Saturday, May 18, 2019

Diagnosis and questions

The doctor in Kyiv wrote late last night to say that he thinks he's ready. It's melanoma. The head doctor there has to look over everything and might still say that they need to do some more reactions, though. Will can probably pick up everything Monday.

I feel baffled. Although, now I understand why that doctor kept writing that it was difficult and unusual and the whole department was working on it. Just from quick internet searches I'm seeing that "non-cutaneous" melenoma or "unknown primary" melanoma is rare and different from skin cancer. (I don't even know if that's what I have. I just found those phrases online.) If I look for breast cancer or any other common cancer, there are pretty pages with understandable info written for patients and normal people. Now I'm mostly finding medical journals and technical info that I pretty much can't decipher.

From the beginning we've said that we don't want questions, and that's true. But it doesn't mean that we don't want to hear anything from anyone! We have really appreciated all the responses we've gotten and every time someone has taken the time to write. There is just so much that we don't know, and we get tired of repeating answers to questions like, "What kind of cancer?" If you've read this, you know as much as we know about that. "What stage?" Don't know yet. "What are you going to do?!?" No idea. "How do you feel?" That's the hardest one! It varies, but mostly I'm fine.

Today is the big celebration of Agape's 15th birthday. I've considered going, and I feel well enough to, but I'll probably stay home. I'm happier here. The visiting leaders of Agape did come visit me and pray for me, and that was wonderful. Will and the kids have Agape lectures (Will), a wedding, classes, children's ministry, and the birthday to attend today, so I'll hear about all that from them tonight.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Family Day(s) and Nikolaev

Family Day is a tradition in Kherson now. The local churches put on a festival for the city every year. This year it was rainy off and on, but it still went well. Jaan and the rest of the theater group wore costumes, posed for photos, and talked with people. Raia helped with handing out balloons. Asya sang with the church children's choir. Bogdan was very excited because one of his paintings was chosen to be in an exhibit, but they ended up not putting the art out because of rain. So, he just had fun running around, jumping on trampolines, and playing with this friends. Here are some photos.

That was Saturday. Then, on Sunday the theater group and others from our church went out to help with a similar program in a nearby village. I caught glimpses of Jaan in some of those photos. He thought there were even more people at the village Family Day than in the city, because it seemed like the whole village came. Plus, the weather was more cooperative.

Also on Sunday, Asya travelled with the music school orchestra to Nikolaev for a contest. They got first place.

No cancer news. I'm still just enjoying being home.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Beautiful things

Raia's painting:

This evening:

Wednesday, May 08, 2019


  • I have really been enjoying the beautiful photos from the hike Jaan went on, like the one above and these. This video shows a little more of what it was really like, though.
  • Asya had her flute exam today and did great. At first they said she wouldn't have to take it, since she had missed time with her broken arm and done so well in contests and concerts before that, but at the last minute they changed their minds, and she had to go.
  • Bogdan and Asya both had friends come over to play today.
  • Raia finished a beautiful painting; I'll show it to you tomorrow.
  • I got my stitches taken out, and that didn't even hurt. I was very afraid, because when I went on Monday for that, it was too early, but they did a very painful wound cleaning. Today was much better.
  • They keep writing to us from Kyiv that they're working on the biopsies, but no answers yet.
  • Will did my shot tonight, and he did a good job, so I guess he'll be taking over for the nurses.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

No news

It is still just so good to be home! Jaan came home from his backpacking trip today, too, so now everyone is here. I think he's just as glad to be home as I am.

I haven't written, because there hasn't been any news. The electricity was off on Friday, too, so it wouldn't have worked to write then anyway. (Lately the online electricity schedule has be amusingly exact. They used to write 9:00-17:00 and such. Not anymore. One day last week it was supposed to be off 11:08-11:41. Friday it was just from 11:46, though, without an end time; it came back toward evening.)

