Friday, December 19, 2008

Tribute to a friend

This week has had its ups and downs... When I last wrote, my health issues seemed to be in check and I wasn't experiencing any real problems with the chemo treatment. On Sunday that changed a little. I started running a fever Sunday morning and it kept me down all day and over night. I called the doctor on Monday to get an appointment but instead he sent me to the hospital to have a few tests run. What I expected to be a few hours in the ER turned out to be a three day stay and could have lasted longer had it not been for my whining... 

The three day ordeal included several rounds of IV antibiotics, two units of blood, a CT scan, an endoscopy of my stomach, a few cauterizations of "bleeders" in my stomach, and constant whining by the patient. I could not have been a worse patient. It's not that I was mean to the nurses, it was because I was feeling pretty well and just didn't want to be there. Fortunately, Robyn is around to put me in check and bring me back to reality and to help me see that I need to relax and rest in Christ. You know, the thing I tend to preach about on our blog... I was released on Wednesday night and the result of the three day stay was that my fever was "probably" caused by the chemotherapy drugs and the "bleeders" in my stomach were "probably" caused by the radiation that I went through a couple of months ago. So the good news is that there is no new cancer and I survived another three days in the hospital.
That's enough about the thorn in my flesh for now... Today I want to share the news about a friend of mine in Papua New Guinea. As most of you know, Robyn, Cody and I spent a year in Papua New Guinea serving with New Tribes Mission in a missionary support center. While we were there we made several friends with nationals and other "white skins" working in the center. One of the men who worked for me in the operations center is named Ignas. Ignas and I became very good friends and we have carried on our friendship over the past two years by keeping in touch by emails sent through missionaries on the center. When I became sick in May, Ignas found out about my illness and called me on his cell phone from his village in the bush. Hearing from him and knowing the effort it took and expense it cost him was very moving to me and lifted my spirits. I really appreciated him checking on me and being so concerned about my health. He wanted to make sure that I knew he and his wife, Julie, were praying for me, Robyn and Cody.
Today, my friend is facing a challenge of his own. I received a call this morning from the director of the center who told me that Ignas was in the hospital fighting for his life. I was told that while trying to break up a fight between his two cousins, Ignas was struck on his head with a log. He suffered a severe head injury and is now lying in a hospital in a deep coma. Considering the limitations of the medical system in Papua New Guinea and the severity of the injury there is little hope that Ignas will survive. 
I wanted to share this with you, first to ask you to pray for Ignas, Julie and their family, and secondly, to share the feelings that I have about this situation. After receiving the call this morning, I sat back and just couldn't believe that this would happen to such a man among men. Ignas is a man who believes in God and has spent much of his life struggling to make life better for his family or for others. And then, I remembered how difficult life really is for the nationals in Papua New Guinea. The bottom line for me is that while I was wallowing in self pity about being stuck in a hospital, (in a private room being treated by no less than 5 doctors and the best medical care in the world...), my friend was living an extremely difficult life in Papua New Guinea and tried to break up a fight which may have cost him his life.
Please pray for Ignas, Julie and their family. Our prayer is that God will be seen through all of this and that He will be glorified through a horrible act of violence. We also pray for the cousin who struck Ignas and the rest of the family involved. In this type of incident there are may different ideas of retribution and more violence is usually at the top of the list.

Thanks for indulging my weeping and gnashing of teeth,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

His Grace is Sufficient

I've been thinking, for some time now, about what I should write about in this next update. I don't really have any exciting news or dramatic swing in my health to really talk about.  Fortunately, I'm feeling very good and my recovery is going better than ever expected. I've seen my doctor recently and he is truly amazed at how I've recovered. I'm continuing on with the chemo treatments and I haven't had any real adverse reactions or setbacks to speak of. So, things are going extremely well!

The fact I've been doing so well has caused me to think a little deeper about things and do a little more reading than I've ever done before. I've been thinking a lot about the power of prayer and why God chooses to heal some people and not others. In my case, I think the power of prayer has had much to do with my healing. So many of you have prayed for me and our family over the past six months and I truly believe that God heard those prayers and answered them by making my recovery so tolerable.
But, what about the others who have been sick and haven't made it through or have recovered only to have their disease come back again and again. What about all the prayers that have been spoken on their behalf? Does God not care or does he randomly pick and choose who is healed and who isn't? Why have I been so blessed to have recovered so quickly, or am I really not healed yet? Will this disease come back and ravage my body again but this time without relenting? 
Fortunately, we have a God who does in fact care very much about each one of us. He loves us and knows each one of us individually. He feels our pain when we suffer, and He shares in our joy when we are happy. He is the God of comfort and the God of healing. He is the sovereign God which means that His plan for our lives is perfect. You've heard me say this over and over again but I continue to hold onto this belief because it makes such perfect sense to me.
I refer back to 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, when Paul refers to Christ answering his petition for relief from a "thorn" in is flesh.  Christ said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul went on to say, "So then, I will boast most gladly about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." I hold onto what is said in this verse because it reminds me that when everything is going my way and I have everything I want I tend to forget about my need for Christ. I don't like being in that frame of mind and really want to depend on Christ everyday. Ironically, the Christmas season is one of those times when I tend to get wrapped up in the pressures of finding the right gifts and making it to all of the holiday parties that I forget about what the season is all about.
The 2008 Christmas season is going to be particularly tough for a lot of us. There are many people suffering from health issues or the loss of a loved one. The economy is down and causing all kinds of financial problems, marriage problems, loss of jobs, etc. And then you have the typical pressures of finding the right gifts, etc. I would just like to encourage each of you, before you get overwhelmed with all your troubles, to take time to reflect on what Christ and Paul shared with us in those verses. Remember that through all the difficult issues we face, the grace and eternal life that Christ offers us is truly sufficient for all of our needs. May we all take comfort in trusting Him for the future and give Him the praise and glory He deserves for the life He has given to us! 

May God continue to bless each of you!
Russ and Robyn

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quick update

Yes, it's been a while since we last updated the blog... There just wasn't much to share as things have been going very well lately. I went through my first two chemo treatments with hardly any effects. My blood tests stayed positive so there was only a minor adjustment to the chemo dose. My physical response to all the treatment has been so surprising to me that I feel a little whimpy for even worrying about the treatments. However, that has proved to be short lived...

Two weeks ago I received my third chemo injection, (the start of the second round), and felt great for the first three days. The Saturday after the shot I began to feel a little feverish which worsened over the next 24 hours.  I spent Sunday evening in the hospital getting blood tests and IV antibiotics to fight off some sort of infection. My blood work didn't show any problems from the chemo, and in fact, showed my white blood cell count in the normal range. So, the cause of the infection was never determined. 

I recovered quickly over the next couple of days and returned for my fourth chemo injection this past Thursday. But, my white blood cell count had plummeted and the doctor chose not to give me the treatment.  I will have another blood test on Monday and we'll try again on Tuesday to get the treatment. However, if my white cell count is still too low they won't give it. The doctor says if it is still too low then he'll wait to give me any further chemo treatments until after the first of the year.

The other really great news is that I had another CT scan last week and there were no signs of any growths or masses in my abdomen. This type of cancer has a very high re-occurrence rate and can grow very fast. Because of that, I will continue to have CT scans every 3 months for the next year or two to keep an eye on it.

 Over all, I still continue to recover very well and I feel great! I'm not sure why but, God has blessed me with relative comfort and peace ever since the surgery. We continue to give him the glory for my health and praise him daily for the love and support we get from all of you! Thank you all for being here with us.

