Tag Archives: grace

Featured Blog Post – Dustin

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Rebecca was amazing to sit down and write out a blog post to share how Glioblastoma has affected her life. I almost typed “her story” but there is no way to put “your story” into one blog post. I know she has so much more to share.  I’ve cried so many tears over people I’ve never even met since Mike was diagnosed with Glioblastoma and Dustin and Rebecca made a huge impact on me. As I look through these photos, the tears are flowing again. Rebecca, thank you so much for taking the time to share. I know others need to hear your voice and to know they aren’t alone.

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In Rebecca’s words…
“As I sit here with tears welling up in my eyes as I watch my baby boy graduate from kindergarten, my heart is so full of emotions. The moment is bittersweet. He’s grown up so much in the last few years and he’s looking and acting more and more like his daddy each day. His daddy should be here though. Dustin should be here proudly watching his son walk across the stage from Kindergarten to first grade, but he’s not. GBM took this all away from him. GBM robbed Dustin of all the experiences and proud moments of fatherhood, and GBM robbed Michael of a normal childhood growing up with his daddy proudly looking on. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 5 years now since Dustin succumbed to that horrible beast. As you can see, the havoc it wreaked on our little family continues on to this day and will for our lifetime ahead. The pain and wounds may ease a little with time but the scars remain embedded in us forever. In what are supposed to be happy, beautiful moments in life like our son’s kindergarten graduation, these wounds reopen and become fresh scars that weep. The most memorable happy moments in life are also now some of the most bittersweet.
Becoming a widow from GBM at the age of 29 gives you a whole new perspective on life that most people never receive until late in life. I would never wish the GBM nightmare we went through on my own worst enemy, but I do wish others could have the perspective I have now.
When Dustin was diagnosed in late November of 2012, our son Michael was only 8 months old at the time. Dustin passed away just 8 months later, barely getting to see Michael complete his first year of life. The amount of suffering Dustin endured was immeasurable. I can only liken it to Jesus’ suffering on the cross. The tumors, the surgeries, the endless chemo and radiation treatments, the grueling hours of physical therapy, and the side effects from the countless medications all took their toll on him. He fought so hard to no avail, and to think he was a healthy elite athlete prior to GBM entering his life. In fact, he had run an ultramarathon (74 miles in 24 hours!!) just 2 months prior to his diagnosis. He was the epitome of excellent health and only 28 years young. GBM shows no mercy and knows no boundaries. It can send the healthiest, youngest and full of life people into heaven way before their time. Dustin wanted so badly for it to be in God’s plan for him to survive through this nightmare. To beat the beast. To watch his son grow up one day. We’ll never understand why it wasn’t. Dustin’s suffering touched so many lives though, and to this day I still receive messages from strangers telling me how much his suffering and story changed their lives. I like to think God used Dustin’s suffering to help others who needed to be woken up to Christ in their own lives. This is the peace I hold onto in making sense of it all.
I’m a changed person from this horrific journey we were forced to partake in. I have learned so much about myself and about life. Life is so short. In an instant life can change forever. You gotta live in the moment and have no regrets. It’s sooo important not to take a single day we’re given for granted, because tomorrow is never promised. In an instant GBM came in and plucked my husband, our home, our jobs, our life as we knew it. It left me widowed with a 16 month old baby to care for and no direction to go. I felt like a stranger in my own life. How could I possibly go on without my other half – the person I loved more than anything and who loved me more than anything, who when anything and everything went wrong in life, was always there to help lift me up. How?? How would I do this? Life seemed impossible now. When Dustin died I felt like I died with him. Or maybe it was because I wanted to die too. My heart literally felt like it was ripped out of my chest and was bleeding my tears. I now understand how people can die from a broken heart. Dustin and I had shared almost half our lives together. How could this be it? How could I be expected to do this alone now? And how could I possibly raise our precious baby Michael all by myself?? WHY?? Why did this have to be this way?? Life is so unfair sometimes.
I could’ve given up. I could’ve allowed GBM to indirectly take my life too. I’ll admit it, I wanted to give up. Grief can make you crazy and make you do crazy things. I probably hit my lowest of lows at that time, but hey, wouldn’t you too? But something kept me going. If it weren’t for my baby Michael, I wouldn’t have had a reason to get up in the mornings. He played a big role in my saving grace. But the biggest role was played by the big man upstairs.
