Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I think I'll go to Boston,
I think I'll start a new life,
I think I'll start it over, where no one knows my name,
I'll get out of California, I'm tired of the weather.
And I think I'll go to Boston
I think that I'm just tired
I think I need a new town, to leave this all behind,
I think I need a sunrise, I'm tired of the sunset,
I hear it's nice in the Summer, some snow would be nice.
I think I'll go to Boston
Heard this song? It's one of my new favorites. It's mellow and explains how we all feel sometimes - a change of scenery, a new life, tired of the sunset, tired of the every day struggles . . . . . tracking with me? Most of all, I like that the destination is Boston. Boston will always be home to me.
On April 15th, I came home from work, walked in the door, and Mike's words were, "There's been a bombing in Boston." What went through my head in a short amount of time was fear at a very high level. Family . . . friends . . . . where and how were they? I couldn't reach anyone. In a moment of desperation, my fear turned to anger. Relief was eventual when I heard from everyone. What followed, however, has been a struggle since. I have watched news around the world . . . .politics, natural disasters, statistics of suicide, Middle East uproar, Sandy Hook . . . . . Boston was the "icing on the cake" and the catalyst for my fear, sadness and thoughts to skyrocket. I have always battled my overactive imagination and have to challenge myself to think about things that are true, valid and real. But Boston's events were ones that were too close to my family, and I was running my own first half marathon in the following two weeks. There have been days since that I've sat in my car and cried, asking the Lord how long until the suffering ends and wondering how much more some can take. My heart hurts from sadness and my head hurts from the things I conjure up that "could" happen. I'll spare you the details of those thoughts. It ain't been pretty! What I want to share is the goodness amongst all of it.
Mom, my sister and I went on a cruise last week. Ironically, we left from Boston. I had a whole week with Boston people. People dropping their "R"s, cheering for the Bruins, saying "wicked" about nothing wicked at all, and living Boston strong. It was home for me. Time with my mom and sister . . . just what my weary, overworked head and heart needed. The week was glorious. Sunshine, food, love, rest . . . . glorious. I sat on our balcony one day and asked the Lord for a dolphin - vet's daughter, what can I say. When I tell you that 2 seconds later there appeared a baby dolphin in clear view of our balcony, it is no exaggeration. There he was - flipping and turning and having a great time - no fear, no sadness, no concern for life - pure joy from this little guy. It was awesome. The next day I upped the ante and asked for a whale. Guess what appeared that afternoon? Now some of you are reading this a little concerned that I'm a tad bit crazy crying in my car and asking for marine sightings, but here is how sweet this picture is. The Lord granted my requests for something He knew would bring great joy to me. The dolphin spinning and playing and having a good time was a picture to me of how I should be living, knowing that the Lord loves me enough to grant the simple requests. The One who orchestrates the dolphins is the same One who orchestrates my life and the lives of others around me. Life will never get easier. I know that. But the reminder from the Lord to me on the cruise, was that He cares enough to grant me the little things and more importantly, He is in the big things. Those animals were the words in my heart "I hear you, I love you and I'm sweet enough to give you a tangible request at a time you need it." (Those were the Lord's words, not the animals - you were really starting to worry about me!). I'd love to tell you that in all Mike and I have walked through, my faith is strong, solid, unshakeable . . . . but I still need the reminders of the oceans and the tangible picture of love and security sometimes. I'm a work in progress, friends.
Mike's extended stay in the hospital and extensive testing yielded few results or direction. He has decided to start the oral chemo this summer, and we'll see what God does. We'd love your prayers through this. It won't be an easy medicine to take with multiple side effects, and the question of what to do if this doesn't work are a battle. But I'll remind myself of the joy in that little ocean gift, the reminder that God's got us.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Dr: “It’s time to stop testing for a diagnosis and passing you along to specialists and time to get an idea of what you have and treat your pain and symptoms accordingly.”

Durk: “Can you come to all my doctors’ appointments with me?!”

