Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 11 in ICU

Andrew has the following prayer requests:

1. That Andrew would be able to get out of ICU today. They are saying he is free to move to the normal floor of the hospital, but there is no room there right now. Please pray that a bed would be freed up there. Andrew really wants to go.

2. That Dr. Lassig (reconstruction doc) would approve Andrew starting on physical therapy. They have not been able to contact her. Andrew really wants to move around, but they need to know that the bleeding problems he had with his leg is no longer an obstacle to that.

3. Pray that Andrew wouldn't be too lonely or uncomfortable. His parents have been with him all weekend, since I have been unable to visit since Friday due to a cold. His dad is leaving today, though, so he won't have any family with him, despite having others visit.

Thanks so much for all your love and support and notes. We can't do without it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Now This is Encouraging

wow. you've got to read this. this is by a father who goes to our last church in Washington. His son unexpectedly dropped dead in the shower and God resurrected him on resurrection weekend:

Go to:
http://howgoodisgod.blogspot.com

And then, on the right menu, click on "How it all Began."

He was back at their church today, only 8 days after it all happened.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ahhh...surgery 4

please pray for andrew tomorrow as they will bring him into a short surgery around 8am to drain his leg of blood and remove some clots.

they have put him on antibiotics, because he had a fever of 102 today, just in case he has an infection. they don't think he has one, but we won't get the lab results back for a few days. his fever made them watching for pneumonia, but his lungs didn't show any evidence of it. in fact, his lungs looked a lot clearer than yesterday in an x-ray.

they took him off heparin, the main blood thinner, today. they usually don't give that to patients. they made an exception for Andrew, though, since he's so special (he super-clots). they are taking him off since his flap has been doing well for six days, now, so there shouldn't be much risk to it clotting and dying anymore. they were eager to get him off the blood thinner, because if you don't have a blood thinner, then you don't bleed as much. and if you don't bleed, then there's nothing to clot up in your leg.

other than that, he is improving and his flap is doing well.

Please pray:
1. for andrew as he is longing to get out of bed, but right now the problems with his leg bleeding is preventing that.

2. for no more complications and that we will be able to get out of ICU this weekend.

3. i wouldn't get sick. i feel like i have been coming down with a cold. there are lots of viruses going around and there continues not to be a lot of time for sleep.

sorry for not emailing more this week. my laptop stopped working monday, so anything i sent out after that was real fast on the public computer here.

if anyone knows if it's possible to subscribe to our blog, please let me know. then people can automatically be notified when i post a new blog and i won't have to send out so many emails. it's hard to do that, cause i have four email lists and can't fit them all onto one.

thanks!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Catch 22

Yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, Andrew was looking much improved. Much of the swelling had gone down. After a few hours, however, his leg began to swell again. The doctors kept an eye on it and by this morning, they had to open his leg, while still in his room, and drain the blood out. This is the risk of having him on blood thinners, blood pooling. They lowered the dosage of blood thinners two hours ago, but the bleeding has not improved. If it does not improve, despite the dosage lowering, they may have to take him into surgery again and look for a vein that's leaking and needs to be sealed. Please pray that God would fix Andrew's leg so he won't have to go into surgery again.

They need to keep him on blood thinners, because of how extraordinary the blood clot was in his flap last Saturday. It had clotted the three inches of vein they had attached to the flap, which is extremely unusual. His flap has been doing well, though, since Saturday, so that's a really good sign. Usually, they only need to see the flap has been doing well for three days, however, with all the complications he's had, they've wanted to wait longer and watch it. Dr. Lassig, the reconstruction doctor, is hoping they can take him off the blood thinners tomorrow, since that will put him at 6 days of his flap being healthy.

Andrew has a fever. At first it was only 100.8. They said it might be because they saw his lung was a little collapsed in his x-ray, which can happen when you've been in bed for a week. But now it is up to 101.8. Over 101.5 is concerning. Please pray that his lungs would be okay.

With all the complications Andrew's had, he seems to be in a catch-22. For instance, yesterday morning, they were finally able to put him in a bed that allowed him to sit up like a chair for an hour and push him around the ICU halls one turn. With that minor activity, he felt sore and exhausted, but this was progress and was part of his physical therapy. He was supposed to do the same thing again today, but because of the bleeding problems with his leg, they decided to postpone his sitting up today. And yet, not laying around, would prevent problems with his lungs.
They even stopped his tube feeding this morning in case he had to return to surgery again. And yet, the sooner he can get that nutrition, the more strength it will give him to heal. They only give him about 60 mL of feeding per hour 24 hours a day. It drips slowly over the hour, so they make sure his stomach reacts well to the feeding. The last thing one needs after oral surgery, let alone everything else that has gone wrong, is to throw up. Thankfully, Dr. Lassig examined him around 4:30 pm, and she said he was okay to go back onto the feedings.

It's very frustrating and uncomfortable having all these tubes draining blood in each of the surgery sites, constricting his movement and often weighing on the cuts, and having the flap pricked and checked every hour, because it is very difficult to get rest. This is again part of the catch-22. He still needs this close monitoring, and yet it prevents him from getting the good rest he also needs.

We are hoping to get out of ICU within the next few days. The way I remember the normal wing of the hospital last year, which was the only place we had to go last time, was that it was a vacation in comparison to this. We could watch movies, play games, Andrew was capable of moving around, and we could have as many visitors as we wanted. Here, Andrew is too messed up to be able to watch movies, too messed up to move around, and aside from visitors being restricted, too messed up for anyone see him.

Nonetheless, Andrew said that when we get out of ICU and into the normal wing of the hospital, we're going to have a party and everyone can come.

