Saturday, 29 December 2012

Go Fight Win!

We had a really nice Christmas. A popular song claims that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but for some it’s not. It can be a very sad and lonely time of the year for many people and my heart goes out to those who experience anything but comfort and joy at Christmas. Some people are away from the ones they dearly love, so it makes me appreciate every Christmas spent with family. I savour the moments and wish time would stand still for just a little while. Our children are grown up, but it’s still so much fun to watch them open presents and it’s neat that they are more excited about what they give than what they get. They appreciate the good food, especially the turkey and gravy and they enjoy spending time with each other and the rest of the family. There is usually lots of laughter, lots of sweet treats, stories, games and someone snoozing on the couch or in the middle of the living room floor. Having  a three year old, our granddaughter Leah around as well makes Christmas extra special and we just couldn’t ask for anything more.

It’s these special times together that can give someone with an illness the desire and determination to fight for his life and live to experience it all over again next year…and the next year and the one after that. How do I know? I know because I am watching a very courageous man do exactly that.  
To go all the way to Bulgaria to receive a medical treatment that is still fairly new and may or may not produce positive results is courageous (many people are experiencing positive results from stem cell treatment). Are motto is: we will do whatever we can and let the good Lord do the rest…and may His will be done! We are all very hopeful, but before we left for Bulgaria, Mike said if nothing else, it will be a wonderful pre-Christmas vacation to a beautiful destination.

We feel so blessed to have been able to travel across the globe to be treated by some of the very best doctors in the world. We couldn’t have done it without the help of my sister Elanna who came with us, and without the help of my parents who initiated the trip and took care of all the travel arrangement and without the help of our new friends Steven and Ruth who have the connections with the doctors in Bulgaria and are helping many people, including those with MS and ALS find medical relief through their society, The Reformed Multiple Sclerosis Society. Steven set up our appointment dates and was in touch with us the whole time leading up to our departure, answering our question and communicating with us and the doctors, taking care of all the details. We are also so thankful for the prayers and support of all our family and friends.  
Over the Christmas holidays, our good friends Audrey and Gregg arranged two friendly hockey games for their kids and their friends (some parents, including Gregg) and whoever else wanted to come out and have some fun.  Gregg was Madison’s hockey coach for many years when she played for our local female hockey club – the Barracudas. Everyone paid ten bucks (which is a great deal) to play a friendly game of scrimmage.  Audry and Gregg passed on all the proceeds to our family charity, Project Wellness, which was an added bonus. The games were great entertainment for those of us watching, but what I noticed right away was the competitiveness of all the players, especially my two (Nathan and Madison…Erin wasn’t there, but she is the same way). It was a friendly game against good friends they have known all their lives, but when the puck dropped, the game was ON! It got me thinking, it’s in the genes…our children are just like their dad; very competitive. Mike is very competitive in sports and other things in life, including illness. It’s like, “Go, Fight, Win!” almost all the time. Their attitude is; “I will not be beat!”

The doctors say it can take one to two months to observe any results from the stem cell treatment, so we will wait and see what happens. But regardless of what happens, we will not lose hope. With the advancements in medicine and the brilliant doctors out there like the ones Mike had in Bulgaria and considering that all things are possible with God, we won’t lose hope. And with the competitive spirit that Mike has, we won’t stop fighting.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20


                    Nathan with a bloody nose from a high stick at the friendly hockey game

Girl power! Sydney, Payge, Kirsten, Haley,  Madeline, Jade, Meagan, Melisa, Madison and Sabrina the goalie in front

                                                  Mike and Leah watching the game

                                                      The five of us on Christmas day

My parents with their grandkids on Christmas day - Michaela, Erin, Madison, Nathan and Luke

                                      Michaela, Elanna, Luke and Peter on Christmas day

                                                 Leah bringing gifts on Christmas Eve

                                   Mike having his cake and eating it too...in Bulgaria post op

 
                        He couldn't decide what piece of cake he wanted, so he ate all three pieces

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Communication Breakdown - by Mike Sands


Language has been around for almost as long as man has existed.  There are close to 7,000 languages worldwide.  With the large number of languages in existence coupled with the different dialects, it stands to reason that problems will arise communicating between people.  An example of this occurred in the Sudan a few years ago.  An advertiser posted on a billboard 3 pictures side by side. The first picture showed a bunch of dirty clothes. The middle picture had a box of ‘Tide’ detergent and the last picture showed the same clothes but now they were clean after using the Tide.  The problem was that in Sudan, the Sudanese people read from right to left, not left to right as we do in Canada.  This ‘miscommunication` was an obvious embarrassment to the advertisers.  Another example of where language was ‘miscommunicated` occurred in Russia during the 1800`s where Czarina Maria Fyodorovna once saved the life of a man by transposing a single comma in a warrant signed by her husband, Alexander III, which exiled a criminal to imprisonment and death in Siberia. On the bottom of the warrant the czar had written: “Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia.” Maria Fyodorovna changed the punctuation so that her husband’s instructions read: “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia.”  By altering the document, the Czarina caused a `miscommunication` between the czar and the jailer.  The criminal was set free. Closer to home in North America, there was a comedy duo of George Burns and Gracie Allen that ran their act from the early days of vaudeville in the 1920’s until Gracie`s death in 1964.  Burns and Allen, as they were known, built their act on ‘miscommunication’ --largely on the part of the ditzy Gracie, who always misinterpreted anything straight man George said.  An example of miscommunication between the two occurred one time when George came home and noticed Gracie putting a bunch of flowers in a vase.  George asked Gracie where she got the flowers. Gracie replied, ``I went to visit Edna Rigby in the hospital, and you told me if I was to visit her in the hospital, then I should take her flowers. So I took them``.

