the basement, and the soggy ground limited us a bit in our photo locations, but we persevered! It was such a sweet and intimate wedding, held at her parent’s house, and it was just family present. No wedding party, no big crazy schedule, just laid back and sweet. Even if things didn’t all go as planned, at the end of the day they were married, so it was a perfect day.

I loved that every detail was DIY. Leslie did it all. She and her family made the cupcakes, the centerpieces, the food was even catered by family members. Scott and I were guests as well, so we got to take home sweet chalkboard mason jars with our names on them. Editing has taken a long time for me. Being on pain meds allows me only 5 minute increments of concentration, so I’m sure everyone involved is so excited this is finally happening. Also, my sister-in-law deserves a huge shoutout for doing some photoshop work on these (putting grass where there was concrete, taking out decks in photos, editing out the sheet we had Leslie stand on…)so thanks Leah, you’re the best. I hope you all enjoy!


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