The Dictatorship of Cancer ~ From a care-givers perspective.

The Dictatorship of Cancer ~ From a care-givers perspective.

Written by Jane Coley.

The uninvited entity takes up residence in your body.  The reality of how long it has been with you eludes us all. The attention this dictator demands is endless, and your body is no longer yours.  You become the ruled, and your every thought is controlled by it’s demands.  We helplessly watch as you are forced into acknowledging this unwelcome entity and as your life begins it’s journey of being forever changed.

“I hate you, cancer!”  Are the words you often repeat, as you look in the mirror and stare at the image of the stranger you are becoming.  Skin hangs from your once toned body... hair is gone... your stamina dwindles as you try to focus your thoughts.  You lie down for a nap, and while you slept a new day began... or is it still yesterday.  You silently look for the clues that will tell you when you are, as soon as you have detected where you are.  “I hate you, cancer!” you  mutter again, and your thoughts darken with hopelessness.

Normal...if things could just be normal again...and you mourn for your normal as if a friend had passed away.  There is no normal when cancer has you in it’s grip.  You wonder what it was you ever did to deserve this life-changing crisis.  But there are no answers, just endless questions.

Decades ago people used to ask, “What is this thing called cancer?”  But, with the passing of time, this elusive stranger has become a dictator of many lives.  We can recite the names of family and friends, as though reading from a written list, of those we know who have been forever changed by this pitiless intruder called cancer.

My Brother’s Cancer Story
With his permission.

His toned body had been forged by determination and grit.  He had kept a record of his running statistics, and the year-end results had totaled almost a thousand miles.  All his weight-lifting endeavors had also payed off, and his muscular body was the “trophy” any 30 year old would be proud of.  But my brother had just celebrated his 59th birthday!  It was February 2014 and Johnny’s age-defying efforts had kept him incredibly fit, for a man of any age.
Johnny before Multiple Myeloma.

In the beginning, the changes were slight...a little ache here...feeling a little extra tired and just not resting well.  His running statistics began to decrease.  To compensate, he exerted greater efforts, but the lessening results were frustrating to him.  The pain in his back was also becoming unbearable, and Johnny decided to see a doctor to help resolve these disturbing issues.

After weeks of waiting for the results of multiple lab tests, an assortment of full-body scans, with speculations of heart disease and kidney problems, the results were finally determined.  You have cancer...

When my brother’s cancer was first diagnosed, we were told things we didn’t understand... Multiple Myeloma... stage 3... lesions from head to toe.  Literally every bone in his body showed signs of the deteriorating effects of this rare blood cancer.

  • “Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer.  It starts in your bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones.  This is where your body makes blood cells, including a certain type called plasma cells.  These cells can grow out of control and crowd out the normal, healthy ones in your bone marrow.  When they build up, they form a tumor called a myeloma.  The name “multiple myeloma” means there is more than one tumor.  

  • Multiple myeloma can affect your body in different ways.  It can make your bones weak and easy to break.  Because your bone marrow makes blood, multiple myeloma can affect how many healthy blood cells you have.  Too few red blood cells (called anemia) can make you feel weak, short of breath, or dizzy.  Too few white blood cells (called leukopenia) can make it easy to get infections like pneumonia.  It can take longer to recover from them, too.  Too few platelets (called thrombocytopenia) makes it harder for wounds to heal.  Even minor cuts can bleed too much.” 
(Information from: )

Johnny before his cancer.
What termites do to a tree is what this cancer, multiple myeloma, does to the bones of its captives.

Multiple myeloma is considered to be incurable but treatable. Studies have shown that survival for myeloma patients has improved substantially over the last few decades.

My brother’s diagnosis, and the stem-cell transplant he was going to have, were part of the reason the decision was made for me to leave Kenya, for a short time, and fly to Arkansas.  Our mother was the other reason.  Mom had been struggling with other unrelated issues, and her emotional state was too stressed to bear another difficulty.

Johnny after the harvesting of his stem cells.
My brother, Johnny, and I have lived very different lives. To start with, my husband and I are Independent Baptist missionaries, and, believing it was God’s calling on our lives, we have served as missionaries to Kenya, East Africa since 1995. We have lived in Kenya since March of 1998. Johnny, by his own definition, is an agnostic.  He summed up his philosophy of life to me with the lyrics of an old song:

I don't know where we come from
Don't know where we're goin' to
But if all this should have a reason
We would be the last to know
So let's just hope there is a promised land
Hang on 'til then as best as you can

I have always prayed for my family, and the urgency of this particular crisis had me reaching out to as many people as I possibly could, without invading my brother’s privacy.  “No public postings on facebook!” was his request, and I didn’t blame him one bit.  Cancer is a personal journey.

