Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Double portion

First, I thank all of you for your continued prayers and support. I want to be brief today, but give you some important information.

Praise: I saw Dr. Gilbert today, and she believes the tumor is smaller and continuing to respond to treatment. She does believe that I will have to have a partial neck dissection since the swollen lymph nodes are not shrinking on the left side of my neck. She cannot say whether any surgery will be necessary on my tongue, but we are praying that it will not. She was very encouraging and is pleased with my progress other than the swollen nodes. I have 7 radiation treatments to go, and after that, will see Dr. Netterville, the surgeon, in about 4 weeks for further consultation. It is comforting that both Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Cmelak (radiation oncologist) think the tumor is responding. Of course, we must not forget, God is the Great Physician. He knows the plans He has for me. He is here. I pray and ask you to pray for no surgery on my tongue, yet not my will but His be done. As for my neck, I would prefer not to have surgery there either, but I have much more peace about that possibility. Pray as the Spirit moves you.

Request: I mentioned a good friend's dad, Mr. Carroll, in a previous entry. He found out Friday that his cancer is stage 4 with a 40% cure rate. Surgery is not an option at this point as the cancer is more advanced than first expected. As I mentioned before, it involves his bone. He just learned that he will have to have all of his teeth extracted before treatment begins. I urge you my faithful brothers and sisters to pray for him boldly. He has much to face, but we know that God is bigger than it all.

Every day we go to treatment, there are reminders that there are people suffering even more than I can imagine. Most disconcerting is the apparent lack of social support in many of the cases. It is heartbreaking to see people going through this alone. They need our prayers.

Let's pray together tonight ...

Awesome Father, You are worthy of receiving our utmost in praise and honor. You knew us before we were ever a worldly thought. You knew how our lives would unfold. You knew how we would respond to that unfolding. Now Lord, in these times found uncertain by us, steady us by Your great power and sovereignty. Let all of us who fear, draw near to Your comforting Spirit. May we never forget the price that You paid to cleanse our hearts and purify our hands. May we never forget that our suffering will never come close to Your suffering on our behalf. May we never forget that You are more than enough and that You are always here. May we remember in struggle, that the goal is still to know You and to know You more deeply. May we be moved into deeper relationship with You as we trust in Your great plans. Give Mr. Carroll complete healing and give his family a double portion of Your graciousness as You carry them through this journey. We love You. Your goodness cannot be described. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

He is here

I apologize for my absence, but last week was a challenging one. The end of treatment is now in sight, though. As of today, I only have 8 radiation treatments to go! I cannot express how that makes me feel. The effects of radiation continue to worsen and take a mental and physical toll. I do believe that God has honored the prayers of so many and made them less harsh than they might have been. I know that many of you have prayed along those lines.

Tonight, I am short of words, but did want to pass on a few thoughts about Father.

When drowning in mucus, He holds me.
When mouth ulcerations blaze, He is here.
When vomiting attacks, He stays till the end.

He is mighty. He is true. He is loving-kind. He is holy. He is worthy of desperate praise. He IS.

I love Him, and I pray for complete healing in my physical body along with the healing of broken lives through His redemptive power.

For those who read these words and have not begun a personal relationship with Jesus, I plead with you to consider embarking on the greatest journey of your life - an everlasting journey. He loves you and wants to walk with you. Don't turn Him away. Read John 3 and Romans 10 - they are great places to start. Talk with a trusted pastor or friend who knows Jesus as Savior. Whatever you do, don't miss out on the biggest truth and greatest love of all time. Only in Him will you find the answers to life's important questions. Only in Him will you find eternal, abundant life.

Continue to pray that I will look to Him more than I do to the end of treatment. He is where my focus must be stayed. He is here. He has never failed. May we trust Him with childlike abandon.

Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid. -Mark 6:50

Monday, July 21, 2008

Something we can do together

I have missed writing you, but last week’s events left me feeling quite tired most of the time. I think the main contributor to my fatigue is the radiation treatment, but I also think it is helping tremendously. My tongue itself continues to feel better, and I am so grateful for that. The vicious side effects Doug mentioned, such as dry mouth, excess mucous, and mouth sores, are indeed daunting, but they wax and wane at this point. The excess mucous has a powerful mental effect as it creates a constant need to clear the oral cavity and adds to nausea, as well. Thankfully, the nausea Doug spoke of on Saturday following chemo has improved tremendously. I do continue to have hiccups, which apparently is an odd side effect of chemo that not many people seem to have, but they are lessening today; thus far, it happens to me after every chemo infusion.

That brings me to an update on the treatment plan. This past chemo infusion will likely be my last where the main treatment is concerned. Dr. Gilbert talked about doing three sessions of this particular drug if they could be completed by the end of radiation. There must be 21 days between each of the infusions, though, so there won’t be enough time for another infusion before radiation is complete. I only have 13 radiation treatments to go!!! God willing, they will finish up on August 7th. I am so grateful that this number is decreasing. I still need your prayers to cover me during these remaining days. Generally, head and neck radiation therapy just gets worse and worse until the end of treatment, and the side effects take various times to relent after treatment has stopped. I do feel as though I have been protected from the full severity of the side effects by your answered prayers. Thank you, but most of all, praise His Holy name. He is beautiful beyond our comprehension.

We’ll talk more about what happens following radiation therapy as these next few weeks pass. Right now, future plans are very dependent on how I respond to the rest of the current treatment.

Switching gears, many of you have asked if there is anything else you can do for me. There is. In fact, there is something we can do together. You know that I want to be healed from this disease, but I desire that God be glorified no matter what His ultimate plan reveals. One of the easiest ways to glorify Him is to tell of the great things He has done for us – to share Him with others. Every day, we come in contact with so many people who need His love desperately. Imagine what a difference it would make if we all sought out just one opportunity to tell someone about Him … what He has accomplished, His unwavering friendship, His power, that He is mighty to save.

We tend to get so scared at the thought of sharing our faith. For some reason, it has become safe to mention God in passing, but dangerous to share the redemptive truth of Jesus Christ. I think we are also scared, at times, because we have these misconceptions that we will say something wrong or that we are responsible for performing the redemption ourselves. Jesus simply told us to tell of His love for all and His intention to transform lives. He never said there was a perfect way to deliver the truth, but He was very clear that we should be making an effort to deliver it. He takes care of the rest. He performs the redemption. He is the only one worthy of doing so – the spotless One who gave His life to pay the penalty for all sin. He has already accomplished the great work that is to be done. We are simply charged with telling the world that He waits with open arms to accept all those who desire an eternal relationship with Him.

Here’s what I am asking us to do. Let’s diligently look for opportunities to share Jesus Christ and His love for all people along with His desire that all come to know Him as Savior and friend. You may already have someone in mind right now that you have been meaning to share Him with but have hesitated. Stop hesitating and start a simple conversation. We tend to treat telling others about Jesus like it is a dreaded sales job. Somehow, that has to stop. Our methods of sharing may look different every time we do so. At times, it may seem appropriate simply to ask someone whether or not they have a relationship with Jesus. At other times, that may seem too pushy. It may take months of further cultivating a relationship before we can share the amazing love of Jesus. One thing is for sure, if we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we cannot mess up. Remember, we don’t do the work – He does.

Let’s trust Him to guide us and try our very best to go tell about Him. Remember, it is all about Him. It is not about our church or about our religion or about us at all; it is all about the person of Jesus Christ! So, let’s go tell others about Him!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. –Romans 10:13

I love you all. Thanks for everything you are doing. All of your efforts, even if you have not heard from me personally, are greatly appreciated by my family and me. God bless you richly.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Good counts

Thankfully, Daniel's counts were good today, so he had his chemo infusion as well as radiation number nineteen! Now, he has fourteen to go - careful, everyone! He has had some nausea today, and at the time of this post, he senses more stalking him. Daniel will try to post an entry tomorrow.

