Thursday, August 28, 2008
As we waited for him to be escorted to surgery, we shared and prayed. We knew God was in the room. The night before we had discussed with Daniel that we would do our best not to cry and carry on as he was taken to the operating room. To remind us of how God likes to work, the lady who came to transport Daniel began praising God as soon as she entered the room. She came earlier than we expected and said the doctor was already waiting for him. She took time, though, to ask if she could say a "word of prayer" first. Quickly, we gathered around Daniel's bed, held hands, and proceeded to hear one of the most heartfelt and beautiful prayers we'd ever heard. Everyone's tensions were eased, and our new friend continued to speak peace to Daniel, Mom, and me as we entered the pre-op holding area. God was in the room.
The anesthesiologists and surgeons were worried that because of Daniel's enlarged neck nodes his airway might be encroached upon, which would make intubation very difficult. The anesthesiologist told us that if Daniel's airway proved to be a problem, he might need to be intubated longer than normal and might even have to spend the night in ICU. Naturally, this was cause for concern, but the anesthesiologist was so personable and thorough that she calmed us quickly. Later news came from the OR that intubation had gone smoothly - no complications. God was in the room.
Waiting for progress reports from the nurse was difficult, but we were blessed to have a whole passel of family and friends supporting us and Daniel here at the hospital and, of course, even more all over the place! Thank you all! After waiting a few hours, we were called to meet with the surgeon. He explained that the surgery went very well with no complications and said that Daniel's hip pain should subside once the surgery pain is gone. God was in the room.
The surgeon said that Daniel will require two to three weeks of focused radiation to the hip to help prevent the tumor's return. He also said he noticed three millimeter-sized spots in Daniel's lungs that had not been seen before. He doesn't know what they represent. We will deal with that later. God will be in the room.
Last night was trying. At one point Daniel told me his pain was as bad as his worst tongue cancer pain, maybe even worse. His pain regimen is being adjusted, and today is a much better day. Those of you who saw Daniel yesterday would be much happier if you saw him today.
Please continue to pray for Daniel's healing. We know that God has all power and CAN heal him completely if He so chooses. I heard Daniel tell someone this week that either way, he wins. While all of us want Daniel to be with us for many years, we know that we have no power over life and death. Daniel has told me more than once this summer that we could die in an accident on the way to the doctor to help me remember that God is always ultimately in control. And, of course, no matter what we face, God will be in the room.
God bless you all for your love and support of our family.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Swartz (the orthopedic surgeon) both stressed that this is not a curative surgery. The goal is pain control and prevention of fracture, which would be almost inevitable if something isn't done very soon.
Dr. Gilbert also stressed that our goal with my treatment in general has now shifted from cure to giving me the best quality of life for the remainder of my life - however long that may be. She does not attempt to give me a time frame, because no human can do that at this point. Medically speaking, I could have weeks, months, even years. No one, but our Great God can give us an answer to that question. As the song Healer says, "He holds my world in His hands."
Indeed, He does hold my world, your world ... the entire world in His loving-kind hands. Of course, there is no adjective that describes adequately what it feels like to be told that
you are dying. There are plenty, however, to describe the God I attempt to serve, and I would prefer to focus on Him. Loving-kind is one of my favorites. It just has a special ring to it, and it is so true of God's character. There is one who never doubted the goodness of God in the most perilous of times. Job pointed out several things that I have discussed before, but I think it is time to revisit them ...
Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. -Job 14:5
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. -Job 13:15
I know that you can do all things. No plan of yours can be thwarted. -Job 42:2
I would love to write more, and I hope to be able to do that soon, but I need rest now. I do want to leave you with some important thoughts, though.
God is my doctor.
God is not frightened by cancer.
God decided how many days I have, and he has known since Before There Was Time (a great song by Caedmon's Call).
God remains undisturbed in the face of news that can rock us to the core.
GOD IS IN CONTROL.
I love you all - even those of you whom I have never met. I love you, because Jesus Christ loved you and me first. We have talked a lot about a personal relationshp with Christ. Because of that relationship, death (though not preferred) represents gain. In death, those of us who have trusted Christ for forgiveness through His sacrifice on the cross, gain the joy of being in His presence! In life, we have the joy of resting (if we will) in communion with Him every day. As I have asked before, if you don't understand this relationship that He offers, please talk with someone who can lead you to a better understanding of Him. Life is too short to wait. We have no guarantee of tomorrow.
