When you are ill, you often do not have the energy to be around people – even those you are close to. Visitors can take a lot out of you. This is one reason that people with cancer begin move into isolation.
Another reason is the concern about picking up something. Cancer treatments weaken your immune system. They stop bone marrow from making blood cells that help fight infections like the flu or even a common cold. Brenda is at greater risk right now of getting an infection. When her immune system is compromised by radiation and chemotherapy we have to be careful about who she is with. Our family and close friends have all been subjected to getting flu vaccine shots and encouraged not to visit if they are feeling sick in any way. We are thrilled with how healthy Brenda has been this entire journey. Not one cold, flu or fever episode.
Despite all these cautions, Brenda made the decision early on not to hide away in total isolation during her cancer journey. I understand this. Brenda has always lived life by sharing herself fully with others. Just because this is an awkward and highly personal season doesn’t mean she would hold back from trying to help others by her authentic sharing of what she is learning on the journey. Now we still do have visitors come to physically see her, but as public people we as her family are having to be careful not to overdo it and yet still provide Brenda the interaction with others that she desires.
So, our ‘daughter’ Kristin, her mother Sharon, and our ‘adopted daughter’ Steph became her communications team and set up a site and system where Brenda could share her journey via a blog and interact with many people whenever she wants and is able. Caring Bridge was selected for her journal and it has served us well. Brenda is able to post when she can and perhaps more importantly, read and reread the comments of visitors when she wants to.
Brenda has written about her experience with a lung cancer diagnosis. She is authentic and profound. Her faith and outlook have inspired people literally around the world. A friend from church, Tim Cunningham, began collecting all of Brenda’s writing and the vision is to one day create a book for cancer patients.
Thanks to all of you who have followed Brenda on this journey. Your comments and support for her mean more than I am able to express. This past week Brenda surpassed over 100,000 visitors.
That is a lot of visitors! Sure glad they were not all lined up at the front door. <Big Smile>
When talking with other husbands about my wife Brenda’s cancer diagnosis and current status they commonly say something like, “I don’t know how you do it!” Part question, part statement – it got me thinking what can you do? What am I doing?
Brenda was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. Her cancer is labelled as “terminal” and by that an oncologist means that it cannot be cured. (We realize the X factor is of course God.) This prognosis is something we never anticipated would happen, but it can and it did. Prior, I had never given one thought as to how I might handle such a situation.
When stating “I don’t know how you do it” a man reveals a moment of self-reflection. He is imagining being in my circumstance and wondering what he would do if faced with a similar challenge. So, at the risk of being superficial, let me share some of what one can do if your spouse is staring death in the face.
2. Don’t be selfish. There are many times you will be tempted to throw a pity party for yourself – but your focus must be on the care of your loved one. Put their needs ahead of yours. Use inspiration for your attitude from The Princess Bride where Westley’s response to Buttercup’s demands is always “As you wish.”
3. Try not to whine. Yes you have experienced losses but try not to layer those onto what your spouse is experiencing. Don’t be thinking about what you do not have. This is related to the point above but with more of an encouragement to view time properly. Keep a long-term perspective.
4. Make a point of celebrating. Treasure the moments when a deep richness breaks through. Laugh when you can. Soak up truth and grace in those moments – times when you feel so much love between one another that you would not really want to trade it.
5. Lower your expectations. Pain causes us all to act in ways different from how we normally are. This means there will be moments of ‘oddness’ we need to put up with it. Lift yourself above the moment and realize these are unusual days. Just get over it.
6. Trust God. Regardless of the outcome I realize that I can trust God in all of this and that provides hope. Hope plays a HUGE factor in a cancer patient building up their immune system to help fight the cancer. Hope with them. Don’t place your hope in false or weak things. Don’t create false hope. Instead trust in God all of the time. Early on in our journey I realized God wanted me to fully trust Him. He actually wants us to live everyday like that. He is a God of hope.
7. Be positive. Be a glass half full kind of person. You know the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” It’s a way of determining if you are an optimist or pessimist. During a cancer journey you will experience all sorts of twists and turns along the way. Try, in each situation, to look for bright spots and recall with one another the things you are thankful for.
8. Focus on better days. Help your spouse not to dwell in the past. It is hard for them to remember what life used to be like when they had energy or hair. Instead, encourage them to save their energy for looking forward to enjoy one day at a time. Lean into each day and discover what purpose God might hold in it for you two to learn and experience together.
