Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Simple, Focused Christmas

Displayed in the entry way of our home is a small Nativity scene. There is nothing fancy about it, and I have often thought of replacing it with a nicer one. But this year, I have decided I rather like it. This Nativity scene is simple, and I find that it reminds me of the very first Christmas. Mary, Joseph, Jesus, a stable and a manger--simple. We have way over complicated Christmas. This year I long for a simple Christmas.

Yesterday morning in a fit of photographic expression, I took this picture of our Nativity scene.

You may not notice, but in this image there is only one figurine in focus. I intentionally shot the image so that only the Baby Jesus in the manger would be in focus. This Christmas more than ever I want my focus to be on Jesus.

This year I desire a simple Christmas focused on Jesus!

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born
to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign
to you; You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and
lying in a manger."
Luke 2:11-12

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the sun of Righteousness!
Light and Life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Wishing all of you a simple, focused and very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Forgotten Gift

Driving back from Houston, I started revisiting Christmases from when Chad and Shane were little boys. One memory popped into my head that made me chuckle. This particular Christmas, the boys were into Batman and Robin. I had been out shopping and bought them some figurines for stocking stuffers. When I got home, I hid them up on the shelf in the closet, where I forgot about them. A few months later I pulled something off of the shelf and the figurines fell at my feet. By this time the boys had moved onto something else and did not have much use for Batman and Robin. I am sure that I am not the only person to forget a Christmas gift and won’t be the last.

The tradition of exchanging gifts stems from the Three Wise Men bringing their gifts to Jesus. We see the scene every year played out in Christmas pageants and nativity scenes. In honor of this tradition, we get up early on Christmas morning and watch the paper fly. A lot of the gifts we receive are put on the shelf and forgotten about. I am not sure whatever became of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh but I am sure Mary and Joseph did not set them aside and forget them.

Think about it like this, of all of the Christmas gifts that you have given, how many do you remember? Or, of all of the gifts that you have received, how many do you remember? If you are like me, the gifts you remember are the ones that cost the most. I don’t mean from a financial perspective but the gifts that people put some thought and effort into. Yet, when we look at the manger, we tend to forget the most important and costly gift that was there. In all of the rushing, planning, and parties that have become Christmas we have put it up on the shelf and forgotten it. The gift that I am referring to is the one that the babe in the manger brought. That babe in the manger brought with Him salvation for all mankind. A gift for all of us that all we have to do is accept. At this time of the year we do not want to mar the clean pristine images of Christmas with the ugly images of a beaten and battered Jesus hanging on a cross. When you see the babe in the manger this year, think about what He came to do and what it cost Him.

This Christmas, if you have already accepted this gift, then give Jesus some extra praise. If you are someone who has accepted this gift but has put it up on the shelf, why not make this the Christmas to take it down, dust it off and embrace it once again? If you have not accepted the gift of salvation, why not make this the Christmas to accept this very special gift that will last for eternity?

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Psalm

I have been reading a book where the author comments about the importance of personalizing scripture. After having delayed chemotherapy for the second time, I prayed that God would prepare me for yet a third time, and I felt led to begin reading ten Psalms each morning and underlining parts that touched me. I then read back the underlined portions to God as my morning prayer. I am surprised each morning at the prayer that emerges from the verses. I have yet to make it through a single prayer without weeping.

There are other Psalms that I will replace a few words, and these are becoming the Psalms that God is using to prepare me for my upcoming treatments. The Psalms of David are the ones that seem to translate the easiest. David was tormented by his enemies and his own sins, and he always poured his heart out to God. One morning Psalm 27 was in my reading, and as I read the first verse a few new words popped into my head. My new Psalm reads like this:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
What shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
What treatment shall I dread?

So with these words on my lips and in my heart, God is preparing me for the next leg in this journey to defeat cancer. Only He knows what lies ahead on this path, but I am assured that He has gone before me and is my light and defender.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Christmas Wish

Christmas time is here again. Time once again for all of us to be blessed by the children’s Christmas pageants. The one character in the play that no little kid wants to get stuck with is that of the inn keeper. Who would want to be the person to tell Joseph that there is no room for them? However, I think if we look at Jesus’ birth a little differently, we might see that we have more in common with the inn keeper than we think.

Mary and Joseph had traveled a long way. They hadn’t been traveling because they wanted to; they were going to the City of David because Caesar had ordered a census and they had to travel back to Joseph’s home town to be counted. What a long journey it had been; Mary, nine months pregnant with her first son Jesus, was ready to give birth. What a time it must have been for them: Their first son would be God as a baby. What roads lay ahead of them? They were unsure; all they knew was that their lives were going to be changed. But for now, Joseph needed to find them a place to stay.

They went to an inn and were told that there was no room for them there, but they were welcome to stay in the stable out back. I wonder what would have happened if Joseph would have told the inn keeper that the Son of God was about to be born. Would the inn keeper have asked all of the other boarders to leave and go sleep in the stable? Or would he just have asked the people staying in the best room to stay in the stable? I’ll never know because Joseph didn’t tell the inn keeper that a miracle was about to happen, and so Jesus came into the world having already been turned away.

As I think about Jesus’ birth in the stable, I wonder if we, some 2000 years later, are any different than the inn keeper. We go to church, read our Bibles or a special story, and something, even for a brief moment, touches our hearts and Jesus knocks. “Is there room for Me here?” He asks. We tell Him no, we can’t make room for Him, but He can stay out back. We don’t want to give up any of the rooms in our hearts, not the rooms where the ambition stays, or where our desires reside, or the dislike for that neighbor or any of the other secret rooms. Those are our rooms and we like them the way they are, and so we turn Jesus away.

Much like the inn keeper, we miss something really big. We are willing to sacrifice what Jesus wants to do because we do not want to be inconvenienced with a little house cleaning. This year I have a simple Christmas wish: When we feel Him knocking, let’s make room for Jesus.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and he with me."
- Revelation 3:20

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are three movies that I have to watch: White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life. Of the three, It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite. I am not sure why that is. I guess the movie just speaks to me. It does not matter how many times I watch this movie, I still tear up at the end when all of George’s friends come to help him out. The other thing could be because this movie asks the question that we all have asked from time to time: "Would it matter to anyone if I were not here?"

