Saturday, April 28, 2007

Any Suggestions?


In the midst of all of this difficulty, one of the things Andrew and I look forward to is going on a short second honeymoon, Lord willing, just the two of us, once Andrew gets through treatment and is feeling better. We're not sure where to go though. So as we were thinking through our plans, it occurred to me to ask for suggestions. Let us know what you think! Send us an email or leave a comment on the blog with suggestions.

The most important thing is that it is sunny, near water and hiking, relaxing, and affordable.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

No More Death


When I see Andrew in so much pain, it makes me so grateful that the Lord has mercifully saved us. What hope we have! Even if the rest of our lives we're suffering, there is no more death, no more tears, no more sickness in heaven. Just rejoicing!

At the same time, I feel grateful, because it reminds me of what the Lord has saved us from. How much worse the suffering in hell will be! And yet, there is no medicine for the pain, no TV to distract, no naps as an escape.

In just a split-second there, the misery will be infinitely worse than a life-time of suffering on this earth.

Thank the Lord that we don't have to go there! I'm so grateful Christ has provided peace with God through His death on the cross.

I'm so thankful that I don't have to make excuses for my sin to alleviate the guilt. I can flee to the gospel! My sin is so ugly, and yet Christ says: "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ." Thank You, Lord, thank you.

How desperately we believers need the gospel every day as every day we fail to meet His perfect standard. There is no one like the Lord, who continually accepts us, because of Jesus.

A.J.'s Dealings with Papa's Cancer

A.J. has had a hard time with this whole period of Andrew's treatments. He knows that something is wrong.

Andrew, A.J.'s best friend, has not been able to pick him up very much the past two months since his surgery, lest A.J. touch Andrew's delicate neck or inadvertently pull on his feeding tube. Not to mention, there's a constant changing of the guard in the grandma role. He must be wondering who else is going to change. Papa? Mama? Why are we often gone when he wakes up from his nap?

The other day, Andrew wasn't feeling well, so I was trying to help him. At the same time, I felt worried about the children, who were probably wondering why two grandmas were giving them a bath instead of Mama.

A few minutes later, I heard A.J. screaming from his room at the top of his lungs as if he was about to give birth to a baby in the bathroom. I looked at my watch. Ten minutes to his bedtime. Someone must have put him in his crib a few minutes early not realizing we have a bed time routine. A.J. probably panicked, especially because he loves the time he has with us when we put him down.

I picked up A.J. and brought him into our room. I said, "Do you want to help Mama comfort Papa?" I sat him down in my lap before Andrew's feet.

A.J. gently rubbed his hands over Papa's feet, trying to help me. He was so happy. He crawled from the foot of the bed up to Andrew and took his hand. Then, he turned towards me and held my hand. He smiled at Andrew: "Papa," he said. He beamed at me: "Mama." He looked back and forth between the two of us: "Papa. Mama. Papa. Mama."

A.J. embraced me. He turned towards Andrew and threw his arms around him.

A Visit to One Sicker Than Andrew

On Friday, I went with my aunt to visit her brother's friend, Tito Rudy, nearby who is in the most advanced stages of pancreatic cancer.

His wife answered the door. She already knew about Andrew. Though she had never met me before, she took me into her arms, and said, "Oh, she's so young." Cancer has a way of stripping away all the superficial and unnecessary.

I looked into her face, surprised at what was going on in my mind. I was wondering how she was doing, how she could possibly be handling this, though shouldn't I of anyone know? But all the doctors had given up on her husband. I did not understand that.

Yet, her face seemed to reflect my own questions. She kept expressing concern about me. "Listen, she said. If there is anything we can do, I want you to know we want to help you," she said repeatedly throughout our visit.

She showed us to into Tito Rudy's room. Tito Rudy struggled to sit up in bed. He is a man in his sixties with white hair.

He had only met my aunt one other time, yet he hugged her and took both my hands when she introduced me.

Then, practically interrupting our introductions, he said to my aunt suddenly, "Manang Bing, will you pray for me?"

Aunty, though a little surprised, prayed. And then, while she was midway through saying "amen," she said, "Gracie, you can pray too."

I was a little caught off guard. I prayed the only things I could think of to pray, since I had just met him: the same things that I always request for Andrew. We had hardly been in their home a few minutes, yet tears rushed to my eyes as I prayed. I prayed for his physical pain relief, for the peace of Christ to comfort his heart, and praised the Lord that in eternity there is no more pain, no more tears, no more death, where we shall see our Savior face to face.

Thursday, April 19, 2007



Since chemotherapy (and radiation) started two weeks ago, it has been pretty rough. So today I'll do the blogging for Andrew (This is Grace).

In the Radiation Room

Today, Andrew asked the radiation technologists if I could come in and watch them set Andrew up.

We entered a spacious, windowless room with gray walls, softly lit like a planetarium. At the center, Andrew sat down on the table. Behind him what looked like a giant microscope loomed. It was a very expensive-looking IMRT (the radiation) machine. Next, Andrew placed a white, mesh-looking, but stiff mask onto his face that is a mold of his exact face. This keeps him from moving his head even a centimeter during radiation, so that the radiation will hit the designated spots precisely.

