Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Medical update, and VBS ideas

Monday evening
We are having a quiet evening at home after spending a lot of time at the triplexes over the weekend. I wrote last time about the 6 townhomes Greg and I have bought as a retirement investment. I helped clean on Friday evening and painted on Saturday afternoon. I stayed home to rest yesterday, partly because of a stomach ache. Two of the older girls have moved in and are so excited. They plan to mentor the younger ones. We are emailing back and forth with parents and they are so grateful for this set up for their daughters just a few blocks from the Moody Bible Institute campus at 4th Memorial.

I was tired yesterday, but have been limiting myself when I feel tired. I see my oncologist tomorrow and will get the CAT scan results- more than "stable" and also the blood work results. Maybe he will be able to figure out why I got the blood clots. I am supposed to be in little danger of them traveling now that I have been on Coumadin for over a month. I am allowed to go on walks again, but we do go shorter distances, don’t go up or down hills, and we walk more slowly. My right leg is still having pains sometimes, so I put my leg up a lot and am resting it more. I am also wearing my compression stockings quite a bit. They are supposed to keep blood from pooling in my legs and forming more clots.

Wednesday medical update
I saw Dr. Sienko, my oncologist yesterday. It was a VERY encouraging appointment. He said all of my blood tests came back normal. I have no blood condition causing clots that they can test for. There a few other tests they can do after I get off Coumadin. He plans to have me on Coumadin for 6 months, so I get to stop in mid Dec. He explained that since my clots are just happening without any discernable cause, he wants me on it for a while, but not indefinitely. Some people just get clots for no discernable reason, and I am one of them. My CAT scan showed only little things that I have had for a long time and haven’t changed, and my MRI showed no cancer either.

We had a conversation about my last cancer being considered a metastasis as opposed to a recurrence. Recurrence would be when your cancer comes back in your beast tissue, and is much less threatening than a metastasis or growth of it in a different part of the body. He told me that we could think of mine as a recurrence. It was near my original cancer-in my left armpit, near my left breast cancer, and it was removable and treatable with radiation, chemo, and Femara- a type of hormone therapy. A metastasis would be something like brain, bone or liver cancer that wouldn’t be as removable and that is farther from the original tumor. A metastasis is automatically called stage 4 (out of 4) and can only be treated but never cured. So although he will see me again in 3 months, and we will remain vigilant and watchful, I am encouraged. My initial cancer was stage 2B or 3A, depending on how certain factors were considered. I had two types of cancer- both invasive (lobular and ductal), moderately aggressive and hormone receptive for estrogen and progesterone. My tumor (or the string of them) was 6 cm long, but it was also skinny- the largest one was about 2 cm’s. So that clarification on how to think of metastasis was very helpful. I just feel less “stage 4” than I did yesterday before talking to him. Thank you all for praying! God, as always, is the author of my days and for now I get more of them free from cancer!

About VBS-
I was asked for a description of what we did to promote missions during our VBS
this summer at Whitworth Pres. here in Spokane, Washington. We did a missions focus on Ghana, since we have adoped Partnership International's work there as a focus. We decided to aim for getting a plow, two bullocks (cows) and seeds for a church planter in Ghana through the Partners International’s Harvest of Hope catalog. A plow and cows would provide an ongoing income for a church planter's family. They could use it for their own plowing, but also rent it out to earn more income. The female cows also provide milk for the family. And seeds would get them started with food to eat and I assume, more seeds. This project of $1555 was pretty ambitious for the 275 kids in our VBS, but we thought they could do it. And why not try?!

I made a coloring sheet of the picture from the HOH catalog for the preschoolers to color. Greg spotted an old plow in a garden in our neighborhood and I asked the people if we could borrow it. With their permission, we brought it to church and put it on the lawn outside the door where the kids came into the building. It looked very much like the one we were trying to earn. We put it into the church shed every night to keep it safe.

I put up our camping screen room and we pinned signs on it like, "Ghana Hut," “Plow now brown cow!” and, “It’s no yoke, we’re earning a plow!” There were other decorations also- missions related. We put 2 card tables inside and on one had a 3-fold board with pictures of the project and a map of the world with Ghana on it and giving sheets from the Harvest of Hope Catalog. On the other table we had packets from Compassion International for families to choose a child to sponsor from Ghana.

