Thursday, June 28, 2007

Slowing down

After treatment ended I was recovering rapidly and I started to feel really good. But lately I've been a little discouraged after I got off the pain killers because my body just feels so weak and tired. Perhaps the narcotics were masking how I really felt? Or maybe I was expecting the recovery to continue to proceed at a rapid pace but it slowed down. One other possibility is that my thyroids have been damaged by the radiation, which was one of the side effects they warned me about. I told my doctor today about my tiredness and he said that the radiation usually makes people feel like this for several months and that the thyroids usually don't start to fail until about 6 months after treatment.

I'm trying hard to maintain my weight by eating lots of soft and wet foods. So far I've maintained my weight since treatment ended! My mouth is still quite dry, but it seems to have gotten better over the past few weeks. One great thing is that my taste is starting to return! I had some cereal the other night and I noticed that I tasted a little sweetness. Until then I could only taste salty and bitter, but now I've started to get sweet back. My sense of taste is still very weak, but anything is better than nothing. Praise God for that!

This week I'm planning on resting as much as I can. The doctor said that my trouble sleeping and night sweats are common after-effects of long term narcotic use. So I'm hoping by next week my body will normalize and I'll start getting better sleep. If all goes well maybe next week I'll also do a little exercise. My doctor recommends some light weight lifting to build back the muscles that have atrophied over the past 5 months.

As for my speech I think it is pretty good. It has gotten a little worse over the past few weeks as the muscles have a tendency to stiffen as they heal. My doctor told me today that the best therapy is to keep stretching and talking a lot while I'm healing. So feel free to call and help me exercise my jaw and tongue muscles.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Looks as Good as New


On Friday, Andrew and I went to Bible study for the first time in five months. Our friend said: "Andrew, you look as good as new." That is exactly what we were praying for! I can't remember the last time Andrew seemed this healthy. Who knows how long he has been sick for. It seems like he hasn't looked this well since our dating days.

We have so much to be grateful for. That same night, I heard that a woman, who has been battling pancreatic cancer, finally succumbed to it. It occurred to me that if Andrew had had a different form of cancer, he might not be with us now. I had never realized that at the end of the five months it has been since we found out, Andrew could have been the same as that woman. Such a short amount of time. Thank You, Lord, for sparing Andrew, and letting us have him longer.

Adjusting to Normalcy

During treatment, we had only the strength to go one day at a time. We could not really set our sights to the end of treatment, because even when it was only a week away, it seemed too far away. So, we just took it one day at a time.

There was no defining day or moment when the treatment was "over." His last chemo treatment was not the end of the hardship. He still had to go through the nausea and exhaustion. When Andrew finally started feeling better came so gradually, we hardly realized it when we arrived at the end.

When I told my sister Andrew was feeling better, I felt strange when she reminded me that it meant we had made it to the end of his treatment. "It's done?" I said. "Yeah, I guess he is done with his treatments. I am only realizing it this moment." A few days later, I expressed to her how it felt like I had just gotten out of jail. Though I hadn't said that to Andrew, once he realized he was done, he later said the same thing to me, "I feel like I've just been released from jail." It's like we're finally out in the free world, but we don't know how to function in it.

It had been so long, we were almost apprehensive about all the freedom. We had been in the safety of a cacoon. For instance, we felt we had no choice but to take each day one day at a time. Yet now that the future does not look as fearful, we feel the temptation to worry too much about tomorrow. To not live in today. To even become discontent, eager to move on to other things. And so we must remember that even though we are not at the moment experiencing hardship, we are still to live fully in today. Yes, of course we are to plan, but we are not to be anxious for tomorrow or discontent with today. It's as if ease presents with it more temptations to be discontent than when you have no choice but to get really focused on being content amidst the challenges of hardship.

I don't think I felt at the time just how dark of a situation we were going through. And yet now that we are through it, I find myself not looking back at it much, perhaps not desiring to. Sometimes, cancer doesn't even cross my mind the whole day. Yet, as I realize that, I think, I don't want to forget it. We cannot forget the valuable lessons the Lord taught us through it. At the same time, I know that just because we may not be thinking about what happened, we are still changed by it. The Lord had us practice so many things day after day, we have learned them by muscle memory.

For one thing, the Lord had me practice really taking care of a helpless husband. I want to continue to take care of him in the same way, even though he is feeling better now. I am ashamed at how selfish I was before this trial, yet so blind to it. Maybe I don't need to feed him through a tube now, but if there is some other thing I may see he is lacking in, rather than complain about it being one more thing I have to do, I can think of ways that would be most helpful to him in that area. Cancer forced us to see how precious every moment together was. And so I felt grateful to be able to relieve him of pain and take care of him. Now, even though he may not be sick, I can continue to be grateful to be his helper in any way he needs me.
"It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces" (Psalm 119:71-72).

