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.
2. PAIN RELIEF.
3. COMPLETE HEALING.
4. That we would all love and know the Lord more deeply through this.