Monday, January 23, 2012


I am a woman who has experienced many trials in this life and has seen the faithful hand of God on her life time and time again. I am acquainted with the paralyzing fear that tries to grip your soul when a spouse walks out of your life, a child moves thousands of miles away, a parent dies, or a doctor gives you a death sentence of your own.

This book is written from a broken and contrite spirit in hopes to offer you encouragement and to help you dream again even in the midst of your trials.


August 1999 Married right out of high school, in 1999 I suddenly found myself divorced after 20 years of marriage. Now I was a single mom with two teenagers, no job and wondering what I was supposed to do now. I hadn't worked outside of the home for over 20 years. Being instantly thrust into a life of rejection, betrayal and major anger issues (not to mention great financial struggles, and everyday trials like malfunctioning cars, hot tubs and furnaces); life was suddenly very different and my lack of knowledge and resources were a daily reminder of my inadequacies and my dependency on others. My first real dilemma was “what do you put on a resume after being a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years?”

September 1999 My daughter went to college, our two Belarusian boys (who visited for the past five summers as a part of the Children of Chernobyl program) flew back home to Belarus and my son, Josh moved in with his father two states away. I got my first job (in 20 years) working in a candy factory; making minimum wage. What a slap to my self esteem as I was now doing the exact same thing I did twenty years earlier when I found out I was pregnant with our first child and we decided I should be a stay-at-home mom. The confusion and anger were difficult to control as I asked God “why.” I had lost everything; my marriage, my children, my financial security, my home, my lifestyle… everything!

Making only minimum wage I wasn’t able to keep up with all the bills and my beautiful log house (with a Jacuzzi in the master bedroom) was scheduled for sheriff sale. But God helped the house to sell to the first person who looked at it. The house sold and I became homeless all in one day. The following day a woman came into the church office to “bless someone with her mobile home.” When I first looked at this FREE 10x50 mobile home, I snobbishly refused to live in such a ‘little shoebox.’ A few days later the Lord reminded me of my earlier prayer about ending up in a cardboard box by the river. He said, “If you end up in a cardboard box by the river, it’s because you CHOSE to live there!” I immediately called the woman offering the free trailer and agreed to take it. That little shoebox became a place where I would spend quality time in God’s presence. All these years later, I still have fond memories of my 1 ½ years spent in my beloved shoebox.

Later I moved back into the same mobile home park where I lived 20 years earlier in my first marriage. When I asked the Lord why I should have to go back to square one after so many years, He spoke to my heart and said, “This time we’re doing it MY way.” From that moment on I chose to look at my life as an adventure, something new, something God was going to do for me and I chose to believe that since He was in control this time - it was going to be good.

December 2000 My divorce was final on my son’s 16th birthday. I was sued for child support and they garnished my wages; automatically deducting $286 out of my $400 paychecks every two weeks. During this time I would cry out to God and ask Him “How much more?! What else can possibly be stripped from my life? Haven’t I already lost enough?! When will this end?”

July 6, 2001 It was during my struggle with losing so much that I lost one of the most precious things I had in my life; my Dad (and best friend). He passed away from Carcinoid Cancer at the age of 61. About this same time I was diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia. An incurable, rare disease the restricts speech. Instead of vibrating, my vocal chords spasm causing broken speech and airway. Increased stress, increases symptoms. There is no known cause for SD. Many doctors believe it can be brought on by stress. Well hello!

September 14, 2001 My daughter, Chrissy continued her education in California and I found myself putting her on the first flight in America traveling to California on 9-14-01. Just three days after the 9-11-01 attacks. Most airports re-opened on September 14 but it wasn‘t until the end of October before everything could fly again. Bomb squads and army men escorted a hand full of us through the airport; still unsure of how safe it really was to begin flying again. The fear that gripped my heart was breathtaking and I was frantic to have to put her on an airplane in fear of yet another terrorist attack. My pride for her willingness to go was the only thing that allowed me to let her go. We both knew it was a God-thing.

December 31, 2001 I was reunited with a long time friend, began dating, became engaged and planned to marry on October 19, 2002.  After purchasing everything from my wedding gown to the mint dishes (and mints!), the Lord asked me to sacrifice this relationship just as He had asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. For several months, I absolutely refused and lived a miserable existence. Finally I was obedient and called the wedding off. Shortly thereafter, the relationship fell apart and I found myself alone once again.

October 31, 2002 I was hired at my church doing what I love to do; designing and writing as the Publication Manager. It seemed things were finally beginning to look up. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever walk into a job that I would love going to every morning. I was convinced that I had wasted my life being a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years and I would never be accepted for a job that was more than flipping burgers or waiting tables. I thought it took years and years to work up the ladder toward your dream job. Obviously God had other plans.

Friday, February 13, 2004 I received a devastating terminal (stage four) Carcinoid Cancer diagnosis; the same type of cancer that took my father’s life a little over two years prior. At my initial doctor's appointment, I was told to get my affairs in order because I only had approximately three months to live.

June 24, 2004 (four months later) The doctor gave me a glimpse of hope with a Clinical Trial and scheduled me to begin treatment on June 24th. Three days prior to beginning the treatments the Trial was shut down because patients were experiencing ‘sudden death.’ From this point on, the doctors offered no cure for my condition and would only talk about ‘quality of life’ and ‘keeping me comfortable’.

September 10, 2004 God miraculously touched my body and began healing me of Carcinoid Cancer.

September 2005 I met the man of my dreams at a Single’s Meeting (Joseph J. Lantini, Jr.). The singles picnic was the last place in the world I wanted to be. But I promised the girls at work I would go for a few moments. I had no idea the Lord was about to change my life forever.

October 2005 Our relationship progressed but I remained in fear of yet another failed relationship. As I traveled to Florida with some girlfriends, I prayed the Lord would let me know before I returned home a week later if this relationship with Joe was from God or not. On my last day in Florida, (much to my surprise) God confirmed our marriage by writing J-O-E in the sand for me! I knew from that moment on that Joe was the man God had intended me to be with and I never walked in fear of rejection and/or betrayal again.

December 2005 Joe and I were engaged on Christmas Eve at my place when he hid my engagement ring in a new coat he had bought me for Christmas. Immediately following his proposal we went to minister to two little girls whose mom was incarcerated. As we handed them gifts and prayed over them, I knew God had truly heard every prayer I had ever prayed concerning the man of my dreams.

June 24, 2006 (Exactly 2 years to the day of the cancelled Clinical Trial that would have killed me) I married my best friend and soul mate - Joseph J. Lantini Jr.! We had a beautiful wedding and honeymooned on a cruise to Cozumel. We were treated like kings and queens and enjoyed every moment of our pampered experience. In July I began receiving Botox injections in my vocal chords to help me speak. The injections are repeatedly every 3-4 months. They are very painful  but very worthwhile. Without them using the telephone, ordering at a drivethru window, and just simple daily tasks are nearly impossible.

August 8, 2006 My daughter and her husband, Nate blessed us with a beautiful grandson; Gavin Caleb. I was honored and blessed to be by Chrissy’s side as she labored to bring little “Gavin bear” into the world. At this point in my life, I wasn’t certain I would ever get to see any of my grandchildren. To be in that delivery room for this beautiful occasion caused me to praise God over and over. With tears running down my cheeks, I stroked Gavin’s little newborn hand and wondered in my heart if I would be around long enough to have a relationship with this precious little boy.

January 2007 Chrissy, Nate and baby Gavin moved to Sheridan, Wyoming. It broke our hearts and left us devastated and asking “why.” Once they were settled in Wyoming, God answered our question as Chrissy was hired as the new Youth Pastor at their church and we began to see His plan unfold in amazing ways. Shortly after moving to Wyoming, Chrissy discovered she was pregnant again. This time we were certain I wasn’t going to be able to be there for the birth. Chrissy and I cried on several occasions talking about how sad it would be not being together for the labor or delivery and we tried to be brave and strong for each other.

April 4, 2008 Chrissy and Nate blessed us once again; this time with a beautiful granddaughter; Natalie Claire. Joe had tried for months to get airline tickets for the week that baby Natalie was due. Each time he submitted for airline tickets he was refused for one reason or another. We were so disappointed when the only tickets we could purchase were two weeks AFTER Natalie was to arrive. We bought the tickets and tried not to be too let down that we wouldn’t be there for her birth. God gave us the desire of our hearts when we arrived just HOURS before Chrissy's water broke and she went into labor! Natalie came two weeks late and we all stood in tears and praise as once again as I was allowed to be by my daughter’s side as she labored to bring our beautiful granddaughter; Natalie Claire into the world.

