Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

Only a few more days left until Christmas is here.  This year, unlike any other,  I wish we could host a large party to celebrate Christmas with each of you.  So many people we have never met, old friends that have found us, and friends from all over the world and in our neighborhoods that have connected with us this year.  It would be quite the global gathering with lots of great food, great music and great appreciation.  Merry Christmas to each of you and to your families. 

As you gather with your families and your friends, and as we do the same, please know that we truly appreciate you.  Every kind word, kind gesture and prayer has been felt. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Our organization, Cru, which Athletes in Action is a part of, put together a 3 minute video to express their thanks to our partners as well.  Thanks for standing with us, whether personally or as a partner with Cru and Athletes in Action.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The verdict on round 2

I'm so thankful for all the prayers over the past week. That first round of chemo that ended with me in the hospital thinking I had a stroke sure was freaky.

Well, round 2 is over. And it went great. I felt great 90% of the time, really, really wretched 5% of the time, and less-than-awesome-but-not-terrible 5% of the time. And I'm able to add 90+5+5, which I was not able to do after my fake stroke.

So, just a reminder cuz I know it's confusing. My chemo is oral. I pop a pill every night for 5-7 nights. I don't have to go anywhere for treatment. Also, if you know someone else who is being treated for a different type of cancer, they are probably a lot more miserable than I am. Bring them dinner. Or not. Send them a text, just don't expect a response.

My doc is making another slight adjustment on the dosing for round 3 and we'll keep playing this game through at least most of 2013.

Oh and my hair is starting to grow back all weird-like. I'll post pics someday.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chemo - Round 2

Thank you all so much for your prayers, encouragement and support.  Susie and I truly appreciate it.  The last 10 days to two weeks have been great.  Susie has regained a lot of her strength and energy.  The kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed her.  It's been sweet.

Tonight, Susie started her next round of chemo.  This will last for a week.  Our doctors have lowered the dosage, hoping that her body won't have the same reaction as last time, although they don't think it had to do with the chemo.

We don't know what this next week or two or more might hold, but we continue to trust the Lord for whatever may come.  We've also enjoyed the last week to the fullest.  Our Christmas tree is up.  Annie has her stocking.  Oversized Christmas cards have been ordered.  Christmas lights are up.

As you think of us over this week, thanks for praying for us.  Please pray for Susie as she goes through this next round.  Pray for peace, strength and grace for her each day.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sayin' Thanks

So, it's been a while since I've checked in. And, in that while, I had a little surprise hospital stay, Thanksgiving happened, and various other issues have creeped up in life.

It pretty much wiped me out, but it also was so refreshing to see my family all together again. Even if I did go to bed around 9:00 nightly, which seemed like a lot later than the 7:00 I'd been hitting the hay before they got here.

People who know me make fun of me for the amount of things I "don't believe in." (Some random examples include Thanksgiving and reading more than one book by the same author.) Generally, I avoid all trending pop-Christian ideas (I'm looking at you, Jesus Calling). Not because I think they're wrong, but because I am drawn to and like to celebrate the little unique corners of life. And I'm rebellious and defiant.

So, while everyone else was daily logging onto Facebook to list their items of thankfulness through this month, I was Thanksgiving scrooge. Some of that was harmless, but my heart definitely wandered into sinful places.

I would be remiss to skip it completely because I am so incredibly thankful.

I am thankful to be alive. This time last year I was feeling the strange hard-to-describe feelings that turned out to be indications of a brain tumor.

I'm thankful for my husband who has literally emptied himself of everything "him" to be "us." He did that on June 2, 2001, and a million times since then, but over the past year, he's been especially Christ-like in the way he has stepped aside, given up, assumed whatever posture he's needed to to serve me. He's created quite the monstrously needy wife!

I'm thankful for our families. They've all dropped everything to be with us, help us, travel across the country just to remind us that they love us.  For being long-distance, we've enjoyed the benefits of their love as if they lived close by. So, PMCA and Dr. & Maggie Carber, I'm thankful for you too. Because you've let them come. Every time. And I've really needed them.

I'm thankful for doctors and technology and smart people. For breakthroughs and research and new ideas.

For AIA and our financial supporters. We can't wait to be back full-time doing what we love. Your grace in the meantime has been precious.

For friends. Friends make you feel normal - remind you that life is still going on, and make you feel like you're part of it. Friends let you be scared and cry or pray prayers filled with curse words. Friends lay in bed with you and feed you milkshakes and wait patiently when your brain can't form coherent sentences.

For art and music and reading and tv. For outlets for my mind into beautiful or imaginative spaces. Seriously, for Parenthood where I can see my moments on a tiny screen.

I'm thankful for the Body. This has been a weird church year for us as we've begun a transition from our home church (which we love and continue to connect with) to a local church (my loyalty to Fairborn knows no bounds). But both places have been what we've needed. And, of course, the Body extends far beyond the walls of either of those buildings. Into churches and houses and places and countries we've never been. I'm thankful for you.

Whew, that was a long one. Sorry about that. When my brain shut down recently, it became challenging to read and write.

I start chemo again in a week, so it might be another long while until I say hi. Until then, here's my question for you: How do you trust God for big, miraculous things while still maintaining a heart and mind submissive to His mysterious will?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Heading home

Thank you all so much for your prayers, Susie and I are overwhelmed at the response from all of you. We feel loved and cared for. Thank you. We are on our way home. We knew coming here that we might not figure out what was causing Susie's recent symptoms. However, we also knew we could rule out several things. Thankfully, they have ruled out scary things like a stroke, new tumor growth and seizures. At this point, their best guess is this must be an adverse reaction to her chemotherapy. We will address this in the weeks ahead. I am also happy to let you know that Susie is working her phone again! She has been practicing and working hard to be able to do this. It still may take a few weeks before she is back to where she used to be, but she has made tremendous progress. She has also made progress with her speech, memory, balance and other cognitive issues. We will continue to observe her at home and see if she will need any further physical, speech or occupational therapy. Thanks for praying for us. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we navigate the next few weeks to see how Susie does. We are hoping and trusting that the Lord would heal Susie completely and restore her to full strength and capacity. We are excited to go home today and see our kids. I'm very thankful to bring mommy back home to them. Blessings, Ben

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Heading to the hospital

Thank you all so much for your prayers today. 

At the beginning of our journey, the Lord used the story of Him providing daily manna for his people in the Old Testament as an encouragement and guide for me.  That still remains true today.  God provides for me and for us each day.  I asked for prayer today for Susie.  I was hoping we would make some progress in figuring out what was going on with her cognitive issues. 

Well, after consulting with our doctors, they agree that this is abnormal.  What she is experiencing goes beyond normal fatigue from chemo and something else is going on.  They also agree that further testing needs to be done to determine the cause.  So tomorrow morning we will be admitted to the hospital to begin this round of tests.  I don’t anticipate being there for more than a few days, but we’ll see.  One day at a time. 

