Monday, February 26, 2007

Update on Andrew's Recovery


The video below is from Saturday 2/24/07. I've already come a long way in my speech since then. I am also able to eat a little soft food. Eating has been really difficult, and often is discouraging. It isn't as painful anymore, but it's just difficult to move food around and swallow it. So I get discouraged and don't have much of an appetite. But I just have to force myself to do it. My goal is to somehow gain all my weight back before radiation starts. I typically have to drink smoothies and drinks, but at dinner each day I practice chewing food as much as I can. I'm still losing weight (~15 lbs so far), but my calorie intake is getting much better.

We still don't have the pathology results, so we're just waiting in suspense for now. Although it has been difficult physically after surgery, I'm glad to be home with my wife and the kids. They are a joy to be with.

Erik is still in a coma right now, but we're praying that he will come out of it soon. We got to visit him in the Critical Care Unit on Friday afternoon. It was hard to see him in that condition, but it just makes me pray harder for his recovery. As expected, his family encouraged me greatly during our short visit at the hospital. They're standing strong and very hopeful about the whole situation. Hopefully I'll be feeling up to visiting again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Broken crutches

Thursday night 2/22/07

I feel a little crippled right now, not so much physically, but more mentally. After coming back from the doctor today Grace immediately ran back to UW for her writing class. I wanted her to go rather than stay home with me so that she could keep doing what she normally does. My mom, the kids and I had dinner and then I went into the room to rest.

I immediately found myself feeling so alone, and started to cry. To make a long story short, the doctor gave me the news I didn't want to hear. They believe the cancer did spread to the lymph nodes in my neck. They will be 100% sure next week when the pathology studies come back, but they are quite sure that it had spread, and that I'll need radiation. While I had my head between my knees weeping and fighting for joy the words that came to my mouth were, "For I know that my redeemer lives and I will stand with Him on that day."

Job says this in Job 29:25-27:
"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Close your eyes and imagine a person hobbling along a road with a pair of crutches. Strapped to his back is a large wooden chest full of many spare crutches for use whenever a crutch breaks. All along this road are little stands with ads and salesmen trying to sell the latest and greatest crutch.
"For just 5.999999 APR you can have the XZR Titanium crutch. It will make your journey smooth, enjoyable and fun."

And the road keeps getting bumpier and bumpier so the man hobbles along and his left crutch breaks, so he has to replace it with whatever is readily available. Then the right one breaks, then the left again...So this man leaves a trail of broken crutches behind him as he journeys along the bumpy road called life.

So the guy keeps hobbling along and keeps finding great deals on new crutches at all the stands he stops at. He's so excited that he even starts to hobble faster and faster trying to get to the next stand. Then just ahead he sees a funny red sign. As he hobbles up close he notices that it says "END".

I've been thinking about what my crutches are/were. What do I use to hold myself up with? What do I depend on to give me joy?

I'm looking around at my field of broken crutches and I'm finding that I'm not surprised that they're breaking. My dependence often lay in my health, money, prestige, my job, my wife, my kids, or even in being highly esteemed by others. God has blessed me in all these areas and each of them do bring me lots of joy. But what if these things are taken away, then where does the joy come from? What happens when the crutch breaks?

True joy is found in the truth behind why we even go down the bumpy road called life. What robs us of joy is continually worrying about crutches all the time.

So whats the point? To amass the largest storehouse of crutches? To get the best one? What happens when you get to the end of the road?

The bible as a whole teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The whole point is to learn the truth and then learn to walk. It is not to pass the time being satisfied with mediocre joy until you get to the end. That's a wasted life.

Jesus spoke of this truth in John 8:31-32
"If you continue in my word then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free."

So we naturally ask, freedom from what? The truth will make you free from slavery to crutches. Slavery to the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh and the boastful pride of life. Slavery to the sin that permeates our very core.

