Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from 1/14/19

Update on Brooke: This is Liz (Brooke’s Sister). Wanted to send a quick update on behalf of Brooke, since we know so many are praying. The news of a good scan on Dec 26 means that this chemo regimen seems to keep the cancer stable and even showed improvement. She is continuing with this same cycle – 2 weeks on, 1 week off. We are here at the clinic today in week 2 of the cycle, meaning she has next week off.

For two cycles in a row, Brooke has had a very scary reaction to one of the chemo drugs that is in this regimen. The fear was she would have to stop taking this drug due to the reactions. Thankfully today they were able to administer that drug in a different manner, and she tolerated it with no reaction. PRAISE THE LORD!

Each week with chemo is difficult physically; constantly trying to manage the fatigue, pain, and nausea. The biggest challenge is the grief and learning to carry on without Justin. The suffering is on so many different fronts.

Please know that even here, in the dark days of suffering, Brooke does not feel alone. She feels your prayers, she feels the hands and feet of Christ serving her in countless ways. Most importantly, God is there in the depths.

In the pockets of time where Brooke feels good, she is pouring herself into her family, so her updates may be less frequent. Please know that she reads and is encouraged by each one of your messages, even if she is not able to respond.

As we sat here today, Brooke talked about this verse and the hope that God’s promises bring.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Brooke’s Cancer Journey post from 10/19/18

No photo description available.

Thank you so much for praying for me today as I got results from my recent PET scan.

The Lord is asking me to trust Him even more, as scan results were not as we were praying. A new lesion in left breast and lymph nodes behind chest are active too. No changes to other spots in lung and sternum. I’ll start a new combination chemo : gemcitabine + carboplatin next Wednesday. This chemo is a 21 day cycle with treatments days 1 & 8. I likely developed resistance to Ixempra because I was on it for several cycles earlier in 2017.

I’m so very weary of this fight and it’s especially hard receiving this tough news without Justin here. But I’m so thankful my sister was with me at the appointment. This is very difficult news to process and I’m not going to diminish how hard this is. But by His grace I do also very much feel held by the Lord and feel He has entrusted this hard journey to me for a reason- we get glimpses but most will remain a mystery for now. He is holding me fast, as I fix my eyes on the unseen, not the seen- asking God to stretch my belief and hope and joy even HERE. He is the treasure which can never be taken.

Many of you have joined with us to pray for a miracle for these scans. I know God is able to heal me completely, but His miracle didn’t come in that way this time. I’ll keep praying that miracle will come in the future. But as I process this news, I’m going to thank God for the many other miracles- my salvation through Jesus (resurrecting me from death to life); and even today the miracle of hope— even here. Join me in praying for healing this side of heaven, so that I can be here for my children. I know He is able, but even if not I will praise Him as I see His grace even in the darker parts of the journey.

2 Cor 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal“.
#theendisgood #hisgracestillabounds

Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from 10/8/18

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The last medical update I shared was on August 24, 2018- the day before my husband suddenly and unexpectedly went to be with the Lord. Justin died after being struck by a car while cycling on Saturday, August 25. It has been six weeks and my children and I are still deeply grieving, but grieving with hope as we know Justin is enjoying perfect communion with our Lord.
Fighting cancer without Justin here to support me is very difficult and we are being sustained by your prayers. We are well loved by family and friends.
I continue to be treated with Ixempra chemo every 3 weeks for stage IV cancer. I’ve had four treatments so far- most recently last Wednesday. The side effects this round have been more difficult than the past- extreme fatigue, lack of appetite and body pain are the worst of it. The cold capping treatment to reduce hair loss is working so far, although my hair is thinning in some spots. (Success is considered losing no more than 50% of your hair). I’m so thankful that I pursued this because it would be so hard on the children for me to lose my hair during this time.

I have a PET scan 10/17 with results 10/19. My medical team agreed for me to have this scan in Columbia so I would not have to travel to Houston. I will go to MD Anderson if I need to, depending on the results of the scan but I’m praying not until early next year.

Please join me in praying for amazing, miraculous results for the PET scan next week! Please pray for peace for me between now and then (the week before scans is emotionally difficult). Please pray for us as we adjust to life without Justin here. We miss him so much.