Thanks for your continued prayers for us – Susie, the kids, and me.  We truly appreciate them.   Please continue to pray for healing for Susie – both for her long term health and the immediate cognitive deficits.  I’m praying the Lord would restore her memory, speech, strength and balance.  Please also keep the kids in prayer as they adjust to some changes over the next few days.  Please also pray that the doctors may be able to determine the cause of what is happening and that it would be fixed.  I’m especially praying that she would be able to work her phone again.  This has been one of the results of what has been going on, she has lost the ability to navigate her phone.  For those of you who know Susie, you know how much she loves her phone.  The day I bought her an Iphone for Christmas she said to me, “Now that I have an Iphone, there is nothing in the world that I can’t know!" 

I’m learning more and more that with brain cancer, ups and downs are part of the normal course of the journey.  There are good weeks and bad weeks.  Although I was hoping we would have had a longer stretch of good weeks, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be loved by God each day in the midst of the good things, scary things and hard things.   Thanks for lifting us up in prayer. 



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A call to prayer

The title to this entry seems redundant, as I know so many of you pray for us. 

I wanted to ask for an extra measure of prayer on behalf of Susie over the next 24-72 hours.  She continues to deal with fatigue from the chemo.  She still has no appetite.  Those are all normal and expected. 

Beyond these, there have been some other symptoms she is having that are causing some more concern for me.   Please pray for God's healing hand to be on her.  That He might restore her health and specifically her cognitive function.

Thanks for praying.  Please also pray for Simon, Talya, Charlie and Annie.

Thankful that our God hears us, knows what we need before we even ask.  So thankful that He loves us. 

Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A tough week

This past week was Susie’s first week on chemo at a higher dose.  It proved to be tougher than we expected.  Please keep her in your prayers as she has finished this course.  She is very fatigued and has spent the better part of the last 3 days sleeping and in bed.  The good news is she will be off for the next 4 weeks until her next round in December. 

Also, please keep our kids in your prayers.  Talya has had a little cough.  Charlie has had a cough and has had trouble keeping his food down as a result of it.  I’ll be taking him to the pediatrician tomorrow. 

Thanks for your continued prayers and support.  We were told to expect these sorts of side affects for Susie, but going through this last week was hard.  We pray and hope for the Lord to renew Susie’s physical strength in the days to come.  We continue to be thankful for how He provides for us each day.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Figuring out normal

We have been home from the Lake for a little over a week and half.  The time at the Lake and out East was great.  A good time to see family and disconnect from life in Ohio.  I'm especially thankful now, in light of Hurricane Sandy, that we were able to see all of our family out East.

Many of you have asked, and all of our family are doing well.  John & Christina had some significant siding damage, my parents had a tree fall on their roof, and everyone lost power.  Other than that, they are all doing well and thankful that nothing more serious occurred. 

Thanks for the many calls, texts, e-mails and prayers inquiring as to how we are doing.  We are doing well.  As a family, it has been great to start to get back into a rhythm as we embark on a different season of our journey.  The next 6-8 months will have its share of medical treatments, scans and consults, but it feels a lot less stressful than what we experienced since the start of everything in January. 

Susie has regained a good amount of her energy.  It has been fun to see her engage with the kids, with friends, working out and other "normal" things.   To keep up with it all, she is usually in bed by 8 or so as she is drained from the activities of the day.  

Susie's last MRI came back with no reports of tumor growth.  We are very thankful for that.  The doctors are pleased with how well her body has handled her radiation and chemo therapy treatments.  After some blood tests this week, she will begin a 6-8 month regimen of chemotherapy next week.  It will be 5 days in a row of her chemo pills, and then 3 weeks off, for the next 6-8 months.  They are hoping that between the radiation and the chemo, this will slow the tumor cells from forming into another tumor.  Of course, we are hoping and praying the tumor will never grow back, but with her form of brain cancer, this is unlikely.  We will be having MRI's every two months to monitor her brain. 

My work has been gracious to extend to us a time of rest and recovery through the end of this year.  We are very thankful for that.  Part of this time will be used to figure out what role is next for us.  We have had some preliminary discussions already, but will start some more direct and thorough conversations this week. 

Your continued prayers and support are appreciated as we figure out what normal is for this next stage of life.  It will continue to include doctors, treatments, scans, as well as friends that help with laundry, our kids, cleaning our house and so much more.  Thanks to all of you who are helping in some way.  Thanks for all of you who continue to bless us with monetary gifts or gift cards so we can have the help we need.  Thanks to all of you who continue to pray for us. 

"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name." - Psalm 103

Blessings to each of you,

Ben for Team Thomas

Friday, October 5, 2012

A time to rest!

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes says, "To everything there is a season.  A time for every purpose under the sun."

Well, our family is about to enter a time of rest.  With 4 young kids, we're not sure how much rest we'll get.  Nonetheless, we will be heading to one of our favorite places in the world, Lake George, for some peace, quiet and refreshment.  We will have the opportunity to enjoy the quietness and beauty of the greatest Lake in the US and the surrounding Adirondack mountains, while also enjoying Susie's grandparents and her family.  In addition to some time of rest, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Susie's grandma and Pop-Pop's 90th birthdays!  We can't wait.  Before we get there, we'll celebrate my mom's 70th birthday this weekend on Long Island. 

The van is packed, DVD players installed, diapers, wipes and formula are ready. 

We have enjoyed a great week and half of no treatments for Susie.  She is doing great and gaining more and more of her energy each day.  This morning as I woke up and greeted the kids, I asked Sy a lot of questions about if things were ready for school.  Lunch, clothes, homework.  He answered each one with yes, mommy did it!  I looked at him, looked at Susie and said, "Mommy is back.  She is on top of it." 

What a joy.  We've also been blessed this week with several nights of "sleeping through the night" for Annie.  That has been great.

Thanks for your continued prayers on our behalf.  This Tuesday, I had the chance to address our staff team at AIA during our Worldwide Day of Prayer.  I shared with them some lessons the Lord has been teaching me from Psalm 103.  I shared with them, that much like the Psalmist, I've recognized that the journey we are on, is much more about who God is than who we are!  So thankful for God's love, grace and mercy which continue to sustain us each day.  Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A change in leadership

Over three years ago, we had the distinct privilege of being asked to lead Athletes in Action’s Global Family. We were humbled at this amazing opportunity and responsibility, and we have grown to love - more and more each year - the men and women who make up our team. This role of global leadership has strengthened our marriage, reinforced our heart for the world, stoked the passion in our hearts to see the gospel spread.

As we look back on these three years, we can say that the Lord has led us well. In Joshua 21:43-45, Joshua recounts that every promise made to the people of Israel was fulfilled, not one of them failed.  As we look back today, we can say that this has been true for Susie and me.  

As Susie finished her initial stages of treatment and we look forward to the future, there are a few things that we are certain of:
  • God is with us.  He will go before us and lead the way, just as He has. 
  • “Bless the Lord O my soul” will remain our theme. 
  • We are now in a season of life where caring and investing into our family requires much more than it used to.
After seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the counsel of others, and times of prayer, we have recognized that we will no longer be able to lead the global family of Athletes in Action.  Our confidence that this is the right decision does not in any way take away from the sadness we feel in making it. In so many ways, this has been our “dream job,” and it hurts that it is one of the things that cancer is taking away from us.