Anyway, we're just waiting for results from Kyiv and for my discharge papers from the hospital here. Will went back to get the latter Friday and Saturday, but they weren't ready. Tomorrow I'll go get my stitches taken out, and maybe they'll be ready then. If someone calls from Kyiv, Will might go to pick up everything from them on Tuesday. We'll see.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

I'm home!

It feels to good to be here, and it's so quiet that I feel like I have suddenly gone deaf. I sat outside for quite a while, enjoying little boys, ducks, sunshine, and green grass. Then I took a nap. I got one shot for pain before I left the hospital, then a nurse from church just came by to give me one for the evening, a bit early. She's coming back in the morning, after her shift at work.

Will has gotten calls from the cancer institute in Kyiv several times already today. They might have results for us by tomorrow. That's much faster than we had heard. Once we have those results, we'll know exactly what kind of cancer I have, and we'll be able to talk about what the next steps are.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

May Day

There's not really anything new today.

Our three younger kids had a great May Day with friends, going on a little hike, making pizza, then getting dropped off at the hospital to see me.

I haven't heard anything from Jaan today.

Will's home from Kyiv.

I might get to go home tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Kyiv update

Will said that he could really tell that everyone was praying. When he got to the cancer institute at the time it was supposed to open, he found out that it was closed for the day. Even though they had told him to come when he had called! The person he had talked to on the phone was there, though, and she told him there was one doctor in the building, getting ready to go home. So, that one doctor took everything and said that he'll pass it on to his colleagues on Thursday when they reopen. If Will had been even five minutes later, or if anything else had been different, it wouldn't have worked out.

Raia, Asya, and Bogdan visited me today. That was wonderful! Please keep praying for them.

Jaan called from the mountains. He says it's beautiful, and there's still snow on the next mountain over from where they're camped.

One of Raia's music school classmate's mother also visited me today. Otherwise it's been very quiet.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Travel and photos

Will and Jaan are on their way to Kyiv and Lviv. Please pray for both of them as they travel. Pray for weather where Jaan will be, too; if the forecast is right, they will be doing some very wet camping.

I've had a quiet day here. Before he left, Jaan sent me a link to some of the photos from the Easter program on Saturday. (I think it will work for anyone to view?) That was when they had church kids and the art school come through. Jaan did have other plans, but they needed an angel, so he skipped his programming class and helped again. You can see glimpses of all four of our kids if you scroll through, but I think this was my favorite photo:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Christ is Risen!

I'm sad to be in the hospital on this beautiful holiday, but I've really had a good day. Will came in the morning, and someone else visited me a little later. I watched most of both church services online, so I got to hear the children's choir. My family is with "Uncle and Aunt" for Easter dinner now, and I've talked to them and written back and forth with them at various times today.

Saturday, April 27, 2019


All my roommates left: some are well, others just going for the holiday. People tend to go shower and rest on the weekends, but with Easter coming, the hospital is really emptying out. Maybe it will be quieter... although they're putting a babushka from another room in here with me, at least for now.

My hip is hurting less now that it's stitched up. I'm taking ulcer medicine now, too, because apparently the pain meds are really hard on stomachs. Mine seems fine, but they want me to take it just in case. (My backside is suffering more than my stomach. I am so tired of shots!) Marina, who works in the Agape office and has the spiritual gift of feeding people, brings me food at least once a day, usually twice. I can't keep up with all the food she brings, but I am eating very well. It seems to surprise the doctors that I have an appetite and am eating.

I washed my hair by myself today. Earlier all the Agape ladies came and did that for me; now I can do it myself.

Friday, April 26, 2019


I'm going to see about posting regular updates here. Not sure how that will work, but it's worth a try.

For anyone who doesn't know, the very short version is that a week and a day ago, I ended up in the hospital with intense pain. Since then I have been given a diagnosis of cancer. They removed one tumor last Friday, and today they stitched up the open incision that was left from that. I'm still in a lot of pain from a larger tumor that they can't get to. We're doing pretty well with keeping the pain under control in the hospital, though.

Today Will brought everyone to visit me all at once, and we went outside. It was wonderful! 

