Very Good News

The doctor just phoned me as she promised she would.  She had very good news for me.  I have one large liver cyst and several smaller ones but they are all categorized as “simple” cysts which are always benign and nothing to be concerned about.  So…..we carry on with the treatment plan for radiation therapy.  I now begin next Wednesday June 6th for three weeks.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers on my behalf.  I’m very pleased at the news….my mother will be elated.  She couldn’t help but shed a few tears when I told her of the concerns and I suspect she will shed a few more and this time with great relief and joy.  She is still struggling with bouts of diverticulitis and a pulled muscle in her back.  Being without her “other half” of 56 years I know is a huge adjustment.  Suddenly there’s no one there to immediately share with and talk matters over.  She so appreciates all your prayers for her and all the phone calls and people checking on her.  I appreciate it too especially since I’m here and for now can’t get to her myself.  She is enjoying having one of her grandchildren with her for the next two weeks.

As always…..thank you everyone for sharing in my journey, holding me and my family up in prayer, showing your care for us, and overall filling up our cups to overflowing with your love and encouragement.

Facing The Unknown

It seems the last several months of my life have truly been filled with a keen awareness of “never knowing what a day may bring forth.”  I was set to begin radiation therapy this week but received a call from the doctor this morning to put that on hold.  It’s the liver thing.  All the doctors in the oncology department are meeting together on Wednesday to discuss their patients.  They do this every Wednesday.  This week they’ll be discussing me and comparing the two scans, the CT and the Ultrasound, of my liver.   I like the idea that they all put their heads together and come to an agreed upon plan.  In my case they must conclude whether they believe the liver cyst to be a “simple” cyst or to be something more that would require a biopsy to check for cancer.   I must say I feel extraordinarily calm about the whole thing.   I know that must be God, yet again, pouring in that lovely “peace that passes all understanding” into another unknown something around the corner in my life.

As the doctor was talking, explaining the above,  I was filled with a huge sense of thankfulness for their skill and care of me.  They’re wanting to be certain that nothing is overlooked.  How wonderful.  How could I be anything but thankful for them.  Hence, in this case, I’m not even frustrated at  another delay or change in treatment plans.

You might be wondering, how do I feel with the slightest prospect that there could be another cancer growing in my liver?  Well, it’s both strange and amazing to me.    It seems to me it wouldn’t be at all unusual if I were full of fears and tears at such a possibility.  You would all understand and hold me in much love and prayer.   The fact that I feel nothing but calm is what I find both “strange and amazing.”  I asked myself, why am I not scared?  I contemplate a few moments and conclude,  it’s experience with God.  He’s never left me but instead has always been everything I have ever needed in my life.  If He has never left me before and has always been what I needed through all my days, then it’s very difficult to think things might suddenly be different now.

I’m reminded of something my Dad said during the three weeks before he went to Heaven.  He said, “I’ve had good times in my life and I’ve had hard times in my life but I’ve never had bad times, because in all the times, Jesus has been there to see me through.”  My doctor will phone on Thursday with the scan results and the recommended next step.  Whatever that step might be I am as convinced as my Dad and also say with certainty and joy, Jesus will be there to see me through.

Click, Click, Whirrrrrrrr……

I arrived at the hospital in good time yesterday.  It was my first visit to this particular hospital in Portsmouth where I will be receiving all the radiation treatments.  It was impressive upon first sight.  The staff are impressive too with their care and smiling faces that greet you whether passing in the corridor or seen to by them in the treatment room.  I thanked Father for both the hospital and the medical staff.