May 12, 2008 I received the most devastating news ever. The Carcinoid Cancer had suddenly began to grow. The tumors that were shrinking have increased greatly in size and there are several more tumors in my liver!

This is where my story begins…….. at what seems to be…………. the end.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The most important man in my life

The most important man in my life

Besides the Lord, the most important man in my life was my father. He always had a way of making feel like I was O.K. even when I wasn’t. After my divorce, Dad became my best friend. He gave me crash courses on how to check the oil in my car, how to ride a riding lawnmower without hitting trees, the difference between "normal" funny sounds in a car’s engine and when you need to call the tow truck.

He tried desperately to teach me everything he knew in a very short amount of time because we both knew his time was limited. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer four years earlier, was getting stomach pains and was told that the cancer had spread throughout his body. Knowing this, my dad loved me and wanted his single daughter to be able to take care of herself. That’s why he was giving me so many crash courses. We never talked about it but we both understood.

One Sunday afternoon, my car started making a really loud noise. Dad had been in bed sick for several weeks and I didn’t want to bother him. When I finally called him, I only wanted him to tell me what he thought I should do next. But instead, he got out of bed and drove 30 minutes to my house. When he came to my door, I was shocked at how thin and frail he looked and I was upset at myself for having called him.

We went out to my car and took it for a test drive. He said “Well babe... we better get this thing to a mechanic quick!” Dad was trying his best to act like he was alright, but the pain in his face gave him away. As we drove, he tried to explain what he thought was wrong with the car. “Ya hear that sound right there?” He asked. “Ya…” I answered. “It sounds like the motor mounts have gone bad.” He continued. “What does that mean?” I asked. “That means your engine could fall out!” He laughed. “And if your engine falls out, you’re gonna need two tow trucks! One for your car and one for your engine! Let’s just hope we make it to the mechanic’s shop before that happens!”

On the way to the mechanic's, dad asked if I had any gum. Dad always chewed gum. I looked in the glove box and found some Red Hot Cinnamon gum. I handed him a stick and he popped it in his mouth. A few minutes later, as he was driving down the road, he opened the driver’s door to spit out the fire hot gum; not realizing that when he opened the door, the seat belt automatically moves forward. So here was this little frail man, with the seat belt wrapped around his neck, trying desperately not to wreck the car! We laughed the rest of the way home. Thank God I didn’t know then that this would be the last good memory I would have of my dad and me together.

For many years, my dad was a vivacious and active Pastor. He daily went from hospital to hospital... home to home... ministering to others. Helping them see God’s love even during difficult times. Now my dad found himself in a tough time as Carcinoid Cancer attacked his body. Although dad’s outer man was being attacked daily - his inner man just kept getting stronger. But while he was homebound (because of the severe pain he lived in daily) he still called others on the phone to minister to them and to help them see God’s love.

When I needed encouraged, my dad was the first person I went to! When I needed to feel loved and accepted – it was dad’s voice I needed to hear! When I started to feel overwhelmed and needed to know I was gonna be O.K., it was my dad who helped me get my priorities back in perspective. When I walked through the front door and heard him say “How ya doing Babe?” I knew I was home, I’d be o.k. and everything was gonna work out. He was such a humble man and I don’t think he ever realized what a man of God he truly was. That only made him more special to everyone who knew him.

Mom had been really depressed, scared, hurt and confused and I can only imagine what it must be like to lose the man you’ve loved for 30 some years. “Why” seems to be the big question. Why does dad have to suffer like this when he has been such a man of God? She told me how dad’s breathing was really scary last night. She says she thinks it was the death rattle people talk about. He had really deteriorated since I last saw him only a few days ago. Mom said he’s praying that the Lord will take him so he doesn’t have to suffer. How hard that must be for Mom to hear. I can’t imagine what she’s been through. It’s all I can do to get enough strength to visit for a few hours in the evenings. Watching dad suffer is so emotionally draining.

After a short visit, I couldn’t wait to get out of mom and dad’s house so I could explode into tears. When does mom cry? When can she release her pain? Where is everyone? After all dad had done for so many people - why does he have to lay at home suffering alone? If everyone he ever ministered to would visit for 10 minutes, he’d have someone with him around the clock! I really don’t understand people at all. I guess when you have a choice whether to become vulnerable to the heartache of watching a friend suffer or not, many choose not to.

As I cried out to the Lord the entire ride home, asking "why", the Lord spoke to my heart. “Brenda, if you don’t want your dad to die now - then when?” “Never!” I cried but I knew in my heart that dad had to die at some point. “But Lord.... why cancer?” That’s when He asked me the second question. “Brenda” He said. “If not cancer, then what; a car accident… or a heart attack? What?” In my heart, I realized the Lord was just assuring me that this was dad’s time and it was o.k. to let him go. Even though I wanted dad to stay and take care of me, it was time to let him receive his rewards in Heaven.

On Monday, I went to mom and dad’s and had a good talk with dad. He was lying in his hospital bed in the living room, when he looked at me and said, “It’s not looking good, Babe.” I had been praying all day for an open door to tell my dad how much I loved him. When he said this... at first I panicked and thought “I don’t want to talk about him dying!” But soon realized this was my open door and I may never get another opportunity like this one again.

So I went to his bedside and said “Dad, God knows I don’t want you to leave us.... but He also knows I could use some help down here! When you get to Heaven, could you just pull a few strings for me?! Not right away! Give yourself some time. Say five or ten minutes!!” He grinned and said “You know I will Babe!”

I couldn’t bear to talk about Dad dying so I told him not to give up. I said “I imagine when Daniel smelled those lion’s stinking breath - he was feeling pretty hopeless. But he didn’t give up! And when Jonah was looking at whale intestines, he didn’t give up! Dad, God can still do a miracle you know!” He just grinned. I continued by telling him he was the best dad in the world and that I loved him so much. He just lay there grinning his famous grin. It seemed he had something to tell me, but decided not to. Instead he told me how much he loved me and how proud he was of the decisions I had made.

Aunt Linda arrived with coffee stirs for everyone. Dad struggled to get to the table and enjoyed a few sips of the coffee stir before his bent frail body went back to his hospital bed to rest. Aunt Linda and I sat motionless at the kitchen table in disbelief and silence.

Tuesday, on the way home from work I picked up three meals at Perkins and went back to mom and dad’s to spend the night. We had a candle light dinner and dad got out of bed and sat for a few minutes to eat with mom. It wasn’t until we actually sat down together, that I realized I had bought a complete Thanksgiving meal (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce; the works). It was only a few minutes before dad was too weak and had to get back into bed. That evening, I slept on the couch in the sitting room and mom slept on the couch in the living room beside dad’s hospital bed.

The next morning I walked into the living room and said, “Hey dad!” He opened his eyes and said “Huh.....” “Do you have any idea how much I love you?!” He grinned and said “Uh huh.....” “Do you know you’re the best dad in the whole wide world?!” “No.....” he said “I’m not asking ya, dad! I’m telling ya!” I said, “You’re the best dad in the whole wide world and you’ve done a great job raising us kids! I’m a survivor - because you showed me how to survive! I’m strong because you made me that way. I’ll be o.k. - because you’ve been a perfect example of Christ to me and He is the only thing I really need!” He grinned and fell back to sleep.

It was the Fourth of July, so I didn’t have to work. In the morning, mom got dad out of bed to use the porta potty beside his bed. He kept falling off the toilet and she had an awful time getting him back into bed. He was too weak to lift his legs and crawl into bed. As I lay on the couch listening to all of this, I began to panic. What in the world are we going to do? Mom can’t go on like this forever. I’m surprised she’s held up this long. I got up and went to the kitchen. Once I stepped into the kitchen I fell to the floor begging for mercy. “Oh God! If You're really going to take him, let him die with dignity! Don’t let him continue to linger! If you’re going to take him.... please let him go with dignity!”

That afternoon, about thirty different people stopped by the house to see mom and dad. They would only stay for a few minutes, just long enough to say “Hey Willie? I love ya man!” and walk out with tears streaming down their faces. He slept most of the day, but would wake long enough to make each visitor feel welcome, by smiling at them and saying their name. It was an exhausting day for everyone, but a good day.

The most precious visit came when twelve of his best friends (pastors he worked with), came to the front door and sang “The Old Rugged Cross” in the front yard. It reminded me of all the times we went Christmas Caroling and how it blessed people's heart. Today was dad's blessing and their act of love blessed dad more than they may ever know. He forced himself out of bed and stood at the door smiling back at the faces that loved him so much. It broke our hearts to witness this kind of love, but taught us so much in the process.

