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Four years ago tomorrow…

Four years ago tomorrow, September 3, 2009, this whole journey and life-changing chapter began.  That was the day I went for my annual physical.  Four years.  Four years is a person’s high school career.  Four years is a person’s college career.  I would have never imagined four years ago today what the next four years would hold.  At points in the last four years, I would have not imagined that I would be typing this post today.

Some people walk through life not knowing if they are loved, or not.  I always have known that Keli and my girls love me, but I never experienced the depth of love from someone as I experienced from Keli these last four years.  She is not only a godly woman, she was the strength and encouragement that pulled me through so many days and weeks when I was so sick.  I know God touched me and I also know that if it were not for Keli, who God worked through, I would not have recovered as well as I have.  I love Keli with all of my heart.

I remember when I would pray to be able to see Anna-Laura graduate from high school.  That was a significant marker to me. That was over 2 years ago and she is now starting her junior year in college and in love with a wonderful young man.  Four years ago she was singing in the praise team at church…today she is helping lead worship in a church plant.  Wow…I would have never imagined how God would be working through her in four years.  I am so glad I have gotten to see her grow and deepen in her Christian walk.

Sophie has done remarkably over the last four years.  My illness hit all my girls hard, but it seemed to especially affect Sophie.  She was at such a vulnerable time in life just starting high school.  I have gotten to see my Sophie blossom into a beautiful Christian young lady.  She is a leader.  When I talk about Sophie’s gifts I say, “She calls people to action.”  I am so proud that she is starting her freshmen year of college.  Sophie already has ideas to implement at college and is working to make those ideas reality.  I can’t wait to see what the next four years hold for her as she faithfully follows the Lord’s leading in her life.

Isabella is my baby girl and we are buddies.  Just in the last few months, Bella has started singing in the praise team at church.  I like for her to stand by me when she sings.  I get to see her out of the corner of my eye and many times she expresses her worship through a raised hand…not high, but gently lifted to the Lord.  It makes me cry with joy.  She has such a tender heart and beautiful spirit.  She is growing to be a wonderful Christian young lady.  Bella is sensitive to other young ladies and the choices they make.  She has a sincere desire for her friends to be truly committed to the Lord and walk faithfully in His light.

I am truly thankful how all of my girls seek the Lord for His guidance in their lives.  I still realize that family is the dearest treasure any of us have in life.

I continue to be so thankful for Trevecca and Hermitage Nazarene Church.  Although I left Trevecca for a season to give time for recovery, I have now been back for over a year as director of the praise and worship program.  We just welcomed the first group of students to the program.  It is a delight to work with young men and women who desire to be worship pastors.

Four years…God is so faithful.  I have still not looked at the data and statistics regarding life expectancy for my diagnosis.  When I learned that I had AML, I even told my doctor that I did not want to know what my chances of survival were.  I told him that I would wait 5 years before I even looked at that information.  All I wanted was to be cured, because he told me that a cure was possible.  The first day I met him, I let him know that I had two Jesus’ working on me.  His name is Jesus Berdeja.  I now only see him every 3 months.  Because I have actually had 2 transplants and am still alive, I intrigue him.  I love him and his staff.  They have been the hands and feet of God in my life.

As I finish writing my reflections tonight, my eyes are filled with tears. I am not sad…I am overwhelmed with the presence of the Holy Spirit being at work in my life.  I still don’t know what the future holds.  I do know that I go into the future with the confidence that Christ is with me.  I pray that He will use me as He sees fit.  The very first song I sang in church back in Seymour, Indiana somewhere around 1978 or 1979 was entitled, “Whatever It Takes.”  If you don’t know the song, please look it up and read the lyrics.  Even as a 12-year old kid, I knew the significance of the song when I sang it.  I have sung it to myself these last few years. It is still my prayer today. Whatever you may be going through, remember that God is faithful…put your trust and hope in Him and in Him, alone.