Please continue to pray what you've been praying and:

1. that the flap would continue to be healthy

2. that Andrew would heal and for no more complications, especially for the next 48 hours. (especially lungs and leg mentioned above)

3. Pray that we wouldn't get frustrated but trust in the Lord and be content in the circumstances He has given us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Suffering as an Answer to Prayer

Andrew has been doing well since his last surgery. So, last night I was able to leave a lot earlier, around 10:30 p.m. As I walked down the tunnel to the parking garage, I was surprised at the apprehension I was feeling. I was already missing Andrew and wondered what I would do when I got home. I had expected to feel relief at leaving the hospital earlier and the opportunity to finally catch up on some sleep, but instead I wanted to turn around and run back to Andrew's hospital room.

By the time I reached home, showered, and settled down, it was midnight. Sleep overcame me the moment I laid down. I dreamed about Andrew. Sometimes he was asleep on a couch, just like in the hospital, only more conked out without the disturbances of nurses and doctors hourly examining him. And then I was dreaming that I was sitting in the passenger seat of his black Acura Integra while he drove. It must have been back in our dating days.

When I awoke in the morning, I felt discouraged and empty. Whenever I feel desperately discontent, I long for the perfect days of living in California and when Andrew and I first fell in love there. Life in California was always perfect. And whenever I thought it couldn't get better, it always got better. Then Andrew and I got married, and we travelled for three months. I mean, who even gets to do that? These thoughts weighed heavier and heavier on me as the morning wore on.

I ate with the kids then prepared to leave for the hospital.

"Mama, I don't want you to leave me. I don't want you to leave me!" A.J. cried.

I hugged him and kissed him, rubbed his back. I thought silently, I'll be home tonight anyway...Course you'll already be asleep, but I'll be home.

After awhile of hugging he sighed, "Okay, you can leave. I'll see you tomorrow morning."

I frowned. I hadn't thought of it that way and hadn't realized the way A.J. saw it. We had missed each other all day, and all I gave them was an unsatiating 45 minutes in the morning, only to take off again?

Still, it was getting late and the hospital had already called that Andrew was looking for me. I left the house, my heart still heavy longing for the days before bad health, wondering how things had turned. Instead of things getting better and better, whenever things couldn't get worse, they always did.

Once we moved to Washington after our three month honeymoon, our entire time in Washington - three and a half years - one of us was debilitatingly ill. Just weeks after we moved there, I was miserably ill with pregnancy. I had anemia that my doctor didn't tell me about and so didn't treat with a simple iron pill. At times, it was difficult just to walk down the hall. Andrew used to say to me, "At least it's not cancer." Little did he know the irony of his statement.

Then nursing was also very difficult on my body. Changing the kids' diapers in the morning wiped me out. But I had felt miserable for so long, that I had forgotten what it felt like to feel healthy. I thought it was just how all moms felt, and so I accepted it. Between my two pregnancies and nursing, I felt like I was dying for nearly three years. Now that I'm feeling good, I realize that the way I had felt was horrible and not normal. As I wrapped up nursing Gracie, Andrew was starting chemotherapy last year. And so other than our honeymoon travels, the only time we've had good health between the two of us was the first three months we moved to Minnesota.

I knew I needed to bring it all before the Lord. I always start to go crazy when I need time alone with Him. On my way to the hospital, I stopped at Starbucks and read my Bible. I felt heavy with thoughts looming about the strange contrast between our lives in California and our lives with bad health. Then I opened my Bible to Job.

Chapter One of the book described Job as being very prosperous. His children, what the Bible considered a sign of great blessing, were so in harmony with one another, that his seven sons each held a feast in his house on his appointed day of the week. All the brothers and sisters would attend. I thought, How fun. They always get to be together. Andrew and I love stuff like tight familial relations and being with the brethren constantly.

Then, God asked Satan if he had ever considered his servant Job. Satan replied: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job1:9-11).

But when all of Job's prosperity was removed, did he curse God as Satan predicted? No. Rather, this was his response:

"Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:


“ Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong."
(Job 1:19-22)

This chapter encouraged me. Job, too, had massive prosperity in his life and then it was contrasted with "when things couldn't get any worse, it did." But it says Job still did not sin nor charge God with wrong. Rather, he blessed the name of the Lord.

And a few chapters later, he says: "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15) .

By the end of the book, it says that God blessed Job even more greatly than He had blessed him in the beginning (Job 42:12).

Job's example gave me great hope that something did not have to go gravely wrong in order to go from prosperity to severe suffering. Sometimes, it's just what God gives us. But we can still trust God and that He has a purpose that is much bigger than we can see that is for His glory and our good, just as it was with Job.

Also, I read psalm 71. A friend once said that the Bible is truly alive. That's why believers never get tired of it, like they might with something like Huck Finn. The Lord always highlights new verses to us and opens our eyes to things we never noticed before. This day these verses popped out at me:


"You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth
You shall increase my greatness,
And comfort me on every side."
(Psalm 71:20-21)

Macarthur says "depths of the earth" refers not to resurrection, but a near death experience, such as severe illness. Even though I keep reading it in Scripture and I keep singing songs about it, each time I see it, I find myself still surprised that it is normal to suffer. I think the default is to assume that we must have severely messed up in order for this to happen to us. But no, the people of God have always suffered.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

I thought I would also share with you a passage from a novel by Elizabeth Prentiss, author most famous for her 19th century novel Stepping Heavenward. This other novel of hers is about a Christian man and woman and their journey of sanctification as they meet, fall in love, and are married. This is how Prentice prefaces the book, summarizing what the reader will see about the couple:

"They were living to themselves: self, with its hopes, and promises, and dreams, still had hold of them; but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for contrition, and He sent them sorrow; they had asked for purity, and He sent them thrilling anguish; they had asked to be meek, and He had broken their hearts; they had asked to be dead to the world, and He slew all their living hopes; they had asked to be made like unto Him, and He placed them in the furnace, sitting by "as a refiner of silver," till they should reflect His image; they had asked to lay hold of His cross, and when He had reached it to them, it lacerated their hands. They had asked they knew not what, nor how; but He had taken them at their word, and granted them all their petitions. They were hardly willing to follow on so far, or to draw so nigh to Him...They could almost pray Him to depart from them, or to hide His awfulness. They found it easier to obey than to suffer - to do than to give up - to bear the cross than to hang upon it: but they cannot go back, for they have come too near the unseen cross, and its virtues have pierced too deeply within them...."