On Halloween night about a month prior to Dustin’s diagnosis, we took little Michael to a trunk or treat Halloween event at a local church. There we received a tiny fortune cookie and in it was a Bible verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” was written on that tiny little piece of paper. There was no way of foreseeing what would happen in the coming months and little did I know the role that little fortune cookie would play in my life shortly thereafter and for the rest of my life. I took a photo and hung the fortune on the fridge that night not really even knowing why. It just resonated with me for some reason.
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(This verse actually is from Proverbs 3:5)
The day Dustin was diagnosed I bawled my eyes out staring at that same little piece of paper. Somehow I knew God put it there just for me. I took it off the fridge and placed it in my wallet where I still have it to this day. It became, and still is, my lifeline to God. Throughout Dustin’s GBM battle I held onto that Bible verse with every ounce of faith I had. I nearly screamed in helpless frustration on a daily basis. A few times I yelled at God for making us suffer this way, begging for his mercy. The mercy I was looking for never came, but instead He kept directing me back to that bible verse and amazingly it strengthened me. One night as I wept next to Dustin’s hospital bed, I remember feeling that I had lost all sense of control. I realized that I was powerless over everything and I couldn’t fix Dustin or the situation. It was the most awful feeling I had ever had up until that point. I remember yelling and pounding my fists on the chair at God to give me something, anything. I suddenly realized He already had. He gave me that verse — Trust in the Lord with all your heart. I suddenly realized I wasn’t completely powerless. God gave me the strength and power to turn it all over to Him and place all my worries, fears, anxieties, all of it to Him. In doing so, I realized there was one thing I COULD control and that was my attitude. I could be resentful, angry, miserable, and sad, OR I could give it all to God and be hopeful and focus on the positives, however little they might’ve been. From that day on, I promised myself and the Lord that I would place my trust in Him and let Him take care of the rest. My burden was immediately lifted. It’s amazing the power God has in your life if you let Him in.
It’s all about casting your cares on the Lord. Without God in my life, I know for certain I would not have been able to withstand the storms that GBM threw at my family, and I know for certain I would not still be here today. I couldn’t have trudged through hell without God carrying me through. He gave me light in my darkness, and I chose to see it. After Dustin died I decided to take Michael around the country running races while pushing him in the stroller to raise money and awareness for brain cancer in Dustin’s memory. We checked a few things off his bucket list too. I wanted to keep Dustin’s spirit alive and I ran with Dustin’s running shoes in the bottom of the stroller so he could be with us the entire way. I ran and still do, because I can. I owe it to Dustin, Michael, and to myself.
I’ll never understand why GBM took Dustin away from all of us so soon and what the purpose was in God’s plan. But I do know that when you trust in the Lord and give it all to Him, he will lead you wherever you are supposed to be. We all have a purpose.
It’s been almost 2 years now since I married Jeff, a wonderful loving man whom God brought into mine and Michael’s life with a purpose. Michael is now a big brother to his little sister Kaia Grace, whom he adores.
Because I trusted the Lord, I was able to open my heart to love and be loved again. Out of the ashes, God has created something beautiful. The heartache of losing Dustin will never end, and I will deal with this heartache as long as I live. It certainly hasn’t nor will it ever be easy. But the beauty of it all is God gives us endless capacities to love and be loved. As I watched Michael, who is now 6 years old graduating from Kindergarten, I can’t help but smile too amongst my showers of tears. Although his angel daddy Dustin is not here physically to witness this memorable milestone in Michael’s life, not only is he always protecting and watching over him from the heavens but he’s so very proud of him. Additionally, Michael is blessed with a second daddy to love him and be loved by him. His earthly daddy Jeff will be there as a father to catch him when he falls, and help guide him through the good, the bad, and beautiful moments of life. I couldn’t be more grateful. It isn’t the ideal life or scenario, and certainly not what I had imagined for our life, but nonetheless I choose to be thankful instead of bitter for every chapter in my book of life, and I’m grateful for all the blessings He’s bestowed on us. The scars of losing Dustin will always run deep, for once you’ve loved and been loved by someone, that love always remains. However, I know for certainty that he is ultimately in the place we all want to be in the end — with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — and someday God will reunite us all again. Until then though, we must trust in the Lord with all our hearts and continue to live life to the fullest each and every day, no matter how tough it may be.”

