Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We've been back at the treatment center for the last 3 weeks and will remain here at least until the end of December. The last week or so has been a real setback for me. My energy levels have been good, blood work is spot on, appetite is still increasing and my weight is up a few pounds, but my neck is literally falling apart.
Over the past several months I've been developing these very slow growing lumps on the right side of my neck. My doctors didn't know what they were and just left them alone since it was quite obvious that I already had cancer elsewhere in my body. In the past week or two some of those lumps have come to the surface and broken open and are not healing. There is quite a bit of drainage and my oncologist and surgeon in Minnesota don't really know why this is happening. One of the boils started off like a big blister, but after it popped it has grown deeper and wider, and is continuing to grow. I think the area was already quite irritated by tumors deeper in the right thyroid cartilage. I suspect that this is breaking apart so quickly and not healing due to the irritation from tumors combined with the fact that I've had way too much radiation which similarly caused a breakdown in my jaw in August. The radiation compromised the tissue and blood supply so much that things break down very easily and don't heal. In just a few days the wound grew so deep that I could fit the tip of my pinky into it. A few days ago I woke up with much more pain and noticed that it doubled in length and tore open along the scar of my surgical incision. I'd seen some pretty nasty wounds with all that I've been through, and my gut feeling was that this one is big trouble so we went to the ER to get it checked out.
The ER doctor and the wound care specialist on call at the time said that there isn't anything I can do to stop it from progressing at this point. I have a follow up with a wound care specialist next Monday. I wrote an update to our small group last week asking for prayer. At that time the wound was the size of the tip of my pinky. Now, a week later the wound is the size of my pinky, length, depth and height. If I literally took my pinky off my hand I could fit it right into long crater in my neck. I can see muscles in my neck moving around. My knees get weak just looking at it when I clean it.
Please pray that God would heal the wound, heal me of cancer, and relieve some of the pain. I'm back on a decent dose of narcotics to give me some comfort, but the pain breaks through the narcotics every few hours.
Despite this setback in the neck, the rest of my body is holding up ok. Other than being tired from the narcotics, I'm still doing much much better as a whole than I was doing in October when I was on narcotics. So praise God for that. Since the wound in near my voice box I am starting to really lose my voice. I'm not sure if this is from inflamation from the wound, or from cancer taking over things. Despite the pain, I'm amazed that I'm still able to spend lots of quality time with my family from NJ, who came out here to visit for the holidays. I love them so much and I'm so thankful to be together with them. They're even making the sacrifice to eat most of the meals with me here at the treatment center on this special diet!
1) For healing from cancer and from this wound.
2) That I wouldn't continue to be anxious or discouraged about this, that I would just see it as another way to have to trust God through this trial. I'm struggling with fears and anxiety of pain and suffering. I'm also fearful that this will cause my health to spiral down again.
3) That God would relieve my pain and give me rest at night.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I sent an email yesterday to my old boss, Dave, at Motorola in Seattle to say hello to him. I had been meaning to send him an email for a long time, but I kept getting sidetracked by my health or treatments. Yesterday's email came back undeliverable, which made me wonder, because I know his email address like the back of my hand.
This week I was making plans to return to Minnesota sometime in January rather than stay the whole winter in California. I wanted to take the northern route to pass through Seattle to visit with him.
I was shocked this morning to find out the bad news. His cancer had returned soon after we moved to Minnesota. It turns out that he passed away last month.
When I first interviewed with Dave for a job in his office, I told him that I was going to get married pretty soon. As a good boss he was often thinking about the quality of my personal life, so he said to me, " Then we better fly Grace up here as well for a weekend, because if you're going to be successful, its going to be with the support of your wife."
When I first started working for Dave I was a proud, naive college graduate, but he bore with me and helped me develop despite all my flaws. In the coming years Dave continued to help me flourish as a young man and engineer. He had a profound impact on my life to say the least.
Things I learned from Dave:
1) Don't eat too many Yakima cherries at one time, they're explosive if you know what I mean.
2) Take your your work seriously, not your boss.
3) Work with the utmost integrity. It may not get you a bigger bonus or the next promotion, but its just the right thing to do.
4) To some work is their life. Dave always taught me that work is a part of life. Enjoy life and you'll enjoy work.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Today at the treatment center I met a man that came here a year ago with stage 4 malignant melanoma. He had a huge tumor on his foot and cancer all the way up his leg to his thigh. A year ago they had to help him just to get up and walk to the back patio of the treatment center.
After doing this treatment for a year, he has returned. Doctors' scans show that there is only one little tiny lump in his thigh, and the tumor in his foot has gone completely away. He still limps some because there is non-cancerous dead tissue where the tumor was, but he's having that removed. He was able to take a 1.5 mile hike the other day compared to not being able to walk a year ago.
He hugged me and told me that it is a lot of work, but to stick to the therapy. If you create a good environment for your body to deal with the cancer, it can do it! Seeing his remarkable recovery and his happy spirit encourages me to keep fighting!
Please keep praying for neck and back pain relief, as that makes it difficult to sleep at night.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
ANDREW AND GRACE WRITE:
This year we decided to spend Thanksgiving alone as a family. We got up early and started the normal routine for the Gerson Therapy, which means cooking oatmeal, juice, and starting lunch. We had family worship and then began preparations for a day at the beach.
We ate lunch and dinner at the beach. What I loved about it was having the day centered around the beach rather than a feast. The kids LOVED splashing in the water and playing in the sand. Around this time last year they had their shovels out playing in the snow with their hats, jackets, and gloves. This year it's sand and shirtless =).