I wrote a ½ page note to go home with the kids every day that tied our giving project into the VBS curriculum. We made bookmarks for the kids that had “B2baB” (Blessed to be a Blessing) on them, and Ghana ’08 on the back. We have 2 Whitworth students who also go to our church and asked if they could be around as much a possible at the beginning and end of VBS each day. At least one of them is the son of one of our Partners leaders in Africa. We made these two college guys the stars of the week. They played the drum when we did our skit and also out in the Ghana Hut, where they also autographed the kids’ bookmarks for them and let the kids play their drum. Kids were lined up at the door of the “Ghana Hut” to meet these guys! It was amazing. They each had a folding lawn chair to sit on, and I had one outside the door. As goofy Hannah from Ghana, I had our drum from Uganda there and let the kids play it while they waited on line. Kofi and Elam have been at our church all year, but now the kids have gotten to know them.

Julie and I were the “Ghana Sisters.” Julie was Gerti and I was “Hannah from Ghana” (pronouncing Ghana like you would pronounce Hannah) and they corrected me every time, telling me that I was “Haaaannna from Ghana” (pronounced like Ghana). The goal of this was to get them used to pronouncing and remembering the country name.

Also every day I wore clothes from different countries that I have collected over the years. India, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Japan (borrowed) and at last on Friday I got it right and had an outfit from Ghana (also borrowed). So every morning during the opening we would do a skit. I would model my amazing outfit for the kids and then tell Gerti where it was from. We had a map on the power point and pointed out the countries my clothes were from and Gerti would patiently correct me and show me how far away from Ghana I was. The idea here was to get them to know where Ghana is in the world. By Friday they really knew! They would correct me every time I said it wrong and encourage me to try and find clothes from Ghana.

I came out for our skit with a big bag with something in it every day. The first day I had little things I thought they could give a bunch of- toothbrushes or toothpicks, or little plastic tops, etc. Gerti insisted that they could give BIG. So I acted doubtful all week and told them I didn’t think they could do it. I also had in my bag a stuffed animal from the thrift store for each day. Monday was a large pink elephant, Tues. a squirrel, a kangaroo, a moose and finally on Friday a stuffed cow. So each day I would go stick it into the plow outside so they would see it when they went to their activities. They were concerned that its’ feet couldn’t reach the ground and enjoyed the goofiness of it- always telling me I needed to find a COW.

On Thursday a mom helping with music came and told me the Lord was prompting her to bring her cow on Friday. We have farms in our area and they have a Scottish Highlander white long haired cow with horns like the ones we were earning. The long hair was the only major difference. They set up a pen, got a friend with a trailer to help, and the kids were extremely excited on Friday to see a real cow! Of course, Hannah from Ghana took most of the credit!

We gave the kids the idea of doing a lemonade stand with a Ghana promo sign on it. Tuesday morning 2 girls came in with $75 from their lemonade stand! They went to neighbors around their house and told them about the stand. Most gave $5 or $10 and told them to keep the change for Ghana. They shared their story Tuesday morning and others did the same. It was a hot week. Someone told me she spotted a few more Ghana stands when she was driving around. By Friday we had over $2000 dollars, and on Sunday, with some extra giving from the congregation, we ended up with $650 over our goal- $2205! We were able to give enough for Partners ministries to start a small business in Ghana also. WOW! It was a memorable week. I do think the pastor who offered to get “slimed” if the kids raised the money didn’t hurt. He had 4 gallons of apple sauce from Costco dumped over his head on Friday when Hannah from Ghana made the announcement. Partners staff came over from our office and took pictures of all this to go onto our website and maybe into a publication to give other churches an idea of how to pick a project and make it part of VBS. I also wrote up a few ideas for a VBS focus on giving to one of our Dalit HOH projects for Partners. Check out the Partners website ( to get a hold of that. Let me know if you have trouble finding it there.

Well, enough for one day. I figured you would either want to know all about VBS or nothing, so you could skip that part of you weren't interested. Allison's job is requiring her to be in South Korea by August 21st, so she is going to fly home on the 6th so we can get her ready. Jesse is in Los Angeles right now in the inner city doing his mission trip. Please be praying for them this week. His leaders told me they were going to rely heavily on him for music for VBS and other leadership things. Thanks as always for your interest and prayers. God bless you- Nancy

Friday, July 18, 2008

Some test results are in- no cancer!