Look what the Lord has done!

I had an opportunity to hang out with Revival Worship Movement at the Chesapeake Jubilee this past weekend. If you know me or have read this blog, you know I can go on and on telling our story. I have a lot of words to say! There are SO many layers to it and it’s actually 22 years in the making. It all started with a prophesy 22 years ago when God said “I will turn the heart of one around. Your prayers regarding his life will come to pass.” We’ve seen physical healing, family healing and heart healing. As I stood there during that worship song, I realized God didn’t want me to beef up our testimony with lots of words this time. This time I was just to share briefly enough to say “Look what the Lord has done!” I don’t think I’ve EVER summed up our testimony in less than 2 minutes, even with a random person at the grocery store. It was a simple message of hope. Thanks to Terrance Howell and Revival Worship Movement for giving us a chance to share what God has done.

Untainted Love by Revival Worship Movement is available for purchase at the following links!  Amazon  Google Play  Itunes  Spotify Tidalshauna


Because May is brain tumor/brain cancer awareness month…and because I look back at the last 6 years since diagnosis and say “Look what the Lord has done.” 

We aren’t any more worthy than anyone else and I don’t understand why I’ve seen so many amazing people lose their lives here in earth to Glioblastoma and why Mike is alive – I do know many lives have been touched and I knew in 2012 to start my blog so people could follow because I felt that God was going to use our situation for something big. I just felt like there was a bigger picture all along. I accepted the prognosis. I prepared, I planned a funeral, we made sure all affairs were in order. We found peace. I have gone through some lows and have been exhausted too, but 90% of the time in the past 6 years I’ve held strong.

Mike’s surgeon specifically told me not to even bother with a second opinion. That’s a huge part of my memories and a huge part of knowing God was in this from the beginning. I’m a people pleaser and I had to learn to stand up and fight back. To be an advocate for Mike and not accept just whatever I was told. His surgeon was amazing and I know every person we dealt with had a purpose for our lives. But I remember by discharge I already knew I was taking him to Duke and I had kinda asked the surgeon his thoughts on a second opinion at Duke or MD Anderson before starting treatment – he said no, not to even consider it. To contact a local doctor – which by the way, there is no a treatment that will cure GBM – chemo and radiation is just a way to buy some more months of survival. God put us on someone’s heart before Mikes surgery even happened!! She gave me a heads up on GBM and told me about how amazing Duke was before we had a diagnosis, I ALREADY knew that if I heard “GBM” that we were going to Duke for more options. She told me she knew Duke gave her extra precious months with her husband before he passed away. The Brain Tumor Center at Duke gives hope and options sometimes when other doctors don’t. Sometimes they just can’t, but I was told to get there fast (before starting any other treatment) for the best chances of having options. 

GBM is a horrible diagnosis. But it wasn’t a death sentence for Mike. Even if he would have died within that first year, GBM brought Mike into a place of eternal life. And not only Mike! So many lives have been led to God through this. CA71A330-7CDC-4F1F-A466-28CF909484E8


Grace – Our Afflictions Eclipsed by Glory

We are two months short of Mike’s 6th year past diagnosis.  My very first blog post stated “I hope this blog ends up being an awesome testimony of God’s healing and restoration.”

I haven’t posted many updates lately.  I’ve been in a place where I just couldn’t see purpose in all of this anymore. I didn’t feel like it was worth it anymore. Not feeling like you have a voice or purpose is an awful feeling. Especially since I’ve always been such a big advocate of HOPE.  I reached a place where individually I felt like my life was somewhat hopeless and was being wasted. I didn’t feel like I was living fully anymore, I was simply going through the motions.   I didn’t even know what to hope for anymore if I did dare to hope for anything.  To put it simply, I’ve just felt like a mess and was hurting a lot.

As I’m typing this, things have changed for the better since the darkest of the days.

I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to share, when, how and where. I’m not sure if I should be writing, speaking, etc. But I do know that I’m not going to sit back and let this past 6 years be for nothing. I’m not going to stop believing that there is purpose in this hardship. That I have purpose.