Make no mistake, God is cabable of healing me if He so chooses, and I will continue to pray that He heal me if it is in His will. If He chooses otherwise, He is still my loving-kind Father, and I hope, if you haven't already, that you will make Him yours.
Back to tomorrow ... as one of my favorite old hymns says (and, I may be repeating myself), I don't know about tomorrow, but I know who holds my hand.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Today at 530, I am scheduled for MRI of the hips and pelvis along with an x-ray of the right femur.
I do not believe this is cancer, but I would still appreciate your prayers. Obviously, there is a certain bit of alarm associated with your doctor ordering tests to rule out spread of cancer.
God remains in control, though, and I will place my trust in Him by asking that he protect me from any spread of this cancer. I continue to ask that He heal me completely if it is according to His will, but first and foremost, I pray that He be glorified in my response to this challenge. It's all about Jesus - everything, always.
Thank you for your prayers.
Also, thank you for praying faithfully for the others I have mentioned here. Robert Marascalco now has a Caring Bridge site where you can keep up with his progress. I have added a link in my links section. Please visit when you can. He and his family would be very appreciative.
A dear supporter sent me a card in the mail that said, "Don't worry about tomorrow ... God is already there." I love that! It cited Jeremiah 29:11. Look that one up if you don't know it - you'll be glad you did. Have a wonderful day.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The caption says, "God Shines In Our Darkest Moments." The verse says ...
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9
I'm writing a quick note today asking for your prayers. I know you are all praying already, and I feel like a broken record asking. I believe in your prayers, though, and I know you want to know. The second half of yesterday was rough. Today has brought some relief, but I wanted to fill you in on the current challenges. The mucus is about the same, but the mouth sores have been on fire. I have been having to use my numbing medication very frequently. This is particularly disheartening, because I had begun trying to drink some high calorie supplements to help with strengthening. With the sores being more painful, I will have to back off that. I feel like I am making them worse, which will prolong getting back to regular food, and I certainly don't want to do that. Also, I have developed some right hip pain that is no doubt due to sitting in a chair for so much of the day (I have to sleep in a chair due to my mucus and to feed at night).
Please pray for deliverance from these obstacles. I trust what He says - that His power is made perfect in my weakness. I am definitely weak right now, but I know He is sufficient - always more than enough. Thank you for approaching Him on my behalf.
Also, continue to pray for Mr. Carroll. He had his first chemo yesterday. He will have another round today and tomorrow and then a break until next week. Pray that he will not experience difficult side effects.
And, continue to remember my friend, Robert Marascalco. His surgery is scheduled for September 4th. He is in a good deal of pain, but still working. Pray for strength and healing.
Finally, remember my friend Jay's dad, Stan Cross. I believe I mentioned him before. He has lymphoma, not oral cancer, like the others. He is currently undergoing 6-8 months of chemo. Remember him and his family.
Thank you all so very much. You have no idea what your prayers mean to me. I love you, I thank the Father for you, and I hope you are all having a wonderful week.
Monday, August 18, 2008
From left: Angela Sadler, Ray Sadler, Sara Acara, Cindy
Comperry, Me, Randy Smith, Lizzy Smith. Front: Georgia.
That's more than enough appointment recall - let's get to the important stuff. I read a lot in the Psalms yesterday, because it is filled with worship offerings to our Great God like the one used at the beginning of this post. There are so many to choose from. I encourage you to pick out a couple and really sing, shout, whisper, pray, or cry them out to Him today. He deserves our unending adoration - our unending, audible adoration.
Here are a few more selections on which to reflect:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. -Psalm 100:1-5
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. -Psalm 95:1-7
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you. -Psalm 84:10-12
I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. -Psalm 89:1
Bottom line: I cannot thank Him enough for what He has done and is doing. I simply don't have the words or ability to express adequately how He has come to my rescue in the last few days. I'm glad He can see the heart, and I hope He finds it bursting with gratitude. The road ahead is still uncertain, but as the wonderful old hymn says ... "I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand." Thank you, Jesus, for holding our hands even when we doubt your presence.
The Psalm used at the beginning of this post spoke of God forgiving all our sins and healing all our diseases. While I am grateful that He has the power to heal all our diseases and I believe He is choosing to do just that with mine, it doesn't matter if all our diseases are healed but we miss the forgiveness of sins. I know many of you reading this blog already know Jesus as your Savior. I pray that you continue to grow in your relationships with Him. If there is anyone reading, however, who has not begun a personal relationship with Jesus ... please consider His beautiful invitation. Forget what you've heard about Him. Pick up the Bible for yourself and learn who He really is and what He desires for you. Start in John 3. He did not come to condemn. He came to know, love, and rescue us all. He waits with widely opened arms.