I had privately reached out to trusted friends and fellow believers, pastors I knew and my BMW group (Baptist Missionary Women) for prayer.  The BMW is a universal group of women living all around the world serving as missionaries.  Enlisting their prayer help meant it was possible for my brother’s name to be called out to God every hour, of every day, and I knew many of these amazing ladies would pray for Johnny as if he were their own brother.

Fighting for His Life

It was May 8, 2014, and I had just arrived from Kenya.  Johnny was still in the hospital at UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) waiting for his stem-cell transplant.  He had already undergone the harvesting process, which required a 24/7 treatment plan.  Twenty-four hours, for seven days, of chemo-drugs being continually pumped into his body, and then the harvesting of his stem-cells would take place.  Later, his own stem-cells would be transplanted back into his body on June 5, 2014.   During this time period, Johnny remained hospitalized and was unable to walk without assistance.  He used a walker and had to put on a back brace before he could take the short walk from his hospital room to the sun-room halfway down the corridor.  My brother was in the fight of his life, and we thought the cure was going to kill him before the cancer had done it’s unmerciful deed.
Johnny needing help to walk.

The cancer treatment itself had made Johnny’s body more sensitive to his environment.  In the middle of summer, he struggled to stay drink liquids of any tolerate smells and seemed sounds were also heighten as he complained about how loud I was when I stirred my morning cup of tea.  Almost weekly he would say to me, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”  Everything had changed so quickly and drastically for him that it was as if his entire body and mind were in a continual state of shock.  Everyday was different, but nothing was better, and it seemed there was no end to these debilitating changes.

Johnny didn’t mask or hide his emotions, and he was in a fragile state.  You could see it in his eyes: there was no hope, and there was no desire to fight.  He had contemplated what he would do to end his life, and I think his greatest fear was that he would become too weak to balance thought with action, and he would be forced to live.  Thoughts of his adult son and daughter, who would be left to deal with the heartbreak of his decision, kept him from taking his life.  Years earlier his ex-wife, and mother of his children, had committed suicide; and Johnny knew he couldn’t put them through it again.

A few weeks after his stem cell transplant, Johnny was discharged from the hospital.  He still had almost daily labs to report back for, and I was his chauffeur.  Not only did I drive him back and forth from the hospital, but, in his weakened condition, I also wheeled him around the hospital in a wheelchair.  There were multiple destinations to go to for the different scans and blood work needed to re-evaluate his progress and response to his recent stem-cell transplant.

Not only was Johnny fighting the physical and emotional repercussions of this cancer, but he was also fighting to hold on to his independence.  I realized I needed to become more to my brother than just his chauffeur, and I waited for those moments when he would exhaustively relinquish his control and let me help him.

Mounds of information were coming at him, and I started taking written notes while we sat together with the multiple myeloma oncology specialist.  There were medication changes to make notations about and appointments to keep track of.  Johnny and I would talk about the things he wanted to ask the doctor and the things he didn’t want brought up in the conversation.  I would make the notes to help him remember for his next oncologist evaluation.

I also daily helped him by wrapping the port in his neck to keep it dry when he showered.  I learned the detailed process of how to change the sterile dressing on his port, too.  I learned the process of how to give him his home infusion of antibiotics, when he was fighting off another infection. Because Johnny was needing help with his wheelchair, I had also been in the room when the bone marrow biopsy of his spine was preformed.  Though I chose not to watch as the doctor tapped the instrument into his vertebrae, I couldn’t escape the sounds of the tapping and scraping as the doctor removed a portion of his bone for testing.  Thankfully Johnny was sufficiently sedated and didn’t feel anything but a slight pressure on his back.

Johnny would need to repeat the bone marrow biopsy multiple times.  There were also other exams and scans that would be repeated before his next oncologist evaluation.  There was the MUGA scan of the heart and an EKG, a full body MRI with contrast (which often lasted for 2 hours), a PET scan, CT, and lots of blood work and labs.  All of this was necessary to evaluate how successful the transplant had been and how to proceed further.  But Johnny wasn’t bouncing back as expected.  It was as if he was taking one step forward and two steps back.  He continued to lose weight.  He began to run a fever and it wasn’t long before another infection had him back in the hospital. This same scenario would repeat and continued far beyond the doctor’s expectations, and Johnny was struggling.

We watched as he seemingly melted before our eyes.  His once toned body had dropped a total of 56 lbs. and most of that was during the 16 weeks I was with him. I watched as his friends would visit him: it was all they could do not to respond with shock when they saw how drastically different he looked.  With his bald head and skeleton face the only thing that assured them they were in the right room was when Johnny greeted them by name.