Truth = Free = Joy
I still rely on crutches, and I still have a stash of them strapped to my back. But I'm learning to walk. The more I can understand the truth that my redeemer, Jesus Christ, lives, the more joy I can find. Jesus is God, was crucified for my sins, and He resurrected Himself and appeared to many people before ascending into heaven. This is the truth - that all my sins have been paid for by the sacrifice of the cross. I do not have to suffer punishment in eternity for my sins. So whatever bumps lie ahead will be okay, because it's okay if my crutches break. In fact, I want them to. Then I'll be forced to find my joy in the fact the my redeemer does live. He is the all-powerful God, and He knows me, and cares for me. And one day I will stand with Him.
Ps 71:23 "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You;
And my soul, which You have redeemed."

So its been hard to see my crutches break one by one. It's been a painful battle thus far with cancer, but God has been faithful all my life thus far. He has been faithful to break my crutches, because He wants me to find a deeper joy in Him alone. This is true love. This is a good God.

Nobody knows the day or the hour when the little red sign will appear by the roadside. So let us all leave our crutches behind, and run to our Savior Jesus Christ for our joy and satisfaction in this life and the next.

Isaiah 55:6-7
Seek the LORD while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon

The follow-up

Over the past couple of days I have been getting better and better. The cold symptoms are basically gone now. My tongue is quite swollen still, but I am now able to actually swallow rather than having force drinks down my throat. I glad that I can talk much more that I could two days ago, so Grace and I mom can understand me with some repeats. I still can't chew anything, though. Basically I sound like a person trying to talk with a large strawberry strapped to his tongue. I use that example because AJ is sitting here eating strawberries next to me while I type this. The funny thing is that even though I can barely talk, AJ still understands me about as well as he used to. Not bad for a little guy. Then again, maybe I'm finally speaking his language...

Today is the day that I will find out the results of the pathology studies. I'm a little nervous about finding out, but I just have to be stong and trust in the Lord's faithfulness to me.

One of the passages I read this morning was Psalm 28: 6-7
"Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my sheild;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him. "

The Lord has always been faithful and He will continue to be faithful even if today's report is not what I want to hear.

Please pray that all the cancer tissue has been removed from my body, and that it will not return. Even if the doctors had good news for me today, God is the one who is able to keep it from coming back. So we entrust my life to His merciful hands.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The only bad thing is...


Most of you know the outcome of the surgery, but I thought I might write out the details as well since there were some fun parts.

The morning wasn't that difficult. Grace and I woke up and went off to the hospital. It kind of just felt like three weeks ago when I went in for a biopsy early in the morning. The guy who wheeled me to the OR and dropped Grace off at the waiting room was like a big gentle giant. Grace called him "the big angel." There was something really relaxing and comforting about him that gave me peace about the whole situation. So waking up early, going to the hospital, and going back to sleep was the easy part of the day.

Waking up again was the hard part. I remember coming out of the anesthesia and gripping the side of the stretcher with all my might trying to say "pain". The only problem was that nothing was coming out of my mouth. Lots of blood and some other fluids were running down my throat. I could hardly breath without gagging, let alone try to control my newly shaped swollen tongue. Eventually they did give me morphine, and that helped a lot.

At some point during the day I was transported up to my hospital room and was told that they thought they were able to get the whole tumor out through the mouth. Praise the Lord for that! It turns out that the tumor was deeper down the throat than they were expecting, so they had to remove more of the rear of my tongue than they initially expected to. So in the end, they removed about 1/3 of the tongue and sewed it back onto itself, then removed all of the lymph nodes on the right neck.

They will do a full pathology analysis of the removed tissue and let us know if the margins are clean this Thursday. The doctor did mention that the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck were quite large. That could mean they were cancerous, but they will know by this Thursday.

I'm so thankful that I had Grace literally by my side through this whole thing. She really just comforted me and worked so hard to keep me focused on what I need to do to get better. Since she knows me so well, she was even able to translate my body movements to the hospital staff so I wouldn't have to spend so much time writing notes to them or trying to repeat the few words that I could say. I cannot express how much of a comfort it was to have Grace by my side in the hospital. They brought a cot in for her to sleep on so she could be with me through the night too.

I was only able to get about four 1-hour naps on Friday night because my pain meds would only last about 3 hours, and they kept poking and prodding me all night. In addition, I had to sleep kind of sitting upright and leaning forward so that all the nasty stuff would drain out the front of my mouth rather than down my throat, which made me choke.

