SOME GOOD NEWS AND SOME SAD NEWS

I don’t want to “bury the lead” so I’ll start by saying I got good news from the doctor today. Many of you know I had to have a CT scan about a month ago, which led to a biopsy about a week and a half ago. Which led to a bunch of new pain in my throat. The doctor was concerned with something she had seen on my PET scan. The CT scan wasn’t conclusive, so she did the biopsy. The results came back that it was fibrosis and scar tissue. Fibrosis is a buildup of fibrous tissue. It is a common side effect of radiation. So, they didn’t find any leftover cancer. This was such a huge relief to us! Of course, they will continue to follow up for quite some time, but it appears that I can put this behind me and get back to healing up.

If they had found ANY cancer cells they would have done surgery. It would have been very invasive – taking out my tonsils, cutting up into the muscles in my jaw, and taking out part of the base of my tongue. In other words, the surgery would have to go everywhere the cancer had spread. It was my doctor’s goal from the very beginning to avoid this surgery if at all possible.

This past month has been a new lesson of living with uncertainty. I am not a very patient person. But times like this force you to be patient. The reality is that none of us has certainty when it comes to physical life. I just learned last night of the sudden death of a colleague and friend, Harald Aadahl. Harald managed Eastover, the retreat center owned by our association. He was out splitting wood on a pleasant afternoon just before dusk. He died suddenly and was found beside his truck. Harald loved working with his hands – and I imagine he was enjoying the day. He either had a massive heart attack or aneurism. He went doing what he loved to do – but way too early in life from our perspective.

I am reminded of Matthew 6.27, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  No, we cannot. We need to learn to live today. Take what comes our way. Be thankful for what we have. In this same message from Jesus, he tells us that God knows what we need. If we truly believe that God is in control, AND that a better life waits for us when we die – we shouldn’t worry. To once again quote blues guitarist Albert King, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

I don’t know about you – I still worry! I’m not an optimist or a pessimist. I am a realist. I could die today. I know that. And on one level I’m OK with it. Yet, I’m not homesick for heaven. I’d just as soon be around for a long time to come. I’ve still got ministry to do, and fish to catch. I want to grow old with Peggy spoiling our grandkids. I’m hugely relieved to hear my medical good news. And once again, am very grateful for all the wonderful medical people who have fought hard to get me here. I don’t take it for granted for one moment. At the same time, I hurt for Harald’s family who I am sure are left wondering why. We all know he is in that better place. But for selfish reasons, we wish he were still here.

Heavy stuff…

Anyway, thanks again for every one of you who constantly tell me that you have been praying for me. It means more that you can ever know.


 

REMISSION!

I had a PET/CT Scan last week. This scan looks for places in your body that have unusual activity. This is done by sending some radioactive sugar into your blood stream and tracking where it ends up. In my case, I had to lay perfectly still for two 30 minute periods back to back while the machine took pictures.

Today, I went to Dr. Mattern to get the results. We had to wait for what seemed like forever, since the PET Institute had forgotten to send the results over. They finally faxed it over. The results were that the tumor has shrunk quite a bit, and the two lymph nodes have gone back to normal size. I am officially in remission. So this is good news. Of course, I will need to have more PET scans in the future. The next one will probably be in 3 months. I don’t feel like I can really celebrate until this thing is totally gone.

Meanwhile, I have been suffering for several days with a nasty ear infection. I’ve never had an ear infection before. It really hurts, and it aggrivates the sore in my throat left over from the radiation. Other side effcets are stubbornly hanging on as well. I am so impatient to get back to “normal”!


 

THANKSGIVING

 

It has been about five weeks since my treatments ended. I still have lingering side effects, some of which will continue for some time. I have had trouble with my stomach throughout the process. At this point the problem is very strong acid reflux. I’ve been on four different medicines for this, none seem to work. Hopefully, I will soon get an appointment to see a specialist. I also still have sores in my throat left over from the radiation. One has healed up, but two others are still there. I have trouble swallowing. My salivary glands have been cooked so my mouth is constantly dry. I can eat foods, but I must wash down every bite with water. And finally, a lot of things don’t taste right because they also fried my taste buds. From about half way through the treatments I haven’t been able to taste anything sweet. A lot of other things just taste bland.

Having said all of that, I did enjoy Thanksgiving. There was enough food that I could taste – turkey, ham, vegetables, etc., allowing me to enjoy the day. I still can’t eat a lot, but what I ate was good. It was great to have a big family celebration including my parents, four of our kids, their spouses, and two grandkids. I helped the kids make some Thanksgiving crafts (not my specialty!), and Gracie, the older one, created a fun photo booth. We watched the Redskins lose to Dallas – the worst part of the day.

Today I had a doctor remove my feeding tube. It was so good getting rid of that thing. With my picc line gone, and now the peg line gone I will finally feel “normal”. You pick up a lot of ne vocabulary during treatment. A “port line” is inserted in the chest. It has a small reservoir under the skin. It is typically used for long term treatments. I didn’t have one of them. A “picc” line is inserted in the upper arm, and a catheter goes through the vein to a major artery near the heart. It is typically used for short term treatments. Both are used to administer IV’s for treatment. A “peg line” is a flexible feeding tube inserted through the belly directly into the stomach. It is used for feeding when a person can’t take food by mouth. So now I have no external plumbing. YAH! More reason to be thankful.

Now I just have to wait until January to have a PET scan to determine if the cancer is indeed gone from my body. They have to wait until my throat heals up from the radiation before a PET scan can give an accurate read. I have follow up visits with my two main cancer doctors next week. Meanwhile, bring on Christmas!