The Life of a Fighter

My husband is a fighter! I’m not just talking about now, but his entire life. His entire being is so strong that its hard to describe. When we were dating he told me stories how he had several concussions as a kid. One was when he was playing baseball and during an inning that he was not bating he was standing on top of a picnic table, fell off and hit the metal pole connecting the bench to the table, hard! It hurt, but he got up and went right up to bat when it was his turn. After his hit, he ran around the bases over and over again, not stopping because of the confusion and dizziness. Later that year when we were dating in college, he had another concussion playing soccer. His symptoms got worse and worse as we waited in the ER, He couldn’t remember my name as he tried to go through the alphabet. Laying on that hospital bed I thought he was going to leave me then as he said, “I love you”. But God had much bigger plans and opportunities for someone who is willing to fight so hard.

Picture 126Chris was 19 when he had surgery on his face and neck and went through a hard dose of chemotherapy at U of M Hospital. I was there supporting him as a girlfriend, but then I had no idea how truly lucky I was to be with such an incredible guy. He liked that I stuck around and proposed shortly after he recovered from his last dose of chemotherapy. The proposal was also very thought out and planned well in advanced, very impressive!  I said “yes” through a cascade of happy tears and beautiful Niagara Falls lit up at night in the background. It was an absolute fairytale to be marrying my best friend and the renewed hope that he had beaten cancer and was now in remission.

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We got married and had many great times and many challenging times. Like every marriage, there is a lot you have to learn when there is a lot less room to be selfish. You learn how to compromise and communicate. You learn how to be honest and patient. You learn how to be responsible and how to cook and clean for two. We learned all of these things with each other, and although I didn’t realize how much at the time, Chris was a fighter. He fought for his integrity and his faithfulness as a husband. He fought for our marriage despite my many, many mistakes and downfalls. He fought to love me unconditionally, like Christ loves the Church.

Then, four years after he was first diagnosed, his cancer returned. I remember substitute teaching that day at Chris’s school and I came to visit him on his break, he told me that his cancer was back. Now, I cannot remember what treatment, trial or cancer study we did first but over the years he has done several. Some of the treatments he was on allowed him to teach and travel and stay up to all hours of the night with friends. Other treatments caused him to be in the hospital because of pain and nausea and other complications. He has had his hair fall out or turn white, rashes, antibiotics or other medicines attached to him through a pick line, painful swelling internally and externally, no appetite or everything tastes like pennies, hallucinations because of meds, constant belly pain, weakness, and constipation that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Many days he would go to work and teach despite the discomfort and pain. I don’t know how he did it, but he did it because he was focused and had purpose in what he was doing. He loves his students and he loves his job. Chris got to a point where he would not even tell me if he was in pain, but it would show after he came home from school, when he had time to rest. I know that there are many times when I had no idea how much he was really fighting.

At a time when things were decently well with Chris health, God took hold of both of us and open our eyes, first individually and then together, to what it really means to follow Him. Before this time, Chris and I both trusted and wanted to follow the Lord and in a lot of areas of our life we did follow. We followed God by going to church and having other Christian friends. We followed God by giving 10% of our income and reading our Bibles regurally. We followed him by helping in our church’s youth group and making a Christmas shoe box. Now, God tried us and pressed us and told us, “I want you to follow me completely.” Over a span of a year, we (mostly me) got rid of bad habits, confessed wrongs, and turned away from both hidden, exposed and “everyone else does it” sins. Through this time, I remember Chris as an example to follow. He fought against being a comfortable Christian. He fought and strived to follow exactly what he was hearing from God and how he was convicted. We started taking some radical steps in order to be in the will of God and force ourselves to trust in Him. We decided to give away a much larger percentage of our income in order to trust for the Lord to provide. We got out of our bubble and into the lives of the homeless of our city. And we loved being in God’s peace and presence by our obedience and trust in Him.


