Posts by: jamie

Small Gifts, Big Change: HopeMongers

Microgiving is one of the the most most exciting new thing I’ve seen in a long time in making a difference in the life of the world’s poor. Not all of you can go on a trip to Uganda like I did a few weeks ago — you can all make a difference, though.

HopeMongers is a new microgiving non-profit started by my super-smart friend Sam Henry. Here’s the idea:

  • Go to HopeMongers.org, and find a project you are passionate about — someplace you want to make a difference.  Find by location (India, Africa, etc) or by project type (Water, Faith in Action, etc)
  • Give $10-$100 — 100% of which goes to the organization doing the work on the ground.
  • Add a blog badge inviting others to join you in the same project.
  • Track the progress of the giving and the way your gift makes a change in the Hopemongers Cooperative.

I invite you to join in the project below.  The kids at Trinity College in Otuboi (actually what we would think of as a high school) were one of the highlights of my trip to Uganda. Their slogan is “Christ is our Hope” but they can’t afford to pay a Biblical Studies teacher.

Do you want some of the future leaders of Uganda to be exposed to the life-changing power of the gospel?  Join me in supporting this project:

(Can’t see the above? Find the project here.)

Uganda Photos

This weekend I finally got all my photos from Uganda processed and uploaded to Flickr. I hope you enjoy some of my 36 favorites in this slideshow:

(Can’t see it? Want it fullscreen? Try here.)

You can see all 219 I uploaded here.

Post-Surgery Update

I realize we’ve fallen off the grid a little since coming home from the hospital. So, here’s a quick update how Holly is doing a week home from the hospital…

Emotionally, she’s doing amazing. She has never stopped being in good spirits, very thankful for all the love and support being poured her way.

Practically, lots of help is helping keep the wheels on the bus. Our moms are still in town, and amazing meals are coming every day.

Physically, she’s doing pretty good. She’s still in some pain, but that is largely controlled by muscle relaxers. She has to take some pain medicine once or twice a day, but muscle relaxers keep it all largely in check. Of the 8 medicines she was taking when she first got home, she’s down to about 3 and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

She still has 2 of the 4 drains installed during surgery to prevent swelling from excess fluids. Those are an annoyance and sometimes uncomfortable, but not too bad. They should be out by the end of this week or beginning of next.

Mostly, she’s just tired — very tired. (She woke up this morning and declared she was ready for her first nap.) She’s made it out of the house a few times, like to church on Sunday, but that is about all she has for the day. Her body is working very hard to heal itself and just doesn’t have much energy for much else.

On the cancer front, we got good news yesterday. The pathology report came back with “clean margins” which means not only did they get all the cancer, but also 1cm around it all.

They also found cancer in the same breast in a previously undetected area. This just confirms that taking it all was the right choice. Neither of us realized how much we were holding our breath so-to-speak waiting to hear the news. There were a few tears of joy shed yesterday.

So, can I hear a collective “Woohoo!” for being officially cancer-free?

Thanks for all the prayers and for stepping into our pain. We are blessed!

-->

Grace

Grace (n): the free and unmerited favor of God

It may seem strange to be talking about the favor of God at a time when we have just gone through radical surgery to remove cancer from Holly’s 33-year old body. But God’s favor is exactly what has been upon us lately.

Grace is not the absence of pain — it’s not an easy life. Grace is God stepping into your pain and showing His goodness by making a way out. Ephesians 2 says it like this:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

You see, without the death there would be no grace. Without cancer, we would have missed out on so many ways to see His unmerited favor in our lives.

Mary Ida as one of our team members tended to her wounds.

Mary Ida as one of our team members tended to her wounds.

When I was in Uganda, I saw two things that made His grace more clear. One was Mary Ida — an elderly, emaciated woman literally laying in the dirt waiting to die. Everyone in the community simply passed her by without a 2nd thought.

The second thing was visiting a clinic for HIV+ kids. The pediatrician explained that they advised the HIV+ moms to breastfeed their kids, knowing it would almost certainly lead to them contracting HIV as well. They did this because the alternative was the kids dying of malnutrition.

So to me, Grace is…

…living where the community cares if my wife lives or dies.

…having to make choices between reconstruction options, not HIV vs death by malnutrition.

…a free trip to Africa.

…world-class surgeons who work for 13 hours to not just get rid of all the cancer, but go to extremes to make you look the way you did before they started.

…God providing money to pay for it all.

…people we don’t even know bringing us amazing food everyday.

…family who drops everything to be by your side in a time of need.

…an endless stream of friends almost begging to be able to do something for us.

…God providing the strength to fly 25 hours back from Africa and have minimal jetlag so I can be there to care for my wife.

…two amazing kids who are excited Mommy is cancer free so we can start adopting.

…God stepping into our pain, and being more real to us than He ever has before.

There is nothing in me that merits me getting any of these things more than Mary Ida or the kids at the HIV clinic. I have no idea why Jesus would show us such favor — but thank you Jesus.

Uganda or Bust

I write this post sitting a DFW gate d14 waiting for my flight to Amsterdam to take off. It’s the first leg of a 25-hour journey to Entebbe, Uganda.

This is a last mintute trip that all started last Saturday when my good friend Sam sends me this text:

“Want to come with us to Uganda? I need someone to shoot photography/video. I will pay all costs. Please.”

Long story short… By the end of that day I had bought a ticket to Uganda that left a little less than a week later. Crazy huh?

