12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Provision

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Medical Update
I do have a couple of things that are issues for prayer right now. I seem to be losing my hair. It was a hope of mine that we would not have to go through that, but today it is coming out in small clumps and I expect to have to deal with it (Read: shave my head!) within the week. We will see.

On the more serious side, my immune system is really down and was the subject of my last email. This precludes people visiting and even forces my family to take extra steps to cleanse themselves when they’ve been out in public. This is a serious situation and needs your prayers to prevent me from getting sick. At this point, a simple illness can be quite devastating, even deadly.

Finally, my back is dealing with significant pain again, from time to time. I would really appreciate your prayers for my ability to rest and my back pain is the primary inhibitor to that.

Provision
God has been answering your prayers for our provision. In the many medical bills and unexpected expenses for medicines, supplies, etc., people have been generously giving to us in order to meet our needs. We are so grateful for their gifts and for your prayers.

In addition, some local businessmen have generously offered to supply the difference between what the disability insurance will be paying and our total paycheck. In other words, we will not have to take a “cut in pay” during the time that I’m fighting cancer. What a blessing!

With all of the things that are going on in my life, it is a blessing beyond my ability to count to know that all of the bills and financial obligations that are coming my way are also being met with gifts of support by friends and family. Ultimately, we give glory to God for the graciousness that we are encountering and attribute to Him the kindness we receive.

To those who have participated in supporting us, we thank you for your generosity, and we thank you for participating in God’s plan for our care.

How you can pray:

  • Please pray for my immune system. It is in need of your fervent prayers.
  • Please pray for wisdom and health in dealing with my depressed immune system. Not everyone understands the seriousness of the situation and unknowingly can put me in jeopardy.
  • Please continue to pray for maximum effect of chemo on the cancer and minimal side effects on the rest of me.
  • Please pray for my ability to rest and for my back to be pain free. We have a therapy session scheduled for next week. I do need some relief and ability to rest.
  • Please continue to pray for God to supply our needs. We are grateful for the mercy he has shown and ask for wisdom and provision for the challenges ahead.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I am praying for you as I write this.

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The Immune System

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Quick Update
I haven’t written this last week because there was not much to write about. I know that I owe you a follow up to the last email where I dealt with some of the theology behind why bad things happen and to whom they happen. I am saving up my creative juices for that one and looking for the time when I am wide awake and fully clear of mind. It’s not an easy subject to talk about suffering. I want to give it my best.

In the meantime, I want to let you know where I am with my chemo.

Side effects
The good news on the side effects is that the worst of them seem to have avoided me. I attribute this specifically to the prayers of the saints who have persistently asked for maximum cancer killing effect and minimum side effects on my behalf. I have a little nausea, some persistent fatigue (which is normal for almost everyone in chemo), and that’s about it.

Thank you so much for your prayers! Keep them coming, they really make the difference. You are directly affecting my healing when you pray, and I am so very grateful.

Immune System
The one side effect that is not felt, but is quite real is the immune system. Because I am getting a 24/7 dose of 5FU chemo via a pump, it is having a negative effect on my white blood cell count and other things that provide me the ability to fight off infection. When I got my pump refilled today, my Absolute Neutrophil Count was just above where it had to be to receive treatment. The nurse said that if it continues to fall at the rate it has been, we would not be able to receive treatment next week.

Please pray for my immune system to rebound. This is crucial to me being able to receive chemo and I need to stay healthy. Also, it keeps me from getting an infection that is also very risky for me at this point.

How you can pray:

  • Please pray for my immune system. It is in need of your fervent prayers.
  • Please pray for my nutrition. I have stopped losing weight, but still need to gain some.
  • Please pray for Bonnie’s peace of mind. Several things have intruded on her in the last 24 hours (my immune system report being one of them) that have been very difficult for her to hear.
  • Please pray for Jimmy. He graduates from college tonight, but because of the crowd and the long program, I will not be in attendance. He is dealing with this just fine. I am not doing as well.
  • Please pray for maximum effect of cancer eradication, and minimum side effects.
  • Please continue to pray for our financial provision. God has answered our prayers in great ways lately and I hope to share some of them with you soon.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I am praying for you as I write this.

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Bad things and good people

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The question we always hear
We always hear this one. Especially when things don’t go as smoothly as we’ve come to expect in our world. Our very safe, secure, hassle free, and pain free world.

I don’t mean to make light of the actual pain and suffering that we all feel. I’ve heard stories just today of horrible things that have happened to people not far from me. A home broken into and thousands of dollars worth of property stolen. A child killed foolishly by an angry caretaker. I heard of these today.

