Saturday, January 29, 2011

Etsy Store Opening and Update : )

I have something I am very excited about to share. Several people in my life have been encouraging me to market my artwork for years... but I’m not the marketing type. My brother Ben masterminded the idea of starting an Etsy store to sell fine art prints of my paintings and some of my drawings. He has done an amazing job photographing my artwork with his super high quality professional camera. Another sibling will administrate the store for me and all of the proceeds will go to Arts For Life, and Doctors Without Borders.

Ben just opened the shop today, and more artwork will be added soon, please check back for more artwork over the next few weeks.

It feels really good to have artwork for sale that will help these organizations in their work to relieve suffering and bring hope to so many people.

As for me, my time feels shorter and shorter and I am living with greater and greater excitement about finding out what Heaven will be like. I wonder what Jesus will look like when I see Him? I wonder many, many things, all kinds of things, with a heart filled with hope and peace, thanks to His overwhelming grace.

In His Grip, For His Glory, Martha

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


For the last few weeks I have been struggling deeply with the Mercy Promise that God made me.

It hasn’t been feeling like He’s being merciful. It felt to me like He wasn’t keeping His promise. His promise wasn't making any sense.

For nearly two years I have been trying to guess what the fulfillment of this promise would look like in my life, and at times I thought I knew, but I was wrong.

This morning, I was talking with my wise (and wonderful) hospice nurse and God used our conversation to show me what the fulfillment of His mercy promise will look for me. (And if I’m wrong, He will forgive me for thinking I know, but this time I’m sure that this is something He has shown me).

This morning my nurse and I had our usual reporting/reflecting/question session. Toward the end of our conversation, I said that based on how dramatically my body has changed just in the last week, and how fast my body is deteriorating, I can’t imagine that it will be more than a few more weeks, or a month at most, before I go Home.

She responded by agreeing that things are happening rapidly and said she didn’t know how long my body will tolerate it’s current condition, she said she didn’t know if my body will try to tolerate it because I’m so ready and because I’m so at peace with “dying.”

As I was reflecting on her comment, which I found very encouraging, I felt like I finally understood what the Mercy Promise means.

It means that because of the work God has done in my spirit, mind, and body over the last two years, my parts are all unified. So as I continue to deteriorate physically, my mind and spirit won’t fight my body and cause all of the physical chaos that people with terminal illnesses so often experience.

Instead, as my body deteriorates, it will be free to do it in a gentle and peaceful way, with permission from and my mind and spirit.

I picture myself moving with ease and grace from life to Life. I don’t see a huge “fight,” or a horrendous “struggle,” I don’t see any massive issues to be afraid of, and I am not afraid—I’m not afraid to wait for the right time and I’m not afraid to Transition.

And yes, I am suffering. Yes, I am in pain. Yes, last night I wretched so hard it made my something in my lower spine/right hip (the one that already hurts a lot) crack or pop so loudly I both heard it and felt it, and the pain was so excruciating that I had to get help lifting my legs onto my bed.

Yes, my physical situation is grim, but it is not nearly as grim as many of those with terminal cancer. Yes, it could be infinitely worse.

It is such a huge gift to understand this.
It is, in itself, such a miracle to be given such a clear idea of what His promise to me means.

And, as always, thank you so very much for all of your thoughtful and encouraging comments, and for your prayer for me and my family. We are very thankful.

In His Grip, Martha

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Update

I guess it’s update time again.

There isn’t a ton to say. My body continues to deteriorate, I continue longing to go Home, my energy continues to decrease, I continue to struggle with which medications to take when, I continue to pray for a clot—a quick and easy way out....

There is one thing that I crave more than almost anything else; to gulp down a giant glass of ice cold water. I’m thirsty all the time but can’t drink more than sips of water. If I drink more than two medium size gulps at a time, it makes me nearly vomit.

Crushed ice tastes better than any ice cream ever did, and it is cold, and it slows down my intake, so I’ve been able to enjoy ice chips.

I’ve been sleeping terribly every night, partly because of lower back pain, I have almost no energy during the day, it takes effort to talk in the late afternoon/evening, and the nausea gets a lot worse throughout the day—even with anti-nausea meds.

I’ve lost interest in a lot of things, little things like checking each day, as I have for months. Small tasks often seem overwhelming and it’s often hard to find energy for them.

