Tuesday, April 29, 2014

4/29/14 Aloha--I'm home!

Dear Friends and Family,

I just got home from Maui at 11:30 last night.  I had a wonderful week away!  God blessed me with pretty good energy and I was able to snorkel every day (crystal clear this time of year--like being in an aquarium), walk (and lie) on the beach, sit by (and swim in) the pool, and enjoy good books and conversation with my sister, Marti, and good friend, Kristi.  It was sunny and about 82 every day.  The sunsets from our condo deck were amazing. 

One special thing that happened was that I hoped we could spend one night at the Grand Wailea Hotel, to enjoy their waterpark-like pools and slides, and their blue and white striped umbrellas and chairs on gorgeous Wailea Beach.  I spoke with a woman at the front desk named Daisy.  I told her about this special trip on my break from chemo and she lowered the room price for us by a LOT, she waived our parking and resort fee, and she upgraded us to a water view and deck room!  I told her she was my angel--it made me so happy!  We had two great days enjoying the hotel's amenities and Marti and Kristi let me spend the night there alone when it was time to sleep--so I could get a really luxurious rest.  Ahhhh.  It was heavenly.  Oh, and courtesy of Steve, we girls enjoyed Spa Day at the Grand Wailea with exfoliation, massage, and lots of soaking pools, saunas, and steam rooms!  :-)

On my flight home, I met another angel.  My flight attendant was a Christian and she was so kind to me and asked my name and said she would be praying for me.  She gave me a big hug when I deplaned (sp?).  Like my chemo nurses ordered, I wore masks on my flights both ways to and from Maui, and it turns out that it was a good thing I did.  Why, you might ask?

Well, this morning Renee, Daniel, and I all showed up for triple chemo and they drew blood for my labs.  The labs came back with counts much too low to get chemo.  I need one of the counts to be 1,500 and it was only 500.  Had I not worn those masks, I might have pneumonia by now with counts that low!  I was kind of depressed on the way home from the hospital, as I know that the chemo is what will keep me alive and thus, I need to be able to get it!  But today, God has been with me and given me a perfect, sunny, relaxing, and encouraging day that has restored my peace.

I had NO energy today after the trip and travel day yesterday, so Renee, Daniel, Riley (Renee's girlfriend), and I enjoyed a picnic Renee made in the sunshine on blankets in our back yard.  We ate and laid around reading, talking, and doing crossword puzzles.  Half-way through the picnic Daniel jumped up full of energy and cleaned off our patio and deck, did some gardening, then cleaned the kitchen.  He's taking a break from med school today after two hard exams yesterday!  Fine by me!!

In the midst of lazing around the backyard, I opened a lot of cheerful mail!  Cards from several of Daniel's med school classmates arrived, including one that they all signed with class photos enclosed!  What caring future doctors he is privileged to know and study with.  There were other great cards from Steve's brother John and dear friends, one containing an Amazon gift card so I can get Kindle books!  And my friend Bill Moyers (yes, the famous one you can watch on PBS) sent me a hand-written note and a DVD of a special he did on the hymn, Amazing Grace.  It's his favorite special he's done and said it reminds him of me and my testimony.  Steve and I met him in Mexico and had lunch with his wife and him.  They are lovely people!  Then I received the nicest e-mail from Dave McKenna, who was president of SPU when I attended school there. And lastly, sweet Mary Nygard brought us a wonderful dinner with gourmet ice cream bars for dessert--perfect for my throat! 

So a day that started out in sadness, unfolded with joy, love, peace, and renewed hope.  Just like the Lord, don't you think?  My Psalm today was Psalm 10.  Verse 17 says "You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry."  If you are also going through something hard today, I know He is listening to you too, and that encouragement is just around the corner!

Heartfelt thanks to you all, my prayer warriors and faithful encouragers.  You are the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of God through which He speaks compassion to our family during this very difficult time.

I have one special request before I close with some Maui photos.  I was wondering if you would consider sending a card to Steve, Renee, or Daniel in the next couple of weeks.  So much of the focus is on me during cancer, but they are suffering too, as you might imagine, and could use a boost of encouragement.  It would help them to know you are thinking of them too, and praying for them.  If God lays this on your heart to do, thank you SO much!  And if that's too hard for you right now, please say extra prayers for them.  Thank you! 