When I stepped out of the elevator I looked for the sign that would point me to the Oncology Department.  There seemed something ominous in that sign.  I walked in and the large waiting room was filled with all ages of people.   Some were talking quietly, some were staring at nothing, some looked sad, two ladies sat there with no hair.  I tried not to stare at them but found it fascinating they hadn’t tried to cover their heads.  I admired what must be two very positive ladies and prayed for continued courage and strength and joy to be with them throughout their individual ordeals.  After checking in at the registration desk, I was very quickly taken back to a smaller waiting area already filled with another eight people.  Everyone without exception was chatty, saying hello, asking all the introductory questions like, “Where do you live?” and “Is this your first time too?”  We all discovered that it was the first time for all of us and soon realized we’ll be seeing lots of each other over the coming weeks as we’ll be going in one after the other for our radiation treatments.  I have to say, I was extremely thankful for this group of people and their very unusual non-British behavior of actually talking freely to people they don’t know.  (sorry, my dear British friends – you know I love you in all your reservedness:)..)  I suppose in this instance there was an immediate camaraderie.   I quickly discovered this was not a group of Breast Cancer only patients.   In fact, I’m the only one in my group being treated for Breast Cancer.  There was a man there for prostate cancer, a woman with throat cancer, another with pancreatic cancer and a woman directly opposite me with brain cancer.  The woman with brain cancer told us she had been diagnosed in January and given six months to live.  “Then they decided to operate even though the risk was high”, she laughed as she continued with, “I told them, with six months prognosis I couldn’t see much to lose but possibly something to gain.”  She told us  they were able to remove most, but not all of the tumor, and now she is having radiation treatments.  “They said they can’t cure this. ” She spoke with a huge smile spread across her face.  Her grey hair was shiny, her blue eyes nearly dancing as she said, “This has all just made me appreciate each day and the people in my world even more.”  I thanked Father for her and her positive attitude and prayed blessings on her and the treatment to follow.  As we all waited together I prayed in my heart for each one and for their families.  I asked Father that through this they might discover Him and His love for them if they didn’t know that already.

When my name was called I was led into a room where I would receive a CT scan and “tattooed” to mark the place for the radiation treatments each day.  The two technicians guiding me were friendly, smiling, and took care to fully explain all that was going to happen then and in the weeks to come.  I find technology today in the medical field absolutely fascinating.  Measurements to fit me were made, not only for the radiation beams, but also for the head and arm rests.

Once in position I was told they would leave the room but would be watching through the glass.  I was to lay still for about fifteen minutes.  Suddenly there was a click, click, whirrrrring sound as the table moved me into the tube of the scan.  Red and green lights were flashing and gliding in a semi-circle above me.  Further into the tube I went.  click, click, whirrrrr.  That was the moment I had to give myself a stern talking to as I firmly told myself, “The tube will not squeeze in on you; it’s all plastic and metal.  You won’t suffocate, breathe normally, you won’t be trapped, breathe, breathe breathe.”  To all of you, who over the years have told me what a brave and fearless woman I am, the secret is now out.  I’m a bit claustrophobic, nervous of heights, and please, don’t even talk to me about my experiences of driving over bridges!  🙂

Needless to say, I did indeed survive the scan, didn’t come close to suffocating, and actually began to relax before it was all over.  I’ve had a phone call this morning about the scan.  The doctor said, “There are some places of concern in your liver.  Will you come tomorrow for an ultra-sound?”  So, the journey continues with another unknown something around the corner.  One never knows what a day may bring forth……but Father knows and Father cares and Father always has our best interests in His own heart.  That’s all we need to know as we face the unknowns in all of our days.  I’ll let you know the results of the liver scan as soon as I know.

In the meantime my Mom is recovering well from the diverticulitis.  She so appreciated knowing so many were praying for her.  My family and I know you continue to pray for all of us.   Thank you.  As the lady with the brain tumor said, things like this, “makes me appreciate each day and the people in my world even more.”  Thank you everyone for being “the people in my world” today.   My family and I are so blessed to have you and your love and your prayers a part of our lives.

A Week Gone By

My family and I can hardly find words to fully express what the outpouring of your love has meant to us this past week.  So many of you came to the Memorial Service last Sunday.  The sanctuary was packed and afterwards we were told there was a huge overflow into the Fellowship Hall watching by closed circuit TV.  How blessed and touched we were and our hearts made glad.  Others of you were not able to come but you expressed your love through phone calls, emails and cards.  To merely say “Thank you” doesn’t seem enough.  Even so, I’m sure you will read the depth of our own love for you through those words.

 

Thank you for praying for me as I spoke at my Dad’s Memorial Service.  I have to say I felt those prayers and I was filled with a great sense of God’s own strength and peace and gladness.

 

On Monday I had to fly back to the UK to resume treatments for breast cancer.  I saw my doctor on Wednesday and she was very pleased at my progress.  The “guitar strings” are all gone, the swelling completely down, incisions healed a beautiful shade of bright pink, and my arm is in full use again.  So, we’re ready to begin where we left off.  On Tuesday the 22nd I’ll be “tattooed!”  Really!  Just two little blue dots to guide the radiologist for each treatment.  I’ll also then be given my daily schedule for radiation.  Three weeks of zapping and it should all be over.  I continue to have no side effects from the drug Tamoxifen that I take daily and will do so for the next five years.

