Category: Carrie-Anne (Page 1 of 10)

Round Seven and Zach Williams

We bought the Zach Williams concert tickets before Carrie-Anne was diagnosed with cancer, before we knew that, when the date rolled around, we’d be in the middle of chemotherapy and cold cap treatments every Friday for twelve straight weeks. When I ran into a friend in the lobby of the Wagner-Noel last night he said, “Didn’t Carrie-Anne have her chemo today? She must be doing really well.” Truthfully, nothing was going to keep her from that show – Zach Williams is by far her favorite artist. And, by the way, she is doing really well.

Yesterday was Round Seven of the sixteen total infusions Carrie-Anne will receive as part of her treatment. And, so far, the side effects have been minimal, if at all. She is generally only having issues with the even-numbered infusions, and that is only some nausea and minor bone and muscle aches that usually begin overnight Friday and run through Sunday afternoon. We met with Dr. Manny on Thursday and all of C-A’s blood tests and lab numbers are perfect. As far as they can tell, everything is working exactly like it’s supposed to. In addition, the cold caps are doing their job, too – she hasn’t lost one strand of hair! The frozen gloves and slippers are also proving effective as her fingernails and toenails are not just holding their own, they’re growing! There is a cumulative effect on her energy we’re noticing. It is taking her a few hours more every week to feel back to normal. But Carrie-Anne is working four days a week and, overall, we both feel very confident and grateful for where we are and how things are going.

As for the concert, Zach Williams always puts on a good show. Four guitars, three horns, keys and drums, background singers, and steel guitar gives the whole thing a really full sound. It’s kind of a Southern Rock / Country sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Dierks Bentley. I like the lyrics to most of his songs – fear really is a liar and we really could use a little more up there down here – and he seems to be a sincerely humble guy who wants to help people connect to our Lord through music. Carrie-Anne and Whitney both know every word to every song and I had a blast just enjoying my wife and my first-born daughter having so much fun.

Near the end of the show, Williams led his band and the whole crowd in a sharing of the communion meal. We were forced to use those terrible little rip ‘n’ sip communion kits, but it was okay. It was really good, in fact. Zach spoke about how the Church has distorted the communion meal, how we’ve conditioned ourselves to be silent and somber during the bread and cup when it was always intended by God to be a time of fellowship and sharing, a time of celebration and praise. At that point, Carrie-Anne leaned over and said, “He’s preaching your sermon.” I know. I was all in. So, Zach encouraged us to consider the Body, to remember the unity we share in Jesus, and to be alright with smiling and celebrating during the meal. And we did. The Body of Christ broken for you. The Blood of Christ given for you.

The only thing missing is for Zach to write a song based on Isaiah 25:6-9 or Exodus 24:8-11. I think I’ll send him a letter.




Everything Smaller

Carrie-Anne and I saw the Midland Community Theatre’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Saturday night in support of one of her students from Midland High’s Freshman campus. Ava Young – sweet, gentle, precious, Ava Young – played the role of Veruca Salt, the spoiled and demanding brat from Russia whose father buys her everything. And she played it perfectly. It’s shocking and so really cool to watch somebody act so completely opposite of their character and normal behavior on the stage like that. She said she was nervous; it did not show. She was incredible. Over-the-top. By the time it happened, you wanted her to be pulled apart limb by limb by the oversized squirrels.

This sounds strange, I know, but I have never seen any production of Willy Wonka from start to finish. I’ve never read the original book by Roald Dahl, never seen the Gene Wilder film from 1971, or the Tim Burton / Johnny Depp version from 2005. I thought I was familiar with the plot, but I’ve never seen the movies or the theater productions, so I had no idea it was so richly deep in social critique. I had no clue it was about a capitalist dystopia in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I didn’t know Willy Wonka was the bad guy. I didn’t know the Oompa Loompas were shipped from the jungles of their homeland on false pretenses and forced to work in Wonka’s factory. And forced to abandon their native language for English.

It’s genius. And still very relevant. And scary.