That night, as my brother, my sister, mom and I were sitting beside dad; the neighbors were having a 4th of July picnic and started lighting M-80s. At first, I was upset that they could be so inconsiderate; but I knew they had no idea what was happening in our home. Then, as only dad can do, he made us all laugh. Every time there was an explosion dad would wake up and say “Come on now. We need to all settle down. Let’s just settle down now.” I think he thought we were trashing the joint! We explained a couple of times that it was the 4th of July, but I don’t think he quite understood.

Dad started breathing differently today. He would take 6-9 deep breathes and then wouldn’t breathe again for a long, long time. The hospice nurse explained that this was the process of his body shutting down. Every time he would stop breathing, I would think that was his last breath! But then he’d gasp for another breath and start the process all over again. Several times, I caught mom trying to breath for him. I’m not sure she even realized what she was doing.

The list of things that went wrong today was astounding! My nephew, Michael wrecked his motorcycle and ended up in the hospital, the hair dryer started shooting flames and blew up, the light in the bathroom blew out, the leg on the coffee table broke off, the curling iron broke.... my dad was dying!

Friday, July 6th I wrestled for a long time whether I should go to work or not. My heart ached to have to leave dad! What if he died before I could get back? What if he remained like this for weeks? No one knows! The hospice nurse explained that while the cancer had taken it’s toll on the rest of dad’s body... he still had a very strong 61 year old heart and that was what was keeping him alive. After much debating, I finally took a shower, got dressed and prepared to leave for work. Aunt Linda stopped this morning too. I sense she’s wrestling with the same feelings. Should she go to work, should she stay? My sister, Patti came this morning, so mom won’t be alone. I stood at front door fighting with myself, but finally walked to my car. Once I got a few blocks down the road, I felt a peace and knew that I was supposed to be at work.

Once at work, I started trying to get things prepared in case I needed to leave in a hurry. The girl in the cubicle next to mine was going through a divorce and (not knowing my dad was dying) came over to my cubicle and to tell me her little girl had been making accusations about the little girl’s daddy sexually abusing her. I cried with Chrystal and tried to encourage her. Once she left my cubicle I jumped on the Internet and sent her a card to let her know that I was praying for her. As soon as I hit send - I had this urgency to go home! So I started packing things up and getting things ready to leave. It was then that my sister called and confirmed my decision to leave. I said “I’m on my way! I’ll be home in 15 minutes!” and I left. I got home and dad was still doing the same breathing. My brother, Mick and his wife, Debbie, my sister, Patti and I were there. I asked mom for dad’s anointing oil and we anointed him once again and asked for a healing. Then we prayed the Lord would take dad home; understanding that Heaven is the ultimate healing.

My son stopped over to see his Papa. When Josh walked in the front door and saw the way his Papa was breathing he panicked. “He needs oxygen!” He yelled “I’m going to the fire station and getting him some oxygen!” And he took off, flying down the road in his car. When Josh came back, his sister took him aside and explained to him that Papa’s breathing was the process the body goes through when it’s dying.” Josh calmed right down and sat the oxygen tank off to the side.

This was the first time in a long time, since my son had seen any of us. After the divorce, Josh moved two states away to live with his father. He was so full of anger and confusion and it was heart breaking so see him under these conditions. It had been a while since Dad spoke but when Josh entered the living room Dad said, “How ya doing Bud?!” It was good for Josh to hear the love in his Papa’s voice and it blessed my heart that the Lord would allow them to have those last few moments together.

Everyone was there telling dad how much they loved him and how he was the best father in the world. I don’t know if he could hear us or not. I was just very thankful that I had the opportunity to tell him those things when I knew he understood. We all told him he could go home and get his reward and that we’ll see him later.

Mom (just to get away from the scene for a moment) went out to get the mail. When she came in she had a funny look on her face and said, “Look what we just got in the mail.” Opening the envelope she pulled out a little vial of anointing oil and a prayer cloth. We all just stood there looking at it. My mind was racing! Was it too late?! God is able to do anything! Nothing’s too difficult for God! Mom was the only person brave enough to verbalize what we were all thinking! She said, “You don’t suppose.... I mean.... God is able!”

Then it started..... “So where do we put this thing?” My brother asked. “I don’t know!” Someone else said. Then someone suggested we put it on dad’s forehead, another said “No. It goes on his heart.” Yet another person said we were just to touch him with it. Suddenly, my sister asked, “Didn’t it come with directions?!” We all started laughing. I looked at dad and said “Oh dad! You’ve raised some real morons.” So my brother took the anointing oil, put it on dad’s forehead and began to pray. We put the prayer cloth on dad’s head for a little while and then his heart... (just to be safe!) If dad knew anything that was going on at this point – I’m sure he would just shake his head and laugh. We were as sincere as we could be.... but didn’t have a clue what was expected of us.

Shortly thereafter, dad spoke again. He hadn’t really done any talking for 2-3 days now and out of the blue he said loud and clear.... “I’m home!” We all jumped up, ran to his bedside and thought he was leaving. We cried and told him how much we loved him and that we were going to be o.k.; but he still lingered on. Breathing 9-10 times and then not breathing for a long, long time. Someone was by his side constantly from that point on. Mom and Patti sat with him during the night, and I got up early in the morning and sat with him while they tried to rest. Pastor Joe came over and sang some worship songs at dad’s bedside. You could tell Dad’s spirit was able to respond to Pastor Joe’s singing even if his body wouldn’t allow him to speak.

Friday morning I was sitting beside dad, wiping his brow with a cool cloth. Every time he would make even the slightest noise, mom would jump up and run to his side to make sure he was o.k. She was totally exhausted but did not want to leave his side. As I sat beside him, I could not believe how hard he had worked for the past couple of days. His breathing had taken its toll and he was sweating like crazy. I had worked as a birthing coach and was amazed at how much coming INTO this world was like LEAVING. They were both labor.

As my father lie there struggling to hold on, my mind went back to so many memories. Memories of sitting on the steps waiting for dad to finally get out of the bathroom so we could run downstairs and open Christmas gifts. Memories of how he loved his grandchildren. The crazy things he would do like riding a Slip and Slide down the hill at camp and singing “If raindrops were gumdrops” just to hear his grandkids squeal with laughter. Memories of our times spent at camp and fishing side by side. There were so many memories; memories that pierced my heart as I stood beside my dying father.

The hospice nurse came in the next morning and gave dad a bath around 10:30. After she finished, Pastor Carol came in. She said, “I bought you some chicken. I’m just gonna stick it in the refrigerator and then I’m leaving.” Before she could get it in the refrigerator, I decided to make mom a plate of food. Carol, Patti and I were in the kitchen talking when I decided to carry mom’s plate into the living room. As soon as I stepped into the living room, I realized something had changed! Dad was breathing differently. There were no hesitations, no pausing. Just a constant gasping for air! I sat the plate down, went back out into the kitchen and said, “Something has changed. You better come in.” Patti and Carol followed me back into the living room. Mom and Patti were on his right side, I was on his left. At first I thought, “I wonder how long he will do this now.” But I soon began to notice that his hands and face were changing colors. Oh God! He’s really dying! I can’t watch! But I can’t leave either! Oh God! My dad is dying! Right now!! Right here!!! There’s no miracle! There’s no healing! Why God! Why?!!

I held Dad’s hand and once again started telling him how much I loved him because there were no other words to say. That’s when I remembered the Hospice nurse telling us how strong his heart was. So I reached over and placed my hand on his chest, to feel his heart beat. My thoughts were “God take him! No more suffering!” That’s when God spoke clearly to me and said “You take his heart. You take his love for the unsaved and the hurting. You carry the mantel he has carried for so long.” I agreed and with tears in my eyes I looked at my dad and said “Dad, you can go home now... we’ll take it from here.” Dad’s body jerked three times and he was gone.

I stood beside the shell that once was my loving father in total disbelief and anger with God. “God! You said we could ask anything in Your name and it would be done. You said by Your stripes we were healed! What about Dad? Why didn’t he receive his healing? What didn’t you answer our prayers?! Where are you God? Don’t you even care what just happened? How could this possibly work together for good? Why do I even bother praying to Someone who doesn’t listen?”

The next few days were a blur, but I remember sitting on the front step with my friend, Debbie and being angry that the day my father died was such a beautiful day. The sun was shining, there were big fluffy clouds in the sky (the kind of fluffy clouds that my father loved so much), it was warm and beautiful. How dare the world continue to move on. My world stopped; so should everyone else’s.

