Monday, November 11, 2013

Still in the Palm of His Hand

Still in the Palm of His Hand

As many of you know, we met with our oncologist on Friday to go over the results of the CT scan to see if the tumor is leaking fluid (remember the stick-a-needle-in-my-belly procedure?). Turns out that the CT scan revealed ... well ... no change. The tumor is still there, it hasn't moved or grown, my pancreas isn't inflamed ... in fact, it looks remarkably similar to the CT scan I took about a month ago. Which begs the question - where is the liquid coming from? Between Tuesday, when I had the paracentesis, and Friday, when we met with the doctor, my abdomen had filled up again.

The doctor thinks that the cancer may have spread to the peritoneum, which is a membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and damaged it enough to cause it to leak. It wouldn't be detectable by the CT scan; in truth, the only way to verify it is surgery. So, we're dropping one of the drugs in my chemotherapy regimen and adding a new one; one that was recently approved for pancreatic cancer patients. It's actually been around awhile, initially as a treatment for breast cancer, but has proven effective at pancreatic cancer as well.

As you read this, you might be thinking "this doesn't sound good" or you might be saddened at the prospect that the cancer might be spreading. You know, we spend a tremendous amount of time in our lives trying to avoid disappointment, tragedy and heartache. They are givens in this fallen world and, to a large extent, we do succeed at avoiding them. We try not to speed or text when we drive and we try to make wise choices. Still, the abundant life isn't defined by how well we avoid disappointment, tragedy and heartache; it's defined by how well we react to them. Instead of asking "What now, God?", the question I ask is "How might You be glorified when I'm at this breaking point?"

On Friday, we spent some 'hangout' time with my son and his wife. We haven't seen them in awhile because of the busyness of life but when he asked just to hang out, I realized how much I miss them and need to spend time with them. God has given me this son and this daughter and I will cherish the gifts He has given - for His Glory.

This Saturday, I did the benediction at a friend's wedding. The couple's children were there so the prayer was intended to include the family as a whole. Getting ready beforehand took both Gail and myself since my abdomen was in full distention and afterwards, I was physically exhausted but during the prayer, my voice was strong, the prayer was a little longer than your typical benediction and many commented on it during the reception. For His Glory.

After the wedding, I spoke with another long-time friend who I discipled back when I didn't know what discipleship was. He expressed his thanks for the impact I brought into his life. He's become a tremendous husband and dad ... there is hope ... even for Sooner fans. For His Glory.

Gail and I continue to be blessed by the generosity of friends; I am still surprised when unspoken needs are met with tangible gifts. For His Glory.
My mind now focuses on the upcoming expedition to Israel which I know will be physically taxing but spiritually uplifting. There is a medical component so I'll be surrounded by doctors and nurses. There is an evangelism component which I fully intend on participating ... at least for one day. My own doctor had no problem with me going into the emergency ward in Jerusalem if a paracentesis is needed; the medical facilities there are as good as in the States. God has laid it all out and allayed Gail's fears; this expedition will be for His Glory.

My cancer remains a poor excuse and a weak obstacle not to commit myself to the role He has given me in building His church. For His Glory.

Please pray that:
  • I continue to walk in truth; it brings Him joy;
  • the new drug that I'll be getting at 10:30 this morning will be effective;
  • the second paracentesis I'll be getting at 1:30 this afternoon will go well;
  • that Gail and I will be wise during some decisions we need to make;
  • that I remain in awe of what He has done through my family and my friends.

In the Palm of His Hand,

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

And I Thought I Was Having A Rough Time Of It

The more I watch Duck Dynasty, the more I appreciate the value of a dead squirrel. A squirrel had been teasing our dogs unmercifully, running along the top of the backyard fence causing all kinds of dog ruckus that, of course, feeds the neighborhood dogs. The squirrel wasn't running away ... just running around. There are fines in Richardson if I do the Uncle Si thing and catching it is not on my bucket list. ​One morning, though, our youngest dog, Momo, was trotting around in a big circle in the backyard ... with a dead squirrel in her mouth. The squirrel got careless or slipped or just got into the leaping reach of Momo. Never having done such a thing before, Momo didn't know quite what to do and trotting around with a squirrel seemed like the proper thing to do. As I focused on the now dead squirrel, my mind began to think "... and I thought I was having a rough time of it ..."

My Rough Time
I've developed a condition called ascites which is liquid that is leaking into my abdominal cavity. With nowhere to go, it's caused something called an abdominal distention where my belly is right around 4-5 times it's normal size. The abdominal distention has caused no end of problems - wearing most of my clothes is an effort of futility, swelling in my legs, ankles, feet which puts shoes in the same category as clothes, etc. The liquid is most likely coming from the tumor which indicates it may be growing. The only real treatment for folks with my type of cancer and the severity of the distention is paracentesis which basically means "stick-a-big-needle-in-your-stomach-and-remove-the-liquid". I'm scheduled for just such a procedure today at 11:30am. Tomorrow, I'll go in for a CAT scan to see if the scan can reveal anything new about the tumor, it's size and any other anomalies. Then, on Friday, we sit down with the doctor at 1:30pm and go over the results of everything. It may result in a change of the 'chemo-cocktail' but that's a bridge we'll cross in a few days. And, of course, this happens during what has to be the most dreary, cold and wet weeks we've had all year.