I was especially struck by the song “Vidiots” towards the end of the play, in which Mike Teavee becomes trapped inside the television. In describing television, Wonka declares that it takes the whole big world around us and makes everything smaller. TV makes everything smaller. Including Mike. Including everything. I know the Dahl novel and the movie versions don’t analyze the corrupting effects of the internet on our brains, only the damaging impact by television. But this newer version by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman updates the scene and the song to reflect our current society’s addiction to digital technology. The song is about the kids, but it applies to adults, too.


He’s like so many nowadays; it’s awfully modern, this malaise.
For every child who threw a fit, the TV set would babysit.
Attention spans have gone pal-mal; there’s only time for L.O.L.
They never step outside to play; their world is dark both night and day.
The skies of blue, of pinks and greens, are only viewed on laptop screens.
They only move and exercise their clicking finger and their thumb;
each brain cell overloads and dies as all their limbs are turning numb.

The age of innocence is gone when certain sites are clicked upon;
the images that they repeat – once in their brain, they can’t delete.
And then like some barbaric Huns, our toddlers are all packing guns.
And children curse and smoke cigars; our nurseries now have prison bars.
They scream and rant and raise their fists and fire their psychiatrists.
We hear them – all the teenage hordes – they scream their battle cry, “We’re bored!”
With all this info at a click, the books will rot upon the shelf;
if all the answers come too quick, a child won’t think for himself.

Each day they text on their new toy their thoughts and their location,
but, O.M.G., will this destroy the art of conversation?
For wasting his entire brain, he’s stuck inside his own domain.
He’ll channel surf ’til, where upon, he’ll find that nothing good is on.
And there is no remote control that he can use to find his soul.
His secrets now are yours and mine, ’cause everything he’s got online.
And who will watch Mike Teavee when there is newer junk to see?

What once was viral, soon forgot.
But hand the clicker to his mom,
his future’s not completely shot,
his new address is Mike-dot-com.

I am ordering the book right now, hopefully an already printed version that still contains the words “fat” and “ugly.”



Round Two in the Books

We flew through Carrie-Anne’s second round of chemotherapy yesterday with no adverse reactions. No pain, no nausea, no issues, no problems – a gracious gift from our God. We arrived at the Allison Cancer Center at a few minutes after 8:00am, met with our doctor and his scheduler, got set up in the infusion room, received the drugs while flipping back and forth between Red Dawn and Friends, and then completed the cold cap rotations in our living room at 6:00pm. This makes for really long days, but we’re surrounded by really great people who are working hard to make this as easy and as pleasant as possible.

Kirsten and Gian in the infusion room are taking excellent care of us,  giving us plenty of space for our ice chests and duffel bags, putting the bed just right, and making jokes when they’re appropriate. Kirsten laughed when I said C-A’s cold gloves and ice goggles make her look like a Sleestak, and I called her on it – she’s way too young to know anything about the Sleestak villains in the 1970s series “Land of the Lost.” But she and Gian are funny and clever and compassionate and make chemotherapy as good as it can possibly be. Dr. Manny and his team are answering all our questions and giving us lots of confidence. The Texas Oncology pharmacists are very friendly and helpful. And our church family at GCR is absolutely flooding us with love and support in the form of delicious meals, prayer visits, phone calls and texts, and more cards and letters than we can even get around to reading.

Another encouraging development is that C-A went to work on Thursday for the first time in six weeks and had a very good day there, too. She worked the full day, everybody treated her really well, including her students, and it really helped restore some normalcy to a significant chunk of her life. As much as she is able, C-A will work four days a week through the rest of the semester and receive her chemotherapy on Fridays.

Saturdays are for recovering and we are certainly taking it easy today. So far, still no nausea or muscle aches or any of the other side effects we’ve been told to watch for. And we are grateful. We are thankful to God for a good day and for the good people around us.




One down, fifteen to go.

Carrie-Anne endured her first round of chemo yesterday at the Allison Cancer Center here in Midland and I’m posting here mainly to keep everybody up to speed with her treatments. I don’t really have any deep theological thoughts on this thing yet. We’re flooding Carrie-Anne’s blood and bones and organs with a mix of poisons that kills all fast-growing cells – the healthy ones and the harmful ones, the cancer cells that are hurting her body and the normal cells that are supposed to grow quickly – in the hopes that the cancer cells will die and never come back and her good cells will withstand the torture and be okay. Naturally, we’ve got mixed feelings about all that. It’s troubling and complicated.

