Friday, November 16, 2012

The Gift of Song

  I have a moment of pure joy to share today.  Many of you have been following this journey since the very beginning.  Many of you have wept with me, prayed for me, encouraged me, even supported my family through the ministry of meals.  There is no way I can thank everyone enough.  But today I need to express my thanks to Someone higher.  Last Sunday, for the first time since the end of June, I joined my husband for one song in front of our church as he lead worship.  There are no words for the gratitude I have to my Healer...for that one song.
  It's not the same.  For the first time in my life I have no volume and very little range.  But I can sing, which is more than anyone expected.  Even my speaking voice is a precious gift that amazes the doctors.  I was supposed to have a whispery, garbled sound to my speech, and I don't.  As long as I don't try to raise my voice, most people can tell no difference from before my surgery.  It's been a process of small steps, and I keep expecting to hit the end, but I haven't yet.  I am thankful for every step:  I am thankful for the recordings we have been able to make in the past of Brad and I singing.  No matter what, we will always have those.  I am thankful for my speaking voice that is recongnizable as my own.  I am thankful that even before I left the hospital in July there were notes (they didn't come out the same pitch as I had in my head, which was a bit of a shock, but they were musical, at least).  I am thankful that one day I sang a note that finally did match the notes in my head.  I am thankful that the few notes I had back in August have grown to a few more notes.  I am thankful that, since I have no volume, we have microphones.  :-)  I am thankful for a husband who kept asking me to try to sing.  For being so gentle and loving, and who did not give up on trying to reclaim a bit of the music we have always made together.  I am thankful for those precious moments together again, praising the Lord in song.  I am thankful, even if what I have today is all I ever have, that music is not gone from my life.  I am amazed that God would even give me this.
  I don't know what God's plans are for my future.  I know He is fully able to restore me completely.  My prayer is that whatever He does give me, I will forever use it for His glory.  It's so easy to take for granted the things that He has provided.  I have so much, and yet I often find myself wishing for more.  But today my heart is full of nothing but gratitude, and I can clearly see all of His provision.  And this trial by fire has changed me in so many ways.  No matter what the future holds, I will forever be deeply, eternally, unspeakably thankful for the gift of song.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


  Today's post is for everyone like me.  Those facing the unknown, looking for someone to tell them what to expect.  The doctors can tell you, but you want to hear from someone who's gone through it.  How was it, really?
  Well, it wasn't all that bad, really.  I'll try to walk you through from beginning of my low-iodine diet to back home after in-hospital isolation time.
  The diet, for anyone who doesn't know, is formulated to starve your body of iodine.  This means no salt, unless it's iodine free.  No dairy, no seafood, no prepared or canned foods (no way to know what type of salt they use).  No going out to eat, no eggs (which means no noodles), no soy, very little meat and worst of all (for me) no creole seasoning!  I baked my own bread to make sure it was iodine free.  Other than that, I mainly ate stir-fry.  There are actually a LOT of things you can have, if you know how to cook them.  And I highly recommend that you go to and download the free pdf low-iodine cookbook they have there.  I did stir-fry because it was easy for me and I liked it.  I seasoned with Mrs. Dash (I had about 4 flavors I would rotate around), and it was just fine.  I started my diet on October 13th.  This was also the day I stopped taking my thyroid medicine.  At first, I didn't notice much change in my body or behavior.  As time went on, though, I began getting tired easier.  Not weak, really, just worn out.  My patience with the kids dropped.  I was more easily irritated.  Not as cheerful when Brad came home.  My habit is to stay up a little while after everyone has gone to's the only time of the day when I run no risk of anyone wanting anything from me.  But after 3 weeks of following this routine, I was the first in bed.  I didn't even care how late the kids stayed up.  If they stayed up late, that meant they would sleep in late, and that was fine with me!  I wasn't miserable, by any means.  My body was a little achy.  I didn't cheat.  We needed a TSH number of at least 30 for the treatment to be effective, and I was terrified that I would overlook something that I wasn't supposed to have and not hit my number.  Even though there were plenty of times when I watched others eat...often eating food that I had prepared...and known that it must have tasted so much better than what I had...still there was no REAL temptation.  All I had to do was think of my doctor shaking his head sadly and saying, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Swander, but your numbers aren't quite what we need.  We'll have to delay your treatment.  Let's try another week on the diet and then we'll do another blood draw."  This scene instantly banished any hunger for whatever food was nearby.