Johnny wearing a funny cap of hair.
I remember the day his height was rechecked, and inches had also been stolen from him.  One of the RN’s attempted to offer a little encouragement by telling us she knew a patient who had lost 8 inches in height to this form of cancer.  But there was nothing reassuring in her words especially when you feel so helpless to stop the effects of this cancer.  We were left wondering how much more this monster would take before it was stopped.

A Glimpse of Hope

It was July, and Johnny was starting to show some signs of improvement.  With a rented hospital bed in his living room, Johnny was home, and we were again making the almost daily trips back to the hospital for blood work and labs, as well as infusions of blood, or platelets, or other needed fluids. He was still struggling to put on weight but he was getting around a little better, and he had started using a walker instead of the wheelchair.

While I was in Arkansas, I was enjoying as many opportunities as I could to be with my daughter, Kimberly.  Of our five adult children, Kimberly was the only one still living in Arkansas, though she was planning on moving to Oklahoma the following summer.  My other four children were all living in different states and time zones.  Billy was in Washington.  Jennifer lived in Florida.  Stephanie and her family lived in Oklahoma, while Abigail and her husband were then stationed in California.  While I was back, Billy had made plans to visit, but it was a surprise to Kimberly and to me when Jennifer and Abigail also came to spend a vacation week in Arkansas.  Stephanie and her family were only able to come for the weekend; but, for those few days, we were together; and it was great!  It had been 7 years since we were all in the same place at the same time, and we were making the very best of every moment together!
Far left, me holding my grandson, Kacey, Mom, Abigail, Billy,
Jennifer, Kimberly with the sun shining in her face, Chad and Stephanie with Kayin.

By August, Johnny was starting to get around better.  He was now only occasionally using a cane and didn’t need the walker or wheelchair any more.  His routine blood work and labs were down to 3 days a week, instead of daily, so we felt a release from that, too.  He was beginning to drive again, and he had started lifting weights.  Johnny would often talk about, and mourn for, what he used to be able to do, in his pre-myeloma days.  But his focus had to be on the daily gains, not the losses of days gone by.  He had to mentally bury the old Johnny who could run 7 miles a day and bench press 150 lbs. and purposely celebrate each new accomplishment of his post-myeloma returning strength.  I would be returning to Kenya soon, and it was a blessing to see that Johnny was doing so much better.  If he couldn’t manage on his own, it would have been very difficult for me to leave him.

Johnny with his good friend, Randy.
They used to be almost equal in height.

The day I left to go to the airport, my brother tried to tell me how much he appreciated me being with him, but the words caught in his throat, and all he could do was cry.  We hugged each other, and I gave him a cross-stitch I had been working on while we spent our many hours together at the hospital.  I told him that every stitch represented a prayer that I had prayed for him.  Kimberly and my sister had arrived, and it was time for me to go.  Johnny would be going to the hospital for his routine blood work and labs: making his first trip without me.

The Spiral of Despair

It was September, and the news I was getting from my mom and sister was that Johnny wasn’t doing well.  Since I was back in Kenya, it was difficult to know what was going on.

The love of his life, whom he had been with for the last 7 years, didn’t want him in her house any more.  I could understand how it was difficult for her to come home from work not knowing what condition she might find Johnny in.  I could understand how she would want him to be where others could keep an eye on him, but what I couldn’t understand is why she changed all the locks on the doors of her house.  The cruelty of that action and the finality of her decision spoke volumes: the relationship was over.

Johnny, having sold his house and all his furnishings, had no where else to go but to move in with our mother.  His heart was broken, and he began to spiral into a deep depression.  He quit taking his medications, and Mom was at her wits-end as to what she could do to help him.  I would talk to him over the phone, and I could hear the despair in his voice.  He cried and wondered why she had thrown him out, and I struggled to find words of encouragement for him.

My Darkest Days

It was December...and the worst news of my life shattered me forever...Kimberly was dead!  My beautiful 28 year old daughter had died of the flu.  She had gone to see a doctor on December 13th and died on December 17th, 2014, alone in her apartment.  Kimberly’s dad and I both had spoken with the police officers who had found her.  They were compassionate and gave us the information we were wanting.  Bill then called our travel agent and arranged for us to be on a plane the very same evening flying from Kenya to Arkansas.

We knew Kimberly was in heaven.  She had trusted the Lord as her Savior. Knowing she had made her salvation decision years ago was a great comfort to our hearts.  But we were still in shock.  How could our young healthy daughter die of the flu?  We were comforted in knowing that her death had not taken our Lord God by surprise: He would walk with us through this unimaginable tragedy and help us bear our deepest sorrow.

Kimberly excited to see her brother, Billy.
God is omniscient, which means He is all knowing: He knows the timing of our birth, as well as the timing of our death.  But He does not create the events that makes these things happen.  I believe in accidents.  I believe in free-will; freedom of personal choice with consequences and repercussions of our choices.  I believe “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” as Romans 8:28 promises.  I do not believe that all things are good, or right, but I do believe that even the worst events and happenings of my life are brought together for good by my sovereign Lord God.