If you have not seen the movie, George is the main character. He has gone through life giving up his hopes and dreams in order to help others. He finds himself in a particularly difficult financial situation. At the end of his rope he says, “Maybe it would have been better if I had never been born.” Clarence, his angel, decides to teach him a lesson and show him what life would have been like for all of his friends had he not been born. George finally realizes the error of his thinking and decides to live on. Back in his life, all of George’s friends come to help him, and he gets out of his financial difficulties. More importantly, George realizes that he has made a difference.

The first ten or fifteen times I watched this movie my question was the same as George’s: "Would anyone notice if I were not here?" The last few times that I have watched the movie though, I have found myself asking a different question. Now I ask, "Have I made a difference to anyone?" When I ask this question, my focus begins to change. I find that when I ask this question that my pockets always have extra money when I walk by a red kettle. It becomes a little easier to feel sorry for the mother whose child wants everything in the store. When I leave the stores, I am reminded to smile and say, "Have a Merry Christmas” to the clerks--even if they can’t say it back.

This year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, let’s all try to make a difference.

In closing, let me say that there are a lot of people who, if you were not here, the Haga family would miss. Thanks for being there.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rear-view Mirrors

We all know what rear-view mirrors are. They are those annoying things attached to our cars that show us where we have been. We are in too big of a hurry charging ahead with places to go and people to see to worry about what we have left behind. We only check the rear-view mirrors to see if those flashing lights behind are for us. I have recognized over the past few months that God has blessed each of us a rear-view mirror in our minds. They call it memory. Unfortunately, we do not use this one very often either. Over these past few weeks, I have had ample opportunities to check my rear-view mirror while lying on the radiation treatment table.

On Friday morning, October 22, after receiving the news that the MRI showed good results concerning the brain tumor, I was immediately sent to the MDA Emergency Center with a high fever. I was officially admitted to the hospital later that night and was not a happy camper. I was receiving IV antibiotics every few hours, and with each IV change came the question: “Why was this happening again?” I was still confident that God had a plan, but I was beginning to lose confidence in the plan. My faith was being stretched to new lengths.

I will not recount everything that happened that weekend, but there were two significant things that happened. First, the oncologist on call that weekend correctly diagnosed what was happening to me and recommended a complete change in my treatment plan to include radiation treatments that started two days later. Second, this doctor was informed about a new lung cancer mutation that was being found in never-smokers who had tested negative for the other two known mutations. ELM4-ALK is known to exist in only 4% of all lung cancer patients. This would be the proverbial shot in the dark, but he was recommending that my biopsies be sent for analysis. Test results would take six to eight weeks.

On November 16, I completed the recommended radiation treatments. On November 17, my birthday, God gave me a present of a lifetime. The mutation test results had come back positive in less than four weeks. The enemy in my chest now has a name. We are no longer fighting the unknown. The battle and journey are far from over, but now we have a map.

Looking in my rear-view mirror now, I can see that God knew well in advance the doctor who would be on duty, his capabilities, and his knowledge. Too often I forget my simple prayer that God put the right people in the right place at the right time. Once again, He has been faithful to supply that person.

Thinking about the rear-view mirror in my truck, I remember that it has a compass in it. Sometimes you have to look backwards to build your faith that God knows the direction going forward.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Area 51

Well, here it is. Today, November 17th, is my 51st birthday. I am officially now over the hill. I am praying for a long, smooth decent. I have spent the last few days thinking about and comparing what was supposed to be against what has become and shedding a few tears. My 51st birthday was not supposed to be about radiation treatments, chemotherapy, MRIs and CT scans, but it is. DeLayne asked me what I wanted for my birthday and all I could think of was for this to be gone. Fifty-one years have gone by faster than I thought they could. How many things have I postponed thinking that I would do them later and now I wonder, will later ever come? Since the reality of today no longer matches the dreams of yesterday and I do not know what tomorrow holds, I will spend time reflecting and counting my blessings.

One thing that I cannot deny is how richly blessed my life has been. To have been born in this country to Christian parents who taught us the difference between needs and wants is more than what most of the world has been blessed with. We were never a wealthy family but we never went hungry, there was always a roof over our heads and clothes on our back. Being raised with five siblings may not have always been seen as a blessing growing up, but now I am thankful for all of them. As my mother told my brother and me after our Dad’s first heart attack, “You kids are all different and don’t always get along, but when someone in this family needs help, you are there for each other.” Mom and Dad are both gone now and enjoying their rewards, but the legacy of their children remains and I am blessed to call them my family.

I have been blessed to work for the same company 25 years now. Looking back through those years, I can see how God always had a hand on my career. The right opportunities always appeared at the right times. My job has allowed me to go places and see things that others just dream about. There were times that I had to make a choice between seeking advancement and family but don’t recall ever making the wrong choice. My job has allowed us to enjoy family vacations that will forever be locked in our memories. We are able to send both boys to college and have enjoyed watching them grow and mature while there. We can look forward with great expectations as to what God has planned for their lives.

Last, but surely not least, I have been blessed with a wife like none other and two great sons. DeLayne and I have been married for 26 years now. She has become my rock to lean on. After 26 years, we think so much alike; it can be scary at times. There are times now that we have learned that the dinner dishes can wait and just sitting on the couch holding each other is more important. Chad and Shane have both grown up to be fine young men. Both of them have great instincts about when I could use a little tweak or when to call just to cheer me up. Chad and Shane will someday change the world because they will not accept it the way it is. I look forward to watching them both race in France someday.

Yes, I have been truly been blessed these 51 years. This blog today is probably more for me than for you. I need to be reminded from time to time that God has been so good to me and will continue to be so. Although I am 51, I will spend my day much like a little child curled up in its grandfather’s lap held securely in his arms. I will be secure in the loving arms and lap of God knowing that He knit me together in my mother’s womb and only He knows the number of my days and the plans He has to prosper me, to further bless me, and heal me.

