Friday, July 30, 2010

Letting Go

Those of you who know Ernie well, know how much he loved his 2004 white Suburban, affectionately known as "The Burb". It was the second one he owned and regardless of the gas it consumed, it just fit his 'handyman' needs and suited our family well when all 6-8 of us wanted to go somewhere in one car. He also loved pulling his white Roadmaster trailer behind it, helping our kids with their many housing moves throughout the college years, using it to haul tools and supplies for projects he worked on in his business, and even transporting luggage for our youth when they headed to camp.

The myeloma and resulting damage to his sacrum made it more and more difficult for Ernie to drive as he found himself in a lot of pain while sitting upright. That, combined with his job loss, caused us to re-evaluate the need for two cars and the trailer. We decided it was time to sell the Burb and the Roadmaster. The hardest part was going to be finding the right "homes" for them...

As always, God was faithful to provide in such amazing ways. Bay Leaf Baptist needed a new trailer for their disaster relief efforts, and Ernie's trailer fit the bill to a tee! What a blessing it will be for years to come, knowing that the Roadmaster is being used for such a worthy cause, helping so many people in their time of need.

Then, we came to find out that our friends from Florida, Ken and Ruth Poirier, were in the market for a new Suburban. We have known each other for at least 25 years and consider them to be some of our closest and best friends. Our kids have grown up together, we love them dearly, and we couldn't be happier that they are now the proud owners of The Burb! An added bonus was a visit from them to pick it up and drive it back home to Florida. It was so good to see them and their daughter, MacKenzie.

We have had to do a lot of "letting go" in the past 7 months...everything from cats to cars. And yet, it causes one to realize even more, what really matters. In our case, we are fighting desperately for Ernie's health and long term remission, and whatever we must do, we will do. Praise God for giving us everything we need for the here and now...His word, each other, a home, a supportive family, great doctors, amazing friends, a car, food, insurance, the body of Christ and so much more! We are truly blessed and pray we will be found to be good and faithful servants.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Family Time in Boone

On Wednesday, July 21st, Ernie, Nick, Grandma, the dogs and I headed over to Boone for the first time in 7 months. The Dews and Guenthers arrived on Thursday and Friday. What a wonderful way to regenerate and be together before the stem cell transplant in August. We are so very thankful that Ernie felt he could make the trip, even though he must ride fully reclined as a passenger and would rather be driving!

The weather in the mountains was always at least 10 degrees cooler than at home, and the peace and quiet of the cabin was just so relaxing. We were able to bring Ernie's lift chair/recliner and he definitely enjoyed being out of the bedroom and in the family room and kitchen where all the action was! Many thanks to Nick, Jamie and Kyle for loading and unloading the chair.

We shared some wonderful meals, three of which the kids and Grandma ordered as take-out so Ernie could enjoy some of his favorite food in Boone. We spent alot of time at Valle Crucis park walking with the kids, grandkids and dogs, and just soaking in the majesty of the mountains surrounding us.

We watched a few movies, played a few games, swang on the front porch, enjoyed a nice campfire, laughed, and just savored being all together in one amazing place. Ernie and I constantly thank the Lord for our family and could never adequately express our love for each and every one of them. We know that in the tough days ahead, their love and support will see us through and we are so grateful we were able to spend such precious time together. I'll let the pictures say the rest...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Discovering Devices

Living with the destructive effects of cancer on Ernie's sacrum has proven to be a challenge in so many ways. Daily tasks that one takes for granted cannot be taken for granted anymore and alternative ways of doing things must be discovered. Along the way we have had to think outside the box and find devices that allow for somewhat of a return to "normalcy" in areas such as walking, sleeping, bending and sitting. Never again will we take these activities for granted, and we sympathize greatly with those who are handicapped and struggle every day to do these things. Here are a few pieces of equipment we have come to appreciate:

1. The Winnie Walker - Never imagining the need for a walker at 58, Ernie used crutches when the nerve pain in his left leg became really bad. However, crutches aren't always stable if you feel weak, and you aren't able to carry anything if your hands are on the crutches. The traditional walker we had was cumbersome and difficult to use outside. This walker has big rubber wheels for "off-roading", brakes to stabilize it when not walking, and a basket he can use to carry his laptop, water bottle, camera and whatever else he might need. I found it hard to do all the carrying for both of us when heading to long appointments at the Cancer Center or Duke and now he can help!
2. The Bed Cane - When Ern was able move out of the hospital bed and back to our king bed for sleeping at night, he needed something to grab for turning onto his side or getting in and out of bed. This was just the thing he needed as an alternative to a bed rail, and even came with a convenient pouch for the TV remote, his glasses and iphone all within easy reach!

3. The Pikstik - Unable to bend (due to nerve pain from his damaged sacrum) can be very limiting. You drop something and can't pick it up, you can hardly pull up your own pants to get dressed, you can't reach things just across the table...then, along came the Pikstik and Ernie is great with it, giving him a lot more independence!

