Tag: cancer

Biopsy Complete and Successful

The biopsy went well today. The surgeon was able to take three lymph glands from my left groin. Lab results will be available in 2-3 days, so by Thursday or Friday we ought to know something.

Tomorrow I have another plasma pheresis treatment. Physical therapy is also scheduled to work with me. Both physical therapy and the plasma pheresis treatments have enabled me to walk better with a walker.

I keep reminding the doctors that I want to go home on Friday. Until then we’re here at Duke. God’s grace is indeed sufficient and his strength is made perfect in weakness. Thank you for your prayers.

Biopsy on Tuesday

I had a busy day today. The plasma pheresis folks showed up this morning about 9:30 am. The treatment finished about 11:45am, so it took quit a while. However I think the treatments are helping because I am walking better than a few days ago.

While the treatment was going on, the surgeon came in to talk to me. After examining me, he decided to take out a lymph gland in my left groin area. Although this is often done as outpatient surgery, they do put you to sleep. The surgery is scheduled for 2:45 pm on Tuesday, so I would appreciate your prayers then.

I also had a swallowing test. The test consists of swallowing vast amounts of some very nasty barium while they X-ray you from various positions. Apparently I passed, so we can rule out one more thing.

We’re still planning to be home Friday evening, and I will remind the doctors of that tomorrow. We are so grateful for all of you who are praying. Keep it up, especially tomorrow at 2:45 pm. As one of our favorite songs says, “It is well with my (our) soul…”

A Quiet Sunday

Not much happened today which is what we expected. I did get another IV bag of calsium because the plasma pheresis treatments strip too much of the calcium from your body.

Debbie pushed me down to the cafeteria and later the in-hospital Starbucks. Before that we had a nice visit from Ben and Betty Davenport. They gave us a great report on worship at our church this morning. Several other friends and my dad called, and we enjoyed hearing from each one.

Tomorrow I am told I will have a swallow test, a surgical biopsy of another lymph node, and my fourth plasma pheresis treatment. We appreciate more than you can know all of the prayers, calls, cards, and visits. We feel your prayers which give us strength each day. Pray for a definite diagnosis and treatment plan this week. We are at peace with whatever comes our way.

Good News But Not Good Enough

Let’s get right to it: the needle biopsy of a lymph node under my arm showed no cancer. Normally that would be good news, but the doctors were skeptical that it would show anything from the beginning.

That means on Monday I should have a surgical biopsy where they take a whole lymph gland. Unfortunately the “brightest” one is near my aorta, but there are others that are more accessible.

I also had another plasma pheresis treatment today. They seem to be helping as I have regained some leg strength. Still need a walker and PT is coming to work with me tomorrow.

Other than that we’ll be hanging out by the pool soaking up some rays this weekend. Not. Anyway my goal is to preach Easter Sunday. Please pray that I’ll be able to do that. We have so many dear friends both near and in other places. We appreciate your cards, visits, prayers, and thoughts. As Paul said, “I thank God for you….”

Busy, Tiring Day

Today was a busy day. Just as I  was about to eat my oatmeal, the nurse came and took it away because my biopsy was scheduled for sometime today. A bevy of doctors examined and talked with me throughout the day. Physical and occupational therapy put me through the paces.

In the afternoon I had another plasma pheresis treatment. While that was going on for over two hours, additional doctors came in. Then, because I mentioned some chest pain, the EKG cart showed up. All the people in my room reminded me of that old Groucho Marx movie where people keep coming into his hotel room until they all tumble out the door!

Finally at 4 PM, they came to get me for my biopsy. The team decided that a lymph node under my right arm was the most accessible. After considerable probing they finally got a large enough sample to test. Lab work will take 2 days, so by Friday we should know if I have lymphoma.

Thank you for all the cards, prayers, visits, emails and all the other expressions of help and concern. We love each of you and we’re still trusting the God of the Angel Armies (as Eugene Peterson says) for His healing power.

