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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Warriors unite!

"Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up." - Psalm 5:1-3 (KJV)

What a journey it has been since that April day in 2013 when the orthopedic surgeon Kelsey had visited due to a very small lump in her right forearm mentioned that she may have cancer. He thought it would be unusual for it to be in her arm. It certainly was (statistically speaking) unusual for cancer to be there. The following year and almost three months has continued in that "unusual" trend. Going from amputation of her right arm being a real possibility to learning that the cancer had spread which made amputation no longer the chosen path. Multiple MRIs, CT scans, x-Rays and PET scans. Biopsies, tumor removals and stereotactic radiation. Now, we sit in a hospital with Kelsey, who between her pain medicine has many moments of being herself, welcoming people, apologizing that she hasn't gotten up to shower, sharing funny stories, singing songs and loving on Alexa. But she also has a lot of pain. The cancer in her right lung has continued to grow. It appears there may be a spot on her liver. It may also have spread to her lymph nodes on her right side. From the world's standpoint, from the standpoint of the experts, there would appear to be "no hope". (Feel free to refer back to my blog entry a few days back - Breathing a little easier - to read the quote near the end of the post for some context.)

But, as we have seen throughout this journey, the world is not God and the experts are not God (and we are so thankful on both of those counts). And, we always have hope! So now, our dear warriors, it is time for us to bring Kelsey once more before the throne of God. Please join me in continuing to pray for her complete earthly healing. With the intensity of her pain, if God does not will to heal her, it is selfish for us to cling to her here on this earth.

I thank you for your prayers, for the texts and phone calls, for the abundance of food, for offers to help in whatever way possible. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for your prayers. They are what sustain all of us in the darkest hours. They allow us to continue to trust God when our flesh screams out that He is not trustworthy. Here are some very specific ways to pray:

-- Complete and total healing of Kelsey's body. No more cancer.

-- Nutrition. Kelsey does get weaker and weaker each day due to an insufficient calorie intake. I am planning to speak with the doctor about this later this morning (along with Kelsey) to emphasize that we want to make sure she is getting nutrition (and are okay with possible risks of IV nutrition or a feeding tube). There are so many benefits to having nutrition, but if we continue the current course of just getting the liquids she needs, the outcome is pretty certain. Pray the conversation goes well and we can figure out how to get additional nutrition for her.

-- No more fluid in Kelsey’s lungs. Breathing easier.

-- Special times together. Whether God wills to heal Kelsey or not, pray we can look back on these days with a clear picture of God's hand in all of it.

-- For Alexa. My heart aches for my beautiful daughter. She knows not everything is right, that something is different about this time in the hospital. I have talked with her and let her know that mommy is very sick and that we need to be praying that God would heal her. But, she is four years old. She doesn't truly grasp the severity of the situation. Please pray she can have special moments with Kelsey

-- Wisdom. Oh how we all need this in so many ways. Treatment now, potential future treatment, speaking about hard subjects, dealing with doctors, and the list goes on. We need God's wisdom.

-- For God to be glorified. Pray we can be a light to those around us here. There is not much hope for many people here on this floor. Pray we can continue to be an oasis of hope and that even in the midst of this dark time that God would use it to bring others to Himself.

GOD IS IN CONTROL! What truth in these words, even in times of pain and sorrow! Thank you all for continuing to be a part of this wonderful team of prayer warriors. And, if you need your official "armor", the T-shirts have arrived! Here is Alexa providing some wonderful modeling.
If you would like to get one of these t-shirts, you can find them at The front has C > c, the back says:

Christ > cancer
I'm a warrior in the fight for Kelsey Kennedy.
"This is what the Lord says to you, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'" - 2 Chronicles 20:15

Friday, June 27, 2014

She made it!

Kelsey made it through another procedure! Praise The Lord! She seemed to be in good spirits and is currently resting. Here she is with Alexa.

Thank you for your continued prayers! Do pray for a great night of rest for Kelsey tonight.

Strength for the day

Kelsey is going to have another thoracentesis today (the procedure where they drain the fluid from under her lungs). It will be a decision made at the time they do the procedure as to which lung they will actually drain (can't do both at the same time due to the potential risks of collapsing lungs). I plan to post again (it may be very brief) after her procedure.

Some prayer requests for today:

--Wisdom and guidance for the interventional radiologist. To know which lung would provide greater benefit for her when drained. For a complication-free procedure.