 

I have felt unusually tired since my return.  Jet-lag most often affects me a day or two but this week I really am sort of dragging around, eating and sleeping and then….waking up to eat and sleep all over again.  My Mom is also extremely tired. She is also battling diverticulitis and I know will appreciate your prayers that this passes quickly.  Of course, we know it’s the sudden stop.  All last week we were both up all through the night tending to my Dad.  Those were lovely moments doing things for him and he was so gracious receiving our care.  Spoken words of love were passing between us frequently.  Then the moment of his departure for Heaven.  Then the Memorial Service.  It was a whirlwind of activity and now it has stopped so our bodies are having ‘catch-up’ time with some needed rest.

 

This afternoon it dawned on me that the very hour and minute was approaching that would mark one week ago when Dad left earth for Heaven.  A sudden pang in my heart ached for him; but at the same time as the pang, I recalled that at the moment of his departure I sang over him the song, “On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand.”  So, I stood in the middle of my living room and sang the song aloud to myself.  The words gave me a great measure of cheer.  There is no comfort as satisfying as God’s own truths ringing in one’s ears, making it’s way to our heart, pulsing peace in our veins.  I share those words with you now.

 

On Christ The Solid Rock Stand

 My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

My father is with my Father

It was 10:20 this morning when my Dad exhaled on earth and inhaled in Heaven.  He left this present world peacefully and I know entered Heaven joyfully.  He was so looking forward to his Heavenly trip.  He spoke of Heaven so much these past three weeks and often said aloud, concerning his time on this earth, “I have been so blessed, so blessed.”  His attitude, humor, absolute faith in God, and his joyful anticipation of Heaven made his parting much easier for us all.  Of course there have been tears and I know there will be more to come.  I expect tears and times of grief;  I also expect strength of God and peace throughout.  I know we will not be disappointed in our expectations of Father being all we need Him to be.

The Memorial Service for my Dad will be 3:00 pm, Sunday, May 13th at Springfield Baptist Church in Brundidge, Alabama.  Two weeks ago my Dad asked me if I would be the main speaker at this service.  I told him it would be an honor.  I know you will pray for me and all my family at this time.

Thank you everyone, from me and all my family.

It happened This Morning

Yesterday was a tough day for my Dad.  His weakened legs makes it increasingly difficult to walk, and when sitting or laying down, he has to have his head just right in order to breathe easily.  Getting a deep breath is a feat.   Each day has had its own challenges and this morning was no exception.

Mom and I were in the den having that first cup of coffee for the day when I heard something like a thud.  It was a thud.  It was Dad landing on the bathroom floor.  As I got near the door I could hear him calling, “Vickie, Pat.”  “We’re here,” I said and quickly knelt beside him.  Mom was right on my heels.  I placed my arms beneath his shoulders and tried to pull up.  Nothing.  Mom had her arms around his waist and tried to pull.  Nothing.  Dad was trying to move into better position and finally managed to get to his knees.  He was now facing the toilet and holding onto the seat.  Once again we all three tried to bring him to a standing position.  Nothing.  Finally my Dad said, “Call Donnie.”  Donnie is a dear friend who lives up the road from us.  He doesn’t exactly appear as a knight in shining armor; more like a mountain of strength in a pick-up truck.  Mom was on the front porch waiting for him and I stayed with Dad.  By this time I was sharing his kneeling position with him beside the toilet.  Suddenly Dad started to laugh.  I did too.  What a predicament.

Dad said, “I’m never going to laugh at that TV advertisement again.”

“What advertisement is that?”  I asked, still chuckling with him.

“The one where that woman says, ‘I’ve faaalllllllen and I can’t get up.'”  We were nearly in hysterics.

At that moment our mountain of strength in a pick-up truck arrived.  He was wearing jeans, a camouflage t-shirt and boots.  (Personally, I like that better than shining armor)  In no time at all, he had Dad up and in his chair in the living room.  A good friend is a treasure.

Throughout the day, every now and again, Dad makes reference to his morning ordeal with, “What an episode.”  It was during one of those times of remembering the bathroom ordeal in the morning when he said, “God takes such episodes that happen to us and stirs our cup of life to make Heaven even sweeter.”