Here was the conversation as Mike talked with the new infectious disease doctor this afternoon. Last I left you, the plan was to get some bloodwork done and start an oral chemo, operating under the idea Mike had a rare endocrine autoimmune disease. When bloodwork came back and new symptoms became cyclic (swelling, joint pain and stiffness, high fevers up to 104), Mike was referred to an infectious disease doctor. The doctor is admitting Mike for observation of the high fevers and to run oodles of tests, bloodwork and scans. The infectious disease doctor’s gut is that Mike does not have any type of infection but wants a battery of test results in one place to which specialists can refer. Additionally, he wants to rule out infection if possible, to move forward with other treatment. He also will arrange for Mike to be seen by a rheumatologist in the hospital. The doctor he has in mind is one that will see Mike and not dismiss his case, overwhelmed by Mike’s significant and complex 4 year health history. Ummm, been there, done that. Doctors are happy to push Mike along when he doesn’t fit on the box; this rheumatologist has a reputation of being aggressive in finding a diagnosis, and if none surface, aggressively treating symptoms. Mike will also be seen by endocrinology, the only body system that has shown consistent abnormalities. Mike and I felt good about today. We felt like we were in a holding pattern for quite a while, we were growing discouraged, and today rejuvenated some of our “fight.” Just in the nick of time. Here is a song by Tenth Avenue North that has been playing frequently in my heart and head.

I'm tired, I'm worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I've made mistakes
I've let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That You can mend a heart that's frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that's dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I'm worn
I know I need
To lift my eyes up
But I'm too weak
Life just won't let up
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
The phrase that I LOVE and has been my heart’s cry on more than one issue in life lately: “Let me see redemption win. Let me know the struggle ends.” I’ve been holding onto the idea that redemption wins. Maybe some of you need that reminder too. Know that as we walk this, we pray for so many of you. Spring is coming!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

There is always something to be thankful for

Webster defines being thankful as being “conscious of benefit received”. Isn’t it true that sometimes we need to be intentionally conscious of the benefits we’ve received? Isn’t it true that amidst a complication with our kids, trouble with our spouse, hard times at work, even when we watch the news, that we need to be conscious of our benefits (blessings)? Admittedly, I just wrote to someone this week telling them that no one truly knows or understands the hell that Mike and I have walked through over the last 3 plus years. But as quickly as that comes from my mouth, so should my giving of thanks. I have been challenged to be more conscious of what I have. I’ve seen the trend on Facebook to dedicate November to a daily giving of thanks. I didn’t jump on that train, but I should have. What a better way to be more positive and appreciative of what I have in life, than to be intentionally conscious of the benefits I’ve received. So here goes; 22 things Mike and I are thankful for:

1. our house (We have no right to own this house with all the financial strain over the years; It’s God’s provision that has allowed us to keep our home)

2. friends who have continued to do life with us, despite our consistent need to back out of plans due to the illness. Shout out to Jill and Kent Schellhause who continue to serve, love and support us.

3. our dogs – They fill me with joy. It is so nice to walk in and be greeted by two sweet spirits. They are great company for Mike throughout the days he is alone.

4. Mike is very thankful for me (his addition, not mine)

5. Blessings in the mail. Seriously, there have been days we have been SO down, and the Lord has continually blessed us through the mail. A friend, a family member, someone we don’t know, sends encouragement. It’s enough to bring me to tears every time.

6. I am personally thankful for my trainer. She encourages me to push harder, and in life’s current struggles, I need to be encouraged to push harder, to endure. She also provides tremendous comic and stress relief. Thanks, Swig!

7. The Voice – this show is date night for Mike and me – a fire, some chocolate, and 2 hours of singing. We currently have a bet going as to the finals. I’m losing. Ahem

8. Sleep – We’re not parents, but every wink of sleep that is uninterrupted by seizures, vomiting, passing out, trouble breathing, overactive thoughts – it is blissful, just blissful.

9. Speaking of seizures – WELL OVER A YEAR OF BEING SEIZURE FREE!

10. My principal – admin can make or break your workplace, and my principal has always told me “family first”. He has stuck to that the last 4 yrs I have worked with him. He continues to ask, “How’s Mike?”, and I know he means it every time. Thanks, Rob.

11. Health insurance – enough said

12. A new church we are really enjoying. It’s nice to go and receive week after week.

13. Living in a free country – I’m never reminded more of this than at the time of an election and Veterans’ Day

14. Changing seasons – Mike and I love the changing seasons. We love the color of the leaves, the smell of our freshly cut tree, the new growth and warm weather of spring – love the seasons.

15. Chocolate – for me, Dove; for Mike, Snickers peanut butter (had to make the list)

16. Music – there are few things that speak so deeply to me – Music has the power to alter my mood. True story. Good thing I’m picky about what I listen to!