On Saturday night I was feeling really discouraged because of how uncomfortable it was trying to rest the night before, so Grace got some games and said we were going to have a sleepover. So we sat in the corner of the room working on Tangrams until pretty late, and then just fell asleep. That didn't make the night any more comfortable, but at least it made it fun. The only downside of having your wife stay at the hospital with you is that you get to jealously look over at her all night peacefully resting.

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday trying to swallow water, medication, and Ensure. It was so painful those first two days. Each time I messed up, I coughed, and that irritated not only my mouth but the incisions in my neck also. In the midst of all that I learned to appreciate the complex breathing and swallowing mechanism of the human body. When you're healthy, it works just fine and you kind of take it for granted. When something's not working right, you notice really quick. Its just amazing how many precise movements are made by your tongue and throat that you don't even notice each time you swallow.

The night before surgery a man from Bob's church in MN called. He encouraged me and read me Is. 41:10, and I decided to write it on my hand so that I could read it when I wasn't feeling well. The Lord really drew near to me during those long days and nights in the hospital. "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

Looking back I consistently see the Lord's faithfulness to me. We're definately not done with this trial, but I find comfort in how God has been so faithful to us this far. Surely He will continue to be faithful!

Really early Sunday morning I got a new nurse. When he first came into my room he looked kind of unhappy and was wearing a mask over his face. After taking my vital signs he leaned over and pulled up my shirt to listened to my heart. Then he let out a really wet cough, then sniffled. I thought to myself, great, I'm going to get sick. I imagine he got sent home, because somebody replaced him shortly afterwards.

On Sunday morning the doctors removed the drain bulb from my neck. I was so relieved to have that thing gone because each movement I made was pulling on the wound. A drain tube is a plastic tube that went into the right side of my neck to drain the fluids from the incision. With that tube gone they said I could go home if I wanted to. So we decided to go home.

Sleeping in my own bed was so much better than the hospital bed. I did end up getting a pretty bad cold, though. My fever shot up to about 103 for a while and throughout the day we were able to get it down to around 100 with tylenol. I was a little scared for a while there, but God really just healed me of the cold in about a day and a half. It has added to some of the soreness of my throat, but I'll get over it.

Now I'm home with my family and my parents. Its so wonderful to have everybody in the same house. I'm thankful that my parents are always there to support and encourage me no matter what. My dad left today on a red-eye because he has to work tomorrow, but my mom is staying. Just like I said about the hospital, the only bad thing about having my family by my side right now is that they eat all sorts of wonderful home-cooked foods, and I just sit and watch. Well, now that the surgery part of this cancer battle is over with, lets look forward to how God is going to work in the coming weeks.

Praise God for answering the following prayers:
1) They were able to get the tumor out through the mouth.
2) There were no major complications and the surgery went smoothly. The doctors and hospital staff were also generally very helpful and kind.
3) The Lord provided a lot of encouragement through the difficult times these past several weeks.
4) My fever went away and I got over the cold quickly.
5) I was able to take down all my medications and antibiotics on schedule so far. I am also beginning to be able to transition to a smoothie-type diet.

Keep praying for:
1) Erik Greene - They have stopped sedating him, but he is still in a coma. Praise God that he seems to be responding a little. I don't have an update today, but keep praying that he'll get better.
2) Pray for proper healing of my tongue and that I will be able to speak and swallow properly.
3) Pray that the pathology results will come back negative everywhere.
4) Pray that the cancer would not return.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Good News!

Grace here.

God is so good. Praise God that so far, everything has gone according to what Dr. Futran expected.

The cancer was all the way at the back of the tongue, but the Lord answered prayer that they were able to remove the cancer through his mouth, despite how challenging it was. So, the easiest procedure was done and they didn't need to cut his jaw.

They removed all of the lymph nodes from the right side of his neck as a precaution, in case any of the cancer had spread there. They also removed a few lymph nodes from the left side of his neck, but at least from looking at all of them, they didn't think there was any cancer in them. They sent the removed tumor as well as the lymph nodes to the pathologist to make sure the margin they cut around the tumor is clean as well as the lymph nodes. We should know the results in a week. Lord-willing, it will all be clean and he will not need radiation.