-- Pray that Kelsey will not have the same coughing and nausea that she did last time, so that this procedure will be able to drain the maximum amount of liquid possible for her maximum benefit.

-- Pray for quick healing from the incision.

-- We continue to pray for small steps of progress. In regard to appetite, eating, pain, nausea and rest.

-- Pray for Alexa. Pray she continues to be excited to come see her mommy. Pray she sleeps well and does well in an environment which is familiar (she is staying with her Uncle Mark and Aunt Holly), but which is not home. Pray this time will be instrumental in her salvation story.

-- Pray for ongoing wisdom for the doctors and for us - wisdom for this day and wisdom for the next steps.

-- Pray for rest - especially for Eddy and Marilyn (Kelsey's folks). Pray that we can all be an encouragement to Kelsey. And please pray that we will have moment by moment strength which can only be attributed to God.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The road to recovery

It may not be fast. It may entail waiting and celebrating minor victories. It may be painful. But the road that God has Kelsey on is a part of her story. Here is another excerpt from Comfort for Troubled Christians, by J.C. Brumfield, which has spoken to us over the past two weeks (thank you, Rob Vestal, for sharing it with us). This is in reference to Romans 8:28 which says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”
“‘All things’ not some things, most things, the pleasant things, or the easy things, but ‘all things’. We usually have no difficulty in seeing this truth when all is going well for us, but it includes the hard, bitter, testing things of life as well – ‘all things,’ from the most minute to the most momentous, from the humblest event in daily providence to the crisis hours in grace ‘all things work together for good.’ 
The fact is that the hardest things to bear have in reality been the best for us. No sorrow leaves us where it found us; it either drives us from God or brings us near to Him. … 
‘All things work together,’ not separately or independently, not each thing in itself, but ‘together.’ This is the key to the test. God does not promise all things work for good, or each thing is good in itself, but ‘all things work together for good.’ Many people pick out one experience in life and wave it in the face of God and challenge, ‘I don’t see any good in that.’ No, and God doesn’t say there is, but it is a part of the ‘all things,’ a part of the divine pattern. The separate events of life may seem to be disastrous, but ‘together’ they ‘work for good.’ It takes a blending of the experiences in life to make the ‘together.’”
So, we thank God for using “all things” in this journey. Here are few of the good things which have happened over the past two days since my last post:

-- We have been visited by many friends. Some of them are friends purely due to our common connection in Jesus Christ. A great example of this was a brother and sister who stopped by last night to pray for Kelsey. We had a mini church service in our room, complete with prayer, singing and reading the Word.

-- Kelsey sat up more today than she has in a while. She was able to take a “bath” of sorts – using giant antibacterial wipes to help prevent infection while her port is accessed for the fluid and medicine she is getting through her port. They also used this really cool shower cap, which had shampoo inside the cap.

-- She has gradually been getting a few more calories into her diet each day. Every day is another step in the right direction toward getting her body stronger and healthier.

Many of you have asked about Alexa. She is having a great time with her cousins (Rylen, Layton, Connor and Kylie), with her Uncle Mark and Aunt Holly and with Pop. Today, she got to go swimming with Robyn (Kelsey’s cousin), Layton, Kylie and Connor – which was the highlight of her day. A close second (when I asked her about what she had fun doing today) was pooping. For those of you who may not know, that is always a major praise in Alexa’s life, because there have been some times of what I like to refer to as “poop strikes.” Her comment certainly made me laugh!

Photo Jun 25, 3 29 18 PM
We thank you so much for your ongoing prayers. Not a whole lot has changed as far as specific prayers since the previous post, so you can continue to pray for all of those:

-- Pain control. Today was a pretty active day, Kelsey was very ready for her pain medication after each two hour span. As she is able to rest, she can typically go longer between pain medication.

-- Breathing. She said her chest felt a bit heavy again today. When she has difficulty breathing, she begins to get anxious, which makes breathing even more difficult. Pray against the coughing and difficulty breathing which lead to anxiety. She had another x-Ray to determine if the fluid below her lungs is increasing. Pray for wisdom for Dr. Keefer as he reviews that x-Ray to make a determination as to whether further fluid draining would be beneficial.

-- Ongoing control of nausea. Today, since Kelsey ate a bit more solid food, she was actually complaining of some intestinal cramping. Pray her system gets used to having regular food in it and that the medications for nausea and gas are helpful to allow her system to get back into the swing of processing food.