As we face reality and make necessary adjustments, we also recognize that our commitment to see the gospel change the world has not changed. We will remain on staff with Athletes in Action and Cru. We will spend the next several months transitioning leadership to Larry & Debby Thompson who we believe God has provided “for such a time as this.” We have confidence in their leadership and are excited to see the direction in which they will take Athletes in Action around the world.

We will also begin the process of figuring out what specific role is next for us. We want to be purposeful as to how we live the next few years of our life together. We ask you to pray for us as we determine our next steps and ask God to open and close doors for us. 

We thank you so much for your continued love and support during a difficult time.

You can also view a video of the announcement by clicking on this link:

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I finished radiation today. We had quite the little plan. I'd bought gifts and written cards for my therapists. Our sweet neighbor was taking the middle kids for the morning. Megan, my mom, and Annie were going to join us at the hospital to witness the ceremonial bell-ringing. Then we were going to have a sweet celebration with friends and be home in time to nap before Talya made me carrot cake (her random idea).

And, really, it all seemed a bit ridiculous to me. Because, really, I haven't done a dang thing to be proud of except for take a snooze every morning on an uncomfortable table with lasers pointed at my head. But these things are important to Ben, and I love him for it. It's like when he forced me to go to my college graduation even though I'd finished school a semester ago because he thought I should do the diploma/shake hands with Jay thing. Well, I'm right about most of our things, but he's right about these ones. It does feel good to gather with those who know you well enough to know what you're celebrating and what you're not and ring a bell and shake some hands and give some hugs and be given a piece of paper that says "you did it."

But the machine broke. It's happened once before. It's not a comforting thought to think that the machine that aims damaging light rays into your brain can malfunction so easily, but it can and it does. And, for me, that meant our little plan got derailed and we spent most of the day waiting for them to tell us we could come in.

Our celebration shrunk, but it did include Dairy Queen. And 6 really loud kids. And two friends who turned their days inside out to be with me. One friend who knows too well that you can celebrate treatment ending even when you know that it doesn't mean anything is over.

So, it was anti-climactic. Charlie rang the bell for me. I signed the board, joining my name with hundreds of others to say, "I was here. I walked this walk and even though I'm tired and half-bald, I've come out of these past 7 weeks a little better than the broken machine."

And that horrible, horrible mask? I got to bring it home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quick hi!

My word, I am tired! Just wanted to say a quick hi and thank you to all of you praying for us. For sure, the fatigue that is supposed to come with radiation has hit. And Ben and I have each caught some sort of bug. Ben's about done, just in time to give me a break as it hits me hard. We've been blessed by friends who have helped/are helping us get through. My good friend Adrianne is in town for the next few days and will take super good care of all of us while I hide in my room and sleep.

Annie is a gem. Really, such a sweet, easy-going little one. I am praying, praying, praying that she will start sleeping all night long. Ben has taken over the night time feedings, and while he swears he doesn't mind, I know he could use the extra energy. He's got some busy days ahead with work, and his wife is pretty needy :)

It's weird, at radiation. We see the same people every day, and don't know each other well, but still share a little bond. A couple patients have celebrated the end of their treatment, and I just feel such a mixture of sadness that we won't be seeing them anymore, but still "I hope I never see you again!" because I want this treatment to be the end of their journey with cancer.

Ahhh. Time for bed. Love!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

9 more to go!

Today was a special day.  Sy's 7th birthday.  What a great kid!  What a blessing the Lord has given us with him.  This weekend was fun as we celebrated him.  Star Wars themed everything - party, cupcakes, gifts, etc.  He is so much fun to celebrate!

It was also a reminder of God's goodness, as Susie was able to fully participate in what she loves to do - planning the birthday parties, making them so creative, and giving her creativity to her children.  As we started the process of treatment, one of the things we were sad about the most was the thought of Susie being completely out of it, when Sy's birthday came around.

Well, the Lord has sustained her, helped her and allowed her to enjoy the richest blessings in her life over the last 5 weeks - her kids.  She's been able to love on Annie, Talya, Charlie and Sy and it's been a joy to see.  She's still a great mom and uses whatever energy she has to love on them. 

We have 9 more treatments to go.  5 days this week and 4 next week.  Thanks for your continued prayers for Susie and our family.  We are praying that she finishes well.  The treatments do what they are supposed to do, and the Lord brings a total and complete healing to her. 

Going to treatment every day has been a blessing.  We see the same people each day and it's been a very loving community.  The fellow patients, technicians, doctors and support staff.  Susie does an incredible job of letting her light shine through her.  She brings a smile to each of their faces.  Please keep our treatment community in your prayers especially as we finish.  

As you pray, please also keep our family in your prayers.  The last few days, I've been battling a cold, and am hoping it stays away from Susie and the kids.  Praying that this goes away fast, even though its already been a few days. 

Thanks again for praying for us, caring for us and loving us.  We continue to be amazed at how many people are praying and reaching out to us all over the world.  God's love, grace and mercy are new each day and we continue to be awed, thankful and humbled by Him and each of you. 

Friday, August 24, 2012


All of your prayers, acts of kindness and good wishes have carried us to this point: half-way through therapy. First of all, don't you love that this is called "therapy?" It sounds so optional, like I'm getting over a fear of spiders or something.

I reserve the right to take back all of these words later, should the bottom fall out and I am completely miserable, but can I just say - This is not as horrible as I thought it would be.

My hair is falling out. All the time, it's raining hair around me. It's kind of gross. All of our garbage cans are full of hair. And yet, so far, I just have a small bald spot that is coverable by a large flower. So, I sort of look like an infant, but it's better than a wig.

I'm not nauseous. I'm not puking. I eat. I'm getting some sleep. I found a few cute hats. I'm driving. I've been to Simon's school a few times. We've been able to spend time with friends. Annie knows that night is night and day is day. I get twenty minutes of quiet all to myself five days a week. The breast to bottle transition was neither smooth nor painless, but it's done.

I am extra tired. But, Ben, my mom and Bayley have taken care of me and taken care of the kids - all FOUR of them. And we are well. Now we just have to talk Bayley into dropping out of college so she doesn't have to leave us next week :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Week #3

Just to clarify this is Ben, so please lower all expectations of writing genius that is my amazing wife.

So we've started the dreaded week #3.  This is the week they tell you about on the front end.  The week that takes you from, "Oh this isn't so bad," to, "wow, my hair, or in this case, my wife's hair is really starting to fall out!" 

Susie is still as beautiful as ever.  She is at the beginning of the hair shedding stage.  If she's around you, she'll just apologize for the hair that she sheds behind.  She's been a little tired, but really, who isn't.  For whatever reason, Baby Annie is still not sleeping through the night at 4 weeks.  She insists on getting up every 3 hours or so for a feeding and a diaper change!

Thanks for your many prayers for us.  We truly appreciate them.  Thanks also for the cards, gifts and messages you send to us.  We look forward to returning home from treatment to see what the mailman has for us each day. 

We continue to feel loved by our Savior, by each other and by you.  Thanks.  Bless the Lord, O My Soul!

