Archive for October, 2010

Visitors to Washington, D.C.

Living about 13 miles from the capitol of the United States of America has its benefits.  Recently, we were honored to host two nice, young men at our home who were in town to see the nation’s capitol.  Flat Stanley came to us from South Bend Indiana, and Fernando from Quito, Ecuador.  They arrived for a visit on Sunday, and John and I took them both on a whirlwind tour of D.C.

As you will soon see, we hit the big tourist spots like the Washington Monument, Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and Smithsonian museums.  Tragically, the pictures in front of the White House and next to the African bull elephant in the National Museum of Natural History did not turn out.  Happily, many other shots did.  The most important thing was Fernando and Flat Stanley got to visit a lot of very interesting places.

National Museum of Natural History

Maria, Flat Stanley, and Fernando at the Capitol

Driving by the Washington Monument on Constitution Avenue

We ended the afternoon at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where we viewed all of the chapels and main church.

At the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


John and Fernando ready to go into the Shrine

Chapel of our Lady of Guadalupe

Chapel of our Lady of Sorrows

On the campus of The Catholic University of America

Then we enjoyed a meal back in Virginia with my father (a native Ecuatoriano) and mother, before heading back to catch the Lincoln Memorial and Iwo Jima Marine monument in the moonlight.

With the Elliott family at the home of Abuelito and Abuelita

Visiting the Lincoln Memorial at night

Excited to see the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial at night

Fernando left us the next morning, but Stanley stayed another day which enabled him to stop by Trinity at Meadow View and the grocery store with Maria.  Travelling is SUCH fun!


After dropping kids at school

Even going to Shopper's Food Warehouse makes Stan happy!


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This situation with the thyroid not functioning well – my original problem – and the ongoing process of discovering whether or not I should have the thyroid removed is time-consuming and emotionally draining.

I appreciate the solidarity expressed by many of you that encourages me and John in this journey.  Like you all, we have other concerns, too; knowing that you take the time to read what I write, and pray or think kindly about me, is very touching.

We are still waiting for the final information on the biopsy and then will need to forward all the information to the third doctor for her review.   During this waiting period, my endocrinologist has doubled my medication for the thyroid function.  I am very hopeful this will do the trick, but I have been told sometimes it takes months to get on the right dosage or I could need a second medication if the first one is not sufficient.  In the meantime, I wait and keep putting one foot in front of the other.


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Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see!

In the gospel of John, chapter 9, Jesus healed a man born blind.  Afterward, the man was questioned rigorously by the Pharisees  regarding his blindness and how (if) a healing had occurred.  At one point, when asked to acknowledge that Jesus Christ must have been a sinner, the former blind man said, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”

In August, a nutritionally-aware psychiatrist ordered a blood workup, the results of which showed that my thyroid was not functioning properly; the diagnosis was Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (or auto-immune Hypothyroid).  I began a journey to discover whether or not I have Medullary Thyroid Cancer or another form of thyroid cancer.

One of the first things to happen was getting a biopsy on the two nodules on my thyroid.  Never mind that 95 % of all thyroid nodules are found to be benign or that no members of my family of origin ever had cancer though several of them suffer various thyroid ailments.  However, this first biopsy, about which I posted on September 27, yielded a diagnosis of suspicious cells “consistent with Medullary Thyroid Cancer.”   A few days later, my community of faithfilled Christians prayed with me and the family for complete healing.  Since then, I have undergone a lot of tests.  Each one of them has been negative for cancer or any other condition other than Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  I praise God for this!

Yesterday (Tuesday), we received Part 1 of the written report from the second biopsy supervised by a highly regarded and skillful cytopathologist.   On meeting her, I was instantly impressed by her thorough and meticulous approach.  My husband has been a real prime mover in securing the involvement of some top-notch doctors, and this pathologist is one of those.  Due to John’s diligence, this second doctor had seen the slides of the first biopsy, and she concurred with the reading of them, that is, suspicious looking cells “consistent with Medullary Thyroid Cancer”.  She consulted with us at length before and after the second biopsy that she conducted with all diligence.

I posted about the second biopsy on October 14 – here are the results.  Unlike the first biopsy, the cells appeared to be typical of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  The doctor pointed out “The hypercellularity of atypical cells seen on the previous aspirate… is not noted on the … current aspirations.”  [Translation – unlike the first biopsy, the cancerous-looking neoplasms were not seen in the second.]  However, in a comment to the diagnosis, the pathologist raised the possibility of the test not actually finding the cancer (using the words “geographical miss”).  [I figure she has to say this, but for me the results are VERY encouraging.]   Still to come, however, is Part 2 of the results showing “molecular markers” in a separate report – the final piece of diagnostic information.   Currently, my position is that we can give God all the glory here for removing the suspicious cells!  Unless there is evidence to the contrary, I am peaceful.

John is taking a more cautiously, optimistic and empirical approach to the current findings versus my simplistic one;  I appreciate his desire to care for me and get a third opinion.  So now we are planning to seek additional consultation with a third doctor who is also a surgeon at Johns Hopkins and who saw the results of the first biopsy (thank you, John!); we would like her also to view the results of the second one.  If she concurs with the second doctor (cytopathologist) that the second biopsy is clearly different and better than the first, hopefully I can indeed avoid surgery.  But if surgery seems to be indicated by anything that arises in the next several weeks, we would hope to complete it this year (2010).  Keep up the prayers – things are moving in a good direction!