Specific prayer requests:

-Breather from nausea
-Ease from radiation side-effects (They're getting vicious.)
-God's will
-Mr. Carroll
-Thanks for answered prayers

Blessings to you all,


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Things change fast!

My blood count was too low to get my chemo infusion today. I did have my appointment with Dr. Gilbert and my radiation treatment, though. Dr. Gilbert was very encouraging. She continues to believe my tongue looks better. She does predict that I will need a partial neck dissection after chemo and radiation are done to remove the nodes involved on the left side of my neck. They aren't shrinking enough at this point to make her think they will be back to normal after treatment. Of course, that remains to be seen. God is still in control of my health. I am not discouraged by this news. I trust He will see me through whatever treatment is indicated.

The plan now is for my blood to be rechecked on Friday morning in hopes of doing my chemo infusion later that day. I pray this will happen if it is God's best.

Radiation went well today - only 17 treatments to go! That sounds so much better than 33!

Thanks for praying and keep it up. You must get tired of me asking that, but it just means so much - every single prayer. I know there are times when you least expect it that I need your prayers so much and am benefiting from them intensely.

May God bless you all richly.

Today's events

- Appointment with Dr. Gilbert at 8:15.
- Radiation at 10:00.
- Chemotherapy (another long session) at 10:30.

My mucous seems to have increased tremendously overnight. Please say a special prayer for this long day ahead. I will need to feel His presence every moment - I know He will be there.

Thank you so much.

Have a great day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

But, that's not fair!

Have you noticed how obsessed we are with all things justice? Just take the top television programs, for instance. There's CSI, CSI Miami, CSI NY, CSI Alaska - okay, maybe I made the last one up, but you know they've considered it. There's Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, Law and Order Criminal Intent, NCIS, and my personal favorite, Criminal Minds. When you consider these as a group, reality TV doesn't seem quite so dominant. We are crazy for tales of just and unjust, right and wrong, fair and unfair. The obsession is passed on from our elders at an early age. Visit any playground in our country today, and you will inevitably hear it over and over again ... "But, that's not fair!" We learn very early to scream foul play, and most of us go on doing it loudly for the rest of our lives.

In fact, if we put forth the least bit of effort, I suspect that most of us could recall several times in the past few days, or maybe even in this day alone, when we exclaimed, "But, that's not fair!" What I find so interesting about this is how it dominates our culture, even Christian culture, but Christ never said it! Of course, if anyone ever had reason to make this exclamation, Jesus Christ did! Born to die, falsely accused, spat upon, mocked, scourged, and charged with bearing the sin of the world - yet sinless Himself. Indeed, He had good reason. As Oswald Chamber's pointed out, though, Jesus never looked for justice for Himself, but He never ceased to give it to others.

Regarding my cancer and whatever blindsiding trial you might be facing, it is so reflex to exclaim, "But, that's not fair!" I could go about my days in a perpetual childhood tantrum (and, I reserve the immaturity to do so on some days) mired in all that unfairness, but ... that's the problem. I would be mired. I couldn't really go anywhere. The thing is, we spend so much of our lives griping about fair and unfair when God never promised fair. Ask Job or Uriah or ... Jesus! What He did promise, as we've discussed before, is to be with us wherever we go.

I'll admit, there are days when I want to scream ... this isn't fair! I want my taste buds back! I want these sores gone! Get this mucous out of my mouth! Get this growth off my neck! Get this tube out of my stomach! I want pizza, I want Cokes, I want ice cream and cookies and cheeseburgers - this isn't fair! I'll probably have a few more of those days. I hope, however, that I (we) will be able to stop looking for fair in all circumstances. Rather, I pray that complete trust will replace tantrums. Our precious Father is good, and He will not leave us.

I love all of you very much, and I appreciate your prayers. I DO feel them. My weekend was dark at times, but God remained as He always does. Your prayers are priceless.