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the one who made heaven and earth." PSALM 121:1-2.

That was my verse for the day. Seriously. I was reminded of Where and from Whom my help will come. And there's something about that kind of reminder that causes anxiety to diminish and peace to reign; causes my fears to weaken in the Light of His word. It's exactly the kind of reminder I need when faced with the prospects of a "stick-a-big-needle" procedure this afternoon.

Prayer Requests

  • That I would be an encouragement to the doctors and nurses (especially the one holding the needle) for the paracentesis this afternoon at 11:30am.
  • That the CAT scan on Wednesday will reveal what He wants us to know to make wise decisions.
  • That none of this will disrupt our plans to participate in an e3 expedition to Israel this December.
  • That I am ever aware of sufficiency in His grace, strength in His embrace, and comfort in His Word.
  • That His Peace and Presence overwhelms my fear and anxiety.


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Context, Context, Context

He Really is in the Details

Thanks for all your prayers during my recent CAT » DOG «backwards» GOD scan (long story ... but kind of fun - ask me about it some time). We went over the results with our oncologist yesterday and ... well ... a little context first ...

Back on April 9, I was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. I had no idea what that was so I did the exact wrong thing - I googled it. I'm in the hospital with nurses and doctors all around me and I'm on my iPad googling "pancreatic cancer facts". There's a wealth of knowledge out there and almost none of it encouraging. Here's a few things I gleaned from various medical websites:
  • In the U.S. alone, over 37,000 are estimated to die of pancreatic cancer this year.
  • 50% will die within the first six months of diagnosis.
  • 74% will die within the first year of diagnosis.
  • 94% will die within the first five years of diagnosis.
  • Only 6% will survive more than five years.
Cheery, right? The biggest problem is that pancreatic cancer has very few symptoms and, by the time it's diagnosed, it's already spread to other organs. Steve Jobs lived eight years after his diagnosis because he had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that grew very slowly and was more easily treatable. Patrick Swayze lived 20 months after his diagnosis while Michael Landon only lived three.

Tomorrow will be a milestone of sorts — October 9 will be six months after my diagnosis. I'm still here and I'm still kicking. No, really; I'm kicking ... like waist-level high with a little help since my balance has gone out the window. Stop chuckling; I'm still a black belt.

With that context in mind (the cancer, not the kicking), you'll understand why our meeting with our oncologist was encouraging. My tumor is still there, it's still localized (hasn't spread anywhere) and it's still about the same size. One of the most common phrases throughout the report was "no significant change". And my tumor markers are the lowest they've been (45) since I was diagnosed. My lungs and liver are clear and the mass from the last scan has disappeared. The radiation therapy and the chemo therapies have pretty much stopped the cancer in it's tracks. In our hearts, we were hopeful for much more dramatic news (Tumor? What tumor?) but if I have to be treated with these same chemotherapies for next the 4½ years, I'll take that because then it's time to write a paper for oncology journals; my doctor said he'd help.

But here's the thing. Remember those stats earlier? Well, consider this:
  • 100% of those who surrender their lives to Him will come into His presence.
  • 100% of those who walk in truth cause joy in His heart.
  • 100% of those who are crucified in Him know it's not about dying but Who lives in us.
  • 100% of His promises are kept though not always in the way we want or expect.
  • 100% of those who believe know that in this world, we will have trials and sufferings; yet we are of good cheer because He has overcome the world.
I may be a part of both sets of statistics but only one really matters to me.

If you're praying -
  • Pray that He will continue to sustain me at work - I got a visit in my office today from an African pastor who really just wanted to thank those of us who work at the corporate headquarters for what we do. It's funny that he had no idea what my condition is but knew the exact right encouraging words to say.
  • Pray that He sends me better scuba gear - I often feel like the tasks and projects are carrying me under but instead of struggling to get my head above water, I think I just need better scuba gear (This is from the Stop Complaining And Work On A Solution department of my work ethic).
  • On Thursday, I have a phone interview with an Australian radio station about my I am Second film. I'm content with being officially the second film released even though I did the prototype; I'm content because, with I am Second, being first is not always a good thing. Plus, if he asks "So, what's been happening since you did that film?", we'll have a lot more to talk about.
  • Pray for Gail and I as we prepare for an e3 trip to Israel in December with Tom Doyle.
  • Thank Him for designing Man to make chocolate - it's the mini-sized things that brought smiles to the IT department today.
  • Thank Him for letting me look into the faces of my grandkids tonight.
Today is a good day.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

What about a DOG scan?