Please know how much I appreciate every prayer and message , even as I’m not able to respond to each one- each word matters deeply and encourages my heart.

Trusting in the goodness and faithfulness of our great God, even through the hard…this is our hope which does not disappoint, no matter what earthly circumstances are.

“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” Psalm 103:17

Brooke’s Cancer Journey post from August 24, 2018

“Chemo, Cold Capping, and Other Adventures”
(A long update, grab a cup of coffee!)

In early August I started Ixempra, an infusion chemo for Stage IV breast cancer. My prior treatment of oral chemo, Xeloda, that I was on For six months was no longer as effective as seen on my PET scan in July. Since 2015 this is my third time on infusion chemo. Yesterday was my second cycle, and I’m pleased to say that Ixempra is going really well. The side effects are mostly fatigue, muscle/bone pain, some nausea. My infusion is every 3 weeks. It works out that I have usually one week of feeling sick, and two of feeling pretty well. Even the “sick” week, God has allowed me to fulfill my mommy tasks, make it to church and work and function pretty well. I attribute this to God’s grace, but also many people who love our family so well and help out in big and small ways (our parents, close friends, our church Body). We are grateful to be surrounded by people who love us very well.

I frequently get asked when the end date of this chemo is. The answer is tough- I don’t know. In this stage of the disease the plan is not as clear as earlier stage cancer when I had a clear beginning and end point of treatment. We will take decisions one scan at a time. I completely trust my medical team and feel confident in their care.

My next PET scan is scheduled in Houston on October 18, and I will meet with my MD Anderson oncologist- Dr Layman- with results October 19. In the meantime I’ll have a CT scan here in Columbia September 7.

This cycle of infusion chemo, we’ve been led to try out a newly FDA approved treatment called “cold capping” which reduces the chance of chemo hair loss by freezing the scalp during the infusion, restricting scalp capillaries, preventing the chemo to get to the hair follicles. I had heard of this before but never seriously considered it until I met women at MD Anderson last summer from around the world who had kept most of their hair during chemo. The primary reason i was compelled to explore this was for the sake of my children. They are very negatively impacted by my hair loss. I’ve completely lost my hair twice and it is a constant reminder to them that Mommy is sick. Especially Samuel, my tender hearted boy, is affected with anxiety and worry when I don’t have hair. The treatment is done with a machine called “Digni-Cap” which is a tight cap that pulses below freezing water over the scalp during the infusion. It’s painful for 30 minutes and then my scalp goes numb and it’s just more irritating than anything. If it works it will be worth it and I look forward to getting the word out about this cutting edge opportunity that few people know about. So far I haven’t had any hair loss, but most hair releases after 2nd treatment usually so the next three weeks will determine if it is working. If not, I’ll be disappointed but I trust God will help us navigate that with the children again as we have in the past.

As far as other adventures, I’m so grateful that the Lord allowed me to feel very good all summer, making special memories with my children. We bookended our summer with a vacation to Litchfield Beach thanks to some very generous people, and a family trip to NYC- showing my children the city I love to much (this was a dream trip I’d looked forward to for so long). Making memories is very important to us in these days and we are grateful for opportunities like this.

This children are settled into school and thriving at their new school, Ben Lippen, making new friends and I’ve enjoyed attending chapel with them and getting to know and pray with other moms with children attending school at this very special place. There are many reasons for the school change, but none because we were unhappy at all in their previous magnet school, CFK. That school and the family loved us so well the three years we were there and established a solid foundation and love of learning for Sam, Selah and Hannah.

Thank you for your continued prayers for me and our family. We are grateful beyond what words can express! (… and cheers to you for making it to the end of this long update!)

Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from August 3, 2018

My journey to discover the meaning of true, biblical hope began with a breast cancer diagnosis. Throughout these years, I’ve had to answer the question that we will all answer at some point: how can I have hope when my situation feels hopeless?

I’ve spent the last three years studying the scripture, asking questions of those older and wiser, reading everything I can get my hands on about hope (especially contrasting with the world’s version of hope). Here’s what I’ve discovered:

Biblical Hope is:
1) unshakeable through Christ
2)grown in our hearts by knowing God in scripture
3)strengthened in prayer
4) empowered in a community of faith and
5) overflows onto others to point to the One who never fails us

I’m currently up way too late because I had my first chemo infusion today in 14 months. The steroids in the meds are stealing my sleep tonight. But that’s ok, because I’m spending time writing about hope.