Russ and Robyn

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Coming around the 6 month stretch…

Praises to our Heavenly Father!!! I remember the day so clearly, May 16th, 9:30am, sitting in the doctor’s office after receiving a call that morning to come to his office.  Russ and I looking at each other, holding hands and waiting for the doctor to enter the room with the MRI results.  The doctor enters the room. Russ and I look up and we knew……..nothing had to be said.  It  was not going to be good news. A very rare aggressive cancer. Prognosis not good, not good at all. The tears came, along with fear, panic and it just can’t be.

Why share all of the above with you again? To share with you God’s absolute goodness in all of this!!!! Never on the day of May 16th did I think I would be sitting here sharing with you that Russ is rounding the 6 month stretch since his diagnosis. God is ever so faithful! Ooooh these 6 months have been a roller coaster. My family knows I do not like to ride the roller coasters at the amusement parks. I am the one sitting on the park bench “people watching.” However, with that being said this current roller coaster ride has been one of God’s love, blessings and joys that overtake the low point you hit every now and then on the ride. (Stomach feeling like it is in your throat and you want to get off now.)

I could write a novel about all the love and blessings we have received. I will only share a few but God is to be praised for many:

Your prayers…oh my goodness….not a day…not a day goes by that I am told that you are praying for my dear sweet husband. God is hearing your prayers. Thank you!

The care and love you show is incredible through cards, food, books, phone calls, a romantic dinner, 2 nights at the beach. A laugh or a hug at just the right time.

God’s provision and timing is amazing. I must share how on several, yes several, occasions we would receive a bill and then within 24 hours God would provide the means. One time was within seconds. We opened the bill, “ugh forgot about this one coming due” and then the next envelope I opened included a check for exactly what we needed. I love God’s wonderful handiwork in everything.

Thank you Lord!

Russ is on the chemo journey right now. He has had 2 treatments and is doing extremely well. Very little side affects. After his first round of chemo his white blood count was rather low so the doctor is making adjustments to his treatment. Please pray that his count can stay in the “safe zone.” As you read in the last blog posting he went in for an MRI due to some back and abdomen pain he had been having prior to starting the chemo. Which I have to say I was thrilled for the MRI being done thinking now we will get an accurate update on all his organs.  Well the good news is his MRI came back clear but the MRI was solely focused on his spine, no organ updates. Not sure why the doctor did it that way. 

Ya know, Russ was helping me clean house yesterday morning.  I stopped what I was doing and just watched him with tears coming to my eyes.  It was wonderful to have that moment.  By the grace of God he is still here…even if he did miss a spot on the window.  He’s a keeper. J

Blessings to all of you. Thank you for continuing to ride the roller coaster with us.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

One down...

I may have faked some of you out on my last posting when I said my chemo starts on the 22nd. Well, I was wrong... It actually started today, the 23rd, as if one day makes any difference. The bottom line is that I went in today and was given my first of many doses of chemo. I'm not yet sure how many doses I will have because the doctor is not sure how my body will respond. It's probable that I will receive the treatments through the end of the year. 

Overall, I'm continuing to recover from the illness and I'm really feeling well. All of my blood tests are normal and indicate that my organs are all working well. The last few days I've been feeling a little lower back pain and mentioned it to the doctor today.  Just for precaution he is going to set up another MRI for me just to check things out. He really wasn't too concerned about it though. 

Thank you all for your prayers over the last few weeks as we prepared to face the start of the chemo treatments. We are so blessed to have all of you encouraging and praying for us through this illness. Our prayer through this time in our lives continues to be focused on how God will use our story to encourage others. We pray that He is glorified and made famous by the work He is doing in our lives. How blessed we are to have a Savior who loves us and provides all that we need, including the perfect plan for our lives!

Russ and Robyn

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cautious optimism...

After a visit with the Oncologist on Tuesday we have reason to be cautiously optimistic. The doctor reviewed my CT scan results with us and there were no indications of cancer remaining in my body. That means I'm good for now but it doesn't mean the cancer can't come back. The type of cancer that I have has a history of hiding in a tiny cell form in the body and then returning later. To combat that possibility, I'm going to go ahead with chemo therapy treatments starting October 22nd. The chemo should increase my chances of killing any remaining cancer cells. This is all great news overall, but I don't want to let my guard down just yet. Once the chemo treatments are complete, (probably in January), I will have CT scans every 3 months for a year and then twice per year after that until I've passed the 5 year mark. That's when we can relax...

Don't get me wrong though when I say I can't relax for the next 5 years. I am actually more relaxed now than I was before I found out about the cancer. I believe that's because I've truly let go of controlling my life and am allowing God to run the show! I still have my moments of fear and lack of faith, just like every human, but I'm certainly finding comfort in knowing that God is in control. Overall, my mental health is recovering very well. I can only attribute that to the support and encouragement from all of you and my return to work where my brain is gradually being reengaged. 

Physically, everything is going better than expected. I'm beginning to feel as good as I did just before the surgery but I'm not back to 100% yet. I feel like I've recovered from the surgery but the radiation treatments have taken a toll on my organs. All the parts are working as they should but they still feel very tender and sore. I'm sure that will all go away with time. The really good news is that along with losing 40 lbs I've lost the need for blood pressure medicine! My blood pressure was never very high to begin with but it's good to be off the medication. 

All in all I'm really doing very well. I thank God for the recovery but I really want to give Him the glory for being so faithful. Not because I'm being healed and recovering but because He has never left our side. His presence in our lives is being felt through so many ways but primarily through those of you who have been so prayerful and encouraging to us. I've said this quite often but, it bears repeating, God is being glorified through all of you and glorifying Him through this event in our lives is what is important!

Thank you for loving and caring for us so well!
Russ and Robyn

Monday, September 29, 2008

Full of faith and grace...

Have you ever had someone in your life that consistently showed their faith in God and gave grace no matter what the circumstance? We all meet people like that here and there but having a long standing relationship with someone like that is a unique opportunity. A couple of weeks ago in this blog, I asked you to pray for Barb Moulton because she was battling cancer. Barb and her husband Ken are the kind of people I'm talking about. Never thinking of themselves and always thinking of others. Always praising what God is doing and giving Him the glory for what has been done. Always trusting Him for what was and is to come.

Robyn and I met Ken and Barb 27 years ago when I was selling furniture and appliances in Southern California. They became repeat customers of mine who had a particular way about showing interest and concern for me. They displayed a gentle and kind spirit and discussed their belief in God without apology. They were the genuine article... When the four of us got together an immediate kinship was developed and we became best friends. Over the years we raised our families together, lived together, moved together, and Ken and Barb became the examples by which we gauged our spiritual lives. We live far apart now, but no matter the distance between us, they have always been part of our family.

Yesterday, Barb lost her battle with cancer but won the war against death. She is with our Lord today and even though we have suffered a loss, heaven has gained a saint. We will all miss Barb and her genuine concern for others, but those of us who knew her should also reflect on what life would have been like without her in our lives. Please join us in praying for Ken and their daughter, Kendra, as they mourn the loss of their devoted wife and mother.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Faithfulness and Grace

As you can imagine, there is a lot of time to think while recovering from a life threatening illness. In my case, there hasn't been a lot of time spent on "why me" or "why now". I believe that's because of our faith in God and the support of family and friends who remind us quite often that God is walking by our side during this illness. Many of you who read this blog are among those who boost our spirits by these kinds of reminders. I've spent some of my time thinking about your faith and the example that each of you are to us. Your encouraging comments have been a demonstration of your faith to us and a reminder that God is faithful.