-- Appetite. We pray it would not just be Kelsey knowing she should eat, but having a desire to eat. It would be great for food to start sounding good to her again.

-- Wisdom. For Dr. Keefer to know when Kelsey is ready to go home. For us to know how to proceed with holistic treatments.

-- God to receive glory. A daily increase in Kelsey’s fighting spirit, hope and trust in God. Complete and total earthly healing.

Thank you so much for your prayers for our dear friends Corey and Melinda. We received this news from Corey, “Melinda’s heart stopped beating at 9:25pm on June 24, 2014. My warrior princess, the strongest, most beautiful, most incredible, most faithful, most sweet, most adorable woman I have ever met is in heaven with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you so much for the years of support, and the outpouring of love for Melinda and me. Please pray for our family and me.”

Please do lift up Corey and his family during this incredibly painful time. My heart aches for him and for all of those who have been touched by Melinda’s joyous spirit and perseverance over these past tumultuous years.

In closing, a song which has been very meaningful to me over the past days here in the hospital and which I pray is meaningful to you in your dark times as well. It is Carry Me, by Josh Wilson. Lyrics below the video.

I try to catch my breath
It hasn't happened yet
I'm wide awake in the middle of the night scared to death
So I prayed God, would You make this stop
Father please hold on to me, You're all I've got

Carry me, carry me, carry me now
From my sinking sand to Your solid ground
The only way I'm ever gonna make it out
Is if You carry me, carry me, carry me now

God carry me, carry me, carry me now
Jesus calm my heart
Come near me please
Lord don't let these worries get the best of me
Oh I believe, that You're still here with me
Cause You meant what You said when You said You'd never leave

Carry me, carry me, carry me now
From my sinking sand to Your solid ground
The only way I'm ever gonna make it out
Is if You carry me, carry me, carry me now

God carry me, carry me, carry me now
Carry me
God carry me
Carry me
God carry me

I'm at the end of myself
I know I've got nothing left
Feels like I'm stuck in the valley of the shadow of death
And I've been down here so long
I just can't find my way out
Oh God I don't stand a chance
Unless You carry me now
God carry me now

Carry me, carry me, carry me now
From my sinking sand to Your solid ground
The only way I'm ever gonna make it out
Is if You carry me, carry me, carry me now

God carry me, carry me, carry me now
Carry me now
Carry me now
Carry me now
Carry me now

Monday, June 23, 2014

One day at a time

Kelsey is still here at Mercy Hospital. Dr. Keefer came by to check on her again today. He had some additional ideas for pain control which might allow her to go a bit longer between her IV pain medication. He also added another medication which she can take as needed for cough suppression and a breathing tool to help with her lung capacity (she does not need to use it if it starts her coughing a whole lot). His goals for her to reach before she can head back home include pain control, greater ease of breathing, and control of her infections. Those seem to me to be some good prayer points!

No real idea on time frame - we'll be here a day at a time. Kelsey was glad that we are not yet going home - especially from the pain management standpoint. She has been able to eat a bit more today, but certainly nowhere close to the amount of food that she needs to be taking in. However, we are glad to celebrate the little victories. Our nurses continue to be blessings. Kelsey's warriors continue to reach out in so many tangible and special ways: text messages, dropping by, Facebook messages, food, artwork, and encouraging notes (not to mention some super-fun Christmas lights hanging in the room which make it feel a LOT less institutional).

I know that I say this each time I write a post, but it hasn't stopped being true. Your prayers are so important to us! For each of us there have been times and I am sure will continue to be times that we don't even have the words to pray. What an encouragement to know that literally thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world (some of whom we have never met) are lifting us up in prayer! It is a blessing to be a part of such a caring network. You are the ones who allow us to have hope each day and it is being noticed. Our nurse today commented that our room was different than others that she goes into here on the oncology floor because she can tell that the room is filled with hope. Praise God that we can continue to hope in Him!

Here are some specific prayer requests:

-- Pain control. This is probably the number one issue at this point in time. The pain medication makes her sleepy, which means no eating while she is asleep. There is a very narrow window when she is alert enough to eat and about then her pain starts getting bad again. She pretty consistently requests the pain medication every two hours.

-- Greater ease of breathing. She is definitely breathing better, but it is still a bit of a struggle and she is still using oxygen constantly.

-- End to infection. It seems that taking care of her urinary tract infection and thrush will allow her body to focus on healing from cancer instead of infections.

-- Continued control of nausea. She has been doing better in that front. We pray for ongoing success in the reduction (and eventual elimination) of nausea.