Blessings,

Sam

 

God is so faithful!  I know I haven’t posted for so long, but God is still faithful and I am doing so well. I had my 2-year anniversary in December 2012 from my DLI – second stem cell transplant.  I went back to work full-time at Trevecca in July of 2012 and our family is doing great.

Recently, a gentlemen emailed me to ask if he could have a letter placed on my blog.  I received the letter this evening and wanted to share it with you.  No matter how long the troubled night may be, never forget that the Lord is with you and will take care of you.  I know He continues to do that everyday in my life.  Blessings!

Letter from a caregiver:

Hope and Love Throughout Cancer Treatment

I will never forget the day my wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma: November 21, 2005. That was the day my whole life changed, and I became a caregiver. Just three months earlier, we welcomed the birth of our daughter Lily, our only child. In our minds, we imagined spending this time of year preparing for her first Christmas. Instead, chaos quickly took over any plans we made.

As soon as the doctor announced the diagnosis, I became a caregiver. He gave us some information about the cancer, then talked about seeing a specialist for treatment. Heather responded to this information with shock, and she remained silent as the doctor outlined our three options for treatment. Her face was frozen in disbelief and shock, so I made the decision for us. I told the doctor we would go to Boston to see a physician who specialized in mesothelioma. I had to believe that this specialist could help my wife.

For the next two months, our daily routines were disrupted by chaos. Both of us were working full time before Heather’s diagnosis, but I dropped down to part time and she was unable to work after the diagnosis. Soon, I felt overwhelmed because my time and energy was spent caring for Lily, traveling to Boston and going with Heather to doctor’s appointments. Sometimes, my fear of losing my wife overwhelmed me, but I remained strong for her.

So many people helped us during that time. They offered financial assistance, kind words and everything in between. I had fewer things to worry about because I learned to always take people up on their offers of help. They lightened my load and reminded me I was not alone.

Being a caregiver is tough. It may be the hardest thing you will ever have to do, and you will go through periods of stress, chaos and uncertainty. You cannot walk away from your responsibilities, but you do have to give yourself permission to have bad days. Get through them by never giving up hope and using all the resources you have.

Heather went through mesothelioma chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, and our lives did not return to normal for years. However, all of our struggles were worth it. Today, Heather is cancer free, over seven years since her diagnosis.

I learned so much throughout the ordeal. I discovered that time is precious and that my stubbornness can be an asset. Two years after Heather’s diagnosis, I once again became a full time student. I was prepared for the challenges of balancing school with caring for Heather and Lily because of the lessons I learned while helping her fight cancer. I graduated with honors and even spoke at graduation. I talked about never giving up hope and always believing in yourself, lessons that I learned from my wife as her caregiver.  Now, we hope that by sharing our story we can help inspire all those currently going through their own cancer battles today.

 

Continued improvement…

It has been a great day and a great week.  Last week I received my vaccinations…6 shots total.  It was so nice to celebrate the one year mark of the transplant by receiving the immunizations.  I received them on Anna-Laura’s 18th birthday.  One of Keli’s friends said, “What is it like to have an 18-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old husband?”  I liked that. :)  I had no pain or soreness from the shots.  As I told Keli, after all I have been through, shots are nothing to me anymore. 

Since having a blood clot in my right arm, which was discovered in January, I have been receiving two shots a day (blood thinner) in my stomach.  Today, I had an ultrasound on that arm and will hopefully be told tomorrow at my clinic visit that I do not have to continue the blood thinner shots.  I am praying that I will learn that the blood vessels are clear and no more shots.  This will also help my platelets count to go up and hopefully I will be able to stop receiving a platelets transfusion two or three times a week. 

In case you are wondering about my eating and weight…I have gained 14 pounds since leaving the hospital.  :)  This is wonderful news because that was one of the concerns when I was taken off the liquid nutrition I was receiving during December and January.  I really am enjoying dessert these days.  :)  I hope to put on another 12 pounds and then maintain that weight.  I will be at the weight I was when I met Keli back in 1989.  My strength is also coming back.  When I first left the hospital I could hardly make it up steps, but now I am doing much better, although I still have some muscle toning that needs to occur…especially in my legs. 