Really, I just want to be done. This cancer thing has gotten a lot harder in the last week, and I desperately want to be done.

In a sense I suppose it’s like being in the last few weeks of a pregnancy (speaking on the basis of observation only), only I’m waiting to be delivered into Life, Joy, His presence, and Perfect Healing.

Please pray for me. It is excruciating to wait. I often find myself opening my eyes hoping to see Jesus coming for me.

Please pray for my dear family who I’m visiting and who are bringing me ice chips and Ensure, reading to me, and being very loving.

Please pray for mercy.
Thank you very much, Martha

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Well, I had a meeting with my wonderful nurse yesterday morning.

The bottom line is that:
-I’ve lost three more pounds since last Friday.
-I find my heart beating fast after minimal exertion; this is probably because my body is breaking down, including my muscles, my body is already using its reserve resources, and my heart is trying to compensate.
-I have something vascular and very painful going on in my left arm. Whatever it is makes me unable to straighten my arm all the way, is causing veins to hurt, and seems like it could be The Clot. The Clot= the one that could take me home. I’m hopeful about this one because not only is it bigger and more extensive than the others I’ve had, but it’s also in my left arm, which is closer to my heart than any of the others I’ve had.
-With the potential bowel obstruction that is building and the potential clot, please pray that the clot will win; it would be so much easier.

-I’m hanging out with my family right now.
-I am very tired and very weak.
-I have learned how to make yarn out of t-shirts, something I’d never heard of before seeing it on HERE and finding THIS tutorial. Note: The first link is a site that puts up new crafts every day, so the t-shirt yarn thing may be several days back... The resulting yarn is very soft and seems like it should be very nice to crochet with... Making t-shirt yarn is very easy and fun, and a great way to recycle t-shirts.
-I am glad to be in the actively deteriorating physically stage rather than the facing months and months of ambiguity stage.

-Please keep praying for grace and wisdom and comfort.

In His Grip, Martha

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank You VERY Much....

I’m afraid to post this because I’m afraid people might stop praying and I’ll start feeling horrible immediately : )

Not only is the 102.5 fever/body temperature regulation issue from yesterday error gone, but so are the cold chills, the nausea, and the pain—at least for now... And I was able to take my pain med without having any nausea from it, which was awesome.

In addition, I slept for four hours straight for the first time in at least a week, and I only woke up a total of three times—as opposed to five to seven times. It was AMAZING.

The variability involved in this process is unbelievable.

I just wanted you to know that I feel way better than I did yesterday and I believe it’s because of Divine intervention. Thank you very, very, very much for your prayers for me.

But please, please, please don’t stop praying.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Please Pray

I need prayer for wisdom. I’m having new symptoms and old symptoms which are making me feel pretty weird.

I’m having sets of symptoms I can’t treat with meds because, for example, the pain med I would take would increase the existing nausea. Therefore, the whole comfort care thing is not working for me right now.

I’m having pretty rapid symptom changes too, the most bothersome is waking me up every hour all night long, preventing me from getting any halfway decent sleep, which is making me fatigued, which is increasing my other symptoms.

I really need some relief.

Last time I asked for prayer, I was amazed by how God moved. Please pray again.

Thanks, Martha

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some Pretty Things

Some friends gave me these lovely tulips this week.

This is a hat I crocheted. It’s the magnum opus of my crocheted hats. I made about ten other hats along the way and learned something from each one that added to the skill set I needed to make this one. (The colors in this image are not accurate... I'm not quite sure what happened)

My Favorite part is the four color spiral at the top, where I began the hat. If you want to know how to start a multicolor spiral, check out THIS LINK.

I also like the border because of its subtle picot pattern.... This picture also shows the colors most accurately, except the darker purple is a true dark violet-purple and what looks like black is actually a deep indigo blue....

Here is a similar hat in progress: You work each of the colors for so many stitches and then repeat, repeat, repeat, so you have the ends of each color hanging loose until you’re finished. I may try one with six colors, just for fun.

I’m still having mostly good days, tinged with the digestive crud. The hip pain is still pretty terrible—and much worse later in the day.