But when it comes to our expectations of life and joy, we do have an anticipation that those that are doing good things in the world, especially those who are serving God with purpose, would not face the worst of these things. It prompts the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Among those who do not believe, it sounds like the woman who asked my wife in the hospital, “Why would God allow something like that to happen to someone who is doing His work?” Or, among those who push back against belief, “How can I believe in a God who lets things like this happen?”

The fault in the question
The problem with all of that is that the question, every version, has a fault in its formation. The question assumes that there are people who are so “good” that they deserve little to no difficulty in their lives.

Sadly, that thought is based on a comparison of one person’s morality against another’s. I’m “good” compared to this person’s “bad.” Or if not “bad,” at least worse than me.

And that’s how our world judges each other. We look at ourselves that way. We look at everyone else that way. We all do it.

But when we bring God into the picture, we have to stop applying our self centered perspective to His point of view and consider what He has to say about the issue. What does God say about the condition of every human?

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
-Romans 3:23

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
-Romans 3:10-12

We are just not capable of being good enough in God’s eyes. In order to do that, we need to stand on the same righteous footing as He does. We don’t have that in us.

Rather, to stand righteous before God, we must put our hope in the work that Christ did on the Cross, and not the works that we do. Ours are not good enough. His is more than enough.

“God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.”
-2 Corinthians 5:21

But even that righteousness, given to us freely by God if we will receive it, does not qualify us for pain free living here in this world. It qualifies us to stand unashamed before Him in the next.

So please hear what I’m saying. I’m not speaking from the sanitary theological position of the pulpit where I bear no pain but speak of pain in academic terms. I have cancer. I am suffering right now. Pain. Side effects from Chemo. Sleeplessness.

All of that, and I say that I am not good enough to deserve preferential treatment. No one is. This pain is common to humanity, and I am a part of humanity. I hurt, my family bears the burden, my friends worry, and God is still good. His goodness and my pain are not in conflict with one another.

Common to humanity
The Biblical worldview doesn’t allow for some people to receive worldly blessings because of their obedience. Rather, spiritual blessings come from obedience to God. Benefits in the Kingdom to come.

Instead, Jesus says, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” in Matt. 5:45. Blessings and pain happen to everyone. Everyone.

It started in Genesis 3, when humanity sinned against God, and broke the world. No more walking with Him in peace, but labor and toil, briar and bramble, pain and hardship all became the lot of all of us. Romans 8 teaches us that the whole of creation groans in anticipation of its redemption from being under the curse. The earth longs to be made right again.

And, indeed it will be. Revelation 21 promises exactly that. But that time is not this time. Here, we all enjoy the blessings of God alongside the curse of sin and its consequences.

There will be a time when the faithful and obedient enjoy the blessings of a life unfettered by sin. Unentangled with the consequences of sin. But that time is after the walk through this world is over.

To expect that to be happening in this world is an unreasonable and easily frustrated expectation.

The good in the bad
In one of my next newsletters, I want to turn this idea of suffering in our world a little further. I think that I can find good in this hard thing that has found me. I want to share that with you.

How you can pray:

  • Please continue to pray for my ability to eat. Thank you for doing this. I am getting better and eating things I haven’t been able to eat in a few months. I hope to get even better.
  • Pray for Chemo to work at the “miraculous” level. the Oncologist calls this “wildly successful.” This request will not change nor will it be absent from future lists.
  • Pray for the side effects to be minimal. This request will also not change nor be absent. So far, the side effects are present, but also minimal. We have a way to go. The cycle is 21 days and I’m just 6 days into it. I still need your prayers, but I’m grateful for the positive reaction thus far.
  • Pray for my faith to continue to grow. It’s hard to focus on my time with God. It’s hard to focus on anything. I’m a bit foggy, to be honest. It’s taken me a couple of days to write this update. I need Him more than anything, so please pray that I am able to find consistency and focus in the pursuit of Him. – I’m not changing this request from last time. Every word is still true.
  • Pray for my family to remain strong. We’ve gotten some help from my family and from Bonnie’s. It’s been a tremendous blessing.
  • Pray for financial needs to continue to be met. Bills are starting to arrive and they are complex. We need wisdom to sort them well and how best to pay them. I’m on disability, which is a 60% paycheck. I’m grateful for that income, but it is a drastic reduction in pay with a drastic increase in bills.
  • Pray for my pain management. Thanks for praying for this. it has gotten much, much better.
  • Pray for my ability to move about. One of the side effects of the chemo is fatigue and I have been struggling with this. I need to move to maintain muscle tone and just help my body from becoming stiff/less flexible. It’s hard to do when there just seems to be no energy.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I am praying for you as I write this.