My health is holding up still. I tried to get completely off over the counter pain meds (tylenol) but it made me miserable, so I'm going to still use a little bit to keep the sanity. The pain is centered around my neck and right shoulder. Even though I struggle with some pain, overall I'm doing much better than a month ago. I know that the reason I'm feeling better rather than worse is because God is answering your prayers.
Many of you are wondering what our daily routine is like doing the Gerson Therapy. The day starts around 7AM. Grace simmers an organic oatmeal breakfast, squeezes fresh orange juice, and washes whatever vegetables are needed for the day's juices as well as meals. After breakfast, we juice every hour until 6PM. There are 4 green juices and 5 carrot juices in addition to the fresh orange juice for my particular regimen. The green juices contain an assortment of veggies like escarole, chard, green pepper, red cabbage, red lettuce, and rommaine. The carrot juices are usually just carrots, or sometimes carrot and apple. To each juice, we add a specific regimen of supplements like pancreatin (digestive enzymes), potassium, dessicated liver, CoQ10, and Acidoll. The juicing is probably the hardest part because not only do you have to run the juicer every hour so that the juice is fresh and the enzymes don't die, but you also need to purchase and wash and cut an enormous amount of vegetables, then consume it 10 times per day. In addition, the meals are just as time consuming because most things have to be cooked fresh and then pureed for insertion into my tube.
We've had an extraordinary amount of help so far. Last Tuesday Grace had a cutting party. A group of college students who go to Grace on Campus, our old Bible study, helped wash and cut a week's worth of meals, sprayed the insides of the bags with Vitamin C to keep the veggies as fresh as the moment they were cut, and vacuum bagged them. Then Wed, Friday, and Saturday various people came from VOH, a church my friend pastors, to help in the afternoons to tidy up, help prepare dinner, clean veggies and set up for the following day. Many of these people are people we are meeting for the first time. Its almost like a restaurant the amount of stuff that is going on in the kitchen. It turns out the the kitchen in the house we're staying at in Cerritos is twice as big as our kitchen at home in Minnesota, so it actually makes things run much smoother than it might otherwise.
We know the Lord is causing this therapy to keep happening hour after hour, because so far I have gotten all of my 10 juices and all my fresh meals each day since we left the treatment center, despite how it usually takes two weeks to get settled into the therapy after leaving the center. Despite all kinds of obstacles and all the work required, by God's grace, each juice manages to come like clockwork.
Our plan is to return to the treatment center in Redlands for the month of December. It turns out the wonderful family that runs the treatment center are Christians. They saw how much progress I (and Grace too) was making in my health that they invited us back and offered us a great deal. We've been under so much pressure the past several years, that being at the treatment center is such a relief. They will take care of all the meals and juicing for us, while we relax, focus on healing and spend time with the kids. We're planning on staying in the RV with the kids for part of it, and then staying in the treatment center for the rest of the time. Then in January we're praying that the Lord will provide a place to stay and a car for a few months in the West LA area.
Huntington Beach - the weather forecast said cloudy with chance of showers. Guess they were wrong! Grace was smart enough to remember to bring all of our sand toys from Minnesota!
The kids love waves and sand
We also got a catch the sunset
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Here is a short list of answered prayers:
1) Praise God that my pain has greatly decreased. I thought it would be impossible to get off narcotics just a few months ago, but now I'm off! In addition, I don't need that much over the counter stuff since I now have learned some effective natural ways of dealing with the pain. The only time I really struggle with pain now is when I sleep. It is hard for me to lie down comfortably and rest at night, due to coughing bouts and soreness in my neck and shoulders. Please pray for relief from discomfort at night and restful sleep.
"Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food" - Hippocrates, c.400 BC
The Gerson Therapy is extremely intense and time consuming but simple and not very expensive. It consists of a combination of fresh carrot and green juices 10 times a day over a 12 hour period and a vegan, low sodium, high potassium breakfast, lunch, and dinner that equals 2,000-3,000 calories a day. In the standard American diet, meat and table salt leach potassium from the body. But potassium is what is needed to break down the cancer cell's outer layer, which disguises it from the immune system. The goal is to aggressively flood the system with nutrient-rich alkaline foods, which will bring your body's pH to optimal levels to allow normal metabolic functions to occur, as well as to consume huge amounts of enzyme-rich, raw vegetable juices to stimulate the immune system and help kill cancer cells.
In addition, the therapy includes a handful of carefully chosen inexpensive supplements and enzymes that the body uses in normal metabolic processes. The supplements are so natural that you couldn't even overdose on them if you tried, just like you couldn't overdose on vegetables. They provide the same things found in the foods we are eating, but because of the dire state a cancerous body is in, the supplements allow us to ramp up even more what we are getting.
The most invasive part of this therapy is a vitamin B-12 shot I give myself every other day. What a big step away from the list of 100 perscription drugs that I was on in March when I was in ICU, not to mention the $500,000 that went into somebody's pocket for all my treatments.
I'm thankful to my doctors for their help and I know that God is sovereign over all those events in my life, but after all of that I don't have much to show for it but a list of pains and disabilities and a poor prognosis.