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We soon were both led by God to do the most adventurous, amazing, life changing experience. We became parents to four kids overnight and it changed our lives. Our relationship with each other quickly became a roaring fire. The flames were ignited as we were trusting God together and he provided for all our needs and the needs of our now family of 6 completely through His people.
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I don’t want to make it sound like it was a piece of cake because being foster parents is a very very difficult job. It was not easy (especially if you have met those crazy rambunctious four), but it was exhilarating knowing that you are doing what God wants you to do and behaving how God wants you to behave. With Chris’s example and experience, He taught me how to be a fighter. In this time of our lives we fought together, and we kicked butt as we relied on God’s strength 🙂

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IMG_2069Life was crazy and chaotic, but we were so happy and felt so blessed even not knowing what the future would hold. Chris was teaching and I was working part time and tutoring along with taking care of four kids when God decided to bless us with one more. We were beyond thrilled but didn’t want to get our hopes up, Chris was on cancer fighting drugs still and those are never a good combination in producing a healthy baby. But of course if God wants to give you a healthy baby, He will give you a healthy baby!

I was 7-1/2 months pregnant when Chris starting having some adverse side effects to the increased dosage of his cancer meds. We took him into the hospital and he was there for almost an entire month because of internal and external rashes and swelling. His mouth was so swelled up that he had a hard time just eating and drinking. Friends and family helped with the kids so I could see him and many times I just brought the kiddos with me. 20 days into his stay I feared that he would not be able to be there when I had our baby. I couldn’t imagine him not being there so I prayed and God answered. The day he was planned to be discharged I also had a Doctor appt. My baby doctor told me that she wanted to induce tomorrow, I was 37 weeks. It seemed that the placenta was not doing its job and my little girl was not growing like she should have been at that point. Its very, very easy to worry but I knew God had it covered. Chris came home from the hospital the day before I was induced and he was there right beside me when our perfect, healthy, beautiful daughter came into the world. On April 14th at 8:00 in the morning Gabriella Grace was born. We named her Gabriella because it means “the Lord is my strength”. After all, she is a “Hinshaw” and being a fighter is in her blood! Fighting is exactly what she did when 4 days after she was born went right back into to hospital and into ICU. It was the scariest moment of my life but after it was all over Chris and I never again complained about her screaming and crying.

IMG_1137 copyThe summer held some joys and crazy challenges. The kids were going back to live with their mom and we were very supportive but I’m telling you, it was trying. We were going to miss them terribly, but definitely not their behavior during the transition. We bought a new home, a fixer-upper and sold our old house that summer. We also went on a long awaited trip with our closest friends. I started a new position at the middle school and it was great working in the same building with my hubby. The days at home were busy improving our new home and taking care of a new baby, but we loved it. All three of us did a lot of relaxing together as well.

The joy that Gabby brings to my life, Chris’s life and his family’s life sustains us now through this very difficult time. About the time when she was 6 months old, a little under 3 months ago, Chris really started feeling the pain and the toll the cancer was taking on his body. His cancer treatment was no longer working, the black dark malignant cancer cells were spreading. He began having horrible pain in his stomach and a mass in his pancreas was discovered as the cause, the pain being very similar to pancreatitis. The cancer had also left his body weaker and unable to bounce back after loosing a lot of weight. Chris told me recently that there was a night in the hospital, during this time, where he could have stopped fighting right there and it would have all been over. All the pain, all the discomfort and weariness would be gone but he didn’t give in, he kept fighting.

Its important for me to tell you as well that Chris had certain things that he wanted to accomplish before going into the hospital and finding some relief from the pain. He wanted to have his conferences with parents and finish the unit that he was teaching to his students providing for them some level of closure. He also wanted to be there at home the two weekends before he went in because we were watching the 4 kids while there mom was away. We had lots of laughs those weekends and we loved having them back in our home. Lastly, Gabby’s baby dedication was the day before he went into the hospital, and he did not want to miss it. I think he was mostly holding out for this. It was very special and Chris fought very hard to be there for that moment.