-- Appetite. The more she is able to eat, the stronger she will get. Moving is pretty strenuous at this point in time, with more nutrition, everything will get a bit easier.

-- Good rest.

-- Wisdom for Dr. Keefer and for us to know when Kelsey is ready to go home.

-- Wisdom about ongoing treatment.

-- A fighting spirit for Kelsey, God to receive glory, and Kelsey's full and complete earthly healing.

One more special request for you all to lift up. Our dear friend, Melinda Wells, who is going through a similar battle with cancer (she has had several brain surgeries and more recently a sarcoma which grew alongside her brain) was going to have an MRI this evening at MD Anderson. Before the MRI, she suffered a stroke and became unconscious. Her husband Corey rode with her in the ambulance to take her across the street for tests and possible surgery. Please pray for her, for the doctors, and for her husband. Oh that God would protect her and heal her completely!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Breathing a little easier

Kelsey made it courageously and successfully through another procedure. She had 1.2 liters of fluid drained from under her left lung. There was apparently still a bit more that they did not take out because she was in quite a bit of pain and started coughing since the procedure is done sitting up. However, the vast majority is out. Thank you all for your prayers. We actually did end up meeting with Dr. Keefer, Kelsey's oncologist here at Mercy this morning - he actually came in to help out with rounds this morning. He suggested just doing a standard thoracentesis (a procedure to remove fluids from her lungs). As he looked at the CT, he determined there really was not much fluid underneath her right lung, just under her left. The procedure was very quick - probably 15-20 minutes. You sit in somewhat of an awkward position for them to do the procedure and Kelsey ended up coughing and having some dry heaves, so they didn't get quite all of the fluid, but certainly a very significant portion.

She is still in quite a bit of pain and fairly nauseated, but she does seem to be breathing much easier with more of her lung function available to her. Please continue to pray - we are so thankful for your prayers to this point, God continues to do amazing things!

Here are some specifics:

-- Appetite. She is still fairly nauseated and eating doesn't sound too exciting. Food will certainly help her recover and get her strength back, but that is pretty much the last thing she wants to do.

-- A speedy recovery. The plan is for her to be here at least for one more night.

-- Continued good rest, increased comfort, reduction of nausea and pain.

-- A fighting spirit for Kelsey. With her pain, nausea and difficulty breathing, she has been pretty discouraged over the past few days. Our prayer is that after this recovery, she will be ready to get back in the fight.

-- God to receive glory in all of this.

-- Complete and total healing and belief in God. I love this excerpt from a small devotional, Comfort for Troubled Christians, by J.C. Brumfield - speaking about Paul in the midst of the storm on the ocean when it seemed that all hope was lost.
"When we get to the place of 'no hope' God just begins to work. ... Paul said, 'I believe God.' ... He did not believe the experts, he did not believe the soldiers, he did not believe the dictates of common sense - He believed God. Sometimes the 'experts' are wrong, sometimes soldiers make mistakes, and sometimes faith does not seem to act in accordance with common sense, but God never fails. ... Maybe you are in a similar place. A storm rages, clouds are dark, threatening thunder rolls, enemies oppose, and circumstances overwhelm you. Advisers cry, 'no hope,' but above the confusion God speaks, 'When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee ... they shall not overflow thee' (Isaiah 43:2). You have a choice to stand on the promise of His Word or to believe circumstances. God has a promise for every trial, test, need, temptation, and circumstance of life. Faith chooses to believe God."
 We thank God for His promises and continue to cling to His power and say, "I do believe, help my unbelief!"

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Resting and waiting

Our day today looked a bit different than planned. Got up this morning and the day started off with the normal routine - Kelsey was able to get some rest and we were able to do one of her treatments before the nurse from home healthcare arrived. We had heard in advance Susan is a very special gal, a fact which was certainly verified when we met her in person. Kelsey was apprehensive about getting fluid, because when the drip is too fast, it can make her lungs feel heavy and increase her nausea, so she was thinking she wanted to forgo getting fluid through IV today. After Susan spent some time talking with Kelsey, evaluating her health and hearing more about what was going on, she encouraged us to think about going to the hospital so that Kelsey could work to get her nausea under control and have an opportunity to get the fluid drained off her lungs.