The first infusion was set to last 90-minutes, but it’s not just sitting in a chair and watching the clock. We’re using what are called “Cold Caps” during her treatments in an effort to save her hair. The caps are made out of a weird gel that must be kept at 35-degrees below zero and tightened onto her scalp with a series of Velcro straps. So on the morning of the treatment, I wheel my Igloo ice chest into the Market Street grocery store, load up with 50-pounds of dry ice, and pack the caps inside. During her treatment, we change out the caps every 25-minutes and continue it for five hours at home after the infusion. On top of that, we’re also rotating frozen gloves and slippers – not quite as cold as the caps – every 30-minutes in an attempt to save her fingernails and toenails. Needless to say, there is no relaxing during the chemo. We roll two ice-chests, an electric blanket, and a whole duffel bag full of accessories into the fusion room, set up shop, and work hard together for a little over two hours. It takes almost five minutes to get a cap out of the ice chest and onto her head, five minutes to get the cap off her head and repacked and, during the fifteen minutes while she’s wearing the cap, I’m rotating out the gloves and slippers. It got easier and better as we went along, but it was a stressful couple hours. More math.

Twenty minutes into the chemotherapy, Carrie-Anne did have a scary reaction. She began experiencing severe chest pains and couldn’t take a deep breath. She described it as stabbing pains through her chest and into her back, through her entire body, and she wasn’t breathing very well. They stopped the infusion, checked her vitals, and shot some steroids into her port. Her oxygen levels and pulse stayed good through the whole thing, but it was a little scary. They contacted our oncologist, gave her Benadryl and Pepcid through her port, waited about 20-minutes, and began the chemo again at a slower pace. Things calmed down, we finished out, and got home at 1:00 in the afternoon.

So far, she’s handled the whole thing really well. No nausea, no pains, no bone soreness. She slept almost ten hours last night and feels a little tired and run down this morning, but she seems to have come through okay. The encouraging thing is that the first treatment is supposed to be the most difficult one. Her body will supposedly get used to these treatments over the coming Fridays and each one will be easier. If that’s the case, we’re in really good shape.

We feel like we’re in really good hands with Texas Oncology and we’re overall very confident in the plan. Earlier this week, Carrie-Anne and I had a serious conversation about going forward with the chemo and came to the quick conclusion that it’s silly to talk about second opinions. We’re with M.D. Anderson! Who are we going to call? We’re also trying to temper our expectations with the hair. The results are mixed and the medical opinions are varied as to the effectiveness of these Cold Caps. If it works, if she only loses 30-percent of her hair, which is the goal, then it will have been worth it. If she loses her hair, we will know we did everything we could to save it. And it will grow back. It always grows back. They can’t guarantee it’ll grow back the same color, but it will grow back.

And, again, we are overwhelmed by the love and generosity we are receiving from our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Our church family at GCR is simply unbelievable in blowing way past our expectations as they take care of my wife. Food, cards, phone calls, flowers, texts, visits, prayers – it’s over the top. We’re hearing from Amarillo, Mesquite, Fort Worth, and Marble Falls; we feel so much love and are so grateful to God for the wonderful friends he’s given us over so many years.

By God’s grace, we’re in a good place today. Thank you for your love for my wife and our family.



The Thing

Nobody gets out of this life without going through a thing. Something unexpected that changes everything. Something hard. Something painful. Sickness. Loss. Betrayal. Divorce. Death. I’m certain you can look back at your life and tell me about the thing you went through. It might have happened a long time ago or you might still be in the middle of it, but everybody goes through a thing.

Carrie-Anne and I are in the thing right now.

