husband.

I had the honor of being a part of two weddings this past weekend. As I was getting ready, doing my make up and chatting with the other members of the bridal party, I was collecting memories of my own wedding day. Hearing the vows said by each couple reminded me of my own promises I made to Josh on December 2, 2017. It’s amazing that we have now been married for a year and 4 months! Time has flown by, and we have experienced some new things that all newlyweds go through: we have moved twice, adopted a dog, had some tiffs over the small stuff, endured the process of job searching and being excited over starting a new job. We have also experienced some things that some couples don’t experience until decades of being in marriage: making treatment decisions, hearing not great news over scans, traveling for clinical trials. I realized that though he is my sweet, quiet man, it doesn’t mean I have to be quiet about him on this blog. I mention him often in the background of my life, but he’s my teammate through it all. He deserves a bit of a shout out now and then.

I also think of us as a team because of Josh’s wedding vows. Early on in marriage, Josh had to consistently remind me that he is always on my side, that we are on the same team. I have learned that by having this mindset, I give Josh the benefit of the doubt, that I give him grace, the same grace that God freely gives us. Even though he doesn’t need to “work ” for this grace I give him, he has proven time and time again that he is always there for me, always loyal, will fight for me on my behalf for everything. He is my fierce protector and would do anything to take away the pain and cancer for me.

And Josh shows me grace all of the time. For a quiet, behind-the-scenes kinda guy, he always patiently listens to me no matter the topic of conversation, from our sweet Wylie pup to what errands we need to run. He’s always willing to be in the hospital with me, from scans to waiting on chemotherapy to arrive to spending the night in the most uncomfortable hospital make-shift couch-bed. I knew Josh was loyal, but I didn’t know I could experience such faithfulness from one person. He’s learned how to give me shots at home to flushing out my PICC line at home every night, no matter what hour he gets home from his policing shift. He’s patient with our crazy Wylie boy, luring him back inside with treats and love, and sometimes even chasing him around the backyard.

I’ve seen Josh grow so much as well over this year+. He’s learned how to communicate better his emotions and what he is thinking and stressing over. He’s grown in his confidence in prayer; he requests every day before he heads off to work for us to pray together, knitting us closer together and to our Heavenly Father. Praying with him before work has become something I really value and treasure during our time, and it always changes my own perspective going into the rest of the day. And Josh has grown in his commitment to the Word, reading eagerly every day for his spirit to be fed the words of truth and wisdom to guide through tough times and decisions at work and at home. I really respect and admire his growth and transformation that has come from his consistency in prayer and reading the Word. Not only does Josh’s spiritual growth and maturity benefit from these things, but our relationship as well! Pleading for things from our Dad has really grown us closer and helped us become one as the Word says that we are now “one flesh” (Mark 10:7-9).

So, today I’m here back at the hospital, thinking of the sweet man that dropped me off this morning. We’ve been in this room I’m sure before, waiting together on chemotherapy and drugs. Now we are in a perpetual waiting room called Life, waiting on a new clinical trial that is supposedly coming to Nationwide Children’s soon. And yet, here we are, still waiting. The trial is now currently being investigated in Florida, so now we are looking to go there. Hopefully they are still covering the cost of travel. Please pray that our wait—to either hear back from Children’s or Florida—about getting into this clinical trial. It could be a game changer for my health; I recently went back to a harder trinity of chemotherapy drugs that have worn me out the past couple of weeks. I need a break from these drugs, and undergoing a trial of a drug that my body has never seen before could be huge! Please be praying that we will hear back from them sooner rather than later!

Thank you always for your support, thoughts, prayer and practical service to Josh and I. The Searcy team thanks you immensely!

img_6313

Josh and I at his police badge pinning ceremony in January 2019. Our families and I are so proud of all that he has accomplished and how he is serving and protecting
our community!

hospital hibernation.

A couple weeks ago, I spent more time at the hospital than my own home; I spent 5 days and 4 nights there. And I hate hearing whenever I have to be admitted to the hospital, but looking back I am grateful that I did and went there when I did.