  On November 1st, I had my blood drawn.  I was so nervous about my numbers that my mom went with me.  It was an anti-climactic event, since the results didn't come until Friday.  Someone riding there and back with me really helped me not stress out about it, though.  It was also great to have time with just my mom...we don't get that often, and it was nice.  It funny how special times like that can be, even when nothing particularly important gets discussed.  The next afternoon the call came.  Remember, we're looking for a number of 30 or higher.  The nurse cheerfully announced that my numbers were great, the doctor was thrilled and we were on for treatment on Monday.  I asked what my THS level actually was.  It was 62!  I was so excited.  So happy that I hadn't taken "just one bite" somewhere along the way.  That one bite probably wouldn't have kept me from treatment, but it's a slippery slope, and cancer is nothing to mess around with, just for a few seconds of enjoyment.  She said, "You didn't cheat."  "No, I didn't!" I proudly replied.  She immediately asked how I was feeling.  I said, "Well, I just woke up from a nap."  She wasn't surprised.  But again, other than the sudden drops in energy, I was doing great.  The high of knowing I had done well over the past 3 weeks carried me through the weekend.  My husband was so proud of me.  It was so worth it all!
  Monday morning we headed back.  I had a full escort.  My mom, my dad, my sister, my brother, my sister-in-law and their youngest boy all rode up to see me to the hospital.  We had to stop at my doctor's office to sign a consent form that had expired since I signed it back in July.  Then around the corner to the hospital where there was a bit of waiting and a lot of registration forms to sign before being wheeled like an invalid up to what must have been the furthest corner of the hospital.
  My whole room was insulated against radiation.  It became more personal as I looked around; it was insulated against me. The floor was covered with some sort of thin padding (which I was thankful for, because it was much warmer for bare feet than the cold laminated tiles in most rooms).  The wheeled try beside my bed was wrapped in plastic, as were the TVs and the toilet.  Here you can see a bit of the floor, plus how well they covered this oh-so-essential part of my room.

  I had to empty my suitcase into the closet and take the laptop and nook out of their cases.  All these cloth/leather coverings would easily absorb radiation, so they couldn't stay with me.  I changed into an outfit I got at goodwill and packed my regular clothes and all the other things I couldn't keep with me (including my purse) back into the suitcase.  My family couldn't stay too much longer, but before they left, we were able to pray together.
  Let me just say again how thankful I am for all of the prayers that have gone up on my behalf.  I am firmly convinced that the ease of this time has been a direct answer to those prayers.  Sometimes I fear we have a tendency to think, "everyone was so concerned, but it ended up not being a big deal at all!" almost like the prayers were an unnecessary effort.  I am here to say that I do not believe these blogs would be the same if it weren't for prayer!  Every step of the way, from surgery to recovery to the diet to radiation treatment and now recovery from the diet and radiation, I have been surrounded, covered, overwhelmed, wrapped up in prayer.  My story is different than others that I have heard.  I have not had the nausea that others told about.  I have not been miserable.  I have been able to function, even to cook (which I was told I would NOT want to do) right up until the day I left for treatment.  Our Father loves us, listens to us, answers us.  He is faithful and He cares.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for praying for my family and me.  Be encouraged and stay on your knees for those you love.  Your Lord hears and is well able to act!
  After everyone left, I had nothing to do but wait for them to come in with the RAI pills.  I flipped through channels and set up the gadgets I'd brought to keep me entertained.  Found the best plug in spots for the laptop and nook, checked out where my mom had put my stash of hard candy (needed to keep the saliva glands working so the iodine didn't gather and make my neck swell up) and made sure I knew where all the notes people had sent with me were.  I'll post more on those later...they were very possibly the best part of it all.  The nurse gave me 2 little tablets that I had to let dissolve under my tongue to prevent the nausea that RAI sometimes causes.
