Sunday, October 9, 2011

First Week Finished

Our first full week of school, post-surgery, is done, and it was wonderful and difficult. The wonderful part had to do with students and teachers who were so happy to have T back. Surprisingly, many of our students did not think he would ever be able to return. Their prior experience with cancer had one ending: loss. There were lots of tears, big hugs, and loud expressions of joy. T's office door was covered with blue bulletin board paper, littered with notes from students, brightly welcoming him home. He was also the grateful recipient of a yummy chocolate cake and beautiful cherry pie! Have I mentioned that I don't bake much?

This week was also spirit week, the week of homecoming, and all the extra activities made daily life a bit more difficult. Monday was tiring but not too bad, however Tuesday, T decided that the website had to be updated (he's the webmaster) so worked for hours getting that done. Not smart. His left wrist throbbed with pain for days afterward; lesson learned. Returning home for lunch and a brief rest helped T get through the rest of the week. 

I think the highlight of his week may have been returning to his bible class, Misseo Dei, each afternoon. Among the group are students who sincerely desire to know God more deeply, and others who acknowledge, quite frankly, that He has very little place in their lives. There are a lot of prayers ascending for these students! 

Friday night was the homecoming game, and T felt he just had to be there, even if only for a short while. We went just as the first half was ending, stayed for the coronation of the Homecoming King and Queen, then returned home after the team took the field for the second half. It was good for T to be there but left him with more pain. My mother asked me why the doctors didn't give him pain pills... ahem, they did. However, narcotics and T don't mix well, so he has only taken three pills since mid-September's surgery. Basically he relies on Tylenol, not really taking that too often because he doesn't want to kill his liver. Sigh... I do understand his thinking, but it is difficult to watch him deal with the constant pain. 

Sleeping has been a trick. He created a nest of pillows (six of them) that surround him and prop his arm in just the right position. Staying asleep all night doesn't actually happen, but he's never been a strong sleeper. We painted our bedroom Brown Teepee to create a dark, cave-like space, hoping to help him sleep deeper. It helps some but not enough, especially now.

So, week one is behind us. He is stronger but still in pain. He is definitely exhibiting more mobility, especially in his face. And I have learned to ask before I try to do something for him. It may take him longer to do it himself, but he'd rather try regardless. Thanks for your continued prayers on his behalf. He certainly does need them so please don't quit!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

And some more

It has been a whirlwind of a week. Once we got home, T had a bit of let-down, or major fatigue hit, or something like that. His temperature was low, and he was just exhausted. I think the twelve hours without rest on Monday afternoon/evening had something to do with that. Each day he has grown a bit stronger, but he realizes that he is not up to his normal pace and probably won't be for a while. He's ready to do more, however. Today he ran some errands, including chasing down some more medical supplies for bandaging his wounds. We don't have the same goodies here in Oly that we were able to buy in Houston, but he was able to find some others that will suffice.

The big news, the good news, is that the pathology report is finally complete, and all is clear. The doctors have said there should be no more surgery and no additional radiation. We are so relieved! T had maximum radiation back in 2004 and it would be tricky to go there again. The fact that he doesn't have to is just such a relief; I can't begin to tell you what a weight has been lifted from my mind and heart!

I know many have wanted more updates but really, this was the last big piece for our saga. We are hoping to put this behind us and move on with our lives. I've been back in the classroom since Wednesday, and Terry hopes to go back next week. We are so grateful for your support and prayer. Thank you for traveling this road with us over the past several weeks. We know how fortunate we are; we have witnessed those who have had far more serious outcomes. We are so blessed to have experienced healing yet again. God bless you all!

Monday, September 26, 2011


It's 11 PM in Oly and we are home. Had a completely uneventful trip, including an entire row to ourselves, thanks to a lady who move back a couple rows... and got a row to herself! We had the strength and stamina needed. T thought he needed to be the one to put his roller-board into the over-head bin; hopefully he didn't pop anything. He had to swing it up there. It was a sight! T's younger brother was there to pick us up, even had a cooler of milk, eggs, and fruit for us. So sweet! Even though it's 11 here, it feels like 1 AM - Texas time. I will say this: 58* is easier to handle than 97*! I love NW weather! Thanks for praying us home!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Once more from Texas

This is it. We have been in Texas since September 12th, and it's time to go home. Actually, I think it's past time to go home! We have been here for fourteen days, and so much has transpired. So much more happened than we ever expected, but the peace and assurance that God has provided remains steadfast in our hearts and lives. We are so thankful for that presence that allows us to count on One greater than ourselves.

