Sing for the joy that's found in setting up the pins and knocking them down

Friday, December 27, 2013

For the love of death poetry...

In Bart's funeral homily he made mention of Eric's love for poems about death.  Any of our children will tell you that he had several of them memorized and recited them often to us.  This was probably his very favorite, or at least it was the one that we heard most often.  As I've read it after his passing, I understand why it was his favorite and now is mine.  It was how he lived and how he faced the hard things that came his way.  I think we have a new appreciation for these words as we face our future.

How Did You Die?
Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it.
And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?
You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there – that’s disgrace.
The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;
It’s how did you fight and why?
And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t that fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only how did you die?
-Edmund Vance Cooke

Scout Eulogy - Written and Read by Sam Fredrickson

Our Scoutmaster Died Last Week… But He Was Prepared

Eric Rynders, our scoutmaster, died on Wednesday, December 4, 2013. Eric defined the scout motto, “Be Prepared” or, as he liked to say it, “Semper Paratus.” Eric taught us all that being prepared was not about the gear, the gadgets or the stuff.  Instead, being prepared is a state of mind. It’s being able to take whatever is around, including your own intellect and the camaraderie of others, to solve the problem at hand.

Eric had a congenital heart defect that he learned about when he was 15. Because of this he had a pacemaker and an internal defibrillator. This changed the way he lived. He had to limit his physical activity, his stress level and how he ate. Eric didn’t treat these as setbacks. In fact, I would argue it augmented his contribution to the troop. When it came time to comfort homesick scouts at camp, Eric was our guy. 

When it came to teaching critical thinking, Eric was our guy. When adult patience was at a minimum, Eric kept us all focused on the reason we were adult leaders – to create fine young men who would inherit our country. Armed with his Dutch oven, charcoal, lengths of rope or his insatiable curiosity of how things worked, he taught many boys, myself included, lessons that will last a lifetime.

Although many of us benefited from Eric being prepared for life, we need to pay even closer attention to how he was prepared for death. Because of his heart condition he lived each day knowing that he might not live to a ripe old age, but also lived each day in preparation for a long life. Eric knew his time on this earth may be limited and this attitude caused him to live fully and love his family dearly, knowing they may grow up without him. Henry, Beatrice and Simon deeply understand that they are among the most cherished kids that ever walked on this earth. Eric had prepared his children.

Likewise, Eric and his wife Dawn knew that life could be fleeting. They had a storybook romance. They knew how to enjoy each other’s company, laugh heartily (the man did have a loud laugh!) and resolve their differences before the sun went down. Theirs was a marriage of grace, love, humor and forgiveness. Eric was prepared with his wife.

Also know that Eric was a devout follower of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Eric knew that his own physical heart would fail him some day, but that his life was redeemed in Christ. He's awaiting hisnew body right now, but meanwhile, his pain is gone and he's in Paradise. Eric was prepared for eternity.

What more of a role model could young men ask for than a man who was prepared for life, prepared for death and prepared for eternity. May we all be as prepared as Mr. Rynders.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Wife's Tribute

This was read during Eric's funeral service by my dear friend, Tess Bademan

I met Eric Rynders during my first year at Dordt College in NW Iowa.  We met in passing and eventually found that we had friends in common and our paths intersected more often.  He loved living in Florida, he loved Coco-Cola, he loved driving fast cars, he loved wearing shoes with no socks and a hundred other things that made him interesting to me.  I also quickly learned that his heart loved the God who made him and that every day he felt the burden of telling others about his faith.  I also found out that his physical heart was broken.  There were medications and cardiologists, scary things for college kids, but Eric took it all in stride as a part of his daily routine.  We were kids, it was easy to focus on the freshness of new love and life was a long road ahead of us filled with endless possibilities. 

I always said to him “I think after college we’ll go our separate ways and somewhere down the road when we haven’t found anyone else, we’ll find eachother and get married.”  Our ways never separated and we soon found ourselves part of a love that would need to travel through life together.  We talked about his heart.  I told him that I loved him enough to be with him for a day, a year or a lifetime if God allowed.  It didn’t matter to me.  Any time was worth something and now I know that no time is ever enough.  We married six months out of college and would have been married 22 years on the 20th of this month.  I have known a deep love and cherishing that all wives would hope to have.