When I am not at the clinic, which is still on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I am spending much more time at home.  I am having fun getting some things organized around the house.  You know, things you would like to do but never seem to find the time to do them.  It is also wonderful to be with my girls more.  I am driving again, so now I am able to take Bella to school a few days a week and occasionally pick her up.  It is fun to be home for this season of life as I recover more fully.

I trust all is well with you and your families.  May the Lord bless you during the season of Lent.

Blessings,

Sam

Happy 1st Birthday…to me. :)

Yes, today we celebrate my one year birthday.  It was a year ago today that I received a stem cell transplant from my brother, Steve.  It has been a wonderful week.  Because it is my one year anniversary, I had several tests this week…bone marrow biopsy, pulmonary function test, chest x-ray, and an eye exam.  I learned on Wednesday that I remain in complete remission…no leukemia cells found in the bone marrow.  I learned this morning that I am 100% engrafted.  That means that Steve’s cells have become my cells.  Both of these things are such huge answers to prayer.  The other tests went great, too, so as I continue to progress in my health, it is all looking good.  Praise the Lord for answered prayers.  He is so faithful.

It has been so nice to be back home as I am discovering new routines throughout the day.  I am still coming to the clinic 3 days a week and many of those appointments take 5-6 hours; however, we get to go home after the clinic visits and that is such a blessing.  I think the girls are enjoying me being home more since I have gone on long-term disability.  I am still adjusting to the change of life of not going to work five days a week, but it is so good to be able to give into recovering during this chapter of life.

I don’t think I have shared this with you, but it may be something you need to hear today.  The week I knew I would be applying for disability was very difficult for me.  As a husband and father I expect that I will take care of my family and that means working hard to provide for my girls.  I had several restless nights as my mind raced with all sorts of thoughts about how life would change for the Green family.  I prayed that I would not doubt or have fear of the future and totally trusted that the Lord would direct our future as he had been directing our lives throughout our journey.

After a few nights of restless sleep and racing thoughts, I began to sleep better although I was still having questions in my mind about the future.  The Lord woke me up one of those nights and gave me his assurance by putting one word in my mind…temporary.  At that time I was not able to eat…He assured me that was only temporary.  I was losing weight almost daily…He assured me that was temporary.  My muscles were being weakened by the high-dose steroids and I was having difficulty walking…He assured me that was temporary.  I was going to be on inactive status in my full-time position and there would be a significant reduction of income…He assured me that was temporary.

Temporary…so many times in my life I have looked at present situations and felt that is how it would always be.  The Father showed me that night that I truly am on a journey and that many of the situations of life are only temporary.  Since that time I have had doubt flair up in my mind, but I immediately think back to that night and the communion I had with the Lord and realize once again that it is only temporary.

God is so faithful.  He speaks to us in an infinite number of ways.  I will never forget the night He woke me up and wrapped me in His arms and whispered “temporary.”  To God be the glory.

Blessings,

Sam

We woke up with the “early birds” (the one’s that get the worms)…and made our way to the clinic this morning for our usual Wednesday clinic appointment.  We arrived earlier than usual…labs were drawn.  Sam gained weight!  Yeah!  It had already started off to be a good day!

It took the usual 45 min to get labs back and our team of specialist gathered in the room to visit with us (as they do once a week, nothing unusual).  Dr Berdeja was all smiles today.  He said he had great news, though not complete.  Sam’s biopsy came back that he remains in remission!!  We are still waiting to see the percentage of ingraftment.  Pray that there are good results in this area.  We are expecting that there will be ( Sam and I are).  God is a God of amazing works!  He continues to astound us!!

This morning…a Psalm of David.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable!  One nation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts!  I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. Psalm 145 :3-5

 

In hope and great joy!!