With so much love and gratitude for you all,


This is my favorite snorkeling spot--the Ahihi-Kinau Marine Preserve.

Dinners on our deck, with Kristi's magic touch on the BBQ!

Ulua Beach.  A great reef for snorkeling--and bobbing around with your $5 floaties!

One of the many pools at the Grand Wailea.

Kristi in front of the dolphin fountains at the Grand Wailea.

Marti holding up the MOUSE we caught in our kitchen!  Gross!!!

Warm, gooey cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing, raisings, and mac nuts.  Yummo!

Marti and Gaby modeling our Grand Wailea Spa totes!

Beautiful lobby of the Grand Wailea.

Me, "swimming" with the dolphins.  LOL.

Monday, April 21, 2014

4/21/14 Off to Maui (her, not me)! Aloha!

Steve here.  Just a quick update:  Gabrielle is going to be hopping on a plane early tomorrow morning for a much anticipated getaway to Maui with two other persons of interest.  I can't be more specific as it might be a violation of HIPPA, though am not sure about that.  Does HIPPA extend to keeping confidential the details of how many lava flows someone is sipping by the pool while her husband stays home and does his best to stay out of mischief?  Anyhow, she'll be off in the sun and loving every minute of it (I hope).  I think the most difficult decisions she'll have to make all week will be things like  if it will be mahi mahi or ono in the fish tacos or whether to go to Big Beach (big fun!) or Little Beach (not sure what's over there).  Anyhow, she'll be out of the loop for the next week, so there most likely won't be any new updates.  Of course, that could all change in a heartbeat if she has an adventure like going on a spontaneous turtle ride or strolling up to George Clooney who might be staying nearby (who knows?).

We had a wonderful, restful weekend which was especially nice because it was Easter and Gabrielle didn't have to have chemo on Friday.  To pay for it, though, she has to have a triple dose of it the day after she gets back.  Yesterday featured brunch with the moms (Gloria and Abby) and a nice visit from Marti and Merle.  I especially liked the fact that Merle regaled me with his coyote hunting adventures among other things...imagine the skill of this guy...nailing one while barreling down Highway 167 at 65 mph!!  He is such a talented guy: one eye on the road, one for the scope, three fingers for the wheel, one for the rifle trigger, one for texting, two or three to hold his latte and one remaining middle finger for a friendly wave to all the tailgaters trying to horn in on the fun.  Wish I coulda been there! 

But back to Gabrielle.  After all, this isn't "Merle's Wild World of Hunting" or "Steve's How to bake a cherry pie" blog.  Gabrielle continues to be fatigued and is constantly fighting a sore throat, not from illness but from the chemo affecting the cells in her upper throat.  Makes it hard to talk (but not eat ice cream).  Continued prayers for energy and healing are much appreciated.

I will update any newsworthy items that may arise.  Till then, have a glorious week.  Enjoy yourselves and rest safe and sound knowing that there is one less coyote on the prowl for pet cats and such in the vicinity of Kent.

Oh and a quick addendum:  thanks so much to my mom for sending the most AMAZING chocolates over from Oh Chocolate!  They look fantastic and may be a tad too delicate for Gabrielle to pack into a suitcase, don't you think??  And thanks to Erin for dropping by with one of Gabrielle's favorite salads from Anthony's and a very nice chat over lunch.  She feels very much loved.  Oh, and that salad and those chocolates have given her some energy...she and Daniel are out walking to the store for dinner.  I hope they remember to bring some home...I'm getting hungry and am doing my best to let Gabrielle eat most of the chocolates.  I wonder what coyote meat tastes like.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

4/17/14 Hanging in there as best we can

Greetings, friends.  Steve weighing in.  And that's a very appropriate term as I have indeed been noshing on all sorts of goodies lying around the house...dessert is becoming my drug of choice as we travel this path.  That and salt, of course (yeah, yeah, I know...all in moderation).  Anyhow, there's a wonderful book title that I like, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  It's by Eugene Peterson and is about the psalms of ascent in which pilgrims sang some psalms as they made their trip to wherever they were going (can't remember where, it's still early and I've only had half a cup of coffee so far).  But anyhow, the psalms are 120-134, in case you're interested.  But what I really want to say has to do with the title, as it speaks of stamina, perseverance and implies a relentless, often unglamorous journey that is arduous and not always pleasant.  And that's the situation that we all find ourselves in right now. 

