Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Intro to OR


Wednesday 1/31/07

Today I went in for another biopsy of the cancer tissue on my tongue as well as a laryngoscopy of the throat. I'll know the results this Friday when I meet with Dr. Moore again at the Swedish Medical Center. I've never had surgury at a hospital before. This was kind of a primer for the upcoming surgury that will actually remove the tumor. It was an interesting experience to say the least, and in the end, I was disappointed.

When we finally arrived at 6:30 AM we met with a receptionist, then a person, then a nurse's assistant, then a nurse, then a different nurse, then the another nurse, then the guy who ran the waiting area, then another nurse who poked me, then another nurse who took me to the operating room where the anethesiologist was waiting for me with a needle. After they put a couple of warm blankets on me, I looked around at all the really cool gadgets in the room. An engineer in an operating room is like a 4-year old in a candy store. Too bad everything went dark 10 seconds later. I was dissappointed that I didn't even get to see those high circular lights turn on, or even meet the darn surgeon!

So I woke up with a bruised lip, a nasty sore throat, and a very painful cancerous sore on my tongue. Then I slept most of the rest of the day while on vicodon. I havn't eaten anything solid today, and unfortunately I can't eat anything at all other than milk, and eggs after 8PM tonight and nothing but water after 5AM because I have a PET scan tomorrow. To top it all off, the VanDerbekens brought over a wonderful meal that looked really good, but I couldn't eat it.

Anyhow, despite the interesting day I had, my family is a boat load of fun. My kids are really special. My mom would have called me special too. But when she says special she means that I had a special way of being disobedient, playing mean pranks, making messes, breaking things and nearly compromising my life. My kids are definately not THAT special.

Anyhow, we pray that there is no other cancer in my body, and if there is the, PET scan will reveal it. Tomorrow will be another adventure in sterile white corridors of First Hill in Seattle.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Encouraging News

God has been answering so much prayer:

1. It doesn’t seem like the cancer has spread
2. It seems like it is in an early stage (stage 2).
3. It seems like the cancer may be able to be taken care of without complication
4. Our insurance will pay for the PET scan!
5. we were able to get both appointments with two opinions this week (Swedish and UW), despite how they initially said we wouldn’t be able to get an appt. until next week
6. The children have done great this week (that wasn’t even in the email prayer requests)
7. Andrew (and me) have been so greatly encouraged. We thought he was going to die when we first found out and felt so hopeless. Now, the Lord has not only given us such great hope about him surviving this, but we are sooooo much happier in Him than we were before this trial. God is so so good.
8. We are learning soooo much through this trial, and God is greatly purifying us.

It doesn’t look like God has denied us even one of our requests. Please do not stop praying yet, though, and that these desires would fully come to fruition. You are ministering most hugely to us just by praying. And though it is to us you are ministering, the Lord will bless you greatly. It is so great to see the Lord prove His promises and show His Word is true over and over. We are also so grateful for you, our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

I’m so thankful they won’t have to destroy his perfect jaw!

- While we think we may go with Dr. Futran, please continue to pray for wisdom about which doctor and which options to take

- In addition to continue praying about the requests that seem to be being answered listed above,

- please pray that they wouldn’t miss any of the cancer when they are removing it

- and that no cancer only in the molecular size would form or remain.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Soul Food

This whole cancer thing so far has taught our family so much about God, ourselves, and life in general. This past week was one of really low lows, but yet at the same time some really high highs. I'm so thankful for my precious wife that stands by me and helps me up when I am down. I'll never forget how much she encouraged me and helped me this week. I wouldn't be much without her by my side. Here are a few things we've been learning recently:

1) The Lord is Good - David says in the midst of his afflictions in Ps. 34 "Taste and see that the Lord is good". Even in the depths of my worries, pain and difficulties thus far, God has shown us a glimpse of how good He truly is. When our cup is made deeper by trials and pain He is faithful to fill it with His grace. When the ground falls out from beneath your feet your faith is tested, and it is in that testing that you come to a deeper realization of WHY you love God - because He has given me more than I deserve right now anyway. Cancer ain't as bad as what I really deserve. My greatest sickness, the sickness of sin, has been taken care of on the cross.

2) How desperately we need the church family - God has truly blessed us with our church in Marysville, WA. What would be do without the people there? Not only has he used our church family to teach us and train us these past several years, but He has also used them to care for us in physical ways as well. With each of our two children being born our brothers and sisters at church overwelmed us with encouragement, meals, support and prayers. Now that I've been diagnosed with cancer, our brothers and sisters have done even more to support us in ways that I would not even been able to think to ask for. Praise God for the church - our family!

3) Life is better lived in the right perspective - The thought of dying changed my perspective on life pretty quickly. A couple of weeks ago I would have spent plenty of time thinking about menial concerns like what what my next job should be, or what our next house should be like, or what car would make my commute easier. Those things can be important, but there is much more to live for than these things, right? If I were to zip forward in time to the day I die (whenever that may be) and look back on my life I want to say that I did everything I could to magnify God on this earth. I don't want to say, "I wasted my life...but at least I got that car, or that house, or that job...". I mean, right now have two kids and a wife to live for. My focus needs to be on them, and the people around me that I can have an influence on. I'll journal more on this subject as I learn more along the bumpy road ahead.

Saturday, January 27, 2007



Wednesday 1/24/07 to Friday 1/26/07

Wednesday felt like one of the longest days of my life. I started the morning a little late because I was restlessly rolling around during the night. In addition to the pains in my ear and on my tongue, I could also feel a 1.5 inch long hard lump where my neck meets the skull below my chin. I was certain that the CT scan that I had the day before was going to show all sorts of cancerous stuff in my neck. So I braced myself for the worst. It was just so hard to know that you have cancer and feel all these pains in your head and neck, but not know how if it is treatable (see previous journal entry below). I'm so so thankful for my wonderful wife's encouragement the first 5 days, her strength and ecouragement really helped me get through that moment by moment battle.