Diagnostic Optical Graphicplanar?

Have you ever wondered if people make up acronyms just to spell out their favorite words? Computer Assisted Tomography or Computed Tomography is commonly called a CAT scan. But what if you're a dog person? Couldn't we just call it a Diagnostic Optical Graphicplanar to make it a DOG scan and create a great new word (graphicplanar) for Words with Friends? It goes back to the old joke that a DOG says "You feed me, you shelter me, you pet me, you love me ... you must be God" while a CAT says "You feed me, you shelter me, you pet me, you love me ... I must be God!" (Many thanks to Bob Sjogren)

All this to say that I'm scheduled for a DOG (or CAT) scan today (10/4) at 4:00pm. 

In the palm of His Hands,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Good News ... Bad News

Comparison Can Suck the Joy Right Out of the Day

Which do you want to hear first; the good news or the bad news? How you answer might reveal a little bit about yourself but what if you let someone else's good news become twisted in your ear to where it becomes bad news in your own life? That's when I learned that comparison can suck the joy right out of the day.

On Friday, I heard that someone became cancer free. Instead of rejoicing, I simply dwelt in the valley of Whys: Why does he get to have a surgery? Why not me? Have I not been faithful? Have I not been prayed? Why is my immediate future filled with chemo and more tests? Walking in this valley just got me angry; so much so that I began taking it out on other people. Finally, Gail enters the picture to find out what's wrong with me and the anger dissolved into tears. I hadn't fully realized it but Gail had already visited this particular valley on multiple occasions. By Prayer and Presence, she walked me right out of it. By being so focused on how He chose to heal someone else, I nearly missed all the ways He is moving in my life:
  • A buddy whose friendship I measure in decades arranged it so that I was able to preach my sermon on Resiliency: the Art of Bouncing Back at Prestonwood Baptist Church to their Singles department. If you've got 40 or so minutes free, click here to listen and let me know what you think.
  • Another buddy, also a decades long friendship, was up from Houston and took care of a number of honey-do tasks outside and inside the house.
  • Another friend, who I've gotten to know over the past few years, came over to mow my lawn. It wasn't the first time.
  • I got an email this week that a radio program in Australia wants to interview me about my I am Second film.
  • On Wednesday, I learned that my tumor marker was down to 45; the range for a person without cancer is 0-35.
  • For the last three weeks, I've actually gained weight. For the 10 or so weeks prior, I was losing 1-5 pounds every week.
  • Had lunch with a buddy who has a very intriguing idea for a book. I'm looking forward to contributing what I can.
  • Another friend and sushi-buddy was talking to his young son about me and his son was moved to write me a get well card and draw one of my favorite things in the world - sushi!

And the list goes on. By focusing on how He's moving in my life, I am aware of His Presence. And in His Presence … well, that's where I want to be.

For Prayer:
  • At 10am on Thursday, I'll be having an ultrasound on my legs. They're a little swollen and we just want to make sure there are no blood clots. At least the gel they use for the ultrasound is very warm.
  • Next week, I'll go in for a CT scan. It will give us an idea of whether this current round of chemotherapy is effective and if the tumor is shrinking.
  • My blood counts have been low so we've tweaked my chemo schedule to where I'm taking the infusion every other week. What this really means is that I only have to pay the co-pay 3 times every 6 weeks instead of 4; every little bit helps.

In the Palm of His Hands,

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Roller Coasters

Roller Coasters

I love roller coasters. Not in the same way I love my wife, of course, but there's something about the speed, being pushed into your seat, twisting rolls, huge drops that is just ... exhilarating. It always brings me to the summers of my youth, going to park after park in Southern California to ride old favorites as well as the newest and latest. There are times, however, when roller coasters are not nearly so much fun. These past couple of weeks have been a roller coaster of sorts; emotionally ... physically ... even spiritually.

Many of you know I had a procedure a couple of weeks ago to take a closer look at the tumor. We then met with the surgeon who confirmed the tumor was non-resectable - no operation. It was disappointing; we had hoped our surgeon would be able to do his thing and I'd be on a road to recovery instead of ... more of the same. That's when I realized that the most disappointing moments have been when things didn't happen when I thought they should. Thus, the seeds of a sermon on being resilient began to grow.

I preached that sermon last Sunday. When we reach a breaking point (or points), are we a resilient people? Will we be defined by the breaking point or by our response? We cannot change the cards He deals us; just how we play the hand.

We met with our regular oncologist on Tuesday to go over all the results. My tumor markers were zigging instead of zagging; three weeks ago, my markers shot from 61 to 91 (low number good, high number not so much) which is ... attention getting. The results of the most recent test weren't in yet but if my markers continued to rise, I'd go in for a CT scan and I'd be put on a more aggressive (and more debilitating) treatment.

Yesterday, I learned my markers are at 63. The phrase "Thank you Lord" was never uttered so quickly.