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Chemo and a Miracle

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Let’s start with the Miracle
So, my back pain had been so intense and unrelenting, only the maximum dose of pain killers would allow me to rest. in the wee hours of Monday morning, I awoke and needed more. Knowing it would take a while for them to kick in, I got up and got on my laptop, looking for a distraction from the pain.

While surfing I began to look up opioid addiction and tolerance, since mine seemed no closer to getting better. In fact, I was uncomfortable in every position and situation.

As I studied, I came to understand the ratcheting up of opioids among those with chronic pain. In the elderly and the terminally ill, it is generally thought that increasing dosage is an acceptable treatment as their tolerance builds, realizing that they will reach their life’s end by the time they reach what is considered a “maximum” dose.

However, I am not elderly, and certainly am hoping, praying for, and intending not to be terminally ill. And clearly not terminally ill from back pain.

So I became concerned that the pain was going to have to be addressed and I was going to have to come off of the painkillers. I had about four hours before I started Chemo, the painkiller I had taken earlier kicked in, and I went back to bed.

On the way in to the treatment center later that morning, I prayed a simple prayer. I asked God, with all that I had on my plate, if He would not just remove this pain in my back and take away my need for pain killers. When I sat in the recliner, I found it to be the most comfortable seat I had taken in weeks. There was nothing about the recliner that made it special. In fact, it was kind of hard. To me, though, it was great. All day my back relaxed and my last pain killer was the one in the middle of the night.

Seems to me, that’s just an outright answer to a prayer for healing that God was merciful enough to grant.

So keep praying, friends. He answers the fervent prayers of the righteous.

Chemo
Years ago, when trying to explain the lifestyle of a Christian on mission, a Missional Lifestyle, I turned the phrase that “I am a missionary to wherever I’m standing.”

That phrase came back to me as I entered a place filled with people who are suffering and are in need of ministry: workers and patients alike.

And, sure enough, people all around were in need of and open to conversations. Across from me sat Jack. Jack is 71, but looked like he was in his late 50’s. Jack had the exact same kind of cancer as I do. Do you know how rare that is? According to one of the reliable cancer websites I read, 17,000 people a year are diagnosed with this disease in America. That’s really pretty rare. Yet, here we sat, right across from one another. We spent a little while getting to know one another, and he shook my hand on the way out.

Side Effects
I’ve been asking for “wildly successful” chemo and “minimum side effects” and you’ve been quoting that back to me in your affirmation of prayers. Thank you so much.

I think it takes a few days to make any side effects apparent. I started feeling run down at the end of the day and my stomach was upset to some degree. That could have just been from staying up later than I had been used to. The next day I began to feel more energy and having gotten my nausea meds in place (in addition to our prayers), felt less nauseated.

At this point, the worst of it is that I can taste the chemo that I’m having on a continuous pump. We’re just getting started, so please keep praying, and plan on praying this prayer for the duration.

Catching up on the past newsletters

Several people have referred to this newsletter as a blog. I can see why. I write it like one, having once been a consistent blogger. It isn’t a blog, however, and if someone found themselves coming in later to our story, they would have no way to go back and read from the beginning. Also, it might be nice to be able to go back and reread something from the past if you wanted to do so.

This started as and remains an email newsletter to a list of people who have agreed to pray for me. I’ve converted these emails into blog posts so that people might more easily find my journey or reread something I’ve written. The list referred to in the following paragraph will not appear at the bottom of these posts, but can be found by searching the category “cancer” in the drop down menu on the right.

In light of this, I am adding a list of previous newsletters, starting with the most recent and working backward to the beginning. This list can be found at the end of the newsletter under my signature and will be available from this newsletter on.

How you can pray:

  • Please continue to pray for my ability to eat. Right now, nausea is the biggest obstacle.
  • Pray for Chemo to work at the “miraculous” level. the Oncologist calls this “wildly successful.” This request will not change nor will it be absent from future lists.
  • Pray for the side effects to be minimal. This request will also not change nor be absent.
  • Pray for my faith to continue to grow. It’s hard to focus on my time with God. It’s hard to focus on anything. I’m a bit foggy, to be honest. It’s taken me a couple of days to write this update. I need Him more than anything, so please pray that I am able to find consistency and focus in the pursuit of Him.
  • Pray for my family to remain strong. It’s really hard on Bonnie, juggling a job with very high responsibilities, a doctoral dissertation (which they’ve graciously afforded her extra time, but it weighs on her mind), and me.
  • Pray for financial needs to continue to be met. Bills are starting to arrive and they are complex. We need wisdom to sort them well and how best to pay them. I’m on disability, which is a 60% paycheck. I’m grateful for that income, but it is a drastic reduction in pay with a drastic increase in bills.
  • Pray for my pain management. We just want to be wise about the use of pain killers. My tumor sometimes hurts, right in the middle of my guts. It can be bad. At other times, my back hurts from sitting and laying so much.
  • Pray for my ability to move about. I need to be as active as possible to keep up my muscle tone and strength. Laying around is not helpful, but energy and strength to move is also not always available.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I am praying for you as I write this.

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  • Author:
  • Published: Apr 22nd, 2017
  • Category: Cancer, life
  • Comments: Comments Off on Home. What’s next?

Home. What’s next?

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Going Home
We waited for what seemed forever in the hospital room the day before we went home in anticipation that we would go home that day. Unbeknownst to us, an event earlier in the day had derailed that. I had nausea in the middle of the day and voluntarily asked to come off of the feeding pump for about an hour while everything settled down. It turns out it was nothing and we could likely have gone home, but the surgeon was in surgery until almost midnight and never found out that we were ok.

I caught him while he was making rounds in the middle of the night, 12:15 am after being in the operating room all day. I was walking the hall. It was a fun exchange, and I really like him. He laughed about me being out walking and I beseeched him to send me home. We struck a deal that he would send me home first thing in the morning if I tolerated an increased feed from the pump the rest of the night.

Done deal! Except the pharmacy that provided the take home pump couldn’t get its act together and we found ourselves lingering well past noon, after we had been dismissed by the hospital, all ports and lines taken out… Everything. Bonnie called multiple times asking what the hold up was, especially since they called the previous day saying the equipment was on “will call” and that I could have it as soon as I was released. They quit answering. Finally, my best advocate on this earth, my wife, went to the pharmacy and simply asked if they could deliver it to our house so we could leave. Simple answer, “Yes.”

We’re out of here.

Home
Arriving at home was a special comfort. Everything is softer at home. The bed at the hospital, in which I refused to sleep the last two nights, is a series of three steel plates, connected with joints to provide head and foot elevation. It is covered by 2 inches of weak foam. It is incredibly hard. The pressure points on my back began to create a massive pain load, not from surgery, but from lying on what I began to refer to as a medieval torture device. In fact, though I had been off of my pain meds for days I began taking them again just to deal with the pain in my back and to try to rest. Even then, it was difficult.

The problem with arriving home was that, soft as home is, my back was still in massive pain. It would take another day and a half plus a maximum dose of pain meds to break the pain cycle and allow me to rest.

I got on the feed pump in a big way. For some reason, I have had a significant amount of nausea since surgery and not been able to get anything down or keep it down. In the hospital, when I got the feeding pump connected and it did not work, my digestive system rebelled, and it kept me for days longer in my room there, I hated it (the pump and my decision to have a J-Tube installed) with a passion. When I got home and couldn’t eat, I loved it with an even greater passion.

I was able to drink a couple of protein shakes (like ensure, but for diabetics) and that’s about it yesterday. I struggled with nausea all day. Even when I wasn’t consuming anything. That would have sent me back to the ER quickly if we didn’t get a handle on it. But the feeding pump put 1,500 calories in throughout the day and I was just fine.

In fact, I’ve gained weight since leaving for the hospital a week ago. That’s all down to the pump.

It’s not fun wheeling a pump connected to my abdomen on an IV stand around my house, but it’s a lot of fun being rested, hydrated, and nourished.

I’m grateful.

What’s next
Chemo starts on Monday at 8am. After the last couple of days recovering from my stint in the hospital, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to sit up for 8 hours at a time. As I write this in the wee hours of Saturday morning, I feel more confident. My energy is returning. My focus is returning. My desire to press on is returning.

Chemo is individual. They use standard regimens across the board and these are determined by some of the most advanced cancer centers in the world, MD Anderson included. One of the reasons that I have had some peace about getting started here instead of going home to Houston and attempting to work through insurance red tape in order to get in at MDA is that my Oncologist told me that the regimen we were using was prescribed by these cancer centers, MDA being among them. That we would be following the same path MDA would if I were there.

I know, Houstonians! MDA has special trials that I could be a part of if I were there. And I will, if this regimen doesn’t work. Then I have a compelling reason for the insurance company to let me go where I can get what no one else offers.