  After a little while, my doctor and the radiologist came in.  They had a small, silver insulated canister with them.  They went over my instructions one more time:  Drink lots of water, wear gloves when handling things like the laptop or my phone, suck on candy (especially tart candy, like lemon drops...I also had lemon wedges in the room, which I squeezed into my water.  This seemed to work very well, as I was killing two birds with one stone), take extra showers.  After we had discussed everything we could think might be a question or concern, the canister came open.  Tongs pulled out 2 innocent-looking pills, each a bit larger than a tylenol.  They put them in my gloved hand and I popped them both in my mouth.  Down they went, along with a 12 oz bottle of water.  The men smiled and left.
  Dead silence.
  The silence was the worst.  All of you moms know that even though we often crave a bit of quiet, absolute silence usually means bad news.  :-D  With 4 or more kids always around my house, my "some thing's not right" radar goes nuts when there's no noise at all.  The TV came back on, but it was just because I needed something in the background.  It stayed on almost the whole time I was there.  I had left my contacts at home, knowing I would have to throw them away if I took them, so everything I watched was a bit blurry.
  Then I remembered the care package that Virginia had packed for me.  I had fun pulling out the crazy things she had stuffed into a colorful bag, and reading her reasons for each item.  Thank you, Lord, for a friend who gave me a reason to laugh when the emptiness of my room made me want to cry.  Then I read the first of the daily encouragement cards she had added.  Then came the notes from people on facebook and a couple text messages and phone calls.  By that time, an hour had passed and the radiologist was back with his little box to measure my radiation output.  He told me that I was emitting 50 times the amount of radiation deemed safe for the public.  I am so glad I had that hour of pick-me-up before he came in.  Instead of making me fearful over any possible side effects, I was encouraged that the treatment was, indeed, moving through my entire body and would attack any remaining cancer.  He took 3 measurements at 3 different distances from me, reminded me to drink lots of water, and left.
  The nurses would call before bringing in a meal tray to see if there was anything else I needed so that they could come in as few times as possible in a shift.  They were very nice, and took care of everything I needed, but they didn't stay longer than they had to.  They would wear a plastic covering that they would throw away before they stepped out of my room.  There were 3 trash cans, which housekeeping did not empty as they would in a normal room.  All of my meals were served with disposable everything...they even came in on a styrofoam tray.  After I was done eating, everything went into the trash.I had bottled water and cokes in my room before I was given the pills, and the nurse would bring a large cup of ice with each meal.  As I finished each 12 oz bottle of water, I would mark it on the nurse's marker board, since they were supposed to keep track of my fluids.  I also had to mark each time I used the well-protected toilet.  I took 2 showers each day.  One just after dinner and one mid-morning.  My doctor said this is something he recently started recommending for RAI treatments, as it makes a significant difference in flushing the radiation from the body.  They told me my goal should be about 4 hours of fluids per hour.  I wanted to make sure I got home on Thursday, so I was bound and determined to do at least that much.  My average ended up being 6.5 oz/hour, including the hours I was asleep.  I'm not bragging about how much I was able to drink, I just want anyone who might be about to go through this to know that it really does make a difference.  Fluids are the only thing that will make this process go more quickly.
  By the time I was measured on Tuesday, quite a bit of the radiation had been flushed from me already.  They started talking about me going home on Wednesday, which I had not dared to hope for.  I was so encouraged that it was easy to keep drinking!  Also, the RAI seemed to have made my mouth a bit dry, so I was happy to have all of that water.  Tuesday night was the election, and I went to sleep disappointed and with a headache.  Wednesday, everything caught up to me.  The lack of sleep from nervous energy Sunday night, the emotional drain from a video chat and phone calls with my kids (my precious 3 year old brought me to tears both when he was so excited to hear from me and when he was brokenhearted that I had to say goodbye), frustration over the presidential election results, all of this on top of the reduced energy from my diet (which I was still on) and lack of thyroid medication.  I had a headache.  I slept almost all morning and had little appetite.  I managed to keep up on the fluids, though.  I didn't want to add one more reason to be unhappy.  Finally it was time for another reading and I passed with flying colors!  Suddenly everything was bearable...I was going home!  With my wonderful husband on his way to pick me up, I started packing.  I tossed out any paper that I had touched with my bare hands, I threw away the rest of the candy and the toothbrush and toothpaste I had been using.  I flipped through the channels until I found something lighthearted that matched my mood, and watched bits of it as I paced the floor waiting for my ride.