I know many of you are continuing to pray that tumor will be reduced enough for an operation and that God would heal me fully and completely, restoring me to good health. I covet those intercessory prayers and appreciate all who find the time to lift up me and my family. But, if you'll indulge me, I'm requesting that your prayers for me today would not be about Asking; instead, let them be about Praising:
  • Praise that the tumor is actually getting smaller. The latest scans show it went from 5cm to 4.8cm. Who knows? In 5-10 years, I may be called into that surgery I so very much wanted.
  • Praise that my grandkids (oblivious to the physical changes in me) smile brightly when they see me.
  • Praise that He's given me the energy to keep working. My job has a very real eternal perspective as well as a mundane technological one.
  • Praise that He is in His Heavens and He does what pleases Him.
  • Praise that it pleases Him to meet me in at my breaking point.
  • Praise that cancer is a poor obstacle and a lousy excuse not to conform to Him.

In the Palm of His Hands,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pine-Sol® with a pleasant hint of cherry

Endoscopic resect-a-whatsis?

The last time I weighed 125 lbs, the wind was rushing through my hair as I ran the 120 yd high hurdles for my high school track team. I wasn't the best hurdler out there but did make it to State only to fall over the third hurdle in the finals.

I now weigh 125 lbs and wind does not rush through my hair; it blows the hair right off my head. Any sort of confrontation with a hurdle these days would result in complete victory for the inanimate object (I know, I know; as a black belt, I've taught many students to walk away from confrontation but hurdles don't hit back!).

So, I've started an appetite stimulant called megestrol or megace which tastes like ... you guessed it ... Pine-Sol® with a pleasant hint of cherry. You'd think that by the taste, it would have an opposite effect on the appetite but we'll know in a couple of days.

Many of you know my oncologist recommended that we talk to the surgical oncologist about the possibility of surgery even though the CT scan showed no change in the size of the tumor. We met with the surgeon and he didn't say "No; the tumor is unresectable." Resectable just means removable though I'm unsure why it's used instead of remove or removable. Maybe it's a doctor thing. Instead, the surgeon recommended something called an endoscopic ultrasound or EUS. It's an outpatient procedure that I've had twice already; this time, it will provide the surgeon with more information before he decides whether the tumor can be removed or not. (See? Isn't that clearer than 'tumor can be resected or not.'?).

So, on Monday, August 26 at 6am, I'll be at Medical Center Plano for the EUS procedure and expect to be home before noon. Once the anesthesia wears off, I should be good to go. Which is a good thing because on Sunday, September 1 at 10:30am, I'll be preaching at my home church. We'll take a biblical look at the Art of Bouncing Back which has to do with being resilient in times of trial - a topic that resonates with me.

"Without suffering, how can one know Joy?" This was a common argument I found during my study on Joy in March. It's a dualist thought like day/night, light/darkness, good/bad. But is it true? Instead of being two sides of the same coin, I think suffering (trial) and Joy are two totally different coins altogether. The Joy coin is that old JFK 50¢ piece or that silver dollar (the big ones, not the Susan B or Sacajawea ones) that you've kept around because they're a little unusual, can't be used in a vending machine and was probably given to you by your Dad or Grandpa. It sort of hangs around in your pocket and when you pull out the change to pay for something, it's the last one to go. Suffering is more like that proverbial bad penny that you found (or found you). It gets placed in the same pocket, jingles around with Joy for awhile but you can't wait to get rid of it. Sometimes it goes away, sometimes it doesn't. The funny thing, though, is that when you put the bad penny on the 50¢ piece, you still see the Joy. Reverse it and all you see is Joy. Can one know Joy without suffering? Yes, I believe so. But even in the midst of trial, Joy can make it's presence known. It's always been there; I just have to take it out, focus and remember. And the things that are bad in my life are brought into sharp relief compared to the One whom Joy is. The bad stuff is still there but so is He.

Baby Eva Update
She's beautiful! Everything progressing normally and she's still due for surgery next year. And she's beautiful!

In the Palm of His Hands,

Friday, August 09, 2013

Your Prayers Felt

More Information Please

Gail and I met with our surgical oncologist this morning to get his opinion about possible surgery. After reviewing the CT scans, he came back with a "fuzzy maybe". The "fuzzy" part comes from the latest CT scan; the tumor covering the vein is fuzzy but the artery looks clear. This is good news - if the tumor grows over the artery then surgery is not an option.

The surgeon actually needs a more information so I'll be scheduled for an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) with my G/I doctor which is the procedure used to first diagnose the tumor. The EUS will tell what comprises the mass; tumor, dead cells, inflammation and/or scar tissue. If the mass around the vein is dead cells then surgery looks more viable. Reading back what I've written, there's a certain banality throughout so it's time for a picture:

I snagged this from a larger poster the surgeons office while we were waiting. My tumor actually covers part of the blue thing (vein) but it's the red thing (artery) that we have to watch. They can reconstruct the vein but not the artery. The tumor is also putting pressure on the ducts (pale green thing and the light red thing) which caused the jaundice. They put a metal stent in the pale green thing so that the bile can get to where it needs to get to.