Keli and Sam

Pure Gold…

If you have been keeping up with the greens, than you may know that a year ago at this time we were eagerly anticipating Sam’s transplant.  He was undergoing massive doses of chemotherapy and then we waited to let him recover for a day or so…and then the hope for new life.  It has been an amazing journey.  There have been good days and bad days.  We are thankful for the good days we have together.

This week Sam underwent a bone marrow biopsy to evaluate his 1 year / 100 day post DLI bone marrow…situation.  We are eagerly awaiting results and earnestly asking you to pray for Gods healing touch as you have in the past. Sam feels good and is eating everything that isn’t tied down.  This is a huge answer to prayer, but any time they look into the bone marrow…it is scary!  We should be getting some results by next Wednesday.  We will be sure to keep all of you informed of what we know.

I found this amazing scripture, which has been so true for us this year.  It is found in 1 Peter 1:7 in the Message…Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.  When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

These past months have taught me to take envintory of what is important….I believe that God is using this to refine Sam and me.  I pray He will continue to use it for His glory!

Time to go home :)

The Lord has been so good and I have progressed very well over the last week.  It looks like I will be going home tomorrow (Thursday). :)  I have been in the hospital since December 20 and Keli and I are so ready to be home with our girls.  Today, I am being switched over from IV antibiotics to pills and they have removed the TPN (the bag of fluid that has been giving me nutrition for the last 5 weeks).  It is a big day!!!  I have been eating everything that comes on my tray and the doctor feels it is time for me to go home.  We will have frequent visits to the clinic, as we have in the past, but it is so awesome to think we will be out of the hospital.

Because of the TPN, my blood sugar has been checked four times a day and I have been receiving insulin shots when my levels have been too high.  It is my understanding that I will not have to be checked anymore since they are taking me off the TPN. :)  The shots are that bad, but it is nice to think I will not have to keep getting insulin.  I have a new appreciation for people with diabetes.

Prayer request…over the last few weeks we have been in the process of applying for long-term disability.  I never would have thought that I would be on disability at age 45, but it is a reality that we are now confronting.  I need to have full recovery and not press myself to go back to working a 40-hour week for the time being.  Please pray that all goes smoothly in the process and that it is a quick approval.  We are also applying for social security benefits.  It is my understanding that approval can take months, so pray that it goes quickly, too.  It is my hope  to go back to Trevecca in a position that may be available at that time.

On a positive side to disability, I look forward to being a stay-at-home dad for a while.  It will be nice to be home everyday when the girls come home from school.  I think they are excited about Daddy being home.  :)

I want to testify to you that the Lord has and is answering prayer.  I have experienced a peace throughout these last several weeks about my health, about the life-change of going on disability, and about the future.  Through these weeks I have learned more about patience, trust, hope, and faith.  He has ministered to me during the and during the night.  One night, while awake, He assured me that all of this is temporary.  Not only are my health issues temporary, but being gone from Trevecca and having a full-time job is temporary.  I have always been driven and these coming months will pose a challenge to me on how I remain engaged in something.  I do not want to sit around the house and just wait for the day to go back to work, so I look forward to seeing what I may find as a new focus and challenge while being home.  Pray that the Lord will direct me into what He would have me focus on while I am on disability.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support you give me and my family.  I don’t know how I could have made it without the prayers of the people.  The body of Christ is an amazing phenomenon in the sense that as we lift up each other, He is lifted up.

I love you,

Sam

Angel food cake…yummy!

Last night we had a wonderful visit with our dear friends, Rick and Gail Foster.  Gail came with a precious gift…angel food cake. It was so nice to have some dessert last night and it tasted great.  I look forward to having more today.