Two days later when we arrived at the funeral home, the receiving line was already three city blocks long. People stood for hours to pay their respects; people from all walks of life (rich people, poor people, black people, white people). I have never seen anything like it. As a matter of fact, the funeral director went out to those standing in line and asked them to come back for the second viewing. “The family” he said “needs some time to sit down and rest. Please come back to the second viewing.” And they did. What a testimony to dad’s character. It was exhausting speaking with so many people, but it blessed our hearts beyond compare.

For a long, long time I wrestled with why my dad had to die when he was so young. Why did he have to leave me when I needed him most? Only God knows why. God reminded me of the promise I made to my dad as he was dying. “Dad” I said, “I’ll take it from here....” I wasn’t sure what that meant, or how that was accomplished but I didn’t want what dad had spent his life living for to die with him. I needed to pick up his mantel. I needed to step up to the plate. Dad had passed the torch to me. It’s time for me to run with it. I just pray to God I don’t drop it.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to carry his mantle of love but somehow … some way I was going to step in where he had left off. Although, the very thought of doing hospital visitations, going into the prisons, or (heaven forbid) preaching a sermon made me weak at the knees.

There was no way for me to know that in less than two years, I would be hired to serve on the same support staff at the church my father served on. There was no way of knowing that God was going to begin pouring gifts and talents into me and use me at my church for many years. God had handed me a job doing what I love to do. Writing and designing was something I only dared to dream about doing! You don’t take a woman who didn’t work (outside the home) for over twenty years and drop her into her dream job! That’s something she has to work up to! Not with God. He wants to fulfill our dreams. He wants to give us the desires of our hearts. Nothing pleases Him more than to bless His children. Don’t ever stop dreaming. Don’t ever stop believing. With God ALL things are possible.

There was no way for me to know that I would one day be doing hospital visitations and YES even preaching a sermon or two. God was beginning to mold this shy, backward lady into someone He could use for His glory. It was more amazing for me to watch this happen than it was for anyone else. I was no longer living up to my dad’s legacy of love but I was beginning to see my own destiny and my own legacy unfold right before my eyes.

As years went by and as exciting as life was becoming (as I followed the Lord and allowed Him to stretch me far beyond anything I could imagine), I still had no contact with my son, Josh and my heart ached desperately to have him back in my life. One day I found myself lying across my bed crying out to the Lord. “Father, You promised me life and life more abundant! You said that whatever I asked in Jesus’ name you would do. Jesus! My heart aches for a relationship with my son…. PLEASE! Do whatever it takes to bring Josh back into my life……”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's not a TUMA... or is it?!

Over the Christmas holidays in 2003, I was experiencing excruciating pains in my stomach. For weeks I was convinced it was just the flu or something I had eaten. While playing the piano with a group of other musicians for our Christmas production, I had to run to the bathroom in between songs to get sick. While lying on the bathroom floor and hugging the toilet, my daughter was by my side encouraging me and rubbing my back. At one point she whispered, “Mom… you don’t think it’s….” She couldn’t bear to even say the word ‘tumor.’ I looked up at her and in my best Arnold Swartzenegger voice I said, “IT‘S NOT A TUMA!”

Because the pain wasn’t constant and would come and go, I decided there was no way I would even consider going to the doctor. Until… this tall, dark, handsome and single man (who just happened to be painting the offices where I work) said, “Brenda, if you make a doctor’s appointment, I’ll take you to your appointment.” Well every single girl around was eyeballing this man and my mama didn’t raise no fool! So I went directly into my office and set up an appointment; when actually all I really wanted to do was get to know this mystery man. He was true to his word and went to the first couple doctor’s appointments with me. He even stood at the bottom of the CT Scanner and rubbed my foot, while I battled claustrophobia in that little CT tube.

But when things started getting intense, he vanished and moved six states away. I’m still thankful he suggested I make an appointment because I don’t think I would have gone to the doctor otherwise. I guess his mission here was finished and he ran for warmer climates and less drama. How could I blame him? If I had a choice I would have run too.

Friday the 13th, February 2004

Two and a half years after the death of my father, I found myself in the same doctor’s office dad had gone to. This time it was me, my mom, my daughter and friend, Carol. The doctor took everyone into one private waiting room then whisked me away to an examining room.

Once she got me in the examining room, she proceeded to do an annual pap smear. In this room there was what appeared to be a leather recliner with stirrups. This was something I had never experienced before and wasn’t a big fan when she stepped on the floor pedal and the recliner turned me upside down on my head with one leg going toward the east and the other going west. I’m trying to be discreet here… but you’ve got to get the entire picture to understand what happened next.

While I’m in this precarious position and looking much like at Butterball turkey ready to be stuffed, the doctor begins talking. Standing by her side is her nurse (the mother of the man I had recently broken off my engagement with) Awkward!

The doctor very nonchalantly began to explain that the blood work came back and confirmed that I too had Carcinoid Cancer ~ just as my father had. She immediately began to use terms like “quality of life” and “keeping me comfortable.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and just stared at her in disbelief. Instantly I was sick to my stomach and couldn’t deal with the words she was saying. The longer she talked the more violated I felt. How can she say these things while she’s got me standing on my head? Don’t I deserve even just a little bit of respect? I couldn’t bear to hear her piercing words more than once so I asked sharply, “Can we please talk about this with everyone else in the other room?” She immediately stopped talking and allowed me to get dressed and go into the room across the hall where everyone was waiting.

When I entered the room I was white as a ghost and everyone immediately knew that what they were about to hear was not good news. The doctor explained once again about my diagnosis and gave a few suggestions of doctors she believed would be helpful. She reaffirmed the fact that there is NO CURE to Carcinoid Cancer, but there were ways of “keeping me comfortable” and “giving me the best quality of life possible.” I refused to allow my mind to go back to when my father died; the pain, the anguish, all the heart ache. I can’t allow my mind to go there! It will completely shut me down! “Don’t go there!” I kept silently repeating in my mind! “Don’t go there!” I did not realize at the time that I had just entered the most difficult part of a cancer diagnosis; the battle of your mind. Disciplining my thought life was something I would battle with for years to come.

She finally stopped speaking and walked out of the room and for just a second we all sat frozen in total silence and disbelief. My mom got up first and wrapped her arms around me. “I’m so sorry mom!” I whispered in her ear as we both began to cry. As hard as I tried, I could not stop the thoughts that were already racing through my mind. “Who’s going to take care of me? Who will be there when I die?” Chrissy just got engaged a few days ago, I can’t burden her with this. There was no way I was going to put my mom through this again! I wouldn’t do that to my mom! Not when she‘s just beginning to heal. At this time in my life, it was just me and my cat and quite frankly up until this very moment I kinda liked it that way. “When I get really sick,” I thought to myself, “I’ll leave and take care of myself at the end.”

My daughter jumped in and hugged the two of us then my friend, Carol wrapped her arms around all of us. We stayed in that little room until we could regain our composure. I paid for the doctor’s visit at the front desk and then we all painted on a fake smile and walked out of the doctor’s office as if nothing had happened. As soon as Carol reached her car, she began making calls to explain to the people at the church about my diagnosis so I wouldn’t have to. By the time Chrissy and I started down the road, people were getting the news and already began to pray.

As soon as we got into Chrissy’s car, I called my son. I didn’t want him to hear this news from anyone else. Then Chris and I just wandered around kind of shopping and waiting for 7pm when we could go to the Friday night service. Every Friday night I played the keyboard at our church and I just couldn’t imagine not being there tonight; even after the heavy load that was just dumped on our shoulders.

At 7pm I went to the keyboard on the church platform and began worshipping with the team. What else was I supposed to do? Where else am I supposed to turn? If I sit in the congregation, I’m just going to cry and fall apart. God is the only Person Who can help me now.

During previous trials, I learned one very important lesson: when we least feel like worshipping, that’s when we need to worship most. Through my divorce, through the loss of my son, through the death of my father, I began to realize that whenever I offered a sacrifice of praise God would (much like super glue) take all the fragmented pieces of my heart and mind and put them back together; giving me the strength to get through one more day.

After worship, our pastor brought Chrissy and I to the front and the entire church began to pray for my miraculous healing. It was awesome and comforting to know we have so many good friends on our side. I was reminded of the story in Mark when a man sick with palsy had friends who were willing to lift his mat and carry him to the rooftop.

Mark 2:1-12 (MSG) After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren't able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, "Son, I forgive your sins." Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, "He can't talk that way! That's blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins." Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, "Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, 'I forgive your sins,' or say, 'Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking'? Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . ." (he looked now at the paraplegic), "Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home." And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, "We've never seen anything like this!"

Almost immediately I would need to learn how to lean on the faith of my friends. It was the prayers, love and support of so many friends that kept me moving forward. It was the strength I felt through their words of encouragement that kept me from drowning in self pity.