My brother's cancer had brought me to Arkansas for the summer, which in turn brought all my adult children together.  Had it not been for my brother’s cancer, and my decision to help him, those moments and memories with all of my children together would never have happened. With that in mind, I asked my brother not to be too angry or bitter with his cancer.  It was the event that gave me 16 weeks with Kimberly and a weekend with all my children together that otherwise never would have happened.  I cannot tell you how comforting those memories are to me now.

(More about Kimberly:
"Growing In Grief"
"The Most Unnatural Thing"
"Too Young to Die"
 "Embracing Grief"
"The Proving Ground"
"What You Don't Know About the Flu can Kill You" )

His Darkest Days

My daughter’s death had brought me back to Arkansas during my brother’s darkest days.  I was engulfed with grief, but my brother needed help.  When I arrived, Johnny was sick, weak, depressed, mourning the loss of Kimberly with me and in a drug stupor.  He was keeping his medications in a box, and when the mood struck him, he would look through the bottles of pills, read the label, and take a few.  I asked him if I could help him and he said “No! I have my system, and I’m doing fine with it.”

On the day of Kimberly’s funeral (December 23, 2014), I’m not sure if Johnny has any memory of what happened.  He was at the funeral, but Mom struggled to keep him quiet.  He kept lifting his hand, as if picking fruit off of a tree, and she couldn’t figure out what he was doing or trying to say.  Later that evening, Kimberly’s church family (New Horizon Baptist Church) and her pastor (Bro. Kevin Bernard) hosted a meal for all of us.  During that mealtime, my son Billy received a phone call from his friend telling us that an ambulance was at Mom’s house.  My husband and I immediately left the dinner and went to the UAMS emergency room to find Johnny.  He would spend the next 10 days in the hospital, and other than regulating his medications, they couldn’t find anything else to treat.

It was after the New Year, 2015, when Johnny was discharged from the hospital. He was still weak and needed to use a wheelchair, but he was willing to have me find out all I could about his medications and more willing for me to help him again.  I began taking him to his routine blood work and labs, which were now down to twice a week.

My husband and I had taken a few days to visit our daughter and her family in Oklahoma.  When we got back, Mom called me to come and see Johnny.  Mom was doing all she could to get him to eat and take in fluids, but each time she checked on him he would tell her to leave him alone.  In the short time that I was gone he had started having intestinal issues and was growing weaker every day.

When I got to Mom’s house, Johnny was sleeping.  He had been sleeping all day. The bedroom was dark.  I put my hand on his shoulder to let him know I was there; he was cold to the touch and slow to respond to me.  I asked if I could take him to the hospital, but Johnny was adamant that he was never going to be admitted to the hospital again.  It was Saturday, and it would be Tuesday before he was scheduled for blood work and labs, and I couldn’t talk him into going to the hospital any sooner.

On Tuesday, he was at his weakest point: too weak to even dress himself, so I helped.  His eyes were sunken into his head, and I knew things were looking very bad for him.  While we were waiting for him to be called back for his labs, Johnny grabbed at his chest and began to struggle with his breathing.  I got the attention of the RN, and after a short conversation, he was being taken to the emergency room.  After his blood work, labs, and CT were read the results showed that Johnny was in renal failure.  The next 24 hours were crucial to his future health.  If they could not get his body back on track soon, it was likely the damage to his kidneys would be irreversible, and he would need dialysis for the remainder of his life.  They began the process of admitting Johnny to the hospital, but he stopped them.  He wasn’t going to be admitted again. He had convinced himself that he could fight this on an outpatient bases.

Since Johnny had refused to be hospitalized, we were now in Infusion 4 where they were trying to give him fluids before letting him go home.  His body was ice cold, and he wasn’t even shivering.  Four nurses had tried ten times to get a vein to start a line, and he never flinched at any of their attempts.  I was asked if I had legal documentation giving me the right to make medical decisions on his behalf, but Johnny was never incompetent -  just stubborn.

I begged him to be admitted to the hospital.  I told him, “I can’t take you home like this!  Don’t do this to Mom.  Don’t make her watch you die!  Mom has already buried one son, her husband, and a granddaughter; and now you are going to make her bury you!”  But all he would say to me was, “I’m sorry! I just can’t stay in the hospital again.  Take me home.”

For the next few hours I watched as doctor after doctor came into his room trying to talk Johnny into changing his mind about staying in the hospital for treatment.  I was sure if he forced me into taking him home that we would soon be planning his funeral.  I talked to him about being saved and ready for heaven, but he was settled on his own philosophy of death.  So I started talking to him about having his affairs in order; did he have a will? who would get his money? his car? his collection of guns and knives?...anything that would force him to realize his decision on this day, at this moment, would either lengthen or shorten his life in a very real way.