In Him,


P.S.  I recently had the privilege of preaching a sermon.  I entitled it God Wins.  To listen to it please visit:
Scroll down to the end to find it and listen to it. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Things I Want to Say

At radiation today, there was a film crew there with WDTN. And well, I have a baby. And a brain tumor. Which is obviously pretty exciting. So, they asked if they could sit down with us and my doctor and do a little interview. Which is supposed to be on tv tonight at 5:00. We'll see. If some nutso decides to take Kroger hostage or something, I'm sure I'll get bumped.  If it's on, it will be short and sweet, and I'll ramble like an idiot and still only say a tiny fraction of all there is to be said. So, here's the rest:

1) My doctor's name is Dr. Einstein. Seriously. I'm not kidding. Obviously, he's a genius.

2) I think the point of the news story is to focus on the technology that exists to treat things like brain tumors. And, really, it's pretty amazing. I have a lot to learn about it all, but I want to learn it all. I wish I could sit there and watch someone else get their brain radiated while I asked a zillion questions. But, I'm pretty sure that would violate HIPPA and stuff. So, I just take my turn lying on the table, listening to the machines whir around me, and I imagine all of the crazy stuff it's doing and how much planning went into it, and I am amazed. It is so strange, but the times I've spent lying on a table, crammed into a tube, and/or smothered under a mask, have been the most devotional moments I've gotten to experience over the past crazy months. When you can't see or hear much, and there's a foot-thick door separating you from the world, and there's no way to know how the story goes, but you know how it ends, what else is there to do but worship? And rest and trust. Believe me, it's easier to do those things when you can't do anything else.

3) We live in southwestern Ohio. It has a reputation for being a little lame. But I love it here. One of my dream jobs is to do PR for the Miami Valley because I just love it so much. In March, I was at a conference where a lot of jokes were made about the medical care here in the Dayton area. And, I just kept thinking, I just had brain surgery here. With a teeny baby in my womb. And it was fine. (I just showed how not qualified I am for the hypothetical PR job by starting my pitch with "a little lame.")

4) We were referred to Dr. Einstein because of the technology he uses. But we chose Dr. Einstein because I felt like he seemed more concerned that I had a tumor than he did excited about his technology. Every step of the way, we've been thankful for doctors who are as compassionate as they are competent.

5) My favorite thing about radiation therapy is the planning process. I know absolutely nothing about it, but it strikes me as remarkable. Unlike a drug, where years of research and testing go into creating it and then you put it in your body like a bomb and hope it works, a plan for radiation therapy is specifically planned and tailored to each patient. In my case, Dr. Einstein promises that he planned to minimize the exposure of my scalp, to protect my hair. Unless you're 33 years old, have had long hair your whole life, and are as vain and shallow as I am, you have no idea how much that means to me! Also, that completely validates the fact that I have (because I'm vain/shallow/psycho) intentionally gone to every dr. appt with "good hair" so that they can see how important it is to me to keep it.

That's all for now. Oh, and like Ben awkwardly mentioned, I stopped nursing Annie after two weeks of feeding/pumping around the clock which has been one of the more uncomfortable things I've ever experienced in my whole life. Five days later, I am finally not sending Ben out to the store every night for cabbage leaves. Victory.

Monday, August 13, 2012

And Week #2 begins!

Thanks to so many of you for your prayers, calls, texts, e-mails, cards, and gifts as we started radiation & chemo last week.  Susie did great.  I am so proud of her.  She handles each day with courage and strength, which makes her even more beautiful to me!

The primary side effect she experienced last week were headaches each day and a little bit of fatigue.  They say this is normal.  She also stopped nursing last week and that continues to be hard and have some issues associated with it.

The therapists we work with are great.  They do a great job and make us feel comfortable, loved and cared for each day.  All the kids have come with us at least once to see mommy's "treatment."  Typically Charlie and Annie accompany us.  Everyone at the treatment center loves it and they treat them very special.

We have been told that the next 6-8 weeks will be an uphill battle, and by the end of this week some more significant side effects could take place.  We are thankful for a good first week though and will continue to take it one day at time and try and rest in God's love, mercy and grace. 

Annie is doing well.  She is adorable.  She has done a good job switching to a bottle.  She does okay at night time and keeps us up for at least one longer-than-we-like stretch at night. 

Thanks again for your kindness towards us.  Our family continues to be amazed at the love we have received from so many.  We are especially thankful for Susie's mom, Bayley and Megan as they help each day.  God's steadfast love continues to remain at the forefront of each day for us and we are thankful to experience it. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Helping the Thomas Family

The Thomases are so thankful for all of the ways they've been loved and supported by their friends, family, church, and community. The cards, gifts, gift cards, and offers to help have meant so much to them on this journey.

Susie begins her radiation and chemo therapy today, Monday, August 6th.

Many people have expressed interest in helping with meals during this time. If you'd like to help with this, I ask you to consider restaurant gift cards, as that seemed to provide the Thomas family with the most flexibility in feeding the family on the "bad" days, while giving Susie the freedom to cook on her "good" days.

Recommended gift cards include:  City Barbecue, Buffalo Wild Wings, Donatos, LaRosa's, Red Robin, Five Guys, Hibachi Grill, Linh’s Vietnamese (937-252-1857 begin_of_the_skype_highlightingFREd_of_the_skype_highlighting), Foy's Grill (937-878-1351)in_of_the_skype_highlightingFRend_of_the_skype_highlig, and Jeet India (937-431-8881).  Other helpful options include Kroger or Meijer (both grocery stores), or Speedway (gas station).

You can mail all gift cards to me and I will be sure to get them to Ben and Susie.

Megan Soderberg
Athletes in Action
651 Taylor Drive
Xenia, OH  45385
Thank you all again for your love and support to Ben, Susie, Simon, Talya, Charlie and Annie.  If you have any questions, please contact me at


Radiation day 1

I'm laying in bed nursing Annie for what may be the last time. (so, obvi, this is Susie.) As soon as my chemo scrip is ready and I pop the first pill, I have to end this sweet part of my life. I'm not going to lie - that is super sad for me. I'm not scared of formula, I'm just going to miss the gift of being the only one in the world who can give Annie what she needs every three hours.

With that, here are some more specific things you can join me in praying for. Ben will now be responsible for night duty, so I'm asking for rest for him and an easy transition for Annie to the bottle.

Below is a picture of me in my radiation mask. Isn't it creepy? I'm praying I don't freak out, because it is so tight and makes 45 minutes in an MRI seem like a vacation. I'm also hoping I don't sneeze, cough or have a seizure while wearing it because then I'd really lose it. (and possibly break my nose?)

The treatments are short though.

Ben and I snuck away for a little date last night which was great. Simon watched Annie while my mom gave talya a bath :)

Well, here goes. Thanks for praying. Oh and I was just kidding about breaking my nose. That shouldn't happen.

Whatever may pass and whatever comes before me, let me be singing when the evening comes!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Treatment begins

Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me Bless His holy name!

These words continue to ring true in our hearts and our lives as we have enjoyed Annie's birth and little life.  Every time I look at her I'm reminded of God's goodness and faithfulness to us.  We are so thankful.

Monday morning, we enter a new stage in this journey that started back in late January.  Susie will begin her radiation & chemo therapy treatments.  For the next 6 weeks, Monday through Friday, at 9:25, she will receive her radiation therapy.  She will be on an oral chemo drug as well.