God is so gentle. There was a time when modern medicine didn't exist, people died young left and right, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. But God is so gentle so as to spare our family from such loss. Thank the Lord that He doesn't seem to be taking my precious Andrew away.

Andrew looks great. He has one long incision on the right side of his neck and a shorter one on the left side. It looks worse than it actually is, because he has stiches (and they don't cover them with bandages). He can't talk, so he just writes, gives a thumbs up, or shakes his head.

As for his actual tongue, they cut out the bottom of the back right side, which is about a third of his tongue. They then folded the top right side of his tongue over the part that was cut out. Since it is a muscle, some of it may grow back. His face is not swollen at all, so in that regard, he looks much better than I did when I got my wisdom teeth out!

The best therapy is just using his tongue and throat. So they are encouraging him to drink clear fluids right now. He has even used his voice a little bit. A nurse is also going to help him get up and walk a little later, so he doesn't get blood clots from not moving around much today. His jaw hurts up to his ear like it did before, but he said his neck feels fine. He says his pain is a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10, but he often asks for more medicine. The liquid medicine also causes some nausea.

Dr. Futran said he should be able to go home on Monday. A speech therapist will visit him tomorrow and help him more with swallowing. Hopefully, he should eventually regain his full ability to swallow. I'm not sure if he'll need speech therapy, though, since just talking is the best speech therapy.

As for me, I am doing well. My good friend, Heather, from California just moved up here this week, so she was able to stay with me the whole day right up until I was about to go in and see Andrew around 5pm. Andrew's dad was with us also, while his mom watched the kids at home.

Andrew did really well this morning. We had to arrive two hours early at 7:15 a.m. While we were in one of the pre-something rooms waiting an hour or so for the nurse to take him, we were even laughing together, even though Andrew was nervous at the same time. I felt happy. Then, when it was time to give him a kiss goodbye, all of a sudden I felt like bursting out crying.

Once Heather arrived, though, I chattered ceaselessly, hardly taking a breath all day. I didn't think I felt anxious, but at lunch, even though I was hungry, I found that I couldn't eat. Heather and my father-in-law said I was probably nervous but might not realize it till it was all over. Then, when Dr. Futran came to the waiting room after the surgery and was telling Andrew's dad and I that everything went well, I started glancing around the consultation room for a waste basket. I felt like throwing up. I guess I was really nervous and it was all the relief after a full day of unknowingly holding my breath. I was so thankful to the Lord for answering all our prayers.

I love Andrew so much. Somehow, before this trial, I often managed to complain about being so far from family and longing for sunshine during rainy season. But one thing the Lord has been teaching me through this trial is to live fully in the moment. God's grace truly is only sufficient for today. More than that, I prefer just to tackle the next few minutes, because who knows, that may be all we have. Before the end of the day, The Lord could even take us.

When I see life in such a bite-sized piece as the next 15 minutes, it helps me to think clearly on what's true and to give thanks for all that God has given me. It is only fear of the future that often ruins things. Even if the moment is not enjoyable, it's not so bad unless we fear it's going to last beyond what we can imagine enduring.

But when I just look at right now, I realize I get to be married to the most amazing person I have ever met, and he is alive and here with me. I get Andrew and he is mine. And our children bring us such joy and are in good health. My cup overflows! When I am fully living in the moment, I see so clearly how God has given me such richness.

The true joy and peace that the Lord has given me through this time can only be supernatural. If it could be mustered, everyone would do it all the time. More than anyone or anything, it is so good to know the LORD, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, our Rock and our Sustainer.

I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:1-2

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A letter to the church

I hope everybody gets to read this at some point in time. It is amazing what has happened the past several weeks in my life.

God has brought our family so much joy in this trial through the love, encouragement, and physical care of the church body. All that you did pointed us to the perfection of Christ, who is the source of all joy. We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good through the good works done through you all. In the midst of your own busyness, difficulties and trials, you have sacrificed for us, and for that we will be ever thankful. You have been a true picture of Christ to us and to the world. Through your labors you have taught us a deeper meaning of sacrificial love.