As I began to think about what it means when God is "faithful" I realized that it is very easy to misinterpret the word. It is easy to relate God being faithful with Him solving the problems at hand and making everything all better. But nothing could be further from the truth. When God is faithful to us He is fulfilling the promises that He has made to us.

"...The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down." Psalms 145:13-14

It is important to remember that not one of the promises God has made has ever failed. He has always been faithful and will be faithful forever. What is easy to forget is that He has never promised to make our lives easy. On the contrary, Jesus warned us that "...In this world you will have trouble." John 16:33. But He followed that up by reassuring us that He has overcome the world. In other words, we will all have trouble in our lives but God will be with us to walk by our sides through it.

I think that it is easy to confuse faithfulness with the grace of God. God is faithful when He fulfills His promises but He chooses when to give grace. For example, He chose to give grace by giving eternal life, to those who believe, through the death of His son, Jesus Christ. He didn't have to do this therefore, He wasn't being faithful to us. However, now that He has promised eternal life He will be faithful to us by granting eternal life to those who believe in Christ.

To bring this full circle, if you consider that each of us is expected to be a reflection of Christ, then each of us should be faithful to our promises and show grace to those around us. In our case, we have been the recipients of your faithfulness and grace in countless ways. So many of you have been faithful to "uphold us during our fall" through prayer and have shown your grace through encouragement and financial gifts. You have all been such a testimony to us and have taught us so much. But more important than us, your words of encouragement have been seen by more people than you can imagine and have had an effect on the lives of many, thus, God is being glorified through your faithfulness and grace. Glorifying God through this challenge in our lives is our one and only goal. Thank you again for being faithful and gracious in the name of God.

Russ and Robyn

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Latest Update

Here's the latest... Robyn and I saw my Oncologist yesterday and we developed a strategy for the next course of treatment. As you know, I was struggling with the decision to continue on with additional chemo therapy because there isn't any factual data that it would be beneficial. During our meeting with the Oncologist we all agreed that the next step is to get another CT scan to see if there is any indication of additional cancer in my body. That scan will happen over the next two weeks and once we have the results we'll discuss the chemotherapy again. Chances are I'll be going through the chemo regiment just to do everything I can to avoid any repeat of this disease. But this doesn't mean I have to like it...

For those of you who read the comments from the last few days you would have read about Barb Moulton who was recently admitted to the hospital in Kentucky. Barb and her husband Ken are like family to us and we are very concerned about her. She went into the hospital early last week and by Friday was transferred to ICU. She developed serious complications overnight and the doctors had difficulty in determining the cause. Saturday they confirmed that the problem was lymphoma and they administered a high dose of chemotherapy. Initially, Barb's health continued to disintegrate but she has responded very well to the chemo and she is now doing better. I share this with you in hopes that you would add Barb and her family to your prayer list. Barb and Ken have played a very critical role in our spiritual lives over the past 27 years and we are deeply concerned for them and their daughter Kendra. We can only hope that God will be glorified again by the coming together of His children to pray for another one of his flock.

Blessings to you all,
Russ and Robyn

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A very long week...

You're all probably wondering "when is that guy going update his blog?" Well, I have to tell you it's been a very long week and a half for me and I just haven't had the energy to belly up to the computer and sign on... Thankfully, the radiation treatments are over and I've lived to tell about it. Although, at times I didn't know if I would live or not... The last three days of radiation were coupled with a dose of chemo each day and by end of those treatments I was in bad shape. I spent the next 5 days curled up in a ball either on the couch or in bed. But, here's the good news! I began to feel better on Wednesday of last week and now I feel great! I'm actually feeling like I'm getting back to my "pre-surgery" self. 

I have about two more weeks of recovery before I'll need to make a decision on the next round of chemo therapy. I'm still sitting on the fence on that decision but hope to get a few more details from the Oncologist on the 16th of September. If you don't mind, please continue to pray for us and that decision. 

Aside from my health, things for us are getting back to normal. I've been working for about a month now at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Chandler and I'm so thankful for God placing me in such a great and caring environment! The position seems to be a perfect fit for me and I'm enjoying interacting with people again. Robyn and the kids are all doing well also and continue to lift my spirits and keep me humble.

Speaking of lifted spirits and humility, we want to continue to thank all of you who have been praying for us and sending us such kind and encouraging words through your cards and emails. We are so blessed to have so many of you walking this path with us and we do appreciate every single one of you. At some point, we hope to be taken off your prayer list because there are so many in need, but for now, please continue to pray that God will be glorified through this event in our lives!

Blessings to you all,
Russ and Robyn

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Standing at a crossroad...

Robyn and I met with my Oncologist today and discussed my treatment options. On Thursday I will be finished with my radiation/chemo treatments and now have to make a decision on how far to go with additional treatment. The Oncologist explained again that my type of cancer is very rare, therefore there haven't been many studies on it. The studies that have been done are not very accurate because many of the people have died during the study because of the cancer... So, as you can imagine, we were a little taken aback today with that information. What was encouraging was the doctor's response to all my blood work and his reassuring words that I'm not the norm and that I'm doing great! He went on to describe the next course of treatment which is 4 to 6 months of chemo. But, since the studies are limited, there is no information that indicates whether or not chemo will do anything for me. In other words, it's just a shot in the dark... He said from his perspective there is no right or wrong answer here and he would completely understand if we decided not to continue with the chemo treatments. He also said that if we chose not to continue with chemo he would continue to monitor my health with a CT scan every three months since this cancer can be aggressive.

So why am I sharing all this with you? Because, as usual, we need your prayers. We ask that you pray for God to give us wisdom through the next three weeks as we weigh our options. We ask that you pray for God's peace and comfort in knowing that He is in control and His plan is sovereign. Most importantly, we ask that you pray for us to never rob the Lord of His glory through this event. He is to be praised at all times and lifted on high for this situation. We trust in Him and trust that He knows exactly what He is doing and where this is heading. For that we are truly grateful.

Thank you again for all your support!
Russ and Robyn

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Running the race.......

Our family has enjoyed watching the olympics this summer. We would pick our favorite athletes as we watched in our family room cheering them on as if they could actually hear us encouraging them to run faster, dive straighter, spike better...come on you can do it!  

I want you to know we hear your cheers, feel your love and treasure the prayers. We could not run this race without our Heavenly Father and all of you! 

The last 2 weeks have been hard on Russ.  The daily radiation treatments have robbed him of all energy.  He has a hard time describing how he feels. Sometimes he says it feels like his internal organs are burning and at times he feels nauseated and totally drained. The good news is that after Thursday the radiation treatments will be done.  Russ has 4 more days of radiation treatments with chemo accompanying the last 3 days. Please pray for my dear sweet husband as the combination of the 2 treatments will make it a very rough week.  Then Russ will have 2 glorious weeks of no treatments! Around mid-September he will start his 6 months of chemotherapy.

Russ loves sharing with you on his blog and he just wants you to know he will be back.

Blessings to you all...and thank-you so very much!

Monday, August 18, 2008

I haven't forgotten you...

I know it's been several days since I last wrote so I just want let you all know that I haven't forgotten about the blog. I've been out of sorts for the last few days with a cold and haven't felt like doing anything other than sleeping. Today was my first day back to work and I'm feeling better but haven't kicked it yet. So, please forgive my lack of communication. I'll try to write during the next few days.

Thanks, Russ

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tough night...