  When Brad got there, he brought the suitcase that my parents had left with, with everything still inside.  He was not allowed in the room, but the nurse brought it to me.  I quickly pulled out the clothes I had worn to the hospital and changed.  I tossed out my goodwill clothes and packed the laptop and other electronics into the suitcase.  Brushed out my hair, put on a smile and went to meet the one person I had missed most of all.  This awesome man was ready with a big hug and a celebration plan.  We went to Longhorn steakhouse for a dinner like I hadn't had in ages.  I had a loaded baked potato, a salad smothered in ranch dressing, strawberry lemon aid and more steak than I could find room for.  What was left (about half of both steak and potato) came home with me for lunch the next day.  I will say, after a month of bland food, I did pay for that meal a bit the next day.  But, oh, it was worth it!  Sitting with my husband, knowing the treatment was done, feeling for the first time that the end of this ordeal really was in sight.  It was as much reason to celebrate as the birth of our children.
  Arriving home was incredible.  Hugs (several times around) and "Mama, we missed you!" and I love yous and promises of back rubs and foot rubs and help cooking and all the things my beautiful children know are special to me.    Until you are gone, you never know how important coming home is.
  I started back on my thyroid medicine the next morning.  All the excitement had worn me out, and I was so thankful that Tosha stayed around to help even after I was home.  I got up with Brad as usual, but ended up going back to bed before the morning was over and slept for almost 4 hours.  It will take a little bit of time for my energy levels to go all the way back up, but I feel better each day.  Today is Saturday, (3 doses of meds now) and I'm doing well.  That little pill will be part of my daily routine for the rest of my life.  Amazing how something so small makes such a difference.  Again, I praise the Lord, that He has allowed men the knowledge that gives me this supplement.
  So that was my radiation experience.  I will go in for a full-body scan in a couple weeks, and we'll find out how it worked.  I was blessed to not have any sickness during treatment, and more blessed to be surrounded by love, prayers and support through the entire ordeal.  If anyone has questions, please ask!  I will answer honestly and as accurately as I can.  The unknown can be scary.  I hope my post today is able to reassure someone who is walking this path behind me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


  Emotions all over the place today.  Trinity said, "Don't cry, Mama, or you'll make me start again."  She's such a good girl...I didn't even know she'd been crying; she didn't want me to see so I wouldn't worry.  I was fine this morning.  Slept in a little, got up & got ready for church.  I don't often wear my hair down, but I did since it was a special request from my dear hubby.  Then I figured since I was doing that for him, I might as well go all out.  I didn't dress fancy, but tried to look pretty in my comfy new shirt (goodwill special for $2) and jeans that I'm almost too small for now (can't type that without grinning!).  I dug out the makeup and sprayed his favorite perfume.  We had a couple pictures taken to make the day feel special.   Then comes worship service and songs that talk about being willing to give everything to be closer to Christ, and the tears come.  I hold my husband's hand and we sing, "...everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss..." and we both think of the music we've made together.  We think of the security we've lost emotionally since this disease touched our lives.  And even though tears are in my eyes, I smile because it's ok.  What does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?  What does it profit me to gain perfect, untouched health but not be in the will of God?
  After service is over (which I've survived without a flood of tears), my precious Jay stands silently beside my seat.  One look tells me he's not ok.  I wrap my arms around his thin waist and whisper it's ok to tell me what's wrong.  His emotions spill out.  Fear and anxiety roll down his cheeks and splash onto my shoulder.  In his eyes, everything has been going so well.  It's hard for him to understand why I have to leave for so long.  And his words bring up the emotions I've been pushing aside.  We cry together and I tell him I'll call and it won't be long, and it's this one more thing so I can be sure I'll be healthy.  And I pray this is the end.  I will never be the same inside.  This journey has radically changed me.  But my children need stability, so for them I pray for "normal" again.
  Everyone tells me they are praying for me.  I feel surrounded by support and love and faith.  I didn't nap today, just enjoyed the feeling of my loved ones near me.  I know I'll crash hard tomorrow, but I wonder if I will sleep at all tonight.  My body is starting to get tired, but my emotions and mind are going full tilt.  Cherishing every smile, holding each child a little longer.  Reaching out to Brad just to touch him as he passes.  Only 4 days.  Not too long, in the grand scheme of things.  But it's so odd for us to be apart that even I, as reclusive as I am, am dreading it.