It’s really hard to know what’s going on with this stuff. There is definitely enough crud to make me think the partial bowel obstruction is a reality, and I am definitely only drinking water and Ensure, but the whole thing is variable enough that it’s hard to get a grasp on.

Trying to understand this physical process is kind of like trying to catch a slippery fish with your hands; you can feel it and see it but you can’t quite get a hold of it.... : )

I’m still praying for a clot instead of the bowel obstruction (and every time I type that, I type “bowl” and then imagine of all the ways a bowl of cereal could be obstructed—cheerio dams etc).....

I treated myself to two humidifiers today (two because I don't want to have to move one back and forth between the front of my house during the day, and my bedroom at night). I’ve been coughing and coughing, to the point where I almost vomited several times a few nights ago... My wonderful nurse brother suggested that my house is very, very dry and the dry environment could be causing the coughing. I never thought of that; it’s a knee jerk reaction at this point to blame everything on the cancer... I can’t wait to see how the humidifier works...

Also, I’ve gotten a huge number of very, very, very encouraging, kind, and thoughtful emails and comments on here recently—they are really super awesome and I really appreciate them. Thank you!

Peace, Martha

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


This is a post mostly about stuff I really do not want to write about, but which I feel like I have to write...

I have been hearing a lot of direct questions about why I’ve chosen to be in my own home while I’m dying, and I’ve been hearing second hand consternation from people who aren’t talking to me directly, and I’m tired of defending myself.

So, of the million reasons why I’ve chosen to be in my home, and the hospice home if need be, while I’m dying, here are a few:

-This is where I want to be.

-This is where I feel peaceful and right about being.

-I have not only bent over backwards, I’ve twisted in circles, tied myself in knots, and stood on my head trying to make this process easier for people around me, and trying to be available to spend time with people for the last two years. So if this last part of the process is inconvenient for some people, so be it.

-Dying is very hard work mentally/emotionally/physically, so now I am making myself available to myself and God to do the work that needs to be done. Time alone has always been crucial for me, as an introvert, and now it’s absolutely critical as a dying introvert.

-Here is a quote from on the well-researched end of life stages of relationships, which can start happening long before the last few weeks of “life”:

"Decreased Socialization
The person may only want to be with a very few or even just one person. This is a sign of preparation for release and affirms from whom the support is most needed in order to make the appropriate transition. If you are not part of this inner circle at the end, it does not mean you are not loved or are unimportant. It means you have already fulfilled your task with your loved one, and it is the time for you to say Good-bye. If you are part of the final inner circle of support, the person needs your affirmation, support, and permission." (LINK

If you have more questions, please use this hospice site as a resource. I’ve shared it many times but I don’t know if people are using it....

It is what it is. If you’re not involved any more/right now, don’t take it personally, this is normal.

-I am making this decision for myself, after praying about it. It’s not a question of making people happy or making things easy for everyone else any more (although I do try when I am able to). If people are happy, that’s wonderful. If people aren’t happy, take your unhappiness to God and let Him help you with it.

I am dying and my needs as I die are a higher priority than making people happy.

-This city has been my home for over three years, and it’s the first place that has felt like home to me in fifteen years. My community is here, my church is here, and my ministry is here. This is my home and this is my space.

-This is where my spaces are for creating art, it is where I feel best making art.

-This where all of my earthly possessions are.

-This is where my hospice care team is. I am NOT going to move somewhere that is not my home and try to summon the energy to form the kind of relationships I already have with my current hospice team.

I have spent over four months forming relationships with my team here, including communicating my philosophy of dying and end of life care with my team and answering questions from them about what my wishes are.

Why would I want to do that all over again when it’s already done? That would be foolish and an absolute waste of the small amount of energy I have.

-Along the hospice care lines: I need my family to love me and support me and affirm me. I need my hospice care team to support me and care for my physical needs. It is not my family’s job to wipe my rear and bathe me. Over my dead body (Ha ha, get it?). I think separating those areas of responsibility is very healthy and I think it will make everything easier for all of those involved.

-I have safeguards in place—two friends with keys to my house who my nurse can call to let her in, in case of emergency, a bed (and extra tea bags) for my parents if they need to come up here at any time of day or night, people who can do errands etc for me if needed, people lined up to take care of my wonderful dog... Etc.