Back to Chemo. How each person responds is completely up to them. My oncologist described the four responses that happen in various degrees:

    • Chemo works, little side effects
    • Chemo works, severe side effects
    • Chemo doesn’t work, little side effects
    • Chemo doesn’t work, severe side effects

I grieve for the people who endure 3 months of chemo with severe side effects and it doesn’t work. How brutal.

Of course, we are counting on Chemo working for me. And we are praying for minimal side effects.

The Spiritual
Bonnie and I had a breakthrough time in the hospital in the last couple of days of our time there. God had been speaking to me as I walked through the halls of the floor where I stayed and in a moment of peace for the both of us when no one wanted our time, or our attention, or my blood pressure, or to give me medicine… God spoke to us through a beautiful conversation where we both shared what He had been saying to us individually.

I want to share some of the things God has taught us. I think it is important for you to see me wrestle with pain and suffering the way that we all do and not from a pulpit where speaking of God’s mercy while you suffer can seem unrealistic.

I want you to know that I am hurting. My life is completely different. It can’t be what it was going to be in my head. And God is good. He does good. You need to hear how I see these things.

In the coming weeks, things will not be happening so fast. Chemo will start. I will deal with whatever goes along with that. And there will be time to speak of deeper things. I plan on writing these things to you. I pray you will receive them.

How you can pray:

  • Pray for my ability to eat to return. For one thing I miss it, but also, it helps the digestive tract to have something other than the feed tube formula in it.
  • Pray for Chemo to work at the “miraculous” level. the Oncologist calls this “wildly successful.” I’ll explain the difference to him after the fact. Or maybe before.
  • Pray for the side effects to be minimal. I have suffered. I will suffer more, if need be. I just prefer to suffer less, if God would be so gracious.
  • Pray for my faith to continue to grow.
  • Pray for my family to remain strong.
  • Pray for financial needs to continue to be met (this has been happening in great and unexpected ways thus far – thank you for praying!)
  • Pray for my sleep to grow more “normal.” I’d like to be awake all day and sleep all night. It helps with your mental ability. I write this with the most energy and clarity I’ve had since I’ve been home, starting at 3:15 am on Saturday morning, because that’s when I woke up. The down side is that about 10:00 am, I’m going to want to sleep for about four hours in the middle of the day. Blah! Help me pray for some normalcy in my sleep.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I am praying for you as I write this.

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  • Author:
  • Published: Apr 18th, 2017
  • Category: Cancer, life
  • Comments: Comments Off on The Overdue Update: Surgery and the Aftermath

The Overdue Update: Surgery and the Aftermath

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My goal
I had some witty references to explain what was happening and some self deprecating humor to laugh it off. The outline of this email was witty, engaging, and entertaining. At least it was in my mind.

As my recovery stretched into it’s 5th day in the hospital (I’m still here), all of the humor of the situation began to evaporate for me.

The truth is, it has been a very difficult stretch for me and for my family. I’ll tell you about it in a minute, but first I want to use this moment to point out why I’ve been so public and why I’ve been so consistent about putting our private health issues on such a display.

I need your prayers. I believe in prayer and I believe that God heals. I’ve seen Him heal miraculously. I’ve seen Him heal miraculously in and through health care providers. I’ve seen Him answer fervent prayers.

By letting you in on so much, I believe your desire to intercede may be provoked. By doing it so often, I believe your fervor might be increased. I hope you don’t see this as manipulative. If I were trying to manipulate, I certainly wouldn’t announce my intentions.

I see this as mutually helpful, because I remember the time when I first learned to intercede for another person. As a young Seminary student, a family in my church had their home invaded and the father was critically shot. I prayed for days and nights that God might heal him when he was on the edge of life. God did that in his life, and much more in mine.

It’s always been my hope and prayer that this might happen for you as well, as you pray for me. That God might teach you something amazing about prayer. And about yourself. And about His willingness to answer. And your ability to spend time there, asking for great things.

And in the meantime, my needs would be laid before the Father by a growing family of believers.

This was my goal. And then…

Silence
I think we are going to have to realize that at some points in our journey together there will be times when I have more than I can handle. There will be times when I can not write.

And because of your love for me, your concern for my well being, knowing that we are in a place where you need to pray, you will want to know just what the heck is going on.

And so, I need to tell you, that when I am silent, when I do not write, when I give no updates and you know important things are happening…

When I am silent…

That is when I need you to pray most of all.

This weekend is certainly, case in point.