4. The Food Tray - Being unable to sit at the table for meals, Ernie needed something to reduce the distance between the counter and his mouth when eating while standing. He thought of a tray he had seen at Tara's and it has proven to be just what he needed, making life a bit easier, and keeping his shirts a bit cleaner, while standing to eat!

4. The Relaxer Lift Chair by Golden - This was our latest discovery and after 5 months of only being able to "sit" reclined in a hospital bed in our bedroom, Ernie has now rejoined us in the family room! Traditional recliners are too low for him to get in to without bending, and therefore he had no way to watch a movie or visit with family and friends, outside the bedroom (unless he was standing). We decided to try lift chairs out and were so pleased to find a model he could actually use to get from standing to reclining with very little pain! We are so happy to have him back out where the action is and look forward to using this chair while in the apartment at Duke.

I am thankful every day for Ernie's engineering mind because this is precisely what has helped him adapt and cope with the effects of myeloma on his sacrum. Always discovering, always pressing on, always engineering new ways to do things...that's my man!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Contentment in Christ

Every morning, a Proverbs 31 email-devotion is delivered to my inbox. More times than I can count, the devotion has been just the Word I needed for that day! Below is a portion of a devotion that was sent out a few days ago (written by Zoe Elmore). It is so fitting for the trial that our family is going through with Dad's cancer and unemployment.

As I read it, I couldn't help but think of my Dad. Never once have I heard him complain. Never once have I heard him grumble. He has had a joyous attitude and contentment in the all times. I have learned so much from his godly example in difficult circumstances. I believe that he has what this devotion is referring to.

So, I pray that this devotion will be an encouragement to you as it is to our family as we walk on this journey of faith. May we continue to mimic the apostle Paul's attitude of contentment and joy, despite our circumstances:

"In his popular book The Purpose Driven Life, author and pastor Rick Warren makes one point very clear, "It's not about you." In a world where pursuing personal comfort and happiness is an obsession, many of us chafe and choke at the thought of any struggle or pain invading our lives. The thought that the world wasn't created just to keep us happy and comfortable seems counter intuitive to today's thinking. It can be difficult to swallow the fact that God is not most interested in our comfort, but more interested in our character.

To put this in perspective, I recently reread the trials and tribulations of the apostle Paul. It is eye opening to discover the very things we dread and run from in our lives are precisely where Paul found his contentment. Look at his words in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. He's essentially saying: I am content when I lose. I am content when I am weak. I am content when I'm insulted. I am content when I endure hardships. I am content with persecutions. I am content with difficulties. How can this be true? Paul shares his discovery: Because when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul's stunning contentment is a clear example of the way we should live our lives content in everything. This happens when we allow the divine strength available through the power of the Holy Spirit to permeate our human frailties and weaknesses. Paul's prescription for contentment is an attitude of unselfish humility.

Had I been imprisoned under Paul's circumstances, I'm sure I would have moaned and groaned, demanding the guards give me special treatment. Mirroring the life of Christ, Paul empties himself of "self" and allows unselfish humility to drive his attitude and his actions. This is the first step to learning contentment. Paul encourages all believers to go one step further. "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:14-15, NIV). Think about that for a moment; a life that lacks grumbling, complaining or arguing leaves room for only one!

As we exchange our selfish attitude for one of joyful humility others will take note and be drawn closer to Christ. Friends, as we allow God to work in the midst of our brokenness and inability His strength rushes in to fulfill our need. Let's make a commitment to be joyfully humble and experience God's transforming work in your life and in the lives of others. Living in His strength, our lives will reflect Christ and we will be content in all circumstances."

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong'."

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Holding Steady

We are basically in a holding pattern with all tests completed. The transplant doctor has taken Ernie off all chemo drugs and we must wait 2-3 weeks before we begin the "priming" process for transplant. We are enjoying a welcome respite from doctor's appointments and chemotherapy, and will find out the results from the various tests on August 4th when we return to Duke for our next "clearance appointment". We are hoping to head to the mountains this week for some family time in Boone if Ernie feels up to the 3 1/2 hour ride. There is just something about breathing in that air that fills our souls with peace.

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2.

In the meantime I would ask that you please pray for the pain Ernie feels in his left foot and leg to subside. It makes it very difficult to walk and sleep. Our hope and prayer is that being off all chemo drugs will greatly improve his neuropathy in the coming days. Thank you again for walking with us on this journey. Let me leave you with the Nats and Grandpa:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Celebrating Standing in the Gap

Thursday night we had a visit from a group of dear friends representing the workers from the Bay Leaf side of Standing in the Gap. We had an opportunity to fellowship, share a delicious homemade cheesecake (courtesy of Patti), learn of what was raised through the raffle and auctions, and pray together in humble thanksgiving for what God has done. Ernie and I certainly feel unworthy of such love and generosity, and there are no words to adequately express our gratitude. We simply love our friends and family more than you will ever know.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dad made the Local Newspaper!