I'm not saying that if you do something like the Gerson Therapy you'll suddenly be healed of all your ailments (but many many many people have been and case studies prove it), I'm simply saying that perhaps preventative medicine and non-invasive treatments such as the Gerson Therapy should be a normal part of our lives and endorsed by our government rather than the use of toxic drugs, scaples and processed foods. Each year the FDA approves food coloring after food coloring, and artificial flavor A, B, and Z, and new genetically modified foods void of nutrition, and sets the safe levels of lead and arsenic and pesticides that can be in our foods. And who sits on the boards of the FDA and the National Cancer Institute? The advisory committees for these agencies have ties to the most powerful petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and food companies. Check out the FDA website, you'll see that the ONLY two experts in nutrition on the science board are from Coca Cola, Inc. and Mars, Inc.
My hope is that each of us when we do research about health can see past the superficial layer of marketing, propoganda, and skewed statistics that pervades our society, and make informed decisions based on how our unique, individual body actually works. My hope is that others would be able to discover this sooner than we did. We are not a statistic and our individual and family's needs are not the same as our neighbors. There is great information out there, but we tend to not see it unless we're really looking, particularly because culturally we are so accustomed to eating the standard American diet and taking a pill for everything. God is teaching Grace and I more every day. If we pray with faith in God rather than in doctors or ourselves, and beg Him for wisdom, He will answer.
1) That God would continue to nurse me back to health and heal me completely of cancer.
2) For wisdom about treatments. We're taking the Gerson Therapy one month at a time. After each month we're going to reevaluate its effectiveness and whether or not we should add/subtract something, or go in a different direction. The great thing is that as we learn more about our bodies, we can take control of our healthcare and make decisions on our own. Since we've been here, my health has been very stable, and my energy and spirits are way up!
3) For wisdom whether or not to stay in CA for the winter. After having pneumonia practically the entire month of September you can probably imagine that I am hesitant to return to the harsh winter in MN, especially with the amount of sickness my kids bring home. Plus, with the sunshine and the warm weather I can get fresh air and exercise, so essential to good health, everyday outside. Please pray for wisdom about this and that God will provide a place to sublet for a few months if He leads us to stay.
The juicing station.
The really nice people running the therapy do all the work, providing me with 20 lbs of enzyme and nutrient-rich vegetables per day. The grind and press method using a Norwalk juicer is the most effective juicing method and provides predigested juice that can be quickly absorbed into my blood stream (by the way, Dr. Norman Walker who invented this juicer lived to be really old, despite originally having gotten into nutrition due to bad health). That juice is incredibly rich in chlorophyll.
What you see above are four cups of food blended in a Vita-Mix for insertion into my tube. Usually there is a mixture of potatoes, salad, veggies, Hippocrates soup, raw garlic, flax oil and a handful of supplements. Before I came here, I was only able to get 2 cups into my stomach before feeling nauseous and giving up on eating. When I got here I started at 3 cups. Now I can get at least 4 cups in at each meal plus 10 cups of juice per day! This in itself is a huge praise because my weight is so low.
Salads and raw vegetables are the norm.
A cup of carrot juice. I get a total of 10-11 fresh juices per day.
The ancient Hippocrates soup!
The Lord paints the gospel and His characteristics throughout all creation. What a picture of the gospel real food is that God made. How despite how we don't deserve it, within a matter of less than two years, even the most physically bad off, can still have everything reversed and be to better health than ever. His mercy is over all of His creation!
Monday, November 10, 2008
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday got to visit with many of our old friends from when we used to live in Southern California at UCLA. On Sunday night we had a get together in Fullerton. Even though we planned it last minute, some of our friends and family were able to make it. People came from all over the place to be with us from Seattle, to Northern California, to Maryland.
To say the least, the past several days has been an extremely encouraging time catching up. I was afraid it would feel weird like it was everybody's last chance to see me before I die. But instead it was just like catching up on the past few years. On Sunday night I was having such a great time laughing that I forgot about pain and cancer. During the sharing time Kenny summed up a year or two of memories as "legendary debacles." My old roomate, Mike (a.k.a. Sung), finally admitted that the low point in his life was when he was living with me (see videos)!
I wanted to have the sharing time so that I could video tape it for my kids. I want my kids to hear from my family and friends that if I die, it might be sad but its not an empty tragedy. I want my kids to see that God was faithful to use my life for a purpose, to be there for others. In the same way, God used every single person in that room and countless others to be there for me through the thick and thin, to hold me up when I was weak, to teach me something new each day, and to enrich my life with experiences that molded me into who I am today. I treasure these words because not because they mean that I am great, but that God is great. That He would rescue somebody like me from hell, but also that He would rescue me from squandering my life. Praise God that He would use me to have impact. Even if it is a small impact for just a few years. That is a picture of the gospel.
Unfortunately my parents were not able to come out to California last minute to be there, but they of course have been and still are the most influential people in my life. Thank you all for being who you are and for being in my life. Thanks for the memories.
Video Part 1 (more parts in blogs below. If you can I encourage you to watch them all. You'll catch a glimpse of my history and the Lord's faithfulness in my life. Prayer requests and updates are at the end of Part 4):
See Video Part 2 in the blog below...
Video Part 4:
1) Praise God that things have been going great at the treatment center! We are learning so much about the human body and how to help it fight disease. Pray that the treatments would work and that God would heal me completely. I'm feeling better than I have in a very long time! The children are doing great. The Lord is answering your prayers for us.
2) Praise God that this past week has been rich and filled with blessings through old and new relationships. We are greatly encouraged to see those we love and miss face to face, and to hear how God is working in their lives.
3) Pray that God would provide a way to continue this 12 hour per day, 7 day per week, intense therapy on our own after the first two weeks as the juicing and special foods need to be made fresh daily. This is more work than we would be able to handle.