-I don’t feel like I should have to defend my position, so here it is for the whole world. I hope this is the last time I have to go over this.

-The bottom line is that you can take a pancake tortoise out of it’s desert habit and put it in the ocean, or you can take a sea turtle and put it in the desert, or you could even set up terrariums with the right environments for each of them, but it won’t be RIGHT, it won’t be the real thing, and they won’t thrive in the wrong environment or a synthetic environment.

I’m going to choose where I will be while I’m dying, and I’ll let you choose where you would like to be while you are dying.

One last thought, while I’m on consternation:
Over the last few weeks, mixed in with all of my super-encouraging, helpful, loving, thoughtful, amazing communications from people (for which I'm very thankful), I’ve gotten a few emails from people who are contacting me for the first time in many years simply because I’m dying and they feel like terrible friends.

I haven’t really known how to respond.
Part of me wants to say that they should have been living all of that time without regrets, and if, at some point along the way, they felt they should have communicated, then they should have.

Part of me wants to say that God used the vast majority of my female friends who got married or moved away and fell off the face of the earth to teach me that friends come and go, and that I need to hold relationships loosely—and that is very helpful to me now.

What I have been saying is thanks for your letter, no worries, peace be with you.

The point of all of this is to say if your path naturally or unnaturally diverges from a friend’s path, either do whatever it takes to fix it or make sure things are healed and move on at that point, not way down the road.

We all need to live with no regrets.
We need to live so we could die tomorrow and not leave anyone in pain.
We need to do what we need to do to keep things right with people.
We need to take care of our own issues/needs/etc and not put them on someone else.

It is also true, as you know if you read the above hospice information on relationships at the end of life, that the circles of people who I have the energy and need to communicate with, or be with, has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. It isn’t anything personal toward anyone; it’s what has to happen when your resources are limited in every way.

If I died tomorrow, or right now, I would not have any regrets about anyone who has been in my life at any point: God has gone over the things I know of that needed to be healed and they are healed. So if you’re reading this, please know that I hold/held nothing against you, and that I died in peace toward you. That goes for every single person who reads this.

Meanwhile, I must be in the quiet part of the intermittent bowel obstruction because my digestive tract has been relatively peaceful since Friday or Saturday.

My parents came up this past weekend and we got a two year burden off my shoulders—in the form of sorting, throwing, and giving away all of the excess stuff in my house, so my house will be easy to deal with after I am Home. I even got through all of my paperwork. It was amazing and it was the first time I’ve had energy to do anything that physically intense in at least three months. It was incredible and it feels incredible to know it is done.

The trade off on the organized and cleaned out house is intense hip pain. My right hip flared all the way back up to where it was LAST JUNE and it is/was unbelievable. At this point, I don’t think the pain is going to go all the way away but if I rest it and don’t stress it, it’s mostly bearable.

My understanding of this break from the bowel obstruction mess is that it’s a reprieve God has given me to get things done—like the house sorting and finishing a bunch of paintings I’ve been struggling to finish.

I’ll take it for as long as it lasts and ask for grace for whatever is next.

Which reminds me, speaking of what is next.... It struck me as stupid to be praying for a clot to take me home gently, quickly, and easily while taking aspirin daily to thin my blood, so I’ve stopped taking it. If you have a bone to pick with this, talk to God, not me.

Okay, I’m exhausted and going to sleep.

Please don’t feel any need to defend me etc, I’m done with this.

I hope this isn’t my last post because I really don’t enjoy dealing with this stuff.

Peace and love to everyone, everywhere. Martha

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

End Almost in Sight

I’m having a hard time organizing this post, so please bear with me.
It’s a “heavy” post, and I’m trying to be gentle and concise...

I met with my hospice people today.
We went over my symptoms from the last two weeks.

The Bottom Line:
-They feel quite certain that all of the symptoms I am experiencing are because of a bowel obstruction. Bowel obstructions are the leading cause of actual “death” in women with ovarian cancer. HERE is a link to brief information on bowel obstructions.

-I have lost five pounds since December 17th, which makes me now only 112 pounds. This is, as the math people out there know, a large percentage of my body weight. My body is already using its reserves, even with all of the Ensure it is getting...

-We have a care plan in place, and I have family and friends in place, to take care of my needs between now and when I go Home. For this, I feel abundantly blessed and loved and incredibly thankful.