~Article published in the Wake Weekly on July 8, 2010~

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our Transplant Journey Begins

Monday, July 12th marked the beginning of a series of tests Ernie must undergo at Duke as part of the process for being evaluated for bone marrow/stem cell transplant. He underwent an Echocardiogram, EKG, pulmonary function tests, lab studies and an extensive appointment with his transplant coordinator.

Last week he had two bone marrow biopsies and today he will have a chest x-ray and bone survey (a large series of x-rays). The work up and review process can take up to four weeks, but we expect to hear the results at our next appointment with Duke on August 4th. This is called our "clearance appointment". Results must be within acceptable limits to be considered safe to start the treatment. Please continue to pray that he will be cleared for transplant.

The best news we received was that Ernie can discontinue all his chemo drugs! We pray that the neuropathy he is experiencing in his feet will diminish as a result of this and are thrilled to be free from doctor's appointments and chemotherapy for the rest of July. He is one happy camper! Duke has been wonderful in making sure he doesn't have to stand for long periods of time and always have a bed ready for him when we arrive.

We will be posting a list of important dates leading up to the transplant on the right sidebar. And if all goes well, the actual transplant will take place on August 27th, so we are a little over a month away. We covet your prayers for Ernie and our family in the weeks to come!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Man's Best Friends

Abby and Milo love to cuddle with Big EZ...and he sure loves to snuggle with them!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 12, 2010

Life Lessons from our Neighbor Charlie

Mom sent out an email last week that was really good. I wanted to post it here so that all could read about their wonderful neighbor, Charlie.

"Cancer changes one’s perspective about a lot of things. You live more in the moment, by faith. You appreciate all the little things. You don’t take life for granted. You stop and smell the roses. Your daily routine is anything but routine. You see your loved ones with different eyes. You are far less judgmental and much more sensitive to those around you. You are much less independent and much more dependent. You are humbled.

We have lived in our house for 6 years now, and directly across from our driveway (and mailbox) is a white trailer with red trim. I never met the person who lives there and am embarrassed to say I didn’t even know his name. He had spoken to Ernie a handful of times, but was rarely seen outside. Then, Nick moved back and began to check our mail when Ernie was hospitalized for a month. Almost daily, our neighbor would see Nick, walk outside and ask about Ernie. His name is Charlie and Nick introduced him to me when we got out of the hospital.

Charlie is about our age, disabled, lives by himself, has no car, can't work, and is divorced. Life may have gotten the best of him sometimes, but Charlie saw a need, stepped up to help a neighbor, and has become one of Ernie’s most vocal cheerleaders. Let me explain…

Every Monday our trash gets picked up at the end of our long driveway, and as I said Charlie lives across the street from our driveway. Nick and I would bring our trash down every Sunday night and one Monday I noticed a man, walking with a limp, rolling our trashcan back to the house. Nick looked out the window and said, “That’s Charlie”. Well, Charlie has taken it upon himself to do this, unsolicited, ever since. Our morning newspaper has also started showing up on our front porch and I know it’s because of Charlie. And daily, as Ernie walks laps around our driveway with crutches or his walker, Charlie emerges from his trailer, stands on his little front stoop, and cheers Ernie on, clapping and shouting, “Way to go Mr. Baker!”. Having had open heart surgery and bad hips that make walking painful, Charlie understands.

We could all use a few “Charlies” in our life to open our eyes, clap, and cheer us on when times get tough. We certainly have learned some very valuable life lessons from him and ask forgiveness for not getting to know him in the past. We brought some homemade cookies and a thank you note by the other day and spoke for a while in his driveway. As we were leaving, Ernie and I heard him call out, “Love you!” I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to meet him. For some reason, Nick opened that door because Charlie felt comfortable with him. Says something about Nick. "

“…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9b

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Radio Broadcast about Dad

Two of Mom and Dad's dear friends, Butch Graves and Patti O'Reilly, were on a radio show today called Truth Talk Live (1030 AM). They were talking all about Dad and the upcoming fundraiser, Standing in the Gap.
Butch Graves:
Patti O'Reilley:
Truth Talk Live Radio Host:
To read more about Dad and the radio broadcast, click here. Or to listen to the broacast, click here and then find "Government Handout or Christian Charity" on the list of podcats.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

10 Days from Today...

My Mom said recently, "Never in a million years did we ever dream something like this would be held, or needed for us. From what my dear friends and church members (the organizers) have told me, the idea came about when we were in the hospital and so many people who know Ernie felt helpless and wanted to do something. Ideas were thrown around and before they knew it food had been donated, a place was secured, and numerous auction items were pouring in. As we look at the scope of it now, we are completely blown away."

Thank you to everyone who is involved in the planning of this event. We are incredibly humbled and grateful. "Thank you" will never be sufficient for what you have done. We so appreciate your willingness to STAND IN THE GAP with our family during this difficult time.