Now, I must ask you to pray for another. My dear friend, Brian Carroll (Elizabeth Pugh Carroll's husband), learned that his dad has been diagnosed with cancer just underneath his nose that has spread into the nasal cavity and into his cheeks. The bone is involved. Surgery at Vanderbilt is pending. Brian and Elizabeth have asked for God's will to be done and for all involved to be drawn closer to Him. Of course, they also pray for healing, but they also ask for peace with whatever God has planned. Please join me in praying for Mr. Carroll.

God's best for all of you.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

22 left!

Today, I had my eleventh radiation treatment - only 22 treatments to go! The shrinking of that number does my heart so much good. This morning, one of the family said, "After today, only 22 treatments to go!" I have a rule against that, though, which I quickly disclosed. If you choose to declare how many treatments are left before the current day's treatment has taken place, you have to say the number that is currently left - not the number that will be left after that day's treatment. Meaning, it would have been fine for them to say that there were 23 treatments left, but not 22 after today. Even though it is true, it is jumping ahead, and it messes up the savoring of that moment right after treatment when I get to declare the new remaining number. Get it? I only have 22 radiation treatments left!

That's the good news about radiation. The possibly bad news is that I have hit the point during radiation when most patients start to have the worst side effects, including an unusual pairing of thick mucous and dry mouth, both relentless in their attack, along with mouth sores, sore throat, more difficulty swallowing, and dramatic skin burn. I call this possibly bad news, because I pray, and ask you to also, that God will lessen the intensity of these side effects if it pleases Him. I know He may not choose to do this as I am reminded of the thorn in Paul's flesh that was never removed, but I am also reminded of the fact that He has promised not to give me anything more than I can endure. Even more, I am reminded of the suffering our sweet Lord Jesus endured for us, and I know what I face cannot be compared to what He graciously endured for all of us. Even still, He has invited us to ask! And, ask, I will. I trust you'll do so, as well.

I also saw Dr. Gilbert today, and she made the comment that she thinks my tumor looks "much better." Now, that's the kind of thing you like to hear from your oncologist! I have also gained three pounds since last Tuesday, which is such a blessing. I am tolerating my tube feedings extremely well since the switch to pump infusion. Thank God for His provision. Eating had been such a source of stress. I'm very relieved to have that pressure removed.

One of the long-term side effects of radiation therapy to the oral cavity is persistent dry mouth due to salivary gland damage. Obviously, with my job and my singing, that would be an extremely disconcerting and maybe even debilitating side effect. Tomorrow, I begin a medication called amiphostine, which is designed to reduce this possibility. The jury is still out on its effectiveness as there is a lack of rigorous research available. Unfortunately, its main side effect is nausea, but not in everyone. Given my profession and other interests, I have decided to give it a try. If it nauseates me, I will just stop it. My first dose will be given tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. before radiation at 10:00 a.m. That will be the schedule going forward if it is tolerated.

My next chemotherapy infusion will be next Tuesday, the 15th. Again, it will be about a 5-6 hour process. Remember, I did not have bad side effects with the treatment, which often happens. We trust this will be the case again. I may or may not have a third infusion on August 5th. That will depend on tumor response to the next chemo, the remainder of radiation therapy, and simply how I am feeling. Just to remind you, after radiation ends on August 7th, there will be about a six-week break after which a CT will be done. If the tumor appears to have been eradicated, no surgery will be required on the tongue. If the lymph nodes look clear, no surgery will be required. On the other hand, even if the tongue looks clear, but the lymph nodes do not, I will have to have a partial neck dissection to remove those questionable nodes.

Some things for which to thank Him specifically (there are so many):
1. The tumor is responding.
2. Nutrition.
3. Sleep!
4. Such generosity from all of you.
5. Nausea and vomiting under control.
6. Pain is SO much better.
7. Such excellent care at Vanderbilt.
8. Prayers that I can feel!
9. Technology that keeps me connected with all of you.
10. Traveling mercies.