So, for now, I'm back on my chemo regimen (pills and infusion), will be scheduled for the EUS, will meet with oncologist on Monday for a normal follow-up and then a follow-up with surgical oncologist in a couple of weeks which should be after the EUS. All of this seems a little chaotic but I'd much rather be doing something then just taking chemo for the next six weeks. Plus, my deductibles are all met so that's nice.

I'll let you know when the EUS is scheduled. Erin Bradley reminded me of the older, mature Peter writing to various churches:

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Praise and glory and honor ... it doesn't get much better.

P.S. I got a visitor in my office Friday ...

... a bouncing baby Eva Marie!

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A Simple Phrase ...

With Depth and Meaning

"I'm praying for you."

It's a simple phrase that impacts my heart because, for us, prayer is not an assortment of chosen words or expressions nor simple repetition of rote forms; it is the cry of the heart. People I've never met are praying ... family and friends are praying ... a deaf church in Plano ... a softball team I played on a few years ago ... former students and old classmates ... it's humbling, inspiring and encouraging. There is gravitas in the prayers of those who take time out of the busyness of the day and intercede with hands held tightly on well worn knees.

Here's one of my favorite stories:

A friend and coworker (recently diagnosed with MS) sent a text intended for Gail but ended up on some strange guy's phone. She explained the mix-up and, it turns out, he said he'd pray for both her and me. She mentioned that we work for a missions organization and he asked which one, since he was going on a mission trip soon. She told him about e3 Partners and ... you've already figured it out, right? The trip he's going on was an e3 expedition to Sudan.

A request ...

Even though my oncologist didn't recommend surgery at this time, he encouraged us to talk to my surgical oncologist and get his opinion. All my CT scans are on CDs and we have an 8:30am appointment tomorrow morning. Wisdom and discernment are needed but I'm praying for simple truth. Simple, so I can understand it and Truth because it builds hope.

One burden of my circumstance is when I'm not able to hold my grandkids; my immune system is weakened so if they just had their shots or sniffles decidedly non-clear mucus back up ... we just can't afford to chance it. Which reminds me ...

Baby Eva update

Many of you asked about little Eva Marie and she's continuing to grow normally. Emotionally, weight, height, motor skills - all within norms. She has an unusual pinky, however; both father and brother seemed to be uncontrollably wrapped around it for brief periods of time. The plan remains the same - surgery in March or April 2014 to deal with her condition.

Many Thanks ...

... to our e3 Creative department that got me a couple of great hats and started the flood → my son Ryan who gave me a couple of his hats → the CA Bayrons that sent me Hawaii gear from the last ho'olaule'a → Keith who took the time in his day to turn my long grass into short grass → my CO brother who sent me an awesome Dragon Cane; watch the video then send any unused palettes my way; I need the exercise!

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The More Things Change

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

This verse keeps threading it's way through my mind. The context has to do with conduct in the church but this verse reminds me of my own joy, patience and faithfulness in light of my situation.

The most recent CT scan did show a second mass but the Dr. is hard pressed to say what it is without a biopsy. However, because my blood work is good and my tumor markers are dramatically reduced from April, it's unlikely that the second mass is a tumor. It's in my large intestine and they could see some fluid so it could lots of things besides a tumor. He just can't say for sure.

We'll be monitoring it through various indicators but, for now, we're back on track with the same chemo drugs and another CT scan in 6-8 weeks. So, the prayer request remains the same (GOD HEAL!).

Again, the spots that showed up on my liver in May disappeared in July and the tumor is not getting any bigger (GOD IS HEALING!). My hair seems to be shrinking though not as a direct result of chemo; more like a reaction to a reaction of one of the symptoms of one of the chemo drugs. Luckily, we know that God loves bald men (Lev 13:40-41 - go ahead and click it; you know you want to). That little bit of knowledge helps me alleviate a growing desire to pray for immediate hair regrowth (can believers do that?) and be content with what He provides. Plus, I saw little wisps of hair already.

My energy level is getting better though I'm slightly anemic because of the chemo. I get cold very easily (hence the sweaters in July) and sometimes get winded doing normal things. Pain management is pretty good though my taste buds have changed. I used to say I love cats because they taste like chicken but these days even cats have no appeal.

Ah, to be joyful, patient and faithful in times like this. Optimism, where have you been lately?

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Hats and hats

Well, here we are again ...

The mass hasn't really changed in size from previous scans. Doctor says the mass could be scar tissue from radiation or swelling or it could still be mostly tumor. The good news is that it's not growing but the bad news is no surgery in the near future. So, we're back to the current treatment and then another CT scan in 6-8 weeks. However my most immediate issue is an ever growing bald spot. So, those over 6' tall are to be reminded that kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. For my part, I think berets and fedoras are going to come back into style soon.