He has fastened on them His look of love, as He did on Mary and Peter, and they cannot but choose to follow...They behold Him lifted up - they gaze on the glory which rays forth from the wounds of His holy passion; and as they gaze, they advance, and are changed into His likeness, and His name shines out through them, for He dwells in them. They live alone with Him above, in unspeakable fellowship...."

Had they chosen for themselves, or their friends chosen for them, they would have chosen otherwise...Many a time their foot had well-nigh slipped; but He, in mercy, held them up; now, even in this life, they know all He did was done well. It was good for them to suffer here, for they shall reign hereafter - to bear the cross below, for they shall wear the crown above; and that not their will but His was done on them."

- Aunt Jane's Hero, Elizabeth Prentiss (3-5)


Monday, March 24, 2008

The Eye of the Storm

Andrew got out of surgery at 1:30pm. They had started at 7:30am. Blood had been pooling in his neck rather than draining, which was causing the excessive swelling. They were able to solve that problem.

The cause of today's problem:
On Saturday, the flap (forearm chunk used to make a new tongue and floor of mouth) vein had clogged, because it turns out Andrew has an unusual propensity to clot. After fixing the flap, they put him on blood thinners to make sure it didn't clog again. However, when they had given him their protocol amount of blood thinner for his body size, it made him bleed too much, which is why the blood pooled in his neck. Apparently, he also has an unusual sensitivity to the blood thinner. They found he needs about less than half the amount of blood thinner than a normal person in his position would require.

They are walking a fine line between preventing clotts with the blood thinner and making him bleed too much with the blood thinner.

What they did today:
During today's surgery, in addition to clearing out the blood, there were also a bunch of clots in his leg (where they took the vein Saturday), his forearm (where they took the chunk for his mouth), and even in his flap again. They had to remove all those clots.

Where the flap is at:
When he had his 2nd surgery on Saturday, they had attached two additional veins, which drain out the blood going to his flap, totalling three veins to guarantee the flap wouldn't clog again. Normally, a person only needs one vein for the flap. It turns out that the two smaller veins clogged again, but the bigger vein seems to be fine, which as long as it stays clear, should be sufficient drainage for the flap.

Is this normal?
It is highly unusual what is happening to Andrew. I asked the doctor if she's had to go into surgery three times like this before. She said there has been occasions. I asked her if she's gone in four times, just to prepare myself. She thought hard and said, "Maybe once?"

Just as God often makes things work out unusually well for his children, it seems He is making them work out unusually badly for us. I know that He is glorifying Himself. He is doing something huge. I can see it from all the emails I am receiving and that now our blog is being read around the world. This is what we had prayed for - that God would show His glory off through this for the whole world to see. We didn't even know why we were praying for the world to see, it seemed crazy that anyone not local would care; in fact, we were already surprised how much locally people cared. But it was the prayer God was bringing to our hearts to pray.

Goals for Andrew:
The doctors want to see Andrew do well for 72 hours. If nothing had gone wrong after the first surgery, it would have been 72 hours and we would be out of ICU now. Well, the clock has started all over again after this 3rd surgery. So pray there would be no more mishaps! That the flap would continue to be healthy, that nothing would clot again, that he wouldn't excessively bleed, and nothing at all would go wrong.

Thursday is Gracie's 2nd birthday. I would love it if Andrew would be in good enough shape to be without us for a tiny bit, so I could be with her for a few minutes at home and partake in her cake with Grandpa and Grandma and A.J. I would also love it if Andrew could get out of ICU by then and at least Gracie and Andrew could glance at each other in the regular wing of the hospital. Children are not allowed in ICU.

How I'm doing
I was only able to get three hours of sleep again last night, since I got home late from the hospital. Just as I turned off the light, my phone went off with the information about a 3rd surgery. I awoke in the morning to my phone again with them asking for my consent to do the surgery. Then I returned to the hospital. I've maybe had a total of 15 hours of night sleep since Thursday. There are also some viruses going around. Pray that I and the family wouldn't get sick, since that would prevent us from seeing Andrew, which he desperately needs right now.

I feel as if I am in the eye of a storm. And so I do not know the tumult that this appears to be from the outside, except in your eyes and emails. I am also not in the midst of the tornado, because it would sweep me up and kill me. I am at the eye of the storm, the most peaceful place within it. God has provided miraculous peace through this whole time in answer to your prayers for me. I didn't even feel frustrated when I heard the news last night. This is not characteristic of me. I get stressed out when I see plates on the countertop. I get frustrated when I miss a few cups after I turn on the dishwasher. Truly, God's grace is sufficient in time of need and praise God for your effective prayers.

Please continue praying what you have already been praying and also:

1. That nothing else would go wrong for the next 72 hours.

2. That I, Andrew's parents, and the kids wouldn't get sick.

3. That the flap would continue to be healthy.

PRAY!!!!!

FLAP (new pseudo tongue/floor of mouth) MAY BE AT RISK!

PRAY GOD WOULD PRESERVE IT AND ANDREW.

SURGERY 3 - PLEASE PRAY!!!