I feel this is the message of my life- sharing the HOPE available in Christ, that it unshakeable with circumstance. Not that I’ve arrived, or hope perfectly, but I’ve been changed by true hope. A deep hope that does not disappoint. Does it always mean being happy? No- many tears shed, some today- because I had prayed I would never have to return to infusion chemo, but here we are.

And even still, I have hope.

Lord willing, I’m speaking twice about hope this fall to women’s groups- one in Columbia and one in Charleston. I’ll share details soon if you want to dig deeper into what true hope is, and how you can have it. If you’d be interested in coming let me know and I’ll be sure to get you information. I also know I need to share medical updates.

Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from July 28, 2018

Thank you for praying for us today. We felt your prayers and God answered by giving us peace. The medical results were not what we hoped- the lung and sternum spots appear to be active again and grew a little bit. As Dr Layman says “this isn’t dire” but she recommends a change in treatment because she believes I’ve become resistant to Xeloda and suggests I start Ixempra, an infusion treatment, soon. It’s every 3 weeks. Our hope is steadfast even in disappointment because our Hope is in the only One who numbers my days, not medical ups & downs. However, we are processing this news- disappointed and shocked especially in light of how great I’m feeling -but we both have a peace which we know is from the Lord and through your prayers. We are grateful for your continued love and support ❤️ headed home.. can’t wait to give my children a big hug.

“For my life He bled and died
Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied
He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life
He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight
When he comes at last.
He will hold me fast.
He will hold me fast.
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.” (The Gettys)

Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from May 23, 2018

Health Update: I’ve been living with cancer for over 3 years now… Stage IV cancer for 18 months.
I’m so grateful that I’m feeling great these days, despite my Stage IV Cancer Diagnosis. I am so encouraged with how I’m able to live my life to the fullest, make very special memories with my family, continue in ministry work, have energy most days, and function well in my daily life. Most days I forget about the cancer, until I have to take the 3 pink pills (Xeloda) in the morning and evening.

I continue on Xeloda, an oral chemo, for 2 weeks on, 1 week off. The side effects are definitely present, but manageable.

My next scans are Tuesday, July 17 at MD Anderson. It’s been six months since I’ve seen the care team at MD Anderson (I’ve been seen by Lexington Oncology in the meantime), and I want to stay connected to my oncologist there (Dr. Layman) in addition to my oncologist here (Dr. Stillwell). I pray that Xeloda continues to be effective to hold back the cancer, but I am thankful for the options MD Anderson can offer me if that is not the case. I have many more treatment options available, not to mention clinical trials, so I’m encouraged.
My last scan was very good and thankfully I’m responding well to chemo.

I thank God that I am feeling so good these days. I’m meeting more and more women who are surviving…even thriving… with Stage IV cancer. Women with careers, busy families, and full lives. I think as time goes on you will begin to notice there is a “new face” of Stage IV Cancer. There are many of us that are living with the disease as a chronic illness we will manage the rest of our lives. The reality is at any time the chemo could stop working and we are on to the next treatment…and eventually options could run out, but in the meantime there are new cancer developments.

Ultimately I know where my hope lies. Psalm 139:16: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them”
God has already written every one of my days…HE alone numbers my days. What peace this brings me!

Great hope floods my soul when I look back and see God’s faithfulness along every step of this journey (and my entire life). He provides and His mercies are new every morning! His grace is sufficient for today, and will be more than enough for each day ahead, whatever it brings!

One truth I’ve discovered through this journey is that most of my fear/anxiety/worry comes when I imagine difficult days ahead (for me AND for my family)…but I realized that when I imagine the difficulty, most of the time I imagine it without the grace to match it. That’s not reality, as the grace God grants always matches the difficulty of that day. I would prefer to “store up” the grace before the difficulty, but it doesn’t work that way. The grace is there when I need it, not necessarily on the day when I envision all the worrisome possibilities. My job: trust that the future grace will be there, and be encouraged by looking back and seeing how He’s always been faithful to provide it in the past. #Godisfaithful

Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from April 15, 2018

Hello praying friends, please forgive my lack of update! I’m finishing my 4th cycle of the oral chemo, Xeloda.