  I have had friends and family stop in to visit.  It's been wonderful.  It's been 4 hours since I started this blog, but each interruption has been a joy.
  Now dinner is almost ready and kids are looking forward to full tummies and I revel in doing this simple, everyday task for my family.  Others will step into my shoes over the next few days, but tonight my hands will bring them their plates.  Thank you, Lord, for the joy of serving my family.  Thank you for this day that has been so filled with love.

Continued Blessings...and Lessons in Faith

  It's getting closer.  One more full day at home, then I'm away for treatment.  Monday morning I have to leave my precious family.  I worry about them.  What if someone gets sick?  What if someone can't find something they need?  How is Mikey going to handle me being gone?  He's too young for me to prepare him, and he's ornery when he can't have Mama (ok, he's ornery a lot, but it's worse when he can't have Mama).  Did I get everything at the grocery store that they'll need while I'm gone?  Then there's the stuff I still have to do.  I have to pack...that will take all of about 10 minutes, but still, what if I forget something important, or something someone specifically gave me for this time away?  I'm not really taking much; a couple goodwill outfits (so I can just toss them out), a laptop, the nook, hard candy, water, my phone and... hmm...there's something else, I know there is...oh, ya, lotion.  I have to take 3 showers a day, so lotion is a good idea if I don't want my skin to be a complete itchy mess by the time I come home.  I need to make a chore list so Tosha knows what the kids' schedule should look like each day.  I need to make a babysitting list so she knows what kids to expect at what times each day.  I need to make a list of what's in the freezer so everyone knows what food is available.  Make sure everyone knows how to use the new phone.  Set up Skype (just tonight was given a way to communicate through Skype while I'm gone, so I'm excited about that) on all necessary computers.  And if I forget one of these things...then what?
  You know, it's so much easier for me to trust God with my own body than with my family.  I have said several times that I'm ok with having cancer because I know that God knows what He's doing.  I've even pointed out blessings that would have never happened if it weren't for this disease.  But leaving my family...that's hard.  Trusting that they will be just fine while I'm gone, that God will provide for them just as He always's difficult to feel peaceful about that.
  I'm sitting here, reading that last sentence again.  That's my problem, isn't it?  I have put myself in the role of provider instead of completely understanding that everything comes from God.  I have called Him Jehovah Rapha (God my Healer), but I have not leaned on Him as Jehovah Jireh (God my Provider).
  And now I see how foolish I am.  Because He has already provided, and shown me that they were provided for and yet I insisted on worrying.  He gave me Tosha to oversee my household.  She is sweet, even-tempered, smart and patient.  He gave me my dear sister, Renee, who has already organized meals being brought to our home while I'm gone and even a few after I get back.  He has given me my mom and sister-in-law who can help Renee with a grocery store run if needed, and checking on everyone just to make sure they aren't going without.  Just today I found out that my mother-in-law won't be going to Michigan as was planned, so she will take the boys for one night.  That will help Mikey so much.  I was glad when I heard, but I can see that God was showing me His perfect provision for the very things I have been concerned about.
  I am so unworthy of such a Savior.  Who has anticipated my every thought, who has already conquered every obstacle.  I keep trying to define and confine Him, and He keeps overflowing every box I create.
“Aslan" said Lucy "you're bigger".
"That is because you are older, little one" answered he.
"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."
― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia

  Oh, Lord; my Savior, my Healer, my perfect Provider...thank you for growing me tonight. I ask that You continue to purify and strengthen me. You know that I will miss my children and my wonderful husband while we are apart.  Thank you for soothing this Mama with assurance of your protection and provision.  Forgive me for my doubt, I pray!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Being Loved

  One of the most wonderful parts about having cancer is seeing how people love me.  I know that I am loved by many people...but I haven't always felt that love like I have over these past few months.  In my most difficult moments, someone has always been there.  I give the ultimate glory to God for prompting each person, each card, each gift, each meal, each phone call, each email...and I thank those individuals for listening to His voice and reaching out to me.