For some reason this is one of those nights when I just can't sleep. I just can't turn my mind off. Maybe its the anesthesia they used yesterday morning for my "port-a-cath" surgery, (which went well by the way). Maybe I've left a small window of opportunity for satan to use his tools of fear, worry and deceit, to infiltrate my thoughts. Or, maybe, its God whispering to me, prompting me to lean on Him even more. I don't have many of these nights but, when I do, they usually last late into the night and result in a blog update the next day. Apparently, this one can't wait until the morning...

Tonight I'm thinking of the cancer and how evil it can be. I can't get it out of my head that no matter what I do now, radiation, chemo, exercise, eating right, there are no guarantees that the cancer won't come back. My chances are improved by all of these things but none offer a guarantee to beat the cancer. If you've ever faced an illness like this you know what I mean. If you haven't, picture yourself standing at the base of a mountain looking up at this ominous obstacle in your way. (By the way, this is a "5 year mountain", meaning that, no matter what you do, it will take you that long to climb it.) You know there is no way around it so you have to climb it to continue on with your journey. When you begin your accent you soon realize the mountain is much larger and much more real than it was when you were just looking at it from it's base. As you continue up the trail you lose energy and your breathe. That's when the doubt and fear creep in and begin to eat away at your motivation and faith. That's also when you begin to look around to see how you are doing compared to the others on the trail.  Most of the time you see the others on this mountain and receive inspiration from them. There really are a lot of champions on the mountain who will make it to the top. The champions that really stand out are those who haven't made it to the top yet but keep trying and cheer the rest of us on and who keep their faith strong.
Those who stand out most to me, by far, are those who can only be seen by me. Those are the people walking behind and in front of me, urging me on, clearing the path, pushing me, and making camp for me when I'm too tired to take another step. And, the one at my side, is the one who hears my prayers and responds by tightening the rope between me and Him and breathes a gentle flow of oxygen into my lungs. Those are my champions. I thank God for all of you who are climbing this mountain with us and shouting such encouraging words and prayers for us. Unless you are going through this now or have gone through it in the past you can't possibly understand how much strength we draw from each of you.
Tonight my prayer is this;
"Lord God, I thank you for your love. I thank you for your grace. I thank you for your mercy. Without you or any one of these attributes I could not make it another day. I thank you for the obstacle that you've allowed to be placed in our life and for walking beside us as we begin this trek. I realize that this obstacle has a purpose in our life that you have designed and timed perfectly. My prayer is that I will allow you to complete your work in me and not to become an obstacle to you as you make me into the man you want me to be. Lord, I also thank you for those around me who you use to inspire and encourage me. I count it such a privilege to be a part of this journey with them but pray that I can be strong enough to not let them down. Again, I thank you for the love, grace and mercy you share with me every day. Amen."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Quick Update

I just want to give you a quick update since I haven't written in a few days. I went to the Oncologist today and he was very pleased with my blood work results. The best news is that the indicator that tells us how my liver is functioning, (the bilirubin), is within the normal range. That tells us that my half of a liver is functioning as well as a complete liver! Praise God! Everything else seems to be going very well also. I'm continuing on with the radiation treatments and I'm about half way through them. I get tired and kind of queezy but nothing that I can't tolerate for a few more weeks. We also discussed the upcoming chemo treatments but I won't start those until mid September. On Friday this week I'll be going into the hospital to have the "port-a-cath" installed. It's an outpatient type surgery and should only take an hour and I'll go home that afternoon.

Here's some more great news!! I've received an offer of employment with Cornerstone Community Fellowship in Chandler. The offer at this time is a short term contract as the liaison to the staff for the new construction projects. That means I'll be facilitating the design stage with the staff, architects, builders, and project manager. I've been working with the staff for a couple of days now and it looks like this will be a good fit for me and the church. Now all we have to do is close the deal by signing the contract. It definitely won't be the income I was making before but, praise God, it's a job that I'm interested in and has the potential to grow into a career at the church in the long run.

So, that's it for now. Please continue to pray for us and keep in touch. I'll try to write a little more over the weekend.

To Him be the Glory!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Losses and Gain

I was just driving home from my radiation treatment and I began to wonder how many cells I've lost through these treatments. That led me to think about the losses that I've suffered over the past 78 days, since my cancer diagnosis. I began to list them in my head...

  • I've lost half of my liver.
  • I've lost about 35 pounds, (I'm not sure if I can count that since I didn't need them any way...)
  • I've lost my strength and stamina.
  • I've lost my job.
  • Along with the job, I lost the ability to support my family.
  • I've lost thousands of tears.
  • I've lost the ability to sleep soundly.
If I spend much time on this at all I think I would be able to list a hundred things that I've lost, or our family has lost, to the evil of cancer. But, fortunately, I began to thank God for these losses and realized that I count them all gains for Him. He is the reason I'm still here and it is the hope that I find in Him that keeps me going and fighting.
If you are going through a difficult time in your life, whether it is cancer or the loss of a job, or the loss of someone close to you, hang your hopes on what God has to offer to you. He is there waiting to hear from you and to share His love with you so that you can carry on through your personal tragedy.

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not a righteousness of my own..." Phillipians 3:8-9.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My point exactly...

Did you happen to read the comments on our last post? If not, I recommend you go to the last post, scroll down to the end of it and click on "comments". Lori, we love your comments too, but I want to point out something from Laurel and Kim's comments. As I mentioned at the end of that blog posting, God is working through our situation to touch the lives of others. In Laurel's case, I've never met her and have no direct connection with her but she and her family are reading our postings and being touched through our battle against cancer. As for Kim, I worked with him and the rest of the guys at Upland Fire and haven't kept in touch with them since I left in 1994. The guys have been following the blogs because they were alerted to my illness just after I was diagnosed.  Laurel, Kim and Lori, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us. 

Can you see how God is using this "bend in our road" to bless others and to bring glory to Himself? That's what we see from our perspective and we have to keep leaning on that faith to make it through this. Every comment, email, letter and phone call, (including yours Lori!), is received with great appreciation and is more inspiring to us than we can ever describe. 
Will you join us in prayer over the next couple of days as I return to the Oncologist and Surgeon to get updates on my progress and to have my final drain tube removed? Also, please continue to pray for God's direction on employment for me, as well as our finances. And finally, (but not least...), please pray for Robyn and the entire staff at Surrey Garden Christian School as they prepare for the beginning of school next week. Their is no shortage of work to be done and the clock is ticking but, by His grace, the kids will return to school to be greeted by cheerful and loving teachers and staff!

To Him be the glory!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

July 27th Update

It's been 10 days since our last update and since then I've completed 8 days of radiation treatments and my first, 3 day round of chemotherapy and, overall, I'm feeling good. The chemo gives me a bit of nausea and the radiation makes me a little tired but both just give me a good excuse for afternoon naps... I'll be going back to the surgeon on Thursday this week to have the final drain tube removed. Amen! I can't wait to get rid of this hose hanging out of my side. But, on Friday, August 8th, I go in for surgery to have another tube installed... This tube will be the "port-a-cath" that will be put in my clavicle area and will provide easy access to a vein for the rest of my treatments. So, I'll get rid of one tube and get another...