“Dad, I think God just gave that to you.”  I was touched to the core at such a statement at such a time.

“I think He did too,” said Dad.  Mom was there too.  It was an exciting moment of “holy” joy.  These are days when our hearts and minds are overtaken with a myriad of emotions.  Thank you all for your love and prayers.

A final note…..my guitar strings are completely gone.  I’ll be very ready indeed for the radiation therapy to begin on May 16th.


Another Good Day

How many people would be hooked up to an oxygen machine, feel exhausted after morning shaving, endure a constant “bloated” feeling from fluid retention, and still say in all sincerity while getting into bed at night, “It’s been another good day”.  That’s my Dad.

Yesterday morning I was in the kitchen making waffles, Mom was making coffee,  Dad was in the den enjoying the smells of breakfast wafting through the house.  Suddenly we hear him call out, “This is the day the Lord has made.”  In unison Mom and I responded with, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”   We ate our waffles with a serving of syrup on the plates and gladness in our hearts.

Life is tainted with trouble.  No one escapes their share.  Life is also interspersed with happiness.  We all get that too along the way but absolute joy and peace in the middle of life’s storms?  That comes from walking with Jesus on the water but Dad gets real tired walking these days…..but hey…..no problem……his motto?   When you can’t walk, put on ski’s and let Jesus pull you to the boat.

As for me?  Well……it’s been another good day.

Up, Up, And Away!

Well, here’s a surprise for you.  It certainly was for my parents last night at midnight…but I’m getting ahead of myself.  I have to back up a few days to begin this story…

First of all, you’ll be happy with me to know that my own personal Hercule Poirot detective nurse succeeded in her attempts to get me an appointment to begin radiation therapy. I received the letter a few days ago.  The appointment date?  May 16th.  My first thought was, oh no! a month! My second thought was, oh great! a month! I can hop on that plane after all and go to see my parents.  The plan was very quickly made and yesterday I flew to Atlanta from London.  I had arranged for a friend to meet me and take me to my parents house.  Excitement was growing when we turned onto the country road that would take me to their home.  It was nearly midnight. I phoned my Mom.

“Were you asleep?”  I asked.

“No, not yet.”  She answered

“I was wondering if you’d do me a favor.”

“Well sure.”

“In about five minutes, will you open the gate?”

“What?”

“I’m on your road; I’m almost there.”

“You are kidding!”

We pulled up and there was Mom standing in the middle of the front yard, her pink robe blowing around her legs in the breeze. What a reunion we had.  I hadn’t thought we would wake my Dad.  I had envisioned him coming into the den the next morning to find me there but Mom said, “Oh, we must wake him; he’ll be so thrilled.”

“Chuck?”  My Mom gently touched his arm.  I was standing just outside the door.  The sound of the oxygen pump was humming.  “Chuck?”

“Hmmm?”  His sleepy response brought him to wakefulness.  I took that as my cue and walked into the room.  He looked at me; I looked at him.  In the dim lights of the room I saw the clear oxygen tube in his nose and looped around his ears.  His legs were elevated in his new remote-controlled bed.

“Dad?  Surprise.”  I could feel the smile on my face.  I had made it.  I was seeing him, my Dad.

“Vickie?  Vickie.  Oh my.”  His voice sounded sleepy and gravelly but the joy in his eyes was strong and alert.

A little later I crawled into my bed, tired and happy.  I had been so frustrated at not getting my appointment to begin the next stage of treatment.  Father used that delay to bring great blessing to me and to my parents too.

Dad is still retaining fluid….so weak in body; so strong in spirit.

As for me?  The pain and burning sensation from the lymphatic cording has completely ceased.  I told you last week that as quickly as they had come, just as quickly they eased away.  The cords are still there but are not making themselves a nuisance at all.

I’m happy to be here to spend time with my Dad and happy to be here to give my Mom some relief as full-time carer.  All is well.

What? More Guitar Strings?