They handed him a large, plastic thing that he bit onto to shield his upper mouth from the radiation. It used to prevent him from swallowing his saliva, tempting him to gag, but now that he has little saliva, that's not a problem anymore.

Andrew laid flat onto the table, and grasped the black, horizontal, jump-rope-looking things, which are connected to a bar by his feet, and he has to hold onto for the next fifteen minutes. This keeps him from lifting his shoulders towards his ears (and causes soreness between his shoulder blades).

From the right and left walls, red beams shined straight lines onto his face. The technicians adjusted Andrew's table up and down, right and left so that the red lines were aligned with the marker lines that were on the mask of Andrew's chin and cheeks. With the massive, round IMRT machine hovering behind his head, the red beams, and the white, mesh mask, Andrew looked like Star Trek aliens were experimenting on him.

Gratitude towards the radiation technologists waved over me. In the past, I knew, in theory, doctors could save people's lives. But after all this, I feel so incredibly thankful for people in the medical industry - and anyone related to it, like nice receptionists - and advanced technology. It's not distant, vague theory anymore. They save people's lives.

They played Andrew's Sovereign Grace CD for him. The first track sang "Favor on my life...always watching over me...Haven't you been good? Haven't you been so good to me?" It is good to meditate on such words in the midst of temptations to believe otherwise.

When the two technologists finished their set-up, the three of us left the room, leaving Andrew alone, stuck in his mask, arms pulled horizontal, staring up at the ceiling.

Enduring the Side-Effects

When he woke up Tuesday morning, Andrew took a bite of his pancake. Panic crossed over his eyes - "I can't taste it," he said. Sores are forming in his mouth, which are beginning to bleed. He can only taste bitterness when he eats. It is more and more painful, so he tries just to eat soft things and soups. The docs want him to still use his mouth to swallow as much as he is capable, because it helps prevent futher stiffening of the area.

Today, he said he can hardly eat now. Soon, Andrew will probably need to use the feeding tube to supplement his calories.

It's hard for me, because the feeding tube, which causes soreness around his abdomen, plus the occassional nausea he still experiences, bars me from being able to hug him.

It is difficult to see Andrew's face three different colors. Gray around the temples and eyes, burgundy around the jaw, and his normal color in-between. Must remind myself that it is because of the chemo, the poison, they gave him. This is not his own body shutting down. This is only temporary. Just six weeks of treatment and maybe four additional weeks of pain, a total of ten weeks before he should be feeling better. Two weeks down, eight more to go - yet how slowly this seems to be going.

"Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God...My heart faints within me!" (Job 19:26,27). Oh, to be like Paul, who was "well content with weaknesses...with distresses...with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12).

Today Andrew said to me, "Grace, I really hate chemotherapy. I don't know if I can complete it." The chemo sessions are three weeks apart. So the next one is the 26th, a week from now. "I know," I said. "Let's just try to get through at least the next one."

I feel encouraged, though, because I see how the misery of my two diffiult pregnancies prepared me to be able to come alongside Andrew at this time. To be able to help him to cope with frustrations when even small goals like being able to blog or catch up on reading are too difficult for him. Or feeling so sick it's difficult to think on what's true.

I tried to encourage Andrew that the reason he has all this time is because he's ill. It's not free-time for catching up on things. Resting, getting enough calories despite all the pain, his list of things the doctors want him to do, and, most of all, coping with the side-effects is more than a full-time job. Though he's never been much a of a TV person, and would rather be accomplishing something, it may be all he's capable of doing to distract him from the pain. And despite how he hates naps, he needs to take them. Plus, he won't have to deal with his discomfort and frustrations when he's asleep.

What's even more encouraging about seeing how the Lord used difficult pregnancies to prepare me for this is that it is a reminder that all the more, He is using this physical difficulty in Andrew to prepare him for greater effectiveness and use for His glory. 2Cor. 1 gives great encouragement.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort [Greek: "paraclete" - one who comes alongside to help. Who in the midst of sufferings and troubles, strengthens and gives courage and boldness], who comforts us in all our affliction [crushing pressure. MacArthur says: "In Paul's ministry there was always something attempting to weaken him, restrict or confine his ministry, or even crush out his life] so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ" (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

What encouragement and purpose to our sufferings this gives us! We have the God of all comfort on our side to strengthen and help us. And the reason we undergo this is so we can be of use to others who will need comfort and encouragement.

Andrew and I always like to look at God's creation and the relationships he has created in order to give us a dim picture of who He is, especially when we struggle to see God for who He truly is, to grasp His benevolence. I think of how we love A.J. and Gracie so much, and how it would break our hearts to see them in pain and suffering. How much more tenderly our Loving Father looks upon us! How infinitely more the Lord is able to give comfort than we could ever give to our children.

How we continue to need your prayers at this time! It is always an encouragement and so reassuring to me when so many of you tell us that you are praying for us.