4) Continue to pray for the kids as they have been spending time with different people each day while I'm in treatment. We get to see them in the morning and at night. Praise God for providing help to watch the kids during the day.
My cousin Dan and Sarah (Pei Pei) and her husband Todd. We all grew up together in Danville before I moved to NJ. Where'd Gracie go?
Everybody gathered around for a sharing time. People were so kind to give our children some new toys to play with!
Some friends from UCLA. Left to right: Frank, Nik, John, me, Luke, Bo, Chris, Mike (Sung), and Kenny
Matt, Angel, Philip and Jeanna visited us in Cerritos on Saturday. Philip and Jeanna are from the Philippines. Philip is currently at the Master's seminary and plans to return to the Philippines when he finishes.
Our friends from UCLA who now go to Immanuel Bible Church. Its funny how we're almost all married now!
Friday, November 07, 2008
Day 1 - Driving through Iowa.
Day 2 - We relaxed all afternoon at a beautiful park in Oklahoma City. I had no idea what to expect from Oklahoma. This was an absolutely beautiful place on a beautiful afternoon.
Day 3 - We started our morning routine at a park in Amarillo, Tx
Day 4 - We started our morning routine at a park in Flagstaff, Az. We met Ray and Bonita, Hopi Native Americans and had an opportunity to have a great conversation with them.
Day 4 - The Grand Canyon. Wow. I've seen pictures, but seeing it and looking over the edge with no railing really makes you feel small. I was absolutely amazed. This is the one trip I never was able to make while I lived in Los Angeles. I'm glad I was finally able to make it there.
Gracie soaking up the sun in Cerritos, CA. We made it!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
We've decided to do the Gerson treatment at the treatment center in California on Nov 11 for one or two weeks.
We would love to visit with any or all of you while we are in California. On Nov 9th our friend, Joy Chiu, will be hosting a get-together for us at her house in Fullerton (RSVP at this updated link). Old friends, those we haven't seen in years, and those who only know us through our blog are all welcome alike. We would love to see you or even meet you for the first time. RSVP via the link above.
If you cannot make it Sunday at 4pm, we will be at Immanuel Bible Church (http://www.ibcbible.org/) on Sunday morning and will be able to meet with friends during lunch at the church.
Joy Chiu's Home
2023 Ladera Vista Drive, Fullerton, CA 92831
Snacks and refreshments are provided. Also, if you so wish, please feel free to bring some food for others to share.
Sunday, November 9, 4:00-8:00PM
Please pray that our time in California would be a refreshing and restful time for our family and an opportunity to enjoy each other without all of the distractions we've faced over the past several months.
Please pray also for our encouragement and that we might encourage all those we encounter.
We are thankful for all of you and all of your words and deeds of encouragement!
P.S. My voice is very soft and raspy and I have difficulty speaking ,so please just bare with me. You might have to ask me to repeat myself.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I've been having some ups and downs lately. Physically it has been difficult because getting off my addiction to narcotic pain meds really really throws my body into a physical and mental depression. Praise God that after months of struggling with this I'm basically off! Once in a while I take 1/10th of a dose if my body is freaking out, but these should be the last few days of narcotics. The good thing is that I'm more alert and able to function more normally. The bad thing is that I feel a lot of aches and nerve pain in my neck, head and right shoulder. This makes it very difficult to sleep at night. Please pray for my rest at night and for relief from the pain, I haven't had a good nights rest in as long as I can remember.
On Tuesday I had a lunch meeting with Bob after physical therapy. I was really struggling that day to find joy in anything. On top of the physical difficulties of aches and pains, I've been struggling mentally and spiritually with motivation to do anything helpful for my family. I told Bob that all of my goals have been dashed to pieces. I looked forward to growing in my marriage with Grace and sending our kids off to school and growing old together. I longed for the day when I would send AJ and Gracie to school on the bus, or when I would sit down across from AJ and tell him all about college before sending him off. So much for dreams of making enough money to travel or have a comfy retirement, or even providing financial security for my family. I'm even unmotivated about keeping myself alive through my feeding tube because there is nothing satisfying about it anymore. So what am I living for?
Bob responded by saying, "If these are the things that motivate you, then you're not living for the glory of God. Everybody struggles with this, but you're just more aware because you're facing the end of your life."
That cut to my heart. How could I have been so blind to this. I've always thought I wanted to live for God's glory, but when God starts taking away what seems most important in life, the heart motivations are exposed. I mean I've boldly preached the gospel, I've served at church, I'm teaching 2 kids about the bible, I'm working on my marriage, I study God's word all the time. Could all that stuff be done with faulty motivations? During the 1-mile walk back home from our meeting I spent some time thinking and praying about this. I felt so ashamed. I'm starting to see who I really am deep down inside, and how deceptive my heart really is. It's so awful and ugly. I never knew that it could be this hard to face who you really are.
But praise be to God that through Jesus Christ my filthy stains have been washed away. Jesus died that sinners like me may live. And though I fail all the time, Jesus works in me to actually change me from the heart, not just on the outside. And through Jesus I can start to live for His glory rather than for myself. By seeing myself more clearly for who I really am, though I'm dying, I think I'm starting to truly live.
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
There is A Fountain Filled With Blood, William Cowper, 1772
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Do I truly believe that the great God of the universe who created all things from nothing can heal a few tumors?
Do I believe He can do FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY more than that?
Do I believe that He can transform the Twin Cities Metro with the gospel through the Holy Spirit? Can I imagine crime decreasing, welfare cases decreasing, divorce rates decreasing, unwanted pregnancies decreasing, or children obeying their parents because the gospel is transforming hearts of stone into hearts that worship the true and living God?
