So much can happen in 3 days when you have cancer. I apologize for not writing to you sooner, but these last few days have been some of my most challenging.
As you know, Monday afternoon was my first radiation treatment. Most of you are probably wondering exactly what that entails. The treatment is given in a room much like a normal x-ray suite. I lie down flat on a table. Then, the custom-fitted mask that I described before is put in place over my head, neck, and shoulders and fastened to the table. Then, an x-ray-like machine rotates around my head and neck delivering the radiation. It is not painful other than the fact that I have to lie flat. Lying flat, which you may recall me saying, increases the pain in my tongue. I used a local numbing agent to help with that today.
Thankfully, I am not claustrophobic. Certainly, it would be much more difficult if that were the case. Still, though I'm not claustrophobic and have never been an anxious person, there is something about these treatments that is unnerving. I think most of it revolves around the uncertainty of how my body will react to the treatments. I have heard so many horror stories about radiation - terrible mouth sores, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, stiff neck, skin burns, dental decay and more. So, each day, before going in for the treatment, it is almost impossible to remove these uncertainties from the mind. They have a way of looming over the entire process. Thankfully, it only lasts about 20 minutes. While I am lying on the table, I try to remember the verses I have shared with you about fear and all the encouragement and verses you have shared with me, as well. As I've said before, He knew this day would come long before I was born, and He is ready to supply my needs with precision. As one of my favorite songs reminds me, He is mighty to save. As a couple of you have reminded me, while I am receiving radiation beams for my cancer, He is also busy radiating His loving-kindness toward me. Three down - only 30 to go.
My first round of the more potent chemo was administered yesterday. The infusion went well. Unfortunately, today has brought some of my worst nausea. I have not actually vomited, though, which is a blessing, as it greatly increases my tongue pain. I am taking various anti-nausea medications and expect it to get better soon, especially with all your prayers. My next infusion is scheduled for 21 days from yesterday.
This brings us to the latest news, which I know Doug has already shared with some of you. Yesterday, Dr. Gilbert decided that it was time to place a temporary PEG tube. PEG tubes are placed directly into the stomach through the abdominal wall and allow for adequate nutritional and caloric intake when a patient is unable to maintain weight through oral consumption. Because of my intermittent nausea and often excruciating mouth pain, I have lost about 16 pounds in the last 2 months. Click on the link below for a very good explanation of PEG tube insertion and use. I think it will help to calm any anxiety this news might cause you.
As you will learn from this article, placement of the tube is very simple and quick and not regarded as dangerous. Actually, I am relieved to be undergoing this procedure. Of course, I had hoped to make it through this process without a feeding tube, but that just stemmed from male stubbornness more than anything. At this point, I have embraced the fact that having the tube in place will greatly decrease the stress I experience surrounding eating on a daily basis. It is very difficult to plan meals around my pain, because it can be so unpredictable. Also, even when the pain is controlled, my appetite just isn't what it needs to be to maintain my weight much less gain any weight. The tube will be placed during a very short, one-night hospital stay. The procedure itself is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) at 1:00 p.m. following my radiation treatment at 11:00 a.m. I will be released around midday on Friday and will have my last radiation treatment of the week before coming home.
Some of you are probably wondering if this would be a good time to visit. I cannot express to you how much gratitude I have for every single one of you - for your prayers, your emails, your voice mails, your cards, your letters, your gifts, and your desire to help in any way you can. In light of that, I want to reassure you that you ARE helping me. You have no idea what it means to know that while I try to sleep or eat or just keep my chin up, that so many of you, in several countries, are praying for me! Given that I have felt so poorly this week, I don't think it is the best time for a visit. I would rather see you when I can actually spend time talking with you or at least writing you notes, and I don't anticipate feeling like doing much of that right now. I hate to be dramatic, but it has taken me hours to type this post tonight. I do look forward to seeing each and every one one of you once I am feeling better.
Since I mentioned pain quite a bit in this post, I wanted to try to be a bit more clear about my situation with you. It has been suggested to me by some of you that perhaps in an attempt to stay really positive and with many of my earlier posts centering around topics other than my cancer, I might not have given you a completely accurate picture. There is such a fine line between being accurate, being overly dramatic, and conveying my faith in God to deliver. Yes, at times, the pain is excruciating indeed. There have been days when the best I could do was sit as still as possible in my chair and pray for it to pass. What I want you to know is that I do get relief - my gracious Heavenly Father provides it as He hears your prayers and mine. Also, we are continually adjusting my pain medication regimen to try to find the optimum combination, but, of course, all of those possibilities come from Him, as well. So, if I have not portrayed the situation as precisely as I could have, it is only because I want us all to focus on Him and all the miracles of which He is capable. I realize, however, that for us to appreciate truly what He accomplishes, we will need a clear understanding of where he has brought us from. I will try, therefore, to be as clear as possible going forward.
There are so many things on my heart that I would like to share with you right now - thoughts that have been brought on by the cancer, but not necessarily about the cancer itself. Unfortunately, today I just do not have the creative energy to convey those thoughts in a way I would find acceptable. I trust they will keep for later.
I love all of you so very, very much and am truly grateful for you. Whenever you fret about something to do to help, just take a few moments on your knees. That is doing so much, and I will always be grateful.
"What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." -Psalm 56:3