It’s funny because earlier that Monday, I was at the hospital and every nurse just praised how great I looked, how healthy, how good, basically, how normal. And I felt exactly how they spoke: normal, healthy, happy. But as the day went on, a pain crescendo-ed. Pain drummed into my right shoulder, consistent beat, pain’s rod striking my bones every moment and sharper and closer to the last. Monday evening, it was at its worst, and I asked a dear friend to massage it for me. She massaged it for quite some time, at least 30 minutes, but the relief from it lasted no more than 3 minutes. Pain interrupted my sleep, and I reached more frequently for my prescription pain medicine than I normally do. I am someone who prefers balms, salves, heating pads, hot showers, massages, acupuncture—anything homeopathic compared to medicine. So for me to take the medicine meant I was really in pain, and that nothing was working, including the medicine. Tuesday the pain became worse and now was reaching my chest forcing me to sit on the couch with a heating pad on the majority of the day, once again reaching for that prescription pain medicine, which seemed to still not be working. Wednesday I wake up with pain as my alarm, and I feel like I’m going to either pass out or throw up as I move about the house. Now I can’t take this. Three days of pain is much too much, and so I call my nurse navigator asking if there is any open spots in the clinic for a doctor to see me. Prayerfully, there is one.

Once I’m wheeled into my room, its vitals time and of course, surprise surprise, I have a fever. Having a fever means more tests for me, seeing if I have an infection in my PIC line and investigating what else could be the source of this fever. I don’t even care that I have one, even though it is quite high. All I want is to be freed of pain. Waiting for the doctor to see me and prescribe some IV pain medication, I literally am moaning from the pain, the torture of waiting. This moaning is not just for today’s pain but also for yesterday and the day before that; this is the climax of my injury. I can’t help it, this instinctual cry that comes from within me, my own melody responding to the pain’s drumming thunderous beat. I don’t want to moan, because I find it kind of embarrassing and that I should keep myself together, but I can’t any more. The pain has unlocked me and my civilities.

After being tended to by nurses and my doctors and finally experiencing some relief from IV pain medication, it’s decided that I need to spend some time overnight at the hospital. I’m so miserable that I don’t even care. In fact, I almost just want to stay so I can get this pain to calm down completely. More tests are done throughout the next couple of days, trying to figure out the source and cause of this unbearable pain. On Friday, there is finally an answer as to what has been going inside my body to create storms of pain within my chest, a downpour that seems to never to ceasing: pericarditis. The sac that your hearts in, the pericardium, its own little heart-couch, had become inflamed, the cardiologist-oncologist explained to me. Finally, just knowing the source of the pain is an immediate comfort, knowing that you’re alright and that you’re going to be ok. Naming pain has some sort of new power, new control over it that you once did not have over the nebulous power that was presiding over you, weakening  you because you had no idea what to do to even begin to try to fight it and all of your weapons you went to were broken in trying to fight it.

My new weapons: high doses of ibuprofen around the clock, increased medicinal pain patch, and another prescription for my pain medication. Since I’ve left the hospital, this trio seems to be working. Some days I wake up and the pain is back, or late in the evening it’s slow steady beat returns, an unusual lullaby before bedtime. The more annoying and frustrating side effect though is my shortness of breath. During my 5 day stay, I was on oxygen for most of the time, the chest pain making it difficult to breath. Some mornings, like today, I have energy to move about freely within the house. Other days, I’m panting just trying to head to the bathroom, which is literally the room right next to our bedroom.

Sigh. The body. I can’t control it as much as I want to. The only way to control it is to rest, rest, rest, more resting that I was doing before this five day hospital hibernation. Which is frustrating and discouraging because up until that point, I finally felt like I had been experiencing good energy and better discernment when it came to resting and going out, even staying out later than I would have normally been able to do. So with me panting now going to the next room over…it just feels like I’ve regressed so much in such a little about of time. Like, how much more can a body rest? I’m trying to listen, I really am. And I guess there is progress since I haven’t been as frustrated with myself when I don’t complete all of the activities I was hoping to accomplish that day. That is life-giving and energy-saving. Discouragement drains.

Thankfully, I did have enough energy to attend our new young adult home-group that Josh and I have been going to. This week we studied a brief survey of Jesus’ miracles and their purpose to affirm his claims as the Messiah Savior. I almost just sat there and cried as we read passage after passage of the various healing miracles, from freedom of fevers to freedom from death. The climax (and the truest moment of holding back tears of realization)—

matthew 8

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.”

Jesus takes on our sicknesses and carries them for us.

In my moments of hospital over-nighters and chemo-driven days, this truth can many a times feel so far away. But with my Bible in my lap, hearing it read aloud that moment in homechurch, it couldn’t have hit home any closer. Because I realized that whether I remember this truth or not, all day, every day, Jesus has been doing this for me for the past 14 years. Man, I would not be here if he hadn’t all those years ago! He is always there, withholding more pain that I probably even know and halting cancer cell growth more than scans can show. This verse promises his very, very nearness to us, hugging us physically and spiritually with its compassion and comfort, the promise that he is more than just there with us but taking on and enduring it all for us too.