As we go through this event, Robyn and I have taken note, again, of the countless blessings that have occurred in our lives since this all began. Just the other day we received a message from Lori Greene that someone had made a $600 deposit into the bank account that she had set up for us. Later that day Robyn was opening the mail and found a medical bill for $774.94. The very next envelope she opened was a check for $175 from a bank card that had discontinued our rewards program. So, we had 6 cents more than we needed for the medical bill! Some would look at that and think God giveth and taketh away but we looked at that and we're amazed at how He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. It's just like our need to get away for a couple of days just before my treatments started. God prompted so many people to help us with that trip and we got the rest we needed and enjoyed every minute of it.
Another example is two nights ago, our air conditioning went out at 9:30 pm. I'm able to fix a lot of things but air conditioning is not one of them so I picked up the phone to call my a/c man expecting to leave him a message to ask him to put me on his schedule for the next day. To my surprise, he answered the phone and was at my house by 10:00 pm and had it fixed and blowing cold air by 11:00! 
Every day we are amazed how God is providing for us. We aren't surprised anymore but very much amazed at how He just keeps being gracious.  For us, the really amazing thing is how faithful He is in fulfilling His promise to love us. We see it through each of you who call, email, write, and pray for us. It is difficult to describe but we also see Him working in your lives as well. It's great to see how He can take a difficult event in one person's life and bless so many people as they try to soften the blow by sharing His love. What a great circle of love!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh... and I'm feeling great too!

Not 5 minutes have gone by since I posted the last message and I've already received a phone call reminding me that I didn't include anything about my health. I guess I should use this blog more for updating you on my health rather than a soap box for saying what's on my mind... But if you want to know what's on my mind please continue to read the next posting after you read this quick health update.

As for my health and treatments, I'm feeling strong and trying to stay active. I started my radiation therapy yesterday and had my second treatment this morning. I don't feel any different yet but expect to have less energy in about a week. The chemotherapy treatments that were supposed to accompany the radiation didn't happen yesterday because the nurses couldn't find a vein to start an IV on me. So, I'll go in to an outpatient surgery next week to have a "port-a-cath" installed in my clavicle area so they have easy access to a vein. As for my job search, there's really nothing new there either. I've had several suggestions and made a few contacts but no job offers yet. We thank you all for your continued prayers, encouragement and support. 

Not the sharpest tool in the shed...

I'm sure, at one time or another, you've all heard the old saying "he's not the sharpest tool in the shed" and if not, you've probably heard something similar. Maybe "he's one taco short of a combination plate" or "he's a few fries short of a happy meal".  Cody, my son who works at In-N-Out Burger might say something like, "Dad, you're two patties short of a double-double!" My all time favorite though is the one my old college roommate, Paul Hamilton, used to sarcastically chide me with quite often. He used to say, "Russ, you're about as sharp as the leading edge of a meatball!" If you picture in your mind the typical meatball I don't think sharp is the first thing that comes to mind... Each of these sayings implies that we just aren't all there or we're off base just a little. The bottom line for me here is that I think all of these sayings, (and any others like them that you can think of), can be used to describe everyone of us when comparing our own knowledge of our future to what God actually has in store for our lives.

Everyone of us, including me, goes through life with plans and dreams of what the future will hold, and that's a good thing. The problem most of us run into is we overlook the fact that God is in charge and the plan that He has for our lives is usually quite different than the plan we picture in our minds. There are two absolute truths to this. No matter how hard we try, our plan will never be perfect and God's plan is perfect in every sense of the word. We may not think it is so perfect when we're going through difficult times but that's where trusting God comes in. Robyn and I have found that trusting God is an ongoing learning process and it builds on itself as we go through life. The times we learn the most about trust is during the trials of life when we run to God for comfort, strength and hope. Doesn't that make sense? We trust Him most when we are closest to Him. 
Consider what God says to us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness", and in Romans 8: 24,25, "...Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently". Just in those two verses alone I think you'll agree that God wants us to learn and strengthen our trust in Him through life's trials. Every trial can reveal comfort, strength and hope as long as we open our eyes and seek out what God wants to teach us. I'll be the first to admit that its easy to say this but a very difficult thing to live out in my daily life. I've certainly had my share of dark days recently. But, in this moment of transparency, I can tell you that the more I pray, the more I read, the more I listen, and the more I let go, the closer I get to God and the more I trust Him. 
One of my all time favorite verses is Jeremiah 18:6, "...Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand..." I believe that God doesn't want to control us or our lives nor does he try to make life difficult by throwing road blocks in front of us. But, He does want us to trust Him and to allow ourselves to be molded and perfected by His hands. 
Picture in your mind a hunk of clay on a potter's wheel spinning around all shapeless and off balance. Do you see God at the wheel shaping and forming a perfect masterpiece? In my mind's eye, I see God at the wheel, the wheel is spinning as fast as it can, there's little bits of clay flying everywhere and there's even a bead of sweat on God's brow. You see, God isn't done with me yet, but He's working feverishly to make me perfect.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rest and Restoration

A couple of hours after Robyn and I were first told about my cancer diagnosis I found myself lying in a hospital bed wondering how could this have happened so fast and how can I slow down the process. The facts as we knew them at that point were that I now had a drain hose hanging out of my side and that I had a "very serious and aggressive" liver cancer. My human instinct was to say "Wait! Back this train up and slow down! I'm in control and I can't process this!" I couldn't help but think "at what point did I lose control of this situation?" Oddly enough, I never asked why or why me? I just thought of how I could regain control of the situation and stop this runaway train.

Later that day a very dear friend of mine, Dennis McMains, showed up at the foot of my bed. I have no idea how he found out that I was in the hospital so quickly but his timing could not have been better. It was like God sent one of His paramedics to the scene of an accident to comfort the victim. I didn't realize it then but Dennis' kind and gentle words were exactly what I needed in that moment. Dennis reminded me that God was right there with us, kneeling down to us as a father would do for his child who had just fallen after his first few steps. He reminded me that God was in control and that now is the time to rest in His arms and allow Him to do the work. Little did I know that his words to me that day would be so true and make such an impact on my life.
Since that day, those words have been echoed to us from so many of you through your emails, cards and letters. In studying God's word and reading other books the same theme also always seems to flash at me like a neon sign at midnight. "Rest in the comfort of knowing that God is in control and His plan is perfect." Today, we find ourselves doing exactly that. We are resting in the knowledge that He is in control and that He will provide what we need and when we need it.
We've found though that there is another side to resting. It is restoration. It's not that we didn't have faith and trust before all of this began, but the faith and trust that we did have is being restored to a level that we're not familiar with. I thought my faith in God and the trust I had in Him to take us to Papua New Guinea a few years ago was so steadfast that I couldn't imagine being any closer to Him. But today, seeing how He is working in our lives and the impact He is having on others through my illness, I can't help but feel like He is standing by my side, holding my hand and whispering in my ear saying, "One step at a time".
For those of you who have experienced this humbling but fulfilling reliance on God, you know what I'm talking about. For those of you who know God but haven't yet dropped your guard enough to allow God to take control, I recommend not waiting until you find yourself in a situation where you have no choice. For those of you who find this completely unbelievable or who don't know God personally, I urge you to find the answers to your objections and questions by talking to me or another believer. Having a close and open relationship with God will be the most comfortable place you'll ever be.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Good morning to you all!  I haven't written in a few days so I thought I'd give you a quick update on our lives.  Things have been getting busier around here the last few days but not back to normal yet. I'm healing up very well and feeling really good physically. I've been to the Oncologists this week and had a couple of more tests done and they've set my radiation treatments to start on July 16th. I've been told not to expect much discomfort but a little loss in my energy level. I'll believe it when I feel it... Mentally, I think I'm still reeling from the loss of my job and trying to figure out what's next. Fortunately, I have the best support system ever in the form of family and friends.  Most importantly, my wife of 27 wonderful years, Robyn.  If not for Robyn being by my side over the last two months I think I would have simply gone off the deep end and never came back.  She's my encourager and my strength when I think I can't go another minute.  I thank God everyday for allowing me to be a part of her life and a part of such a wonderful family.