As with any journey, whether real or metaphorical, there are challenges to face and obstacles to overcome while one makes his (or her) way to wherever they are going.  In my mind, one of the toughest of the bunch has to do with trying to buoy lagging spirits during the long haul.  Perhaps that's what those pilgrims tried to keep at bay when they sang their psalms of ascent to one another.  I haven't read the Canterbury Tales (have tried, though) and I suspect that's what those folks were doing as they made their way to Canterbury on their own spiritual quest.  When the going gets rough, when you're in the trenches, it's nice to have someone beside you urging you on.  That camaraderie goes a long way in helping everyone put one foot in front of the next.

With Gabrielle's recent cancer recurrence, she has been so overwhelmed by the spontaneous outpourings of support and encouragement from so many of you.  As her recent blog post indicated: count your blessings, name them one by one.  How true.  She loves going to the mailbox and getting cards.  I had a long day at work yesterday and rolled in a little after 9:00.  The first words out of her mouth (after, "wipe your feet and use the Purell") were to tell me about the wonderful box of sea foam from Bruce's Candy Shop in Cannon Beach that Erin had sent and the three boxes of brownies that Laura had made and sent on up.  Smiles all around! And those things go a long way to keep us as upbeat as we can.  I have to add one of my own:  my goofy cousin Rob, ace lawyer to the stars in Eugene, Oregon.  Apart from the fact that he is a rabid Ducks fan, he's a pretty good guy.  He keeps sending me the silliest, dumbest videos and pictures that he must find on really bizarre sites on the Internet.  The most recent one was a series of photos of guys doing really cool things (not exactly the safest, but still cool in their own right) entitled "Why there are less men than women".  I am thankful for two things: for him sending them along to me (giving me some pretty nifty ideas to try) and also for not sending them to Gabrielle as they will worry her.

So this entry is about us all doing our best to go through life as best we can, when we are on a long journey and stamina is a must.  Nothing big or glamorous to report today.  I feel like we are midway up the mountain, round Cape Horn, to Canterbury, on our marathon, or halfway through tackling that mound of treats that has arrived on the front porch.  Big tasks in front of all of us.  It is an honor to have all of you along on our journey with us.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I think there's a brownie that's just asking to be taste tested. 

Oh, and lest I forget, in the midst of all of this, I do not want to forget to wish all of you a joyous Holy Week in the midst of this Easter season.  It is indeed a time of renewal, hope, and such.  We have to get through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but Sunday's coming and it will be glorious.

Monday, April 14, 2014

4/14/14 Greetings from Gabrielle

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, here we go again.  I haven't written until now for many reasons.  I have been in shock at the cancer reoccurring so soon.  I have been depressed.  I have been in chemo.  I haven't felt well.  And I don't have anything terribly encouraging to say or report. 

What I will try to do, however, is count some of my blessings out loud with you right now--naming them one by one, as the old hymn says.  I hope that will encourage you and me both!

1) I have an amazing support team in Steve, Renee, Daniel, and too many family members, neighbors, and friends to name.
2) I have a great medical oncology team.  They are so smart and good, and care about us deeply.
3) So far, my body has tolerated the first two chemos with only nausea, fatigue, a few aches, and sore throats.  The chemo kills rapidly dividing cells, some of which are in your throat and esophagus, so it hurts to swallow and is very red in my throat.  But I'm at home in my sweats with nowhere I have to be, a DVR full of good shows, dinner that someone brought in my fridge, and a steaming mug of throat comfort tea, so how bad can that be? 
4) I have received so many kindnesses already, and it has only been two weeks!  My heart is swelling with the fullness of knowing I am loved.  Thanks to all of you who have sent cards.  They mean so much to me.  Once again, going to the mailbox is a highlight of my days.  Thanks for flowers from Riley and Lynette and others.  Thanks for desserts from Julianne, Helen, and the Korpis.  Thanks for bread from Dee.  Thanks for amazing meals from Maribeth, Ami, Sam & her girls, Nancy and John, Doris, Laura and Jerry, and Cherylin.  Thanks for care packages from Paul and Heidi and Mark and Tania, and to Tania for handling our taxes for us!!  Thanks for a trip all the way from Spokane to minister God's love in our brokenness from Jan and Felix.  Thanks to Kristi for helping me clean when my strength is nearly gone.  All of you, and anyone I've forgotten, have blessed our family more than you will ever know.  Oh--and thanks to everyone who is praying every single day for us!!!  It comforts me to know God hears our names so many times a day.
5) I had a fun trip to Blake Island on our boat yesterday, enjoying laying on a blanket in the warm sand, a picnic, and a walk, with Steve and Renee.  Unfortunately, Daniel had huge exams today so he couldn't join us.  See photos below!
6) Lastly for now, I am thankful that the God who made us and loves us is with us ALWAYS, in sickness and in health, and that I see Him in all of your kindnesses daily.  "Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He.  I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you.  I will sustain you and I will rescue you."  Isaiah 46:4.  I am weak today, getting winded going up stairs and with a burning sore throat.  But He is with me, sustaining me, carrying me, and rescuing me through the terror that is recurrent ovarian cancer.  Thanks be to God.