9. Be tenacious in your love and care. Keep doing all these things despite how difficult it might be. I have a coffee mug with the 1939 British motivational quote, “Stay calm and carry on” to reminder me. Make sure your loved one knows you are there – right there for them – always. Go out of your way to assure them by speaking their love language.
10. Take care of yourself too. Remember that to be any good in caring for your loved one, you must care for yourself too. Get rest; have close friends you can talk to; invest in others; pray; and arrange to have some breaks. Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your spouse.
I did not start all of these things just because of Brenda’s diagnosis but because I love her. They were instilled in the covenant I made to her on our wedding day. It is found in a Bible passage that was read over us as a blessing and is from 1 Corinthians 13:4,6-8.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love does not want what it does not have.
Love…takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
What might you add to this list?
In the lowest level of the Cancer Agency is an area I refer to as ‘The Bunker’ because of its nuclear warning signs everywhere and the thickness of the concrete doors. There is a quietness down here unlike the rest of the hospital. Silence because of the soundproofing of the construction and silence because it is a sad environment for the patients there.
It still freaks me out a little, and we have seen allot this year. Fourteen months ago they “took a chance” on Brenda with whole brain radiation – right here. I remember being told before the treatment, “You need to understand some people do not make it through the treatment.” That get’s your attention.
‘The Bunker’ is one place where I actually like to have someone with me waiting for Brenda. My daughters and sons came last year for they understood it is too easy for Dad to get discouraged when alone here. Half-joking I referred to it then as being like a scene from “The Walking Dead.” There are so many patients who are receiving radiation as a paliative treatment to help them with pain and they look like they are near the end of their journey.
So what is my wife doing here? She doesn’t fit in with this crowd. In fact she stands out. All the staff love her – you can see it in their faces and by how they interact with her. Peace and joy radiate from her because of our faith and the prayers of thousands who support her.
Brenda is not always steadfast and brave. We both have our moments. Last night she reached out to her little prayer circle because she said she was losing her nerve. We prayed, they prayed and today went well. Many do not know this, but my wife is from a card carrying Albertan ‘cowboy’ family. Often I see the cowgirl in her. Like a cute little Canadian version of John Wayne in a dress, Brenda would echo, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
So here we are again in ‘The Bunker’ getting Brenda measured for a CT guided radiation treatment that starts Monday on the primary tumour in her lung. Technology today allows them to do this with a precision unknown even five years ago. Her tumour is of a size now where this radiation treatment is possible and her new oncologist wants us to “kill that thing” to relieve pain and continue extending her days. After the lung is zapped, the radiation oncologist mentioned wanting to “have a go” at the cancer in her back bones. This is all good news and provides hope and that sense of life and living another day.
Being in ‘The Bunker’ does something for me. The protective concrete environment here reminds me that cancer cannot silence Brenda’s courage. It cannot cripple our love for one another. It cannot break our family apart – we were prepared for such a challenge. Cancer cannot destroy friendship – in fact our friendships with others are growing deeper. Cancer cannot shatter the hope we have in God’s love, mercy and grace and we will not allow it to conquer our spirit in all of this.
So it is time to hunker down – apply ourselves seriously to the task – and hit ‘The Bunker.’
Prayers gratefully accepted. – Carson
I may not have the exact day correct, but I have been thinking a lot about my deep close friend Graham Johnston the last few days. It was in 2011 about this time that my friend Graham passed from this life.
I’m missing him a lot these days.
I wish I could talk with him about what Brenda and I are going through with her cancer diagnosis. I’m also missing how much fun we would have mixed of course with passionate discussions about ministry and vision. We longed to make an impact in the world that would glorify God. I miss him because I have recently been communicating with Susan Perlman and Martin Sanders. The four of us with Graham were like the “Rat Pack” of Leighton Ford’s Point Group. Often at our annual gathering we would stay up late into the night talking, laughing, sharing and praying.
Graham was one who would get incredibly passionate (and loud) about certain topics near and dear to his heart. These would include his wife Tracey; Paige and Carson (love that man’s name); “Subi” his church in Perth; his closest friends; preaching; mission work and of course his immediate family.
To Graham, a minister out of touch with today’s culture was like an uninformed missionary trying to teach in a foreign country. He was an amazing communicator and understood that to communicate God’s Word effectively, teachers need to know how to connect with and confront an audience of postmodern listeners. That is what inspired him to write Preaching To A Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-first Century Listeners. His insights written there continue to help speakers and teachers are birthed out of praxis and having been widely travelled.