If you could please continue to pray:

1. ENCOURAGEMENT AND COMFORT. To think on what is true. To take one day at a time.



4. That we would all love and know the Lord more deeply through this.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Solid Logic


The past week has been a tough one both physically and mentally, but by God's grace I'm still here. Now that I can think clearly and my eyes can focus again, I'm going to write a blog about whats been going on spiritually and mentally.

During the past week and a half the nausea and tiredness of the chemotherapy, the soreness of the radiation and pain from the insertion of my Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG) tube really took a toll on me mentally. I was in despair because this was just the first week of about 8 weeks, and I was already having a hard time! In all of my despair, my wife really just cared for me and helped redirect my thoughts towards the Truth, and that made all the difference.

After listening to one of John Piper's sermons on Romans 8:31-32 I was reminded of God's awesome love for me. Piper simply called this "The Solid Logic of Heaven".

Romans 8:31-32
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

It is an argument from the greater to the lesser. If the greater task is accomplished, then surely the lesser is as well. The greater task was for God to demostrate His love for me by willingly giving His beloved son to be tortured, mocked, spit on, flogged, abandoned, betrayed, and nailed to a cross by the very beings He created so that my sins might be forgiven. The easier task is for Him love me and to do good to me. That is a fulfillment of Ps. 84:11 No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

A few verses later Romans 8:35 says
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Even in the midst of my darkest hours I know that the Lord loves me, and that this pain is for good. Nothing is as sweet as the nearness of God in our sufferings.

Here is a quote from John Flavel, a Puritan, from 350 years ago:
"He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). How is it imaginable that God should withhold, after this, spirituals or temporals, from his people? How shall he not call them effectually, justify them freely, sanctify them thoroughly, and glorify them eternally? How shall he not clothe them, feed them, protect and deliver them? Surely if he would not spare this own Son one stroke, one tear, one groan, one sigh, one circumstance of misery, it can never be imagined that ever he should, after this, deny or withhold from his people, for whose sakes all this was suffered, any mercies, any comforts, any privilege, spiritual or temporal, which is good for them."

A PEG Tube:

The blue balloon on the right goes into the stomach and holds it in place. A little to the left of the balloon is a stopper that holds the tube in place against the outside of my abdomen, and the valves on the left of the picture are for injecting tube feeding solutions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'm still here....

Sorry for leaving you all in suspense after the last blog entry. Chemo messed me up for quite a while. My head still feels like it is in the clouds so this will be a short update. The worst of the the nausea is done with. Last night I had a good meal and that really helped settle my stomach. I really didn't enjoy the chemo. I can't imagine what it was like to take Cisplatin before all the fancy anti-nausea drugs came out...

As for radiation, my mouth is beginning to get sore and my swallowing function is getting stiffer. This causes me to gag a little bit when I swallow fluids, but for the most part I can still eat just fine.

Anyhow, this week I have lots of follow up appointments with my doctors. I'm also having a feeding tube put in on Friday, which I'm not looking forward to.

Please pray:
1) That I would find joy in the Lord at all times. During these difficult times the hardest part of the battle is in the mind.
2) That the radiation and chemo would be successful in killing any cancer left in me
3) That I would be able to make it through the treatments
4) That the side effects would not be that hard on my body

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chemo Radio Day 1

Today was the first day of chemotherapy and radiation.

We got to the hospital around 9AM and they started an IV of fluids to hydrate me. After about an hour of fluids I got an hour of nausea medication and steriods. The chemo drug I'm taking, Cisplatin, is a platinum based chemotherapy drug that has been around for about 30 years. As it is an older chemo drug, it is notorious for nausea and being hard on the kidneys, so they really want to make sure I have enough fluids when I get the medicine. Finally, I got about two hours of Cisplatin, 170mg in total.

Grace and I had a great time watching the movie Napoleon Dynamite during my treatment. I don't think I've laughed that much in a while. In fact, the other people who were in the room with us were citing the lines by memory and laughing with us. Man, that's a funny movie!

Between watching the movie and talking to Grace, the nurse, and other patients, the time kind of flew by. We met a really nice 35 year-old man named Stuart who has a brain tumor and already finished his radiation treatment. It sounds like a very aggressive cancer, and another tumor returned within a month after surgery. I hope his treatment works!

After about 5.5 hours in the chemo room Grace and I went for a short walk around the block and then downstairs for my radiation treatment, which took about 30 minutes.

At first I didn't feel much of anything other than real tired. As I'm writing this blog I'm feeling so exhausted, and I can't hardly stand up anymore. My body feels drained, but the steriods are making me jittery. So it's a new feeling, and I don't really know how to handle it. Thankfully, I'm not nauseous right now, and I was able to eat and drink a lot today. They say the nausea won't kick in until day 2, and probably will be the worst on day 3. As for radiation, I don't feel much from that yet. They say next week I'll schedule an appointment to have my feeding tube put in.

1) Praise the Lord that the day went smoothly with no complications with any of the drugs.
2) Praise the Lord that the chemo treatment was an enjoyable time.
3) Praise the Lord that so far I'm not sick.
4) Please pray that my body will be able to handle the treatments and that I won't get too sick or sore.
5) Please pray that I will be healed completely of cancer through this treatment.