1. No surgery, especially on the tongue.
2. Continued recovery and relief from side effects.
3. Protection from nausea and choking as I try to get back to a normal diet.
4. Strength to return to work soon.
5. Mr. Carroll - his first chemo treatment is tomorrow. He is in a lot of pain right now.
6. My new friend, Robert Marascalco, who is also 34 years old and recently diagnosed with tongue cancer. He should receive some important test results today. He expects to be having surgery soon. He has a wife and two young children. Please keep him in your prayers as he begins this journey.Praises:
1. Couldn't begin to name them all.
2. Less mucus!
3. Feeling stronger!
4. The obvious presence of the Father.
6. A family who serves and serves and serves.
7. Extended family and friends who love me so well.
Soak yourself in the blessings of every moment this week. Savor all the wonderful little things. God bless you all.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Imagine the sting of Jesus pointing out your lack of faith face to face? How many times have we read this passage and thought the disciples were dull for not trusting they would be okay with Jesus at their side? I know it has crossed my mind. I am often lacking in faith myself, though. How about you?
I've been absent from you for a week now. From your emails, texts, and posts, I know you were all overjoyed that my treatment had come to a close. Indeed, it was and is cause for much joy, and I greatly appreciate your celebration on my behalf. I will not miss chemotherapy infusions. Infinitely more, I will not miss having my head bolted, for lack of a better descriptor, underneath a wicked looking mask to a radiation table. Here, I should pause and praise the Father for being on that table with me every day. I'm not sure I've done that yet, but He deserves it. At first, it was quite overwhelming to lie down on that table, but He quickly revealed that He would be there every day. He was. One of my greatest fears was having a vomiting episode during a treatment as mucus collected in my mouth. I prayed for protection from that - He never allowed it to happen. He was always there just as He had promised He would be. May we never forget His promise in the first chapter of Joshua.
If you count today, it has been 5 days since I had a radiation treatment. Am I elated about that? Absolutely! Praise the Father in Heaven it has come to an end! You might have expected to hear this from me sooner, so let me try to explain where I am now and how it relates to the disciples and their boating incident. I have been warned from the start that the side effects of this treatment regimen would be grizzly. I have shared many of the possibilities with you - severely sore throat, mouth ulcerations, neck burn, neck stiffness, tooth decay, and thick, copious mucus among many other possibilities. So far, my neck has held up really well. I have mildly burned skin, which is looking better every day and never reached the painful point that many patients must endure. My neck is not overly stiff. I do have a severely sore throat when I attempt to swallow. I do have multiple ulcerations in my mouth. I have medication to numb those, and I am tolerating them. My teeth seem to have weathered the storm, as well. The constant mucus production has been my most challenging side effect by far. It is so hard to explain and not a very pleasant topic to read about I'm sure. The best I can do to help you understand is to imagine your mouth producing thick, odorous mucus 24/7. I imagine you must think, "Big deal - it's just a little mucus!" That's exactly the thing, though - it's not a little mucus at all. It is mucus, mucus, mucus everywhere in your mouth all day long. The thickness, the threat of vomiting, and the pain of the mouth sores make it hard to expectorate.
The mucus also delays my resumption of real food, so I remain on a feeding tube. Thankfully, I am maintaining my weight with the tube, so I just have to remind myself that this challenge will pass, as well. My hope is that by the time the mucus has subsided enough to try eating, my throat soreness will have diminished some, as well. I have high hopes of eating at least broths and soft foods by another week or so. Also, since the mucus is so thick and it is still hard to take in enough fluids, I am getting IV fluids every day for the next couple of weeks. We have gotten this set up at home, and it is going well.
Every transition in my treatment process brings major psychological adjustment. Yes, it was great to be home, great to be done with radiation, great that in just a few weeks I could be eating again ... BUT, it was so daunting to think about starting IV fluids at home every day (more tubes!), so daunting to think about never ending mucus that could last as much as 6 weeks, and so daunting to think that though I had made it through treatment a waiting period had begun. I quickly realized that I would have to wait weeks to see when the mucus would clear, when I could eat, when I could get rid of my feeding tube, when I could get rid of my anti-nausea pump, and when I might or might not have to have surgery on the nodes in my neck! Do you sense the anxiety? It was just overwhelming for a day or two, and I must admit, I did not do well. I have sent many of you pleas for fervent prayer over the last few days. I still covet those prayers.