Dear friends,

I saw my breast surgeon about some new lumpiness on the left side of my chest. She agreed with me that it was new since I was there in Feb, and she ordered an MRI to help us know whether or not it is cancer or scar tissue. I am so happy to report that the MRI came back showing that the area of concern does not have a blood supply feeding it. She said that cancer always does, so we can continue to watch it, but no need for surgery. My left side is sticking out an inch further than my right, and this has just transpired in the last few months. That is why I went to see her. This wait and see method is different than I am used to, but I do trust her, so I am trying to let go and not worry about it.

Meantime, the DVT’s (deep vein thrombosis) showed up in my legs. Cancer is the one and only risk factor that I have for why I got them. The Femara I suspected at first is not a clot propogator like Tamoxifen is. Either current cancer happening or if a person has ever had cancer treatment can cause them. I hope I don’t have cancer now, which is why my oncologist ordered a bunch of blood tests and a CAT scan of my trunk. The short answer of the nurse to my inquiry about the results last week were, “stable,” and, “Have a great weekend.” I know there were very little things we have kept an eye on for years, and stable probably meant that none of those have changed, and there is nothing new to be concerned about. I will see my oncologist on Tuesday to find out what the blood tests showed, if anything. There are blood conditions that can cause clots that he was able to check for. I haven’t heard any results on those. The only one I heard mentioned specifically was lupis. I do know that they messed up a few of the tests and had to poke me again to redraw more blood. What 's another poke at this point. I have lost count!

I have been to the Anticoagulation Clinic a lot and went a week in between visits last week and get 9 days this time. I am doing 7 ½ mg 4 days a week and 10mg the other 3 days. It has been in the 2.1 to 2.3 range and they want it a little higher. I eagerly look forward to my 3 salads a week. . Vitamin K is the enemy of Coumadin, but a whole summer without K laden broccoli is torture. But seriously, God is giving me grace.

My right leg is still painful, which could mean there is still a clot, or another clot there. They said all clots will eventually dissolve themselves in 3 weeks or so, but the Coumadin thins the blood to prevent it from happening again. Apparently, once you have had a clot, a rough spot remains on the side of that vein at that location. Then future cells going by can hook onto that rough spot and form another clot later. There has still been no discovery yet regarding what has caused these clots all of a sudden in my calves. Hopefully Dr. Sienko will have some ideas when I see him Tuesday. I am very sore and achy in my back and neck and generally all over. I can still do things I want to do, but running or jumping is out. We walk every evening we are home, but don’t go as far as we did before. This has been going on for a long time. Probably since cancer treatment 2 years ago.

Last time I wrote, Jenni had just gotten a job at Chipoltle in Highlands Ranch, CO near Thunder Ridge High School. She is doing well with that and is using her high school Spanish to communicate with her co-workers. She is also pricing guitars. She is doing serious worship leading at college this year and it is time for her to get more than a low end instrument. She starts school on August 25th at Grove City College, so we are looking for her plane ticket to get back. I know Sean and Janet Willcox are going to miss our girls when they leave. They have enjoyed their summer daughters as much as we have enjoyed Lindsay.

Now it is Allison who has gotten a job. And not just any job! Allison was recruited to become an English teacher in a public elementary school in South Korea! She will be the English teacher for the entire school and will have all the kids in the school learning from her. There are several others from her college who are also working for the same company there in varius schools, so she felt confident enough to pursue the interviews. She found out yesterday that it is done. She has been officially employed by the department of education there. Now she is filling in all the paperwork ASAP and has to report for work on August 21st. She has a 12 month contract. They pay for her travel there and back and provide housing free. She hopes to get some great experience under her belt and begin paying off her loans. She is very excited!

Laura is still with AT&T. She got her I-Phone last week- a fun perk. She and some friends have started an international student fellowship group which is going well. She is planning to come visit us from Aug. 13th to the 18th , before Allison leaves. So we are hoping to spend those days together as a family.

Believe it or not, we are sort of “adopting” 30 more daughters this fall. Greg and I have invested in getting a property of 2 triplexes here in Spokane. There are 3 rooms in each of the 6 townhouses. Our plan is for it to be an apartment for Moody Bible Institute women freshmen to live in. Moody here doesn’t own dorms, so the students just hunt for apartments. Our units are just a few blocks from the church that houses their campus, and they can have community with each other with a few older students living with them to mentor them. There will be 30 this fall, until the last of the units is free from the current renter, and hopefully 6 more girls for a total of 36 next year.

