Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Many times I have wondered to myself if your life would be different if we had gotten you sooner.
 As a young boy, you had so much change in your little life. Not much seemed permanent until you went to live full time with your grandmother.
I know you were loved. It just seemed like a different love than I had ever seen. I wish I had been around to protect you.
Would you have been molested? Would you have felt secure?
Could we have done that for you?
Not necessarily, given that both your sisters were molested too.

But would you have believed in unconditional love? 
That you were worthy of love? Just for being born? Just for living?
That you didn't need "to do anything" to be loved.

I would have loved to see you play baseball or football as a little boy. I would have loved to help you with homework and seen that you were having a hard time with school and pushed like crazy to get you the help you needed to succeed in school.

But none of this was part of the plan.
We were not to meet you until your sophmore year of high school.
I vividly remember the very first time you came into our home. 
While the other guys played video games in the family room, you hung out with me in the kitchen. I could ask you questions and your would answer them. Immediately I sensed you needed attention and love, and because you are you, it was so easy to do.
We wondered why God had brought you into our lives at this time, in this moment and season in our lives.  All we knew is that we were to love you.

It wasn't easy. Because you weren't used to being loved just for being you. It took years and years for you to finally believe that we loved you just for being you.  You brought laugher and more craziness into our home.

And we went thru some of the hardest times of your life with you: the car accident that took your mom, the suicide of your friend, the bouts with alcohol and drugs. We so wanted you to know that we were in this with you for the long haul. But it was so hard for you to believe. Hard for you to accept love that you "didn't deserve", but that we were freely giving.
I remember praying for you in those years of silence . Asking God to just let me know you were alive, and then out of nowhere I might get an email or a text and even a phone call. And I would thank God that you were alive and that I heard your voice.

I don't even know how to describe what happened. I got a phone call from Stephanie, telling me you were in jail and with her help , she convinced you to let me visit you. And on behalf of our whole family, I offered you the olive branch. Telling you that we loved you no matter what, that we would be here for you, and wanted to help you in any way we could.
I think it was then that you began to understand unconditional love. That it was something we were trying to do, to follow how Jesus loved us-without any conditions or expectations and just love and support.
I am so thankful for Kristi and Adam and how they wanted to do whatever they could to help you-and Adam didn't even know you.
And then to watch you work hard on being drug free. What a tremendous task you undertook and succeeded in. I am so proud of you.
We have been blessed to have you as our son for over half of your life now, and I can't tell you how much you have taught me.
Perseverance is a strong characteristic you possess Ry-keep on keeping on!!
So now on your 34th birthday I want to ask a favor of you. And there's no pressure; just something to think about and then decide.
This is the time of year that I spend finding verses to pray for each family member. I am not even half finished, but yours was the first one that God gave me.

Jeremiah 29:13
"You will seek me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart."
or as the NLT says "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find Me"

So my favor is to ask you to seek Jesus everyday for 6 months. I know you believe but also know its been a struggle and you have lots of questions. But I truly believe that if you seek God with all your heart, He will reveal Himself to you in ways that you won't expect and your life will be forever changed.
I can help you with this. Or Dad can or Kristi, Adam, Todd, Katie or Nate would all be willing.
I want you to know the faithfulness of Jesus that I do. That He alone is the ONE who will never ever leave you or forsake you and that He will be with you always. Those are the MOST comforting words of scripture for me.

Happy Birthday to my dear son Ryan Matthew.
I love you beyond what words could ever convey.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My friend Tom

Well that isn't enough.
Doesn't seem quite right either.

There just isn't really a word. Or a string of words I can put together that convey even a hint of how and what I am feeling.

It was just 5 weeks ago.
I got the call saying that the biopsy didn't look good.
That I needed to return home for another doctor appointment.
And so I did.

In the past 3 weeks, I have made a new friend.
His name is Tom Stewart.
Tom Stewart Jr.
Tom Stewart Jr, MD.
Tom is my ENT. (aka ears, nose and throat physician.)

Tom told me that I had a high likelihood of having thyroid cancer and that the best option would be to have my thyroid removed.
We set a date of September 10.
Really that was 10 days ago??

Tom removed my thyroid and told me to go home and rest. That I would be sore for at least a week, probably two. Anything is more restful than another night in the hospital.

I think Tom missed me. Because last Friday (oh that's just a week ago too?), he called me and said he wanted to see me that day. That we would do my post op appointment that day instead of Monday.
So I was a good if not a great nurse for over 31 years. I knew Tom didn't miss me that much. That there was more and it probably wasn't good news.
So we drove to Chico to see Tom.
And yes, it wasn't good news.
Turns out I had a very rare form of thyroid cancer called Meduallary Thyroid Cancer. Of all the thyroid cancers, this is the one least seen. Its the type that can metastify, or spread. And it likes to spread to all the lymph nodes on my neck.

Tom, in his sweet way, told me I needed another surgery, and that he had taken the liberty to book me for this Monday.
This time, it would be a bit more traumatic. That I would have two surgeries in six days time.

I would have a modified right radical neck dissection.
I'm not exactly sure what modified really means.
Because today, I have an incision and soon to be, a gnarly scar that reaches from the top of my earlobe on my right side to two thirds around my neck. I imagine that a full neck dissection would go from one ear lobe to the other.

It is very sore. And swollen. And so is my neck.
But I am so thankful for my new friend Tom.
He spent alot of time researching my cancer and what needed to be done. He talked to his mentors from his fellowship days at Loma Linda, he read journals, he left nothing unturned. And he was thorough. He took all the lymph nodes around my neck and sent them to the lab.

This morning, we went to see Tom again. This time, it was a post op appointment and he took out my one remaining drain. Then he gave me a copy of my pathology report that said all the lymph nodes that were tested were clear and had no signs of cancer. 
And I thanked God.
Again, words are just not there.

I will always now have this scar to remind me of my new friend Tom Stewart Jr, MD.
A vivid reminder everyday that God has given me more time.
Time not to be wasted.

And as grateful as I am, I am also a bit baffled and wondering.
Wondering why I am spared of more cancer right now and my friends Nancy and Payton still fight courageously their horrific battles? Life just isn't fair.

There's so much more I could say. And probably will, at some point. You just can't go through something like this and not be changed.
Today, I am grateful for my new friend Tom and thankful for how much he cared about me right from the start.
And thankful for how God used Tom Stewart in my life to show me more of Himself and His love for me and my family.
At sometime in our lives, or in the lives of those we love the most, we all will need a type of Tom Stewart. I hope and pray that yours is as wonderful as my friend Tom is.