On another note, we'd like to thank those of you who made the generous offers we received over the past few days for the retreat getaways to various cottages and cabins. Apparently, the word got out that we had a desire to get away for a couple of days before I start my treatments. We received several offers and we appreciate everyone of you who called. We were able to accept an offer of two nights in San Diego that worked the best for my treatment schedule and doctor appointments.  
Finally, we'd like to share a couple of our prayer requests with you:
First, please praise God for continuing to provide for our daily needs. 
Next, will you join me in praying for Robyn as she has so humbly and joyfully taken on so much over the past two months.  In addition to my health issues and taking care of our family she is also working diligently at keeping up with her responsibilities at Surrey Garden.  My prayer is that God will continue to bless her with her great attitude and joyful spirit even through the difficult times.  
Finally, pray that I will hear God's prompting as I begin the search for new employment. 

We count it an honor for you to join us in praising and honoring God for all that He is and the grace He so freely gives everyday.  Thank you, Russ and Robyn.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A little added prayer needed

Well, it's official...  I heard late this evening that I've been laid off from my current employer. The official word is that my position no longer exists even though I have a return to work release from my Doctor.  We sure could use a little added prayer from all of you regarding this matter. Specifically for God to open the right doors for us and to lead me to the perfect job and also for us to navigate through the Cobra insurance system over the next few days to keep my health insurance going.  

Thanks again for all your prayers!  Russ and Robyn

A little bit of good news goes a long way!

Seeing my surgeon this morning brought a little bit of good news today which helped us through the rest of the day.  The surgeon removed the bile drain bag this morning and clamped off the hose. He said the drain was no longer needed because my liver has kicked into full stride and is working very well!  All other indicators are looking great and I was even given a return to work order with no restrictions!  Wow!  That was unexpected but surely welcomed.  He said that his phase of treatment is complete and I should begin the next phase as soon as possible. I'll have to return to the surgeon in 5 weeks to have him remove the hose but aside from that I'm done with him!

The next phase is the radiation treatments.  We met with the radiology oncologist this afternoon who described the process and impact that it will have on my life over the next few months. He said that I should be able to work a normal work schedule with the exception of going to their office every day for a 15 minute treatment for 7 weeks.  The treatments are not overly invasive but can cause flu like symptoms for short periods of time.  Those treatments will start in about 2 weeks.
So, this evening, Robyn and I are hanging our emotions on the good news from this morning and praising God for the work that He continues to do through our lives. We are so thankful that He is with us and in control. We remind ourselves often that He never promised any of us an easy life or a life without pain but He did promise to be with us through every trial and tribulation. Without a doubt, we feel His presence and are reminded of Him every time we read your notes of encouragement. Thank you Lord for being with us and may your name be praised through our lives!
Russ and Robyn

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stronger day by day

Good Monday morning to everyone.  It's been a few days since we posted an update so I thought I'd take a moment to write one to fill you in on the latest and what we have coming up. Since my return from the last stay in the hospital I've been losing the battle with trying to get consistent sleep but I believe that has a lot to do with the medications that I'm on.  The good news is I'm almost finished with those medications and look forward to getting back to a good sleep routine soon.  Aside from the sleep issue, the most difficult thing to get used to is the heightened sensitivity to my senses.  Every touch, odor, sound, and taste is magnified and creates an unusual and unpleasant response.  Even my sense of sight is affected when we go out in public.  The shear numbers of colors we see in a grocery store create a slight level of confusion and discomfort.  Again, all of these things are more than likely caused by the medications so I really look forward to getting off them.

Pain has really not been an issue thus far so the only pain medication I take is one tablet at night to help me to fall asleep.  The only discomfort that I feel is from the drain bag that is connected to my liver to help drain the excess bile. That bag is destined to be removed in about 2 to 3 more weeks.  So as you can see, I'm making very good progress and get stronger every day.  I'm really looking forward to getting back to a routine of sorts including work and catching up on a few things around the house.
Many people ask what they can pray for at this point so here are a few things that we are truly concerned about but know that God is in control and He will work through them in His time.  
  • Please pray for us as a family.  As you can imagine this event has placed a lot of uncertainty and stress in our lives.  Please pray we will continue to trust God for everything.
  • Please pray for my employer this week.  They have been very generous thus far in this situation however, decisions will have to be made this week as to what future, if any, I will have with the company.
  • Please pray for our finances as well.  Depending upon the decision made this week at work we may be in a very difficult financial place.  Of course, nothing God won't be able to handle.
  • Finally, please pray for my Doctors appointments this week.  I will be meeting with the Radiology Oncologist to discuss the process and effects the radiation treatments will have.  I will also be meeting with the surgeon to discuss clamping off my bile bag to see if I can go without it. Both of these appointments will be on Thursday.
Once again, Robyn and I want to thank you for every prayer, word of encouragement and thoughtful gift that we've received.  We wish you all could see what affect you are all having on each other through this blog and emails. We cannot calculate the number of people who've been encouraged by your words and prayers and that is what all of this should be about.  Lord, even though this church has no building to hang a sign on, your church is alive and well through your loving people who praise you and give you the glory for this event in the lives of one family of believers.  May you be glorified!!
Thank you all again and keep the comments flowing!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back Home

Just a quick update to let you know that Russ is home. He is feeling good and was able to get some good rest last night. Continuing on to the 2nd phase of the journey. We love you Lord and Lord, thank you for all of our wonderful friends!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17th Update

Good Afternoon,

Praise God!!!! The fever is no more, the infection is not serious and can be controlled by antibiotics and the pain is being managed. Russ is feeling better, however, he is very sore around the right lower area of his lung, so please pray for that pain to go away.

The doctor feels he will probably be able to return home Wednesday morning.

Thank you for your continued love and prayers.

In the palm of His mighty hands,

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Update - June 16th

Russ has been admitted to Good Samaritan and is getting some rest, per the doctor's orders. He is fighting an infection, so visits are very limited to protect his immune system. Please pray for healing and some good rest. We will post more when things change.

A Call To Pray

Good morning, this is Lori G. Robyn asked me to post this morning that Russ was taken via ambulance to Good Sam early today. He is being admitted and will return to the 9th floor. Russ has an infection and his temperature is spiking quickly. Please pray that his fever would be controlled and that he would receive excellent care from the doctors and nurses at Good Sam. Thank you for bringing the Bishop family before the Lord!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Numb, but still tingling...

Robyn and I walked out of the Oncologist's office today and just sat in the truck for a few minutes trying to gather our thoughts and feelings.  The only way to describe how we feel after the last 4 weeks and today's office visit was to use the word "Numb".  We are absolutely numb to everything that has gone on in 30 days and our heads are spinning at the speed at which everything is going.  The good news is we still have that tingling sensation and we know that hope still surrounds us!