So we are cleaning, patching walls, changing out doors, sinks, furnaces, painting, carpeting, etc, etc. as the current renters move out. I have helped some with the cleaning and Greg has been there a lot. He has people doing the various jobs. We have used our retirement money to invest in this, and we believe it will be a blessing to the Moody student women as well. The administration is very excited although we don’t have an official agreement with them. Please pray for the other 3 tenants to move out as scheduled or before schedule, so we can get in to do the repairs before our 30 adopted daughters move in by mid August. These townhouses are near Gonzaga Univ. campus as well and are about 20 minutes from our house or 10 minutes from Partners. We sense the Lord's hand on this whole endeaver and would appreciate your prayers.

Lindsay, our honorary “Exchange Daughter” of summer ’08 has only one more day with us before she is gone for the summer. She has been a delight and has filled the gap we were feeling about missing our girls. She will begin her sr. year at Whitworth this fall, so we still look forward to seeing her during the year.

Jesse is planning to leave for his youth group mission trip to inner city LA at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. I know he would be grateful for your prayers for that week. He has n eight hour shift at Starbucks both Friday and Sat. before leaving. He will be leading worship for the group during the trip, and I have heard from the leaders that he will play a major role in the VBS they will be leading. He then plans to go to Denver August 5th and see friends there, and then drive back to Spokane in Allison’s car with Jenni. Allison is going to fly home sooner so we have time to get her ready to go to S. Korea.

So, health issues, children coming, children going, property cleaning and prepping, meeting 30 new girls, and doing our “regular” jobs. I still need to tell you about our camp teaching time, VBS missions at our church and the cow, the African children's choir, and so much more. More on those later. Such amazing things are happening at Partners International!

God Bless you! Sorry this is so long. I shouldn’t have waited so long to write an update. Blessings- Nancy Fritz

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

My 25th Anniversary today!

Dear friends,

It is July 2nd and 25 years ago, about now, Greg and I got married at his parents’ house in Benton, PA. It was a hot day, like this one in Spokane, but a lot more humid. I remember waking up that morning and hearing thunder clapping- and then I thought of the piano we had moved out there to the lawn the day before. We had covered it well, but actual rain? We discovered later that morning that it had gotten so humid that the piano made no sound when played. So several took turns out there with a hair dryer on an extension cord blow drying the pads. It worked, praise God!

We have been nostalgic this week remembering who was there, our gift of a honeymoon in the Poconos, driving across the country to our new home in Pasadena with our German Shepherd puppy, Jedi, in the Chevette with us. Those were exciting days!

I also remember all who prayed for our union. God has blessed us in huge ways. He provided a home and great housemates to live with in community for 7 ½ years, a home in Denver and now one in Spokane, WA. We have been privileged to work in amazing ministry all these years as well. Our focus on the unreached peoples continues to be at the heart of what we get to do as a job, and that is a true and ultimate gift from God. We have four beautiful and healthy children who love the Lord and who have hearts for the nations. We have friends serving all around the globe as well as friends everywhere we have lived.

Ten years ago we actually commented on how blessed and relatively easy our lives had been. We knew that was unusual and just thanked God for the smooth times and asked Him to get us ready for any hard ones coming up. Nine years ago right now, I was beginning chemo therapy for breast cancer. Two years ago, I was going through the same thing with radiation thrown in. Currently I have DVT’s (deep vein thrombosis) in both calves and am getting “titrated” on Coumadin and retested for cancer as the doctors can’t think of any reason other than that for me to be getting clots with no history or incidents to cause it. So it is sort of a “Here we go again…” but I have to tell you what I am thankful for. It is me and not one of my kids or Greg going through this. Also, I have gotten to experience the ‘fellowship of His sufferings,’ and the richness and intimacy of that place I wouldn’t trade for anything. We have learned much and are so grateful to a God who loves us beyond comprehension.

I am also thankful for a great husband. We have had so much fun together. Memories on top of memories! He is godly and disciplined and I am less disciplined but very creative. We complement each other and are committed to working through even the disagreements. Divorce is not an option for us. We promised 25 years ago, and by the grace of God, we have been able to keep that promise. Thank you to all of you who pray for us. We are so thankful for you also! Where would we be without friends and family?!
I hope you have a nice day. Blessings- Nancy Fritz