***A cool story about God’s involvement in the details:
I need some stuff from the store.
I decided to call a friend to see if she could go to the store for me.
Within an hour, before I got anywhere close to calling her, she called me.
We haven’t talked for a month or so, so this was pretty amazing.
Said friend is going to get my stuff for me tomorrow.
How cool is that?

The Long Version:
In addition to the above...
-This bowel obstruction stuff was described to me as real, end stage, disease process.

-It may be intermittent for a while and the symptoms may come and go.
-Based on how fast all of the superficial cancer is growing in my upper body, it’s likely that the internal cancer in my abdomen is also growing fast.
-Based on that, and the fact that as the tumors in my abdomen grow they will shift things around, push on things, squash things etc, I should expect my symptoms to be unpredictable—right  now my major symptoms are pain, nausea, and substantial digestive crud.

-Right now, this moment, I feel okay. Earlier today, I felt terrible. This symptom stuff is highly variable.

-Based on all of the above, I am reminding myself of what I know to be true of God so I don’t slip into fear and terror of what a bowel obstruction could do, and I am exhilarated by knowing that there is an end somewhere in partial sight—it feels kind of like seeing the sun glowing through haze on an overcast day... I can’t wait until it comes radiating through and burns all of the haze and clouds away, forever.

-I am also reminding myself that my hospice team will make sure I suffer as little as possible.
-I am also reminding myself that there are many people praying for me, that He is hearing you/them, and that He doesn’t turn a deaf ear to our pleas.

-Our care plan is for me to be at my home for as long as I can be here comfortably, and then when my symptoms become more severe, I’ll go into the hospice home where I will get care twenty-four hours a day, anytime I need it.

-Most people, by the time they would go into the hospice home with symptoms like I will probably have, don’t have any desire to eat.
-I have already chosen not to have IV fluids or IV nutrition: I want to go Home ASAP.
-Hospice will make sure that I am comfortable.
-Most people who are not eating or drinking die within two weeks.
-For me, it may be longer because I am young and my heart is strong.
-For me, it may be shorter (hopefully it will be shorter) because I am already losing weight and weakening, and my system is very compromised.

Meanwhile, when I first heard “bowel obstruction” this morning it hit me like a freight train because of what I know about them, because I thought God’s promise of mercy precluded a bowel obstruction, and simply because even though the thought had occurred to me several times in the last few weeks, two medical professionals were quite sure that I’m beginning one.

Then, and I don’t pretend to understand this completely, I was given peace as I thought about all of the ways God could show mercy, even with a bowel obstruction. I haven’t had time to really reflect on this but,
1. He could show me mercy by making this all happen rapidly and not allowing the dying process to get long and drawn out.
2. He could/and has already show/shown me mercy through the medical care He has provided that has helped ease my symptoms.
3. He could do something miraculous, such as letting a clot loose somewhere to give me an easy, instant “death.”

So I’m feeling relatively centered and peaceful at this point. I am still feeling somewhat jarred by the information but it’s settling in and being processed.

If you are praying for me, I can’t express how much I continue to need, feel, and appreciate your prayers. I felt them Sunday night after I posted my last post—in an obvious, peace-filling, mind-calming, body-helping way.

Thank you so very, very much.

On another note, a picture from my Thoughts and Stuff post came back to me today:
“As I’ve watched my life and the path God has brought me down, which has always seemed unusual to me, this cancer thing makes perfect sense as an end goal for this section of my life—the part I’m living here on earth, right now.

Sometimes I sit back and think about the things in my life that have made the least sense, the things that were the most excruciatingly painful, and they all fit together like pieces in a puzzle. This cancer thing is just the final piece. If I view my life outside the framework of this life, and instead view it within the framework of eternity, the puzzle looks perfect. Crazy sounding? Yes. But true. “

It occurred to me that here I am, exactly a year later, almost seeing Jesus finish my life puzzle. Here I am, watching as He puts this last piece of my life in its place. It’s amazing.

IN His grip, Martha

I almost forgot, I’ve had this song echoing through my head for several days now. God keeps playing it for me to remind me of what is true and to comfort me.

