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.