We had time for me to catch up on some of what they've been doing. Yesterday the older two helped with an Easter program that our church put on for the local schools. 500 children came through it! Asya also went to accompany our little Muslim neighbor, since it was the first time she had been in a church. Tomorrow Raia will be helping to run the same program again for church children and the art school. Jaan will be busy with something else, but Asya and Bogdan will attend the program.

Sunday will be Easter here.

Monday Jaan is heading out for a big Carpathian backpacking trip with the camp program he attended last year. Our plan was for all of us to go and have some family vacation time while he hiked, but that's not going to happen now. At least Jaan still gets to go.

If you had heard that Will was going to Kyiv to take my biopsies to the cancer institute there, plans have changed again since then. They don't work on Fridays, and Monday is a holiday. So, after Will puts Jaan on the train to the Carpathians, he'll get on a train himself to be in Kyiv Tuesday morning.

I feel so loved and cared for. I know many, many people are praying for us. We appreciate that and ask that you would keep it up! Like I said, I'll try to update here more often.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Art pictures

It's really nice that the art school sends out so many photos now! Here are a few that I have saved recently, plus Raia's portrait of me, done in the style of Gustav Klimt. (Remember, I said that they made pictures of me for March 8?) Bogdan's of me is the last photo here, but it was still in process when they took that photo.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Asya's arm and more

Sunday evening Asya was rollerblading and fell. Her arm hurt, but she wasn't in agony, so we did ice and ibuprofen and bed time. The next morning she did all her school work and went to help at physical therapy with me. 

Physical therapy was a bit harder this time. K was sick, so he couldn't come. O came for a first time and cried loudly a whole lot, mostly just because she was afraid, but also because some of the stretches and movements hurt. Little G had a fit when it was time to go and cussed out the orphanage nurse. Big G did wonderfully (of course). I felt like I was going to go crazy from all the noise (there were other kids crying, too) and trying to figure out braces and shoes that we want to order; my friend the physical therapist expects me to know and understand all the equipment, plus keep track of everyone's sizes and measurements, while making phone calls from several phones in two languages at once. It wasn't fun and games, like last time, but overall it was fine, and I'm thrilled to see the kids getting this chance. Transportation did go smoothly and funds have come in to pay for it, which are answers to prayer. Please keep praying!

Then Asya and I went straight on to the nearby children's hospital to get her hand x-rayed. I was dreading it and thinking that it was quite likely that we wouldn't get in that day. (When Bogdan hurt his hand, we tried to go through a private doctor, and ended up waiting in a pay part of that same hospital for 6 hours just to get an x-ray!) I was very pleasantly surprised. No lines, no waiting, everything clean and nice.... In and out in about an hour, with a cast on her broken wrist. It's a simple little fracture that should heal soon. I did go out to buy the cast materials ($1!), but the pharmacy was just across the hall, so I hardly even had to leave her for a minute. The nurse was horrified that I didn't tell her beforehand that we have lots of children; she would have given us the supplies, if she had known. Everyone was so nice. Almost as soon as we got home, someone from church showed up to bring us a sling that her son had just finished using, too.

Then, since we were there, we went up to visit Nastia, Asya's friend from the orphanage, who is really sick. They thoroughly enjoyed some time together, even though one is very weak, and the other had a fresh cast on her arm. Please pray for Nastia.

When we finally got home, I felt like I wanted to hibernate for a few months at least. Today is better already, though.

We have a lot going on, and a lot coming up soon, so we could really use some extra prayers! Thank you.

Oh, also, our neighbour baby had been in the hospital for a week, and she came home yesterday. We're all so glad to have her back! They were just telling me that one of her medicine bottles had a picture of a little girl on it. She kept pointing at it and saying, "Asya?" Then sadly shaking her head and saying, "Asya is at home."

Monday, March 18, 2019

Physical therapy

Asya and I had such a good day today! I have been working to get some of the kids from the orphanage into physical therapy, and it's been a long, drawn-out process. Today we did it. The first three kids got their first sessions in a great center in Kherson. Asya went along to observe and help, and she did a wonderful job.