I keep telling DeLayne, “I have not had my mid-life crises yet; I should be good for at least 51 more.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'll Tell You a Secret

Last Sunday some good friends, David and Cindy, brought us dinner.  We had a few minutes to visit and reminisce about summers spent at baseball fields.  Cindy then complimented me on this blog and my writing.  I had to confess my secret to her then and I will confess to you now that I almost failed Freshman Composition in college.  The teacher did not like anything I wrote, sent me to writer's lab, and encouraged me to drop the class.  I stuck it out because I just could not see going through the pain and suffering again.  Honestly, most of my life I have not had the talent and rarely the desire to write much more than "Happy Birthday" in a card. 

Why is it important for you to know this?  Because I want you to know that I can not take credit for this blog.  I can't explain how the day after I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the desire hit me to start writing.   This has to be a God thing.  I have asked God that some good come out of this cancer, and suddenly I have this platform.  Some of the topics I write about come to me in the middle of the night, others while I am laying on a table being treated or tested.  Some topics are almost completely written as soon as the idea comes and others take a few days to think through.  I am never quite sure where a blog will go sometimes but trust that God will give me the words I need.  Each time I post I pray that God will use the blog to touch someone in a special way.  I enjoy when people leave comments or send me e-mails because that means prayers are being answered.  

Finally, let me say that I have always felt that God has a plan in all of this.  The fact that I am writing this blog convinces me of this.  I am not sure where the plan will lead but know that God will use this for good.  I do not know for how long God will give me this platform but know that I will continue to use it for for as long as He allows me to do so.  I never thought that the plan would include writing a blog but reminds me to always be open to where God wants to lead.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Stinkin' Thinkin'

Looking back through my notes on the verses about hope and my last post, I noticed some items that can only be described as stinkin' thinkin'.  I had grown frustrated and was emotionally down.  I had climbed up on my pity pot and gotten comfortable.  Satan  used this opportunity to pounce like the lion he is and plant ideas about God that are just not true. 

The idea that I have had recently that has unsettled me the most is the thought that God has chosen not to heal my cancer or relieve any of the symptoms because there is a lesson He wants me to learn.  WHAT!?  The only thing I can think of to compare this line of thinking to is that of a father and son.  The father has told his son not to do something but, as boys are inclined to do, he does it anyway. The result is that he breaks his arm.  To teach his son a lesson on obedience, the father decides not to take his son to the doctor for two days.  We all recognize immediately that this father is abusive.  Yet we have no problem assigning those same attributes to God.  How many times have we thought that God has allowed bad circumstances to come into our lives to teach us a lesson?  I am not talking about suffering the consequences of our choices but about things we have no control over, well, like cancer.  I am convinced that God desires the best for me and for me to be completely healed and whole again.  In the Bible Jesus even says, "Who of you, if his son asked for a loaf of bread would give him a stone, or a fish would give him a snake?"  I am going to have to bind Satan daily to keep this kind of stinkin' thinkin' in check.

Some of you may be thinking to yourselves that I am being a little tough on myself.  I have been convicted that I simply can not allow this kind of thinking to enter my  mind and comments.  During my study of the verses about hope, there were several verses that spoke of people who had lost their hope in Jesus or wandered away from God.  Jesus wants His relationship with these people restored.  From the reading of these verses, I am burdened with the thought that they are watching me and probably reading what I write here.  I have to be mindful of that and be sure that nothing I say, do or write validates their belief that God does not love them or care for them.   

Another thing that I have learned the past few weeks is that cancer is not just a physical battle but also a mental and spiritual battle as well.  I was reminded of this when I read 1 Thessalonians 5:8:

"But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation."

I was struck by how the battle gear of Christ covers the two areas that cancer has attacked.  I will daily have to put on this gear to fight the battle with cancer.  God may use the doctors, nurses, medicines and procedures as tools that lead to healing but in the end, God will use faith, love and hope to provide complete healing.

God is not using cancer to teach me a lesson, but eventually He will use my healing to teach Satan a lesson.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hope - Part 1

First,  my apologies if you have been checking to see anything new just to find the same old thing.  After learning that the Tarceva did not work, I needed a break.  I had grown wary of building my hopes up just  to see them dashed on the cold, hard rocks of reality.  Each time I would rebuild just to find that there were pieces missing.  I awoke one morning with the idea in my head that if I was looking for hope, I should start with the Bible.  I decided to look up each verse with the word hope, write it in my notebook, and then write my feelings and thoughts about each verse.  Just in case you are interested, in my NASB translation there are 31 verses in 21 different books of the Bible.  What follows are some of those verses with what I wrote. 

Job 17:15 Where now is my hope?  And who regards my hope?

I know just how Job feels.  I feel like all of the hope I had when this started is being slowly drained away from me.  I need something to plug the hole.

Psalm 9:18 For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.

I think at this point I would consider myself one of the needy.  I need some good news; healing would be great.  I feel like I have been forgotten.  Is God hearing me?

I would also say that I am afflicted.  My hope will not perish forever.  I just pray that God sends a lifeline soon.

Psalm 39:7 And now, Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you.

The bottom line is that I am losing faith in the doctors and medicine.  Why am I the guy that things don't work for?  I have to put my hope in the Lord to provide the healing.

Psalm 71:5 For you are my hope; O Lord God, you are my confidence from my youth.

When I look back through my life, it is easy to see where God worked on my behalf.  Is He working today?  Is He trying to bring me to the point where I recognize He is all the hope I have?

Proverbs 19:18  Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.

Is God disciplining me?  Part of the word discipline is disciple.  In all of this frustration and disappointment, is God trying to teach me something?   I must be a slow learner.  I wish He would hurry and finish the lesson or at least let me peek at the lesson plan.

He does not desire my death.  God's desire is for me to be completely healed.  I guess the healing will come after the lesson is complete.

Jeremiah 17:13  O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame.  Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.

Could it be that there is someone watching me that has turned away from the Lord?  Will He eventually use my healing to draw them back?  I need to find this person and give them a hug.