The first two cycles were at 4000mg/ day and as it accumulated the side effects got to be absolutely horrible and I could barely function. The Lord would allow me about 4 good hours a day which happened to be in the middle of the day so I was able to continue fulfilling my responsibilities but it was very rough. My oncologist was not surprised as she predicted I could not tolerate that doseage. The third and fourth cycles I’ve been at 3000 mg/ day and I feel great! My hemoglobin (red blood count) continues to drop which affects my energy so a transfusion may be in my future. Also I have burning / peeling issues with my hands and feet which is common. Otherwise I feel great!

Yesterday I had a CT scan. Thankfully for now my scans are able to be completed in Columbia. I’ll return to Houston if there is anything suspicious or something needs to change with treatment.

I’ll get results tomorrow- my oncologists would be pleased to see no progression / growth of the disease. My prayer has been for the results to be so remarkably good that the doctors are astounded, and the only explanation is that God did it. Would you join me in praying this?

I’m grateful for each and every one of you who re following my journey , praying for me, and encouraging me!! You’ll never know how much your love has meant to our family.

“To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!””
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭30:8-10‬ ‭

Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from January 15, 2018

What we are going through is indescribably difficult. I do not ever want to sugar-coat that fact. If you talk to me in real life, and we “go deep” enough, tears come quickly….and that’s ok.

But what I’ve learned, and I’m learning is that although this cancer was not a choice, how I respond to it IS a choice.

Each morning I wake up with a familiar “pit in my stomach”. I know each of you know this feeling – it’s the moment shortly after you open your eyes when you remember that horrible circumstance that is distressing you. Sleep is a relief because in those moments, at least in my dreams, cancer does not exist. When I wake, it does.

In this morning moment each day, I have a decision to make (and this decision many times throughout the day). The decision is: am I going to let this circumstance steal joy from my day? Unfortunately, sometimes I do (I’m human), when I sit too long in the “pity party” of what cancer has stolen from our family. But by God’s grace and strength, most of the day I choose joy. So in the mornings, I choose to open the Word, and saturate my mind with it until I believe the truth of what I’m reading.

But lest you start thinking “oh what a faithful and strong person she is” – let me tell you it is not my strength that enables me to make that choice each day. It is not my strong faith, but the strength of the One who my faith is in.

Cancer is not the worst that this life can bring — a life, and ultimately a death withOUT faith in Jesus is the worst. This life is but a blink – like one grain of sand on the seashore of eternity. Through faith in Jesus, I have full assurance that nothing that happens this side of heaven will change the 100, 500, 1 million year plan for me. That is where my ultimate hope lies – although it is a continual process and preaching this Gospel to myself to believe it day after day and let if impact my actions.

Have you ever seen the most gorgeous sunset, or stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or stared in awe at the ocean, feet on the shore while waves lap at your ankles…or the moment your firstborn child is placed in your arms?

An experience that is common to all mankind is AWE. We were created for it…we cannot deny it. In that moment, something blows through our soul to remind us “there is more than this”.. often it is a quiet whisper that we can drown out with our smartphones (we attempt to photograph this moment and in no way can our tiny screen do it justice). This is because our hearts were created for eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “God has set eternity in the hearts of man”.

The worst that life can bring is living a life where you’re not connected with the One who created You for a purpose. The worst that life can bring is to live distracted – pushing that feeling down. The worst is to ignore the still, small voice of the One who is pursuing you…even now.

Many who read this will say “yes! I agree!”! We might say “faith is an important part of my life” , yet we live like this world is all there is. (I regretfully put myself in this category at times). We allow our children’s activities, our material possessions, our career advancement, others opinions of us, (fill in the blank) to crowd out the most important reason we are here.

This incredible God, who made this beautiful world, put awe in our hearts, created you and created me for a dual purpose. We were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

To enjoy Him forever starts today – not when we get to heaven. Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

And as WE enjoy Him as our greatest desire – as our true treasure, our lives bring Him glory – and others can “taste and see that He is good” (Psalm 34:8) as we shine our light for His glory!

