Stumbling and Standing


This is Melana, updating for Chesney as she rests in yet another hospital bed.

The events of yesterday surprised us. Chesney had been increasingly tired for two days, and we’d even commented about the common TG trait of Vitamin B deficiencies, wondering if the fatigue was due to that. But about 10:00 a.m. I heard her moan from her bedroom, and walked in to find her almost comatose across her bed. She couldn’t focus, and couldn’t form words clearly.

On the first try I reached our surgeon’s nurse on her direct line, and we talked through several possibilities. We agreed to stay in communication and see what developed over an hour or so. D.L., wonderful brother-in-law that he is, came out immediately and helped with logistics, another set of eyes, and his trademark optimistic common sense. We Face Timed with Steve, to get his read on her condition. She was able to form some short words, and we could tell that she was indeed able to think and respond, though incredibly weak.

Our normally happy, perky Chesney was almost acting like someone approaching a diabetic coma (though her blood sugar was fine) – rouse-able, but her eyes struggled to focus, rolling back in her head, and her speech almost unintelligible. As noon drew near, with no significant change, our nurse told us to go ahead and call an ambulance and get to the hospital where blood work and diagnostic tests could give us a better understanding of the problem.

Now, 24 hours later, we know what it is NOT. She has not had a stroke, her blood chemistry is good, there is no internal bleeding. She has some fluid under her lungs, but that doesn’t account for these symptoms. After 24 hours on IV fluids, she is more alert, her eyes focus, and she can talk well, but the overwhelming fatigue/exhaustion continues.   We are beginning to think this may part of the “normal” adjustment to balancing nutrition and hydration with some oral food/water with tube feeding. Another factor is the emotional energy it takes to grapple with a cancer diagnosis, lose your stomach with the associated physical trauma, and grieve with siblings’ approaching surgeries all within a month’s span. Her body is also using a lot of available energy to heal, and only gives her a small allotment for everything else.

For today, there isn’t a bottom line yet. We are still dependent on grace for each baby step. God will heal and meet all her needs, whatever their source. He still causes our bad things to turn out for our good, assures me that our good things will never be taken from us, and that the best things are yet to be.

  • from the #cancerwarriorprincess’ mom, #choosingjoy, trusting #throughitall

Endurance and Pain as Worship

Yesterday I had had enough. I broke down over something I normally would just get a little miffed at. My mom and I talked a long time about how it wasn’t just that one thing. What it comes down to is this…

Yesterday I was defeated. I sat in a chair with my head hanging down in despondency after my mom gave me more medicine that she hoped would make me feel a little better. She slowly turned and noticed I still hadn’t looked up and tears had started running down my cheeks. She went to her knees and prayed over me that my pain would be taken and that the Lord would cover me in grace. After her prayer I looked up and told her what all was on my heart.

I’m tired of feeling thirsty… all the time.

I’m tired of chewing my food until it is basically paste so i can swallow it.

I’m tired of medicine.

I’m tired of being tired all the time.

I’m tired of being in some sort of pain somewhere 100% of the time…. Even if it is mild.

I’m tired of having to explain what happened to me when people see my feeding tube.

I’m tired of the dirty looks I get at the grocery store when I’m riding in a scooter because I physically cannot walk for more than ten minutes without my back hurting or without me getting winded and having to sit down.

I tired of my “new normal” and want to go back

I’m tired of being sick.

I had let the enemy win. My focus was not on the Lord and I was focused on how miserable I was – don’t get me wrong – I’m still pretty uncomfortable – but I feel a lot better than I did yesterday. I told my mom that I didn’t understand why I had to go through this… Why do so many sad things happen to our family? We are good people. We are faithful, minister, spread the wonderful news of our Jesus, we tithe, we help those who are less fortunate when we can… Yet there are thieves and scoundrels and other people in the world who don’t know the Lord who are living in complete sin with no remorse who are happy and healthy and have wonderful and amazing lives with no sadness… It wasn’t fair in my mind.

My mom read me a Psalm that she had read to her Bible study class. You wouldn’t normally think of this Psalm as a Psalm of worship but it is a beautiful example of the importance of worshiping through trial and enduring through hardships.


Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

My mom gave me permission to publish out her notes on this Psalm. She wrote it the day before my surgery.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long? You are my God, my covenant Savior, my kinsman, redeemer, my Father and my friend.