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is it CT scan or CAT scan?

Today is the Day

... well, one of them anyway.

I go in for a CT scan at 3:30pm. This scan will determine whether the tumor has shrunk enough to be operable. The best possible result is that the scan will show no tumor at all but even if it's still there, we're hopeful for an operation.

These past few weeks have been the most difficult. If there is an ebb and flow to these things, I'm certainly in the ebb. It's been a time of Joy without smiles and without laughter. I'm assured the Joy is there; I simply lack the strength to express it and, sometimes, even to acknowledge it. I have a Bedrock and a Cornerstone that keeps me grounded - for that I am grateful.

We won't know the results until Monday and then we'll know what the next steps will be.

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Joy is 55.3

Marking the Tumor

Remember those Month of Joy posts I did in March, well before I was diagnosed with cancer in April? I have a new one; Joy is a number and that number is 55.3.

It is a number that has quickly become Gail's new favorite. It is a number that nearly brings me to tears. Fortunately, I retain enough mannishness to resist that particular urge. 55.3 is the source of smiles around the Bayron household these days. It is a number ... yeah I know; enough already and tell us what it means. Simply put, it means the cancer cells are dying.

When I was diagnosed in April, they ran a test to establish a tumor marker; a number to help determine if the different therapies are effective. In April, the number was 163. On July 1, the number was ... well, you know.

While the chemo and radiation therapies appear effective on a physical level, you need to know what you mean to me on a spiritual and emotional level. Let's face it - willingly taking poison every day in the form of a pill or IV infusion or having a radiation gun pointed at your belly does little to lift up the spirit or encourage the heart.

Many of you are praying; some every day. Many of you ask "How are you doing?" with a genuine desire to know. Many of you have shared your own cancer experiences that have encouraged me. Many of you have sent notes, text messages, emails, cards, and books reminding me who I am and to Whom I belong. Part of the joy of 55.3 is that I get to share it with you; without that, the number becomes merely ... informational.

The next milestone is July 18. That's when the CT scan is scheduled to determine if the tumor has shrunk enough to be operable. Regardless of whether it's operable or not, may Joy be my response.

Eva Update

My son and daughter-in-law had a second opinion about Eva's condition and the meeting went very well. The surgery will happen in March/April with a few appointments in between to monitor Eva. We recently got to Facetime with Eva and she's very alert, loves Itsy Bitsy Spider and does her best to sing along. Continue praying for them; the procedure as described seems daunting but the doctor will remodel her skull without having to introduce artificial material and, hopefully, the recovery time will be less.

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Round 2

It's a good day

Started the second round of chemotherapy this week. There is a list of side effects but, according to Tall Guy (pharmacist at the Oncology Center), one of the most common side effects he sees is a rash that looks like ... acne. Seriously? Of all the things to relive from my teenage years, pimples would not be on that list. In any event, the hope and prayer is the same; that the tumor would be reduced in size and removed. If it happens miraculously or mundanely, the praise remains His.

Over the past few weeks, the pain level increased to where it interferes with my concentration; makes it hard to work. I have new meds now that increase my pain threshold and I started taking it last night. I can't remember the last time I felt this good. I woke up this morning and stood straight up; it felt so good. I can tell I'm feeling better because I've gotten more persnickety which I find hilarious. Surely, He has His hand in all of this. We're stepping through puddles of Joy in the midst of trial and I can't help but smile.

It's our 31st anniversary today and this pain-free day has been a fantastic gift.

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Monday, June 10, 2013

Phase Two

Relive My Teenage Years??

Started the next round of chemotherapy today. It's actually two different drugs that work together on the type of tumor I have. There is a list of side effects but, according to the Tall Guy (pharmacist at the Oncology Center), one of the most common side effects he sees is ... acne. Seriously? Of all the things to relive from my teenage years, zits would not be on that list. In any event, the hope and prayer is the same; that the tumor would be reduced in size and removed. If it happens miraculously or in a more mundane manner, the praise would still be His.

One thing that has changed over the last few weeks is the pain level. I've always had a dull ache since January or so. On a scale of 1-10, it ranked a 1 for the most part. These past few weeks, however, the pain has increased to 3 and 4 every day. Where I once took pain medication on an 'as needed' basis, it's now a nightly occurrence so that I can get some sleep. I'm trying not to take any medication during the day but I've noticed that trying to deal with the pain without meds makes me ... irritable. Can joy be found in the midst of pain? My head says yes but my gut groans and rolls and stirs, sending sharp reminders that sometimes cause me to double-over and I have to catch my breath. It's a new normal because the old normal seems to be fading quickly from my memory.