On the surface, it may not look like the traditional “miracle” since I’m still undergoing treatment after all of this time. My cancer hasn’t completely disappeared like the Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever; it is still here within my lungs and my bones. But it’s a miracle that I am still here, even with a rare cancer, stage 4 diagnosis pronounced upon me 14 years ago. You can’t argue that one. The statistics argue for my miracle.

He has taken upon my cancer.

He has bore it in so many more ways that I won’t know until eternity.

That is joy-giving, life-giving.

That is grace.

scan update.

It’s a strange feeling when you feel so healthy, so alive, so normal but then you’re given x-ray vision as you skim the scans of your body and see what is really going on.

My body is complicated and complex. Yesterday, Dr. Nick went over the CT scans of my lungs, at the same time comparing them to past scans. Some cancerous nodules have gotten smaller, but not by much. And one nodule has definitely grown, you can see it be a bit larger than the others.

Honestly, I don’t know how they can tell what is what on those black and white scans. In my vision, to me the air in my lungs is the black night sky, and the nodules are like tiny little white stars scattered throughout, making unknown and undefined constellations within me. And the blood vessels that also show up white look like shooting stars; make a wish. I  wish on them for good health. I wish even harder that the cancer will go away.

Although my scans weren’t the best of news, I’m used to receiving this kind of news. Is that bad or sad that I’m “used to” this? But really, I am so used to so many things within the cancer world. I think I sometimes shock people with the ease and casualness that I speak about treatment, radiation and procedures. But this is just my life. After 14 years of being on and off treatment, being a cancer patient is my normal more than not being a cancer patient. It’s just as normal for me to talk about cancer as it is for you to talk about your job. Because in a way, fighting cancer is my job. I write cancer, I fight cancer.

Upcoming next in my battle is a biopsy. I’m actually getting this procedure done on Thursday, Valentine’s Day. This biopsy isn’t being done to diagnose but instead to get my tumor DNA tested and see all of the gene sequencing and gene expressions. (I hope I am saying all of this correctly; I never was well-versed in the sciences as I am the humanities.) We are hoping to get this in-depth cellular information to make better and more informed decisions regarding future clinical trials and treatments. The latest in cancer treatment is immunotherapy. These immunotherapy clinical trials are typically targeting a specific gene, so knowing if I do or don’t have that gene will be a great asset in decision making on treatments. Please pray that this DNA testing will be beneficial to my family and I and for a good, quick recovery! I’m always shocked at how painful a biopsy can be post surgery. Even though they are taking a small sample of the tumor, they are still removing something that is attached to me, even though I think of cancer in my mind as this separate entity within me. So please pray for the pain to quiet quickly!

I have been thinking more about pain recently. Before this period of good energy, I was experiencing significant pain again in my chest, my neck and shoulders, and a short, sharp pain behind the knee. All over just felt this achingness that stayed as loyal as my shadow. As I was experiencing this period of pain, my reading just so happened to align and give me insight. I’ve been reading off and on the past year really Rose From Brier, a collection of letters by early 20th century missionary Amy Carmichael. My dear friend Hannah gave this book to me as she had heard that it was a book Amy wrote from one ill person to another ill person. As someone who experienced much physical pain herself, she reflects:

“What if every stroke of pain, or hour of weariness, or loneliness, or any other trial of flesh and spirit, could carry us a pulse-beat nearer to some other life, some life for which the ministry of prayer is needed—would it not be worthwhile to suffer? Ten thousand times yes. And surely it must be so, for the further we are drawn into the fellowship of Calvary [the cross] with our dear Lord, the tenderer we are toward others, the closer alongside do our spirits lie with them that are in bonds; as being ourselves also in the body. God never wastes His children’s pain.”

p. 128 of Rose From Brier

God never wastes His children’s pain.

Doesn’t your heart just stop but also soar at the same time in hearing this? The spirit of God within me affirms this, that God does see and care about my pain. He more than just notices; He knows and He Himself experienced more pain on the cross than I could ever bear. He never forgets that I have cancer, that I have limp, that pain seems to bloom for a moment within me, a destructively beautiful flower blooming within me, it’s petals of glass cutting and tearing into me as its unfolding. I imagine there are still more seeds of these flowers waiting to sprout and scorn me.