17. A marriage that has sustained some serious lows in life. We had no idea what we were committing to when we said “for better for worse; in sickness, in health”

18. Every breath – each one is a gift

19. I am personally thankful for a husband who continues to fight the good fight. I highly doubt I would have kept my sense of humor or my desire to live after such a long battle with illness.

20. Family – how do I begin to put into words how thankful I am for family? We will NEVER take for granted the continued love and support of family. I am well aware we are blessed.

21. The legacy left by Mike’s grandmother. She passed a few weeks ago. Mike was able to spend the last days with her, and he conducted a beautiful ceremony in celebration of her life. She was a wild spirit who shared my affinity for red hair. She loved her family so very much. She will be missed greatly.

22. I posted this on FB on the eve of the election, and I think it’s a good way to end this post: “In thinking about tomorrow, and all the fears and concerns that so many hold, the thought that came to me today was, regardless of what happens, I know who's king of kings and president of presidents ... And perhaps the most comforting is that I know, no matter what happens tomorrow, the one Who's really in charge has got my back, holds my life and predestines my steps. The last 3 yrs+ have taught me that again and again.”
Happy turkey day, friends. We’re very thankful for you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Truth be told, I’ve been writing this and coming back to it for a little over a week. I’m not sure the reason I’m struggling to write, but pardon my disjointed thoughts. Not much has happened medically since I last updated. Mike and I had colds 7 weeks ago, and what you and I can fight in a week, Mike’s body takes weeks longer. He was put on antibiotics for pneumonia (although we don’t think he had that) and has just recovered. He has not been able to start the new medication as of yet, because he has to be in optimal health to begin. The medication will wipe out what little immune system he has, and he needs to start when he is as “healthy” as possible. While the cold/virus subsided last week, the headaches have intensified. The start of spring and fall are typically triggers for more intense headaches for Mike. He loses sight out of his left eye, does not drive, and he is only out of pain when he is asleep. He tries hard to stay awake, despite the pain, to keep his sleep schedule in tact. I have to tell you there are many things that have broken my heart as a wife watching her husband persevere through this, but the return of the intense headaches means the return of emotional and physical agony. Perhaps you think agony is a strong word, but to hear Mike sob through the pain at night . . . . there is agony in my heart on an emotional level, and physical agony for Mike. When Mike is healthy enough, his blood will be tested again, and he will start the new med. Would you pray fervently that he stays healthy, his bloodwork is fine, and that this new medical endeavor would bring healing?

 I was driving this past weekend and thinking about life. The truth is, I have been given much that others don't have and on the other hand, what Mike and I have lost in the last few years, few can identify with us. Thoughts of blessing and loss typically lead me to Justice. That dog loved to go for rides and enjoyed life with us. His care for Mike and loyalty to me were practically implausible . . . and before you know it, there were tears. I did love that dog! When I came home that afternoon, Mike started talking about Justice as well and the timing of his loss. When Justice died, I was mad. It was one more thing I had lost; one more thing God had taken. Let’s not forget he was diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Eve and gone 4 days later. As the months have passed and my emotions have been challenged, truth is where I find myself. The truth is that there is goodness. Because the Lord is good and loves us more than we can comprehend, there is goodness in circumstances that seem awful. You see, Justice made the decision to go. I didn't have to make that hard call. Justice went when we were with my parents, and my dad was the one to put him down. I wanted no one else to do that. Justice went in dad's care, and that is what I wanted. He also had a great Christmas and subsequent days, and I had hope that there was treatment on the horizon. Dad and I had talked on Christmas Eve about meds that may help Justice. This birthed tremendous hope in me, and Christmas was joyful. My immediate reaction to Justice's death was anger, because I had put aside truth. Yes, Justice went quickly, but dad was there and I didn't have to decide to put Justice down. Yes, I was given hope that we may be able to treat him, and then he passed days later, but Christmas was joyous. And the memories I am left with . . . . well, it’s easy to identify the goodness there.

 But what about the times there is no goodness? What about the times nothing good has come of a situation? Here is the challenge. Here has been my endless challenge in these past years. Where is the TRUTH? The truth is God is good, and if He authors life’s circumstances, there is goodness there, despite what we see. Think right now of life’s most complicated circumstance . . . can you see goodness?