Back before I had accepted Christ as my Savior, I remember thinking that if I ever became a Christian I wouldn’t have any friends. The funniest part about that is ~ at that time in my life I didn’t have any friends! Today, over twenty years later, my life is blessed with hundreds of friends. Sure, there is only a handful of close ‘intimate’ friends, but literally hundreds of other people truly care about me and what I’m going through! And that’s all I really needed to know at this moment in my journey.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A quick class on Carcinoid Cancer

Carcinoid Cancer is often known as cancer in slow motion. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s hamburger food chain had Carcinoid for 10 years before it metastasized to his liver and in 2002 he died at the age of 69.

Carcinoid tumors emit large quantities of chemicals like serotonin, histamines and other problems. Most people who experience Carcinoid Syndrome because their cancer has metastasized to the liver.

Some of the Carcinoid Syndrome Symptoms are:
  • Uncontrollable diarrhea
  • Flushing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Asthma like wheezing
  • Heart damage/rapid heart beat/Heart valvular lesions
  • Cramping/abdominal pain
  • Arthritis
  • Peripheral edema - a swelling of the ankles, legs, hands and arms, or neck and face.
  • Cyanosis - characteristic bluish skin spots that appear after flushing, and are produced by a lack of oygenated blood circulation.
  • Pellagra - nutritional deficiency that causes symptoms such as skin rash
  • Telangiectasia - reddish spots or veins that appear most often on the face, chest or arms.
The syndrome symptoms can be so severe that they, not the Carcinoid tumors, are the cause of death. Carcinoid Tumors most frequently appear in African American women between the ages 50 to 70 and this is not hereditary. The chances of dad and I both being diagnosed with Carcinoid are slim to none. All I gotta say is, “Someone’s got some explaining to do then!”

There is another condition referred to as Carcinoid Crisis which causes a fatal episode of flushing, low blood pressure, confusion and breathing difficulty and must be handled immediately. Carcinoid Crisis can be caused by having anesthesia, chemotherapy, or can happen for no apparent reason. For more information you can visit a webpage at

It didn’t take me but a few jumps on the google search engine to realize the internet was not going to be my friend during this journey. So I determined in my heart to let the doctors do their job and resist the urge to do any further investigating of this very frightening diagnosis on the internet.

Here is a partial list of the doctors I visited and the various tests that were done.

Jan 19, 2004 Sharon Regional CR ABD UPPER WO/W Contrast
Jan 30, 2004 Sharon Regional 5HIAA urine 24/HR
Feb 4, 2004 Sharon Regional liver needle biopsy
Friday the 13th Feb 2004 Sharon Reg. 1st Carcinoid diagnosis

When I was diagnosed at the doctor’s office, my friend, Carol wasn’t going to take this Carcinoid diagnosis lying down. She immediately began making plans for us to get a second opinion… then a third… then a fourth… eventually I lost count of how many different doctors we tried to get an appointment with.

Mar 10,2004 Hillman Cancer Ins. Ocreotide Scan & 2nd Carcinoid diagnosis

On my 44th birthday, March 10, 2004 I had an appointment at a Pittsburgh, Pa hospital for more testing. The night before the actual test, I was given several doses of radiation and then 24 hours later went through a barrage of testing. My mom, Chrissy and friend, Carol and I spent the night in a hotel close to the hospital.

That night in the hotel was one I will never forget. Weeks in advance, Carol contacted several women at the church to let them know that I would be in the hospital on my birthday. Then she smuggled gifts, cards, flowers and so much more into the hotel room without me knowing it. I’m still not certain how she accomplished all of that. But what a blessing!

The night before my testing, I came out of the shower to find the room fully decorated with flowers and banners and a bed full of gifts from my friends back home. Tears immediately filled my eyes and flowed freely down my cheeks for several hours while I read each card and opened each gift. There is no way to describe the strength my soul gathered from each act of kindness these ladies displayed toward me. The four of us sat in amazement as we felt the love of so many pour over us right there in the hotel room.

The next morning, I got into the shower and mindlessly squeezed liquid soap into the palm of my hand. When I looked down at the soap I couldn’t believe my eyes. The soap had formed the perfect outline of a heart! I stood there amazed as I watched it fill in and remain in the shape of a perfect heart. Then a still small voice spoke to my heart and said, “Rest in My love My child.”

During the scan I was thinking how cruel the nursing staff was to be eating their lunch in front of a woman who hadn’t been allowed to eat for two days. Then I had a thought. “Someone has to help the doctors and nurses believe in miracles; and restore their compassion, someone needs to spur them on to do their jobs in a spirit of excellence while anxiously awaiting a healing from Someone much bigger than themselves.”

After lying on a cold, hard, metal table for literally hours during the testing, we once again received another Carcinoid diagnosis. This wasn’t going to stop us. We immediately made an appointment with a doctor from John Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.

Mar 23, 2004 John Hopkins Two separate doctors - 3rd & 4th Carcinoid diagnosis

Funny story about John Hopkins: first what we were expecting the hospital to look like and what John Hopkins actually looks like was astounding. As we drove toward the hospital, it seemed we were in a ghetto like none I’ve ever experienced before. Once in the hospital, I was wondering if maybe God was going to do something out of the ordinary through this chance meeting with the young, good looking Dr. John Doe (name changed for obvious reasons).

When we looked Dr. Doe up on the internet, we all commented on how… well… how appealing his picture and bio were. Mostly his picture. Upon arrival, we waited in the waiting room forever and then were taken to an examining room. As we all sat in the examining room, we chuckled and talked about what this encounter with Mr. Gorgeous might turn out to be.

After a long, long wait, the door finally opened and this old, grey haired, doctor with a poochy tummy walked in and introduced himself. I wanted to look around for the Candid Cameras, but instead sat quietly trying to listen to his diagnosis while my mind was screaming “Hey! Wait a minute! Where’s that gorgeous hunk of a man whose picture with your name is on the internet?” When we left our appointment, we looked him up again and sure enough it was Mr. Gorgeous about 20 years after the picture had been taken. How cruel is that? Besides, what man in his right mind would marry a woman with stage 4, terminal cancer anyways?

So in just a few short months, we traveled as far as from Pittsburgh, Pa to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland only to hear the same diagnosis. Finally, I knew that I needed to resolve to the fact that I wasn’t going to get a different diagnosis and wasn’t going to find someone with a magical cure.

So with one more doctor to visit, a Carcinoid Specialist in Columbus Ohio, I found a doctor I could trust and stuck with her for many years of CT Scans and appointments.

Mar 26, 2004 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt confirming 5th Carcinoid diagnosis
May 8, 2004 OSU Cancer Hosp ABCD lesions in liver growing in size
June 24, 2004 OSU Cancer Hosp Clincial Trial cancelled due to sudden death side effects

On June 2004, I was scheduled for an experimental, clinical trial. The doctor had explained the risk involved but it was my only hope of a cure. Two days before I was to begin the treatments, the trial was shut down.

When we went to OSU Cancer Hospital for my appointment (which should have been the beginning of my Clinical Trial), I will never forget the look on Chrissy’s face as the doctor explained (in broken English) that the reason the Trial was cancelled was because several people had already experienced “sudden death” while beginning the treatments!

Poor Chrissy. Every time she heard the words “sudden death” she turned white as a ghost and almost fell off the stool in the doctor’s office. She said later she honestly thought she was going to pass out when she realized just how close I was to receiving an injection that could have taken my life suddenly.

Sudden death was not a side effect any of us were willing to chance. It was at this moment I realized that God wasn’t finished with me yet. Lu 4:10 - 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' If He was going to protect me from “sudden death” then I needed to trust Him completely and walk this journey out.

July 15, 2004 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Oct 21, 2004 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Jan 8, 2005 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Feb 24, 2005 OSU Cancer Hosp cholecystectomy (gallbladder removed because Sandostatin was causing gallbladder sludge)

Doctors expected me to be down for a long, long time after this cholecystectomy. Actually, I bounced right back up and was ready to get back to life as usual. What was nice about this particular operation was I got to see what my boyfriend, Joe Lantini was like under pressure. I’m happy to say he passed with flying colors under the watchful eye of Carol and Chrissy.

Aug 25, 2005 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Dec 14, 2006 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Dec 15, 2006 OSU Cancer Hosp small bowel resection with side to side anastomosis

My appointment was supposed to be a simple CT Scan & appt. But unbeknownst to me, there was a bowel blockage that was ready to burst. It was so severe that the doctor admitted me immediately and scheduled the small bowel resection for early the next morning.