Nine hours after arriving at the hospital and with the gentle encouragement from one of the doctors, Johnny finally agreed to give them two days in hospital to treat him and then he would leave.  It was four days into his hospital stay when Johnny finally submitted to staying until they got his body back on track.  His resolve to be patient until he was well was the surrender his body needed to win this battle.  It would be almost three weeks before Johnny would finally be discharged.

This particular time in the hospital had settled some medical issues for him.  For one, he was continually fighting the gut infection know as Clostridim difficile (C-Diff). One infectious disease doctor finally said, “It seems you have gotten better, but you have never quite gotten over this infection.”  Johnny was put on vancomycin for 10 weeks.  Less than a week after finishing this round of antibiotics, the C-Diff was back.  It would take another 8 weeks of antibiotics before the infection was finally under control.

The Incredible Difference

It was the end of March, and it was time for my husband and I to return to Kenya. Johnny was feeling well enough to start looking for a house to buy, and by May, he was moving into his new home.  He was regaining his strength everyday and was back to lifting weights and taking long walks. Johnny had also reconnected with a girlfriend from his past.  This lovely lady makes him smile everyday.

It is now, at my brother’s request, that I have written this his cancer story.  Johnny wrote to me,  “If you want to you can take credit for all the people that were praying for me feel free. It's an incredible [thing] to me. Never have I went from being so sick to how I feel today. How getting kicked out to having a house I can call my own.”  I know the Lord responded to the many prayers that were prayed for my brother, and I know he attributes this brighter-side of his life to “all the people that were praying for me [him]”.

Through all this, Johnny recognizes that prayer made the difference, “It’s an incredible[thing] to me.”

Johnny at our memorial balloon launch for Kimberly.
March 2015.
My brother, Johnny.
November 2015

What You Don't Know About the Flu Can Kill You

Flu shots are helpful, but not always the sure cure for avoiding the flu. Yes, I do urge you to get a flu shot...but, even more than that, I urge you to search the internet for information about the flu. Because...even in this day and age, people will die of the did our beautiful Kimberly.

Flu Awareness

I am not a medical professional of any sort. But, I am a broken-hearted mother whose beautiful 28 year old daughter died of the flu. And, for that reason, I want to raise awareness of the potential deadly danger the flu virus is capable of causing. Yes, in this day and age...people will die of the flu!

Kimberly had absolutely no health problems. She was not diabetic. She was not over weight, nor was she under weight. She did not have any autoimmune diseases. Her heart was healthy, her lungs were healthy, kidneys and bladder were all healthy, no cancer, no thyroid problems, no medical issues of any stated by the Coroner who examined her body after her death. Kimberly didn’t even have trouble with ear infections, as a child. But, my beautiful 28 years 3 months 10 days old daughter died on December 17, 2014 and the official Coroner’s report listed the cause as Influenza B Victoria, a particular strain of the flu virus.

What you don’t know about the flu can kill you. (Much of the information contained in this post was gathered from the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, website. You are welcome to do your own research.)

Did you know that there are 3 types of flu? Influenza, A, B and C, and, within those three types there are sub-groups of the flu virus. For example, the distinction of the influenza type A is that this flu virus is transmitted between animals and humans. The transmission of this type A flu virus has resulted in the swine flu and the bird flu, to name the most popular ones. Influenza B is only transmitted between humans. Influenza C is a milder form of the flu virus.

This would explain why there were 7 types of flu vaccines on the market during the 2013-2014 season. And yet, when you get a flu shot, you seldom know what type of flu virus it is protecting you from...unless you ask. Did you know that you are also able to receive a flu shot that will cover 3 and 4 different types of the flu viruses?

Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on differences in the immune system. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu.

Flu seasons are unpredictable. The severity of influenza seasons can differ substantially from year to year. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of yearly flu associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people during the most severe season.

Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.

There are several flu vaccine options for the 2015-2016 flu season.

Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called "trivalent" vaccines) are available. In addition, flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses (called "quadrivalent" vaccines) also are available.
Trivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2) and an influenza B virus. The following trivalent flu vaccines are available:
Standard-dose trivalent shots that are manufactured using virus grown in eggs. There are several different flu shots of this type available, and they are approved for people of different ages. Some are approved for use in people as young as 6 months of age. Most flu shots are given with a needle. One standard dose trivalent shot also can be given with a jet injector, for persons aged 18 through 64 years.
A high-dose trivalent shot, approved for people 65 and older.
A trivalent shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 18 and older.
A recombinant trivalent shot that is egg-free, approved for people 18 years and older.