I just arrived back from the European country of Bulgaria where I received stem cells treatment for my ALS. The treatment is not offered in Canada, as it is deemed controversial.  The procedure involved getting healthy stem cells from one section of your body (the bone at the top of my right butt cheek) and transferring the cells to an unhealthy section (my neck).  I was transferred from a gurney to an operating table.  I was placed on my side so they could drill my butt cheek.  ALS has caused severe muscle loss in my arms, and therefore laying on my side causes me great pain unless I place a pillow between my arms and my side. Being in the foreign country of Bulgaria made any conversation ripe for misinterpretation. Some of the medical staff attending me barely spoke a word of English, so I was hard pressed to figure out how I was going to communicate to them that I needed a pillow under my arm.  I said out loud to anyone who would listen, ``I need a pillow`` while pointing to under my arm. The doctor replied ``no pills while surgery``.  I thought to myself, ``what?`` I asked for a pillow and he thinks I want a pill. I then saw a stack of hospital pajamas about 5 meters away on a shelf.  I said out loud,`` I need  those pajamas``, while pointing to my underarm.  He replied, `Momma not allowed in surgery ``.  I said I   wanted pajamas and he thought I said I want my momma.  All of a sudden I could relate to women in labour who are ready to punch the medical staff in the face while in the delivery room.  But that was not how I was going to deal with this situation.  I thought, ``what would Jesus do``? Yes, now I remember; Matthew 5;29 , and Jesus sayeth; ``Turn  the  other cheek``.  So I used all my strength and turned my hips in a counter clockwise swirl (the swirl is optional, for you Seinfeld fans) lifting my left butt cheek so that it was flapping in the breeze for all to see.  Yes, Jesus would be proud; I had turned the other (butt) cheek.
Pictures from my hospital stay in Bulgaria:
This is what they serve for lunch at the hospital: a slab of feta cheese and a humungous tomato that must have been grown in and around the chernobyl nuclear plant.
One of the down sides of being in a hospital is that you have to share a room. My room mate slurped her food when she ate and talked incenssently. However, I was willing to over look all that because she was not too hard on the eyes.
After dealing with Dr. Petrov, Dr. Botov and Dr. Karlomov I was ready to deal with Dr. Smirnov.

 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

This is my 100th blog post and I dedicate it to our family and friends. The support, the encouragement, the prayers, the concern, the comforting words, the food, the money, the gifts, the help, the fundraisers and so on; it’s all summed up in one word: LOVE. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Something I have learned about myself over the last little while is that I can be quite selfish. Taking care of Mike full time has revealed selfishness in me I wouldn’t have realised otherwise. I delight in caring for Mike; he is my husband and I love him very much. But here is my question to myself, do I love me more? Ultimately, my needs are quite often first and foremost on my mind to be quite honest.
For a while I had no problem giving up a lot of things in order to take the best care of my beloved. But when the novelty of that wore off and my inner child started throwing a hissy fit because she wasn’t getting what she wanted, I had to give my inner child a ‘time out’ and ponder what love really was about.

Jesus says something about love that strikes a chord in me. In John 14:13, he says, “Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus knew what He was talking about because He knew His future and the very reason He came to earth; to suffer the cruellest death on a cross for His friends…the greatest example of love. But in this verse, Jesus wasn’t just talking about the great love He had for his friends (and all of mankind); He was telling all mankind how they must love one another as well. In the verse right before it, he says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
When I was a child, I didn’t need to hear the words “I love you” to know that I was loved. The actions of those caring for me, my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles, were enough for me to know I was loved. I also found out quickly that I didn’t have to do anything to earn their love. They just loved me for who I was because I belonged to them. They put aside their needs for mine and rearranged their lives to suit me…and that’s what most parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles do.

At the age of eighteen, our son Nathan announced that he was going to be a dad. After his big announcement, he showed us how ‘big’ he was by laying down his life for his new baby. He quit the high level hockey team he was on. He shelved any plans of going to college and/or traveling. He started getting up at the crack of dawn to go to a job he didn’t like in order to raise a beautiful baby girl. His daughter Leah knows she is well loved because his life revolves around her and she is the apple of his eye.
Love is an action word. It means putting someone else before self; it’s about giving something up for another person and not expecting anything in return. When Mike first started needing help walking, and going up the stairs, and getting dressed and eating etc. we gained a new appreciation for care givers. We would quite often say, “God bless the April Cartwrights of the world!” April Cartwright is a women Mike went to elementary school with (public school as they say in Ontario) and is now a friend of both of ours on Facebook. She is a single parent of a daughter with Autism and she has had to give up everything for her daughter. Her daughter, now in her twenties needs constant care and attention and always will. Our friends, Michelle and Dave also have a daughter with special needs. Watching them with their daughter is a lesson in love. They are so patient and kind and I’m sure their daughter knows she is loved beyond measure and it’s inspiring to say the least.

My dad just returned from Malawi, Africa again where he, in his mid-seventies, still goes to feed orphans and drill wells. He and my mom, who founded Amazon Evangelism/Project Wellness (projectwellness.ca) have laid down their lives for their ‘friends’. Just like other people who have chosen to care of someone else’s child. Or like those caring for their own children, or an aging parent, or a sick friend. Or like the parents, sisters and brothers, children, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles and friends and me, who care for a guy named Mike with ALS.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

                                     Nathan and Mike with baby Leah. Leah is now three and a half.

My dad with Gerold in Malawi, Africa - check out the new Project Wellness Website at  projectwellness.ca