The news today wasn't particularly unexpected.  The Oncologist described a course of treatment that will truly increase the survivability of this disease but hearing him describe the severity and aggressiveness of my particular cancer brought about a very heavy dose of reality to our situation.  The doctor started out by saying how impressed he was with the results of the surgery and pathology reports.  He is very optimistic, as is the surgeon, that all the cancer was removed.  However, this type of cancer has a habit of popping up in other areas of the body if aggressive radiation and chemotherapy is not started as soon as possible.  So, now that the first phase of my treatment, the surgery, is over, the second phase of my treatment will begin as soon as I am healed from the surgery.  In about 3 to 4 more weeks I will begin 7 weeks of daily radiation therapy.  The doses will be concentrated to the area around my liver and in short intervals of about 15 minutes each day.  That will be combined with 3 days of chemo therapy at the beginning of the 7 weeks and 3 days at the end of the 7 weeks.  Once that is over I will have chemo therapy treatments about once per week over the next 3 to 6 months.  By that time, we hope it will be all over.
Okay, enough of the tough stuff, the good news is that I'm healing very well and getting stronger everyday.  There is almost no pain now and just weakness and fatigue which will go away with time.  The other good news is that I should be well enough to go back to work on a limited basis in about 3 to 4 weeks.  I spoke to my supervisor yesterday about that and there is a possibility of that happening depending on the amount of work available at the time.  
As Robyn mentioned to you all in the last posting, I'm absolutely humbled by all the prayers and comments that we've been receiving since all this started.  We truly appreciate all of you and would humbly ask you all to continue with the prayers and encouragement.  We both draw so much from your words and feel as though we are not going through this by ourselves.  Thank you all for everything!  Russ

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Friday the 13th!!!!

Russ said jokingly, "Robyn, couldn't you have gotten the appointment on a different day?" Yes, the oncologist appointment is on Friday the 13th.

On another note, Russ is enjoying being back at home and healing well. He was able to take a short walk up and down our street this morning enjoying some fresh air and exercise. He is getting lots of rest and missing food with texture. (Soft foods right now)

Russ got on the blog breifly the other day to read your comments. He is so humbled by all of your love and prayers. Russ and I love being in our Shepherd's care and love being in the same "flock" with all of you. Even though there are some rocks here and there in the meadow, the meadow is so very, very green. We praise you Lord.

Next posting will be on the 13th to let you know the outcome with the oncologist.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Yea...Russ is home!

Dr. Cashman gave Russ the OK to come home this morning. It is so nice to have him home and he is very glad to be Dorothy in OZ said, "There is no place like home!"

The next step is an appointment with the Oncologist to get a treatment plan in motion. However, Russ will need time to heal before any treatment can start.

When Russ is feeling up to it he will post a letter to all of you and I will update you next week to what the Oncologist shares with us.

To God give all the glory! I see His thumbprints all over this. We wouldn't want it any other way.

Please continue to pray for continued healings from our Heavenly Father. We love and appreciate you all. Please come for a visit if you are in the neighborhood. Russ will enjoy the company.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Well with the good... Comes some bad.

Thankfully, Dad had a very restful night! He is feeling rested and has some energy back. However, the doctor had to share some bad news. The pathology reports came back and sadly some of the lymph nodes are cancerous. This is all we know at the moment, Dad will be seeing his oncologist in a few weeks to discuss the next few steps. My family and I would like to thank you again for all the prayers and we ask again that you continue to pray! Despite this news dad feels rested and he would like you all to know that he is in room 935 at Banner Good Samaritan if you want to visit, however, we do ask out of respect for the staff that visitors come between 5:30 - 7:00 pm only. Thanks again for everything you have done for my parents... It has become obvious and overwhelming the amount of people who truly love my parents! THANK YOU!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Some good progress...

Despite a painful and sleepless night Dr. Cashman believes Dad/Russ has been making some good progress, therefore he is no longer in ICU! Although he has been moved the doctor and nursing staff have asked that visitors be kept to a minimum. Right now the goal is to get pain under control with the new medicine and get some restful sleep in order to continue healing.   Another praise, as you can see, Dad has been disconnected from a majority of his tubes/wires! Please continue to pray for more progress and the results of the pathology reports of the lymph nodes. Thank you again for all the thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement, not only does my dad appreciate all the love but so does my family! We appreciate you all.  

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday, May 31 - An Update

It looks like another day in ICU. Thank you for your patience, we know everyone wants to come visit. Maybe tomorrow.

Russ has been receiving blood and plasma transfusions. Please pray that those continue to go well. Also, he has had a fever for more than 36  hours. Please pray that the fever will go down and for a speedy recovery as well.

Friday, May 30, 2008

May 30 - Update on Russ

Dr. Cashman stopped in today to check on Russ. He is progressing well. Due to the aggressive nature of the surgery, however, they are going to keep him in the ICU for at least one more day. That is about it for today. We will give you an updated status tomorrow. Thank you again for walking through this with us and for all your prayers.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Update from Robyn

Dearest family and friends,

Wow, I just don't know where to begin. Russ is the writer of the family so please bear with me! You have truly immersed us in your love. We truly, truly have experienced a part of Heaven. We have been surrounded by people that love the Lord. Your presence has been constant and unselfish. Oooohhhh how you have prayed and prayed and prayed. Thank you - you dear sweet brothers and sisters. Our cup truly runneth over!

What a precious Heavenly Father we have. He has heard our hearts, He has felt our tears and He has answered. We praise you Father the Glory is ALL yours, you are the great physician!

Russ is doing well. I was at the hospital early this morning in hopes to not miss the surgeon. When Dr. Cashman came in to check on Russ I thought he shared an excellent analogy to Russ's situation. He said, "Russ, you are like a car that has 8 spark plugs. I just took out 4 of them. It is going to take a while for your body to figure out how to function on just 4." Russ remains in ICU, he is very groggy and tired but just can't seem to get any quality sleep. We will not have the pathology reports back until Monday, June 2nd. As soon as Russ is moved out of ICU we will post it to the blog and let you know the floor and room number so you may visit if that is your desire.

There is so much to share, so much to rejoice in. Please continue to praise our dear Sweet Heavenly Father and continued petitions of prayer for my wonderful husband of 27 years.

Feeling so under His wing.....blessings,

PS: Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have a blog site....I am just learning how to text on my phone.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good News!!!

The surgery went well past the anticipated length - over six hours. But praise God, things went very well. The doctor said he removed everything he wanted to (that's good) and he tested the right side of the bile ducts and liver for cancer - all negative (that's even better). So prayers have been answered and Russ is in recovery. The doctor removed some lymph nodes to test for cancer - we have to wait for the results on that. While no one knows for sure yet if the cancer is 100% removed, all in all it has been a good day. We will post more when we have more technical information. Please continue to pray for recovery and healing for Russ. 

Since Russ will be in ICU for a few days, only family is allowed to visit - we will let you know if that changes. Also, we would like to ask that no one call the hospital room. If Russ is there alone, it is just too hard for him to be answering the phone. If you have any questions please call Ashley or me (Luke). Please leave your words of encouragement and prayers as comments on the blog. Russ will eventually get to read all of them. Thank you.

Amazing Photos

We had the opportunity to get some family photos taken yesterday. Check them out at Thank you Melissa! They're amazing!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Change of Plans!

Just received a call this afternoon... Surgery has been moved from Thursday afternoon to early Wednesday morning at 7:30 am. The procedure will still take place at Good Samaritan in Phoenix. Please continue to pray for God to guide the doctor's hands and for Russ' health. Thank you again for all the support and encouragement you all have provided my family. Your words and prayers are with my parents continually. Continue to visit the blog for more updates, and hopefully some good news after the surgery tomorrow!

Praying with Scripture

Deborah Hightower was sweet enough to create a prayer card for the Bishops. We didn't have it at the prayer meeting, so I thought you could print it from the blog and use it when praying for them (if you want to of course).

