Month: March 2013

Bad News Today

Today the PET scan showed several suspect lymph nodes in my neck, chest, and abdomen. According to the doctor, these were “lit up more than they should be.”

Tomorrow the hematology physicians meet with me. The plan is to figure out which lymph node to biopsy for suspected lymphoma. Of course there are many types of lymphoma, and there is also the possibility that an infection caused the lymph nodes to light up.

So, as Jesus said (my paraphrase) “Don’t worry about tomorrow…” We’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves but wanted each of you to pray with knowledge of this development. We know God is with us on this journey where ever it leads.

Treatment Starts!

I had a busy day today. From 9 am until almost 2 pm I was in the EMG clinic having tests on my nerves and muscles. I’ll get a full report tomorrow but basically my body is attacking the myelin surrounding my nerves. That accounts for the pain and loss of function.

After I got back to the room about 2 pm a doctor came and explained where we are. They believe I have a variant of Guillon-Barre syndrome. However, they aren’t sure and the possibility of lymphoma still exists.

My medical team recommended we start treatment now since my condition continues to deteriorate. So today I began a series of 5 treatments to remove antibodies from my blood. This is called plasma pheresis.

This procedure lasts almost 2 hours and involves running all my blood through a process that removes antibodies and replaces them with albumin to keep the volume of blood the same. I’ll have a treatment every other day until I have 5.

Additional tests might include another spinal tap, a PET scan, and waiting for blood panels to come back. A chaplain came by and prayed for me today, which is what I would ask you to do also. We are confident in God’s grace and mercy, and your prayers sustain us during this time.

Good News, Sort of

Several doctors came by today, including the main doc in charge of my treatment. I am not using their names because Duke has a social media policy that protects the privacy of their staff, which I understand.

The good news is that this appears to be a peripheral nervous system disorder, not a central nervous system problem. That’s good because the PNS has more ability to repair itself than the CNS. Tomorrow I have an EMG which is a conductivity test. The doctors believe this will tell them a lot. Also we’re waiting on blood work from California and the Mayo Clinic. So I’ll be here a few more days before we know exactly what the deal is.

The not so good news is that my right leg is much weaker today, and my left is following it. Even with my walker, walking is much more difficult. If this continues I will not be walking  on my own soon. However I have lost 16 pounds, so its not all bad!

So many of you have asked about specific things like Guillane-barre and lyme disease. They are checking both plus lots of other possibilities. So keep on praying please.  We’re doing fine, and our confidence is in God’s goodness and mercy.

First Day at Duke

I had an uneventful move to Duke University Hospital last night. and I slept most of the night for the second night in a row, so that was very good. This morning I met my medical team as they made rounds. On Saturdays not much in the way of testing takes place, but of course they did draw more blood several times today.

The next step is a nerve test called an EMG I think. Also they are still waiting on blood panels (a series of blood tests related to one aspect) to come back from a California lab, so hope too have those early next week.

I did walk about 25 feet and back today using my new walker, so that was good. Pain management is improving but we need to find something other than morphine as it has obvious drawbacks including rebound pain if used too long. My right leg is noticeably weaker when the doctor tested me this morning, and I noticed it when walking this afternoon. Some additional muscle problems have developed in my lower bowel. Without being too graphic, this is not a good problem to have.

Please continue to pray. Our confidence is in God who does all things well.

Transferring to Duke

My symptoms of loss of sensation and use are progressing. My doctors are transferring me to Duke University Medical Center to neuro muscular specialists. More later when we know more. Thanks for your prayers.

Good Day and Helpful Physical Therapy

Today was as good as last night was bad. I got some rest while Debbie ran a few errands. Pain levels decreased and I was basically pain-free this afternoon.

One new development is that I may have shingles on my back now. This has just developed and is a similar problem to the other neuropathy I have. So, when it rains, it pours!

I will have one final MRI tomorrow and then we get to come home Thursday afternoon. Home will certainly look good, although we could not have asked for better care here.

The lymphoma diagnosis is still preliminary, but the most important thing is to get home, get back to church, and get back to our congregation and community. I
My next post is from home!

Difficult Night, Disappointing News

Last night didn’t go so well. First, the pain medication that worked so well yesterday did not work so well last night. For some reason, my pain is worse lying down, so maybe that’s the reason. But last night I was in a great deal of pain.

I made the mistake of saying I was having chest pain, along with leg and back pain. Before I could explain further I was being given an EKG at 3 am, followed by blood work to check for those enzymes that indicate a heart attack, followed by oxygen. I’ll phrase things differently next time!

This morning, my neurologist explained why we weren’t doing a biopsy — too little chance of getting enough tissue to indicate what’s wrong. I will have a PET scan in a couple of weeks, which apparently zeroes in on cancer cells more effectively than anything else.