We married, we made plans, we lived freely and innocently with the hope of years and years to live out our plans, our dreams, our convictions.  Having children was always a part of that plan and God blessed us with our three.  Henry, our first born--our first run at figuring out what it was to be parents.  Your father was so very proud of you.  He told me so often, “Henry gets it.  He’s a big picture kid.  People are drawn to him and he’ll do well whatever he does.”  He knew that his health forced you to grow up quickly and that saddened him, but he was so comforted by the man God was forming you into.  It was perfect that you were there helping him in those final moments because you bravely put into action all those things he hoped he was teaching you.   Beatrice, his sweet girl.  He always said that one of his regrets in life was that he wished he had known me since the day I was born.  When you came along looking and acting like a little copy of me he got his wish.  He loved you deeply.  He loved your persistence to learn and conquer new things.  He loved his little girl and struggled to watch you turn into a young woman, but knew you were growing into something amazing.  Simon, our youngest, our comic relief.  You taught all of us to take life a little less seriously when we needed it most.  You have inherited your father’s sense of humor--as well as his ability to change the words of any song into something a little more entertaining.  You reminded him so much of his own little brother—which terrified him a little, but brought him so much happiness.  You were his joy.  Eric loved being a father and to look at the three of you—it was his most successful earthly contribution. 

Eric filled a room when he entered it and he filled our lives to the brim.  He was the bravest man I have ever known.  He faced every trial with a calmness and sense of humor that amazed those who knew him.  His faith was the solid rock that he walked on each and every day.  He taught us to appreciate every day that we are given.  Because of his leadership and example to our family, we must now take those lessons and bravely face the days and years to come.   He was an amazing man and we were blessed to call him best friend, husband and dad. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Surrendering to the new normal.

Chemo is hard.  There's a real reason that people have trouble making eye contact with you as they speak of it.  It's like a bad morning sickness.  Nothing tastes right and smells that used to be lovely now turn your stomach.  But I guess it's what you would call a necessary evil. I try to remind myself to be thankful for the battle that now rages inside me.

What came along with all these difficult symptoms this weekend, was the realization that my normal life was slipping away.  That my existence of even one month ago would never come back quite like it had been on those amber-leaved days of Fall 2013. The weather was strange this weekend--some of the darkest fall days I can remember..  All day long felt like evening hanging over us.  As the sun refused to shine, the reality of all of this settled in with a solid thud.
At one point I said to Eric, "I don't want to have to do this."  He said that he had seen that look on my face three times in my life--before delivering each of our children.  He'd do it for me if he could.  I know he would, but I'm on my own for this one.

After a foggy and dark weekend, I forced myself through the motions of a normal Monday morning.  I showered, dressed, woke the kids, made some breakfast and headed out the door with them.  I had things at work that needed my attention and I used that as my reason to keep moving.  I pretended pretty well.  To the untrained eye everything looked normal and it actually felt pretty good.
I still want to snap my fingers and go back.  Back to normal, back to what was, back to naively healthy.  This isn't something new, there are people everywhere who want to snap their fingers and go back, but that's not how God has set it up.  I'm trying really hard to reframe my new normal.  I'm trying to imagine what blessings I might miss out on if I were allowed to magically snap these fingers and leave this all behind.  Would it be better?  It might be easier for the moment, but would the payoff be there for the long haul.  Might I miss being part of some amazing thing.  So for now I'm going to lay my snapping fingers back into my lap and try to face the new normal of today.

Medical notes and prayer requests for those who want to get to the point:
Made it to Day 6 of Round 1.  It looks like days 3-5 will probably be my worst, at least for this round.  Yesterday, I was able to work with a 45 minute nap over lunch.  Today I feel a little post-fluish, but definitely on the upswing.  I know the worst of the tired phase is still on the horizon.
Prayer requests: that I'm through the worst of the sick part of this treatment and that my blood levels stay up for this round.  That I not be exposed to germs, etc. that will knock me backwards.  That my family stays healthy, as well.

Many thanks for the cards, prayers, meals, emails, texts that brighten my day and fill our tummies.  You all have been so good to us and thank you seems like a pretty small phrase in light of it all.
Resting in His peace that passes understanding,

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rynders, Pity Party of Two

When I decided that writing about my breast cancer would be good medicine for me, I secretly promised myself that I would be honest and open even on the really hard days.

Yesterday was evidently one of those days and truthfully, my cancer isn't even the main plot line.  As most of you know Eric has a genetic heart condition that we've lived with all our married life.  In a nutshell, his heart will never be fixed and most of our focus is upon managing the by-products of his condition--the worst of which is an irregular heart rhythm.  Some people float in and out of these rhythms, but Eric needs to be cardioverted, "shocked", to get out of them.  He has had several ablations (google it), with varying success, and is scheduled to have another one on December 13.  I know--it's one of those situations that polite people only speak of in a whisper "both of them...his heart, her cancer, oh dear."  It's fine, I know it's something that goes through everyone's heads--family, close friends, Facebook stalkers.