P.S.  Prayer request?  I leave on a six-night trip to Maui with my girlfriend, Kristi, and my sister, Marti on April 22.  My counts are very low and I am very susceptible to infection.  Please pray protection over my health on both plane rides and for the entire trip.  Thank you!  Oh--and that Steve will pass his Family Practice all-day Board Certification Exam while I'm away!

Gabrielle and Renee at the half-way point in their 3.5 mile walk. Just melt that little anti-nausea pill on your tongue and go for it.  Then the next day (today), do nothing!
Gabrielle in her chair on the warm beach with a good book.
Captain Steve, wearing, appropriately, his Blake Island State Park hat.
Deckhand Renee, preparing to enter the lake-bound Locks on our way home.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

4/12/14 Lots of love for Gabrielle!

Here's the latest batch of We <3 Gabrielle photos! Thanks for all the encouragement, friends!

 Gabrielle's friend Laura

 A heart from Gabrielle's Aunt Julianne and Uncle Oliver

 Gabrielle's niece Katia sends love from her college in Alabama

 Renée's good friend Marissa and Dakota the horse

 A message in the sand from Steve's cousin's family

 Our friends the Coghlans

Gabrielle's good friends Bill and Luanna

 Two of Bill and Luanna's cute granddaughters

 Gabrielle's friends the Sclars and their dogs

…and Renée's friend Luis rocking out for Gabrielle!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

4/9/14 More pictures!

Getting these great pictures from friends and family is a bright spot in our day. Thank you!!!

 Gabrielle cute pregnant niece Mandie

 Renée and Daniel's friend Alicia at work as a nurse

 Renée's friends Jane and John

 The entire church council of Ballard First Lutheran Church making hearts for Gabrielle!

Some of Steve's coworkers at the urgent care clinic

And more of Shannon's awesome elementary school students!

Monday, April 7, 2014

4/7/14 More love!

Second batch of We <3 Gabrielle photos! Thanks for the encouragement, friends!

Renée's friend Shannon, a teacher in Oregon, sent in these adorable pictures with her students:
 So cute!

 Renée's girlfriend Riley, her cousin Pete, her sister Ivy, and Pete's grouchy cat :)

 Riley and Ivy's fierce cat Sam is rooting for Gabrielle!

 Daniel's best friend Philip in front of his impressive art collection

 Our friend Anthony with his super cute new puppy!

 Renée's great friends Karissa and Peter

Our cute stripey friends Ami and Matt

 Gabrielle's friend Janet with some friends

And finally, this wonderful and impressive picture featuring tons of Gabrielle's old SPU coworkers.

We all love Gabrielle!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

4/6/14 Photos come pouring in!

 We've received our first batch of "We <3 Gabrielle" pictures! It gives us all a boost of encouragement to see that people all over the country are thinking about us. Please keep them coming, and help us show Gabrielle lots of love! ~Renée

 Adele taking a study break in the Linguistics Library of her college

 Gabrielle's cousin Elizabeth and family

Arlo and Penny, the awesome kids Renée nannied last year (with their own interpretations of "We <3 Gabrielle")

 A Christmas family photo from Steve's aunt Peggy

Renée's good friends Houston and Megan send love from California 

Adorable Arlo again!

Even crocodiles love Gabrielle!

Grandma Abby loves Gabrielle!

Please keep sending pics to rdudley10@gmail.com or post them to Renée on facebook :)
Thank you!