The most common effects that come with the therapies are fatigue, some hair loss and nausea.  They begin to kick in around week number 3, and get progressively worse through 3 weeks after the treatments are over.  We are bracing for all of these, but hoping the Lord will spare Susie as much as possible. 
So many of you have been so faithful to pray for us.  Thank you.  As we engage with therapy over the next 6-9 weeks, I'd like to ask you to continue to pray for us.  Pray for strength, grace, normalcy, healing & joy.  May we continue to rest in God's steadfast love, unchanging mercy and abounding grace. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Meet Baby Annie!

In thankfulness for God's gift, the Thomas family would like to invite local friends to come meet Annie and celebrate her entrance into the world. Please drop in sometime Saturday evening from 7:00-9:00 pm. If you need their address, just let me (Megan) know by contacting me at

*Also*-  Gifts are not necessary! We are mindful of the blessing of excellent health care and how that has changed the outcome of a potentially very dangerous situation for Susie & Annie. So, if you'd like to bring something, we invite you to bring any of the items listed below, to be used in "Clean Birth Kits", which can help women and infants around the world experience safe deliveries. We will have a little Birth Kit station where together we can assemble these life-saving kits and they will be sent on one of YWAM's medical ships to rural Paupau New Guinea, where 1 in 7 women die in childbirth.

 To participate, please bring some of the following supplies:

1. Bars of Soap (Regular size or hotel size--for the birth attendant to wash her hands).
2. Plastic gloves (for the birth attendant to wear).
3. Gauze 
4. Utility blades (found at hardware store- used to cut the cord).
5. Strong string (2 for tying the cord, 1 for “just in case”).
6. One plastic sheet (for a clean birthing surface). Sheet should be approximately 1×1 meter or 1×1 yard and can be purchased at your hardware or paint store.
7. Sandwich-size ziplock bag (to pack the contents).
Ben, Susie and Annie look forward to seeing all of you!  If you have any questions or want to RSVP, please contact me at

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Well she's just the cutest. I'm going to try to figure out how to post the pics that are hiding on my phone. Let's see if I can figure this out. bear w me, this might take a few tries!

I can't figure out how to type between pics, but here's what we have:

Sibling love. Little last. Waking up faces. Going to sleep faces. We have Olympic fever, looks like Charlie is training for ski jumping? The kids planned a one-week birthday party for Annie, complete w costumes. Baby bottom. More party pics.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Baby Annie has arrived

Thanks so much for your prayers, comments, facebook posts, texts and calls. After a long day of mostly waiting, Baby Anna made her appearance late in the evening. Susie did great. Annie is doing great as well. Throughout the whole day I was just reminded of the grace the Lord has given us through this journey. We are so blessed. Thank you Jesus for your love and grace. Her brothers and sister can't wait to meet her tomorrow. We'll post pictures soon. Bless the Lord O my soul!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

T-minus 1 day....

Susie and I are scheduled to go to the hospital tonight to begin the induction process.  If all goes according to plan, Baby Annie will make her arrival tomorrow.  We can't wait.

As I reflect on the last several months, I am so thankful for the grace that the Lord has given us to get us to this point.  What a journey it has been.  I am overcome with a heart of thankfulness - to the Lord, our family, friends and this vast array of people from all over the world that have prayed for us, encouraged us and supported us along the way.

Please continue to pray for us, especially over the next 24-48 hours as Susie & Annie go through the delivery process.  We are hoping for a very smooth process and a natural delivery, without needing a c-section. 

Once Annie makes her appearance, we will be posting pictures along the way for you all to enjoy. 

For our friends locally, we would love for you to meet Annie.  We will be hosting an Open House sometime in the next 2-4 weeks.  We will let you know the exact date in the next few days. 

In the meantime, as much as we want to share Annie with you, we are going to be limiting the amount of visitors we have.  We are going to be focusing on Susie's recovery and her time with Annie, as she'll start her radiation and chemotherapy in 2 weeks.  Thanks for your understanding in this. 

Well, off to finish a few things before we head to the hospital - finishing the deck, making a table, pedicures (for Susie & her mom), one final date without an infant! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bless the Lord O my Soul - one more week to go!

There is a song that Susie and I have been listening to over and over again, 10,000 reasons by Matt Redman.  It is taken from Psalms 103, where the basic premise is, Bless the Lord, O my soul.  Regardless of what is or has gone in your life, Bless the Lord.  During times of despair, God's love reaches down and pulls you out.  During times of rejoicing He is there.  His love, compassion, righteousness (taking away our sin, and replacing it with His perfection), His mercy and His kingdom is with us. 

Today marks 38 weeks for Annie in Susie's womb.  It also marks the day we lost a baby, Elijah, when we were living in India.  Starting with the loss of Elijah, we have experienced God in ways we never had before.  It was a time of grief that we hadn't walked through before and yet, God's presence, love and compassion were with us. 

As we look forward to a week from today when Annie will be born, I look back to January 25th, the day we found out about Susie's tumor.  God has been with us every step of the way.  They started out by saying she wouldn't survive surgery.  Then it was, she'll be ok.  Then we were trying to get to 32 weeks, which seemed impossible.  After that it was 36 and then it was 39!

We are not sure everything that will be included in Annie's story, we look forward to seeing all that God has in store for her.  I do pray that with everyday, she would learn to say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul.  All that is within me, bless His holy name."

It's been a blessing for Susie, our kids and myself to, 'Bless His Holy Name!'  Thanks for standing with us.

P.S.  Susie is scheduled to be induced next Thursday 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Baby Annie is coming soon...

Thanks so much for all your prayers.  Susie and I and our family truly appreciate them. 

Yesterday we met with your radiation oncologist and our ob.  Here is what we found out:

  • Susie's tumor is stable and is still not growing!  
    • My response - We are so thankful for this
  • The baby is doing great.  Susie is now 36 weeks along.  
    • My response: I never thought this would be possible.  From the beginning of all of this I thought we would be lucky to get to 32.  God just wowed me!
  • They are planning on delivering Susie is 3 weeks - somewhere around July 18-20th. 
    • My response: I'm hoping for the 19th since it's a prime number!  Oh, I'm also hoping Susie can make it 3 more weeks.  She is pretty pregnant and feeling it.  
  • About 2 weeks after the delivery, we will begin her radiation therapy.  
    • My response:  Jesus, please heal her before then.  If not, help us to enjoy bringing Annie home and give us the grace and strength to walk with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.       
There you have it.  So the next 3 weeks we are going to try and enjoy some downtime and just soak up our time before bringing a newborn home.  We are a little nervous about that, since it's been over 4 years since our last new born.  Susie has done an incredible job with Annie's room.  It's amazing.

Thanks for praying for us.  We truly appreciate it.  Many of you continue to ask how you can help.  In the next few days, we'll post some ways that should you want to help, you could.