So you'll forgive me if talking about the both of us being health risks is a topic I can't settle into.  I'll be honest, I hate it.  When you venture near it, I'll change subjects, say I'm feeling fine or Eric's been doing great, anything to appease that concerned look on your face.  Don't worry that I'm in denial or that I don't fully grasp the peril that my children are in--okay, now I'm just being a little dramatic.  It's like we're both carrying buckets of water.  Some days I help with his and some day he helps with mine.  Some days we glance at each other encouragingly and take care of our own.  This is where our faith comes in.  I believe that our God will not give us one more drop than we can carry.  Are our buckets heavy right now--you better believe it.  Heavier than we've ever imagined.  But in a weird way we've been preparing, exercising our arms and backs,  for this day for a long time.

As we drove to our motherland of Abbot Northwestern Hospital this weekend, I looked out the window and wondered if anyone would ever want to change places with the two of us.  We chuckled and said it was unlikely and then my dear husband reached over put his hand on my knee and said, "I wouldn't want to trade with any of them."

Medical Notes and Prayer Request for those of you who want to get to the point:
Chemo--this Thursday, pray that all the paperwork gets in order and it goes off as scheduled and that my side effects are manageable.
Eric--that his heart stays in rhythm as he transitions to a different med

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The facts, the plan...

Here are the high points and the plan for those of you who like medical updates as seen by a middle-aged mom.

I have infiltrating ductal carcinoma--breast cancer. I had a mammogram in July that appeared normal, but in all likelihood it was there already but not noticeable. For the record it was my left one that betrayed me and I stumbled upon the lump after feeling a twinge or pain or something that caused me to rub in that area. I'm saying it was God forcing me to do a self exam.

I'm also something called triple positive which was really scary to hear, but I find out that it's actually good because I'm more reactive to treatment. Evidently my breast cells are more receptive to things--go figure.

Lots of you have wanted to know what stage...I've heard they're putting me at Stage 2b. Two because of the size of the tumor, b because I have at least one node that's already positive for cancer.

One of the good/bad things of being triple positive is that I'm positive for the category of HER2/neu. It's a factor that might have been a death sentence as recent as 10-15 years ago, but because of progress in cancer treatment, it's now the cancer that you want to have. They have an antibody that works perfectly against this. On top of that they have an additional med, approved just 2 weeks ago by the FDA that improves the effectiveness of this by 30%! My oncologist was giddy--I kid you not. "You picked the most amazing time to have this kind of cancer!" I'll be the second patient at Abbott to get it this new med.

The plan:

Because of the positive node and the invasive nature of this cancer, they want to hit it with chemo first--6 treatments, every 3 weeks, 18 weeks--starting one week from today. That brings us to April. Then we'll do surgery--yet to be determined how extensive. Then I'll continue the antibody meds for the rest of the year, followed by an oral med for several years following. The ongoing med is because this cancer is a gypsy and likes to throw cells out into the body and we want to be sure that we keep those all in check for the future.

Okay, so that was way too long for a facebook post. This weekend I will be starting to post updates on my blog. There will be medical stuff, updates, my ramblings and hopefully a chance for me to get back at writing.

Love to you all. Thank you for the prayers, I truly feel carried by them.

This file faces me as I sit at my computer and type. More ominously, this category hangs over and underlines the next several months of my life, actually the rest of my life. Even when this is a distant memory I will always have had cancer. Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, executive assistant, writer, photographer, Christian--all categories I'm happy to embrace and proudly promote. Cancer not so much.

When I took the call, I was sitting in a quiet unoccupied office. Oddly or fittingly I was in the exact same place where I was when I heard that my boss' wife had my exact same cancer several months ago. "Are you still at work and are you in a place where you can talk?" My heart sunk. "I'm so sorry to tell you..." The unlit room got even darker. As I numbly drove home, the tears came and I think I pounded my fist on the steering wheel--all vain thrashings to try to get out of this box I had so cruelly been thrown into. I opened my mouth to pray, not knowing what would come out. Anger, fear, panic? What the overflow of my heart would be? My heart said, "Don't squander it. If I have to do this thing, God, don't squander it! Use every miserable inch of it to do something, something big."