Despite Grahams enormous influence globally, his legacy means more to me on a very personal level. Our son Jeremy and his wife Shari had the privilege of working with Graham at the church in Perth Australia in 2009. Seeing Graham modelling how to live life as an authentic Christian changed our kids. They returned back to Canada transformed. They loved church and made many friends there. They returned empowered, confidant, inspired, passionate and with a love for those in culture who perhaps would never enter the doors of a church.
As I share some of my friend Graham’s legacy let it be an encouragement to build on our legacy. You can start with some of what I learned from Graham:
- Be passionate about the things you really love and act on it. Get loud.
- Don’t be afraid to express and show your love for others.
- Love your church and let them know that.
- Communicate in a credible way with others about the love of God. Practice it.
- Build into and mentor those younger and empower them with confidence.
- Be generous. Share you time, your home, your resources, and your influence.
- Love your spouse and kids and let others know you do.
- Be authentic.
- Finish well!
So today Graham, I raise a toast to you. Your friendship endures to this day for we are indeed ‘forever friends.”
New Years Day is when I open up a new journal for the coming year. As I do so I recognize that last’s years journal is not nearly full – quite blank actually with sporadic writings. Some years I overflow into two journals but not 2014. It is not that there wasn’t much happening – just the opposite. There was so much taking place that I barely had time to write. When I could find a moment here and there, I was lost for words.
One year ago today we received a phone call from our family doctor telling Brenda he had seen something in an x-ray that he wanted to have a closer look at. This led to her cancer diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer spreading to the brain and bone. At that moment, time stood still. From that moment on, time has been different for me.
We were told that Brenda might not see her birthday in August and that she would definitely not see another Christmas. However, doctors can’t know God’s time plan for Brenda. We are grateful to have celebrated the Christmas that was not to be. We are living with cancer as a reality in our lives now.
How Time Feels
The first year of living with cancer seems to last forever. I have lost count of how many medical appointments there have been. We seem to measure time by when the next appointment is. Then when waiting for blood work test results or the latest MRI or CT scan time seems to take forever. Each day feels like a week. Weeks feel like months, and months feel like years.
Time has become very precious to me this year. Every second does count and we rejoice at every day we have together. Here in the northern hemisphere, and at our latitude, we are in a season when daylight increases by one minute per day. Brenda and I were out walking together and she asked, “So what are you going to do with your minute today?” At first I did not understand what she was talking about. She then explained about the lengthening of the daylight hours. This led to a very enjoyable, fun, and reflective conversation about how we might each use our extra minute that day. Suddenly I found myself dreaming about how I could use that minute – and then the new minute tomorrow and the next day.
For most of us, time is something that we never seem to have enough of. We have so to do that we scarf down our meals to get meetings just in time to get a seat. Then it is off to the next thing, and the next thing – then we swiftly make our way home for dinner and just when you think that the day is finally over – there is another meeting at the church or a workout that is calling your name. When we finally get to sleep it can be near or after midnight and we need to get up at 6am the next day. With all the expectations on us plus adding family, friends, relationships, volunteer work etc. – who has time for anything else?
How often have you heard in the marketplace, “Time is money”? Well time is not money. Time is life and you and I get to choose how we spend it.
How We Spend Time
The way that we manage time can be one of the most challenging parts of our working life. But remember that Jesus had more day-to-day demands than can be imagined and yet he moved throughout his days with a peace that came from knowing that there was always enough time to accomplish His Father’s will for that day. All the time that God allows to us, is just enough for the work that He calls us to. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Each year Brenda and I take a day to do planning for how we are going to use our time and resources in the 12 months to follow. It is our family annual general meeting and we do this right around the change of the calendar year. We are about to have that meeting and dream about our intentional use of our time in 2015. I said “dream” because we have certainly been reminded this year that time is in the Lord’s hands. However, this year it is perhaps more important for us to meet and discuss our use of time. We now have to factor in our energy level and capacity for activity. We have to be selective about our relationships – spending time with those who are inspiring and hope carriers and not draining. We are discerning about how we spend our minutes.
So I am thinking a lot about time. In fact I am spending more time than ever before planning how to spend my time.
Time With God
Time is precious. It is our most precious commodity. That is why I wanted to write something about it and emphasize that the most important activity of our day is actually our time with God. I have never been perfect at having intentional time with God but I have a long enough history and experience to know that it is extremely important.