The Lord is the fountain of living water.  I need a long, cool drink!

Well, there are the first few verses.  I will admit to having more questions than answers, but I have faith that God will answer them in His timing as we continue our journey down this road called cancer.

Thanks once again for all of your prayers for healing, encouragement and support. 

Love you all!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Do you ever stop and think about the people you call friends?  I am not sure that I have ever really given it much thought.  I know that there are some people that I hold a little closer than others.  With the way things are today, people just come and go through our lives.  We move on and make new friends.  Some friends we stay in touch with because our lives are intertwined.  Other friends just stay on our Christmas card list.

One thing that I am learning is that DeLayne and I have great friends.  We have friends that come mow our yard and take care of our house while we are gone.  Friends that have brought us snacks or meals to show they care.  Some of our friends just have a knack for showing up when they know we need a laugh or a hug.  Others just seem to know when we can use a phone call to check up on us or an e-mail to encourage us.

I have wondered how these friends know what we need when we need it.  I guess my only explanation is that God prompts them.  During my quiet time last Monday, I read a Bible verse that perfectly describes this kind of friendship.  In Philippians chapter four there are some great verses for cancer patients:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" and "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."  But right there in verse 14, Paul describes the kind of friends that DeLayne and I have:

"Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction."

Notice that he says "in my affliction."  These are the friends that are in the battle with you.  These are the kind of friends that we are blessed to have surrounding us now.

I guess, if there was one piece of advice that I could give young people it would be this:  Build your life with and surround yourselves with the kind of friends that will share in your afflictions.  They will make a difference in your life.

Thanks for being our friends!

Love, Chris and DeLayne

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blessed Assurance

Well, here I sit.  In slightly less than forty-eight hours I will again be injected with a radioactive glucose solution and placed in a machine to be scanned from the tip of my nose to my belly button.  The results of the scan will show if the lung cancer has continued to advance or if we have struck a blow against this beast in my chest.  As I think about this, I can't help but think that I should feel more anxious about this next week, but strangely I don't.  I have shared before how I was told that the battle would be long and hard but that I would be healed.  Even since that time, God has continued to give me assurances that eventually I will be healed.  I pray daily that he would let me in on the time line and plan but He has chosen not to do that.  Until such time He chooses to give me more details, I will have to live with the assurances He has given me.

One morning after beginning the Tarceva, I could feel fatigue beginning to set in.  I had finished my morning devotional reading and asked God to give me a little extra for the day.  The Bible that I use is the Life Application Study Bible.  At the beginning of each book, there is an introduction and blueprint for that book.  After asking God for the little extra, I randomly opened my Bible.  I looked down to see that my Bible had opened to the introduction to Matthew.  I thought I must have missed by a page or two and flipped back and forth.  Not seeing anything else, I had decided to just close my Bible and get on with my day.  That's when I heard this slightly exasperated voice in my head say "just read the introduction."  As I read, I remember thinking to myself, what does this have to do with fighting cancer.  As soon as I reached the final paragraph, my eyes began to tear.  There were these words:

"As you read this Gospel, listen to Matthew's clear message: Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Celebrate his victory over evil and death, and make Jesus the Lord of your life."

Jesus has already fought this battle for me and I look forward to the day that we can rejoice in His victory.

After coming home from the hospital from the bout with pneumonia, I was unable to get comfortable in bed one evening.  Instead of lying there thinking whatever random thoughts popped into my head, I decided to go lay on the couch.  After reading a little from another book, I felt that I should read my Bible.  I said a prayer along the lines of 'God, I am not feeling too good tonight.  Please show me something that there are better days ahead.'  I opened my Bible and there before my eyes was Malachi 4:2.

"But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall."

That, my friends, brings a whole new meaning to sunrise.

Finally, I am going to tell you something that after you read it, you may be tempted to call the guys in the white jackets.  The Bible talks about angels and how we are each given one.  However, I may be the only person who is going to admit to actually seeing his. 

While I was going through all of the diagnostic testing, early one morning I was asleep in the hotel room.  I was having a dream, and in my dream I was in the same hotel room and facing the door to the bedroom. Suddenly I realized  that there was a man standing in the door way.  I remember thinking, "Why is that man in the doorway?"  He was dressed in either a robe or gown that was tied at the waist.  Slowly he walked across the room to my side of the bed.  As I looked at him, he bent over and laid his hand on my chest.  The sensation of being touched was so real that it startled me awake.  I have thought about this for several weeks trying to figure out what it all meant.  I have finally concluded that this was my guardian angel simply telling me that he is in this battle with me and watching over me.     

As I head into this next week that will determine what direction we go next, I am leaning on these blessed assurances.

Thanks once again to everyone who is out there praying for me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finding the Right Gear

Whenever I get to ride my bicycle, I notice that there are times that the pedaling seems effortless.  There is a natural rhythm to my legs and breathing.  That is when I know I have found the right gear.  There is a lot of life that is the same way.  We find ourselves in a rhythm and we just roll through the day feeling good about our lives.  Then something comes along and knocks us out of our natural rhythm and we find ourselves desperately looking for anyway to find it again.  On a bike, that's when I realize I am riding uphill in way too big of a gear. 

For me, fighting cancer is very similar to this.  If I can find the rhythm between taking the medicine, eating, sleeping and other daily activities, I begin to feel better.  My biggest problem up until now has been being able to find that rhythm and stay in it.  Every time I think I am about to find the right gear something else comes along and knocks me out of my rhythm.  The last two weeks pneumonia has been what's done this to me.  Just when I think I have the pneumonia under control, the side effects from some of the medicines kicks in and I have to start all over again.