When I opened my devotion today, however, I realized that I had not been exercising much faith over the last few days. Oh me of little faith! Yes, this mucus is the most mind-numbing thing I think I have ever had to endure, but have I forgotten that He is here? Have I forgotten the pain he endured? Have I forgotten that there are others suffering more than I could ever imagine? Have I forgotten that He calms storms?
As it turns out, I'm quite a bit like those frightened disciples. Perhaps I wasn't absolutely confident that He would be the God of this mucus. Oswald Chambers says, "What a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced downright joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead."
Let us believe Him from the beginning of our crisis so as to create downright joy in Him. I would so much rather offer Him downright joy than a lackluster faith. Father, forgive me for where I have had the slightest doubt that you would deliver from the beginning to the end!
With all that said, I do have several important requests for you:
1. Pray for rapid resolution of these side effects. Obviously, the mucus is at the top of my list. I am anxious to get back to eating, working, and seeing all of you.
2. My third grade teacher, a wonderful woman named Faye Franklin, passed away yesterday after battling cancer for many years. Please remember her family (husband Nick and daughters Lora and Holli) in your prayers. She was a very gifted teacher, and she will be remembered so fondly having touched countless lives.
3. Continue to pray for Mr. Carroll. His doctors have found that the cancer involves his chest, as well. He has an appointment tomorrow for next steps. Please remember him, his wife, and his son and family - my friends Brian and Elizabeth Carroll. They have two young daughters, Hannah and Emma. Navigating their questions during this time can be difficult.
Let us not forget to offer praise, as well.
1. Praise Him that radiation is over!
2. Praise Him that He is God of the side effects that remain!
3. Praise Him that He has promised to walk with us through any fire that is to come - from the beginning!
4. Praise Him because He is worthy of never ending gratitude!
5. My friend Bryan Larson continues to make progress. Check out his link if you have time.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
First, you must share in the joy that I have only 2 treatments remaining! That's right! On Thursday of this very week, I will receive my last radiation treatment God-willing. Do you have any idea how it feels to go from 33 treatments remaining to 2 treatments remaining?! It feels like such a tremendous blessing from the Father of light, hope, love, and peace. I know that you have prayed to Him on my behalf so many times for help making it through these treatments, and I firmly believe that your prayers have been answered. As difficult as the treatment has been, I cannot accept anything other than mine has been less difficult than it would have been without your petitions to the Father on my behalf. I know this to be true, and I am so grateful.
Doug may have shared this with you in an email, but I must also tell you that I was able to go to church this weekend for the first time in so long. What a sweet time of worship I had! I praise Him for those sweet moments. Oh, if everyone could understand and believe just how real and wonderful He is.
I do have a special request as I transition into the next phase. After treatment ends this week, I will enter into a waiting period of sorts. I will be waiting for side effects to decrease and for my appointment with the surgeon to see if he thinks any surgery is still warranted. I won't have an appointment with him until the end of August. That will be a preliminary examination. Then, about 3 weeks later, I expect to have a CT and more definitive plans to be made. I ask you to pray for my faith to have strong legs. I want to trust Him more than I ever have in my life. That is what this requires and that is what He deserves. I have gone back and forth on what to ask for specifically where surgery is concerned. Certainly, I ask you to pray that none is required for my tongue. At first, my medical common sense wouldn't allow me to ask that none would be required on my neck either (a couple of lymph nodes remain very swollen), but I am trying to remember that if He can create this world, he can shrink my neck even after the treatment has ended. He is the Great Physician, and we must not forget that no matter how much knowledge he entrusts to us. Pray that surgery won't be necessary, but that His will be done and accepted with steadfast faith - not my own.
One more thing I need to tell you today. In typing a response to a message from a friend earlier, I was reminded of something that I have said so many times throughout my life. He has never failed me. He has never failed me. He has never failed me! Truly, He hasn't! He won't now.
He won't fail you either.
Two more prayer requests: Don't forget to pray for Mr. Carroll as he deals with oral cancer of his own. Again, it is in his bone, so it much more involved. He must have all his teeth removed before starting chemo and radiation. You can imagine the prayers for strength that he needs.
Pray for my caregivers at Vanderbilt. Pray that I would be bold in sharing my faith with them during these last few days of treatment.
Verses sent to me by a dear Aunt in a card:
Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation. -Psalm 91:14-16