Do I believe that God can transform a nation through the gospel?
Do I believe that God can transform the entire world through it? He can do it, and abundantly more than that!
I was greatly encouraged by John Piper's sermons on prayer and fasting from January of 1995. If you haven't already heard them, I highly recommend these sermons as they give much biblical and practical counsel on the subject of prayer and fasting. Piper's book, A Hunger for God, is similar in content if you prefer to read than to listen.
I know so many people have been praying, and perhaps fasting, begging God to heal me for the past 2 years. From Eph 3:20 I believe God can do that and so much more. Lets pray that God will not only heal me, but blow our minds by answering BIG prayers for our cities, country, and nation. Lets hunger and pray not only for healing of physical sickness, but that the Holy Spirit would come and revive the spiritual deadness in our world and cause us to hunger for God rather than for food, or comfort, or money, or vacations, or promotions or whatever it is that can never truly satisfy us!
As fellow brethren from all over the world, would you please consider a group fast as individuals, small groups, or churches every week from Wednesday after dinner until dinner on Thursday for 5 weeks ending at the Thanksgiving feast?
1) Pray that Jesus would return soon.
2) Pray that through the Holy Spirit the gospel would go forth and transform our families, our cities, and our nations for His glory.
3) Pray that God would perform a miracle before our very eyes to heal me of cancer and restore my speech and swallowing.
4) And please encourage everyone by sharing how God is answering these prayers and whatever other prayers are heavy on your hearts that we may praise God together, that He truly is the God who does far more abundantly than what we can ask and can far surpass the furthest extents of our imagination.
They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth.
And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood.
"It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"
And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."
When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again."
After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!"
But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.
When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?"
And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
Mark 9:20-29 (NASB)
Friday, October 24, 2008
Our friend is going to allow us to borrow their RV for a few weeks so we can get away and travel a bit. With an RV we can travel but still be able to feed me healthy foods and juices and spend lots of time together. We still want to go to Southern California to be with our friends and visit a clinic where we can learn the therapy. Instead of doing inpatient therapy, we plan to do a few outpatient classes or have a trained therpist come to us to teach us how to administer parts of the therapy.
Thanks to everybody who generously offered a place to stay. We're considering our options and will need to stop somewhere in SoCal. Hopefully we'll be able to see many of you face to face.
We'll keep you updated!
Continue to pray for full healing and restoration. God is able to do far more than we can ask or think.
Praise God that things at home are continuing to run more and more smoothly, and we've had help setting up our house.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
1) Go to a clinic in Loma Linda, CA near Riverside.
2) Go to a similar clinic in Tijuana, Mexico.
3) Have a caregiver come to our home in Minnesota and teach us the therapy.
In all three cases we will learn the therapy and continue it at home. Please pray for wisdom about what to do, and that God would open and close the doors according to His will for us. In addition, pray that if God wills for us to do this that He would provide for the logistics and the help we need. Personally I would lean toward the California location since that is our old stomping ground.
If we go to Loma Linda or Mexico we will need a place for our kids to stay nearby since they can't stay at the clinic. We'll bring somebody along with us (person yet to be determined) to help with the kids. If anybody reading this has a rental or a place in the Los Angeles or Riverside areas we could use for a few weeks in early November please email me. Thanks!
Please also keep praying that we would trust God and treasure Him more than life itself. It is easy to get caught up and stressed out by relying on our own efforts.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Dr. Yueh said that usually when cancer spreads to a place like the spine people on average live about 1 year. He said that you never know because his uncle lived 7 years even through the doctors told him he had about a year. Dr. Yueh also said that for me things will probably get very painful, so I might end up on very high doses of drugs which will make me unable to function properly. In addition, there might be a point where I lose by voice to the cancer, so I can't expect to be a fully capable person during the entire time I'm alive. In a conservative plan, I think we should plan for 6 months of alertness, and if I do better that would be awesome.
The pneumonia that I mentioned in my last post is clearing up. I'll be on antibiotics for longer this time. I actually felt pretty good by Tuesday and met with Bob at Starbucks to talk a little more about priorities. Grace and I are so thankful that the elders of our church are mentoring us through this because they are so much wiser than us. I wouldn't even know where to start in terms of making preparations to die. Bob gave me some good guidance to start prioritizing my time and planning for the next few months.At first I was a little hesitant about making plans to die, because it seems as if I'm throwing in the towel. But Bob told me that we need to both believe and pray that God will prolong my life, and at the same time get things ready as if I was going to die soon. Its like praying for the best but still being prepared for the worst. He gave me the example of how God said David's son would die after he sinned with Bathsheba, but David still prayed and fasted begging God to change his mind. Although everything we know about my current health situation would say that I may die soon, we can pray with faith begging God to prolong my life. If God does, then that would be awesome, but if God allows me to die of cancer then I want to be as ready as possible.
So in the next 6 months I'm going to focus on 4 main things:
a) Spending quality time with my wife and kids as well as some time with other loved ones.
b) Writing lots of letters of encouragement and instruction to my wife and kids especially for watershed moments in their lives.
c) Preparing Grace for life without me. That includes instructing her on future decisions, teaching her to do some of my jobs like the finances, reorganizing and setting up our house for her to be effective, etc...
d) Keeping myself healthy and mentally alert by exercising and doing miscellaneous work.