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.

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.

Grief as the surprising companion of cancer

As cancers go, it was the best kind to have, the doctor said.  Basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, that lives at the base layer of the skin, but rarely metastasizes to other parts of the body.  The bad news, he said, was that it was in the worst place it could be — in the middle of Debbie’s upper lip.  It would have to be removed.  There would be a scar.  He couldn’t work miracles.  That was only for Hollywood, he said.

Debbie had noticed what appeared to be an enlarged pore just at the bow of her lip.  Early last summer, she noticed a lump inside her lip just under this pore.  Summer was busy, though.  We had Vacation Bible School in June.  In July, my brother died and we made a week-long trip to south Georgia for his funeral.  In August, I spoke at a conference at Myrtle Beach, where we had a few days in the sun.  In October, Debbie went to a new dermatologist because the lump was bigger.

The dermatologist immediately diagnosed the enlarged pore and the lump as skin cancer, probably basal cell.  We were both stunned.  Neither of us had thought about cancer.  A cyst, maybe.  A clogged pore.  But cancer was a complete surprise.  A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis.  Then we had to wait for an appointment with the surgeon.  Debbie had the option of scheduling a consultation with the dermatological surgeon prior to her surgery.   On a November day we met him in his office.  That’s when he told us the good and bad news.  Most of it seemed bad to us.  Surgery was scheduled for December 11.

Last Friday, she went in for what would be called minor surgery by a casual observer.  With Mohs surgery, they don’t even put you to sleep.  She walked into the clinic, then out again four hours later.  The cancer was excised, and the doctor, who is also a plastic surgeon, did a wonderful job of repairing her lip where the cancer had been.  It was larger than he thought it would be, he said.  About the size of a nickel, right on her upper lip.

What surprised us both was the grief that was companion to the cancer.  Our first reaction was shock and disbelief.  How could this be cancer, even the least invasive kind?  It didn’t look like cancer.  Not like all the warning signs of cancer you typically see.  Our shock turned to anger at another doctor who had dismissed the enlarged pore with an “I don’t know what this is, but don’t worry about it.”

And then we prayed.  And read books on healing, and wondered if somehow God would not heal her so she wouldn’t have to go through the surgery.  And we prayed until we could not pray about it anymore.  We had no more words, no ability to sit together and ask God for anything — healing, peace, grace, calm, nothing.  We had come to the end of our prayers.  We had to hope that Paul was right, that the Spirit would pray for us because we did not know how to pray for ourselves.

And we cried.  We cried in our private moments, when we turned out the light at night, lying in bed.  We held each other and cried for the uncertainty, the loss, the fear, and the anxiety.  We wept because we had no words with which to comfort each other in the face of this disease that had crept into our life and now occupied almost our every thought.

We cried for each other when we were not crying for ourselves.  We grieved the loss of this part of Debbie’s body, this part of her lip on which I had seen a million smiles take form and blossom.  We grieved because no one else could grieve for us.  Because all the well-intentioned assurances did not help.

But the prayers of others did help, we believe.  The surgery went well, the doctor was skillful, and Debbie is healing.  Her lip no longer has its Cupid’s bow, as that little curved part is called.  But she’s well, the cancer is gone, and we’re on the other side of this experience.  What surprised us was the grief, whose shadow is just now fading.

I have always tried to visit my members who were facing in-patient surgery, and I have sat with families waiting the outcome of open-heart, cancer, and other types of major surgical procedures.   Day surgeries don’t seem as serious.  Medically, I suppose, they are not.  But few will know the emotional and spiritual pain accompanying those procedures we call ‘minor.’  Grief, however, makes no distinction and visits us at surprising moments of our own vulnerability.  I’m going to remember that, I hope.

Jesus never denied the presence of grief, never dismissed it, but always was present with those in grief.  “Blessed are those who mourn,” he said, “for they shall be comforted.”  I want to be among those who are the comforters, as well as the comforted.