Last Tuesday was a day that I had to start over again.  Monday had gone well and I was beginning to feel like I was getting there.  Then Monday evening, I noticed a strange taste to my food.  Then just like that, everything started tasting bad.  Tuesday morning I had to choke down my breakfast and I could feel my energy level begin drop from the lack of food.  As I got in my truck and headed to work, I began to ask if this was ever going to end.  I was driving to work when I realized that I was pedaling uphill in way too big a gear.  I was one stop light away from turning around, going back home to bed and pulling the covers over my head when I was reminded Who is large and in charge.  As if on queue, a song by Casting Crowns came on the radio that fit me perfectly.  The title of the song is Praise You in This Storm.  I won't retype the lyrics here but if you would like to read them go here:

God used this song to provide the kick in the pants that I needed and remind me that no matter the circumstances, I am to look to Him for help and praise Him.  I will not lie to you and tell you that right now I am able to praise God for cancer but slowly He is teaching me to give Him praise in the midst of this storm.

Sometimes the problem is not the gear you are in but who is pedaling the bike. 

Thanks once again for all of your prayers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I think that it is part of human nature to resist changes to the way we do things or maybe I should say it is part of my nature to resist.  Starting from the day I was diagnosed with cancer, I have been determined to not allow cancer to change or significantly alter my life.  I wanted life to continue on as normal, whatever normal could possibly mean.  I began to suspect  last Sunday morning when I walked in to church, that as hard as I was trying, cancer was changing my normal.  The side affects from the Tarceva had started to appear and I found myself deciding where to sit so that, if necessary, I could leave without disrupting the service for those around me.  My suspicions were confirmed Thursday morning when I entered the MDA Radiation Clinic and saw emblazoned on a waiting room television "Cancer Changes Everything."  Since then, I have been reflecting over the past months to see how else cancer has changed my life.

There have been changes that at first glance appear positive but are actually negatives.  For sometime now, I have been trying to lose some weight.  Ordinarily, I would feel good about losing twenty pounds and an inch off of my waist.  I know a lot of people who have paid a lot of money for those kind of results but this is not a weight loss plan I would wish on anyone.  Eating all of the time and not gaining weight is good for a teenager but I have to eat every few hours to keep from losing more weight.  Sometimes, I actually get tired of eating.

Then there are changes that appear to be negative but are proving to have positive results.  As a result of the lung tumor, part of my lung has collapsed.  This makes it difficult to talk sometimes and singing is all but out of the question.  Not being able to sing maybe a positive for those around me but I am finding it also has a positive effect on me.  Since I can not sing, I am now more closely reading the words to the hymns and I am realizing what a wonderful gift the old hymns are to the church.  Don't tell your music ministers I said this but try this sometime, stop singing and read the words; let them soak in.   

Finally, there are changes that can only be seen as positive.  Sunrises and sunsets no longer just mark the beginning and ending of each day.  They are times to be thankful for another day and celebrate the glory of God's creation.  I know that my prayers and talks with God are a bit more direct and urgent.  My quiet times and Bible study times are deeper now.  I love Jesus and appreciate what He has done for me more now than ever.  I love and value my sons more now than the day they were born.  I love my wife more each day and thank God every day that she is here for me to lean on.  I simply can not imagine going through this without her by my side.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Do you ever think about all of the numbers you have to keep track of?  DeLayne and I didn't until the day I was admitted to the MDA Cancer Clinic.  They needed to know home and business addresses, home and business phone numbers, cell phone numbers, emergency contact phone numbers, social security number, insurance policy number and date of birth.  Just to name a few.

Once you are admitted, the numbers only get worse.  Now you have to remember your patient ID number, appointment times, building numbers and shuttle schedules.  At every appointment you can look forward to having your weight, height, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and oxygen level measured.  And do not even get me started on what they do to you when you go in to have a test or procedure done.

In honor of all of these important numbers as well as the critical numbers we keep track of on the weekend like football scores, baseball scores and the Ranger's magic number, here are a few more numbers that have entered my life in the last year and what they mean.

53 miles - this is the furthest I have ever ridden  on my bike.  About a week before my 50th birthday I got the idea that I should ride at least 50 miles before I turned 50.  Okay, admittedly, not the best idea I ever had.

45 miles - just how many of those 53 miles I enjoyed.  The last eight was a serious prayer time.

274 miles - how far it is from our driveway to MDA.

5 - how many siblings I have; three sisters and two brothers.  Four of which are older than me.

28,000,000 - if you saw any coverage of the final stage of the Tour de France, you probably know this.  Team Radio Shack and Lance Armstrong reminded us that this is how many people in the world today there are living with cancer.  I did not know it at the time, but I was one of them.

28,000 - the number of new patients admitted to MDA in a year.

1,200 - the number of people that will participate in the lung cancer study I volunteered for.  There will be 600 with and 600 without cancer in the study.

April 2010 - this is when my lung cancer symptoms first appeared.

April 16, 2010 - the day that the FDA issued their findings that Tarceva was approved as a first-line treatment for lung cancer.  Anyone want to argue God's timing?

Saturn III - the clinical trial that established Tarceva as a first-line lung cancer treatment.

9 - the floor that my thoracic oncologist is located on.

30 - how many Tarceva were prescribed for the first round of treatment.

22 - how many Tarceva were sitting at the Tom Thumb pharmacy less than a half mile from our house.  Anyone want to argue God knowing our EVERY need?

7 - the floor that the brain surgeon is located on.

4 - the number of screws that will hold the halo in place for the Gamma Knife procedure.

192 - the number of individual radiation beams that will be focused on my brain tumor Thursday.

20 minutes - the approximate time they expect the Gamma Knife procedure to take. 

15% - this is the percentage of people diagnosed with lung cancer that survive longer than five years.  I plan to be one of them.

100% - the percentage of people who will die.  Unless the Lord comes before then.

100% - the percentage of people who have an eternal life.  I once heard a minister put it this way:  "The question is not whether you have eternal life, the question is, where will you spend it?"

I am confident where I will spend my eternal life.  If you are not sure where you will spend yours, please e-mail me.

Thanks once again to all of the people who are praying for me and the family.  I think I now have a prayer chain that stretches from California to Maine.

Love you all!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


DeLayne came home the other evening and said that she had been asked by a friend what my favorite meal is and she did not no how to answer.  After that the thought occurred to me that to most people I am probably identified as either DeLayne's husband or Chad and Shane's dad.  So, just so everyone can know a little more about me, here is a list of a few of my favorite things.  Now that song is stuck in your head too.