I did not intend to write this “novel” – and I applaud you if you got to the end of this. I sat down to write a medical update and share prayers for the week ahead (which I will do soon)…God had other plans for me this day. I have an urgency to share this, so that maybe even one person who may not be walking with God might come to know Him, through faith in Jesus, or walk more closely hand in hand with Jesus – enjoying Him, glorifying Him. It’s why we are here. That is the only way I can have joy in my days. It’s Jesus.

If this is you and you would like to talk more, please email me at I am slow responding to Facebook messages because I’m not on Facebook as much these days so email is a better way to reach me.

“those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you”
Psalm 9:10

“The better God is known, the more He is trusted.” – Matthew Henry

Brooke’s Cancer Journey Post from January 9, 2018

Still waiting and trusting…

Justin and I will be heading back to Houston next week on Wednesday for further testing and biopsies. A critical part of the pathology study came back indeterminate (the Her2neu status). After Dr. Layman did some digging with the pathologists, it was determined that there was not enough tissue. I will have a core biopsy (instead of fine needle) of the lymph nodes. While in Houston I’ll also have a biopsy of the sternum and right lung to get clear answer on those suspicious spots (which may or may not be radiation inflammation).

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster. I’m weary of this whole process in addition to the daily demands of life. I’m thankful to have had a “Selah Day” this past Saturday. (Selah means “pause and reflect”). I was renewed while spending a chunk of the day in solitude and quiet reflection/prayer – looking back at 2017 and praising God for His faithfulness and looking ahead to 2018. It has been my tradition to ask the Lord for a “word for the year”.

This year the word He gave me is “through”. I wouldn’t have chosen this word – to be honest I don’t really like it. I realized that often we pray for the Lord to take us AROUND affliction and trouble, but sometimes in His perfect plan He walks with us THROUGH it. My verse for the year is Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Trusting Him to walk with us through the waters; to provide sustaining strength through the rivers; protection through the fire and renewal through the flames.

Continually grateful for your love and support. Your messages here are such an encouragement to me — I read every one!

I will post specific prayers in another post —

This devotional below is from John Piper’s “Solid Joys”. It was of great encouragement to me. I’m learning in these days to delight in the grace SUPPLIED, not despair in the grace DENIED.

below written by John Piper
“Grace Denied and Supplied”

Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

The need for inner strength arises not just from the depletions of everyday stress, but from the suffering and afflictions that come from time to time. And they do come.

Suffering is inevitably added to heart-weariness on the way to heaven. When it comes, the heart may waver and the narrow way that leads to life may look impossibly hard. It’s hard enough to have a narrow road and steep hills that test the old jalopy’s strength to the limit. But what shall we do when the car breaks down?

Paul cried out three times with this question because of some affliction in his life. He asked for relief from his thorn in the flesh. But God’s grace did not come in the form he asked. It came in another form. Christ answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Here we see grace given in the form of Christ’s sustaining power in unrelieved affliction — one grace given, we could say, within the circle of another grace denied. And Paul responded with faith in the sufficiency of this future grace: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God often blesses us with a “grace given” in the circle of “grace denied.”

For example, on a beastly hot day in July, the water pump on our car stopped working, and twenty miles from any town we were stranded on the interstate in Tennessee.

I had prayed that morning that the car would work well and that we would come to our destination safely. Now the car had died. The grace of trouble-free travel had been denied. No one was stopping as we stood around our car. Then my son Abraham (about eleven at the time) said, “Daddy, we should pray.” So we bowed behind the car and asked God for some future grace — a help in time of need. When we looked up, a pickup truck had pulled over.

The driver was a mechanic who worked about twenty miles away. He said he would be willing to go get the parts and come back and fix the car. I rode with him to town and was able to share the gospel with him. We were on our way in about five hours.

Now the remarkable thing about that answer to our prayer is that it came inside the circle of a prayer denied. We asked for a trouble-free trip. God gave us trouble. But in the midst of a grace denied, we got a grace supplied. And I am learning to trust God’s wisdom in giving the grace that is best for me and for unbelieving mechanics and for the watching faith of eleven-year-old boys.

We should not be surprised that God gives us wonderful graces in the midst of suffering that we had asked him to spare us. He knows best how to apportion his grace for our good and for his glory.