Stick with it for the first few seconds, while the previous song ends. Also, bear in mind that it's live performance. It is a beautiful and comforting song.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hell and High Water

Okay, so I’ve had what I consider to be a pretty damn hellish last couple weeks. It’s been bad, to the point where what’s going on with my body is so overwhelming and distracting that it’s hard to see around it, past it, or through it...

It’s been really hard to maintain hope, a halfway decent attitude, or to even cling to the belief that God really is still watching me, feeling my pain with me, or paying attention to my suffering.

Basically, it started with my losing the ability to eat solids, after which my body stabilized and was doing fine on an Ensure/water diet, then I thought it would be good to try to transition back to some solid food, which put me in the bathroom for the better part of several days and in a ton of abdominal pain, after which my body stabilized again for about five or six days, so I said to myself, “I’ll eat a damn pistachio if I want to.” and did...

In fact, I ate three whole pistachios (the ones that are about half an inch long) in one day. I felt okay, so the next day I ate three peanuts.

The next morning I woke up in agony, with abdominal pain so intense that it made me feel nauseous and faint and restarted all of the digestive drama (is that discreet enough?), except it was worse this time. I spent all day that day lying in bed half awake and half asleep, wishing I could be Done.

Then, a few days later, I really started to feel better, except for some reason I almost vomited when I was brushing my teeth in the morning. Well that night, after taking my previously-miraculous-and-wonderful pain killer, I got out of bed at about 3am and vomited all over the place. It was so bad it took me thirty minutes just to clean it up.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of nausea—even though I haven’t taken the pain meds again, weakness, no-energy-ness, abdominal drama, and problems sleeping because of all of the above.

So, no solid food will ever come into my mouth again if I have anything to do with it.

The three (3) pistachios were last Monday and the three (3) peanuts were last Tuesday, it’s now Sunday, and I’m just now feeling un-nauseated, almost re-hydrated, and somewhat stable.

The pain medicine issue is something I and my hospice team will need wisdom for fixing.

I know that’s a lot of detail and complaining; the point is that when my body gets that incredibly distressed, it’s really hard to maintain a strong grasp on God’s love for me, and that He is in this with me.

In an effort to get my attitude/focus somewhat back together I read Psalms 120-130 this morning. I just decided to read Psalms and those chapters are where God took me as I read.

Anyway, it was extremely helpful because it reminded me who this God is who has my life in His hands:
He is the God who answers me.
He is the God who delivers me.
He is the One who helps me.
He made Heaven and Earth.
He keeps me.
He does not slumber or sleep.
He is my Keeper.
He provides shade for me.
He will keep me from all evil.
He will keep my life now and forevermore.
He will have mercy on me. (Even when it doesn’t feel like it)
He is on my side.
He will not hand me over to what seeks to overwhelm me.
He surrounds me now and forevermore.
He does great things for me.
He is the source of all my blessings.
With Him is steadfast love and faithfulness.
With Him is abundant deliverance.

(A possibly irritating side note: If your god can’t do all of this, she/he/it/you is/are too small, you may want to consider this One)

Then, I finally re-read my own post, Eucatastrophes and Thank You, and this part of it was helpful for me to remind myself of:

“If I were going to be really honest, I’d say that I’ve never experienced anything so horrifying and grotesque as having cancer. I can’t possibly describe how shocking and disgusting some of its effects on my body have been. I can’t describe how painful cancer is on an emotional and psychological level.

If I were going to be really honest, I’d say that this time while I’ve had cancer has been the time in my life where I’ve most tangibly felt the presence of God, where I’ve heard His voice speak to me for the first time in my life, where He has met me over and over in so many specific ways through people, conversations, scripture, and reading, and where I’ve experienced so much of life so much more fully than ever before. And all of this—this is the part of this process that has been breathtaking in its beauty.”

True, right now the first paragraph feels more accurate right now, but it’s also true that the second paragraph continues to be true right now as well, even though/when it doesn’t feel like it.

I guess this whole post is a request for your prayer...
For the ability to keep what God has shown me to be true in focus no matter what is going on with my body.
For grace to be gracious and others focused and not just a whiner focused only on myself.
For wisdom for what I should be doing and where I should be living.
For God to take me Home as soon as He possibly will/can.

Thank you for all of your love and support and prayers.
In His Grip (even when it doesn’t feel like it), Martha