As we travel tomorrow, please pray for strength and stamina. We are not leaving until 6:40 PM, Texas time, and won’t get home until 9:14 PM, Washington time. It will be a long day, a long evening. As strong as he has become, T tends to fade after three hours of activity. So please, pray us home! I’ll stay in touch via this blog from time to time, but the main activity is drawing to a close. At lease we hope it is! Thank you for your support and prayers. We couldn’t have handled this gracefully without you! Bless you!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Whatever, to the 10th power

I have always had a tough time with math, but I do understand the concept of exponents. The best example I have found recently is my dear hubby and his determination to heal and get stronger. His strength and abilities are mounting exponentially. When Scott was here, he encouraged me to let his dad do whatever he could for himself. Brian said the same thing when I talked to him on the phone, so I’ve had my sons’ voices in my ear as I have really tried (sometimes unsuccessfully) to hold back and let T accomplish a variety of tasks with one hand. As I look him over, he’s pretty battered. There’s the right side of his face with lots of stitches, the left arm in a splint, and the right leg quite wounded. Part of me wants to wait on him at all times, but that wouldn’t help him recover. Just the way he walked for hours while in the hospital, so he has done his best to take care of himself. I’m still allowed to hold the hair dryer in place while he fixes his hair. Yes, that was humorous sarcasm. ☺

Today was a big one. We decided to go out to lunch for a change, and T drove the car! One eye, one hand, one sore leg, but he can still maneuver a vehicle far better than I can.

Next, I dropped him at MD Anderson and came back to the hotel to finish grading papers. Now before you think I’m a terrible wife, he went there for a haircut. MDA has a free salon for their patients, and T was looking quite shaggy. While at the salon, he also got a shave, explaining to the lady helping him that he had forgotten the charge cord for his electric razor. Just so happened, she had an extra one and gave it to him. So sweet! His hair is pretty short but that may be a good thing. Hopefully he’ll be healed up before it’s time for another cut.

After I picked him up, we headed to the mall to look at slippers that were on sale at JCP. You may remember that his previous pair fell victim to the great blood blister! Beside that, they were at least ten years old and needed to be replaced. We didn’t find what we wanted but did some walking so it wasn’t wasted. Arriving back at the hotel, we rested for a bit, then T went out for a walk around the neighborhood – by himself.

Monday is going to be a long day but we will get through it. Being confined for four + hours on the plane is not going to be easy, but arriving home will be a sweet reward. And then, look out – it’s going to be hard to make the man pace himself. But that’s the guy I married, and I am so thankful for his determination and commitment to doing whatever it takes to get on with his life.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


We made our way to the medical center early this morning for another appointment with reconstructive surgery. This time we went prepared with a list of questions and needed supplies. T has three basic wounds that we care for, and the supplies we had wouldn’t get us through the weekend. Our questions were answered, supplies were ordered, and we were done. After a quick stop at the gift shop to get a thank-you card and deliver it to our favorite Dr. E (who was in surgery), we came back to the hotel for a bit of a rest. I can see T regaining strength day-by-day, but it’s going to take a while to get back to normal. Having the splint on his arm is also a real encumbrance, making everyday tasks more time consuming. But none of that is a big concern for us; we just try to take it as it comes.

It is easier to take things as they come now that we are a week past surgery. Honestly, we had moments of grave concern (even fear on my part) before surgery. Some of the potential outcomes were difficult to accept. Although T was also uneasy about the degree of surgery involved, he didn’t demonstrate the anxiety that I was feeling. Sorting it all out, committing what we couldn’t control, resting in the peace that God gave us took time and our focused attention, but the Lord was faithful and not only brought us through this physically but helped us to deal with our moments of weakness and normal human emotion. We’re not superhuman, just ordinary people doing our best to walk the road laid out before us, grateful to not be walking it alone.

One of the things we have really tried to do is encourage those around us facing similar fears. We’ve had our scheduled appointments with doctors, nurses, and therapists, and we’ve had a few divine appointments with people whose names we don’t even know. I had one of those this evening. It always seems to begin in the elevator. Makes sense, stuck in a little box like that, either we look at the walls and the floor, or someone speaks. Guess who’s the talker? Yeah, I’m guilty on that one.