The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The following quadrivalent flu vaccines are available:

A quadrivalent flu shot that is manufactured using virus grown in eggs. There are several different flu shots of this type available, and they are approved for people of different ages. Some are approved for use in people as young as 6 months of age.
An intradermal quadrivalent shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. It is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.
A quadrivalent nasal spray vaccine, approved for people 2 through 49 years of age.

What should I do if I get sick with the flu?

Antiviral drugs are prescription drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications (such as children younger than 2 years, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions) and people who are very sick with flu (such as those hospitalized because of flu) should get antiviral drugs. Some other people can be treated with antivirals at their health care professional’s discretion. Treating high risk people or people who are very sick with flu with antiviral drugs is very important. Studies show that prompt treatment with antiviral drugs can prevent serious flu complications. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.

Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be beneficial when given later in the course of illness.

Antiviral drugs are effective across all age-and risk groups. Studies show that antiviral drugs are under-prescribed for people who are at high risk of complications who get flu. This season (2015-2016), three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs are recommended for use in the United States: oseltamivir, zanamivir and peramivir
Will this season's vaccine be a good match for circulating viruses?
It's not possible to predict with certainty if the vaccine will be a good match for circulating viruses. The vaccine is made to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates will likely be most common during the season. However, experts must pick which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance in order for vaccine to be produced and delivered on time. And flu viruses change constantly (called drift) – they can change from one season to the next or they can even change within the course of one flu season. Because of these factors, there is always the possibility of a less than optimal match between circulating viruses and the viruses in the vaccine. For this reason it is still possible to get the flu even after you have had a flu shot, because this also depends on how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.

Over the course of the flu season, CDC studies samples of circulating flu viruses to evaluate how close a match there is between viruses used to make the vaccine and circulating viruses.

Can I get vaccinated and still get the flu?

Yes. It’s possible to get sick with the flu even if you have been vaccinated (although you won’t know for sure unless you get a flu test). This is possible for the following reasons:
•You may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. (About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection develop in the body.)
•You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.
•Unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus the flu vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by flu vaccination can vary widely, based in part on health and age factors of the person getting vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination.

Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection.

If the flu vaccine is not matched to the flu viruses that are causing illness, you could still become deathly ill with the flu. It is so important to know this!

Is there treatment for the flu?

Yes. If you get sick, there are drugs that can treat flu illness. They are called antiviral drugs and they can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They also can prevent serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia. For more information about antiviral drugs, visit Treatment (Antiviral Drugs).
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.

Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person is very sick from the flu.

Symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have no symptoms at all or only respiratory symptoms without a fever.

*Its important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Our Kimberly went to a local clinic on December 13, 2014 and presented with flu like symptoms. She was told that it looked like she was on the down-side of the flu and a prescription for Ibuprofen was given to her, which she had filled.  Four days later, we received the horrific news that our Kimberly Renee had died. If we can save a life with this post...Lord, may we!

Posted by Jane Coley ~ Heartbroken Mom ~ 15 September 2015

Embracing Grief

Embracing Grief
Kimberly Renee Coley
7 Sept.  1986 ~ 17 Dec. 2014
Just because my grief is deep, does not mean my faith is shallow. There is a strength in this grief. Only grief knows grief...and only grief is unafraid to embrace the depth of this sorrow.

It was January 2015 and my husband and I were in Oklahoma, as it was a Sunday evening, we dropped by a small church. The weather was bitterly cold and patches of snow were a reminder that winter was not yet finished with us. As we walked into the building, we were warmly greeted with handshakes and a smile, a good Baptist greeting, and then a question... "You’re the Coleys, aren’t you?" Another said, "I was in classes with your son at Heartland (Baptist Bible College)" while others began to tell us that they knew two of our daughters who had also graduated from HBBC. And then the expressions of condolences and sympathy began... "we are so sorry for your loss"... "I cannot imagine the loss of a child." 

This kind church family had heard about our Kimberly’s passing and had quickly responded with a card and a love-offering to help with our many unexpected financial needs. The kind of needs a missionary family, with five adult children living miles apart from each other, would incur during an unimaginable trauma such as ours. We were introduced to the pastor and then the pastor introduced me to his wife. I had no memory of ever meeting this young woman before. She was wearing a pink dress and her long dark hair framed her beautiful face. I smiled and she accepted my extended hand in the familiar Baptist greeting, but, unexpectedly, this kind woman drew me close to her and wrapped her arms around me. Her warm embrace was consoling to my heart in a way that words could not. As she continued to embrace me, I began wondering how she knew our Kimberly. And then I realized, it wasn’t our Kimberly she knew...this pastor’s wife, and mother of eight knew my grief, and it was with her grief that she embraced me and cried with me. 
Mrs. Michelle Bishop had lost her firstborn 19 year old son, Beau Bishop, almost a year ago in a one-car accident on February 10, 2014. 