Please pray for Andrew. He was taken back into the operating room again this morning because what originally appeared to be normal swelling in his neck and face continuously increased throughout yesterday and last night. They believe it is a vessel or something that's leaking in the neck.

They had him on blood thinners to make sure the blood continued to flow in the free-flap (his new pseudo tongue/floor of mouth) and not clot, but the risk is something like this happening.

Thankfully, the free-flap itself seems to be fine.

Please pray:

1. They'd be able to solve this problem

2. NO MORE COMPLICATIONS AT ALL.
- That the free-flap would continue to be okay and that he wouldn't get any infections or problems from being in surgery and taken apart this many times.

3. complete healing

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Fountain Filled with Blood

Our Gory Savior

When I see Andrew with all the tubes draining red blood from all the surgery sites, three tubes running from his neck, one in his forearm, one in his upper leg where they took the skin graft, and another in his lower leg where they took his vein graft, large incisions in all those places, staples across his neck, and now today, his face, swollen like a balloon, even his eyeballs beginning to swell, I am reminded of our gory Savior and how Jesus was a man of Sorrows well acquainted with grief.

I always thought that respirators and blood transfusions were only used in last ditch efforts when someone was floating between this world and the next. Well for Andrew, blood transfusions and going on and off a respirator is a normal part of his day.

I stood at his bedside as he likes me to sing to him. Song after song, now, all the ones about Jesus' blood are more vivid than ever:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
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.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
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.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
- There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, William Cowper

Bearing Our Burdens

I want to tell you what a huge encouragement so many of you are to us. We feel as if our church and so many of you are carrying this burden with us. Not only by meeting our physical needs like childcare, cleaning, or cooking for us, but most of all, ceaselessly praying for us. When I see people I hardly know at our church crying as they tell us how they are praying all day long all the time for us or people I haven't seen in years, or even people we don't know emailing me that, burdened in their own hearts as if they were in our very positions, I am relieved to know that someone is always holding us up in prayer, even if I am too exhausted or confused to pray at times. We are very grateful to God for you and know He must be at work if He could provoke you to such prayer and concern. Paul said to the Philippians: "You have done well to share with me in my affliction," for which the Lord would reward them. (Phil. 4:14, 17)

I know that as you carry this burden with us, many of you wish you could do more, or weren't so far away so that you could do something to help. Know that your prayers are the greatest thing you can do for us, because the One who's in charge of everything that happens hears them and is inclined to say "yes" to His children's requests. I believe that much of the strength and peace I have is directly due to God answering your prayers. If not for them, I would be stuck in discouragement and sinful lack of faith like I had felt yesterday morning. More than that, Andrew has survived two surgeries, and so far they seem to have done their job. See what help you have been to us through your prayers? What would we ever have done without them?

Secondly, you cannot imagine what strength and encouragement your notes and words give us. When we are reminded that God is using our trials in people's lives to love Him more, it makes concrete for us that our trials truly are not purposeless but for God's glory, which is always what His children are asking for, right?

I thought I would share some excerpts of things people, many of whom we've never met or haven't seen in years, have written that sum up what so many of you are saying and have given us great encouragement:
We were thinking and praying about you and your family all day yesterday and will continue to do so!

We are praying constantly for Andrew. Tonight, we're meeting up with some friends and we'll all pray together for Andrew.

I was awake so much last night…..praying for you.

[This one was written to the person in the above passage, then forwarded to us. We've never met the author:]
Thank you so very much for the update on Andrew and Grace. Interesting, I was awake a lot last night and early this morning and I was fervently praying for them.

I’ve been praying for you literally non-stop all day….and I’ve checked my email about 30 times to see if there is an update on your dear one. ..I awaken throughout the night praying for you. May our sovereign Lord give you incomprehensible comfort in this affliction.

He is the greatest Sustainer! Please remember that there are SOOO many people all over the world who love you and are praying for you...but God loves you more, SO much more than we ever could. There are very few "sure" things in life, but there is NO surer thing than God's love for us. We HAVE to lean on Him to survive.

I probably speak for all my brothers and sisters - it was a joy and a privilege (not without many tears) to pray to our merciful God to uphold, protect and strengthen you and to give Andrew a future that will be full of speaking and singing God's praise.

You don’t know me, but I want you to know that I am weeping for you, crying out on yours and Andrew’s behalf, hoping for you both, praying Psalm 23 for you, asking God to uphold you and Andrew and your children through the prayers of believers and bring comfort and healing to you both. I want that so badly for you and yet, please know that your walk with the Lord has been uplifting to me and certainly everyone who has been in this with you from the beginning. So, if there is any good to be looked for, any ‘why?’ to be answered I believe it will be found in the picture that can only be seen from a distance. You know…. those pixel pictures that don’t make any sense when you see them up close? But you step back, and there’s Jesus. I am seeing Isaac in Andrew – Isaac’s willingness to place himself in his father’s hands at the alter. It’s the trust in the midst of the valley, in the hands of the Good Shepherd. That’s what I see and what I’m praying for Andrew and for you….. and for myself to continue trusting on your behalf to uphold you when you are drained.
Enduring ICU

For the past three days, we've only had a total of two nurses, one that does the day 12-hour shift and another that does the night one, so they are becoming more and more familiar with us. Our day nurse, Lyndsey, glanced a picture on my laptop and said, "Oh, what does Andrew look like?" I hadn't realized that all these people who've been spending so much time with him and seeing him more vulnerable than anyone ever has would never even recognize him on the street and have never even heard his voice. I showed her our wedding pictures from our website. She said, "Oh he's handsome." And I said, "Yes, he's very handsome." A doctor walked in and I showed her too. "He's very handsome," I told her. Later, I played a voicemail to Lyndsey that I had asked Andrew to save onto my laptop for me. "He has a really nice voice too," I told her.