I met a man from Independence, MO whose wife has been dealing with health issues for over a decade. They had received some really goofy care in KC until they got to KC Research hospital, where an honest doctor told them that he was simply not qualified to help her, nor did he believe anyone in that hospital was capable. With his encouragement, they came to MD Anderson. Now out of the elevator, standing in the hotel lobby, the man shared her story in detail. About 30 minutes later, he asked about my husband. I gave the brief version of our story, mentioning our amazing doctor, a tiny Iranian powerhouse who pursues the minutiae of everything. His head popped up, and he asked her name. When I gave him Dr. E’s name, he told me that she had operated on his wife just that morning. There was my cue! I gave him chapter and verse as to why he could be thankful. We chatted for a few more minutes, spoke of faith and hope, and discovered that we shared many spiritual commonalities. When we parted, he thanked me profusely for taking the time to chat.

These are the moments that make this awful experience worthwhile. I mean, frankly, I hate the fact that my wonderful husband has had to deal with all this stuff. I would never choose this for anyone in my family. But we do believe that we are called to make a difference in the world, and in order to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients, someone has to have cancer. I know, I know, it’s a terribly simplistic idea, but these encounters with discouraged people, seeing their spirits lifted, it helps us to make some sense of it all. In the same way that seeing the intricacies of the human skull reaffirms our faith in a divine creator, sharing with and encouraging needy people confirms our belief that none of this is just a series of random events. There is purpose to our lives.

Regardless of what one believes, we should all try to make life a little better for others, right? According to scripture, both Old and New Testaments, those who follow the Lord are called to share His good news and lighten the load of others. The opportunities are right in front of us; we just have to accept the divine appointments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A bit of this and that...

There are many things that just work here in Houston, especially for people with medical issues. First of all, the medical facilities themselves are unlike anything we have ever seen in the world. There is something like 50 different medical buildings downtown – I mean big, multi-storied, multi-building facilities. The fact that US News & World Report has listed MD Anderson as the number one cancer hospital again, well, that is not lost on us either. It is a place of remarkable care, although we have seen things that are simply beyond explanation, especially small suffering children.

Then take into account the hotels and extended stay complexes that serve those who are in these medical facilities, and you begin to see just how amazing this community has become. They know whom they are serving and aim to do the best job possible. We can personally put in a plug for the Comfort Suites Reliant/Medical Center Hotel located quite close to Reliant Stadium. Mr. Patel runs this place very well. It is so clean, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of his guests. One afternoon I returned to the hotel to try to rest a bit. I stopped at the counter to extend our reservation, and Mr. Patel came out to inquire about T and told me that he was ready to provide whatever special help we needed, just say the word. He is a wonderful man! His hotel also offers a medical rate that is half the cost of many of the hotels in the area. He has such a good heart!

There’s a lot to see around here. I can tell T is feeling better because he’s surfing the web to see what we can visit. He’s especially irritated to know he missed the annual Gun and Knife show on the 17th and 18th. He’s such a hoot!

Today we had a doctor appointment with the primary surgeon, and he is as pleased with T’s progress as everyone else has been. Pathology is not yet completed on the section removed so we don’t have anything definitive on that as yet. We are praying that it will all be negative, as we would really like to avoid further radiation, if possible.

After the appointment, we went to Physical Therapy where a team of two created a splint for T’s left arm, protecting the underside of his forearm and his wrist area (flap site). That took a while. He was instructed to wear this splint when he sleeps so he doesn’t do anything inadvertently that would harm the flap. He was also told to wear it when he does anything active, but he could take it off to sit on the couch. I wanted to laugh out loud! The only couch sitting he does is if he has a pile of books he’s reading, something he does enjoy a lot.

We are heading out to run a few errands. T’s energy level is returning, slowly but surely. Actually, it’s more exponential – doubled day-to-day. He is still not allowed to lift anything and that infuriates him. I brought a case of water up to our room, and he had to go on ahead of me, couldn’t stand to think that I would do that while he stood by and watched. I could see his jawbone protrude as he clenched his teeth over that one!

Tomorrow we head back to see Dr. S. He is fast becoming one of our favorites. We still need to write out a list of our questions; we always forget when we’re sitting there. Bless you all, dear friends, for your prayers and good wishes. We are grateful people who have enjoyed the presence of God during a time of suffering. It is amazing how He shows up, and all that He will do for us if we let Him. Until tomorrow.