Only grief knows grief...and only grief is unafraid to embrace the depth of this sorrow. Only grief is able to console grief with it’s silent embrace.

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort: Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." ~ II Corinthians 1:3, 4
Written by Jane Coley ~ May 2015

Too Young to Die

Too Young to Die
Kimberly Renee Coley
Sept. 7, 1986 ~ Dec. 17, 2014
"I was too young to die, that’s what people say.
They can’t understand, why God took me away.
I guess that is something, they have yet to see.
But I have peace in knowing, it was His plan for me.
I was His creation. He gave me every breath.
And He knew all along, the timing of my death.
I know it took you by surprise. It caught us all off guard.
But I hope you will trust in God, though this will be hard.
Let Him bring you comfort. Rest in His embrace.
Call to Him when you’re hurting. Accept His endless grace.
Let Him bring you healing and all your needs supply.
Trust in His loving kindness, when your heart is asking "why?"
For as much as I loved you. He loves you even more.
His will is always best. His motives always pure.
I know right now you’re hurting, everything feels wrong.
But I am safe in Heaven, I’m right where I belong.
And though I hated to leave you, I know you’ll be o.k.
God will be with you, each moment of each day.
Someday we will meet again. God’s promises are true.
He has never let me down and He will not fail you."
(Both) Written by Nicole Madaus

The loss so sudden, the pain so deep,
A part of me is incomplete.
You were here, but now you’re gone,
And I still have to carry on.
How could this happen? How could it be?...
Why did God take you from me?
It hurts so much I can’t explain,
The depths of my grief and pain.
It’s not supposed to be this way,
To lose a child is not o.k.
I’m angry and hurt. I’m full of grief.
I can’t imagine finding relief.
I feel so lost and so alone.
Forced to suffer on my own.
I don’t know what to say or do?
How can I live without you?

I know it was sudden, the pain is deep,
And right now you’re feeling incomplete.
I was there and now I’m gone,
But God can help you carry on.
There aren’t easy answers for why God took me,
But trust in faith what your eyes cannot see.
I know it hurts and you can’t explain,
The depths of your grief and pain.
You lost a child and it’s not o.k.,
But God can get you through each day.
Give Him your anger, your hurt, your grief.
In Him you’ll find peaceful relief.
It won’t be easy, but you’re not alone.
You don’t have to suffer on your own.
Run to Him and stay close by His side,
In His comfort and love you can safely abide.
And though for now we must be apart,
I’ll remain in the memories you keep in your heart.

The Most Unnatural Thing...

The Most Unnatural Thing...

"Twonane Milele" is a Swahili phrase meaning "Let us meet in eternity"

It is the most unnatural thing...for a parent to stand before a gravestone and read the name of their child etched in the stone at their feet. The two dates representing the moments in time when your life changed forever. The date of beginnings, the date of endings... the date of joy, and the date of deep sorrow and grief.

Some days I don’t want to get out of bed.
Many times I won’t even look at a calendar. Looking at the calendar only betrays my emotions because each day still feels like it was yesterday when we first received the news that our Kimberly had passed away.

I cry every day... since the news of our daughter’s death. But I have found that the most therapeutic thing I do for myself, is to pray for someone else, and to be concerned with their heartaches. I do have to admit, I sometimes get annoyed with the seemingly petty things people request prayer for, but when I sense myself getting annoyed, I recognize I’m opening the door to allow bitterness to take root, and my Kimberly was too sweet, and too special for me to allow any bitterness to be attached to her memory.

August 24, 2014 our last Sunday Lunch together.
 I am thankful for the grace of God that comforts my broken heart. If it were not for His wonderful grace, I would be consumed by my grief. 

Daily I must choose... to not allow my grief to rob me of my joy.

Daily I must choose... to remember all that was tender, sweet, loving, precious, and unique about my daughter.

Daily I must choose... to not allow my beautiful memories to be marred by this temporal parting called death.

I grieve for my daughter... But I have an eternal certainty beyond this earth that comforts my heart and my soul.
"And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."
~ John 16:22

"Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God."
~ I Peter 1:21

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
~ Psalm 116:15

"We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
~ II Corinthians 5:8

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
~ II Corinthians 5:1

"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:"
~ John 11:25

"And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life."
~ I John 2:25
Aug. 27, 2014. At the AR airport headed back to Kenya.
The last time I held her.
Written by Jane Coley ~ August 2015

Growing In Grief

Growing In Grief
The day our daughter passed away...
my breaking heart made this silent request,
"Please... My Dear Lord God... please,
...bury me with my child!
It will be more merciful to be buried with her,
than trying to go through this life without her."
But a soft reply echoed back,
"I will be with you."

