Do you like running? Did you catch any of this week’s Boston Marathon? I knew someone who was running this year, so I had a keen interest in the race, but it made me think about three other marathoners whom I admire
even though they weren’t running in the Boston Marathon. The first one is Jess, whose daughter’s cuteness (Sadie)
has adorned some of my Bless Your Baby entries. Jess is totally delightful! She’s also a marathoner, and the story goes
that she and her husband, Sam, ran a marathon together the morning before they got married. Doesn’t that put a big grin on your face? Jess has set aside many of her personal ambitions in order to love her family, and this past week she went with her husband and their little girl to Boston, where they cheered Sam on in the Boston Marathon. Way to go, Sam and Jess!! Life is a marathon, and you’re doing great! Last week while Alan was at a conference in Chicago, I spent a blissful afternoon with Jess and Sadie, along with two other women who are running a great race in life’s marathon.The hostess, Marlene, is an Iranian Christian and always makes the most delectable, exotic meals. I won’t go into details, but the transition from Iran (many years ago) was at great cost to her family, and she still cares for an older brother who was never able to recover emotionally. Despite the trials in her life, Marlene radiates a gentle kindness which makes me (and I suspect everybody else in her life space) feel dearly loved. She’s the kind of woman I wish lived next door to me, and I envy her neighbors! Definitely one of those blessed, virtuous woman whose worth is far above rubies.
Marlene’s sister-in-law is another rare gem. Lillian and her husband are caring for both her brother and her mother…and have been for years (in addition to rearing their own brood, a very demanding medical practice, and being very involved in their Messianic Jewish community, etc!). Their example of working tirelessly and extending grace to others is mind-boggling to me. I don’t think I had the metal to have lived such a rigorous, unselfish life of putting the needs of others ahead of my own. I know God certainly didn’t test me in that way. At any rate, I was deeply touched by the experience of sharing an afternoon of life and love with these precious spiritual kin (same Father and all mothered by my spiritual mentor, Mommu). It was super fun, refreshing, and so encouraging!
Life is a long, hard marathon, isn’t it? But, like Sadie, let’s just keep trying,
and in the end, everything will turn out right! 🙂 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
P.S.—All the pictures of Jess, Sam, and Sadie (except for the pictures taken on the day of our visit last week) were taken and used by permission of Jess, who is very generous besides being so cool! Thank you!
Every once in a while, I share the story of some dear friend who has been a major source of inspiration to me, and although I’ve told you about Kari before (Ob/Gyn with an aggressive form of uterine cancer), her recent Caring Bridge entry was so encouraging that I asked if I could share it with you. She tells a story about her father-in-law as well as some reflections on her own cancer journey.
Miracles and Waiting on His Plan
Larry’s dad developed bladder cancer a number of years ago. It is a story of a remarkable number of medical mistakes and failures, and of God’s grace in a miracle cure. First, he was treated as if he had only a precancer, based on a misreading of the original (and repeat) biopies ( mistakes 1-3). When he repeatedly failed the superficial laser treatment, I suggested he get a second opinion at U of M. They re-read the prior biopsies, said he had had invasive cancer since the first biopsy and said he needed to have extensive surgery, which they could not schedule for a few more months (potential failure 4). We were able to get the surgery done here in Battle Creek within a few weeks, but he had to have a re-operation 1 week later as there was an internal leak of urine into his belly (mistake 5), however, despite extensive looking by 2 urologic surgeons, it could not be found (mistake 6). He had to live with this with the condition being difficult to handle and making him feel ill. Eventually this healed on its own after several months.
At a followup visit several months later he was complaining of back pain so a pelvic CT was ordered which showed nothing (mistake 7, as was not high enough). When he continued with pain he got an MRI which was read in the urology office as negative (mistake 8). The final report from the radiologist correctly idenitified the multiple enlarged lymph nodes from the metastatic bladder cancer, but apparently was never read by the urologists (mistake 9.). His primary care doctor got a copy several months later, when he requested records and discovered the oversight. Dad was then started on radiation, then chemotherapy. After half the planned chemo, repeat imaging showed there was zero effect on the tumors and they suggested he might as well stop treatment. He was tolerating the chemo so well, after discussion with family, he decided to finish the last few cycles as it might be at least holding the the speed of growth.
While people had been praying for Dad all along, about this time there was a “laying on of hands” at his church, and extensive prayer. Running into one of the urologists in Battle Creek I updated him on the situation. He looked at me straight in the eye and said, “You know he won’t survive this. People don’t survive after metastasis of bladder cancer, so just prepare yourself It will only be a few more months.”
Six months later his oncologist suggested a repeat CT, just to see how much the tumors had grown. To everyone’s astonishment, they were gone! All I could think was , “Well, here we go again- another misreading and a medical error.” However, repeat scans again and again over the last years showed no sign of tumor. There is no real explanation here except that this was a miracle.
Why am I telling you this? It helps to explain why I do not feel this is a “battle” with cancer. So many people use these words, which I have never quite related to. I do not feel aggressive in any way. If determination or extra effort could cure it, I would do that. But it is not what you have to do.. Mostly you accept things – side effects , treatments. It is really pretty passive time of waiting, not “fighting”.