Meal - Spaghetti and meat balls.  Although just about any pasta dish will be eaten.  Good thing with all of the bike riding at our house, there is a lot of pasta consumed.  I also like pounded and smothered steak with mashed potatoes, gravy  and corn like mom use to make.

Pie - coconut cream.  I forgot how good Luby's coconut cream pie is until yesterday when we stopped at Luby's for lunch.  I also like pecan and of course cherry with vanilla ice cream is a good comfort food.

Cake - German chocolate with Carmel/coconut icing.

Ice Cream - Vanilla.  You can do anything with it. 

Pizza - Pepperoni followed by Hawaiian.

Soft drink - I'm a Pepper.

Sport - sorry guys, it's baseball.  I started playing when I was six years old.  This was the first sport I was allowed to play.  I played catcher probably because I was the only kid who could catch a baseball.  The team I was on  did not have any shin guards but I loved it.  We were so bad we got the sportsmanship trophy. 

Hobbies - riding bikes and photography.

Baseball team - the Rangers.  Yes, they are doing well this year but I am still holding my breath.

Football team - the Dallas Cowboys.

Car - my 1983 Dodge Shelby Charger.  The day I bought that car, DeLayne's boss insisted she take a ride in it and that is when I asked her out.  The rest, as they say,  is history.

Vacation - The cruise DeLayne and I took to Alaska for our 25th anniversary.

Family Vacation - any one of the trips we took to Wind River Ranch in Estes Park, Co.  If you are looking for a great place to take a family vacation, I strongly suggest checking this out.

Candy - may parents peanut brittle followed very closely by my sister Joyce's homemade toffee.  However, I have met very few candies I could not learn to like.

Favorite Hymn - The Old Rugged Cross.  That hymn can preach.

Favorite Bible verse - John 3:16.  That verse just sums it all up.

Favorite Bible Passage - Mathew 6:25 - 34.  Any passage that starts with "Why do you worry?" is for me right now.

Favorite son - depends on who is in the room when I need something. 

Well, I hoped you all enjoyed all of that insight.

Thanks again for all of the prayers, support and encouragement.  It means more than you will ever know.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


There is no sense pretending that Wednesday, August 25th was not the lowest point of this battle thus far.  It was that afternoon that we found out that I have Stage IV lung cancer.  That pretty much took the wind right out of my sails.  I spent that evening calling family and letting them know what we had learned and that I was scheduled for yet another round of biopsies Friday morning.  I went to bed that evening praying for just a little good news.

Thursday morning brought a new day with new challenges.  DeLayne wanted to attend a class at MDA and left a little before 10:00 leaving me alone in the hotel.  Honestly, at that point, I just wanted to curl up on the couch and cry but something made me get up and get out my camera and start yet another project I have been planning.  While preparing my camera, I kept asking God for something, anything that would make me chuckle.

Across the street from our hotel is a small park with fountains.  I made my way over there to see if there was anything to photograph.  I had taken just a couple of photos when I noticed a guy walking his dog by one of the fountains.  We said good morning to each other as we passed.  When I got to the end of the fountain, I turned around and saw his dog running into the water.  This fountain has spouts that shoot the water straight up.  I watched as this dog started trying to catch the water.  The next thing I knew, I was laughing at what I was watching as it ran from spout to spout.  I thought I needed  some photos of this and went back to ask the owner if it would be okay to photograph his dog.  He said no problem and introduced me to Pepper.

Pepper is a rescue dog and is oddly afraid of the water.  I guess that means lakes and swimming pools because she was having a lot of fun and kept going back for more.  Pepper may have been a rescue dog but today she was a four legged angel.  I spent the next several minutes photographing and watching Pepper just be a dog. 

After they left I took a few more pictures around the park before getting a call that I had an appointment to get back in the battle.  But this time with a much better attitude.  I realized that today I had asked God for a chuckle and  He gave me Pepper.

Thanks again for all of the prayers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eye of the Storm

We have just completed our first day at MDA.  DeLayne asked me after we got back to the hotel if I ever felt anxious today.  I replied that no I never really did.  Part of that may have been due to having DeLayne's brother and sister-in-law here Wednesday evening to show us the ropes.  It helps when you have had people who have gone before you help lead you into the battle. 

Another part of it is this constant feeling I have that God has been laying the foundation for the events to come for many, many years.  Take for instance DeLayne getting the urge to reconnect with friends from 20 years ago.  Turns out that some of them have fought the cancer battle and now call or e-mail their prayers and encouragement.  Or the young lady I met in Bangkok almost 12 years ago who moved to the U.S.  This young lady walked into my office two days after the diagnoses and asked if she could pray for me.  These are just two of the instances that confirm to me that God has a plan and will give me the peace and grace to fight this battle.  I have tried to describe to friends the sense of calm that both DeLayne and I feel but the only way I can think of is to say that we are living in the eye of the storm.  Where we are right now is calm but if we try to look too far ahead, all we see is the rolling, boiling storm clouds and we feel the uncertainty of it all.

There is a great story in the Bible about Peter, my favorite disciple.  The disciples have all gotten in a boat to sail to the other side of the sea.  Jesus has stayed behind for the evening.  Then in the middle of the night, the disciples see a figure walking on the water.  At first they believe it to be a spirit but then realize that it is Jesus.  Peter calls out to Him and tells Jesus that if it is really Him to say so and he will come out to Him.  The next thing Peter knows he is out of the boat and walking on the water too.  Everything is fine until Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus.  Peter notices the wind and the clouds and starts to sink.  He calls out to Jesus and Jesus takes his hand and pulls Peter back to the surface.  This story has really struck home with me the last few weeks.  As long as I keep my focus on Jesus daily I do not see the storm around me and I sense the calmness of His love for me.  Once I try and get too far ahead, I see the storm starting to boil and can get scared.

If doubt is going to find its way in, it will come in the night.  That is when everyone is in bed and the house is quiet and I am alone with my thoughts.  Thankfully, twenty years ago I heard a song that now is sustaining me during these times.  Back in the 1980s, Rich Mullins  wrote a song titled Hold Me Jesus.  I have loved this song since I first heard it and now the first two versus and chorus have become my almost nightly prayer. 