Now don’t let the word SMALL bowel resection fool ya. They took over 2 feet of my small bowel. But once again, thanks to the faithfulness of God I bounced right back and a week after surgery I was out strolling the malls and Christmas Shopping for our four month old grandson, Gavin.

Now I’m not endorsing having surgery to get out of all the Christmas drama but I gotta say having this surgery during the Christmas season was a real blessing. When I left on December 14th I had very little Christmas shopping, baking, cleaning, and/or wrapping done. While I was in the hospital, Chrissy took my credit card in hand and had everything handled before I came home.

We would crack up when a super cautious sales clerk would call my cell and ask if I was Brenda Lantini. I would simply say “Yes I am” and instantly Chrissy had the ability to charge just about anything she wanted on my card. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but couldn’t anyone steal my credit card and have the sales clerk call anyone’s cell to get permission to make purchases?!

Dec 18, 2006 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Feb 23. 2006 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Mar 8, 2006 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Jan 4, 2007 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
May 10, 2007 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
June 6, 2008 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.

When I was first diagnosed, the doctors said that the primary tumor was in my small bowel with multiple tumors in my liver. When I asked how many tumors were in my liver, the doctors simply said, “Too many to count!” They continued by saying that there is no cure for Carcinoid, there are no treatments and they offered no hope. Then they hinted at a very short life span for me; since it had already metastasized to my liver. They explained that toward the end of the disease they could do Chemo Embolization. But this treatment was only designed to “buy me time” and couldn’t be repeated more than 2-3 times because each time it’s administered it’s a little less effective.

July 15, 2008 OSU Cancer Hosp Chemo Embolization

You can read more about my Chemo Embolization in Chapter Six.

July 28, 2008 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Aug 18, 2008 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Aug 24, 2008 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.
Oct 9, 2008 OSU Cancer Hosp CT Scan & appt.

In October of 2008 I lost my job and my medical insurance. Which meant that all doctor’s visits at James Cancer Hospital or anywhere else were finished. At this time, I found myself battling my thought life again. Fear, confusion and a host of other emotions wanted to take over but I couldn’t let them.

At times I wondered what kept me going. Why didn’t I lose faith? Why didn’t I just give up? I can assure you the strength to carry on was nothing of my own doing. It was the faithful love and mercy of my Heavenly Father that kept me going. If it had been up to me, I would have thrown my hands up in defeat at the very beginning. But it was His stubborn love that kept drawing me back.

It was also a series of daily choices. Choices like: Continuing to play keyboard for praise and worship regardless of whether I felt like it or not, literally running home and covering my head whenever I was tempted to find comfort in the things of this world, willing to be a Godly example for those who are faced with the heartache and challenge of cancer and trying to find some way to glorify the Lord through it all.

For several years I was faced with daily choices. Some were obvious choices and some were not as obvious. Some I understood what God was doing, some I did not. But in the midst of the storm even though it seemed like the sun would never shine again; I realized that if I just gave it time the Son would shine brightly once again. It doesn’t stay dark forever. Seasons change ~ but God never changes. Finally after a long, long time I was able to look back and realize the hand of God had led me every step of the way.

At the beginning of the diagnosis, many people (out of the goodness of their hearts) began giving me books, cassettes, CDs, bottles of liver enhancers and many other concoctions guaranteed to heal my cancer. At first, I was tempted to begin reading every book, take every pill and drink every bottle of ‘cures’ that were given to me. What did I have to lose? Let’s try it all! But then as I searched my heart, I told the Lord that I was going to trust Him completely. When this was all said and done I didn’t want anything to take the credit for the miracle God was going to do.

Now I’m not saying if your doctor suggests a certain medication not to take it. I took a Sandostatin shot monthly to control the symptoms of the Carcinoid for over four years. What I’m talking about are the things you see on T.V. promising to cure you, the bestselling books that have YOUR answer to health. I believe one of the things that enabled me to keep my peace of mind was by not going on all those wild goose chases and trusting God totally and completely.

In 2004, the Carcinoid Specialist was using terms like “quality of life,” “keeping me comfortable” and “buying time.” Of course, I was devastated. Everything I ate made me violently ill and caused severe pain. Pain like I’ve never experienced in my life. To best describe the pain I would say it felt like I had a metal corset that covered my entire trunk. The pain would begin and keep getting tighter and tighter until it caused me to roll up in a ball on the floor crying and gasping for breath. At times I would vomit and have chills with the pain. At other times I didn’t.

Almost daily I found myself lying on the bathroom floor praying for relief from the pain and wondering if that relief was going to come in the form of me going to Heaven. I began preparing for my death by securing a cemetery lot and writing out what I’d like my funeral service to look like. Until one day I shook myself and said, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! STOP THAT!”

The power of life and death are in the tongue and I needed to stop speaking negatively. I needed to stop planning on dying. I needed to stop entertaining the fear that would flood my soul at night. I needed to believe that God was able to deliver me and that He had a plan for my life during this painful time.

But even during all the pain and all the fear, the greatest heartache in my life was the fact that I had lost contact with my son, Josh. I remember throwing myself across my bed on New Year’s Eve 2004 (just 6 weeks before my diagnosis) and crying out to God. “Lord” I cried, “I can’t bear to not have a relationship with my son. My aching heart is killing. Please bring him back into my life! Do whatever it takes God! Please God!”

God always hears our prayers but doesn’t always answer the way we thought He would. I believed He was going to bring Josh back but I never dreamed He was going to do it through a cancer diagnosis.

Then one Sunday after church, I was lying in severe pain on the couch with my heating pad. When my front door opened and my son, Josh walked back into my life like he had never left. The same young man who hadn’t spoken to me for over four years was back and it was time for us to begin building our relationship again. At first it was a little awkward. But no matter how far apart we had been, the love we had for each other went farther.

After several visits, he was sitting in my rocking chair in the living room and said, “Mom. You know if it wasn’t for the cancer diagnosis I wouldn’t be sitting here.” Tears filled my eyes and I said, “Ya. I know. And if I had a choice I’d do it all over again in a heart beat.”

It was the cancer diagnosis that brought him back into my life and we both knew it. God always answers prayer – just not always the way we expect or would like Him to.

Josh and I have a GREAT relationship now. He and his wife, Megan visit often and it’s always fun when we go out for JIB-Jab hotdogs or ice cream. Sometimes when I look at him I think of how desperately I missed him while he was gone. Then I smile and remind my heart that God really does do miracles.

Not only did the Lord restore my relationship with my son, Josh; but when I married Joe God also gave me another son, Joey Lantini III, and two step-sons John and Giovan, two step daughters Katina and Tiffany, a step-granddaughter Gianna and a step-grandson Little Giovan. (I only use the term ‘step’ in order to be politically correct). They are all my kids as far as I’m concerned. And I’ve sincerely enjoyed getting to know each one of them.

For years I mourned my loss especially at Christmas when I just didn’t have any reason to put up the stockings. Because there were no children in my house to open them. Now, I have a tough time finding enough room for all sixteen stockings. During the time of the divorce it seemed like I had lost everyone and everything, but God promises that He will restore the years that the locust hath eaten… Job 2:25

When locust devour a crop the farmer needs to keep sowing seeds and waiting. Eventually seasons change and new life begins again. I am a blessed woman to have so many children in my life. I could have never guessed that this was even possible. But God. He is so faithful.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I just wanna be fruity

Here are some notes I have written down in a gazillion different journals… on slips of paper… napkins… anywhere and everywhere. These little blurbs of thought reveal the depth of thought and feeling involved with a cancer diagnosis. The best part? They still encourage ME today as I go back and read them. Let me assure you, I’m not always on the top of my game. There have been many days when I’ve wondered if God was even with me. There have been many days when I can’t think of one good reason to go on to the next day. But God. He always seems to speak loudest when we finally decide to be quiet and listen.

Here's a poem I wrote on 4-28-2004 while lying on the bathroom floor wondering if I was going to die. I was in pain I had never experienced before and felt completely and totally alone. Yet I also kept mostly to myself because I didn't want to burden anyone. Only two months into my journey and I was just beginning to learn how to lean on my faith and trust in the Lord.

While I was laying on the floor, this poem came to my mind and I remember thinking "you've gotta be kidding me the pen and paper are in the other room!" They seemed so far away but I knew if I didn't write it down immediately it would be lost forever. But I managed to get into the other room, grabbed the pen and paper, laid back down on the floor and began to write.

I'd like to say there was a miracle and the pain went away immediately, but it didn't. Although a peace and calm that I can't explain came over me and I knew no matter what happened I was going to be alright.