I believe that the outcome is entirely in God’s hands, whether treatments “work” or not. If my life is over sooner than later (and, of course it will be over someday, no matter what) then it is because my work on earth is done. If my life ends later, then God has more work for me to do. Either way, my only choice is to trust that God’s plans are good. If I am asked to “endure”, that is what I need to do. If it is to wait and see what the outcome is or what side effects I have, then waiting is what I must do. This “fighting” would be both counter productive and exhausting. I am okay and at peace with waiting to see what He has in mind for me.
So that comes to my own miracle this week. I opened a copy of my mail today which held the paper results of my CBC (blood counts) from last Thursday. I was alarmed to find that that doctor that read them to me missed that my “absolute neutrophils” (the most important infection fighting cells) were 420 (not the 1600 I understood he read to me on the phone on Friday.) If they are under 1500, I am supposed to put on drugs to boost them higher and/or be hospitalized. And these were taken 3 days after their lowest point! The point being, I had been in significant danger of having a life-threatening infection, instead of the just bronchitis I am now recovering from. When today I called U of M with the result, they wanted me to go to the emergency room to get treatment because they were so low. However, since the report was 4 days old, I asked and it was decided to repeat the CBC today prior to being admitted. The neutrophils are now 2700, an astonishingly rapid recovery.
So I have been through a harrowing time this last week, not even knowing it. If I was “taken out”, or at least “taken down” during this time, it would have been understandable – but I was not. While I still have a pretty good cough, I no longer have a fever and have walked through this time safely. Only God can do this, affirming my original position. You don’t “fight” cancer, you endure or journey through it, trusting “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose.” This is true whether He decides I am done with my life sooner or later. Just trust.
Kari’s father-in-law, who is “Uncle Milton” to us, is alive and doing fine today! Larry, Kari, Kathi, Alan, with Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye on the sofa.We were celebrating Uncle Milt’s 86th birthday in 2011. This was taken just last spring, so you can see the Lord has truly preserved his life in a very miraculous way! Thank you, LORD!!
Last Sunday’s message was from 1 Peter on the subject of finding joy during times of suffering. If you’re skeptical and think that’s never happened since the Apostle Paul spent a night in a Philippian jail, then have I ever got a story for you from a friend who was in a terrible accident on Mackinac Island last August 31. My 63rd birthday was yesterday, but if you just want to hear Jane’s story, skip down to near the end. The prologue is this: For all but a very few of the last 38 birthdays, I’ve had the joy of sharing them with my son, Aaron, who was born on my 25th birthday, but this year work pressures kept him from bringing his family as he’d planned, and so I found myself with a free day, except that my wonderful husband took me out to Panera for hot chocolate and a (free birthday) pastry for breakfast, and then when he got home from work he took me out for dinner in Grand Haven. It got up to 79° yesterday—balmy and warm— so we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront and out to the end of the pier. Meanwhile, I asked the Lord what He thought I should do with my windfall of free time, and it just seemed like He had some ideas! So, in the morning after breakfast, I whisked down to Spectrum to sit with my next-door neighbor, whose husband ended up having prostate cancer surgery on my birthday! (Everything went well and he has an excellent prognosis. :)) Then, I found my way down to Middleville to take Jane out for lunch. Jane was on Mackinac Island with her family just about one month ago and got in a freak accident while out bicycling with her grand daughter. A horse ran into her, spooked, and stepped on her, nearly killing her. She’s had an amazing recovery but (of course) has a very long way to go and is still in a lot of pain. At any rate, this is how Jane looked in the hospital a month ago, and this is how great she was looking yesterday already! Here are her thoughts:
Good morning everyone!¸¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ ¸•.¸¸♥¸¸.•*•♫ Good Morning ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ 2 You¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
Yesterday, I got an email from a friend that said “Stay strong and positive. Not sure why I said that to the most positive person around.” Earlier in the day another friend approached me with a hug and kind compliment, “I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.” Both comments caught me off guard. How could I be angry or bitter? How can I be anything but positive? Let me try to explain. From the moment I realized what happened I started thanking God for all the things that didn’t happen – and I know I was one breath from death. I didn’t get that.
I had been riding a bike with my 9 year old granddaughter and her 10 year old friend. I think I’m on the millionth prayer ‘Thank you, God that this didn’t happen to them.’ They were 20 feet ahead of me and spared any injury. I still can’t stop thanking God that nothing happened to those sweet little girls and that he protected them from harm. Mark 10:16 “He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” He also protected them. I get that.
How can I be angry or let bitterness take root when I review what I didn’t get? My scalp was torn away from my skull and required 14 staples to put it back in place. I didn’t get a concussion and my skull didn’t crack. (There are advantages to being hard headed, I guess.)
When I looked up to see the horse moving forward, I moved to the left as quickly as I could. All my ribs on the right side front and back were crushed. My heart, just a couple inches away, was not touched. My heart could have been smashed, but I didn’t get that.