Andrew's flap continues to look good today. Praise the Lord. There was some concern about his leg bleeding a lot where they had taken the vein from yesterday, but they took him off the blood thinners for twenty minutes and that fixed it. It turns out his body is much more sensitive to the blood thinners than a normal person his size, so they had to greatly reduce the amount they give him from the normal protocal.

His face really swelled up today, which is what I had originally expected after his first surgery. They've been keeping an eye on that since it starkly contrasted his lack of swelling after the initial surgery. They wanted to make sure it was not due to bleeding that was failing to drain. They said, though, that most people actually swell up this much after this kind of surgery. Now that it's the end of the day, they are concluding that this is simply the normal swelling. Thank the Lord.
Thankfully, they finally started him on feeding him through a tube. This is the first time he's had any nutrition, other than fluids and glucose, since Wednesday night before the surgery. He was also able to get some sleep last night and it seems like he's sleeping right now, although it's hard to tell, because he has been keeping his eyes closed the whole day today, even when he's awake. They said they think he's pretty out of it, because he's on more than twice the pain meds he was on yesterday. I was also able to get some good rest last night. We can thank the Lord for answering those prayers for our rest and a feeding for him.

Continue to pray:

- peace in Andrew's heart despite all the discomfort and craziness
- complete healing. That he would be completely cancer-free.
- That the flap would continue to be healthy. And his leg (where they took the vein) and forearm (where they took the flap from) would heal without complication. They are becoming concerned about his leg again. Worst-case scenario would be taking him back to the OR for his leg, but no worries yet, they are just starting their concerns again.
- That Andrew would have no more mishaps

After the 2nd Surgery

Andrew finished surgery at 4pm and is doing well! The Lord heard our cries! The doctors were able to clear the clog in the free flap by grafting in a vein from his leg. He is resting now and Grace is praising the Lord not only for his mercy through the surgery but also for the body at RBC and everyone who has been praying and showing them such love through this time.

Due to various drama last night, I couldn’t leave Andrew. I only got 2 hours of sleep. The Lord truly sustained me today, though, because I felt fine. Nonetheless, I am hoping to go home and get some sleep tonight (There’s no beds in ICU).

God truly provided a peace that surpassed understanding for me and Andrew’s parents. We found such fellowship and comfort in each other in the waiting room today. The time passed quickly as we prayed before and after any news, lunch, anything at all. We felt like small children, safe in our Father’s arms, though we did not know what the next moment held. I am a witness to the reality that the weaker we are in ourselves, the more strength God provides to His children. I am telling you, there was absolutely no way I could have mustered that. Originally, when I first heard of Andrew’s threatened flap, I had felt so discouraged, but God answered people’s prayers for me and infused my heart with peace, and hope, and faith that He is faithful and able, and will take care of me no matter what.

Andrew is being pushed to the limits not only physically, but emotionally, and every other possible way. He has tubes coming out of everywhere, and he has to sleep sitting up, he breathes through his trache tube, which sometimes feels like he’s breathing through a straw or worse (but the oxygen levels are still very good. It just doesn’t feel like it). He’s not allowed to eat the day of surgery, so he was supposed to have his 1st feeding this morning, but instead was brought into surgery. And now again, he cannot eat the day of surgery. He keeps saying he wants to eat, but they can’t feed him yet. (He does get fluids and sugar, though, so he won’t starve to death.)

He is also sleep deprived. In ICU every hour they have to poke you with needles, turn on lights, and do all kinds of checks that necessarily wake him up. Imagine being sleep deprived, not eating since Wednesday night (It’s Saturday night), and feeling panicked at times that you can’t breathe. He is extremely frustrated and keeps saying he wants to eat or he wants to go home.

Please continue to pray:

1. that the free flap would take well and no further complications or mishaps.

2. the Lord's complete healing of his whole body.

3. For Andrew’s peace of mind and relief from all the discomfort and frustrations.

4. Pray I’d get the rest I need so I can continue to be healthy and take care of him.

Andrew tried to say a word this morning: "Internet." I was so amazed b/c he is not supposed to be able to talk at all with the tube in his throat.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

URGENT REQUEST 2!

They have been in surgery with Andrew since 8am (12pm now). They are still exploring his neck for a blood clot somewhere to find out why the blood flow isn’t working. Pray that the doctors would find the blood clot and that the free-flap (chunk of forearm used to replace floor of mouth and tongue) would work. Pray that they wouldn’t have to graft a new vein for it to work. My father-in-law (his job is familiar with a lot of this stuff) says that a blood clot in general could be very dangerous to Andrew’s life.

Please pray that God would suddenly start making the surgery easy for the doctors.

1. To find clot

2. For free-flap (the new tongue and floor of mouth) to work with no more complications

3. for surgery to suddenly become easy for the doctors

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST

Andrew is back in the operating room. Blood was not flowing properly out of the free flap and the doctors are concerned about losing it. The free flap is the chunk from his forearm used to make a new tongue and floor of mouth. Please pray that they are able to fix whatever is impeding blood flow and that Andrew will not lose the flap. I have no idea what they would do if we lost that flap.

Pray also that there would be no more mishaps and a smooth recovery.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Post-surgery

Andrew is doing well. They finished Andrew's surgery at 3am. They left a quarter of his tongue and didn't have to remove his jaw bone. The doctor believes he was able to get the tumors out.

He is remarkably alert for someone who's practically been hit by a truck. Most people are not this alert for a few days. He can't talk because of the trache tube they put in his throat for the next week.

When I first entered his room this morning, he winked his eyes at me. I said, "You want your glasses?" He nodded yes. When we had to end our visit while the nurses worked on him, he gave his father the most grateful look after Dad read some Bible verses to him. And then he pursed his lips to me like a kiss as I waved goodbye to him and he had a happy look for a moment. I felt so much more encouraged after that. It was like I had my Andrew back and we could communicate with small gestures like that. He also can write notes.