Please pray for the right people to be in the right place at the right time.

Love you all.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Sycamore Tree

I had planned on only writing once or twice a week.  But as the old saying goes; if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.  I think God has had just a few laughs during my life.  The last couple of days have not been a lot of fun.  I came down with bronchitis over the weekend and have been coughing and not sleeping at night.  Both nights a particular event that occurred just before my symptoms began to appear has been playing over and over in my mind.  I am finding that whenever I feel that there is something I need to share, I should share.  So, here it goes and yes it will be preachy.

Do you ever have songs just pop into your mind from nowhere?  We laugh about it around the house when it happens.  DeLayne seems to have old classic hymns pop into her mind and I have old Vacation Bible School kid songs pop into mine.  That should probably tell you something about how different mine and DeLayne's music capabilities are.

One morning as I was backing out of the driveway,  the kid song about Zacchaeus popped into my head.  The story of Zacchaeus is detailed in Luke chapter 19.  Some of you may have learned this song and might be humming along now.  It has probably been forty years since I sang that song but there were those lyrics just like it was yesterday. 

Why was this song suddenly stuck in my mind?  I could have just passed it off but it kept happening day after day for several days.  Then one morning I heard the radio announcer say "Remember, today you may be the only Jesus someone sees."  Just like that, the puzzle pieces fell into place and lead me to ask a rather haunting question.  If my life were a sycamore tree, would someone crossing my path be able to climb it and see Jesus?  Sadly, the answer to that question is no.  There have been times in my life that if people were the climb that tree, they would not catch a glimpse of Jesus.  Thankfully and praise God, I am forgiven!

Since that morning, I have had a new morning prayer.  Each morning I ask God to grant me the grace that whomever may cross my path that day would see Jesus in my words, actions and deeds.  I had been finding it easier to be courteous and forgiving to people as I go through the day.  And thus I thought I had found the deep meaning in this song.

Then came the diagnoses of cancer and now there is a new branch in my sycamore tree.  I realize now that there will be multiple people coming into my life on a daily basis; doctors, nurses, lab techs, other cancer patients.  So, now I have another prayer.  That God heal me and that people be able to see Jesus in me during the process.

That's all I have for now.  So, go out and be someone's sycamore tree.

Thanks once again for all of the prayers, encouragement, e-mails and calls of support.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The term "Wingman" was first used in World War I.  The air corps realized that more of their pilots returned when two or more planes flew together.  Your wingman was the pilot who flew just off your wing tip to help cover you from attacks.

One night when I could not sleep I began reviewing the last few years in my mind and some of the bike rides I have been on.  Maybe it is that I am now fifty years old or that I have cancer but I began to realize that the rides I remember most are the ones that I have been on with Chad and Shane.  We have had a lot of fun and probably more than our share of laughs but I always feel a bit younger and a bit spunkier when I ride with them.  We each get our share of barbs in and try to watch out for road hazards.  Usually, by the time I reach a hazard, I've had two warnings.

This is one of my favorite photos of Chad and Shane racing.  I have it hanging on my office wall at work.  This is a rare shot in that both boys are in the frame.  They are sprinting for the finish in a college race.  Chad is on the left and Shane is on the right.  I had watched the two of them shred a college race that day with their relentless attacks.  I am glad that when we ride together, they take it easy on me.

Sorry, I digressed there.  Back to bike riding.  As I was saying, we have had a lot of fun and they usually offer me encouragement like this:

"Hurry up old man"
"Try and keep up at least until we are out of the neighborhood."
"You want me to push you up this hill."

But here are some of my favorite bike riding stories.

We had gotten up early one morning and decided to take a ride out to Lake Lavon.  The ride is about 35 miles roundtrip and on two lane country roads.  This morning Chad had decided to ride his fixie.  If you do not know, a fixie is a fixed gear bike that does not coast and has no brakes.  We were headed down hill on one of the back roads and Chad was in the lead about twenty yards in front.  I was in my usual position, the rear.  Suddenly out of the left ditch pops a skunk and starts running across the road.  I hit the brakes and start yelling at Chad to watch the skunk.  He finally sees it about five feet from him and locks up his legs putting his bike in to a skid.  Since we escaped unscathed, that was funny and the three of us had a good laugh.

When I had first gotten my road bike and was learning to ride with my feet clipped to the pedals, we went for a quick ride.  The wind was really blowing that day out of the south and it took all I had to stay upright.  As we were approaching an intersection, our light turned red.  I was leaning hard into a cross wind, trying to stop and get unclipped all at the same time.  Obviously, it was to much for my mind to handle.  I stopped just in time for the wind to quit blowing and caught me leaning with my feet still attached to the pedal.  In my mind, I think I looked like Artie Johnson on his tricycle on the old Laugh In show.  After picking my self up and dusting off the following conversation ensued.

Chad:  Are you OK?
Me: Yes, I think so.
Chad:  Are you sure?
Me:  Except for my pride, I'm fine.
Chad:  Good.  That means I can laugh and that was the funniest thing I've ever seen.

One Sunday after church, Chad and I took off for a ride up to the north part of McKinney.  We had reached highway 75 and were crossing over to the north bound frontage road.  Chad suggested that we turn left and head north on the frontage road.  I followed his left turn and we headed down hill.  This section of frontage road goes down hill and then does a u-turn under 75 and then heads uphill on the south bound side.  I realized too late where we were and that I would have to climb back up the other side.  I hate climbing.

Me:  Hey, if we go down this side, don't we have to go up the other side?
Chad: Yes.
Me:  You jerk!
Chad:  Laughing, rides away.

After work whenever possible I like to take a quick ten to fifteen mile ride to relax.  This particular evening both boys decided to accompany me.  As usual in Texas during the summer, the wind was blowing hard out of the south.  We made a turn and the wind hit us in the face.  We had not ridden very far when I realized that neither of the boys were at my side.  I took a quick look over my shoulder and there they were riding single file behind me. 