Many have heard 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness” But I want to back it up to 7 and 8 where Paul speaks of the thorn in his flesh, a messenger of satan, to torment him. Paul pleaded three times with the Lord to take it away from him. How many of us have something that TORMENTS us? I know I have had many things in my life that I BEGGED God to take away. God’s response was not to take it away. God said “My GRACE is SUFFICIENT for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness.”  I will be the first to admit that this has been a season of weakness for me. But Grace. My afflictions eclipsed by His glory.

I will never forget sitting in front of my husband’s oncologists office in 2012 wondering what we have done wrong to be facing a terminal cancer diagnosis. Certainly a good Christian would not be diagnosed with cancer. Certainly this is a direct result of sin. I opened my bible app and the verse that day was John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  He never promised that we would have an easy life! He actually TELLS us we WILL have trouble! He DID HOWEVER, promise us GRACE. Grace can get us through all circumstances.

As simple as that sounds, its not always something that feels attainable. I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking I have this all figured out. Being a caregiver is hard.

God’s grace shows up IN OUR WEAKNESS. IN OUR HURT. IN OUR BROKENNESS. IN OUR IMPERFECTIONS. IN OUR MISTAKES. God’s grace can eclipse all of that!

Grace allows us to still have thankfulness, to still have joy, to still have peace…even in the midst of our hardest days. His grace and forgiveness washes away even our biggest mistakes.  Or maybe sometimes Grace just realistically looks like “Hey, I survived today. I had patience today. I had peace today. Well, maybe not even in every moment…but I was those things when I didn’t think I could be.” I think we sometimes have a hard time really comprehending the big picture. For me personally, when I think of Grace….I think of surviving moments that felt helpless. I think of coming up for air when I felt like I was drowning and didn’t have the energy to even tread water. I think of the days I was able to remain calm and patient when everything around me was spiraling out of control. 

My husband was a Marine for 21 years. Two years after he retired, a month after our youngest turned 3, he woke up one day severely confused to the point that he could not even function. He had taken Thursday day off work to blow bubbles with our youngest daughter before leaving the next day on a business trip to Japan. He was really confused that morning though. He was looking in the fridge for his socks and said he needed help getting dressed. I knew something was wrong, so I loaded the two of them up and went to the ER. Initially they realized he had no right peripheral vision and they ordered a CT Scan. They found a mass on his brain and ordered an MRI. That night we spoke to a brain surgeon and were told that we were going to stay the night while they got his brain swelling under control and then we should go home and get our affairs in order and prepare for him to have brain surgery the next week.  The doctor suspected it was a high grade cancer. To make a long story short, he was diagnosed with Glioblastoma which has a prognosis of a weeks to a few months with no treatment, or maybe about a year WITH treatment. People don’t survive this cancer generally speaking. Less than 4% live to see 5 years past diagnosis.

Mike went on hospice in January 2015. While he was on hospice, our 15 year old became pregnant. That entire situation was a huge lesson for me on grace. How to give it and how to walk in it.  In Dec 2015 our grandbaby was born while Mike was still on hospice. After a year and a half on hospice, Mike was removed.  He is much like a dementia patient as he struggles with self care and memory. He requires 24 hour supervision and assistance. Through all the struggles, all the stress, all the overwhelming moments, God’s grace has sustained me.

God’s grace is bigger than our mistakes. And have I ever made mistakes.

God’s grace is bigger than our brokenness.  And I am the first to admit I’m broken.

God’s grace is bigger than our mess. I am a mess at times. I’ve made messy decisions…I don’t have all this figured out quite yet.

God’s grace is bigger than our PAIN. And let me tell you, I’ve experienced pain this year. All the emotional pain of the last 6 years hit me hard and took me on a downward spiral. I can’t be the only one who has experienced this. Nothing specifically changed on the outside, but on the inside all of a sudden I just felt Raw. Broken. Hopeless.

At my lowest, as God always does, he swooped in and saved me… Again.  And I have a feeling He will do this again and again and again.

The Session this week is called “Call it Grace” and those three words are what inspired this entire blog post. Log into Facebook and check us out April 21st at about 7pm Eastern time and hear more about the life saving power of grace.