Please pray for miraculous healing and recovery.

Never has the gravity of cancer in our lives been so real to me. I think I could spout all the facts of what the doctors told us these past two cancer bouts because I was always just floating. When I would tell people at church what was going on with Andrew's cancer, they always looked so horrified and worried. I said that I must not realize the gravity of the situation the way people looking on did. Well, now I know.

Most people will never have to go through the horrors I did for just a few minutes while Andrew was in surgery. Few people will have to make a decision in a few minutes where their husband's life feels like it is solely in one's own hands, while he is sleeping. Describing it to you would never make you know what the suffering is. One could never know the difficulty of fearing for your husband's life in a real way unless they actually experience it. I hope you never do. I nearly fainted, and I felt like if I did, I would never revive. But the Lord rescued me. I never imagined misery like that, and I only experienced it for a few minutes, and now know it is only the tip of an iceberg of what misery it could be. So for now, I do not even want you to have to hear what it is like.

Instead, I would rather think about happier things. I thought I might share with you from a "joint journal" I started when Andrew and I were dating less than five hears ago. It was for writing notes to each other in it, verses that were impactful to us, and recording ways God was working in our lives. We lost track of it, though, once I got pregnant with Gracie, but I finally found it after our most recent move in January.

This is a passage I wrote after three months of marriage when Andrew was on a business trip in San Antonio. With the exception of two three-hour periods, we had literally been inseparable since we were married until two weeks prior to that, because Andrew had not started working and we traveled that whole time. Suddenly being apart for an entire week, it was like we had separation anxiety. Andrew immediately got a cold and I felt fear wherever I went (I'm not even sure exactly what I was afraid of.) I read this to him just now and it seemed to encourage

Wednesday, April 14, 2004 
When we were engaged, I knew that most of my love for you, as powerful and as compelling-to-do-anything-to-be-with-you as it was, was more like infatuation. I knew that solid love could only come with the commitment and abandonment of one's self to "oneness," to marriage, and nothing less.

The day after we were married, I felt as if I were a new person - and we were. I loved you in a whole new, almost tangible way. And now, after three months, my love for you cannot even compare with the love I had for you before. And I loved you pre-marriage. I loved you probably from before we hardly knew each other. I loved you as if my gut was attached to you and you held my lungs in your hands. Now, you are my lungs. And I am your lungs.


Clearly, the Lord wants to teach us something this week, as we are both struggling with tremendous fear.
Bless the Lord, oh my soul
and all that is within me.
Bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, oh my soul,
and forget none of His benefits.
who pardons all your iniquities,
who heals all your diseass,
who redeems your soul from the pit,
who crowns you with lovingkindness
and tender mercies.
- psalm 103:1-4

The Lord has made you my husband. I love you because I love Him.

Dear Father, I pray You would strengthen Andrew tomorrow with Your Holy Spirit. Grow his view of You that his view of people might shrink. Help him to truly fear You that he would not fear men. Help him to truly love the people he is with, so that rather than fear them and be timid, he might minister to them. Help him to be a light, brightly shining before them. Dear Father, help him to put You on display. Please also allow him to learn a lot and make him into an excellent engineer for Your glory. We praise You, Father, for being all-sufficient, and that when we are weak, then we are strong as we depend on You. Help us to depend upon You and not ourselves tomorrow. Sustain and strengthen us. Protect us from evil, temptation, or mishaps. Help us to love you first. We love You, Father. In Jesus name, Amen.


Please pray:
- Complete healing. That he would be as good as new and that he would be completely cancer-free
- that we would believe and trust that God is faithful and good no matter what. Pray I can be an encouragement to Andrew.
- that all of the skin grafts would continue to work successfully

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Some Words...

ANDREW WRITES:

Tonight was an awesome night. We went to prayer meeting and were so encouraged by the brethren. Keep the encouraging emails coming as well. And if you can, please visit me in the hospital.

Lord willing, I'll be talking on this blog again soon. Love you all.

Click on the picture below to view.

video

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When Sorrow Comes

ANDREW WRITES:

Today was an encouraging day.

This morning I wrote letters to my wife and children in case anything happened to me. As I was writing letters to them I was thinking about all the things I love about them and putting it writing. The Lord has blessed me so much with such a wonderful family. It just seems so perfect for me to have them in my life.

After lunch I went outside with the kids and made a snowman in the fresh snow. AJ loved it. He is really going to miss the snow once it all melts off.
Later in the afternoon Grace sent out an email asking if anybody wanted to come over after dinner to sing and pray with us. We weren't expecting anybody to be able to come because it was such late notice. As we were finishing up dinner the doorbell rang and David Ward came in with a guitar. Then shortly after came the Beck's, the Glenns, the Jay's and the Smerillos. It was such a wonderful time of singing, fellowship and prayer. I was moved to tears seeing all of these people that love us and care for us. It reminded me that God loves me so much more than even they do. And God is going to take care of me no matter what. I'm am His precious child.

One of the things I've been struggling with this week is dreading the pain of surgery, and perhaps even pain for the rest of my life. In the Lord's sovereignty I was greatly encouraged by a special song David wrote today for us called "When Sorrow Comes" with lyrics by Eric Schumacher

Verse 2-3
I rest in knowing He's the one
Who sends the clouds that block the sun.
For He grows faith through bouts with pain
As flowers blossom from the rain,
In this my bout with pain is won:
That He has claimed me in His Son
and does as every Father should--
He gives the gifts He knows are good.

