Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TRACING the Leading

One winter activity: to trace the last 5 years through Mike's diagnosis, treatment, living, and then moving on. We knew and were reminded daily that God was walking with us and that so many friends prayed for us.
When those prayer warriors began in April 2009, no one knew what a commitment they had taken on. But they stayed with us.
We came to see God's hand in so many aspects of our living. I plan to recount as many as I can because that's where the Father taught us about His love and protection.
How, in the midst of confusion, does God get our attention? I found two early blog entries that demonstrate His presence and care.
June 2009: it's time to make some decisions about treatment. Or no treatment.
"Mike and I are facing some decisions in the next weeks. We are grateful for your prayers and we want to be good stewards of what God has given us. We will keep you posted.


The doctors and other health professionals who care for the terminally ill have a playbook with cliches’.


“I don’t have a crystal ball.”
“We’re all going to die.”
“Medicine is not an exact science.”

"We don't know."


So we met our oncologist/radiologist on Monday.


Mike: So, Dr., how do you see me?


Dr.: You are a relatively young man with advanced gall bladder cancer and no symptoms at the present time. Your cancer was not found early. That’s usual for gall bladder cancer. We do not have much data for your kind of cancer. You are a statistical study of one.


Mike: What do you propose?


Dr. We suggest that you begin a therapy regime.

(6 weeks, daily radiation, targeting the gall bladder bed; insertion of port (outpatient surgery) and 24/7 chemo)

Goal: so that the cancer does not grow back there. For how long? Not a cure. But we don’t know.

Side effects: Rad/Onc says that the chemo will be the harder; Oncologist said that radiation would be the harder; they both agree that "You’re such a young man in good health. You’ll do just fine.”


Me: As there are no symptoms at this time, what if we wait?


Dr: We don’t know. Maybe it will make no difference. Maybe it will make a difference.

What they DO know is that we can expect Mike to feel weak and ill, nothing unmanageable, several days a week. And that will mean no more flying. And the port will mean no more swimming.


The Dr. left the room and I told the hub that I would support whatever decision he made. But he pressed me and I confessed that I hated to see him give up what he’s doing right now, especially since they don’t know if waiting will make a difference.


So this week has been ‘sleeping on it’ and praying about it. Yesterday, Mike sent this to his oncologist


If I interpret (radiologist/oncologist) correctly, he advised that it will not make much difference whether I do chemo or rad commencing Sept 15, 2009.

Is it necessary to do both at the same time: Can I do one at a time, beginning with radiation? Will that make a difference?

Lynne and I do lots of fun things in the summer and we have some trips planned. Doing the treatment will kill those plans which I suppose could be changed.

If I do the chemo, I understand that I understand I must a port…when does that need to be inserted in relation to the start of chemo, should I elect to do that?

I am probably going to do both of them, particularly if it can be put off relatively safely until September.

Thanks you for the help. Please advise further.


She called this AM


"Your diagnosis is ‘microscropic metastatic gall bladder cancer.’ The therapy will be done together. If you wait for 6 months after diagnosis, there will be no benefit to therapy."

The therapy offers a chance of more time. But how much. And will it be good time?

We don’t know.


They traffic in optimism and hope at the oncology center.


So we are faced with a decision. Mike is a champ at a win/lose column comparision. This is perhaps the last time we will work this system.


We are going to be praying about this during the weekend and will ask you to join us. God’s grace will help us NOT REGRET the direction. You will be covering us, we know. Thank you, our friends."

God knows that I have a short attention span: He often answers prayers quickly and dramatically, so I won’t miss it. The day after I posted the last entry:

"Intimates know about our door bell situation.


Days after moving into our home, we accidently clipped those wires. Then “fix the doorbell” was on the job list for several months. But gradually, we adjusted and then realized that we were just fine without it. We avoided casual door-to-doors and other annoyances.


So to this day. Friends understand that we spend more time near the rear of our home and so they come around to the back door. Then, if the door is open, they call in or walk in and announce themselves.


So I was surprised when, on Friday afternoon, I answered the loud knocking at the front door and opened it to a visitor….not expected, not invited, but not unwelcome,  a local minister who offered his hand and began, “I’m not really sure why I’m here.”

He said that he had just this morning heard of Mike’s illness and something (hmmm, shall we say The Holy Spirit?) brought him to our home for the first time.


He’s not a stranger. 20 years ago, I served on a pastoral search committee that brought him to town. Since then, we had moved to another church and he had left and formed a new church. In recent years, he and I had bumped into each other on those occasions when I was treating myself to breakfast and he was meeting with a men’s group at our finest local diner.


Several months ago, he asked me to proofread a grant proposal where he recounted his life experiences for the last few years. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and is currently in remission but there’s so much more. Let’s just say that he is a modern-day Job and we’re no where near chapter 42.


Again, “I don’t know why I’m here.”


I gave him a short summary of our last few months. Then, Mike joined us. After 30 minutes, they thought maybe I had something better to do. 2 hours later, the emissary left.


All this in the context of our seeking God’s guidance in the course of Mike’s illness.


We did not speak of it until we were on our way to the lake. Then, Mike said, “Well, what do you make of that visit?”


I said I had no idea except that we had been praying and I knew that others were praying and this guy just shows up. “It must have something to do with what God is trying to tell us.”


Mike agreed and said, “It means I’m going to take the treatment.”


Ok, then I was dumbfounded. When it comes to decision-making, I am the impulsive; he is the deliberative. But not this time. We had not had time to work the win/loss column thing. He had seen the decision as crystal clear because of the visit.


And so this afternoon, I have contacted his doctor and we will meet next week to get all the particulars scheduled.


And please continue to pray. Although we realize that God’s will here is clear, today we are both quite blue.


And rejoice that God answers prayers powerfully.


Blessings to all of you. We will keep you posted."

I’ve never been one to ruminate on no-return decisions but it’s obvious that God wanted us to choose this route because He had a job for us to do.

And through His strength, we tried to follow His path.


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