The surgery
The surgery was a success by all good standards. The surgeon did as I requested and installed a J-tube instead of a G-tube, which is more finicky, but leaves the stomach unchanged in order to use it later, if we are able to remove the original tumor. This is a “chemo is wildly successful” scenario.

The port, the easiest of the two procedures, was done with expected precision.

The Aftermath
I guess my body didn’t really enjoy the changes. The port was bruised but fine. The J-Tube site was sore, but functional. My body, however, did not like what had happened. My intestines shut down. This happens with general anesthesia. It has never happened to me this badly. It shut down for 4+ days and I could not eat or take tube feedings without it stacking up, distending my belly, and causing me great pain.

I could barely urinate, but did avoid the catheter. I could not defecate. No matter what.

It was here that my self deprecating humor was to call for all those who had said about me that I was “full of crap,” or some version of that, would have the opportunity to take a victory lap.

It’s just not that funny to me anymore. Things have started moving and we are trying a different tube feeding as I write this. I’m praying for things to take this time. The waiting in a hospital bed is excruciating.

Here’s the kicker: All of this has pushed back the chemo. Again.

The good news is that the Surgeon and the Oncologist have talked several times and are in agreement on a plan wherein I am transferred to the oncology floor and receive my chemo there. Once everything else is done, I can be discharged and go home from there.

It’s 9:10 pm on Tuesday night and I’m waiting on the Oncologist to come by and discuss this with us.

How you can pray:

    • Pray that my body heals quickly.
    • Pray that my digestive system accepts the tube feedings and functions as needed.
    • Pray that my cancer will continue to be impeded from crossing any more boundaries in my body.
    • Pray that God will give me strength, rest, and health.
    • Pray that I can go home soon to rest.
    • Pray for miraculous healing.
    • Pray for my family to be strengthened and can help support all the things we need to do together.
    • Pray for God to do what God can do, and to do it in me.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I am praying for you as I write this.

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  • Author:
  • Published: Apr 12th, 2017
  • Category: Cancer, life
  • Comments: Comments Off on We have a plan and a schedule

We have a plan and a schedule

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The Plan
It did not work out to do the port on Tuesday so that we could start chemo on Wednesday. For various reasons, we determined that it would be best to do the PET scans as scheduled on Tuesday and have the port surgery and feeding tube surgery on Friday. Chemo is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

The Surgeon
I really like the surgeon. He knows his stuff. He’s the first person to whom I’ve talked that told me what my symptoms were and how things were going just by looking at the CT scans and the biopsy report.

Usually, I explain my symptoms and the doctor or nurse says something like, “Yes, that can happen with this.”

This conversation went more like:

Dr: Does it hurt right here?

Me: Yes…

Dr: Does it radiate to your back?

Me: (surprised) Yes…

Dr: Do you have a sharp pain right here?

Me: (more surprised) Yes, that’s exactly what hurts.

Dr: This is why…

He knows his stuff. The Oncologist had said that this person is the only one that he would let operate on him if he had cancer. I see why.

Nutrition
The nutritionist has been a big help. The encouragement to eat things I like in a form I can swallow has been a godsend. I am juicing to get natural Vitamins (C and D, especially) to go along with the calories. The banana, peanut butter (now almond butter), cocoa, smoothie is delicious, nutritious, and daily. Other things have come in handy as well.

So I gained about a half pound this morning. I didn’t quite lose my mind because I had lost weight the previous day, but it was still a pretty good deal.

Thanks for praying for this. When the feeding tube gets put in, the nutrition gets a lot easier to maintain without worrying if I can get something down my throat.

PET Scan
I haven’t heard back from the doctor about the PET scan results. In reality, the scan they took on Tuesday will be a baseline to measure against after chemo ends in a few months. I already know that it has spread to my liver, but has not spread to my lungs or my pancreas. It’s a middle of the road situation. Could be a lot worse, could be a lot better.

Bottom Line
Truth is the odds are steep according to the statistics. The Scripture teaches us that all of our days are numbered by the Lord. He knows the span of my life and that has not changed, nor will it. My hope is not in doctors or nurses, but in the Lord.

This is not to say I don’t believe in health care. I certainly do, and believe that the providers I have are those to whom the Lord has led me. I hope He has led me to them so that He can use them to guide me through this to a life that is cancer free.

I hope next week to write an update that explains my understanding of my relationship with God and the cancer I have. I know a lot of people struggle with the idea that faithful servants of God suffer. That “bad” things happen to “good” people.

That is a tough nut to crack, but I have some peace with what God is doing. Most days, I have peace. Some days I tell Him He’s got the wrong guy. Just to be honest, I struggle with fear, frustration, and anger. As we all would.