Ben & Susie

Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 7th update

Thanks so much for your prayers.  Today was non-stop, but we were thankful for many things:

  • Thankful that Susie's MRI yesterday, did not show any growth in her tumor!!!  Praising the Lord for this.  
  • Thankful that baby Annie is growing at a good rate.  Susie is 33 weeks today!  
  • Thankful for a great medical team - oncologists, radiation oncologists, ob's, neurosurgeons, neurologists - and all of their support teams.  Very thankful for the service and wisdom of each one.
  • Thankful for the continued generosity of others.  We were referred to a local attorney to help us with some paperwork.  I met with him on Tuesday and he told me he was going to do all of our work free of charge!    
  • Thankful for some next steps.  
    • When Susie hits 37 weeks, we'll have another MRI.  If that is clear, we will look to deliver Annie around 39 weeks.  If the MRI is not clear, then we'll deliver soon after the MRI.  
    • After delivery, Susie will begin her radiation treatment.  
  • Thankful for each of you who care about us, encourage us and pray for us!  
Going to bed after a long day, very thankful.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to measure 11 years.

So, it’s our anniversary today. 11 years! Last night I was thinking about it as I was painting a Goodwill dresser purple for Annie’s room - thinking how it might be more accurate to measure our marriage in coats of paint than in years. Then, obviously, I got the Rent song in my head (“Seasons of Love”), which is adorable but kind of depressing - you know just like us :) Well, we’re not depressing, but our prognosis kind of is, and the reality is that for as much as we love each other, we might not get 50-60 years together (or we might). But, we’ve had 11 years so far and I started making a list. No matter how long we have together, you can measure our marriage in:

  • choices, decisions, and lots of re-dos. 
  • arguments, “I’m sorries,” and forgiveness granted. 
  • pregnancy tests, disappointments, and shouts of joy. 
  • Diapers, and bottles, and midnight feedings. 
  • Appointments, and forms filled out, and $20 co-pays 
  • Happy Meals and babysitters and frozen pizzas for stolen date nights. 
  • Road trips, and miles, and on-time oil changes. 
  • Passport stamps and visas and airport greetings. 
  • Good news and bad news and friends to share it with. 
  • Text messages and emails and love letters before there were cell phones. 
  • House guests and parties and visits round the country. 
  • Dollars raised and saved and spent and given away. 
  • The number of times we’ve promised ourselves we’d buy each other bikes (and use them).
  • Rolled eyes, sarcastic comments, slammed doors and tip-toes back. 
  • Flowers, and presents, and celebrations. 
  • Crayons bought and lost and caps left off of markers. And artwork for the refrigerator. 
  •  Attempts at crossing a cultural divide, and failures to pronounce the easiest Malayalam correctly.
  • Wedding rings (given, lost, and upgraded). 
  • Rickshaws and faux pas, and help wrapping a sari. 
  • School programs, and pictures, and rounds of applause. 
  • Coaching, and shin guards, and post-game snack times. 
  • Prayers, praises, and finding that when our rope has ended, there’s still a hand to hold. 

 It sure doesn’t seem like eleven years is long enough to fit all of that into our lives. Life may not always be long enough, but dang if it isn’t beautiful. Oh, and in case I sound too morbid, I’m fully intending on another 50 years together.  Here’s to Year 12 and then 2051 when you’re all invited for cake and dancing for our golden anniversary.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Prayer Requests

Thanks to so many of you who have continued to pray for us.  We have been doing well and enjoying some normal.  However, we are heading into a 2 week stretch of various doctors appointments that we would ask for you to be praying for us about.

  • Tomorrow, we meet with Susie's neurologist.  We haven't really seen him since the surgery.  When we meet with him tomorrow, he will determine, whether or not, Susie can be granted her full driving privileges.  This is a huge prayer request.  Based on what the law says, we don't think this should be a problem.  However, it will be up to his discretion to grant this.
  • Friday, we meet with our baby doctor and have another ultrasound.  The last few have been great and we pray this would continue.
  • Next week, Susie has another MRI - we continue to pray that God heals the tumor and that there is no growth.
  • After that we will meet with our radiation oncologist & our OB.  We are hoping to determine a more solidified plan as to when we will have the baby and then begin radiation treatment.  We will also be discussing when we should start chemo as well.  Please pray for wisdom, peace and unity with us and our doctors as we approach this.
Tomorrow, Susie will be 32 weeks along in her pregnancy.  Praise the Lord.  I am absolutely humbled when I think about it.  We started this journey 18 weeks ago.  God's mercies truly have been new each day and we are so thankful for each one of them.  Throughout this journey, I thought, if we could get to 32 weeks that would be awesome - anything after that was just bonus.  Looks like we have a little bonus time coming up and I am so thankful for that.

Thanks again for lifting us up.  I can sense that we are preparing for another season of crazy as we get ready to have the baby and then begin treatments.  We'll continue to update you all in the process.

In His Grip,

Ben & Susie

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A little update from Team Thomas

It has been amazing to continue to feel the support, love and prayers of so many in our town and around the world.  At every turn, God continues to bless us, through different ones we meet who have been praying for us.  Thank you for your continued prayers and shows of support on our behalf.

We are doing well.  The last few weeks have been some of the most "normal" weeks we've had since everything started back in January. 

  • Susie's tumor is stable and has not grown - Praise God
  • Baby Annie is growing and is now 29 weeks.  When we started this, she was 14 weeks.  Every time I think at how far we've come and how much she has grown, I am amazed, humbled and thankful.  
  • Sy, Talya and Charlie are excited about Baby Annie.  Every day they greet her with kisses and hugs.  
  • Susie has begun exercising again at the local YMCA.  She does a lot of her workouts in the water.  She has also been volunteering at Sy's school which has been fun for the both of them.
  • I (Ben) have begun to enter back into work a little bit which has been nice.  I've also been playing basketball regularly with our local high school team.  I'm also coaching Sy & Talya's soccer team, the Lions!  It's a blast. 
  • Our family assistant, Bailey, started this week.  She is awesome and we are so thankful for her.  
  • We planted our first garden over the weekend.  This is our first attempt at a garden.  We'll see how it goes.  

Thanks for praying for us, helping us, and supporting us.  Susie and I are so thankful.  We'll have another MRI in a month, which will put Susie at 33-34 weeks.  Hopefully we'll be able to make it to the 36 week mark before we need to have the baby.  Until then, we'll continue to enjoy some normal as Sy finishes school, Talya gets ready for her dance recital and Charlie continues to perfect going to the potty without any accidents. 

God's blessings to each of you.

In Him,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Another month, another MRI

It's hard to believe this whole drama started on January 25; it seems like a lot has been crammed into less than three months! We had two MRIs this week and a couple of dr appointments. Today, we met with our neurosurgeon to get the report.

The MRIs were good. They didn't show anything unexpected. One of the MRIs was actually a fancy little scan called a Spectroscopy which looks at the metabolic activity (that makes me sound smart but might be total crap - I'm not sure if that's right at all) or chemical make-up of the tissues and can differentiate normal brain tissue from some stuff that doesn't belong in the brain. It showed that there is residual tumor left over from the surgery - the "area of concern" that we've been seeing is NOT just swelling and irritation, although it's likely that a lot of that is there too. However, the good news is that this area of concern (tumor area) has not changed at all since the surgery. So, even though it's bad stuff, it's not behaving aggressively.

This is not terrible news - it's what I expected, and I'm glad to actually have some confirmation of what's going on inside my skull so we better know how to deal with it. It answers a couple of key questions: Is there a need for treatment (yes) and Is there a target for the radiation (yes).