You already know last week was not the best concerning the guitar strings.  I grew another one and another one, and this week…..yes, another one.  I am better understanding the “web” in Axillary Web Syndrome.  I’m branching out all across my abdomen.  If it keeps on I’ll be able to do an imitation of a road map.  Last week-end was not good and it got worse.  The burning sensation truly felt like being entirely too close to a fire and twinges of pain were like quick, sharp stabs with the slightest of movement.  Then suddenly, almost as quickly as it all seemed to happen….it began to ease.  Two days ago I awoke with the burning sensation gone.  Yesterday the twinges of pain eased and today I actually feel like a normal person.  (I can hear some of you saying I’ve never been normal) 🙂    I’ve felt so well, I’ve even gone for a dog walk with a friend and her dog and felt great afterwards!

Also, this week I began taking the drug called Tamoxifen.  I’ve got a 30 day supply for now.  I’m to be aware of any particular side effects like difficulty swallowing or sudden rashes appearing.  So far, so good.  If I’m fine for this month I’ll be given a supply for 2-3 months at a time.  I will be taking this drug for the next 5 years.

I’m still waiting for an appointment to begin the Radiation Therapy.  Matters concerning that appointment got very frustrating this week.  I phoned to inquire about the appointment only to find out the Radiology department didn’t have the referral.  I then phoned my Breast Cancer Nurse and she has been wonderful.  She got right on the case, making phone calls, meeting with people from Radiology, making more phone calls.  She was like Detective Hercule Poirot, not letting the matter go.  The fault lay on the administration side of Radiology who had misplaced the referral concerning me.  My Nurse told them I am not to be put on the bottom of any pile as a referral being lost certainly isn’t my fault.  I have a feeling I will be hearing something very soon.  I’m so thankful for that particular nurse.  I have to say, I can take many things that life throws at me but administrative failures send me plunging to the depths of frustration.  Such frustration makes me cry and aggitates me to the fullest.  Isn’t it amazing how we are all so very different?  I can walk along war torn streets or be marched away by police with machine guns but for goodness sake, don’t mess up my appointment!  It’s too much to bear!

Such moments in life, after I calm down, remind me again and again of the beautiful way God has made each one of us, like pieces of a puzzle.  Standing alone and the piece doesn’t seem to fit, but standing together and it’s a part of a much larger and beautiful picture that God is designing in His plan for each of our lives.  I am reminded of the following verses:

“But God has made our body with many parts, and He has put each part just where He wants it.  What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part!  Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.  The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’  The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.'”  I Corinthians 12:18-21

So, to my fellow ‘parts’ out there.  Let us all press on, amidst all life throws at us, with the joy and the sadness, the unexplainable and all that makes sense, the easy and the tough, the laughter and the tears.  We are not alone; the Master Puzzle-Maker watches over all.

If I may share one other personal thing in which I would greatly appreciate your prayers.  Would you pray for my Dad?  He is retaining a great deal of fluid and swelling all over his body.  Many of you know about his heart condition.  In past years, whenever I wanted to, I could hop on a plane and be there to help him and my Mom.  For the first time ever, because of present cancer treatment, I can’t go.  How I long to be there.  Will you pray for my Dad and for his doctors as they help him?  Would you pray for my Mom in her care for him?   As always, thank you everyone.


The Folded Napkin

It’s Easter.  I would love to celebrate today in church but the infamous “guitar strings” are keeping me at home.  It’s okay.  I will celebrate in my heart.  I would like to share something of today with you and so I share one of my very favorite things about today.  It’s a little piece, but a very significant piece of culture and history.

We know what today is, the celebration of Jesus rising again.  In churches everywhere the story will be read of Mary Magdalene going to the tomb only to find it empty.  We will be reminded of the fact that she went to tell the disciples and that Peter and John ran to see what it was all about.  Those details will be read and commented upon but will the napkin be noticed?  Have you seen it before?  In John 20:6-7

“Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside.  He noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.”

Now, why was that folded up napkin so important that it needed to be mentioned in Scripture?   Such a small, seemingly insignificant detail, but it’s there.  Why?  Here comes the exciting part.  In Bible times the servant would set the table and stand just behind his master while he ate.  The servant was attentive to his master, watching closely at all times.  When the meal was finished, the servant watched as the master took his napkin to wipe his mouth and hands.  If the master crumpled up his napkin and placed it on the table the servant would come forward to clear the plates away.  If, on the other hand, the master wiped his mouth and hands but folded his napkin, laying it to one side, the servant would not come forward.  Even if the master left the table the servant would not move.  Why?  The folded napkin was a sign to the servant that said… just wait, I’m coming back.

Is there anything more exciting?  🙂  Happy Easter everyone.

 

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