It was the very end of October when things really headed down hill. I realized at the beginning of December that I needed to be home full time to help Chris. I took a temporary leave of absence and took care of Chris after so many years of him taking care of me. We have been in and out of the hospital, but Chris has been able to enjoy Christmas at home with his family. He has watched Gabby go from a “baby” to  a baby who talks and laughs and sits and crawls and jumps and reacts and kisses and hugs. He has had the time to witness all of the ways that others have been blessed and impacted by his life and reflection of Christ. And he has given me a powerful example in this last month of how to live.

A prayer that someone prayed for us and is our constant prayer as well: We pray first and foremost that God’s perfect will be done. Secondly we pray for miraculous healing in the name of Christ, and third that more people be brought into salvation through Jesus Christ through your shared witness and testimony.

When your eyes are opened to what is real truth and what really matters it is an absolute pleasure to live for Christ. And the journey is not over. Our real home is not here, here is just where we decide who we will follow and what we are going to do with the time that is given to us. Chris’s life verse is Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He knows who he is and who he follows.

IMG_1297Through all of the constant pain and struggle he has hardly complained, and is alway thankful and grateful to those that are continuing to help him and our family. His pain has not ever been his focus, instead it has always been on others. You may be wondering, how can someone be so strong and be such a fighter for so long? There is only one answer, and I know Chris would agree completely, its God. Its all about God. Jesus sacrificed and fought and struggled more then we can possibly imagine for us and He showed us how to live. He has given his very own strength to Chris. Even now, the strength I am using to write this is not my own, it is God’s inside of me. And my hope is that through the life of a fighter you will realize how powerful God can work in the life of someone who chooses to follow Him.

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “The Life of a Fighter

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. In the short amount of time my daughter had Chris as a teacher this year, he made such an impact in her life. She has slipped thru the cracks for so many years and now she is receiving the language therapy she needs to succeed. I just wanted to share how Chris has touched our lives. He is a fighter and we will continue to pray for him in his journey.

  2. Gina, one day, not too long ago, I stumbled across your blog. Your words struck me right at the heart and convicted me of some things in my own life. Thank you for sharing. Truly. The beauty of your faith is such a marvelous witness.

  3. Gina, you don’t know me but I have been praying for you, Chris and your whole family every day. My oldest son had Chris as a teacher 7 years ago, and my youngest has him now for 2 classes. It makes me sad what your family is going through, but it is also so very inspiring to hear you talk about Chris’ strength and your faith in God. I will continue to pray for your family.

  4. Hi Gina, you many not remember me but I went to SAU with you and Chris. I just wanted tell you that I am praying for you guys and thank you for sharing this. Scott

  5. Dear Gina,
    I know that I haven’t really kept up with you since college but I heard through the grapevine about what you guys were going through. I have been reading through your blog and I just wanted you to know that you both are in my prayers. You are beautiful people and are a true inspiration. May God hold you in His arms and grant you peace.
    All my love,
    Alisha Ebenhoeh

  6. Not only a fighter, but a warrior! It sounds like he has fought battle after battle. With his feet planted on his strong foundation of faith and his heart filled with the Lord’s love. You both are a huge inspiration to many with your strength and faith. Thank you for sharing. Praying for your family.

  7. Hi Gina,
    I’ve been praying for you and Chris. Thank you so much for your openness and honesty and sharing your story. You and Chris are such amazing witnesses for the Christ…His strength and love and power and so much more. I’ve really been touched by reading your blog.
    Please tell Chris hi for me, and I’ll continue to pray for God’s big arms to surround you all in love. 🙂
    Sincerely,
    Bonnie (Scott) Wild – from NCCS (Spring Arbor) 🙂

  8. Death clarifies life. By your testimony (through the fire) it shouts that you’ve found the reason for living … to give God Glory. I’ve never met you, but we will share the same eternity someday.

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