 So this is my sad post about moving in an instant from one type of life to another. People have these moments all the time, this was just mine that came on a dreary October afternoon. I now know lots of things about this category now and although I'd rather not, I know I can handle it. God made me strong for a time like this. I've seen the blessings and sweet things to be found in the bitterest of categories. And daily God is answering the pathetic, sad prayer that fell out of my mouth as I pounded my fists like a stubborn toddler. He is using this time to shape me, to show me that He is in control of my life, my health and my assigned categories.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Great Wall

I'm not sure where I got the idea that the Great Wall would involve lots of walking, but didn't give any idea to the incline...this morning my calves are killing me! Our time in the mountains was lovely and we enjoyed a "farm style" lunch just down the mountain from the wall. Simon would probably say one of his highlights today was taking a toboggan run down the mountain at the end of our visit. It was pretty unbelievable to stand atop something with such a huge historical presence.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello from the other side of the world!

Simon, Tami and I have made it safely to Beijing and are settling nicely into local time. I wake up early (I can easily blame that on my Nykamp genes) and want to lay my head done when we're having diner (I can easily blame that on the aftermath of our busy daytime schedules) so it's been fairly manageable. Our flight was long--about 13 hours from Toronto to Beijing--and I did consider a parachute at about 9 hours, but we survived and Simon was able to sleep the last 4 hours of the trip. A large over-exhausted, 10-year-old flopping around in a confined sleep area was less than ideal but once he got comfortable he was able to get some much needed rest. Upon arrival (around 4:30 pm local time) and pick up by Shawn and Trixi (my sister-in-law's sister and her Chinese husband) we dropped out things at home and then went out to one of their favorite dumpling spots. Dumplings are one of our favorite things at home so having dozens of varieties to choose from was a treat. Beijing traffic is crazy! Trixi has done a wonderful job of taking her midwest driving skills and becoming one of the locals (she has been here about 9 years) but there are times that Tami and I just close our eyes. Lots of honking, congested streets and locals dodging between traffic on foot or by bike--generally without a care about the traffic flying by them. Simon has thoroughly enjoyed riding beside the many Bentleys and pink cars that feel these congested roads. The first day Trixi had set up a tour through Beijing's bell tower and the Hutong region. We were pedaled through these by bicyclists in our little carts. We learned about how to figure out what kind of people lived through these ornate doors or very simple doors based on markings above and beside the doors. A Hutong is a home with a central courtyard and living quarters on 4 sides. Most have been converted into regular homes, but they maintain several in this region for historical purposes. Once Simon got over some initial shyness he made conversation with our driver and several of the other drivers who were waiting to give people rides. It was so fun to see people gather around to watch this "big" little kid tell them about his family and the school he attends in the US. They all complimented him that his Chinese was very good--yeah, Excelsior Elementary! Yesterday we spent the day at the Summer Palace. You can google it to see fabulous pictures of this area without the masses of people that were in attendance with us yesterday. Beijing is a massive city and Monday through Friday this week are their Labor Day holiday--which means people everywhere! Being tall and a different nationality certain helps us stay together, and also gets lots of stares! Trixi is about 7 months pregnant, blonde and about my height, she gets attention wherever she goes. It's unheard of for someone in her condition to be out in public. My favorite is when the older women just shake their head in disgust and her naive ways! Last evening Shawn gave us a fabulous cooking lesson for dinner and we fell into bed in preparation for today's trip to the Great Wall. We get a great workout every day and I've been warned that today will be a day filled with steps--Simon couldn't be more excited, as you can see from the pictures he embraces every huge flight of stairs as a challenge to his youthful legs--Trixi, Tami and I not so much. I leave you with the images and faces of our trip so far.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The bags are packed, the anticipation is high...

The bags are packed and we're counting down the hours until we're boarded and headed off on our adventure. I will do my best to post pictures and an update every couple of days. Our flight leaves Minneapolis tomorrow at 10:30 am, we fly to Toronto, have a 2 hour layover and then lift off to Beijing at 4:30 Toronto time. We will land in Beijing at 4:30 local time which will be about 3:30 am central time. We will be tired, but excited. It's really great that at 44-years-old you can still feel so excited about something that you can't sleep at night and you have butterflies in your stomach. It's also a thrill to watch Simon's excitement as we count down the days. Tami arrives this evening and we will do our best to stay up late so that sleeping on the plane tomorrow comes more easily. We've been informed that springtime is well underway in Beijing and we should hit the height of their spring flowers! I can't tell you how excited we are to see something green... Next post -- China!