Around noon our friends, Dave and Gale Light, arrived so we could go to our first appointment with a head and neck surgeon. Gale stayed back to watch the kids, and Dave joined us as another set of eyes and ears. On the way down to the Swedish Medical center in Seattle I was feeling very nervous.

When we finally got to talk to the surgeon, Dr. David Moore, he told me that the CT scan came back clean with no visible tumors in my neck. So he reached into my mouth and after causing me great pains said that the tumor was greater than 2cm, probably a stage 2 tumor. He also told me that a lot of the swelling in my gums and the pain in my ear was probably the tumor pressing on nerves and messing things up in my mouth, but they were not cancer. This was good news. He said he recommends surgical removal of the tumor and some some lymph nodes in my neck as well as radiation treatment, but he would know more the following week when he can put me to sleep and get a better look at it.

On Friday we met with Dr. Neal Futran at the UW Medical Center for a second opinion. Dr. Futran told me very similar things to Dr. Moore, but he recommended that I not have radiation treatment unless I really need to because I'm so young. Since you can only radiate a part of the human body once, I might as well save that card for later in life if this thing ever comes back. Another great peice of news was that the 1.5 inch long lump below my chin was probably not a tumor, but a swollen saliva gland near the tumor. Whew! What a relief that was to hear...

So, to summarize, we now have 2 opinions on treatment. Both of them say the tumor is a stage 2, and will require surgical removal. So thats the plan for now. I'm still planning in researching radiation treatment in case it is needed. Dr. Moore was concerned that there might be something else wrong with me since it is so rare for a 25 year old to get this type of cancer. So we scheduled a full body PET scan next week to see if there is cancer in any other area of my body. I hope that is not the case.

I'll keep you all posted, but praise the Lord for answering the following specific prayers this week:
1) We prayed that the cancer would not spread, and it does not seem to have done so.
2) We prayed for appointments this week with a head and neck surgeon. Even through both doctors didn't have space in their calendars, something miraculously opened up and I was able to get into both of the appointment books this week!
3) We prayed that I would be encouraged through this difficulty, and I was greatly encouraged this week. God truly met with me this week during my weakest moments, and in those moments I was able to find great joy in knowing my Lord and depending on Him for the strength to make it through the day. I'm so thankful that my greatest sickness, the sickness of sin is already taken care of by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I was also greatly encouraged by my wife, parents, family and friends who all called and emailed me this week.
4) We prayed that the insurance would pay for a full body PET scan, and they did.

Things to pray for:
1) Wisdom to choose between two good surgeons
2) That the cancer would not spread and would be completely removed surgically so that I won't need radiation treatment.
3) Continued encouragement and strength for the whole family.
4) That if there is something else wrong with me, the doctors would figure that out.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sideswiped by the News of Cancer

Andrew writes:

Tuesday 1/23/07
It have been 4 days since I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in the base of the tongue. I first found out on Friday night, and it didn’t quite hit me until Saturday. It has been a rollercoaster ride since then. A battle for the mind to think on what is true. When I read about the possibility of spreading to lymph nodes, the complex surgery, the radiation treatment on your mouth, not being able to eat, or talk…blah blah blah…it didn’t take long to depress me.

Sunday was a little better. At least I was still alive. And I sure have a lot to live for.

On Monday morning I read Don’t Waste your Cancer by John Piper and that really helped me. If you are reading this, I urge you to please read the article by John Piper. I don’t want to waste this pain.
By Monday night I decided I was going to fight this thing. It really helped when my brother-in-law, Bob, talked to me and told me to just focus on today. God has only provided the grace to make it through today, not tomorrow. God has not provided the grace to carry the burden of billions and billions of combinations of things that could happen tomorrow. Only God can handle that burden. So I need to focus on what’s true today. So I went to the gym, and I was encouraged to realize that the rest of my body still feels young.

On Tuesday I started the day discouraged again. I woke up worrying about the many possibilities and dreading the pain of major surgery to my mouth, throat and neck. All I had to do was make it through today. In fact, I just had to make it through the next 15 minutes. Below are just a few ways that the Lord has been gracious to me today:

1) I read John 18 this morning about the chief priests coming to arrest Jesus on the night of His betrayal. After Peter cut off the ear of the chief priest’s servant, Jesus said, “Put your sword away, shall I not drink the cup My Father has given me?”. Jesus drank the cup of crucifixion for my sake. Shall I not drink this cup (of cancer) that the father has given me?
2) My wife has continually encouraged me throughout the day and helped me to think on what is true. I’m so impressed with how she has been so strong through this and is working so hard to support me. I see God purifying both of us in this.
3) The Otolaryngologist I was referred to (Dr. Futran) was initially not able to get me in for an appointment this week. Then after being persistent, I was able to get an appointment for Friday! In addition, a second option for surgeons came up because somebody that used to go to our church had the same type of cancer in stage 4 and survived. He told me how great his surgeon (Dr. Moore) was, and recommended that I go to him. So I’ll be able to get appointments for 2 opinions this week! One at the University of Washington and the other at Swedish Medical Center, both of which are well respected cancer centers.
4) I was able to get a short notice appointment for a CT scan of my neck today so I can bring the images to the Dr. Moore on Wednesday.
5) I talked to two cancer survivors today, Charlie and Dave. Charlie is the guy that referred me to his surgeon, and it was encouraging to know that he went through the pain and recovery process, and is now doing just fine. Dave was also treated for cancer at Swedish Medical center and seems to be doing just fine now.