Mostly, in those times, I come back to peace by being reminded that God is good and He does good. That He is the Redeemer of broken things, like this world and my body. That He loves me more than I can comprehend. That He does not ask more of me than He offered of Himself. That He cares about my suffering. That He is trustworthy. That I can trust Him. And, finally, I do.

For a while. And then… we do it all over again.

Things for which you can pray:

    • For nutrition and hydration to be steady before and after surgery.
    • For the surgery to go well and recovery to be quick.
    • For chemo to be effective at destroying the cancer.
    • For my body to handle the chemo without devastating side effects.
    • For wisdom and provision with our finances as we deal with unexpected expenses.

Thank you so much for your prayers! They have been, and we are counting on them to be, powerfully effective.

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  • Author:
  • Published: Apr 10th, 2017
  • Category: Cancer, life
  • Comments: Comments Off on A busy week, with some questions

A busy week, with some questions

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Busy
We have a lot of appointments this week.

Today, I have to take some forms down to my employer. These are the last of the insurance forms (so far as I know). I also have an eye appointment because I broke my glasses and don’t want to fool with contacts right now.

And I have a squeeze in appointment with the surgeon this afternoon to see about placing a port and a feeding tube.

Questions
If the Lord is willing, chemo will start this week. It seems that the Oncologist has pulled some strings to make that happen and we will do our part also. If everything else falls into place, Wednesday is the day we begin chemo.

But I need that port placed to access the chemo. So, I meet with the overbooked surgeon who is working with the oncologist to move me up in the schedule so I can get started. If he can get me in on Tuesday to place the port, chemo starts Wednesday.

If not, PET scans (high definition scan to search my whole body for cancer) will happen Tuesday and the surgery will likely happen Friday. PET scans will be rescheduled after surgery and chemo take priority.

Answered Prayer
I’ve been so grateful for the answered prayers in the areas of nutrition, hydration, and pain management. All have greatly improved. The banana, peanut butter, 2% milk, cocoa powder (I’ve switched from syrup) has become a standard breakfast for me and one to which I look forward. I’ve only lost a pound in the last 4 days, and that is, frankly, winning. If I ever put a pound on, I might lose my mind. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Also, your words of encouragement are such blessings. Emails, texts, messages with memories of life and ministry together are so encouraging. I’m sorry I can’t answer each one individually. I read each one. I promise.

How you can pray

    • Pray for wisdom as we wade through the unanswered questions of this week.
    • Pray for God to make a way for us to start chemo quickly.
    • Pray for the treatments applied to me will be effective in combatting the cancer.
    • Pray for courage and that we would be without fear in the face of so many unknowns.
    • Pray for our finances to meet the many unexpected expenses that are cropping up.

Thank you in advance for your prayers!

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  • Author:
  • Published: Apr 6th, 2017
  • Category: Cancer, life
  • Comments: Comments Off on The Good, the bad, and the ugly (and the beautiful) of the Oncology visit

The Good, the bad, and the ugly (and the beautiful) of the Oncology visit

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The Good
Our oncologist is very knowledgable and aggressive. He’s given me a lot of helpful information. More importantly, he’s gotten aggressive about getting me into treatment.

In order to get me a port for the Chemo and a feeding tube for nutrition, he’s pulled some strings to get me into see a surgical oncologist, a specialist beyond general surgery. General scheduling would only give me a date to see him a week and a half from now for a consultation. Our oncologist spoke with him personally and got me in to see him on Monday, a week earlier.

In the meantime, I’ll be attending Chemo Training tomorrow, a PET scan will be scheduled soon, and the port/feeding tube surgery soon thereafter. As soon as the port is in, Chemo will start within 24 hours.

The Bad
The cancer is Stage IV.

Take a breath. We had to. Turns out that, while earlier stages are clearly better, Stage IV does NOT mean “you’re about to die.” That is, apparently, a misunderstanding among the common culture.

The Oncologist basically told us that staging exists to compare studies to one another (Study A treated more Stage I patients than Study B, who had more Stage IV patients, that helps explain some of the successes of Study A) and that staging helps explain whether the cancer is operable. Stage IV means it has spread and is not, at this time, operable.

That’s not to say that it will not be operable in the future. If the Chemo is very successful and kills what has spread, they can operate on the original tumor. The Doctor made sure to tell us that is rare, but could happen. Obviously, we are praying for that, among other things.

The Ugly
Where has the cancer spread? The Liver. The doctor stressed that this is not liver cancer, but esophageal cancer that has moved to the liver. The way he made that sound, I inferred that it was better.