This week despite the sad news we've been quite happy. Not only have I been feeling better from pneumonia, I think God has answered your prayers and greatly encouraged our family. I've postponed my speech and physical therapy appointments until we figure out what we're going to do next. That gave me some time to just get out with my family and enjoy the beautiful fall colors. We drove through some parks in Minneapolis and took walks around some of the lakes and along the Mississippi river.
Since my health has been stable all week, we decided we should use Saturday to get some things done around the house. Friday afternoon we sent out a late notice email to ask for help for an hour to move our bed, 4 bookshelves, and some miscellaneous stuff around in our house. Since I was diagnosed with cancer just weeks after moving into our house, we've been waiting for a long time to get things set up properly. On Saturday 6 or 7 guys showed up and moved that stuff in about an hour as expected. Then to our surprise they kept asking what else they could do. We had a million other things that we needed done but didn't want to burden others with so much work. The guys stayed all afternoon and just humbly served us and completely rearranged and organized our 3 bedrooms upstairs and our family room. Somebody even vacuumed, mowed the lawn, raked the leaves, and brought a stack of firewood into our garage. Then to top it off they reconfigured our printers, TV, DVD player, lights and everything else that got moved, tangled and unplugged. Wow.
At the end of all the work I was resting in my recliner upstairs and our dear brother, Mark, came up before he left. I had asked him in the past specifically to pray for me and hold me accountable because I was struggling with leadership of my family. He asked me about it and I told him that my great anxiety right now is feeling overwhelmed by all that needs to be done to prepare my family for life without me. And my second greatest anxiety is fear of pain.
Mark said to me, "We love you guys so much. We would do anything for you guys. If you die God is going to take care of you family no matter what." He also reminded me that not only is the church going to take care of them if I die, Jesus is going to shepherd them. He is their Chief Shepherd. After he left, I felt so encouraged because the words he said to me were proven to be true with deeds. God sent men to our house to take care of more things than I could have asked for today, and He will continue to take care of all our needs.
I was holding Gracie the other night and she fell asleep in my arms curled up in a ball. I just sat there enjoying her soft breathing and the content expression on her face, wishing that I could go back to the days when my parents held me like that. Oh I how I longed to be tenderly held and cared for like my baby Gracie. Today, I truly felt that way.
1) That God would heal me of cancer completely. Especially of the tumors in my neck and spine.
2) That we could continue to be encouraged by God's promises to us. We have good days and bad days, but pray that we would just have good days.
3) For wisdom about alternative treatments
4) That we would be able to effectively use our time according to the priorities described above.
5) That I would not be anxious about what needs to be done or about pain but would cast those cares upon Jesus.
6) Pray for relief of discomforts in my neck and that I would be able to rest at night.
Monday, October 13, 2008
This cancer is mad, and it just won't go away. I had an MRI yesterday and the doctors are pretty certain that there is cancer in my spine on the back of my neck, and there might be cancer in the base of my neck in the front. The MRI wasn't clear enough to make that determination, but I'm pretty sure there is cancer there as well because I can feel it. Not only is there a sore lump on my neck near my thyroid, my blood tests showed that my thyroid function is pooping out faster than expected. So, it is likely that I have cancer in my neck that is invading the thyroid.
Since the spine cannot be operated on, the doctors say that there really isn't anything I can do at this point but wait and see if it grows in 3 months. I could do a biopsy to confirm it but it is not guaranteed to be conclusive because needle biopsies into the spine are not extremely accurate. Removing a tumor from the front of my neck would require me to lose my voice box and have to breath out of a hole in my neck. Given that there is tumor in my spine, that would be pointless. I might as well keep my voice as long as I can.
So, the reality is that unless God intervenes, I'll probably be leaving this world sooner than later. That doesn't mean that we've given up on fighting cancer, it just means that we're going to think realistically about my situation. Only God knows how long I have left and He might just heal me, or even provide some new alternative therapy that cures me. We've been trying different alternative therepies over the past year, from diet, to aggressive juicing, to supplements, but in the end it is all in God's hands. I'm praying that if God takes me home soon I'll be mentally alert and able to talk until the bitter end.
We talked with Bob, our pastor and brother-in-law, and he helped us think about our priorities better. I think this whole time we've been making survival our top priority and everything else in life secondary. After exhausting all conventional cancer therapies and many natural therapies, I think its time to rethink the game plan. We're still praying about this, but I think quality of life is going to now be top priority, and any treatments will have to fit into that. Therefore, I won't be doing any more major surgeries or chemo treatments unless it will increase my quality of life. I want to spend my last days with my family and prepare them for a life without me.
I feel like there are so many things I want to say but perhaps not enough time to say them. For one thing, I wish I could travel all over the country and see everybody one last time before I go. Maybe that will happen. Or perhaps people could visit.
Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom."
As I meditate on that passage and look back on my life I see so many wrong decisions. I wish I could go back in time and change them. Instead of making a list that could go on and on I need to recognize firstly that God is sovereign over those mistakes, and secondly that each of those mistakes should serve to make me more and more humble, and more and more dependent on forgiveness through Jesus. I take great comfort in the fact that Jesus died for my sins and and forgives me. As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed my transgressions from me (Psalm 103:12).
Looking back, one thing I'll never regret is following Jesus Christ even if it meant hardship. When I was 21 years old God placed in my heart an inescapable desire to follow Him. When I first became a Christian I spent a lot of time reading Paul's letters in the bible and came to believe that the Christian life was often described as a very difficult one. My old small group leader from UCLA emailed me the other day and reminded me about something I had shared in small group as a new Christian. I said something along the lines that suffering was good because God clearly uses it to grow His children, so we ought to ask God to grow us even if it meant we were inviting suffering.
