Exploring new territory.

Let me begin with a huge ‘THANK YOU’ to all who have continued to inquire on Joey’s well being despite my lack of updates. We are blessed with a life full of people who genuinely care and desire to help us navigate this journey successfully. Our family, friends, church, and coworkers have done such an amazing job lifting our spirits and encouraging us every single day. Our hearts are so full it sometimes flows out of my eyes. Thank you.

Picking up where I left off on my last post:

As you know, Joey’s chemo was delayed two times; it left us grasping for answers that no one could give. Our hearts were hurting and heads spinning trying to comprehend why insurance would not approve chemotherapy for a twenty five year old cancer patient. (As it turns out, this happens often without bias: old or young. Sometimes insurance does not want to approve until they know you for sure have cancer. Just typing that sentence makes my heart race thinking of the people who are denied proper care by a stranger thousands of miles away from the problem…a whole other topic for another day…) However, we received a call early Thursday morning telling us to come in as soon as possible to start his chemo treatments. The cancer was growing too quickly to delay. As quickly as we could, we showered, got dressed, threw together the chemo bag, and were out the door. On April 14th, we were let off the plane.

Without the approval of insurance, we began to explore this new territory of chemotherapy, lab work, pulmonary tests, days of nausea, beeping machines, and things that are, even now, unknown to us. Some days are rough, some days are a little less rough, but I am just thankful for the days. The days we have to spend together loving each other more than the day before. The days we are in the chemo room planning our future and eating Subway. The days Joey goes to work, even if only a few hours. The days we (mostly me, if I’m being honest..) have spent crying and confused and scared of what is happening and trying to rationalize it. The days we are given to glorify Christ in what we do and say. The days we are given to just continue being.

We received a call yesterday saying the insurance had FINALLY approved the chemotherapy; oddly enough that has not been a large worry of mine, but nevertheless, I am thankful for that bump in the road to be smoothed over. Joey has now received two chemo treatments, and he will go for a third next Thursday. He is doing so great with it all. It takes him about 5 days to get back to ‘normal,’ but I am so grateful the worst of it has been nausea and fatigue. We will also be going for a pulmonary function test this Friday to check his lungs. Normally, they perform a PFT before, during, and after chemo, but his lung tissue doesn’t diffuse oxygen as well as the doctor would like, so we will be keeping a close watch on that due to the Bleomycin drug that causes lung toxicity which can lead to pulmonary fibrosis. This will happen once a month.

Many people ask me how I am handling this; I am never sure how to answer. My heart is breaking watching my husband of only six months sit in a chair to have poison pumped in him for hours and sleep it off for the next week. I often stay awake listening to his breathing just to make sure he is still going. I have watched Joey go from running miles a day to not being able to run at all. Honestly, I am not okay. There, I said it. I’m just not. But you know what? I will be. Despite this temporary trial, I am being strengthened. We have been given the opportunity to either grow together or grow apart. We can sit down and quit, or we can stand up and fight in the full armor of the Lord. Most couples don’t get the opportunity to face this type of trial so early in marriage (Laura, if you are reading this, I hope that made you laugh haha), so we will be taking advantage of it.

Psalm 16:5-11 ‘The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’

At the end of the day, we are both blessed. Regardless of how the day went, we go to bed knowing we are loved by those in our lives, but more so by a God who loves more deeply than we will ever comprehend. For some reason Joey has cancer; we may never know why, but we do know that there is joy to be found in heartache, and you better believe that is what the Stracener’s are going to do. IMAG1670_1

Getting Joey out for a walk with his mom while his dad and I train for the Tennessee State Park Tours!