My shoulder blade cracked and while it’s the most painful area on my body, it wasn’t shattered beyond repair. It will always wing out now because that’s how it healed. I’ll forever wear that badge. It will be a constant reminder of God’s protection and blessing on my life.
I was wearing a backpack and every item inside was crushed, bent, or broken. My metal business card case, metal encased notepad, and metal enforced wallet were bent beyond further use, and my glasses inside a hard case were totally crushed. My spinal cord was unaffected – not even bruised. I could have been left with a damaged spinal cord, unable to walk – but I didn’t get that.
The sandals I was wearing rubbed blisters on my ankles, but my ankles didn’t get broken or sprained. Think of it. I could have gotten broken legs, crushed knees, broken pelvis … I didn’t get any of that.
When my ribs got crushed, my right lung was punctured and collapsed. God orchestrated the team of workers who showed up to save my life. What are the chances that the med station on Mackinaw Island would have a chest tube? How often would a medic be called upon to insert a chest tube, not from the bottom of the lung, which is the normal method, but from the top, down? God sent an ER doctor to the island that day and while talking on the phone to a doctor at the trauma center in Petoskey, inserted the chest tube that would inflate my lung and save my life. Miracles happened on August 31st. I get that.
Ephesians 3:17-20 “Let Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
How can I be angry or bitter? There is no other attitude to have besides positive. Recovery is slow and I feel bad about not being able to work till the end of the contract I had at my job. I’m not sure how that factors in to God’s plan, but I know that every detail of life paints a tapestry designed by Him. I’m easily exhausted, but am not bed ridden. When I use this little netbook for writing, it has to be at a certain position due to the pain in my right side, and it’s difficult to write, but I can write and type . . . just in short periods.
Philippians 2:13-16 “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”
*Thank you, dear Deb W., for the delightful birthday greeting at the top!
Today I want to share a story about my dear friend, Kari. (From left to right: Alan, me, Kari, Larry, Tom, and Brenda…we’ve all been friends pretty much forever.) I just got word a few minutes ago that Kari finished her ObGyn renewal boards already this morning! Three cheers for Kari. (She had cancer surgery just a few weeks ago and next week she’s starting chemo treatments.) I stand in awe of the way she’s handling all this!! Also, this afternoon I’m making dinner for some friends whose husband is recovering from cancer surgery, and Alan’s condition (which seems great at this time) is still ever on my heart, so the whole question of how to treat cancer and facing end-of-life issues has been burning my brain black on the front burner lately. Kari’s CaringBridge post is such a picture of grace at work that I want to share a few excerpts in the hopes of comforting anyone else who may be peering into the future with fear and trembling:
I guess I want to share a story that has been on my mind lately. Our first trip to Zambia to the hospital there was several years ago now. When first proposed to me that I go, I had said I would only go if they specifically needed a ob/gyn, as I knew I would be overwhelmed with general medicine. When it turned out that was they type of doctor was requested, I did not hesitate a minute – I knew I was being “called” and did not think twice. It was a challenging experience to say the least. The hospital had not had any doctor for a few years, the OR was dirty and disorganized and we did not know any of the staff or their capabilities like we do now. I was doing a lot of general medicine with critically ill patients and I barely knew what to do for them.
However, one experience stands out for me above all the rest. The nurses we came with had spent several days trying to organize and clean the OR. We had trouble finding and obtaining oxygen which was delaying our doing any surgery, although we had several patients that needed procedures for various reasons.
There was one patient that I felt needed to be the first for surgery. I had been told she had a miscarriage…and now she appeared to have had a “septic abortion”, meaning she was infected, and the ultrasound report showed an “abscess”. She was having a lot of pain but I ended up sitting on her a day or so, waiting for things to be ready for surgery.
Now I was in the OR ready to start the case… The instrument packages did not look very sterile to me and the lighting was poor. So as I stood over the patient with a scalpel in hand, looked around the room and started to tremble. I thought, “I am going to kill this patient! What am I doing??” and started to cry.
However, I paused and asked myself, “Am I supposed to be here?” The answer was clear and unequivocal: yes. That is the one thing I knew – that I had been called to this place and time. So then, what was I afraid of? An image floated before my eyes of a picture that the long- term missionary nurse had cut from a magazine and had on her wall. It was of a surgeon in the OR in a mask and surgical gown, the OR light shining on the patient, with an image of Christ standing behind the surgeon with one hand on his shoulder and one hand covering the surgeon’s hand on the scalpel.
I stopped trembling and tearing up, and I started the surgery. It turned out the patient did not have an abscess but a ruptured ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. She was bleeding to death internally and waiting any longer would have surely meant her death. The nurse with no experience first assisting performed courageously and with natural talent and skill that was amazing, not panicking with the large amount of blood. Ann kept her cool and David turned out to be incredibly experienced.
I am telling this story because I feel like I have spent more time than I want to admit in the last several weeks with that scalpel poised over that patient, trembling and unsure. I have to ask myself, “Am I supposed to be here? Should I go through with this?”. The answer is clearly, again, “Yes”. I did the right things and clearly this situation was not MY choice or in my control, but the One who is in charge of my life decided and is directing this whole cancer story. So, why should I be afraid?