It's funny. Cancer doesn't even seem like a bad word to me anymore. The word is so common in our household now, rather than feeling foreign and awkward in our mouths, it feels like a familiar friend. The Lord has taught us so much through it. At the same time, when I heard a woman talking about her experience with breast cancer on the radio last week, and how she had had to go through surgery, radiation, and chemo, while she had a two year-old daughter at home, I cried through it. We feel grateful for our experience with it, yet when I hear it out of others' experiences, I hate it. I pray for the Lord to do away with it. Not only in our lives, but in the whole world. Piper talks about it in Don't Waste Your Life. One in two men will get cancer in their lives and one in three women. Something is wrong! This is an epidemic. Piper, himself, says how glorifying to God it would be for Christians to give their lives to science and research to wage war against disease and suffering, and thus display the beauty and power of Christ (p. 116).

Sweeter and Richer

When we first entered upon this trial, I reflected how couples like my sister and her husband say that the beginning of your marriage is the honeymoon period. But when that fades, you move into something much deeper and richer than just the fireworks and lightning of the excitement of finding each other. Before I was married, I didn't know what that could mean. At the beginning of this trial, I was like, Andrew can't leave. We've only just begun our marriage. Now, I feel like this trial was the transition into the deeper, richer part of our marriage. And it's wonderful! To think, that it is only going to get even sweeter and richer than this! Wow! I can't even imagine. To think, we are only growing into being one more and more. And yet, I don't think that is possible without putting to death the selfishness each day. Aren't God's principles so beautiful and so amazing? Die to self and then you will truly live? His principles are so contrary to what one would expect, and yet his principles are true and work!

What now?

In a couple of months, they will do new scans of Andrew to see if the cancer has returned. They will continue to do that every three months the first year and taper it gradually with each year. If the cancer does not return for the next five years, he will be considered cured.

Please pray that Andrew is completely cured of cancer. We pray that we would be able to raise our children and grow old together. Andrew is a deeply loved person by me, A.J. and Gracie, and his parents, just to name a few. We need him so much.

Friday, June 15, 2007

No More Tube!


In the last blog I mentioned that I was hoping to get my feeding tube out sooner than the doctor was expecting. The other day the tube site started hurting much more than normal. I called the nurse and she explained that the red swollen lump around the tube that was causing so much pain was actually my stomach pushing itself out of the hole. Thankfully in the Lord's timing it had been just over 3 weeks since my last chemo so the pain in my mouth and throat was subsiding. The worst of the pain in my mouth is usually about 2-3 weeks after chemo treatments. So I was able to start taking all my calories through the mouth, and finally got my tube out on Wednesday. Praise the Lord! It almost doesn't feel right that I should be able to feel this good.

The other day I told Grace that it doesn't seem right that things would actually go well for me. I don't feel like I deserve to feel better, or get my tube out early. I told her that I feel like if things are going well now, it just means that something bad is going to happen soon. I guess I had gotten used to difficulty of treatment that I wasn't really expecting the Lord to bless me so much in the recovery. But then I thought to myself, God isn't like that. He is not just waiting give me another bad thing that I deserve. He isn't hateful and mean. Instead, He is gracious and merciful. Praise God for answering the prayers of His saints for my recovery!

Psa 145:8-12 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Recovery Road


Now that treatment is complete I'm in recovery mode. My body is still very tired, and healing from the damage done by the radiation and chemotherapy, but I am feeling better every day.

At my last doctor's visit they said I was recovering on plan. Even though I am still on strong pain killers for the soreness in my mouth and throat, I started eating partial meals of mostly soft foods so that I can exercise all the damaged muscles. The doctors say that exercising the muscles and doing stretches during the healing process will help reduce the amount of permanent scarring.

My body is still very weak and therefore needing lots of rest. Right now I still try to sleep a lot and just do a small amount of physical activity each day like walking or some yard work. I have to be careful not to over-exert myself because I get tired really quickly.

My doctor said I can get my feeding tube out in a couple more weeks, but I'm really hoping to get it out sooner if I can manage to take all my calories through my mouth and not lose any weight.

I feel so good right now compared to how I was feeling during treatment. I'm so thankful for Grace who took such good care of me during the toughest last weeks of treatment. There were times when I just wanted to give up, but she kept encouraging me to take it 15 minutes at a time.

Thanks to all of you who have helped me make it through the past 5 months. It has been a difficult, yet worthwhile experience. As Grace said in her recent blog, we've just learned so much through cancer that we can't imagine not having gone through this.

Praise to our God who is faithful each and every moment.