Scripture reminds us, “Make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-to-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” ROMANS 13:11-12 MSG
If you spend days, weeks, months acting oblivious to God it is going to make a difference. What if you didn’t spend consistent time with your spouse, your family or friends? It would result in losing touch with one another – a lack of closeness making you feel “out of touch.” The same thing happens in your relationship with God if you do not spend consistent time with him.
So with all that you have to do during the day, make sure that your time with God does not go by the wayside. Make it a priority for the day. You can move around other appointments, but not your time with God. Figure out what works best for you. When is the best time? Just find a few minutes of private Bible reading, prayer, and close by thanking God for all He does for you and who He is. By doing so you will learn to love Him.
So that is how I am going to use my extra minute. Quiet time with God in my library and favorite chair.
Every day God thinks of you. – Psalm 68:19
Every hour God looks after you.- 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Every minute God cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
Because every second, He loves you. – Jeremiah 31:3
On January 2nd a routine X-ray revealed a tumour in Brenda’s right lung that was confirmed as Stage IV Lung Cancer. We agree that this is the worst news we as a family have ever received in our collective lifetime.
Within ten days Brenda’s mom moved in to care for us all and, gratefully, is still with us. Brenda was told to get her affairs in order and was given about six months to live (June). Family and close friends became even more important. Time with God was and is essential. People around the globe began praying for us. 2014 has been a year marked by prayer, listening, learning, and seeing God in the ordinary.
It has been a year of family retreats. All 12 of us gathered together on four different occasions – grandparents, parents, and grandchildren. These times away, plus family nights twice per month, have brought tenderness to an otherwise intense year.
In August, we boated up the coast with life friends and Brenda celebrated the birthday that we didn’t think we would see.
In October our hearts filled with gratitude for the gift of another Thanksgiving, which also marked our 38th Anniversary. On the 31st Carson stepped down from his role as ED at First so that we could have more time together. He continues to work part time advising on our church’s building project.
Brenda is sharing her journey online and you may follow her here: www.caringbridge.org/visit/brendapue
The best of times? Well we didn’t know that such sweetness was possible in a cancer journey. But we do know that with God all things are possible.
Love, Carson and Brenda
21707 – 46 Ave, Langley BC, Canada V3A 8M9
For Immediate Release:
Carson Pue Steps Down For A Promise
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – October 22, 2014. At a crowded, historic, First Baptist Church in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the congregation showed their heart towards Rev. Dr. Carson Pue by gathering around him to pray at the end of both services.
Carson announced that due to his wife Brenda’s cancer diagnosis, he had tendered his resignation as the Executive Director at the church effective the end of October. He has worked alongside senior pastor Darrell Johnson since January 2012 and during this time the church has experienced great favor and blessing.
Pue addressed the church amidst tears with Johnson beside him saying, “Thirty eight years ago I made a promise to Brenda to cherish and hold, in sickness and in health. Well, she needs me to hold her more right now and as result I have resigned as Executive Director…” Carson has cancelled all future speaking events at the present time so together they can focus on her health and their relationship. He and Brenda plan to continue some book projects, as they are able, but most of the time will be spent walking, talking and enjoying time with the family.
Carson and Brenda Pue are known globally for mentoring Christian leaders through the ministry of Arrow Leadership, which they led together since 1996. Brenda left Arrow unexpectedly this January after being diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. She decided to share her journey of faith while living with cancer on a Caring Bridge journal. With over 70,000 visits, many have been blessed by her authenticity and faith inspiring lessons.
Looking ahead, First Baptist Church has invited Carson to stay on staff in a part-time role as the Executive Advisor for the church’s “Heart for the City Project”. This is an ambitious building initiative in the downtown of Vancouver that will allow the church to enhance ministries of affordable housing, serving the homeless, venue for conferences, coffee shop, a full service counseling center, older adults programs, bookstore library, daycare and family resources in the downtown.
Lilac Hawkey, moderator of First states, “Our church leadership completely supports Carson in this decision, and we are very grateful that he will be continuing to serve our congregation still even in a limited capacity. We continue to lift both Carson, Brenda, and their whole family up in prayer during this very challenging time.”
###For further information about this release contact: Gillian Hollett, Media Relations First Baptist Church PH: 604-683-8441 Ext. 226 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 969 Burrard, Vancouver BC