Baby Eva Update

Thank you so much for praying for my little granddaughter. She had her first x-ray and consult last week and the doctor explained what could happen. An operation is the key to separating the plates but he wouldn't want to do that until Eva was at least 9 months old (that would be 'nine' JoAnn) . He doesn't believe she's in any immediate danger but would want to monitor her closely. My son and daughter-in-law will be getting a second opinion in July from a well-known surgeon in the area for this particular procedure. Baby Eva is clearly oblivious to all of this and seems to like being held and having her brother try to figure out who she is. Gail and Kristyn got a chance to see her over the weekend while I stayed home (see paragraph above). She seems alert and very active. And, of course, very beautiful.

Surely God has his hand in all of this. As we continue to move along this path, I'm thankful for your prayers, generosity and grace. I think I like Rick Warren's idea that life isn't really hills and valleys but kind of like two rails on a railroad track. No matter how good things are, there are bad things to work on. And no matter how bad things get, there are good things to thank God for. Eva seems to already have a handle on this insight; maybe I need to grab hold of it.

In the Palm of His Hand,
Rod Bayron

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baby Eva

Too Young For This

Many of you are aware of the birth of our granddaughter, Eva, two weeks ago. During her check up, the doctor discovered that two of the plates in her skull have prematurely fused. Brandon (my son) and Candice (his wife) will be going to a plastic surgeon since surgery is the normal course for something like this.

Pray for His wisdom and His discernment as Brandon and Candice walk this path. Pray that all anxiety will be replaced by His peace. Pray that Eva will come through with His hand upon her head. Pray for His protection around my family, that He would show his favor and mercy on us. In light of today's Staff Chapel, I couldn't help but think that physical strength is measured by what we can carry while spiritual strength is measured by what we can bear. We are blessed beyond what we deserve while serving at the pleasure of our Lord.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 34

Good-bye John

After 28 days of continuous chemotherapy and 25 days of radiation therapy, I'm no longer hooked to 'John' (that's what we named my fanny pack containing chemotherapy) and no more gamma rays. Doctors are encouraged that I've had so little side effect. My radiologist jokingly told me to get out of his office because he has actual sick people to see. I like him.

Anyway, I attribute the ease of treatments so far to all the pr-air cover (shout out to MJ) from friends and family.

So, what's next? I'm going to enjoy this weekend: BBQ (Guava-BBQ sauce - thanks Donovan), playing guitar, honoring a father I wish I knew better (Benedicto Bayron KIA Vietnam 1965), seeing my grandkids (its plural now!) and not think about anything else.

Until Tuesday. Meeting with the oncologist on a plan involving more chemo for about 6-9 weeks but different drugs and different infusion method. Then, CT scan to see if the tumor shrunk (Honey! I shrunk the tumor!). If so, then operation. If not, then ... well, we'll get there when we get there.

These days, I try not to pursue joy anymore. Now, it's more like joy in pursuit; I just want to take some joy wherever I go, wherever I'm led.

Gotta a birthday party to go to ...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Eva Marie

My Grandaughter

In the midst of our valley, my son Brandon Bayron and his wife Candice Bayron had a little girl - Eva Marie Bayron was born at 2:28pm (7lb 15oz, 20.5"). Praising the One who wove her inmost being and praying that He will look with favor on this newborn child and her family.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


It's all in the smile

We're half-way through treatments and, so far, no adverse reactions. The procedure last week went very well. Before the procedure, the nurse asked if I was allergic to anything and I said,"Yes; people who do 20mph in a 45mph zone." After the procedure, a different nurse asked if she could do anything for me. I just said "Smile." That's when I realized that I'd much rather have smiling nurses than frowning nurses.

I also wanted to take this time to say thank you for your continued prayer, encouragement and support. We are blessed and humbled and rejoicing all at the same time. I'm reminded that Joy isn't the absence of trial - it's what helps you get through the trial.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Day 10

Paper or Plastic? I'll take metal.

I'm headed in for a procedure this morning; should pretty much wipe me out for the day. My gastroenterologist wants to replace the plastic stint in my bile duct with a metal one because I'm still jaundiced. He looked into my eyes and said "You're still yellow." I wonder if I should tell him that I have Asian ancestry? Probably irrelevant.

Still in good spirits though there are those days (usually between 3am and 4am) when I have to remember that while Joy is a deep reservoir, it sometimes requires that I be on my knees to drink of it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 1

It Begins

Starting chemo and radiation therapy today for the next 5-6 weeks. The goal is to shrink the tumor to increase the chances for a successful operation.

The good news is that the chemo will be sort of like an IV drip throughout the week so if you see me in church or around the office with a fanny pack, it's not some new fangled iDevice; it's just the chemo.

The bad news is that while the radiation therapy involves gamma rays, there's apparently zero chance that I'll turn into something like the Hulk which would've made life ... interesting.

On days like today, I'm reminded that Joy is a choice, not an outcome.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It Is Well With My Soul

First Oncologist Visit

Good evening everyone!