The only frustrating part was waiting at the doctor's office for 4 hours to see him! Oh well, neurosurgeons are pretty busy cutting tumors out of people's heads. I've seen enough Grey's Anatomy to know what's up. (I mean, Dr. Shepherd doesn't even seem to keep office hours.)

So, next is figuring out which doctor and which technology to use for the radiation. There's several options, and a few doctors we like, but we are going to meet with one more in the area to get an opinion on how to move forward. There's things to consider like IMRT, cyber-knife, proton therapy, synergy... Eek, what the heck does any of that mean? I have no idea, so we're trusting the people who have lots of letters after their names who were crazy enough to go to school for 10 years.

Baby Annie is doing well. We're glad she's still a girl :)

Oh and Disney was great! The kids were surprised and we had a fun time as a family and got to see some family and friends too. Just what we needed. Ben and I are off to California tomorrow for our friend Lindsay's wedding. I'll be the largely pregnant bridesmaid stuffed into a dress that I ordered before I was pregnant, and the forecast shows highs in the 50s, but we are excited anyway!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Family Vacation

Well, after all that has transpired over the last 8 weeks, I think our family is ready for a vacation!

Thanks to friends who have helped in a variety of ways, we are surprising the kids tomorrow morning and taking them to Disney World!  We can't wait.  Susie and I have always wanted to do this trip with the kids, but we kept putting it off.  No more putting it off.  Tomorrow we will enjoy a week in Disney and we are so excited.  Thanks to each one who has helped us get there.  If we are not too exhausted, we will try to post some pictures from the trip. 

The last 2 weeks we have experienced a new level of normal.  Only 1 doctors visit, and Baby Annie is doing well.  Our friend, Wendi and her son Owen, came to spend time with us, and that was great.  We celebrated Susie's birthday, which was a lot of fun.  I made a list of things I needed to do before we take off and I was able to finish each one.  This was the first time I've made a list since Susie's surgery.  For those of you that know me, you know how rare this is.  Susie saw the Hunger Games with friends, and then she took me to see it last night.  Susie volunteered at Sy's school and they both loved it.  We have started a few projects around the house as well.  We have confirmed a "family assistant" for the summer.  This is a huge blessing and it was confirmed this evening.  I gave the boys haircuts.  Charlie had hand-foot-mouth.  I went to the dentist.  We've argued a few times and have made up!  Susie is exercising again at they Y daily.  I even joined her once in the deep end of the pool - another rarity!  We went out on a few dates.  Life has been normal, and it feels great.

As we continue to trust the Lord with next steps and the 'areas of concern' in Susie's brain, we continue to rest in Him and enjoy the moments He has for us.  Our prayer is that Susie would be able to make it to 36 weeks (late June) before delivering Anna.  Between now and then, we pray God would allow us to enjoy each of these normal moments as a family. 

Thanks for continuing to pray for us, encourage us and support us.  We'll never truly be able to express our thanks for every note, act of service, encouraging word, monetary donation or prayer.  We have been blessed by the Lord in so many ways, and every time we receive one of those things, it's a vivid reminder of His faithfulness to us through each of you. 

We pray that God would meet each of you right where you are and you would sense His love for you in real and tangible ways. 

The bags are packed and now it's time for bed. 



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A mother's prayer for Susie's birthday

Today, March 20th, is Susie's birthday.  This post was written by Susie's mom, Kathy.  

Thirty-three years ago I was pregnant and overdue with my first baby.  I was so excited, but also anxious of how my life was about to change forever.  I had two consistent prayers during my first pregnancy.  My first prayer was, “Please Lord, let this baby be a girl.”  Now before my boys get upset, let me explain!  I was scared to have a boy because I thought they were all a little wild and crazy, so I would always add, “Lord if it is a boy, please let him be sweet.”  I am happy to say that God did bless us with three very sweet boys!  But on March 20, 1979 God first blessed us with a beautiful baby girl.
My second prayer during my pregnancy was , “and Lord, please make her a blessing to others.” As a young mother I didn’t even really know what all I meant by that, but I so fervently wanted my little girl to be a blessing to others as she grew up.  I soon began to realize if God was going to answer that prayer, I would have to give her up at times to let God use her in ways He intended.  I had prepared myself during her growing up days that someday,  that would most likely include marriage.  Sure enough, one day Ben came along and won her heart.  But what a blessing it was for us to give her to such a godly young man who we knew without a doubt loved our baby girl and would always take care of her.  Life was good, Susie and I though miles apart stayed close and grew even closer as she herself became a mother. The daily phones calls turned into multiple calls a day. I was so blessed that the prayer I had prayed, for my daughter to be a blessing to others, turns out she was the biggest blessing to me! Soon though, came the day that I always knew in my heart was going to come once Ben and Susie were serving God together as man and wife.  “Mom, I think God wants Ben and me to go to India.” A lot of fears, a lot of tears, but God in His faithfulness grew my faith and trust in Him as I released my daughter to Him.  I knew God had plans to use Susie as a blessing to people in India.  What a privilege to spend two weeks with her in India and witness first hand the blessing she was to the people around her.  She embraced her life in India and the people God put into her life.  Oh, but what a happy day it was though when she came home to the same time zone!  Back to talking whenever we wanted.  Life was good!  She and Ben settled back into their life in Ohio.  Their family grew from the three of them to the five of them.  What a blessing to be a part of their journey.
Shortly before Christmas Susie shared the wonderful news that there would be another baby Thomas! What greater way was there for God to answer my prayer that she be a blessing to others, than for her to be a blessing to four little ones!  In the meantime we were talking through the possibilities of her “episodes” as she waited for doctor appointments.  But nothing prepares a mother for a call from her daughter saying she has a lesion (tumor) on her brain and the doctor wants her to go straight to the hospital.  Your life is forever changed,  because you know your baby girl’s life is forever changed.  You know you will not be able to fix this for her and no matter how much you want to take this from her and bear it yourself, you can’t.  God has chosen her for this journey.  You can only pray and watch in amazement as she responds with much faith, grace, and hope, and continues to be a blessing to those around her.  In the quietness of your own heart you wrestle with God. This is not how you want her to be a blessing to others.  But even as you wrestle with God you know with all your heart that she is in His hands and just as you prayed 33 years ago for her to be a blessing to others, you are most thankful for the blessing she is to you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This video of Ben & Susie was filmed today at the Athletes in Action Spring Meetings this past week.

A Surprise & A Plan

So many doctors appointments this week! One of them brought us a fun little surprise - our baby boy is actually a baby girl! We were thrilled with a boy and we're excited about a girl. Talya is thrilled and keeps doing a victory cheer as if she won a big game. Most importantly, Baby Annie (named after her Amachi Anna) is looking perfectly healthy and on target growth-wise.

We can't wait to meet her, which we might be doing sooner than we thought.

After meeting with several doctors in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, we finally feel peace about a treatment plan. Thank you to all of you who have prayed for us along those lines. The doctors have pretty much all reached a consensus that my tumor, while certainly a serious situation and needing treatment, is not an emergency. I had a great resection (that's grey's anatomy talk for tumor-removal-surgery), and while there are almost certainly dangerous cells leftover in my brain, my MRIs continue to show stability. Also, the pathology of the tumor showed some scary characteristics, but not the MOST scary ones - which offers everyone hope that it is not overly aggressive, and therefore if we wait on treatment for a few months, it is reasonable to believe that my health will not be put at great risk.

