One bad thing about having written a daily blog for over two years is that I became weary of the daily focus on my health. Despite the daily battle, I think it is important in any chronic health matter to keep the focus on what is good. To me, it’s sort of like, “… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Obviously though, it is easier to stay focused on the good things when the battle is going well. When the battle isn’t going so well, it can draw even the deepest parts of the soul into the moment-by-moment struggle. It has been about six months since I posted anything on the blog. Today my purpose is to give an update and to seek your continued prayers.
To briefly summarize my last post, in August 2013, I had gone to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Thankfully, my cancer showed to be in remission. I then made my return appointment in a year. In the meantime, I would continue to be monitored and treated locally at the Woodlands Medical Specialists by Dr. Tan.
My following appointment with Dr. Tan was November 18th to have my blood drawn. In a little over two weeks later I would see him for the results. In case you are wondering, it takes at least a week to get back the genetic test results. So, that appointment was December 6th, which happened to be my birthday. I was in great spirits and took great comfort in having tested negative in August. I also took great comfort that Dr. Jabbour (world renown leukemia specialist) at M.D. Anderson told Eileen and me that there was a nearly 100% chance that my cancer would not have gone active when it did. The fact that it did was not good and the fact that my cancer stayed active for nearly a year was also not good. However, the impression was that we could rejoice that my cancer had gone back into remission; it would likely stay there for many years. So, rejoice and thank God is exactly what we did.
Meanwhile, I sat in Dr. Tan’s waiting room looking at the poor suffering souls whose cancer was obviously not in remission. Any one of them would gladly and quickly exchange places with me. I even felt a bit out of place. I was observing this suffering mass of humanity while personally rejoicing to be in remission with only my relatively annoying side effects from the daily chemo to contend with. I prayed for them and thanked God that I was in remission.
Soon, the nurse called me back. She took my vital signs and led me to the treatment room. I heard Dr. Tan speaking to someone as I also heard the file being removed from the holder outside my door. I stood up with a big smile as Dr. Tan entered the room. His return smile was minimal. My heart sank. Indeed, he informed me that my cancer was back active again. I’m not sure what else transpired during that visit. Oh, I remember the main things Dr. Tan said but the overall visit is a blur. I was in shock. After leaving the treatment room, I went and sat in the waiting room again. I wasn’t ready to get behind the wheel and drive. I looked at my appointment card and recalled that Dr. Tan said he wanted to recheck me in February. If my numbers went higher, he would send me back to M.D. Anderson for bone biopsies and further workup. I don’t know how long I sat there until I left. I had previously planned on sending a joyous email informing my awaiting family, at their various locations, of my good report. Not now, there wouldn’t be an email of any sort until I got my mind around my new status. I left the Woodlands feeling not only very disappointed but also quite bewildered and waylaid. My presupposed impressions of living a normal lifespan had seemingly come crashing down. I was back under the gun.
I drove to a coffee shop that was on the way home and began crafting my email. It took me a long time to write it. I knew that Eileen and the kids were awaiting my supposed good news but the words were very hard to write. I fielded several “happy birthday” calls in the midst of writing; thankfully there were no questions about my doctor’s visit. I finally finished the email and sent it off to my awaiting family.
Perhaps I took my status of being in remission for granted and took too much comfort in Dr. Jabbour’s assurances (MD Anderson). Maybe that is why this new test result hit me so hard. Despite the Christmas season and having the whole family around, I couldn’t shake the day and night grip this had on my soul. Countless times, I recalled how much better off I was than all those people in Dr. Tan’s waiting room. Not only them, but also I thought of the millions of suffering people around the globe who would readily exchange places with me. I thanked God numerous times that while my cancer was active, it was a low active status and not in an overtly aggressive state. Even so, I couldn’t shake it… until recently.
Earlier this month (February 14th), I went back to Dr. Tan’s office to have my blood drawn. I get the results this Friday the 28th. I humbly seek your prayers not only for a good result but also for the grace to accept whatever the result may be. In addition, I humbly seek your prayers for especially Eileen and the kids who battle this with me, along with other cancer patients and families all over the world. I resolve to update my blog after my appointment with Dr. Tan on Friday, regardless of the results.
As with my other health challenge, my right arm, how has it been going? Well, it could be better too. For those familiar with the neurovascular condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, the fact that it has been a very cold winter says a lot. While my arm has been doing better in recent years thanks to prayers and a plethora of treatments and procedures, this winter gave me a stark reminder of the days that moved us to the south. As if that wasn’t enough, I developed another arm issue.
The radial artery in my right arm (near the wrist) came to the surface and gave me a lot of sharp pain, and the pain became more diffuse. I got it checked out and was referred to a hand surgeon at Andrew’s Institute. After undergoing an arteriogram to rule out an aneurism, it was determined that my artery had broken loose from the connective tissue which normally holds it in place. The result is that the artery came to the surface and has created a noticeable visible bulge near my wrist. Due to the way that my tendons were rearranged years ago to give me more hand usage, the transferred tendons pull across that artery each time I close my fingers. Now that this part of the artery has broken loose, I can watch the artery move each time I close my fingers. Well, what to do about it? Other than steroid injections to relieve the pain and irritation, there isn’t much to do. Did I get the steroid injection? Well, as the visual image of that needle going into my very sensitive and atrophied arm flashed before me, I told the doctor that I didn’t want to get it right then. He said to just call when I’m ready. We’ll see how my arm does when I increase my outside activity in the warmer weather. Something tells me I’ll keep my activity just under what would necessitate regular injections!!
So, I’ll write on Friday. Thank you for your prayers.