  I have told you about some of the wonderful things people have done for my family and myself, but in case you didn't read it before, I'll recap some (and please forgive me if I forget!).  A neighbor mowed our lawn.  Several people cooked...I think we had meals for about 2 and a half weeks back in July when I had my surgeries.  Someone took our trash to the dump.  A young lady from church served as a live-in nanny/maid while I was in the hospital and even for a week after I got out.  She also has come to babysit several times while I have gone to various appointments and will be coming again next week while I'm gone.  She has done it all for free.  Emails, letters, verses of encouragement, notes about my blogs, questions about how my kids are doing...these things are constantly coming my way just when I need to be reminded that God sees every fear, even my unspoken ones.  One friend even brought her kids hours from home to stay with me for a week so that I could rest while she cooked, cleaned, prepared extra meals for the future (my freezer didn't know what to do with all that food in it!) and even gave some excellent cooking lessons to my daughter.
  After a while, the flow of gifts slowed.  I expected that.  People have to get on with thier own lives...and so do I.  Cancer or not, each day comes and has with it it's own responsibilities.  And it's hard to keep being concerned when nothing seems to change.  Some people even thought that I was completely out of danger after the surgery was over and were surprised to hear that I still had treatment to go through.  It's been almost 4 months since my surgeries, and that's a long time to just wait.
  But tonight I want to share with you two very special gifts that have been given recently.  One came from my mom.  Just out of nowhere, she bought me a beautiful purse.
  It's a back-pack style, like the one I was using...except that one was ages old and green (not all that pretty) and the only reason I used it was because I liked the backpack feature.  Out of the blue, my mom gives me this.  It was so unexpected and thoughtful.  I was completely surprised.  Inside was a Tshirt with a large pink ribbon on it.  Under the cancer awareness ribbon, it says, "Fight Like a Warrior."  I have looked at my cancer as a spiritual fight.  Not that I think I can have enough faith to banish it, but that it is a tool God is using to strengthen and test me spiritually.  When I read those words, I cried.  I thought of Pilgrim's Progress...the young christian in his spiritual armor, standing his ground and fighting as one of God's warriors.  What a perfect gift!  What a wonderful reminder to me that I am loved, that my mom is rooting for me, that she is praying for me, that she is fighting spiritually alongside me.  Every time I see these items, I am warmed by the love that came with them.
  The second gift came from my "daughter;" a young lady from our church that we unofficially adopted.  She too has given me 2 things that show the depth of her love.  First of all, she lent me her Nook Color to take to the hospital next week so that I will have something to do while I'm there other than watch endless cooking shows on cable.  lol.  She downloaded an ebook with 25 stories from various authors...several of my favorite classics, and some that I've never had the chance to read.  She worked hard to save up for that Nook, and it was sweet of her to offer it.  But the depth of her gift didn't hit me until the Sunday she brought it to church for me.  Someone was asking about what I would expect while I was in isolation, and I was telling all of the odd requirements and restrictions I needed to follow.  My daughter mentioned that I was taking the Nook, and he asked if it would have to be thrown away after I used it.  Before I could assure him that it wouldn't, she spoke up.  "If it does, that's ok.  It's an acceptable sacrifice."  It's just an electronic board, I know.  But to me it's her long hours at work and the times she didn't go out to eat in order to buy that for herself...and now she gives it to me with no concern over whether she will get it back or not.  I am overwhelmed.  A few weeks before, we had missed 2 Sundays in a row at our church.  It doesn't happen very often, and I was so glad to come back.  My beautiful girl, a gift disguised as someone in need, comes to stand next to me durring worship.  She has done this ever since I lost my voice.  She never used to sing.  I know...I was on stage and could see her.  :-)  I'm not saying she didn't worship, just that she didn't sing.  But now she stands by my side and sings and sings and sings.  The church gathered around me and my family to pray for us the Sunday after we were back from our 2 weeks away.  When we were done, she held me so tight.  I whispered, "thank you for being my voice."  And with tears from the girl who is as tough as nails, who would scream and fight before she would cry, she said, "then you have to be here.  You're the reason I sing."  Such selflessness is blossoming in her!  What a giving spirit, from someone who was taught to look out for herself, because she thought no one else would.  To even overcome the negative spirit that kept her silent...such a gift will always be treasured.  These are things I will carry with me all of my life.  These are things that are of infinate worth.  Not the cloth and plastic and paper or food that will waste away, but the love and kindness and prayers and selflessness that came with them.  This is being loved.