I began to think of the happiness my daughter would never know... falling in love, and all the whimsical delights that come with a true first love... her wedding day, and the excitement of watching her bounce down the aisle. I remember how Kimberly, with her arms flared at her sides, had bounced down the aisle of her ‘05 highschool graduation. When she later saw herself on video, she laughed and wondered if she would bounce at her wedding...but now, we will never know. We would then, eventually, have looked forward to her pregnancies and her babies... all Kimberly ever really wanted, from this earthly life, was to be a wife and a mother.

My heart ached for the happiness she would never know.
Me and Kim ~ '05
Then, before I could even ask the question...
"Why not," was His gentle reply.

"Why can she not be with Me?
Though I know you love her, I have always loved her more.
She is safe with Me.
Nothing more will hurt her.
All her anxieties are passed.
She will never know another disappointment.
All her struggles have ended.
Her fears are all gone.
She is My child, and she is forever safe with Me."
Oh, how His heart must ache as He sees us struggling through this earthly life. 

My disappointment with the Lord ended as I conceded to the realization that this earthly life has limited moments of happiness sandwiched between endless disappointments, struggles and heartaches.

I cry every day, not because of what she missed but because my sorrow is in the missing of her. The rest of my earthly life is still a very long time to wait until I will hold her again.

I will always hurt... but I am not bitter. There will always be a sadness... but I am not angry. My tears will always come easily... but don’t expect me to restrain them... tears are often the consequence of loving memories. My sorrow is deep and I am forever changed...this is the reality of grief.

Descriptive Bible verses express my sorrow, and I know I have a Saviour who is touched by my grief. My comfort is through the Lord Jesus Christ, and my counsel is from the Word of God.

I am in awe... that He would know... with an awareness so profoundly expressed through these verses, just how deeply I grieve.

"I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief..." ~ Psalm 6:6, 7a

"I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God." ~ Psalm 69:3

" groaning is not hid from thee. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me." ~ Psalm 38:9b, 10

"...I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart." ~ Romans 9:2

"How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?" ~ Psalm 13:2a

"My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread." ~ Psalm 102:4

"By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin." ~ Psalm 102:5

"Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission," ~ Lamentations 3:49

"...lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep." ~ 1 Samuel 30:4b

" sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength."  "...there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me."  ~  Daniel 11:16b & 17b

There is a great misconception about God in relation to how He cares for his children. Many think that being a child of God means He is to keep us from the troubles and distresses of this earthly life. But, this is not so...God is not in the ‘keeping us from’ ...He is in the ‘carrying us through’ of life’s heartaches.

"God will not put more on us than we are able to bear." is not a biblical teaching. It is a mis-teaching, taken out of context, from I Corinthians 10:13.

Yes, God does put more on us than we are able to bear...but... He does not put on us more than He is able to bear, as my friend, Pastor Jeff Russell, reminded me. God said to the Apostle Paul, "...My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." ~ II Corinthians 12:9

My Lord knows... my Lord understands... He cares, and He is touched by our sorrows.

He is the burden lifter... "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." ~ I Peter 5:7

He is a present help... "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." ~ Psalm 46:1

He is "...a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief... ...he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows..." ~ Isaiah 53:3 & 4

Christ understands the depth of all sorrows...and it has always been His burden to carry us through... "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, ...thou art with me..." ~ Psalms 23:4

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." ~ Isaiah 41:10

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." ~ Isaiah 43:2

If I had not already known Him as Saviour, and the assurance of Heaven, then I would not now know the grace of His comfort and the mercy of His peace. It is through this tragedy, of our daughter’s death, that my loving Lord has been so dearly close.

I do not ask the Lord to mend my broken heart because I am asking that He preserve my memories and to grant me access to things I had forgotten... my tears are the evidence of this answered prayer.

My relationship with God is of my choosing...

Daily I must choose... to draw nearer to God. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." ~ James 4:8

Daily I must choose... to not allow my grief to rob me of joy. "...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." ~ Psalm 30:5

Daily I must choose... to remember He is my refuge; my place of security. "Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us." ~ Psalm 62:8

If I do not daily choose these... then, by my neglect, the darkness will come and the sorrow will overwhelm me until my heart is devoured by grief and there is nothing left but the hollowness of bitterness and disdain where once there was a heart.

God is not in the business of making super Christians, but He is in the business of taking surrendered Christians and doing something amazing through their surrendered lives.

"My dear Lord God...I surrender to You my broken heart...I do not ask that You mend it... I only ask that You use it."

"Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." ~ II Corinthians 1:4

Kimberly loving on her first nephew, Kayin. '09

Written by Kimberly’s Mom ~ August 2015