No chemo today. Mostly spent time consulting with the medical oncologist (for chemo) and the radiology oncologist (for radiation). Blood taken to see if my levels have gone down sufficiently to start chemo. On Wednesday, I go in for CT scan to map my abdomen area for the radiation therapy. Radiation is the main gun and pinpoints the tumor to kill it; chemo helps radiation do its thing. Interestingly, I'll be getting my first tattoos! The tattoos will be small dots in three areas on my abdomen that the radiation uses for alignment to ensure they hit the same target each treatment. Tattoos are permanent.

Radiation + chemo therapy will probably start next Monday depending on blood work results and insurance.

This morning, as Gail and I read through our devotion and prayed, we were reminded of Horatio Spafford's story behind It Is Well With My Soul. It brought us to tears as we read the lyrics of a hymn we know so well. It really is well with my soul.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It's Localized

More Scans and a Procedure

They did a PET scan today to determine how far the cancer has spread and, thankfully, the tumor is localized just on my pancreas. It was an answer to prayer. Currently, the tumor is too large and has covered a vein running through the pancreas; surgery is not possible ... yet. They want the tumor to shrink and, if it shrinks enough, surgery to remove the tumor can happen. Tomorrow, they'll put in a mediport which will allow them to draw blood and make chemotherapy much easier.

The good news are that I'm in very good shape and young enough to endure all the therapies that are coming up, the tumor is localized. The reality is that this is not a good cancer; it's aggressive and most do not survive. I'm really in His hands.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

In the Hospital

It's not a gallstone

As many of you already know, I was scheduled for a sonogram of my liver on Saturday morning. After the sonogram was and the doctor consulted with the technician, I was instructed to go for a CT scan right away at Medical Center of Plano, so Gail and I went and did that. Based on the results of both tests, I was admitted into the emergency room. We originally thought I had gallstones, and that a stone has escaped the gall bladder and lodged itself in the bile duct which is why I'm yellow and have no appetite.

On April 8, I had a procedure called ERCP to remove the blockage, and the next morning the plan was to remove the gall bladder (as there are more stones), thereby preventing this from happening again.

On April 9, they performed an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and found that the mass blocking the bile duct is a tumor and it's cancerous. The tumor is on the head of the pancreas and is putting enough pressure on the bile duct to cause jaundice. A plastic stent was placed in the bile duct to relieve the pressure and let things start flowing again.

I'll stay in the hospital for this week for observation and to meet with oncologists. To my knowledge, no one in my family has had cancer before so I'm unsure what to expect. Lots of unknown here.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Month of Joy 3/31

This week, I was on vacation and spent most of it nauseous from medication. The walk through Joy has been both timely and appreciated. Joy is strength.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Month of Joy 3/30

If joy is in the ears that hear, tinge your words with mirth and laughter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Month of Joy 3/27

It is the absence of joy that indicates something is amiss.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Month of Joy 3/25

Having drunk deep of Joy these past few weeks, I realized few things are so sweet.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Month of Joy 3/23

Relationships that measure in decades are like deep reservoirs of joy; it tempers angry words and fills the void of loneliness.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Month of Joy 3/22

The funny thing about joy is that the more you spread it, the more you experience it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Month of Joy 3/21

There are folks in this world that find joy everywhere and leave some of it behind when they go.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Month of Joy 3/19

Don't put off until tomorrow what can be enjoyed today ...

Monday, March 18, 2013


Month of Joy 3/18

Joy is like a door hinge. It seems a little thing but carries the weight of our lives from open until close.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Month of Joy 3/17

Contentment was fishing at the lake with the breeze making the water lap on to the shore. Joy was sharing it with my girls.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Month of Joy 3/16

Some folks have asked about the MOJ posts. I've arbitrarily chosen March as a personal month of joy. Every morning, I intentionally read/sing/think about things I find joyful. Then I post. Or not. I thought it might eventually be a grind doing it everyday but I've found it's like intentionally smiling every day. Once you start ...

Turns out Joy is a journey worth making.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Month of Joy 3/15

Joy is but one of the reasons why we exist.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Month of Joy 3/13

Humor and joy keep close company; together, they form the hows and whys of life.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Month of Joy 3/12

Pursue joy; it's His echo ... His footprint ...

Monday, March 11, 2013


Month of Joy 3/11

Joy is in ordinary and simple things; a smile, a kiss, spring days and warm sunshine.

Friday, March 08, 2013


Month of Joy 3/8

Sometimes, the joy of the task is it's own reward.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Month of Joy 3/7

Being left speechless with joy is not for the weak. Capture and remember the wonder of everyday miracles ...

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Month of Joy 3/6

After the rain, the sun will reappear. After the pain, the joy will still be here.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Month of Joy 3/5

Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. And even that analogy seem insufficient.

Monday, March 04, 2013


Month of Joy 3/4

To get the full value of joy, find someone to share it with.

Sunday, March 03, 2013


Month of Joy 3/3

I realized this morning that His joy really is my strength.

Friday, March 01, 2013


Month of Joy 3/1

When faced with the choice, why frown when it's over when I can smile because it happened ...