But, God never wastes His children’s pain. One day in the future, when my soul flies to Him, He will comfort me as I hurriedly run into His arms. He will explain the whys that aren’t necessary to always know in this lifetime. Even though there is pain, He is still good.

He is still—always and forever, past and preset—immensely good.


I am still in the long process of transforming my blog into a book. If you would like to hear a recent update, check out my Kickstarter. Thanks again to all who have donated! Your support—financial, thoughts, prayers—means everything! This upcoming week I am participating in a writer’s workshop through your donations. I am very excited about this and hope it helps propel even more momentum for me in the editing and writing process. Thanks all for your encouragement to take this next step of faith to craft a book!

scan day.

Today is a scan day.

And I surprisingly don’t feel all that anxious. Typically, my body will start to feel sick, weak and in pain just days before the scans:  a physical response to the anxiety I’m subconsciously  feeling. It always takes me a while to figure out what is wrong with me, and then I happen to look at the calendar, and BAM! before I even remembered my body knew scans were upcoming. Isn’t the body freakishly amazing like that?

Thank God that I haven’t been feeling anxiously and that instead I am happy, content, at peace. I have been reflecting on the past couple days actually how happy I have been. What a crazy difference! Instead of anxiety, peace. Instead of worry, joy. He is so true to his promises as we hand over our worries, He exchanges it for peace and joy. Why don’t I give them over more often when I know in my heart, knowledge and experience for this promise to be true? I am so fickle and forgetful.

I’ve been so grateful for the energy I’ve been having. So different state of body and mind compared to this past weekend, where just days ago I was at the ER and had an overnight hospital stay for fevers and low blood counts, low life energy. I feel like I am finally starting to understand when my body needs rest (not always, because that is how I ended up in the ER probably) but I am understanding more and listening more and agreeing more instead of disagreeing and going defiantly against my own self, my own flesh and blood. And sometimes you just have to know when it’s appropriate to “push it.” Without this pushing, this dragging of my body at times, I would miss out so much of life, of events, of moments great and small like celebrating a friend’s engagement to going out to eat dinner with my husband. Sometimes need that push, that boost, that pep talk to take those small steps towards life instead of laying in the midst of despair and sadness on our mattresses.

I ask the Spirit often for that push, that boost, that pep talk. I often also ask Josh, and to help me as a check and balance system of whether I should get out and go or stay in and rest. Because I want to be there for the big things and the small things. I want to be healthy enough to walk my fur baby Wylie and attend birthday dinners and weddings. And I don’t want to just be a presence there, foggy consciousness from chemo brain but I want to engage and have a light through the fog. Sometimes that light is dimmer than other times and sometimes its so bright that I forget that I am sick, that I have cancer.

So, today I’m living before scans. I’m running errands and playing with Wylie. I’m enjoying the bright sunny cold of February. I’m reading from my devotional hymns and prayer journaling gratitude and requests. These scans might be a “pause” from life, but no matter their results, they aren’t going to keep me from living, no matter the tumor sizes and shapes that emerge from the imaging.

Please pray with me, my family and friends today for good scan news! This has been a rough chemotherapy on my body; I’ve received already several blood transfusions because of how much so. Please pray that it’s all been worth it! Thank you for your prayers, always!

 

bright.

hello all.

It’s sunny, bright, cold and crisp today. It is the perfect January winter day in Ohio.

A week out from my chemotherapy transfusion, and I feel refreshed. The winter sun is energizing and at the same time calming, grounding me and fueling me. Its brightness is such an encouragement against the bleakness I usually feel.

I truly believe God has heard everyone’s prayers this past week for me. I honestly can’t believe how good I truly feel, just normal so quickly. I am not complaining, and I hope it lasts! I want to ride this energy as long as I can. Sustain me Lord to do your work! Keep me in this perfect peace, this relaxed and content state.

My pain has lessened. Looking back on the past few weeks, I should have experienced a sore and swollen throat, a side effect from radiation. I had been so worried about it, since the last time I had radiation to my neck, my throat was burned so badly from the inside out. These past few weeks though, I only noticed a tight constriction of pain whenever I yawned. I tried to hydrate with water and green tea to keep the inflammation down. Praise God for such little pain! What a relief!

My neck and shoulders also have been improving. I no longer feel this ache-y stiffness all the time, and my electric heated shoulder pad proves its usefulness daily. To begin to feel some freedom from such an intense pain for over a year now is a miracle! I cannot begin to express how much this impacts my mood, my mindset, my perspective, my quality of life. Thank you Jesus!