Phil 1:29 says, "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, "
Phil 3:9-11 says, "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Rom 8:17 says, "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. .
I deep down had a feeling that God was preparing me for hardship. The other guys in the room thought I was a lunatic because it seemed as if I was asking for suffering. I never asked for suffering, but just desired that God would grow and stretch me and that He would put His name on display in my life. I never would have imagined that this could happen to me, but I think that was the Holy Spirit working in my heart to prepare me for this trial later in life. We all suffer to varying degrees and in varying ways, but God has chosen this particular path for my life that He might conform us all into His image.
In Matthew 16:26 Jesus says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" It is foolish to waste our lives chasing success and pleasure when we have not dealt with the most important matter at hand - the well being of your soul. Am I prepared to die? What will happen after I die?
Tonight God is impressing upon my heart to warn of the coming judgement. Whether or not you consider yourself a Christian, I ask that you read on. We all need a daily dose of the truth.
The book of Genesis says that God created the entire world including humans and set a standard of morality for His creation to adhere to. All people, even ones who seem really nice on the outside, sin in some way and offend God. We are greedy, we cheat, we exaggerate the truth, a.k.a lie. If you still don't think you've offended a holy God, have you "loved the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and strength" as He commands in Deuteronomy 6:5? Jesus says that is the greatest commandment. Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." God, being a just God, must punish our crimes against Him just like a felon is punished in a human judicial system. But God in His great love for His creation provided a wonderful way out. He punished His own Son, Jesus, in our place!
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
We all need to humbly recognize that we have sinned against God and cry out to Jesus to save us. We can say, "Lord, I know that I have gravely offended You by not worshipping you with my life and not loving You above everything. I have served myself rather than You. I am such a sinner, but I ask that you please rescue me from my sins. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins, so please save me!" This was the cry of my heart in 2001 when God humbled me and showed me my great sinfulness after years of living a selfish life of drugs, pleasure, and self accomplishment. God is faithful to answer those cries.
In addition to recognition of our deep sinfulness and asking Jesus for forgiveness of sins, Jesus also tells us to count the cost of following Him with our life. In Luke 14:27-28 Jesus says that we must consider whether or not we are willing to follow Him unto death, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?"
Jesus says to His followers that they will experience tribulation in John 16:33 says,"In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
Jesus promises that if we give up everything to follow Him on earth, we will gain life everlasting in the new heaven and the new earth. God's plan for my life might result in me losing my life at a younger age, but I can look forward to my reward in the new heaven and new earth where God Himself will wipe away every tear and there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds...This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new " And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
- Revelation 20:11-21:8
Here is an old video from March 2008. These were my final words before the last surgery that crippled my speech and swallowing. That cold, wintry, Minnesota night we had no idea what the next 7 months would entail. One thing we knew back then and we still know now is that this trial that we face is a part of a much bigger plan that God has for the world. My prayer is that the world is watching and listening to what God is saying.
1) Praise God that we made it through today even though I'm sick again. Grace had supernatural strength to take care of me today.
2) Please pray that the peace of God will rule in our hearts and that God will protect our minds from wandering into useless thoughts.
3) Pray that in 3 months my next scan would reveal nothing in my spine or neck.
5) Pray for wisdom about what to do next. We might try an alternative therapy soon which would take about 3 weeks. Pray that God would make it undeniably clear whether or not we should do it.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Everybody is wondering whether or not I have cancer. Well, I'm still wondering the same thing too.
The PET scan lit up in 4 areas of my body. That means that there was suspicious activity in 4 places. The doctors all got together and with a high level of confidence dismissed two of them as physiological changes due to surgery and radiation. Those two were in the tongue and the back of the voice box. So we'll watch those areas and see if it gets worse in the next scan in 3 months.
The bad news is that the other two areas are highly suspicious for cancer because they lit up a lot. Those areas are my left spine at the back of my neck, and the right thyroid cartilage (basically the right base of neck). These two areas did not receive much radiation and were not surgically operated on. I was expecting for them to give me some weird news like that anyways like they always do, so it didn't surprise me. But I was glad that there isn't a large tumor in my voice box and tongue, which are the areas that are giving me pain. For now, it's probably just still sore from radiation. I was also glad that I don't have tumors in my brain, lungs or liver. So praise God for that!
I guess Grace and I weren't too worried today. God gave us grace to just take the news in stride. We decided to do something fun after our appointments so we went to lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Dinkytown called Pagoda. I'm not able to eat via mouth, but I was able to order some clear soup which was satisfying to my few taste buds. I really haven't been able to enjoy much of anything through my mouth since before my surgery 6 months ago, so that was a real blessing! After that it was nice to just take a walk with the kids on a nice sunny day and enjoy them. I even bought them a nice egg custard treat which they LOVED. Praise God for my family, they're so fun.
Before we do any biopsies they want to do an MRI to get a better picture. I went in at 6PM this evening to have that done but I couldn't complete it because I kept gagging on my own saliva and coughing. Any slight amount of movement like that forces them to start over. I hope they don't charge me for the wasted MRI. The last time I did an MRI I was able to swallow just fine, so this wasn't a problem. I'm going to try again sometime in the next few days or try to find a place that will do an MRI sitting up if my insurance will allow it.
So its back to the waiting game. In the meantime pray that I'll enjoy the process, and enjoy each day that I have more and more. After being sick for 3 weeks, I'm pretty excited to be able to do some normal things like exercise and stuff.