Here I am again Lord
With so many questions on my mind
Ashamed to doubt Your Sovereignty
As so many answers I seek to find

I know that You are able
And working for my good
There are just some things I wish
I somehow understood

Like, why this painful journey
And why this winding road
Why must I carry such a burden
And why such a heavy load

Are you trying to speak to my heart Lord
Are You leading me this way
If I know that You are with me
Then on this path I will gladly stay

I trust in You completely
And know You have a plan
I know Your ways aren't my ways
Your thoughts are much higher than man's

So... yes I will follow
I will go wherever You send
Only because I know that when it's over
I'll be with You in the end

Your love is what encourages me
Your strength is my best friend
It's Your peace that brings me comfort
Along each rough and winding bend


At the beginning of this year as I lay across my bed crying out for a relationship with my son and asking You to do ‘whatever it takes’ You said, “The road will be a little bumpy. But this is your year.” Today, ten months and a cancer diagnosis later I realize You weren’t kidding about the bumpy road. I also realize that the “life more abundant” is the attitude of one’s heart.

Lord, You have pruned me deeply. It seems there is nothing left of the vine. But I understand that in order to bear much fruit, the pruning is necessary. Therefore, I will not fight the process. I only ask that You would use me to bear much fruit ~ for Your glory and for Your honor.



My next scan is next Thursday, the 21st at Columbus, Ohio. The past couple of days I’ve been wrestling with the “what ifs”. I know the Lord touched me on September 10th. I know I’ve been healed. But what if the scan doesn’t prove my healing? What if the doctor doesn’t confirm that healing?

I’m not so much concerned about me… I’ve come to terms with life and death. My concern is God’s integrity. (Just typing that out makes me laugh. Who am I to alter the integrity of God?) Yet I want to be able to encourage others who are facing issues like cancer, disease and divorce. I want them to see the mighty healing power of God. Many people have heard that I was healed. The word has spread quickly. What if…

My brother put it so wisely the other day when he said, “God has healed you. You just don’t know how yet.” I understand that many are healed miraculously, many through chemo and radiation, some get the ultimate healing when they go home to be with the Father; where the sting of death can never touch them again, where there are no tears, no pain, no sin, no rejection, no divorce, no hate, nothing but life and peace for eternity.

God had a plan and purpose when He created me in my mother’s womb. How could I possibly think I could improve on His plan? This diagnosis has not taken Him by surprise. I don’t believe He gave me cancer. But I do believe He knew this was going to happen and He has a plan to work it all out for His glory.

The things I’ve endured have all been a part of His incredible plan and destiny for my life. My only responsibility, my only requirement is that I trust Him and walk it out daily. He only asks that I remain faithful and allow His plan to unfold in my life.

God clearly told us in the Word that what gives Him glory is when we bear much fruit. Do I have any fruit? I want to bear much fruit… for His glory.



I’m beginning to learn that most of those who are used greatly by God can point to a day in their life when they made a formal decision to live for God’s glory. I’m not certain why I didn’t see this all along. If you read the scriptures, all the testimonies of great men and women of God went through tremendous trials and hardship. But when you decide to live for God’s glory, you must also understand that there are conditions. Think of any great person in the Bible and I'm certain you will see that these three conditions are true:
#1 You get nothing in return
#2 There are no warm fuzzies or great personal joy involved
#3 It’s all done to increase God’s reputation

Oh God, I want only what You want for my life. From this day forward, I will measure success, achievement and fulfillment by doing good works that bring You glory. Today I sign over ownership of my life to You; asking only the You will use me to show the world what a wonderful God You are!

Who's gonna date a girl with Stage Four Cancer?

After my divorce in 1999, this very broken, scarred and scared woman entered a new life. There was no way for me to understand what single women go through on a daily basis. It wasn’t until I experienced the meat market mentality that was out there, that I could fully sympathize with a woman who simply wanted to live her life and be happy again.

Shortly after my divorce, I met several men. Now mind you, I had no intentions of ever entering into another relationship. The pain of the first was enough to keep me single for the rest of my life. At this point in my life, it was just me and my cat and I was really okay with that. She liked to cuddle and purr and only made noise when she was hungry or needed her litter box changed. Life at my house was finally peaceful and relaxing and I was going to do whatever it took to keep it that way.


At Christmas time, my boss called me on the intercom and said “You have a gorgeous bouquet of roses up here in the main office.” Confused and a little excited I went upstairs and brought the roses to my office. The card wished me a Merry Christmas but there was no name.

Obviously this Mystery Man doesn’t know me at all! Instead of appreciating the beauty of the flowers, I focused on the unknown admirer. How could he do this? Will he ever reveal himself? Was this from one of the girls from the office trying to make me feel better? Oh…. I wasn’t happy about this at all.

Almost a month later, a guy I barely knew walked up to me and said, “So did you like your roses?” I spun around and asked, “Were those from you?!” He smiled at my shocked expression. I wasn’t even certain what his name was. Why in the world would he send me roses? Then he said quite seriously, “Would you like to marry me?” Oh boy… now I knew I was in trouble. I smiled sweetly and said, “Oh you’re too kind but I’ve gotta go” and slipped away as swiftly as I could.

Another encounter happened as I was trying to get my belongings out of my house during the divorce, a police officer asked me to stop in at the police station and pick up some paperwork he thought was important for me to have. So of course, I went to the station and he buzzed me in. The door unlocked, I walked in and the door locked behind me. Being the very naïve (newly single) woman that I was, I strolled into the main office and was a bit surprised that there was no one else in the police station.

It didn’t take long before I realized that (much like a trapped rabbit) I was in a very bad situation. I grabbed the paperwork and literally ran to the front door. It was still locked. By then the police officer came up very close behind me and whispered “I can’t stop thinking about you. I wake up thinking about you and I go to sleep thinking about you.” My heart was pounding and I wondered if people were going to read about how they found my dead body somewhere!

I spun around, looked him straight in the eyes and said, “That’s great! Now if you want to help me… why don’t you stop THINKING about me… and start PRAYING for me?!” His face was priceless. That was not the response he had anticipated. How do you continue with your sexy approach when this crazy lady just wants to pray?!

He reached over, stuck the key in the door and unlocked it. I bolted like a wild deer! From that moment on, I knew I needed to stop being so naïve if I was going to survive the life of a single woman.

During this time, there were a couple men who came and went. They were probably great guys, but this girl wasn’t letting her guard down for anyone! No one was going to get even remotely close to this aching heart! And with each bad experience, the wall I had built became thicker and thicker.

Then I was reunited with a long time friend, began dating, became engaged and planned to marry on October 19, 2002. This relationship was safe because I had known him for many, many years. In fact, my first husband introduced us one day years prior. I knew his family, I knew he was a Christian, I knew everything about him. We tried to make this relationship work and kept struggling to move forward. But this was not from God and after several years it fell apart and I found myself alone once again.


Then there was the tall, dark, handsome and single man who just happened to be painting the offices where I work. He convinced me to make a doctor’s appointment and took me for a couple of the very first doctor’s visits. But when things got intense and I received my Carcinoid diagnosis, he vanished and moved six states away.

Not long after the diagnosis, another man stepped into my life. Again, my wall was up and the lock on my heart was bolted down! But this patient man was persistent. We spoke a few times and then had dinner together. As we were leaving, he leaned over to give me a completely innocent little kiss. I quickly turned my face and it landed on my cheek.

When I looked at his shocked face, I began to blush and said, “I’m sorry but I’m not looking for a relationship at this time in my life. I’ve got a lot going on and would really like to just be friends if that’s okay with you.” He smiled and said, “That’s fine.”

From that point on this man made me feel like a queen. He would pamper me and spoil me. When I was sick, he would hover over me and make sure he was making me feel as comfortable as possible. He worried about me. He prayed for me. But most importantly, he made me laugh….

At this point in my life, all I really needed was someone who could really make me laugh and he did that effortlessly. When I was with him, I would life hysterically at the situations we would find ourselves in. I felt safe with him and I enjoyed his company a lot. But there just weren’t any feelings there for me. There was nothing telling me that this might be the man I should marry. In my heart he was (and still is) a very dear friend who was there for me during probably the most difficult time of my life.

Then one day I heard the Lord say “You can’t more forward until you close this chapter of your life.” And I knew exactly what He was referring to. My intentions were to send my good friend an email the next day explaining how I felt. When I woke up the next morning, there was an email waiting for me. He had called it all off. He didn’t want to remain friends and couldn’t remain in our relationship if that‘s all it was ever going to be. That stung a little but I knew he was right and thanked him for being there for me and for being such a good friend.