I hope this report brings brightness to your day, joy, and a clear reminder that God hears our pleas and listens to us in our time of need.

back to treatment.

Last night, pain became my alarm clock again. I had been freed of pain’s interruptions for a little over a week, being treatment-free for 11 days. I also was no longer waking up around 4:30a/5:00a with Josh as he prepared for the police academy. I hadn’t even thought about that when he graduated that I too would now be getting more sleep, a bonus blessing! During my 11 day break, I was sleeping better, eating more and having an appetite once again, having more energy to go and do the things I love on my own, with no one needing to drive me. I’ve felt almost normal again, and then the pain comes again, a signal throughout my body that it needs more treatment again, and its cue is right on time.

It amazes me how much my body does communicate to me, be it through pain or feelings. Over the past year, I’ve tried to look at my cancer care even more holistically. Diet has always interested me, but for the most part when I read “what to eat for when you have cancer or to prevent cancer” books and pamphlets, I find that I’m already eating the things they recommend. (So what does that say about me? haha) This past year, I added acupuncture and meditation to quiet the pain and my mind. As needles have been placed on me, I’ve felt currents between the needles, mapping out constellations and images of good health for me. I listen to a meditation before I sleep, hoping I will focus on my breath instead of the pain I’m feeling or shift my focus from the anxiety of what I feel like I must do tomorrow. Through adding  both acupuncture and meditation, I sense I can “read” my body more and therefore know what it needs. I’ve always had a sense or feeling come over me when I’m about to hear of bad news from scans. I can tell the difference between fatigue from treatment working from the fatigue that growing cancer cells cast on to me. And there are times when I can’t read the Morse code of pain-strikes within my chest. Is this pain from cancer birth and growth or from cancer cells dying within me? (Isn’t it interesting how both birth and death bring their own types of pain?)

So, tomorrow I go back for chemotherapy.  Today, I’ve been preparing my body with my pre-medications. And, when I think about it, I’ve been preparing my mind/soul also. I’ve been doing things around the house now so that later in the week I won’t look around and be overwhelmed. I already made some soup ahead of time so I have a go-to meal to eat, because cooking on treatment is just overwhelming. I’ve been talking to God more and reading more and listening to Bible teachings while my mind is clear like a summer night sky, able to think, reflect and meditate on the Word with much more ease. I constantly need to guard my heart with gratitude fences that surround and keep me at peace within my heart and mind.

I don’t want to admit it, but taking chemotherapy and steroids and medications that all come with it just transform me into a different person. I try really hard not to let that Jenna-version exist and to jump-start the return of me with little joys that I know I love: walking and petting my dog Wylie, going to coffee shops, rummaging books, prayer-journaling. But sometimes it is really hard to bring me back. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever come back or am I cursed under chemo’s spell. The spell’s curses include feelings of defeat, physical tiredness, insomnia, lack of appetite, lack of joy. It’s hard to be the damsel in distress and also feel like I have to be my own knight in shining armor to defeat the disease and the negatives of the chemo-not-yet-cure.

So please pray for me. Pray for strength, patience, and joy. Pray for gratitude and promptings to express that to my parents, husband and friends who always are quick to help me.

poetry experiment.

I’ve been thinking of writing poetry again.
Oh, how I have missed it!
And I forgot how much
I missed it.
How do you forget your first writing love?
I think going back to age 13,
before cancer,
will jump-start my creativity.
Not like it’s not there—
I feel the words,
see them like snowflakes
in the snowglobe of my mind
and I am trying to catch them.
Chemo snowglobe mind—
I must shake myself everyday
just to make sure I am still alive and functioning.

I am a dog mom,
mother to a white fur baby toddler,
and a police officer wife.
The Officer longs to fight the crimes
that go on inside of me more than anything.
And maybe that is why
he became a cop—
to try to protect me from the outside world
since he can’t protect me from within
against my very self/cells.
Cancer has crime scenes
marked all over my body—
from bones to lungs to hips—
the evidence is everywhere
and the verdict is guilty.
And although it tries to murder me
with every new relapse, scene, and place
I am escaping by grace.

And maybe this poetry thing
is just what I needed.
A reminder that I’m not just an essayist
but a poet.
My heart sings psalms
as the chemo drugs calm
the overactive cells within me
saying: breathe
and live
and give life to words and others.
Your end has not come.
Do not daydream of funerals or tears
All of those fears are misplaced
because this writing space
creates vision for the future:
hope.