My beautiful wife has an echocardiogram at Midland Memorial Hospital at 10:00 this morning and we have a mandatory Chemotherapy Orientation class at Texas Oncology this afternoon at 2:45. Tomorrow it’s blood work and a couple of other labs. She gets her port installed under her right collarbone on Wednesday. And then the first of her 16 chemotherapy infusions will be at the Allison Cancer Center here in Midland on Friday. Carrie-Anne will have an infusion every Friday for 12 weeks and then every other Friday for the last eight weeks. After that, a 92% chance we’ll never see the cancer again.

As I’ve said before, we are both committed to paying attention to our Lord together while we’re faithfully dealing with this thing. We want to hear what God is saying to us, we want to see what he’s trying to show us, we want to receive the gift he is giving us through this thing. We are trying, by God’s grace, to adopt the apostle’s attitude in 2 Corinthians:

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:9-10

The Scriptures say these tough times are to teach us, to show us, not to rely on ourselves, but on God. God is at work during this thing. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t left us. It’s not like God is on vacation and can’t see us until a week from Monday. He is near. He is with us. Where can we go to flee from his Spirit? Nowhere!

So, Carrie-Anne and I are really leaning into the formation zones right now. All four of them. We are reading and learning and listening to testimonials to continue gaining knowledge about breast cancer and its treatments and about how God has been powerfully at work through other cancer situations around us. We are fully engaged with our community of faith at GCR Church and all our Christian brothers and sisters in this congregation, and we are moving forward with our plans to start a new small group with Alan and Jo Douglas. Carrie-Anne and I are in Word and Prayer together every day. And we’re focused on ministering to others. We do not think it’s a coincidence that on two of our trips to M.D. Anderson, Ashleigh Reedy and her family were there at the same hospital at the same time.

The thing gets all of us. God is at work in the thing. And we need to pay attention.

It’s just life. And when life happens, we can wring our hands in despair and say, “I don’t know!” Or we can lift our hands to the Lord and exclaim, “God knows!” We can align our lives with Christ Jesus. We can say with Peter and the apostles, “Only you. Only you, Lord, have the words and the way to eternal life.”

God’s promise in Christ is that everything that’s broken is being fixed and everything that’s gone wrong is being made right. He has proved that promise in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Everything is being made perfect. You and your circumstance. You IN your circumstance.

The Holy Spirit says God will bring to completion the good thing he has started in you. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Amen.



We Have a Game Plan

Kickoff is set for February 3, two weeks from this Friday, and the plan is to completely eradicate this cancer thing.

Carrie-Anne and I met today with our oncologist here at the Midland Allison Cancer Center to work out the treatments and the time frames for her chemotherapy. Dr. Manny Mangat didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, but he certainly assured us that what M.D. Anderson is prescribing is the right thing and he’ll do it for us exactly as prescribed.

It’s a six month process – once  every three weeks for three months and then once a week for the next three months. The infusions will be on Fridays, to give C-A a couple of days to rest before she goes back to work. (Yes, she intends to work through this. Have you met my wife?) Each infusion will last between 60-90 minutes and we’ll get to do them all at the Allison Center, less than three miles from our house.

Between now and February 3, she’ll have an echo-cardiogram, some blood work, an outpatient procedure to install her port, and a one-time orientation class for those about to undergo chemotherapy. We also have one more  trip to Houston January 26-27 for an adjustment to her reconstruction they wanted to accomplish before the chemo begins.

It felt a little different today. Walking alone from the front door of the hospital to the car in the parking garage, it felt really heavy. Talking to the oncologist about side effects and risks and hair loss, seeing the rooms where it’s going to happen, finalizing the dates – it felt/feels more real than maybe it has since we got the news 12-days ago. Definitely different. Carrie-Anne felt it, too. We both had tears in our eyes when I pulled the car up to get her at the door.

This is happening. And it’s okay. It’s not what either of us would have chosen, not at all. But it’s where we are and we’re doing it together with our Lord. He is with us. He is asking us to walk faithfully through a difficult trial and to lean on him and to point others to him. His desire is to use this season in our lives to grow in relationship with him and with each other, and that’s what we intend to do. We will be open to what he says to us along this journey and we will pay attention to what he shows us. We are confident. And he is faithful.

May our God’s holy will be done in and through my beautiful wife just as it is in heaven to his eternal glory and praise.



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