Prayer requests:
1. Always and above all, God's glorification throughout this journey.
2. Complete healing - yet, not our will, but His be done.
3. No nausea or other side effects with amiphostine, but successful protection of my salivary glands.
4. No surgery at the end - yet, not my will, but His be done.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Technological antique

Phone communication has been restored. Text away my friends. If you've sent me a text in the past few days, though, I didn't get it. Unfortunately, those could not be retrieved. It's a long story that has to do with the fact that I tend to use a phone until it qualifies as a technological antique. I'll stop there, but if you're really curious, Brad has a host of stories to tell in this department, and nothing makes him happier. I'll defer to him. So, I'm on the cutting edge again now (for at least 2-3 weeks, right?) and ready to hear from you.

Electronics are just good for the man's soul. Funny how a new phone can make you forget about those cancer cells for a minute.


Many of you have been keeping up with me via text messaging since talking has not been an option. I just wanted to let you know that for the past couple of days my phone has been having some issues. I'm afraid I'm going to have to lay her to rest. So, if you have sent me unanswered texts in the past few days, that is most likely the reason. Even when I am not able to answer them, Doug keeps track. Should have a replacement by later today. If not, I'll let you know. While I'm on here ...

A few other quick notes:
-I am feeling much better this morning mentally, emotionally, and physically.
-My first home feeding went great last night - no nausea or vomiting. Feeding makes me sound like some sort of animal. I just can't figure out what kind since, at this point, I envy the runt of any litter! That will change soon, though, praise the Lord!
-Thank you so much for all your generosity. You have given in many ways, and if I have not thanked you personally with an email or we haven't sent a thank-you card, please know that what you have done from gas cards to smoothies to music and everything outside and in between has been and continues to be so appreciated. My family gives thanks corporately often. It is my desire today that you feel our appreciation in a very personal way. We are so grateful to every single one of you.
-I sense your prayers. They are paramount. One of my favorite songs by Watermark is called More Than You'll Ever Know. The lines that jump out at me these days are ...

You'll never know what it means to me
Just to know you've been on your knees for me
Oh, you have blessed my life
More than you'll ever know

Thank you for getting on your knees for me at a time when it is often too physically straining to accomplish myself. Thank you for loving me so well.

I love you all, but God loves you better. That brings me back to one of my favorites ...

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." -Esphesians 3:17-19

I pray it for all of us.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The fanny pack payback

To all of you who have ever been the object of my derision for sporting a fanny pack, I must now offer my sincerest apologies. Please pardon my bondage to style and failure to embrace functionality. While in the hospital, I was put on some additional medication for nausea that is delivered via a continuous pump infusion. I was assured that it would be like an insulin pump. Have you seen the latest insulin pumps? They're like pagers and getting smaller all the time. This pump - more like a Gameboy. He needs a place to ride. Unfortunately, that place is in the eggplant colored fanny pack made just for him. Since I don't really have a fanny, wearing it around the waist is not an option. So, resting on my shoulder as I travel around is my brand new anti-nausea fanny pack turned man-bag. It's not cute. At this point, though, you could color it pink and label it Nancy's, and I would sport it just the same as long as it keeps the nausea at bay.

As Doug shared with you, those days before the hospital were very, very rough. I would have written sooner, but have not had the mental or physical energy to do so. Hospitalization for a few days with a switch to continuous pump feedings seemed the best answer to get my nausea controlled and my calories back up, and it has helped tremendously on both counts. Today around 4, I will start my first feed here at home. We are trusting that it will go very well.

I will keep this entry short as I still tire very easily, but I do want to make mention of one thing. If I'm repeating myself, please forgive me. Many of you are asking and have asked if there is anything you can do other than pray. We've all heard ourselves say at one time or another, "Well, I guess all I can do is pray." I can't tell you how many times I've uttered those words over the years not truly realizing their gravity. At this point, prayer really is all that most of you can do, but it just so happens that it is also the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do. We all have this need to get our hands dirty. It makes us feel like we have done more if we are needed for something hands-on. I'm sure many of you would line up to take me to my radiation appointments, and I am so grateful knowing I have that kind of network! Of course, I am also grateful that I have a family who is willing, able, and desires to fill those roles. Even though I have an amazing support system, this road is treacherous - it is dark, it has many detours, there are traffic jams, and there are enormous pot-holes. I need your prayers! Oh, how desperately I need them. So, when you think, "What can I do for my friend, Daniel?" Please, get on your knees for me. I need that more than anything, and I can assure you, I need it everyday.