When I look back at what seemed like chance encounters, I realize they didn’t happen by chance at all. Each person who came into my life for one reason or another, was there to teach me something, to show me something, to help mold me into the person I was created to be.

It wasn’t but a few weeks after my friend and I agreed to not see each other again, I was invited to a single’s picnic. That was the last place on earth I wanted to be. But God had other plans. He knew the plans He had for me. Plans to prosper me and not to harm me. Plans to give me a future and a hope. My journey continued with a covered dish, an empty chair and a broken arm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A covered dish, an empty chair and a broken arm

After several relationships and some real craziness in this single girl's life, I decided that with the cancer diagnosis I had more than enough on my plate without complicating it by being in a relationship. To be completely honest with you, I was really enjoying being single.

For the first time in my life, I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. If I didn't feel like cleaning the house, I didn't. If I didn't feel like cooking dinner, I didn't. This was the first time in my adult life that it was all about me. For the first time in over forty years, I was getting my nails done, going tanning, joined the gym and was beginning to really like the lifestyle I found myself living.

For the past twenty plus years without even knowing it, I had adopted a martyr's mentality. I thought if I put everyone else's needs before my own that made me a better person. In my singleness I was beginning to realize that everything has to be kept in check and balance. It wasn't healthy to put everyone before myself and it wasn't healthy to make it all about me either. So I was learning how to balance this tightrope called life and let God show me how to successfully maneuver through my singleness.

Me and kitty just did our own thing and were quite content with this stage of life. The girls at work however were not impressed with my decision to remain single. Day after day... after day... they prodded me to go with them to the single's events. And event after event I dodged the bullet. But finally they wore me down and I told them I would go to the Single's Picnic. “I'm only going to one event!” I demanded. “Then you've got to stop bugging me.” They agreed and I reluctantly signed up for the picnic.

A few days before the picnic I had been canoeing with a friend. We flipped the canoe and landed in the river. On the way over the side of the canoe I managed to break my arm. So picture this single girl attending her first single's event, stumbling across the lawn with a casserole balanced precariously on her cast. The cast was my excuse to exit the picnic early. My plan was to smile politely, sit for about an hour and then take my wounded self home. It sounded completely reasonable to me.

As I approached the back porch, I was shocked at how many men and women were actually there. Stepping past a man sitting on the steps, my anxiety level began to rise. What in the world was I doing here? How did I ever let those girls talk me into this?

I knew very few of the women and even less of the men. My eyes glanced around the crowd and before I knew it I was actually enjoying watching people. There was one desperate girl there who had me howling with laughter inside. She was working those men over big time. She had all of their attention. All but one.

The man sitting on the bottom step when I arrived was still sitting there quietly watching the same charades I was watching. Trying not to be obvious, I would glance in his direction to see if I could figure him out. He had very kind eyes and a great smile. Whenever he spoke I tried desperately to hear what he was saying. When I caught myself I thought, “What are you doing? You've finally got all your ducks in a row. He could mess up everything!”

As I sat in a big blue lawn chair just enjoying the show, everyone decided to go sit by the bonfire. When I stood, I wasn't certain whose chair I had been sitting in and was embarrassed I had forgotten to bring my own. The man with the kind eyes came over and said “Hi. I'm Joe. That's my chair but you can sit in it. Would you like me to carry it to the fire for you.”

Ms. Independence wanted to snap back “No! I'll get it myself!” But it was obvious that me and my pathetic cast needed help. So I simply smiled and followed him to the fire. Once he had me situated by the fire, he sat on a log beside me. My heart was pounding and I didn't want to have a conversation with anyone especially not this Joe guy. He talked with everyone around him and I really enjoyed listening to his conversations. Then without warning, he turned to me and tried to strike up a conversation. This anti-social, terrified, single girl (who looked so confident on the outside) did everything within her power avoid his attention. It was only a few moments when I let everyone know that my arm was beginning to bother me and I was going to go home.

Joe immediately got up, went and found my casserole dish and walked me to my car. I quickly threw all of my belongings in the trunk of my car, thanked him for his help and sped down the driveway to freedom. I could not wait to get out of that uncomfortable situation and get back to the safety of my little home and my little kitty.

Finally tucked into bed I began thinking. “I wonder what he's really like. I wonder what his story is. I wonder if he's really as nice as he seems. I wonder...” Then I would scold myself for thinking about him and forced myself to fall asleep.

For days I caught myself thinking about this mysterious Joe Lantini. Every time I did I would scold myself again and turn my thoughts in a different direction. After a couple of weeks, I was really upset that he hadn't called. After all I work at the church. He knows that. All he has to do is call the church and ask for me. Why isn't he calling. Wasn't he interested in getting to know me? Why was I so interested in getting to know him then? Stop it! Move on! Single life is the best!

Three months later our singles group was planning another event. This time they were going on a romantic riverboat excursion featuring sightseeing, dinner and specialty entertainment. Would he invite me to go? Would he take someone else? Why am I torturing myself this way? He probably hasn't thought of me once in the past three months. I mean "come on" it's been three months!

One Sunday morning as I was getting dressed to go to church, I was looking in the mirror thinking about this Joe guy again. Should I go to the cruise and hope to meet him there? Should I see if he's signed up to go? Should I just ask him? No. Definitely not that. That's way too bold.

So I said “Lord. If You put him in front of me I'll ask if he's going. But You've gotta put him right in my face.” After first service I had to grab some music before second service started. So I went sprinting up the center aisle and without thinking threw open the double doors.

Guess who I just about knocked out with the double doors. You got it. That Joe Lantini guy. I could feel the heat in my face as I apologized for almost knocking him over. He smiled and said “Hey. I was going to ask if you are going on the Gateway Clipper.” And before I knew what was happening, a giggly-squeaky little voice came blaring out of my mouth saying, “I'll go if you are!”

Again, the heat in my face got more intense. What is wrong with me? Why am I acting so desperate? I thought I liked being single. What in the world is going on with me?

The long and short of it... we went to the Gateway Clipper with a van full of others but for four hours it was just the two of us. We talked non-stop and laughed like there was no one else around. We stood on the deck and tried desperately to find something we had in common. The only thing we found we had in common was God.

Joe had just graduated from Teen Challenge a year earlier after being an alcoholic and drug addict for thirty years. As he shared his story with me, my mind kept screaming “What are you doing? Why aren't you running?” I couldn't believe some of the things he had been through and some of the things he had experienced. I couldn't believe he was being so open. I couldn't believe I wasn't scared to death. Why was I so enamored by this man and where did I really think this relationship was going to end up?

Joe and I couldn't have come from more opposite lives. He had experienced so much destruction and devastation caused by his choices and addictions. I had been a Christian for over twenty-five years. I lived a cushy life at home as a child and had everything I needed handed to me. Married at age nineteen, althought my divorce was tough but my marriage of twenty years was also pretty cushy. Up until the last five years or so, I lived the Hallmark dream in the little house with a white picket fence and 2.5 children.

The evening ended far too quickly but I was certain Joe would call. Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed and again I lie in bed thinking about this man and hating him for not calling. Was he playing with my emotions? What was his deal?

Finally I decided to call the Teen Challenge director who happened to be a good friend of mine. As I was dialing his number I was saying to myself “If Kevin says even one bad thing about Joe I will never think of him (or speak his name) again.”

After stammering around for several minutes, I finally blurted out that I wanted to know what Kevin knew about this Joe Lantini guy. Immediately, Kevin started laughing and teasing. What in the world made me think this was a good idea? Gosh I wish I hadn't called him!

Kevin had nothing but good to say about Joe. He told me all about his past and his journey through Teen Challenge. He told how honest and transparent Joe is and before hanging up Kevin said, “Hey! Don't forget... I do weddings” and he began laughing. I hung up the phone and never even said goodbye. Well, now what? I can't find anything bad about a man who won't even call me.

A few weeks later, I went to a Teen Challenge banquet with another man. We had gone to the Teen Challenge banquets for several years together. It was our annual date night. I felt safe in that relationship because I knew it wasn't going anywhere and we just had a lot of fun together.

Toward the end of the evening Joe came up to me and asked, “Can I call you sometime?” Finally. I said 'yes' and the rest is history. Eight months and several confirmations from God later, I was Mrs. Joseph J. Lantini Jr.

Kevin did our wedding and to this day teases me about that phone call. I had no intentions of ever remarrying. I was content being single. Or at least that's what I was trying to convince myself. But God had a plan and it was a good plan.

Here we are many years later and I don't know how I would have ever gotten this far without him. We've had our moments and it's not always been easy. But we both know that it was God Who brought us together and He will continue to unfold His plan as we continue to walk out our destinies together.