Of course there are no guarantees with any of this. So please pray that the tumor cells will either:  1) be taken care of by the chemo wafers already in my brain or 2) die on their own or 3) God would wipe them out or 4) Decide to lay dormant until I'm like 85 years old and have been to my grandkids' weddings. (That was not even close to proper grammar. Let's blame my poor writing on the tumor, hmm?)

I will be having many MRIs every several weeks to monitor the situation, and if things progress, we will have to adjust our plan accordingly, but for now, we've decided to try to wait on radiation until we can get this baby safely out of my body (i.e., the radiation zone). 

So, the plan: MRIs every several weeks (about 4). As long as they look good, we just live life and grow this baby girl. Then, once we get to 32 weeks, we can deliver the baby. If, at 32 weeks, there is still absolutely no change on the MRI, we might try to push it to 36 weeks. Then, we have the baby. Then, about a week later, we start radiation and oral chemotherapy. The baby will probably be in the NICU for several weeks (especially if she's born at 32 weeks). While I'm sad about that, the timing wouldn't be horrible, as the biggest side effect of the treatment is fatigue. So, it would probably be okay that during those weeks, we'd have middle-of-the-night state-of-the-art nursing care.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying. I will say that a week ago, we were not even close to being able to make a decision. If anything, I was leaning completely the other way. It was a specific answer to prayer (by us and many of you) that so many doctors ended up actually agreeing and giving us some wise consensus to move forward on. We do so, knowing that nothing can guarantee the outcome, so we continue to trust God and ask Him to be our Healer and sustainer. 

Oh, and on a totally unrelated side-note, but since I'm writing, I'll just ramble for a bit. We took the kids to see the Secret World of Arietty this weekend. I love the cheap theater because you can splurge on the big bucket of popcorn! I just wanted to share with all the parents out there that we really liked it. Here's why: the two main characters were a boy and a girl, so it was good for both genders. The girl was NOT a princess and did not have the figure of a super-model. She was just a brave little girl. There was nothing scary or evil or "bad guys," but there were challenges, and Arietty showed a lot of bravery. Arietty's dad was her primary hero and protector and while the boy did step in to help later in the movie, it was not romantic in nature at all. Themes were bravery, friendship, and I think obeying and trusting your parents. Talya & Simon were both able to articulate after the movie what Arietty did right (help her mother, do chores without asking) and what she did wrong and why it was wrong (disobey her parents when they were trying to keep her safe). There's my glowing review. And it's rated G, which is nearly impossible to find in kids' movies these days. And it was cute. And it wasn't annoying (can someone say smurfs or chipmunks?).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A full week

This week has been full.  We saw so many of our friends and colleagues with Athletes in Action at a conference that was held at our headquarters in Xenia.  It was a joy and blessing to be with so many from our staff family.  Thanks to each of you for the encouraging words, hugs and shows of support and love.  It was a true blessing for us.

This week has also been full of doctor's appointments - neuro-oncologists in Indianapolis, a radiation oncologist in Dayton, and our beloved OB tomorrow.  Through it all God continues to give us wisdom and peace as we seek a treatment plan.  We've been encouraged by what we've been learning and are feeling better and better about the options for treatment that are before us.  Thanks for praying for us about this.

This week also marks one of the favorite weekends of the year in the Thomas home - the start of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championships.  I must admit, Susie tends to get more excited about the brackets than I do.  It's great to see some "normal" things return to our life. 

Today marks Susie hitting 21 weeks in the pregnancy.  We thank God for each week she progresses. 

Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement.  Susie and I have been so touched by all of you who have reached out to us - the ones we know and the ones we have yet to meet.  Thank you. 



P.S.  Susie and I had the chance to share with our staff a few days ago at Athletes in Action.  We hope to post the video soon. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Update with zero information (from Susie)

Sorry, I got nothin' for you in terms of info or news. We're still wading through opinions and second opinions and seeking a third opinion. Prayers for wisdom are still appreciated.

I am basically feeling pretty good. Well, pretty pregnant. Way more pregnant than I'd like to be feeling at nearly 20 weeks. This is when I'm supposed to be feeling awesome and cute and I feel chubby and achy and stiff and PREGO! Thank you to the steroids they have me on to keep swelling down in my brain.

But holla for 20 weeks! Half-way there!

I know a lot of people want to know how the kiddos are doing. Pretty great. They've had some awesome babysitting. They know about the tumor and about the baby and are sensitive to my limitations, but we have not talked cancer with them, so they are pretty unaware of the scarier portions of this whole ordeal.

My wonderful friend Adrianne is here this week, keeping me and the kids company. Ben is looking forward to getting out of the house. He's been my nurse and personal assistant, and full-time stay-at-home-dad. I know, it's a dream job.

You guys are awesome with all of your prayers and generosity. Seriously. I feel spoiled. I might have suggested on facebook that I'd like some girl scout cookies. I might have 30 boxes in my pantry. 25 of them came from my brothers. And the meals are delicious. And the gift cards! So fun. You are helping us soak up some special moments with each other, with friends, and with our kids. McDonalds dates with the kids have some big pay-offs!

Alrighty, I'm off to shower. Basically the steroids have made me an eating, sweating machine. It's pretty awesome. But Adrianne's got the kids so I can shower (by myself!) whenever I want this week!

xoxo. Thanks for the love! I know I stink at responding to individual messages, but I appreciate every one.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

End of the week update

Thanks for your many prayers for us over this last week.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with doctors appointments, and different opinions on what the treatment plan should be.  Here were a few highlights/lowpoints from the week:

  • Our OB team is awesome!  We feel very confident no matter when this baby comes that Susie and the baby are in great hands with our OB team.
  • We met with a doctor who has successfully treated pregnant women with brain tumors before!  This was incredible.  We have looked all over the country without any success, and just 40 miles from our home we find a doctor with experience in this very unique field.
  • We waited over 2 hours on Wednesday to see another doctor - that was not fun.
  • Of the two options of treatment that have been laid out before us, we feel better about both of them.  The various doctors have been able to talk us through the risks to Susie and the baby and we feel good about either plan. 
  • The downside to feeling good about both plans is that we still need some more information before being able to make a final decision.  
  • We are waiting for an MRI next week and a consult with 2 more doctors on our team before making a decision.   
  • We were exhausted by Tuesday and beyond exhausted by Wednesday of this week.
  • Susie and me and the kids have enjoyed a very normal pace over the last few days.
  • Susie has been cleared to drive and exercise, under my supervision (that should go well!)
  • Susie has been able to cook breakfast a few times this week and dinner once.  It was great.  
  • God continues to be ever-present and filling us with His peace during this very hard time.  
  • We are looking forward to a very normal weekend.  
Thanks again for your concern - your prayers, cards, texts, e-mails, financial gifts, other gifts, acts of service, etc have been amazing.  May God truly bless each of you for the ways you have and continue to bless us.

In Him,

Ben & Susie