This trial is not merely our family's trial, it is the church’s trial. The joy that we've had these past few weeks wasn’t due to any single person, or even an organized ministry of the church, it was the Spirit working in the hearts of people desiring to do God's work. Praise Him for providing the church as a means of exercising His grace to us.

I urge you all now to grow more and more in your love, care, and sacrifice for one another. We must continue to be open with each other about our physical and spiritual needs, so that we can meet them. The best part about the many ways in which you ministered to us (coming to appointments, calling us, cleaning our house, bringing food, babysitting, etc.) was just to see your faces and talk with you about what the Lord is doing. This is something that we look forward to doing all the time in the future.

By the time you read this, the tumor, Lord willing, will be gone from my body. We pray that I will recover and be back with you all soon. You truly are our family of families. We love you.


The Marks

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Brother Erik


5:30 AM

Tonight I couldn't sleep much just thinking and praying for Erik Greene and his family. I received news at 8:30 PM last night that he had gone to the hospital with unexpected heart problems. His health quickly started to deteriorate. He is currently sedated and in critical care while the doctors are running tests on him. They said that the prognosis is very grim. For those who don't know him, he is a bright young guy, father of 4 kids (3 adopted), and he loves the Lord.

Erik changed my life these past couple weeks.

Erik and his wife, Roxanne, have sat at my Sunday school table for the past 8 months or so. When he first found out about my cancer diagnosis he came over to me and told me that he knows exactly what I'm going through, and that he would be praying for me. Erik had leukemia when he was a child and had radiation treatment on the upper half of his body. He told me to just hang in there. So I did.

This past Saturday Erik emailed me to encourage me again, and tell me that Roxanne and him would be praying for me. He said in his email, "Hey, if you want to grab a cup of coffee lets do it. If you need to talk about this we can do so. Do not give up hope, brother, because God is in control. His sovereignty is complete and peace is found in him!"

On Sunday I was struggling with pain in my mouth and ear, and I was a little discouraged. After evening service Erik came over and grabbed my hand and held it firmly and said, "Can I pray for you?". So Erik put his arm around me and prayed for my surgery and healing as we stood at the front of the church. When I left the church building that night I thought to myself, "I want to be like Erik. I want to be able to give people hope in their trials."

We haven't known each other for that long, nor have we spent much time together, but Erik changed my life. He's more than a friend, he's a brother.

Lord, we praise you that you are the great physician. You know each hair on our head, and each molecule in our body. I pray that you would please heal Erik and give the doctors wisdom to treat him. I pray that he would be able to live a long healthy life with Roxanne and the kids. Please take care of them.

10:10 AM
I just received a call from Julie Ratzlaff and she told me that Erik made it through the night. He's still sedated in critical care.

I was told that Erik said on his way to the hospital yesterday that he didn't want to get sick now because he wanted to be there for me before I go into surgery. He wanted to have breakfast with me this week. Erik truly is a fighter. Lord, please heal Erik. Please bring him safely through this sickness so that we can have him on this earth for longer. Please give the doctors, the hospital staff and Roxanne wisdom to diagnose and treat him.

Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities;
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit;
Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion;
Who satisfies you your years with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Ps. 103:1-5

Erik is still sedated in critical care and his body is still fighting off a major blood infection. We feel so burdened for him and his family, and we wish we could do something to heal Him. Pray that his condition will stabilize and that he will be able to get over this infection.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What makes family?


As you all know, Grace, AJ and Gracie are my closest friends and companions, but there are still two other very important people in my life, mom and dad (a.k.a. Grandma and Grandpa).

I noted in a prior blog that I was a very "special" child. Well, in the end that made for a very "special" relationship between my parents and I. Being the youngest I was a bit of a brat (sometimes a bit more of a brat depending on the age) and when I got older I just tried to get away and do my own stuff. Despite everything, my parents just always loved me and supported me. When I was little they used to let me play in the puddles outside our house in Danville, CA in the late afternoons because I just LOVED water. In fact, one time I locked my parents in the backyard and tried to flood the house.