Me: Hey, what are you guys doing?
Them: Drafting.
Me: Why?
Them: You make a good wind break.
Me: Jerks.
Them: Laughing.

Well, there you have it.  A few of my favorite memories.  When I ride with the boys, I am never quite sure where we will go or how we will get there but I know it will be fun and that I will cherish the time.   I am blessed and proud to call them my sons.  I don't know what the next months or years hold for me but I know that my wingmen will be there to lift my spirits.

Love you guys.

Thanks again for all of the prayers.  They are helping.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I am learning what I guess every cancer patient has to learn to deal with; the never ending questions.  There are questions from doctors, nurses, friends and family.  The worst ones are the questions from yourself.  These are the ones that can keep you awake at night and defeat the Tylenol-PM.  So, in the interest of a better night's sleep, I'll try and deal with a few of them here.

Why me?

According to the doctor, I am just one of that small fraction of people who have zero risk factors and still get cancer.  With my dad having three different cancers and my sister being a breast cancer survivor, maybe it's genetic.  For all of the people who think I am a little off, now you know.  I might be genetically modified.

In all seriousness, the question just might as well be; why not me?  I don't think there is anything so special about me that should guarantee I would not get cancer.  I might as well have this as anyone else and as of yet, God has not chosen to show me His complete plan.  I will take this one day, one step at a time.

Although I accept that there is not an answer to this question and I try not to dwell on it, I will confess that Sunday evening I did have a real moment.  DeLayne, Shane and I decided to run out and get a sandwich.  As we walked up to the restaurant, I noticed a guy who had to be 50 to 100 pounds over weight and smoking a cigarette.   The thought popped into my head "and I'm the guy with lung cancer."

Should I be mad at God?

No, I don't think so.  If I should be mad at anybody, I would go with Adam and Eve.  God placed Adam and Eve in the perfect world.  Unfortunately, he gave them free will and they messed it up.  As a result, there are bad things in this world.  Thankfully, God gave His one and only Son as a way to redemption and eternal life for the rest of us.  I can't imagine going through this mess without the knowledge that eventually my home is in heaven.

Will I be healed?

I sincerely believe that I will be.  Some of you may think I am totally off of my rocker with this one but this really did happen.  It was the Sunday after getting the CT results that identified two tumors in my right lung.  Shane and I had walked into the sanctuary at church and sat down.  I was looking through the order of service and got down to the day's message title: Healed of a Lengthy Affliction.   Out of no where I heard a voice say "It will be a long, hard battle but you will be healed."  It was not a loud, booming voice but I guess that I would call it that still, small voice we all want to hear.  Imagine my surprise today when the pulmonologist said to me "Bottom line is that you have lung cancer.  You are in for a long, hard battle."

Coincidence?  I don't think so.

That's all I have for today.  Sorry that I did get a bit preachy but hey, it's my blog.

Thanks again to all of my friends and family for the prayers, love and support.  Now, let's go beat this!

Saturday, July 31, 2010


It became official at 3:30 pm, July 30.  I have lung cancer.  There are two words I never thought I would hear a doctor tell me.  To try and keep my sanity and let people know what is going on, I decided to start this blog.  Since it is my blog, I have established a few rules:
  1. Proper English, spelling and punctuation don't count.
  2. Don't argue with me. 
  3. Be positive.
  4. I can say whatever I want. 
  5. Remember, the voices aren't real but sometime they have good ideas. 
One question that several people have already asked is "how did this start?" In April I was on one of my bike rides and was headed back home when I got a tickle in my throat and a cough.  I did not think much of it and chalked it up to allergies.  The cough steadily got worse over the next few weeks until early May I had a bad coughing episode at work.  I called the doctor over at the health center and went to see him.  He diagnosed it as an upper respiratory infection and put me on an antibiotic for a week.  I started feeling better over the next week but the cough stayed.  

We took DeLayne's mom to Atlanta to see her family in mid-May and I felt good but still had the cough.  After we got back to Dallas the cough came back with a vengeance and I went to see my family doctor.  He ordered up a set of chest x-rays and diagnosed me with pneumonia.  I was prescribed another round of antibiotics and told to come back so he could check to see if the pneumonia was gone.  Ten days later I went back for my follow-up.  He checked me out and said that my lungs were clear even though I still had my cough.  I was told that is normal for pneumonia.  He wanted me to come back the first of July for follow-up x-rays to be sure that my lungs were clear.  He also told me that I could start riding again.

Over the next three weeks I continued to ride and noticed that when I rode, my airway opened up and I could breath much better.  On the morning of July 5th, I got up and went for an early morning ride.  I rode almost 20 miles and felt great.  Dare I say, I felt fast.  This was without a doubt the best I had felt in two months and thought that finally I was getting over this stuff.  Later that morning I went for my follow-up x-rays and doctor appointment.  I about went into shock when he came in and told me that not only did I still have pneumonia but it was worse.  He gave me a pulmonologist  name and told me I needed to see him as soon as I could.

The month of July has been spent seeing either the pulmonologist or going to the hospital for CT scans and biopsies.  The last biopsy confirmed that I have non-small cell carcinoma in my right lung.  At this point he does not believe that I would be a good candidate for surgery because of where and how the tumor has grown.  We will now start our search for treatment options.

This is me the day I found out.  The bike I am on is my road bike.  I started riding a few years ago after the boys started riding and racing.  I thought I would go riding with the boys.  That did not last long.  The goal finally came to just trying to keep them in site.  Thus far, the doctors are telling me to keep riding as long as I feel like it.  

The morning after getting the diagnosis I went for a ride.  I made sure to ride a little further than usual.  I figured if I could ride just a little further than usual it would be a small victory over the cancer.  After the last month, I'll take them where I can.

Well, there you have it; how it started and where I am now.  Check back for updates.  I promise to keep it as light hearted as possible.  I will try not to preach but God is already opening my eyes to many things so be prepared.  When I feel like sharing, I will.  And if you don't like it, see rule #2.

Thanks to all of my family and friends for the prayers and support.  Keep it up.