My only hestitation was being here for Holly as we prepare for her surgery. She would hear nothing of it – she insisted I go and may be more excited than me about me going.

In every way this was an answer to prayer, and the deepest desires of my heart. I told Holly a few days before that all I wanted was to get away, I needed to get out of Dallas and out of “cancer world” for a little while before her surgery. Little did I know I would getting quite so far away.

Many of you know I went to Ethiopia last year, and this trip will be much like it. I will spend 8 days on the ground going from one ophan community to another. We will be playing with kids, and profiling the communities in hope that a church in the US will sponsor them through Children’s Hopechest.

It will also be the launch of Sam’s new non-profit, Hopemongers. You can check hopemongers.org for updates and blog posts.

As you may of guessed from Sam’s text, I will be shooting photo and video while there. A friend generously loaned me some professional video gear, so I am hoping for some good stuff.

I’ll be back at 1pm on the 17th, just in time for Holly’s surgery on the 18th.

Please pray that it would be a productive trip that God would use for His glory and that I would come back ready to be be everything Holly needs me to be.

Surgery Scheduled

Is it strange to say we’re excited to have a surgery day?  After so much waiting and so many decisions, it’s good to have this big step on the schedule.  We’re also glad that we got in earlier that we might have had to wait.

Friday, September 18 is the big day.

We did decide on a reconstruction option, the DIEP Flap.   You can read the details of this surgery, and the truly brave of heart can watch a 1 hour video with play-by-play of it being done (warning: parts are hard to watch).

It will take 8-10 hours at Baylor Regional Medical Center of Plano.  Then she will spend 4-5 days in the hospital.

There’s not a lot to do before then, but Holly is working out hard to do her best to get her body ready for surgery.  School has started and life is busy with welcome distractions from cancer-world for now.

Jamie will be leaving for Uganda Monday and getting back the day before her surgery.  More about that later though…

I dare you not to cry

If you ask our kids about Holly’s cancer they will tell you something like this, “Yes, mommy has cancer, but she has the best kind. The doctors are going to cut it all out, then we can adopt and have more babies!”

We were in the beginning stages of adopting when Holly was diagnosed with cancer. It got pushed onto the back burner, but these two videos reminded me how much it is still very much in our hearts. They both made us cry.


The Blind Side on Youtube.

Drawn from Water from Drawn From Water on Vimeo.

Grady’s First Day of Kindergarten

Today we sent our first child into the wild world of public school.  Grady is super-excited about going to kindergarten, his teacher and school are both great, but Mom and Dad are a little sad.  Here’s the photos (that starts with a short video):

(if you don’t see then video/slideshow above you can view them here)

Reconstruction Options

Friday, Holly declared, “I have arrived! I am grabbing my coach purse, getting in my Lexus, and heading to the Plastic Surgeon.” Of course, it was a fake coach purse, Jamie’s mom’s 10 year old Lexus she was borrowing, and she was going to the Plastic Surgeon for reconstruction, but still it gave us a good laugh.

We have found a great plastic surgeon out of one of the ones our breast surgeon recommended. We’ve met with her twice, and she has taken a total of two hours to teach us about all the options and answer all our questions.

The problem is there are a lot of options. I won’t try to summarize them here, but this website does a great job of describing them all in detail.

We are currently in the process of narrowing down the options, then adding in new ones, then narrowing, etc, etc. The doctor graciously offered to contact patients who had the procedures we are considering to find out if we could call them with questions. So far, Holly has talked to three of them, including one who was in the office when we were there last.

What we do know (as much as we know anything):

  • The mastectomy and reconstruction will happen in one big surgery that will take place at Baylor Regional Medical Center of Plano.  It will take from 4-10 hours depending on the option we choose.
  • The surgery will not happen this week or next (plastic surgeon is out of town), at the earliest it will probably be the week after Labor Day.
  • The recovery time will be something like 6 weeks to get Holly back to something resembling 100%.

Here’s how you can pray for us:

  • With thanks that God has given us excellent, compassionate surgeons.
  • That we would be able to see through various kinds of fear and find God’s best in this.  (fear of pain, of foreign implants, of not being available be available for our kids during long recovery, of having to redo things later — lots of scary stuff in each option)
  • That our faith would deepen to in new and fresh ways we would know that God is actively working for our good in all this.

Thanks to all of you for how loved you’ve made us feel us feel through this all.

Final Biopsy Results and Plastic Surgeons

Last Tuesday Holly had a Sentinel-node biopsy. It was an outpatient surgery where they remove a few lymph nodes and test to see if the cancer has spread there. Generally, that’s where breast cancer spreads to first, so if it’s not there they know it’s contained. This video explains the procedure more:

And… none of the three lymph nodes the surgeon removed showed any signs of cancer. Obviously, this is great news and it means we are as sure as we can be that the cancer is confined to her breast.

So, the next step is picking a plastic surgeon to do the reconstruction. The pool is limited as many plastic surgeons don’t do reconstruction, but the breast surgeon has recommended three.

We met with the first one today and were a little disappointed. We are seeing the next one tomorrow morning, and hoping it’s a better fit.

Based on schedules of all the doctors, it’s currently looking like the mastectomy/reconstruction surgery won’t take place until early- to mid-September. We wish it could be sooner, but don’t have much control over it. Plus, we are trying to work around not missing Grady’s first day of Kindergarten which it coming up in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for following along and for all the prayers. Tomorrow marks the two month anniversary of her diagnosis, and while we are more used to being here, it hasn’t gotten any easier.

5 of 10
123456789