Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Guest post from Mr Cheerful Pants


(Brad dictating, Sue typing)
 
As Sue may  have mentioned, the surgery was worse than expected, but every day I'm getting better.  I had a lot of pain on Saturday but since then it's been very manageable.  It's relatively easy for me to get out of bed and walk around.  I assume though, that I'd have a lot of trouble getting through a metal detector.  The number of staples in my belly is ridiculous.
 
At this point, the next step is simply passing gas, which I have not been able to do.  They say walking should help, which is why I keep trying to walk, although I'm in a very lethargic state so that's not always easy.  They say it could happen any time.  It sounds like I'd likely get out of the hospital about two days after I manage to fart.
 
We don't have the lab results from the three foot section of colon that was sent away yet, and it sounds like the CT scan is somewhat inconclusive so it's unclear at this point whether or not there will be chemo, however, I am being referred to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre for follow-up, and the initial appointment should be within two weeks of my being released from the hospital. As the only doctor we have spoken to is a colorectal, who doesn't treat liver cancer, he can't really give us much for answers.
 
Love you all, and covet your prayers.  Thank you for the outpouring of support we have already been blessed with.
 
My own prayer continues to be that "I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."  Acts 20:24
 
Brad.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

No guest post, no eloquent Danish writer ...

This one is just me.

I watch him sleep, and I stroke the soft skin of his abdomen and think about what lies festering beneath the surface, and wonder - who invited this monster into our home, our bed?

I subtract 1978 from 2013 and wonder where those years went.  Thirty five of them. I should know him better.  It should feel like a long time.

It doesn't.

I fall asleep beside him, wake gripped with a nameless terror.  Childhood phantoms crowd close, closer, as though my husband's presence is the only thing keeping them at bay.

I try not to borrow trouble from tomorrow, today he is here, he is still here, and we have no idea, really, how bad the cancer is, if it has spread anywhere, there is no reason to panic, to start planning how I'll live without him.

It's easier in the daytime, when he's there winking at me, when I'm driving him to work.  Except there are shadows even there - he's in pain, he's so tired.  He sleeps like someone wounded, and I will myself to stop thinking, to concentrate on breath.  Inhale, exhale.  He is still here.

Surgery tomorrow morning at 7:40 a.m.

Prayers coveted.

Monday, July 22, 2013

just for the last line ...

From "I Will Not Let You Go Except Thou Bless Me" an essay included in Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen


Sometimes a cool, colourless day in the months after the rainy season calls back the time of the marka mbaya, the bad year, the time of the drought. In those days the Kikuyu used to graze their cows round my house, and a boy amongst them who had a flute, from time to time played a short tune on it. When I have heard this tune again, it has recalled in one single moment all our anguish and despair of the past. It has got the salt taste of tears in it. But at the same time I found in the tune, unexpectedly surprisingly, a vigour, a curious sweetness, a song. Had those hard times really had all these in them? There was youth in us then, a wild hope. It was during those long days that we were all of us merged into a unity, so that on another planet we shall recognise one another, and the things cry to each other, the cuckoo clock and my books to the lean-fleshed cows on the lawn and the sorrowful old Kikuyus: “You also were there. You also were part of the Ngong farm.” That bad time blessed us and went away.
That bad time blessed us, and went away.
I am counting on this.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Falling back on a childhood coping mechanism

I have been reading. Voraciously.  Gluttonously.  I inhale a book and put it down and pick up the next one, and meanwhile laundry waits to be folded and suppers do not get cooked because I am not out here, in the real world, the unimagined world where my husband has cancer and we didn't see it coming.

However.

I have read some astonishingly good books.  I love Marisa de los Santos' writing, and somehow I managed to friend her on Facebook, or like her author page, or something, and if she recommends a book - I will read it.  I will read it because she appreciates good writing and I am never sorry to read something she's recommended.

So here are some recommendations for you, via Marisa.

1. The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton.  I read this one because M had recommended The Wednesday Daughters, which is a sequel to this one, so I got them both, and read them both, and loved them both.

2. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce.  I don't even know what to tell you.  Go read it.  And if you don't cry at the end, you're different from me.  I liked it so much I want to go read it again right now, but I think someone should fold laundry.

And a recommendation that didn't come from Marisa -

3. Gary Schmidt's "The Wednesday Wars."  It's a YA book - the protagonist is a 12 year old boy - but I have a boy who was that age not so long ago, and this book felt like a visit to that boy.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Guest Post by my beloved husband

This is an email update he sent out earlier today.  It seemed the easiest way for me to disperse the information as well.

***

So first he sent this one out last week:  After


Subject: Yep, I'm mortal!

