Recent photo of my parents in my office

Recent photo of my parents in my office

June 21, 2007

Health Care Update 6/21/07

Life has been so busy I haven't had time to update this blog for a couple days. Here's a brief report on the state of my health at this point. I have a list of other items in mind to write about from a more personal and spiritual level, but at least this effort will keep you up to date on how I'm doing these days.

First of all, thank you for the incredible support and prayers we are receiving. So many of you have given us time, meals, child care, transportation, gifts towards medications, special massage treatments and groceries -- we are quite overwhelmed. We are also amazed at how God has raised up prayer for us through people around the world that we don't know. I told Margie yesterday that discovering how loved one actually is can be quite flattering. I must be guarded against the narcissistic danger of generating a health crisis in order to confirm it! (Lord, have mercy!) On the contrary, thank the Lord that we are receiving just what we need for each day.

More seriously, we are indeed aware of the fact that we are being carried through by prayers and intercessions that we do not deserve but by grace, and that this period of life is another in which we are refined by how we deal with suffering day by day. So in that regard, it is remarkable how functional and energetic I have been able to remain. Radiation is never fun, but this round is also considerably less stressful than the 39 days I went through post-brain surgery in 2004. (I'll write about that sometime soon.) One of the ways we have been led to face each day is to begin with thanksgiving and praise. Charlotte and Josiah will rarely let me leave for work without asking for "Luia" -- Josiah's word for my playing a song with "Alleluia" in it on the piano, at which point he dances around the room with glee. What a gift of hope and life that is!

These days, I have been driving to Naperville in the midst of my workday, and lying down on the table for a quick (15-20 minute) procedure of radiation. The radiation itself targets three areas -- one in my upper spine, from C2 or so down to about T3 (a major target). The next one is a bit further down, aimed mostly at T7, and the final one penetrates my ribcage on the left to hit a lesion that was pressing through the pleura of my lung, making breathing more difficult (I'm not sure which rib this aims for). Each treatment session, or "fraction" (the correct term -- I mistakenly said "fracture" the other day, and am so glad to know that's NOT what I'm getting!!), takes only a matter of seconds, but the positioning of my body on the table takes more time. Then I go back to work to finish a full day.

Early on, one of the painful features of treatment was the requirement that I hold my hands above my head so that they'd be out of range of radiation. My right arm has lost some muscular function since I broke my shoulder in 2005, so keeping it still was difficult. But I've adjusted to that now. At this point it hardly hurts.

Insofar as my daily activities go, I'm aware of how overstress or expending undue energy can result in pain later on. For example, I can pick up a heavy item without immediate consequence, but a day or so later, I'm aware that I stepped out of my limits. At the same time, I've learned that I can also manage more weight than I could before beginning treatment. This seems to fulfill the expectation of the doctors, who told me that radiation should eliminate pressure from some parts of the spinal nerve.

Here, then are matters for praise and thanksgiving:

1) My breathing is much better on the left side. I can say that I don't notice the degree of limitation that I did prior to starting radiation.
2) My left arm and fingertips are less tingly than when I began, though they aren't as fully responsive and sensitive as they were. This is a matter for ongoing prayer.
3) The side-effects of the treatment are far less than predicted. I have not needed to take pepsid to protect my esophagus, nor anything for pain beyond acetaminophen. I have been guzzling liquid Aloe Vera juice, and it (along with other natural products) seems to have eliminated the predicted grovelliness of my larynx and loss of my voice (at least so far!) This is a great matter of praise and intercession, as I am scheduled next week to be leading worship at a Pastoral Care Ministries conference. Pray that my voice will continue to function during the last week of radiation.
4) I have much more freedom in getting up and out of bed without feeling shafts of pain. I can rest well, and move about without as many surprise moments of stabbing pain.
5) Finally, my ongoing ability to be active and engaged in meeting goals and special projects is undiminished at this point. Thanks be to God for all of these things.

As I mentioned, next week culminates in the conclusion of several important matters: the end of our fiscal year at work; the end of a week of ministry; and the end of the radiation cycle. After that, many uncertain challenges open up.. We will need to have a scan that evaluates the effectiveness of the radiation. Then we will need to consider prayerfully the doctors' proposal for further treatment, which we expect will be for chemotherapy. I am ambivalent about chemotherapy, especially since the medications we would be given would almost certainly be experimental, and would introduce an enormous amount of uncertainty into my body. There are many ways to approach the challenge of dealing with cancer, and we are crying out to the Lord for wisdom in discerning what to do.

As a closing example of how prayers like this have been answered, I want to share one that occurred just at the end of May. Through my parent's church connections in Brazil, a woman in Hong Kong knew of a special Chinese natural anti-cancer medication, derived from herbal products, approved by the Chinese counterpart of our FDA, studied over an 8-year clinical trial, and completely compatible with both radiation and chemotherapy without side effects. This product isn't available in the US, and we wouldn't have had any way of even exploring it as an option apart from the generosity of this family. The treatment was shown to have extended the life span of patients with terminal cancer, reduced their pain substantially, strengthened healthy body cells to fight invasive cancerous ones, and numerous other benefits.

On Memorial Day, I was standing in the yard, getting Charlotte into the car to go on some errands, when the US Postal Service pulled up with a box for me from Hong Kong. I was surprised to see a delivery arrive on a holiday, but the driver told me that there were always special delivery items that got out even on holidays, and that she had to work for a couple hours even then. So, by virtue of my simply being present at the right time on the lawn, I was able to sign for a delivery of an unsolicited gift for the benefit of my health. What could I say but "Thank you, Lord!" Margie and I had cried out for wisdom about what to take in advance of beginning the radiation, and what message could have been clearer than, "Here is a box of completely safe (and highly expensive, it appears) herbal anti-cancer tablets from China, delivered to you on the day when we remember the death of our national heroes. Start taking it now."

How could I do otherwise, and then simply marvel at the grace and plan of God? And how could I ever distrust such a loving provider as the future unfolds?

May this bless all of you, as all of your prayers have blessed us.

With love,

John (& Margie, who is falling asleep right now, I'm sure!)

1 comment:

Randy York said...

Regarding your Hong Kong package: God is a master of timing, and I sometimes wonder if He does it that way because He likes to surprise us. Last week, I went to visit a woman who has a cyst that was discovered during a routine appendectomy. There was one thing that was especially troubling her so that it was becoming her main focus. As we refocused on Jesus and turned to Him, her spirit was calmed by His peace. Then the phone rang, less than a minute into our prayer. It was the office of the surgeon to whom she had been referred. They had information for her regarding that one thing that had so worried her. She was amazed at God's timing, and her need to stay focused on Him in order to receive from Him. We will continue to pray for God's perfect timing in your life, and for His healing. Love to all the Fawcetts from Randy, Kay, et al.