 Would you pray for Mike’s pain to ease? Would you pray for the start of the new medication? Would you pray for his grandmother who is not well? And would you pray for us to see goodness in all things as a result of what we hold to be true? Bless you, friends.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

back to reality

I know, I know; take me outback and tar and feather me. It's been a looong time since I have updated this, and I know you have been waiting with baited breath to know what the heck is going on with the Durkees! Rest assured I haven't forgotten you; I just lost track of time. Summer, you see, is blissful. I have been tutoring, reconnecting with friends, planning future times with friends, training and completing a sprint triathlon, vacationing at the beach, spending time with family . . . . ahhhhh, good old summer. Monday I have a teachers' inservice day and the kids come Wednesday. Yes, Wednesday. So it's back to reality and back to blogging and back to fighting this illness with a new direction. Mike has been weaned off of the Prednisone, the med that has been addressing his endocrine issues. Prednisone has a lot of side effects especially with long term use. As he weaned off of the Prednisone, he was put back on Cortef, a med he was on to address the endocrine issues. Unfortunately, Mike feels better on the Prednisone. He had an MRI of his pituitary (part of the endocrine system that sits in your brain) and since the surgery last summer, the pituitary has not grown or changed shape. This is a good thing. Mike's endocrine levels, however, are low. When switching to the Cortef, hormone levels decreased, headaches increased and in the last few weeks Mike has had 2 new symptoms - joint point in his whole body and significant swelling of the ankles. You'd think he were 8 months prego! I digress. At this point, doctors are in disagreement as to whether Mike has this autoimmune disease that is attacking his endocrine system. He has many of the symptoms and his primary dr in Cincinnati has talked with us about treating Mike with a med that often helps with this disease. Because there aren't many risks associated with this medication, we have decided to go ahead with it. Mike will have blood levels checked and then he will start this new chemo drug. This should be in the next week. We are cautiously hopeful this will help Mike feel better and put this disease in "remission" for lack of a better word. Our prayer requests are specific. 1)minimal side effects from the medication; 2) that it works. Thank you to all of you who continue to pray, believe, hope and fight with us. Your longsuffering means more to us than you know.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sympathy Pains

So apparently, I have the need to feel Mike's pain in a VERY miniscule way. Mike had a funky lump removed from his chest, I had a growing mole removed from my face . . . both results normal. Mike has passed 4 stones at a time, I passed one yesterday. In a small way, I feel like these experiences keep me connected to the pain he feels and REMINDS me of the battle he fights every day. This has been my prayer - that my sympathy and empathy continue for Mike, that my mind remembers the daily pain he faces, that I would not lose sight of the compassion I had for him through the suffering when all this started years ago. Today, there is good news. Today, I am thankful for a strong man who is battling this far better than I could ever hope to. Don't forget us, friends. Don't forget to give thanks for released stones and negative biopsies! Please pray for Mike as he is having a hard time healing from surgery and sees the surgeon tomorrow. This comes as no surprise as his body has a very poor ability to heal due to the endocrine issues. He follows up with the dr in Boston in May for more scans of the pituitary, possible sinus surgery and hopefully a direction for treatment. Love to you all!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

under the knife . . . again

Tomorrow morning, Mike is undergoing a procedure to take out a lump in his chest that was found. We have no idea what it is or if it is related to what has been going on, but it will be removed and biopsied. The surgery is at Christ Hospital here in Cincy and should be a relatively easy procedure. If all goes well, Mike will be home tomorrow night. He does run the risk of not handling things well with his body's poor ability to heal, but we are hoping for the best tomorrow.

There is much to tell about the dr in Boston, but I will sum up the important stuff. My dad was able to go with Mike which made things easier as dad understands all that medical jargon. When mom and I go, we shake our heads and ask them to fix it! HA! The dr took his time with Mike and asked many questions and ordered tests and Mike's case interests him. Mike is returning to Boston in May to possibly have sinus surgery (clean up from this summer's brain surgery when they went through the nose) and MRI of the pituitary gland now that Mike has decreased his steroids as well as an MRI of his abdomen. The dr suggested an inflammatory disease in more parts of Mike's body than his endocrine system as Mike has pain in other places now. In any case, nothing clear cut, but someone who has taken an interest and seems knowledgeable. I will update again when the biopsy results are in. Please pray for the procedure and an easy recovery as well as good biopsy results. I'll let you know as soon as we know!