 I’ve just returned from a colonoscopy in which the doctor called what he found cancer.  Apparently I’m to expect a call from a surgeon later this week.  More news as it becomes available…

 After we saw the surgeon today he sent this one out:


Subject: RE: Yep, I'm mortal!

 

Thank-you all for your prayers, thoughts, and emails during this time!


OK, here are a few more details, as well as the latest news.  Some of you asked why I had the colonoscopy in the first place.  Well, approximately two years ago I went in for a routine physical.  At the time, the doctor said “well, you’re 50 – you should get a colon screening”.  She made the referral and I promptly forgot all about it.  Sometime after Christmas I began to experience some abdominal discomfort/pain.  To some degree I was like a frog in water, though.  It started very subtly, and even now isn’t particularly bad.  It’s not a strong pain – more discomfort.  However, my stool also started looking darker and became a bit more irregular.  The really weird thing is that it has gotten so that it’s difficult to tell whether I need to have a bowel movement, need to urinate, or am simply hungry.  Those three feelings are becoming somewhat difficult to differentiate between.  Then one day I got a call from the colon screening centre.  They told me my appointment was coming up.  Apparently the queue for routine screening is nearly two years long!  For me it felt like God was in the timing.
 
When the time for the colonoscopy arrived, they gave me a choice about whether or not to be sedated.  If I took the sedation, I’d be “legally impaired” for twenty-four hours.  Since I was headed out of town that night and would need to drive a car, I chose to go without the sedation.  I’m glad I did, because the pain/discomfort wasn’t that serious (in fact, it wasn’t as bad as the stuff I had to drink beforehand!) and I wouldn’t have heard the doctor talking to me as he proceeded.  When he saw it, he said something to the effect of “yep, there’s the cancer.  Looks like it’s been there a while.”  Also, it was bleeding and there was enough obstruction that he couldn’t continue further down my colon.  Given that we’d already been told that “early detection is key”, and that the doctor said “it’s been there a while”, and the fact that it was bleeding, and the fact that I’d had some abdominal discomfort already, we took away the impression that this was, indeed, very serious.  However, it was all speculative, so I didn’t include it in the previous email – I wanted more details before I began inviting people to my funeral.  J

I met with a surgeon today and he seemed quite calm about the whole thing.  This is not to say it’s not serious, but he certainly gave the impression it wasn’t the death sentence we thought.  In fact, the way he talked he made it sound like it might be nothing more than surgery – an oncologist might not even need to get involved.  The bottom line, really, is that we’ll take it one step at a time.  So, here are the next few steps.

1.       Within the next week or so (don’t have a date/time yet), I’ll be having a CT scan.  It is meant to provide more detail on the extent of the problem, including how much of my colon is affected, and whether or not it has spread to the liver, abdomen, or pelvis.

2.       July 26 I go in for surgery at Peter Lougheed Hospital.  It will be done laparoscopically (i.e. small, minimally invasive incisions), and they will remove a section of my colon, with its blood supply and lymph nodes.  I expect to be in the hospital 3-5 days, and probably off work for about two weeks.  Only about 3% of these surgeries end up with the need to have a colostomy bag for a few months after.

3.       The piece of colon that gets removed will be sent for pathology, where they will try to determine if the cancer has spread.  This typically takes about two weeks.

4.       If it is determined from steps 1 or 3 that the cancer has spread, then an oncologist gets involved.  It is at this point that the possibility of chemotherapy enters the picture.

 

Some of you have asked about how I’m doing/feeling.  The truth is that, whereas I continue to have some abdominal discomfort, it’s not that serious – after all, I can still play hockey!  J  The worst symptom I’ve experienced so far is a decrease in energy and an increase in the sleep I seem to need.  My appetite has gone down, too, but not precipitously.  So far I haven’t lost any weight (I keep hoping, but… J).  Psychologically I think I’m in a very good place, and I attribute that to God gifting me with a generally positive, optimistic view of life.

 

OK, I think that’s about it.  I think I’ve provided pretty much as much information as I have, but if you have questions, let me know and I’ll respond as best I can.

 

Thanks again!

TechnoBoy  (note:  he did not call himself TechnoBoy ...)

 

P.S. (for those who share my faith):  God is good!  It has touched me how much prayer support I’ve been receiving during this time.  In fact, I’ve been saying that if it went by quantity, I’d already be healed!  J  It is great to know that the Great Physician is guiding the physicians here, and if all else fails, has a place prepared for me!  That certainly doesn’t mean I’ll give up the fight down here – I certainly want to grow old with my wife and watch my kids grow up, but the thought of meeting my Redeemer and reuniting with my parents isn’t exactly a bad one either.  I simply have to quote Philippians 1:18b-26:

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

I feel very much like Paul did when he wrote that, even if our circumstances are somewhat different.  J