Pray for:
1. complete healing and increased comfort in the meantime
2. His strength
3. His glorification
4. patience - waiting is so hard
5. for many without a personal relationship with Jesus to begin to understand what that means and experience it for themselves as a result of my struggle

Thank you for being with me on this excruciating journey. Thank you for coming alongside me.

Thank God for being with all of us.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good minutes

Daniel warned us there would be dark days; the last few have been just that. On Saturday and Sunday he tolerated his tube feedings but was plagued by mild nausea. We anticipated a good week with weight gain, but at about 4:45 and then again at 5:30 on Monday morning, Daniel experienced extreme and sudden nausea followed by intense vomiting. We all know how unnerving it is to vomit, but for Daniel the irritation is exacerbated by his cancer. Every time the vomit contacts the tumor, his pain worsens. This drains him physically and also mentally because he anticipates what will happen if he "eats."

Daniel was scheduled for radiation on Monday at 12:30, and we kept that appointment. His tongue had developed a white coating a couple of days prior to that, and so we saw the doctor to ask him about it. He explained that Daniel was experiencing mucositis, a common side-effect of radiation. Briefly, radiation breaks down the cancer cells, which makes the mucosal tissue susceptible to ulceration and infection. Thankfully, the doctor said he saw no infection yet. The trade-off for Daniel is that the radiation has lessened the pain of the cancer itself, but now he is beginning to experience its nasty consequences. He is constantly irritated by mucous; unfortunately, he doesn't have the strength to clear his mouth as he would like, and honestly it just hurts. Tonight, he's using a suction machine, which is providing welcomed relief. We will be getting one for home soon. The doctor weighed Daniel, which brings us to today's hospitalization. He had lost another three and a half pounds since last week. You must remember, though, that he had chemotherapy last Tuesday, which meant little or no food the following couple of days, and he had the PEG tube placement last Thursday, which meant no food eight hours prior to the procedure. He didn't get to eat anything until Friday morning at about 10:00 - a couple of bites of JELL-O and one practice tube feeding. So really, last week was a bust food-wise. Daniel has lost almost 24 pounds since April 9.

On Monday evening and again this morning, Daniel consumed very small amounts of tube feeding, but this morning, he vomited again. He had decided last night that he would ask Dr. Gilbert today to admit him to build up his strength and hopefully help him adjust to the feedings; he also thought he should be switched to a continuous pump rather than intermittent syringe feeding. His visit with her started out something like this, "I don't mean to tell you how to do your job, but . . ." She said he was exactly correct. What else would one say to Daniel! He went to radiation after that and then was sent to the chemo infusion area for fluids. Unlike last Thursday, we were given a room within a couple of hours.

He has rested for most of the evening but is actually channel-surfing at the moment. The new chemo he's on causes ringing in his ears and magnifies other noises, so he's wearing earplugs. I'll probably have hearing loss because he's really cranked up the volume on the TV!

Daniel is very sick. As much as all of us are hurting, I can only imagine how he feels. All of you know how he loves life, strangers, adventure, running, climbing, music, worship, friends, and family. Every day he fights for all of that. His stalwart faith inspires us all, but he really needs you now. Pray for him. He covets that. We covet that. I know you are praying, but lift him up to the Father even more. While he is weak, help us stand in his place. Daniel may be slight in body right now, but his spiritual shoes are hard to fill.

For now, I praise God for suction machines, continuous feed pumps, loud TVs, and a few good minutes.

Specific prayer requests:

1. success for the new method of feeding
2. courage and increased faith
3. manageable side-effects
4. to stay close to God and focused on Him
5. healing
6. prayers of thanks for Daniel's medical team

Blessings to you all,


"Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all His benefits." -Psalm 103:2