I always had so much curiosity. After we moved to New Jersey around the age of 9 our house got struck by lightning and lots of our appliances were destroyed, my dad let me take them all apart to see how they worked. That was the very beginning of the engineering road. My parents always supported me in my academic intersts, even though it meant sacrifice for them.

I remember my mom also used to take me to all my doctors and dental appointments. One time I knocked out three of my front permanant teeth playing baseball in a neighbor's backyard and my mom would take me to all the dental and orthodontic appointments to get me fixed up over the next couple of years.

In high school I became a rebellious teenager and fought against the parental authority in our home. Needless to say, that was stupid on my part, and it caused a lot of pain those years and the years following.

When I was in college living the typical college life my dad would make a special stop by Los Angeles during his business trips to visit me a couple times per year and take me to a nice dinner. For college students, thats aways a treat! And whenever I was home my mom would teach me how to cook my favorite dishes as well as her secret household cleaning tricks.

When I finally became a Christian at the age of 20 I looked back on my life and realized how much my parents loved me. Despite all the hurt and pain I brought my parents, they just loved me and wanted whats best for me.

The reason I'm writing this blog is because my parents called yesterday and told me they were coming a day earlier because there is a snow storm coming in to New Jersey on Wednesday morning and they wanted to make sure they could get there at least a day before my surgery. That made me really happy. I'm also excited to see my brother when he visits the week after surgery.

The way my parents love me unconditionally is the way I hope to be able to love my kids. Thats what families are made of.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"The U"


So we finally made a decision about which surgeon to go with. If you've been keeping up with the blogs, the choice was between Dr. David Moore at the Swedish Cancer Institute or Dr. Neal Futran (pronounced Few-tran) at the University of Washington Medical Center. Both seem to be excellent surgeons with plenty of experience treating head and neck cancers.

Monday 2/5/07
One of our concerns this week was whether or not Dr. Futran would really be able to get the entire tumor out through the mouth. Dr. Futran called me on Monday morning and we talked about the PET scan results and he assured me that they WILL get the whole tumor out. He feels very confident that it can be done through the mouth, but if for some reason it can't be done that way he can cut around the tongue and drop it back into the throat, and then remove the tumor through an incision in the throat. He told me that he doesn't like to cut the jaw because it doesn't heal as well and it leaves scars, and for this type of tumor he can get to it just as easily from the throat if needed. He only splits the jaw if he really needs to like for a tumor in the tonsil area. Dr. Futran also told me that he would review my PET scan results on Wednesday with his board, and he'll let me know if anything changes.

Tuesday 2/6/07
We visited Dr. Todd Barnett, a radiation oncologist who was recommended by Dr. Moore. After explaining the type of equipment and techniques they use for radiation treatment, Grace and I were less fearful. I had thought that radiation would destroy my tastebuds and saliva glands, but Dr. Barnett said that with the new techniques the should be able to spare much of my taste and most likely one of my main salivary glands on my left cheek.

Dr. Barnett has treated both Dr. Moore and Dr. Futran's patients, and he said that both are excellent surgeons and he assured me that both will get the tumor out of me one way or another. If the doctors recommend radiation, I suppose I will have to get it, but we're still praying that I won't need it.

Wednesday 2/7/07
Dr. Futran called me after dinner and told me that his team reviewed the PET scan and they will move forward with the same plan, but they want to make a small incision on my left neck to sample a lymph node that lit up in the scan. After that Grace and I weighed the pros and cons of each doctor, and we came to a conclusion. Here is a brief summary of why we chose Dr. Futran:

1) Not that credientials mean everything, but Dr. Futran is very well respected nationally for treating head and neck cancers. He also holds double degrees in oral and maxillofacial surgery as well as otolaryngology. Not to mention that the University of Washington Medical Center ("the U") is one of the top cancer treatment centers in the US, whereas the Swedish Cancer Institute does not have that reputation.
2) We feel that Dr. Futran is more reasonable in his approaches. If Dr. Futran could not get the tumor out through the mouth he would do it through the throat. Dr. Moore's choice would be to cut the jaw to get to the tumor since he does not believe it can be done solely through the mouth. After discussing the throat option with Dr. Futran, this seemed like a better approach if needed. Dr. Futran, however, is still very optimistic about getting it out through the mouth.
3) We just didn't feel as comfortable with Dr. Moore in our two consultations with him. In our two visits with Dr. Futran we felt much more comfortable talking to him.