You sent the Holy Spirit to fill me with your presence and comfort

And I am so grateful.

I am also so weary.

You’ve told me to stand. I am, but the exhaustion is excruciating. I am weak beyond words. The energy to breathe fails me, much less to keep my knees from buckling. I long to dissolve, to collapse, to be carried away. I am not a victorious stander. I don’t feel like an overcomer.

Am I?

Having done all, stand.

Is there anything more in the ‘having done all’ to do?

When does the 5 o’clock whistle blow? Endurance in a pain-seeped word. Obviously ‘endurance’ implies going beyond what I perceive I am capable of. Pushing past my perceived limit means entering a lap I can’t see

Seeing the unseen is going forward in faith, how does that happen without energy?

You will give strength. How? By waiting on my part. Those that wait on the Lord renew their strength.

So, I stand, waiting on you to renew my strength to stand longer.”

My mother is a wise woman… but she is also a woman of the Lord. The Lord gives her words that she doesn’t even know how much will help those around her until the time comes.

So, my dear friends. We prayed our psalm of pain and endurance yesterday and ended with my favorite verse. This verse that has carried me through more trials than I care to remember but has never let me down or left me discouraged. I’ll leave you with this and I pray you find comfort and worship through endurance and pain.

Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Difficult storms, deeper roots.

If you don’t know who I am, my name is Erika Tanaka and I’ve known Chesney Anne Monroe only a few short months less than I’ve known my own sister, and even in those few months, my sister was too young to play with or keep secrets. Chesney and I came into each others’ lives at a time of boundless imagination, infinite dreams and limitless energy. We did everything together. We are each others’ person.

Two aspiring ice skaters and a dazed little sister.

So when Chesney FaceTimed me and told her about her diagnosis, I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond. I just sat there, in my work office, unable what to say back. All I knew was if Chesney was going to go through something big, I was going to be there by her side through it all.

So after her surgery, I spoke with her mom and we decided the last weekend of January would be the best time for a visit.

On our first night, I’m in Chesney’s bedroom with her parents, and they are taking her through what has become her nighttime regimen- hooking her up to strange machines, counting out pills and measuring milliliters. And through all of these motions, I am watching the faces of the people I love surrounding me. I see an assortment of emotions in their eyes as their muscle memory carries them from one step to the next: pain, hurt, fear, exhaustion, prostration, strength. But it’s when I take my eyes off Chesney and look into the eyes of her tired and worn mom and dad that I am able to see the immeasurable love of a parent.

At that moment, I had to take a step back and watch God’s mercy and love in front of me. In her parents’ eyes, I can see the fear and exhaustion that has clouded them for so long and how they are just longing for their daughter’s relief. Their eyes tell a tale of so much pain and suffering, but also sing of the strength and hope they have knowing that Chesney’s body is healing. Steve and Melana Monroe are a true testament to an ineffable strength that does not come from them.

The second night was the night it really hit me.

If you’ve ever watched a car accident happen on the opposite side of the highway, you might have a semblance at how I felt this weekend. Watching a terrible thing happen that leaves behind so much wreckage and pain, knowing that something has to be done, but also being powerless to help. But what if the person in the car accident was somebody you loved, and you were unable to help? For as long as I can remember, I have been the one to fix Chesney. When she fell down, I picked her back up and brushed off the dirt; when a boy broke her heart, I came over at midnight to put back the pieces; even when we were hundreds of miles apart, I picked her up, piece by piece over the phone. Now, there I was, sitting right next to her, and there was nothing I could do to take away the pain and hurt.

There was a point in our visit that Chesney went through excruciating pain, and I just stood there, powerless. It was an experience that I had never encountered. Here I am, watching the person I love as much as family in an incomprehensible pain, tears rolling down her face, and all I can do is watch and hold her hand.

But that’s what friendship is. It’s taking care of each other, crying together, laughing together, it’s holding her hand and wiping the tears away. I’ve come to learn that friendship isn’t just about the inside jokes and secret handshakes- it’s about carrying the other when they don’t have the strength to pick up their feet. So she and I laid there, crying in silence, waiting for the storm to pass. I held her hand until she fell asleep, and I thanked God for an amazing, beautiful friendship that, due to years of scraped knees, heartache, teary-eyed goodbyes and storms, has taken deep roots and will not be shaken.

Seriously, Chesney just had major surgery and is still radiant.