We can really use a lot of prayer that we would be able to get this going as a regular event. We already have an appointment next week for these same three kids, plus one more. And we have one lovely family wanting to help sponsor the costs. The main thing I still need to get set up is a good, steady way to transport the kids back and forth. (Today I had two options set up, and neither worked out, but God sent a third.) Also pray for us to keep figuring out the financial side of it.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bogdan's 8th birthday

On March 12 Bogdan turned eight. We all took the day off from school. In the morning he opened presents that had just arrived in a Meest box the night before. Everything was exactly what he wanted, and he was so excited!

Toothless/Toothy dragon and Mr. Snaggletooth
For special food he wanted shashlik, and Will prepared that for lunch. The weather wasn't great, so we ate inside, but it all tasted wonderful anyway. Then Bogdan and I went to his regular art classes. I read in the corridor while he worked. Then during the tea break I served the cupcakes that we had prepared. His teachers and classmates congratulated him and sang happy birthday.

After art school we came home and had dinner and more cake...

...and then more playtime with his new toys.

The sunset was especially beautiful. When we ran out to look at it, I told Bogdan that it was his birthday present from God. I loved how he looked up and said "spasibo" before he ran back to his play.

Monday, March 11, 2019


I love this painting that Raia just finished.

Soon I also want to show you the portraits of me that she and Bogdan did for Women's Day.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


Beautiful morning nature walk.

Then school. (No photos of that.) Then Agape Photo project.

Monday, March 04, 2019


Every other year Alys does holiday banquets for the orphanage workers. She used to do all the cooking and everything, but then last time we switched to a fancy restaurant. This time was at the restaurant again. Alys was away for the whole holiday season, but before she left she reserved the evenings. Then we hosted them without her.

They were amazing! The nannies really love the fancy atmosphere and a night off just to have fun together. We ate, sang, told about the meaning of Christmas, and on one of the two nights even had amazing professional carollers sing for us.

It's always our hope and prayer that when we can pour out love onto these women and help them to feel special, they'll pass that on to the children they care for.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Happy anniversary to us (last week)

Instead of an update, how about some bad photos from our good anniversary? Last week we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary with a great dinner out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

My beautiful sister

I have no words myself, so I will pass on what my father posted:

Leetra Joy Robertson - Obituary

Leetra Robertson, age 36, passed from this life on January 17, 2019. Born in Winter Park on June 25, 1982, she was a lifelong Florida resident who also traveled widely. Graduating with high honors from Seminole Community College with an AS in Multimedia Technology in 2007, Leetra changed her focus to become a licensed massage therapist in 2015.

Vibrant and artistic, she impressed those around her with her noteworthy intelligence, excellent communication skills and outstanding compassion. While she enjoyed her work as a therapist, her greatest delight was her daughters. With a love of beauty that enabled many forms of imaginative expression, Leetra took joy in building happy memories for her two girls.

Leetra is survived by her maternal grandmother, Carol Burton; her parents Phil and Kathy Robertson; her daughters, Isla Palmateer and Aliana Palmateer, her sister Phyllis Hunsucker (Will), her nieces and nephews, Jaan, Raia, Asya and Bogdan Hunsucker, and the father of her children, Scott Palmateer.

Family and friends are invited to attend a memorial service at Circle Community Church on February 2, 2019 at 11 am. The church is located at 2200 Pembrook Drive, Orlando 32810. Lunch will be served following the service.

Since Leetra was passionate about both the importance of clean water and the sanctity of life, in lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to World Vision’s Clean Water Fund or Choices Women’s Clinic, 1851 West Colonial Drive, Orlando 32804.

I'll be in Florida for a few days, to attend the service and be with my relatives and friends. Please pray for all of us during this very sad time.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Asya at the theatre

This was January 6. They had a wonderful time!

(All these photos are from our friends.)