Thursday 2/8/07
We went to UW for our pre-op visit. During the visit Dr. Futran took another look at my tongue and mentioned that he still feels like he can get it out through the mouth. He also spent some time explaining where he would make incisions in the neck and assured us that the won't hit any nerves or arteries. This visit pretty much sealed the deal with Dr. Futran.

In summary, after much prayer Grace and I feel very comfortable with Dr. Futran and his approach to my treatment. The other great thing about being treated at UW is that Grace and I love the University. Since moving to Washington we've always had a longing to live near "The U". Well, I guess this is the next best thing.

Thursday, February 08, 2007



Looking back at my old journal entries over the past couple weeks (not all are published online) I've noticed how much of a blessing this has been.

For one thing, we're discovering more of God's goodness, and His mercy, and compassion. The comfort that I have when Grace gives me a hug, or when my kids grab my leg and smile at me pale in comparison with the comfort that the Lord has brought our family through the knowledge of Himself. Praise God for coming to this earth and suffering for my sake, being nailed to the cross, for the sins of the world! Jesus know's what it's like to suffer. He knows what pain feels like, being scourged and crucified. He knows everything I'm feeling, and experiencing - and most of all, He has forgiven my sins. This is good news. This is true joy!

Cancer has brought me greater joy because it has given me a deeper appreciation for God through the gospel. It is because of the work of the cross that I can be forgiven of my sins, and know God, commune with Him, and experience His comfort during these difficult times. Just think, the Creator of the entire universe has me in the palm of His hand. God would not be so precarious so as to leave the fate of my life in the hands of a mere man (although He has provided an extremely skilled surgeon to treat me). Ultimately my life is in God's hands, and that is where I've found true joy.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Differing Opinions


This week was another relatively difficult one for me, both physically and mentally.

The good news is that my PET scan on Thursday showed no other cancer in my body, and confirmed the diagnosis from both of my doctors. Praise God for answering that prayer. So both Dr. Moore and Dr. Futran agree that I have cancer, and that it is a 2-3 cm tumor on the right side of my tongue. Where they differ is the procedure to remove it. I always thought there was a textbook that outlines THE WAY to do stuff, but apparently there isn't. So here's the scoop:

1) Dr. Moore, from the Swedish Medical Center, did a more thorough examination of the cancer while I was asleep, and has determined that he cannot remove it intraorally, meaning that he can't just stick a scalpal in my mouth and cut it out. He says that I will need to cut my jaw in half and rotate it out like a door so that he can get to the right rear corner of my tongue. The key here is to remove the cancerous tumor along with a margin of healthy tissue to make sure it does not come back. Dr. Moore is also saying that it is likely that radiation will be needed, but he will know for certain once they remove the tissue and look at the edges of to see if any cancerous tissue may still be left in my mouth.

2) Dr. Futran, from the University of Washington, did not put me to sleep to examine my mouth, but merely felt the tumor with his fingers while in his office. Dr. Futran made it seem like this was going to be really easy to remove intraorally, and would not require and special cutting and reconstruction of the jaw. He did mention, however, that if he really needed to he could drop the tongue into the throat and remove the tumor that way. This makes me a little nervous, though, because he promised a simple procedure but he hasn't taken that close of a look at it. Dr. Futran is also reluctant to do radiation treatment on somebody as young as me, since there is a chance of causing radiation induced cancer in the future.

So in the end I'm left with two very different opinions, from two very well-respected doctors. So who do I go with? I actually feel comfortable with either one, but I do prefer the simpler procedure. My only concern is whether or not the simple procedure will really get the whole tumor out.

I suppose I'll just have to think about it and pray for wisdom. In the end I need to make a decision, and live with the consequences of it. The good thing is that I believe in a sovereign God, and that I am a child of the King. So what do I have to lose? I just need to be faithful to do the research, seek guidance and make a decision about my treatment. God is the one who moves that hands of the surgeons, so I just need to entrust myself to God, and He will take care of the rest.