No depth below, nor height above
Could ever keep me from Your love.
For since You gave your Son to bleed
I know that You will grant each need.
O Lord, Your gracious help I seek,
Remember that my flesh is weak.
O Father, give me eyes to see
That you work only good for me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Surgery - What's to Come

'what's up, doc?'
On Wednesday morning, we visited Dr. Yueh at the University of Minnesota. He clarified a few things for us.

Thankfully the tumor isn't encasing Andrew's carotid artery, although it is up against it, which is perfectly fine for removal. Additionally, he does believe the tumor is against the important nerves, but it doesn't matter anymore, because he believes he has to completely remove the right side of Andrew's tongue, so he doesn't need those nerves anyway.

Also, our surgeon last year, Dr. Futran, called that night and his opinion is in agreement with that of Dr. Yueh.

Dr. Yueh will perform the surgery next Thursday, March 20th. His specialty is tumor removal, which is what is most important to us, and we feel confident he can do an excellent job. Additionally, after following us the past few months, he is most familiar with our case out of all the doctors. A woman, Dr. Lassig, whom he highly recommends, will perform the reconstructive surgery immediately after he finishes. We will check in around 5am for a 7am surgery.

There is a great range of possibilities how they may proceed in surgery, because it's really so difficult to know what's going on in Andrew's body unless they've opened him up and taken a look in person in real time. Here's a lay person's explanation of what a CT scan looks like: It's kind of like an x-ray, you know on dark paper, but in addition to your bones, muscle and everything in your general anatomy light up. When there's a bump or another mass than your normal anatomy in the un-silhouette, then it's likely cancer. An untrained eye probably wouldn't notice a cancerous tumor, because it can be as small as 1 cm (anything smaller doesn't show up on the scans). It's very difficult to discern, however, what is an unusual mass in Andrew's scans, since everything in Andrew's mouth and neck anatomy are unusual. There's scar tissue in some places and then stuff missing in other places. What's tumor and what's just scar tissue?

So they have to surmise a lot of things, based on the scans and physically feeling into Andrew's mouth and touching his neck from the outside, using a tube to look into him with their eyes. Based on his symptoms, such as increasing pain in his ear (there is a nerve that connects from the ear to the tongue), increasing difficulty swallowing, and only within the past few weeks, a bump in his neck, they do not think the cancer is just in one contained mass. In addition to a mass, it seems like the cancer spots the floor of his mouth and tongue. And so they'll have to remove all around the spotty area.

So the first thing they are going to do when they open Andrew up is a bunch of biopsies again to double-check that all the areas they suspect is cancerous. Then they will put the samples under the microscope.

If the biopsies look questionable or negative, then they will have to stop proceeding and close him up.

They cannot remove all that stuff unless they are absolutely certain it is cancerous. But it will take a few more days for the samples to come back with a definitive result. For instance, at Andrew's last biopsy a few weeks ago, when they immediately put it under the microscope, they said it just looked like scar tissue. But when the definitive results came back a few days later, it turned out to be malignant for carcinoma.

Please pray that the biopsy will be correct during the surgery.

I wouldn't want it to come back questionable, then close him up, and then a few days later they say it is positive and they still need to do the surgery, but they can't fit him in for a few weeks. We do not want the tumor growing any more and we want to get this thing out as soon as possible.

Due to the fact that Andrew got cancer at such an early age, and since surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy were not successful, this tumor is clearly very aggressive. Not in the sense of growing as quickly as some types of cancer, but in the sense that it does not want to give up easily. Thus, Dr. Yueh wants to aggressively cut out as much as reasonably possible, since chemotherapy and radiation are not liable options for treatment.

The next step in surgery are the following possibilities:

Best case scenario:

Remove the rest of the right side of his tongue. In addition, remove the floor of his mouth. Replace it all with a chunk of his forearm. The result is his speech may be as good as it is now but his swallowing may be greatly affected.

Worst case scenario:
Remove the entire tongue, floor of the mouth, and the right jaw bone. For reconstruction, again, they will use a chunk of the forearm. They will use the fibula from the leg to replace his jaw bone. Then they will use some of his thigh to cover the forearm and leg. This may cause him arm and leg pain and even a limp. He may be able to eventually talk (though difficult to understand), but being capable of swallowing is questionable.

Andrew becoming Robocop and being rebuilt sounds so surreal to me. It sounds more like a sci-fi movie then something that could actually happen in our lives.

Pray that the cancer is contained enough to only require the easier surgery.

Surgery will be much more extensive than last time. They will have to navigate through scar tissue as well as figure out where Dr. Futran had moved various nerves and other anatomy in Andrew's neck. One good thing is that at least Dr. Yueh is very familiar with Dr. Futran's work.

Additionally, reconstruction will be required, which it wasn't last year. The forearm is used as a pseudo-tongue and floor of mouth because it is the most veiny part of the body and has the most success with being reattached to a different area. Reconstruction is very meticulous, as Dr. Lassig reconnects the various veins of the forearm with the veins in his mouth. Last year's surgery was 4 hours. This time it will be a minimum of 10-12 hours.

Andrew should be in the hospital for up to two weeks and then it should take at least an additional month to heal. Of course, learning how to speak again and stuff will take months.

'what are you two laughing at?'
I'm so thankful for the sermon last Sunday (Scroll to bottom of page and Click on Prayer for Healing March 09, 2008) about what God's Word says about healing. I feel so convinced like never before that the life of a man is completely in the Lord's hands. That truth really prepared me for this last week's doctor's appointments. I mean, I would have said that before, but my anxiety, fear, and doubt would have betrayed otherwise. Of course, I still struggle, but in the moment, the Lord provided all the grace we needed to hear what the doctor's were going to do. When we go to the Lord, the weaker we are, the more strength God provides. Sometimes, I feel like God is providing so much strength, and peace, and joy, I don't even feel like myself. I feel like a totally different, hopeful person. In the days of those appointments last week, the Lord gave me such certainty that the life of a man does not rest in the hands of a doctor. And if you've talked to as many doctors as we have, a doctor doesn't even pretend to think he holds a man's life in his hands. He knows from experience that it doesn't. He can do the best job he can, but the results are unpredictable. And so it hardly mattered what the doctor said, because he doesn't have the final word.