Thank you for praying for the Bishop family! There were 67 people at the prayer meeting last night. Thanks for coming.


We enter in this season of prayer not having a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Phil 3:9 NIV)

As Your children made righteous through Christ, may our prayers be powerful and effective on behalf of the Bishop family (James 5:16 NIV).

Lord, You beckon us to "Come to You, when we are weary and burdened, and You will give us rest. (Mat 11:28 NIV)

You encourage us to “Take Your yoke upon us and learn from You, for You are gentle and humble in heart, and we will find rest for our souls. (Mat 11:29 NIV)

For Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light." (Mat 11:30 NIV)

Lord, help the Bishops to do these things, that they may find rest for their souls during this time of great challenge.

Help them to cast all their anxiety on You, Lord, because You care for them. (1 Pet 5:7 NIV)

LORD, today we pay attention to what You say; and listen closely to Your words. (Prov 4:20 NIV)

We do not let them out of our sight, but keep them within our heart;
(Prov 4:21 NIV)

You promise that they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. (Prov 4:22 NIV)

You are the LORD, who heals us." (Exo 15:26d NIV)

You invite us to "Ask and it will be given to us; to seek and we will find; to knock and the door will be opened to us. (Mat 7:7 NIV)

We ask, therefore, that your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven on behalf of this family. (Mat 6:10 NIV)

We ask that these prayers offered in faith, will make our friend who is sick well; we ask You, Lord to raise him up. (James 5:15a NIV)

(2 Cor 12:9 NIV) May God’s grace be sufficient for Russ, for His power is made perfect in weakness."

Father, help Russ to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given him—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.
(Acts 20:24b NIV)

A Psalm of Comfort
for the Bishop Family

May the LORD answer the Bishops as they are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect them. (Psa 20:1 NIV)

May he send the Bishops help from the sanctuary and grant them support from Zion.
(Psa 20:2 NIV)

May he remember all their family’s sacrifices and accept their offerings.
(Psa 20:3 NIV)

May he give them the desire of their heart and make all their plans succeed.
(Psa 20:4 NIV)

We will shout for joy when we are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all our requests.
(Psa 20:5 NIV)

Now we know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
(Psa 20:6 NIV)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
(Psa 20:7 NIV)

We are brought to our knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
(Psa 20:8 NIV)

O LORD, save Russ! Answer us when we call!
(Psa 20:9 NIV)

May the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 5:10-11NIV)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's a date!

Yesterday, we heard from Dr. Cashman's office about my surgery date.  They will be doing the surgery on Thursday, May 29th, at 1:00pm.  As you can imagine, I wanted to get it done earlier but we are very appreciative that I'm getting in so soon.  Please continue to pray with us and we will continue to provide updates as new things arise.

We thank you all!!
Russ and Robyn

Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 22nd Roller Coaster

Well, if this ride we are on is best described as an emotional roller coaster then on Tuesday we hit the bottom of the valley and today we are screaming upwards toward the next crest of the ride!  We met with the Surgeon this morning and were greeted by a very confident but not cocky man who was about my age, (47).  He introduced himself and then said lets get this thing out of you, okay?  Robyn and I looked at each other in disbelief and tears began to well up in both our eyes.  Doctor, we said, you don't understand that we've been told this tumor has progressed to a point where surgery is not an option but you are telling us something different.  Why?  He went on to tell us that if the rolls were reversed and he was facing this serious of a disease he would want someone like him to be as aggressive as possible and do the surgery.  He had reviewed my MRI and felt that there is a very good chance that he can remove the left side of my liver, including the bile duct system and then connect the right side back to my intestines.  So, our prayer over the last couple days has been for God to provide some hope through the visit today and he has absolutely done just that.  We are so thankful for all of you walking by us and holding us up in your prayers.  We are so encouraged by all of you and the way that everyone has truly laid this situation before our God and allowed Him to do the rest.  We know the battle has just begun and there will still be many peaks and valleys on this ride but we feel as though we have a team of thousands, some right in the thick of the battle and some standing on the sidelines, praying their hearts out and cheering us on.  There is no way in this earthly world that we could go through this without all of you.  Thank you so very much!  We hope to learn tomorrow when the surgery will be scheduled.  We hope it will be sometime next week but are not yet sure.  Look for our next posting tomorrow to get the surgery date.  Also, if you have a minute, click on "comments" at the end of these postings to read some of the great and inspiring comments that we've received.  You can't help but be inspired!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 20th, Update from Russ

We can’t say thank you enough for so many kind words, thoughts, prayers, cards, letters, flowers, meals and all around encouragement that we’ve received over the last few days. We definitely feel your presence and the presence of God as we go through this trial in our life. Even through a tough day like today we are encouraged through the knowledge that all of you are praying and petitioning God on our behalf. This morning, Robyn, Ashley and I went to the Oncologist to see what the next step is in the treatment of this disease. We learned that the cancer is actually located within the “bilary tree” which is in the liver. This presents a serious challenge and it seems that the primary treatment is surgery. We now have a consultation with a surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix on Thursday morning at 9:00am. As if that weren’t a stiff enough blow to our hopes we received a call from the Mayo Clinic just after we returned home. We had applied to be seen by their liver surgical team to see if we could get a consultation with them. The call was to inform us that the surgeons who reviewed the file felt as though surgery is not possible given the advancement and agressiveness of the tumor. Now, we are on pins and needles wondering if this is just a prelude to what the surgeon at Good Sam will tell us on Thursday morning. Until that meeting we'll be resting in the words from Psalm 20 and the knowledge that you are all petitioning on our behalf. Thank you again for your outpouring of love and support.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Update From Russ

For those of you who have heard and are praying for us we want to thank you so much. It is great to know that there are so many praying for us right now. Some of you haven’t heard yet so I’ll give you a quick synopsis of what is going on with me. Just over a week ago Robyn took me to the ER to investigate why my skin and eyes turned yellow. I spent the night there only to be released the next morning without any diagnosis. On Tuesday I saw a GI specialist who told us that I did not have hepatitis but something was blocking my liver bile ducts. He sent me for a MRI and more blood work on Thursday and on Friday morning he called us and told us to come right in. We went at 11:00am on Friday morning and by 12:00pm I was checked into the hospital to have a tube installed to drain the liver. They are saying I have Cholangiocarcinoma which is a cancer of the liver. He says it is very serious and very aggressive. So, needless to say the weekend was a blur and we are nervously waiting for a call from the oncologist and surgeon to meet with them to discuss options. Apparently the options are limited but we anticipate there may be more than one. We know that God is in control and our prayer is that He will be glorified through this event in our lives. Please keep us in your prayers and we’ll try to send updates as we find out the next course of action.

Prayer Meeting

There will be a prayer meeting next Monday, May 26th at 7pm in the Surrey Garden Christian School cafeteria. Please join us to pray for the Bishop family. See the link to the right for directions to the school. Everyone is welcome to come!


If you are interested in providing a meal for Robyn, Russ & Cody, please call Lori Burr at (602)859-7391.

Benevolence Fund

An account has been set up at Compass Bank to help Robyn and Russ with some of their expenses.

Deposits may be made at the Val Vista & Elliot or the Higley & Baseline branch.

Simply reference the Russ Bishop Benevolence Fund at either of those locations. If you are unable to make it to Compass, Lori Greene at SGCS is happy to make deposits of checks that are made out to Robyn and Russ Bishop.