Yesterday was a great day with continued signs of improvement.  I was able to eat food for the first time in over one month.  I was a little nervous at first, but everything settled great and nothing upset my stomach.  Dr. Berdejas as just in doing his rounds and if all continues to go well, I should advance to a stage 4 diet over the weekend.  I know it seems trivial, but yesterday I was able to eat a potato, english muffin, apple sauce, angel food cake, and graham crackers.  It felt so good to chew something besides jello.

It is amazing what we take for granted in life, but this last month has helped me realize some things are day-by-day and patience is very important in things (stomachs or whatever) that need to be restored.  I am so quick to want to just “fix” the problems of life, but not all situations can receive a quick fix.  Isn’t it cool how the Lord can do transforming work even through a month long liquid diet?  The first couple weeks of being on no liquids or limited liquids was very frustrating, but the last few weeks of the liquid diet didn’t bother me and I realized I could not rush the healing of the intestines.  I praise the Lord that I am now able to eat and that I am responding so well.

Blessings,

Sam

Over the last few days there have been great signs of recovery.  I was able to move to the stage 2 diet a few days ago and this morning Dr. Berdejas said he will move me to stage 3 tomorrow, if all goes well today.  That means I will be able to eat angel food cake, graham crackers, bread, and even jelly. :)  I am very excited to actually have something to chew besides jello. :)  I have not had food for one month…only liquids.  Keep praying that the recovery moves along as it is now.  Yesterday, Dr. Flinn said he was encouraged.  It means so much to a patient when a doctor is the one that says that rather than the patient asking what their thoughts are when they are in the room.  Praise the Lord that I am improving!

Yesterday was fun.  For the last three years I have been an adviser for four doctoral students at Trevecca.  Throughout my illness I have still been able to advise them and I have been blessed to get to know each of them.  Two of the students defended their dissertations yesterday.  The students came to the hospital and presented their defense in the conference room located on my floor.  They will have a story to tell down the road…”I defended my dissertation in a hospital.”  I can just hear them share about their experience.  For me, it was awesome to have the afternoon to not only fulfill their requirement of a defense, it also allowed me to have a great mental focus.  Next Monday the other two students will present their defense.  One of the students encouraged her peers to bring items for the initiative Anna-Laura started…Simple Acts Touching Lives.  Both students brought items to be added to the collection.  Their act of kindness meant so much to me.

In case you are not aware, Anna-Laura saw the need for cancer patients to have a soft blanket, slippers, head coverings (the head can get really cold), and soft tissues (the ones in the hospital are like sandpaper).  It has been wonderful how people have responded.  There is a closet where these items are stored and the nurses are able just to get what the patient might need and give it to them as a gift.  Anna-Laura also has a scripture on each item.  I am so proud of her and the desire she has to help others in need.

It would be great to have more of these items.  The desire is not that it be a short-term expression of kindness, but an ongoing ministry to those who are hospitalized in the cancer center.  You could bring any items to Anna-Laura if you would like to contribute.  This is a great time of the year to find clearance items that could be added.

Okay, I have been a little wordy today.  Keli is working, so I guess this is my way to have some communication with someone. :)

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Blessings,

Sam

Day by day…

It has been a week of some changes and good reports.  Up until now, everyday has been fairly boring and we have just been patient as my diet continues to be clear liquids, but nothing else has really been happening.  This week, however, I learned that I had a blood clot in my right arm.  That meant I had to receive a new PICC line in my left arm.  All went well with the switch, but I was anxious in having it done.

The good news is that I am showing signs of improvement in the stomach, so they have decreased the level of steroids I am on and have decreased the level of another drug.  The doctor said this morning that he may even change my diet to stage 2 tomorrow.  That would include adding rice milk to my diet…yippee!!

Overall, it has been a good week of continued progress.  It is definitely a slow process of healing and I would ask that you continue to pray for my stomach to heal and that I will not get any infections.  My blood work is very good and I am so thankful for that.  As a matter of fact, some of my level are totally in the normal range.

If you are reading this…thank you.  I appreciate how you are staying connected with my journey.  I know the Lord is at work.

Blessings,

Sam

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