Today physical therapy will work with me on walking. Walking, for those who can, is greatly under- appreciated. Now that I’m having difficulty walking, I value mobility a lot more! We’re still waiting for blood work that went to California (at least part of me gets a vacation), so this should be a fairly easy day. Also, I’m getting an additional nerve pain medication and we’ll see how that works today.

I wish I could respond to each email and comment on these posts, but right now I don’t have the energy. But please know that I appreciate each word of encouragement and every prayer on our behalf. Our confidence is in the God of the universe who does all things well.

Good Day Today and a Possible Answer

Today was a good day as I had no pain all day after receiving a new pain medication. Physical therapy evaluated me and I walked down the hall about 25 feet with a walker. PT and occupational therapy will work with me tomorrow. The doctor coordinating my case is giving me a break from tests tomorrow, so PT and OT will take up my day.

I was scheduled today for a CT-guided biopsy of a lymph node in my neck. However, they opted just to do a CT scan of my neck first. It showed no abnormality so the ENT doctor said there is no reason to do a biopsy. That’s good news, but doesn’t help us solve the puzzle of what is wrong.

The neurologist does think I have some type of lymphoma which is a cancer of the blood. Apparently lymphoma can be very painful, and also has some of my other symptoms. This is not definite yet, but looks like the most likely at this point. The challenge is to confirm this and then determine what type of lymphoma it is.

So that’s the latest news from the Warnocks. We’re just trusting God to help the doctors figure this out so we can get on with it. Lymphoma comes in many varieties and the survival rate is high and treatments are available. If it is lymphoma, lots of people have survived it and lived long productive lives.

Just pray for us and the doctors and nurses. I have a great team of medical professionals working on this. But mostly we have great friends who are praying and that’s the most important thing. More tomorrow after we see the doctor in the morning. Thanks for your prayers.

The Possibility of Cancer

The doctors now suspect that my symptoms of pain, loss of feeling in my hands and feet, and difficulty walking may all be caused by some type of cancer. Today I am having a neck CT scan with contrast dye. While I’m in the CT scan, the doctor will biopsy some of my lymph nodes.

So far I’ve had 3 MRIs of head, neck, and lower back; 2 CT scans of chest and heart; 2 chest x-rays; a spinal tap; and, lots of blood work. Physical therapy will start working with me today as I continue to lose the ability to walk. I appreciate your continued prayers.

An Unwelcomed and Unexpected Illness

It’s 11:12 PM on Friday night, March 8, 2013. I cannot sleep despite having taken several medications that are supposed to relieve the pain I’m having. Yesterday, after two weeks of agonizing symptoms and three trips to hospital emergency rooms, a neurologist diagnosed me with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, a fancy way of saying I have unexplained pain, numbness, and weakness in my legs, arms, and other parts of my body.

During his examination, he determined that I no longer have reflexes in my legs and arms. You know the test: the doctor whacks you on the knee with a rubber hammer and your leg pops up involuntarily. Except mine doesn’t, not even slightly. I am now walking with the aid of either a cane or a walker because the bottoms of my feet are numb, and my legs give way without warning.

Needless to say, this is an unwelcomed and unexpected situation. I am an extremely healthy person. I lost 40 pounds last year eating a low-fat vegan diet, just like Bill Clinton does. My heart, which has been tested three different times over the past two weeks, was described by the cardiologist as “as good as it gets.” My blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar are all well within the optimum ranges.

In January of this year, I contracted a nasty virus and was sick for three weeks. I was so sick that my wonderful church family gave me the entire month off to recuperate. I had only been back to work three weeks when the first of my symptoms began to appear. On Monday I will have a MRI, and on Tuesday a nerve conductivity test where apparently you become a human pin cushion to measure the speed and conductivity of nerves throughout the body.

To be on this side of illness is a new experience for me. I now know why when I visit my members in the hospital, their arms are black-and-blue from the IV ports inserted in them. I am more able to empathize with the loss of dignity in times of illness as others talk about your bodily functions and as you lie half-naked on an uncomfortable gurney hoping you’re not putting on a show for those passing by.

The other part of this experience is to be on the receiving end of love and care demonstrated by my community and congregation. Members have brought food, sent flowers, loaned me a recliner and a walker, have prayed, visited, and expressed their concern over and over again. I have found that it is encouraging to have someone visit when you’re sick. I do feel supported, loved, and cared for by the people I have called my flock for almost 9 years.

Debbie and I do not know if this condition is permanent or temporary. In either event, we do know that God is walking with us down this road, whether the journey is long or brief. Most importantly, we feel God’s presence in the cards, calls, visits, food, flowers, and expressions of concern from our church family.

I’m learning some new things about the ways of God. Not that God caused this illness, or even would will it on me or anyone, but I am learning that in the midst of difficulty, God is present in Spirit and in the lives of the people in whose hearts he lives and reigns. I hope to be back soon with a regular schedule of sermons and thoughts on small church life, but for now I’m on my own journey to the cross and empty tomb, but I’m not on it alone.