MD Anderson?
After talking with my Oncologist, MD Anderson, and my insurance company, I basically had a choice: Go to MDA in 2-3 weeks (or more, depending on insurance) or start treatment within the week. I chose to start treatment. MDA is not off the table. If things aren’t going well, after my first round of Chemo, or at any point in the future, I can apply for the referral and go from there.

The Beautiful
I have been encouraged and supported in many, many ways. God has been ever near me and I am so grateful. More than just sensing the Presence of the Holy Spirit, I have seen the practical answer to prayers in guidance, help in times of need, relief from pain, answers to questions, and promise of provision.
Both JD Young, where I work through the week, and Redemption Tulsa, the church I helped plant and pastor, are both going to continue to support us through this time. Donny Rockwell is being installed as an Elder this Sunday and will take over teaching duties for me for the immediate future.

I’m amazed by God’s provision.

Here’s a very real example: I spent last night in the ER. I had some extreme pain and dehydration. The first crew was pretty casual while working on me and not really doing anything for me. I started praying, “God, send me a healer. I need a healer right now.” In walked a nurse with a focus and kindness that weren’t present in the others. She was soon followed by a seasoned ER Doc who put things in motion quickly. I asked for a healer. I got two.

How you can pray

  • Pray for wisdom as we try to get my nutrition and pain management under control.
  • Pray for a swift process into Chemo.
  • Pray for the Chemo to work powerfully and quickly.
  • Pray for my body to handle the Chemo with strength and endurance.
  • Pray for my family to handle the pressures of all that this journey will entail.
  • Pray that I will continue to grow in my faith and that my testimony will be strong.

Thank you in advance for your prayers!

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  • Author:
  • Published: Mar 30th, 2017
  • Category: Cancer, life
  • Comments: Comments Off on CT Scans and Plans

CT Scans and Plans

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This series of posts originally was a series of emails sent to a prayer list. For the ease of those praying for me being able to go back and reread the journey, I’ve begun to convert the emails to blog posts, since I had this old blog laying around anyway.


First things first

I know that this is the second email in two days. I promise not to flood your inbox with daily details, but some big things happened today and they have opened the door to prayer needs.

On the other hand, please look for updates here. I have received massive amounts of encouragement, for which I am grateful. Still, I can’t answer every text, call, and request for information. Know that I love each and every one of you and would gladly spend an hour talking with you about the ins and outs of what is going on, but I just can’t. I don’t have the time and I don’t have the energy. I have been absolutely flooded with texts, fb messages, and phone calls. I am so grateful for your love for me. Please don’t feel snubbed if I don’t respond or am quick in my response. I am just trying to focus on what I must right now.

CT Scans
My Gastroenterologist has been very proactive. Aggressive, in fact, he has ordered scans, made referrals, offered support and advice long after he has billed me for his last procedure. As a result I had a CT scan scheduled for this morning by the time he hit the office on Monday after he had finished his procedures for the day and before he received the pathology report.

The CT scan was done early in the morning which allowed for the radiologist to read it in house and get a report to my doctor this afternoon. He called me just after he received and read it.

The news is not good, but not as bad as it could be. The tumor is on the inside and outside of my stomach. It is close to, but not yet invading my pancreas (which is very dangerous ground). There are lymph nodes that seem to be involved around the tumor. There are some spots on my liver that may or may not be related to the cancer.

Plans
We were referred to a great Oncologist here in Tulsa, but her schedule was booked for weeks. From what my Gastroenterologist passed on, they knew that timeline was not in my favor. They found another local Oncologist with a great reputation with an appointment on Friday next, a week and a day from now. I scheduled that appointment. But…

Because so many of my friends encouraged me to consider MD Anderson in Houston, we’ve taken some steps to find out what it would take for my insurance company to accommodate that. I had a great conversation with a customer service representative who guided me through the process with clarity and encouragement.

As a result, I’m keeping my original appointment, but pursuing an authorization that would allow me to go to MD Anderson as soon as possible.

How you can pray

    • Pray that the insurance authorization is quickly approved and we can make plans to get to MD Anderson quickly.
    • Pray for my pain to be alleviated. There are times when it can be quite limiting. I’m experiencing quite a bit right now.
    • Pray for our wisdom and ability in dealing with the massive amounts of paperwork and processes.
    • Pray for God to bring healing to my body.
    • Pray for God to be glorified in the lives of me and my family as we walk through this season.
    • Pray for my faith to remain strong and my testimony bold.

Thank you in advance for your prayers!

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