So, we headed off to the ER at Mercy Hospital. We got checked in and Kelsey got several different medicines through her IV to help out with the nausea and pain. She had a CT scan to make sure she is not dealing with an abscess. From what we heard, it sounds like there is a good amount of fluid on both sides of her lungs, so we will be meeting with the oncologist on call at Mercy tomorrow morning to talk through the different options for draining the fluid. It also sounds like the cancer in her lungs has advanced since her last CT scan in March.

We continue to covet your prayers and we appreciate them more than you know. Here are some specifics:

-- Pray Kelsey can get some good rest tonight.

-- Pray our meeting with the oncologist on call will be beneficial tomorrow, and we will have wisdom to know the best route to pursue to get the fluid off her lungs.

-- Pray Kelsey will have a renewed appetite after the fluid is drained off her lungs. Pray her body will quickly be in a position to recover from infection and be receptive to treatment.

-- Pray for continued endurance for Kelsey.

-- Pray against constipation and against fear. Being in the hospital, we have dropped a lot of the treatments which Kelsey has been doing, which is concerning to her

-- Pray for complete and total healing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Failing strength and God's mercy

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
--Annie Flint
As Kelsey has shared before, no news is most likely not good news. The last few weeks have been rough. Kelsey has been in constant pain - probably about the only relief is when she is asleep, but when she wakes up, the pain returns. She has had nausea, vomiting, her alignment is way out of whack, and doesn't have an appetite. There have been some dark moments.

And then, there is God's faithfulness and provision. The song above by Annie Flint has been running through my head over the past few days. Monday night was especially dark. Then, on Tuesday, an incredible ray of hope - I met with a very caring Ph.D. who has been seeing some amazing results in his research. I apologize for the vagueness, but starting Saturday, Kelsey will be a part of a "clinical trial" (which is not a traditional medicine clinical trial) which shows amazing promise. Exciting and hopeful, but at the same time a bit overwhelming to Kelsey. She is already taking in so many different supplements - orally and through IV and the thought of adding something to the regimen is a bit overwhelming especially with her continual nausea and vomiting. Then, we have seen an incredible outpouring of care and love as people have jumped onboard in helping to support the holistic treatment that Kelsey is doing. That does not even touch the outpouring of care and love from special friends to put together a website for T-shirt sales, helping send out T-shirts, offering days at the salon when proceeds are donated to Kelsey, and selling Kool-Aid, cookies and granola. We have only a small picture of the outpouring of prayer that is constantly going up to God's throne on our behalf. Chalk up yet another example of God's added mercy, multiplied peace and full giving of grace.

The fight continues. There will be dark times, but we pray for those moments when we experience His grace. How can you help? Number one, continue praying - specifics below. There are also opportunities to give and tell Kelsey's story through direct donations and purchasing T-shirts. Check out the links on the right navigation bar. On the T-shirt site, you will see other opportunities to participate if you choose to read more about additional ways to support Kelsey and her family.

As we have said multiple times before, healing rests in God's hands. We have seen an encouraging possibility and have come in contact over this week with some wonderful Christian people who offer a new perspective and research to add into the equation. Yet, there is ongoing pain, lack of appetite, weakness, nausea, vomiting, coughing, oh, and did I say pain? Here are some ways you can be praying:

-- Pray for our spiritual health and physical endurance. Pain is a quick way to derail your grasp of truth. Pray that we can all have special times in God's Word and special times in prayer.

-- Pray for rest. With pain, rest is often elusive for Kelsey. It is also the time her body detoxifies most, so she often awakes covered in sweat. Pray that her rest is uninterrupted and sweet even when she wakes three times every night to take supplements and pain pills.

-- Pray for wisdom in treatment. We are hoping that our doctor in Tulsa will be able to speak with this researcher in OKC to figure out which of Kelsey's supplements and IVs should be continued and which may no longer be necessary.

-- Pray that Kelsey would be filled with hope. Thinking of starting another treatment is not appealing to Kelsey, but there seems to be a tremendous upside possibility.

-- Pray for pain relief and for wisdom in how to treat some of the alignment issues that Kelsey is dealing with. Her hip is out of alignment, not only causing pain, but making walking extremely difficult and most positions very uncomfortable.

-- Pray for Kelsey's breathing. She is often short of breath and is not able to breathe deeply without coughing. She often has coughing spells and these coughing spells include coughing up bloody mucous, which is very frightening for her. She is sleeping in a recliner to try to stay more upright. We have purchased a new bed to arrive next Thursday which will hopefully help with the coughing spells when resting.

-- Pray for full and complete earthly healing of Kelsey's body.