Bob, my brother-in-law and pastor, said two things that were helpful to me today. He reminded me that its ok to have anxieties or cares, but we need to continually cast them on Jesus. Trying not to have anxiety or not caring isn't godly. Having those anxieties and then casting them upon Jesus is godly. Thats what the bible calls me to do.
The other thing Bob said was that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. If I disappear from this earth, my family will be okay because Jesus will still be their Chief Shepherd and will lead them to green pastures.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Tonight our family prayed together in our living room about tomorrow's results. At first I wasn't in a super spiritual praying mood but as I started to pray the Holy Spirit starting convicting me that I feel aggrevated that things aren't in order in my life. Like I wanted tomorrow's results to be negative so that I can finally get my ducks in a row and be able to sit back and relax. I quickly realized that even if the scan is negative, things aren't ever going to be easy. I have major disabilities particularly with speech and swallowing that will make life uncomfortable for the rest of my life. But God wants me to be content in difficulty. Sean Higgins, the student ministries pastor at our old church, used to always say that you need to "ETP" or enjoy the process. That is the key to godliness. I need to be content AND happy to suffer with cancer, or suffer without it. Otherwise I'm going to be one hard-to-get-along-with husband and father for the rest of my life.
I'll keep you posted tomorrow afternoon (Oct 8) on the results of my scan. Good night.
P.S. Phil Johnson added our blog to his list of things to read while the Pyromaniacs take October off of blogging (Thanks Phil!). I've noticed that this has significantly increased traffic to our site. If you are new to our blog I want to welcome you to experience this trial with us and grow as we grow (first cancer blog is 1/15/07). I know everybody feels the pains of trials in their own unique way, so let's persevere together. I invite those who don't know us to join in and comment, or email me to introduce yourself. We'd love to hear from you and quite frankly could use the encouragement. Thanks for visiting!
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I know you all have been praying for me fervently, and I thank you. Praise God for all the ways He is answering. Today I physically feel so much better than I have for a long time. Three weeks ago I was at the peak of the pain in my mouth and throat, then I got sick, then got pneumonia which postponed my PET scan from Sept 18th to Oct 1, which on top of everything made me wait anxiously for 2 additional weeks to know if this swelling and pain is due to tumors in my neck and throat! Then, to top it all off, after I got past pneumonia and was starting to recover I caught a cold again.
God really brought me to some low and dark times these past few weeks. To be honest, I didn't take it like a champ. I complained a lot and wanted to just escape my weak body. Though I hate being so sick, when God brings me low like that it always reminds me of what is really in my heart. The reason I feel so frustrated with everything when I'm weak is not because I can't give myself to my wife, children and friends, it is because my idols are not being satisfied. My idols of comfort and pride are just two obvious examples that were at the forefront of my mind this week. And they are the same idols that always distracted me from giving myself to my family and others when I was healthy.
Please pray that I would continually be repenting of these sins and make progress in dying to myself, and giving myself to my family. Pray that I would be like Christ who gave Himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim 2:6) or like Paul who said "But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all" (Phil 2:17). In addition to praying for healing please pray specifically that I would use 100% of my 50% energy level to give myself to serve the Lord especially in leading my family, even if receive news that there are still tumors in my body next week. My family needs leadership and an example of Christ more than ever, and with so many things changing all the time I need supernatural wisdom to know how to do that.
Even if the doctors tell me again next week that I'm going to die of this disease, my priorities to serve God should remain the same. The truth is that I've been dying since I was born. So now, as always, I must die living to make God famous. That's what Jesus did.
My wife wrote a blog last night about my trouble breathing. Today I woke up feeling like I'm over my sicknesses. My lungs and throat are clearer of mucus. Praise God! I know that God has answered your prayers for me and refreshed me both physically and spiritually after bringing me through some dark times. And I know that He will continue to answer your prayers for me.
This morning, I went to the gym and exercised and shot a basketball for the first time since before surgery in March! The surgeries and massive amounts of radiation have permanently damaged my neck, shoulder and right arm. I don't have strength in my wrist and shoulder to propel the ball very far yet. Yet I was able to take shots at 3 feet, then eventually made it to about 10 feet from the basket. I'll keep you posted on my progress in the coming weeks if I stay healthy.
Today was a breath of fresh air. After all that has been happening to me, it was nice to get out and play. Thank you, Lord!
Andrew made it through his PET scan on Wednesday. We should be finding out results next Wednesday.
In the meantime, please pray that Andrew's breathing would be easier, it seems to get harder and harder for him to find comfortable positions to breathe from which really effects his sleep. As he cannot swallow, his saliva is constantly blocking his airway which causes him to cough and choke a lot. Lord, please make Andrew's breathing easy from this moment on.
Praise the Lord that Andrew is now on 1/2 the pain meds he used to be on, his pain has reduced so much ever since pneumonia gave him a break from physical therapy. The withdrawal symptoms are still difficult and taking longer than expected. Please pray that the withdrawal symptoms would relent and that he would be able to get off his pain meds soon.
Please also pray that we would not be faint-hearted but that the Lord would give us the strength to persevere and endure, that Andrew would feel motivated to keep up with all the different things he has to do each day from physical therapy to consuming all his meals and that I would be able to stay on top of helping him with it. Please pray the Lord would greatly encourage and saturate Andrew's (and my) heart with the gospel each day.
To sum up:
2. Get off pain meds
3. Strength and motivation to keep up with daily demands/Saturated with the gospel
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.