Back to the man born blind, as his religious leaders were quibbling about the details of his healing.  He said,

“This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.  It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out [of the synagogue].

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.”

He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

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What a joy to celebrate the covenant of the People of Praise!  In a way, every anniversary reminds us of the day we began, but each time, the making of the covenant recreates the community again.  We joined together in praise, worship, and rejoicing that the People of Praise has existed since October 15, 1971.  We gathered from “NoVA” and “PoVA” (the Northern Virginia branch of course, and a good number of guests from the Portland Vancouver branch as well), as members of the community, their children, and in some cases extended family and friends.  Our ecumenical, Christian community came into existence on that day when 29 men and women – of various Christians denominations, freely chose to covenant themselves to one another before the Lord and the world, forming a new entity – the People of Praise.

NoVA (and PoVA guests) enjoying the Covenant sharings

Our joy was greatly multiplied by the decision of four vibrant adults – who have been serving the Lord as fully active members of our community for many years – to join in the covenant life as well.

Tony Fraga – Nadia Fraga – Matt Harris – Mary Beth Harris

Matt Harris said it well when he remarked that he had never seen or heard of any other organization in the world in which Catholics and Protestants care for and live with each other and work together to build the kingdom like we do.  (my paraphrase of his remark.)  I do not know whether or not this is strictly true; however, the ecumenism lived out with the love of a “family of families” IS a unique characteristic of the People of Praise.

Being “camera-less”, I took photos with my cell phone.  Take a look by clicking on the following link:

Covenant in NoVA Branch 2010

Click on “Detail” to view the captions.

Praise God the Father, God the Son, and Holy Spirit!

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Yesterday, October 15, was the 39th anniversary of the People of Praise community – Happy Anniversary!  28 of those years have been celebrated in the Northern Virginia branch.   🙂

I knew this intellectually but was struggling with my emotions.  While not all that amazing considering my recent trials, I am still surprised I couldn’t pull out of my blues by considering all the wonderful facets of our blessed life in community.  So, as we are still in the week of celebration, here are some:

Covenant love – In POP, you do not have to be married to experience committed, lay-down-your-life love.  It happens on a daily basis for those who participate even in the most basic way.

Women’s group – My sisters in the POP are here for me, whenever I need them.  We meet at least once a week, pray for each other, call each other, send emails, make meals, watch kids, and share life.  What a blessing!

Service – In the school carpool I’m in,  flexibility is the name of the game.  Yesterday morning, just as I was preparing to rush out the door, the other mom (a POP sister) called and asked if I had some plastic cups for her daughter’s special activity occurring later that day.  I was feeling pressed, but my commitment kicked in to “serve one another in all needs”.  I looked for and found (Hallelujah!) the cups in the pantry.   A small need (but huge as all parents know) can be met in a heartbeat in the community.

Prayer – during my ordeal with the threat of thyroid cancer and the definitive diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I have been so uplifted by prayers!  In POP, we believe that God heals.  I am counting on His healing in my situation and I know they are praying for me, even people who don’t know me well.  Yesterday, when I was feeling particularly low, one of my sisters called just to see how was doing and invite me to lunch.  Though I wasn’t able to join her, the phone call and her prayer over the phone, helped keep me going during a temptation to wallow in depression.

Brotherhood/Sisterhood – People with siblings know this kind of security, as it was proclaimed in a popular song.  “We are family, I got all my brothers and sisters with me!  We are family; get up everybody and SING!”  (Sly and the Family Stone)  In religious communities, it is common to call one another “brother” or “sister”.  However, all Christians are children of the one Father and brothers and sisters with Christ.  It blesses me greatly to experience this concretely and to know that I have a “family of families” in the People of Praise.  In fact, this coming Sunday, we will celebrate that bond of love and commitment as we do each year at this time.


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Ides of October

Struggling with emotional lows today.  So much going on.  This piece (link below) is helping me right now.


“I didn’t want to fall, but I don’t have to crawl … I met the one with two scarred hands…”

My mother quoted herself to me recently, “Even if you fall into the gutter, you don’t have to stay there.”

So let’s get a move on – up and onward.

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Pain in the neck – Part 2

I had my second biopsy on the two bi-lateral nodules on my thyroid yesterday.  Having them stick me with a “fine-needle” four times was an opportunity to offer up suffering for a lady I know with really serious problems – a diagnosis of leukemia!  It seemed less painful this time, possibly due in part to John being there to hold my hand and the fact that I took two ibuprofen ahead.

But it’s sore now.

Results are to be known by Monday, Oct. 18 sometime during the day, but maybe I won’t hear anything till next Tuesday.  This has been quite a process, and there are plenty of other “life-glitches” that are cropping up such as family members needing support, rodents (of usual size) invading our lower floor, house projects taking more time than expected, and the like.  You fix one problem, and another arises to take its place.

However, when I consider my situation with excellent health care and all the loving friends and family compared with the lot of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for over two months, the 20 million displaced persons in flood-ravaged Pakistan, or the 14 million unemployed in the United States, I think, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  ~1Thessalonians 5:18

Today I received the good news on my lab work of last week:  my adrenal and parathyroid glands are apparently operating right in the mid-range of proper OR as people are fond of saying, “It’s all good.”  Further, the endocrinologist said she will not insist that I proceed to have my thyroid removed if the results of yesterday’s biopsy look good.  So please do continue to pray / send positive thoughts regarding all of that.

I AM thankful, and frankly think my circumstances are pretty darn good.  Not perfect, but who has perfect circumstances?

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