"I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).

The length of a man's life was written before time began. And Andrew's health and the various things that happen to him are also in God's hands. Yes, nothing can thwart the sovereign hand of God.

Truthfully, I was floating when they told us all this information Wednesday, because I was like, "Well I'm expecting a miracle and they're not even going to find cancer in him."

Then I thought, "But, Grace, how are you going to prepare if God says 'no' to your prayers? Are you only going to have the length of the surgery to prepare mentally when the surgeon doesn't come out to tell you the good news?"

Then I thought, "Just relax, Grace. It's good for you just to be hearing what the plan is. That's orientation in itself."

And slowly, what they told us has been sinking in as we make all the preparations. Andrew's parents will be arriving Tuesday and his mom will be able to stay with us for the next six weeks. I stocked up at Trader Joe's and we've been trying to get everything squared away that we won't be free to do in the next two months, like filing our taxes, etc.

We still had to laugh about it, though. I said to Andrew in the car. "Andrew, when they open you up, Dr. Yueh's going to be like, 'This doesn't even look like cancer --'"

Andrew finished Dr. Yueh's sentence for me: "A gummy worm? What's that doing in here?"

"Oh that Dr. Futran," I continued for him. "I keep telling him not to eat his gummy worms in surgery."

grappling
I have to say, on Friday, when Andrew mentioned in hardly a phrase the possibility that cancer could overtake him, my mind's eye raced with images. My spirit was crushed. I had never considered the possibility this time around. After cancer last year, we lived with uncertainty. But uncertainty is much better than thoughts about death. Uncertainty means we don't know what the future holds, but we do know what's right in front of us, which is Andrew, alive, right this moment. So I asked my brother-in-law/pastor last night when we had dinner with his family, what should I do if God chooses to say 'no' to my prayer for miraculous healing. He said, "We have to remember that if God chooses not to heal Andrew, it's because He has something better instead."

It was such an encouragement to hear that. Praise God because His sovereign will is always kind and always for His glory, which, when it comes down to it, is what all believers long for most of all.

He reminded me, too, that God will provide the grace to handle then what happens during surgery. But not before. His grace is sufficient for today, but not tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough cares of its own. Don't we believers need to be reminded the truth over and over? Don't we sometimes feel so weak, we just need someone to tell us what to think, we don't even have the strength to know up from down?

We are praying for miraculous complete healing before the surgery. I know God can do that. If He chooses. For as many tragic stories we've heard, having been through cancer last year, we have been a magnet for just as many positive stories. God still heals people today. Our friend, Erik Greene, is just one example of that. He survived three leukemia bouts as a child. Doctors study him because there are hardly any others like him. And then last year, the night before he was intending to meet with Andrew to encourage him, he was unexpectedly raced to the emergency room. They didn't believe he would survive the night. He fell into a coma but survived. After a few weeks, one doctor said his wife should unplug him. Well, he is living and walking around and with his wife and four kids right now! And there are many other stories of hopeless cancer cases, much worse than Andrew's, after the elders prayed for them, inexplicably going into remission. At our church, we have all been constantly repenting of our unbelief and begging God to heal Andrew miraculously. Please join us.

Please pray for HAS a tongue:

* HEALING
- MIRACULOUS total and complete healing once and for all before the surgery

* ACCURATE INITIAL BIOPSIES


* SURGERY
-
EASIEST surgery would only be necessary (if God chooses not to heal him miraculously)
- SUCCESSFUL surgery completely with no mishaps

The following message is such a blessing and has changed everything for us. Please click HERE, Then scroll to bottom of page, and Click on Prayer for Healing March 09, 2008. We all need to listen to this Biblical preaching on what God says about healing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mailman, Mayo, and Grandpa's Garage

driving behind a mail truck
Andrew: "The mailman really has an interesting job. He drives on the wrong side and delivers trash to people's houses all day."

Grace laughed really hard.

In movies that take place 100 years ago, people would run to the post office every now and then when the exciting event of a letter arrived for them. I don't think mail comes any more often than it used to. It's just they drop off advertising everyday and other people's mail, if they get any. Every once in a while I get a nice skinny letter with my name on it only to open it and find that it is a bill.

On the flip side, we have loved opening up our laptops and reading the mail we get from you. Thank you all for your encouraging emails. They really help in these difficult times because they remind us that we are not alone and that God is at work in people's lives, not just ours.

Many of you in your emails have commented on how our faith is strong during these cancer trials. What you see here on this blog is sometimes the highlight reel of our lives. The bloopers often don't make it to the blog. Whatever strength we do have to make it through each day is only owing to God who provides for us each day. The peace and the strength and joy God often provides is not something someone can muster. It is by God's grace alone. Grace and I can't take an ounce of credit for that strength. We are weak just like everybody else out there, but God is sustaining us moment by moment, and He is answering the prayers of the brethren on our behalf.

mayo
Grace and I will have a total of 3 opinions this week. The first from Dr. Moore at the Mayo Clinic, the second from Dr. Yueh at the University of Minnesota, and the third from my surgeon last year, Dr. Futran from the University of Washington. (We are not flying to Seattle for the opinion. We Fed-Exed our scans to Dr. Futran and he will review it with his tumor board on Wednesday, then call us.)

On Monday, we visited Dr. Eric Moore at the Mayo Clinic (not to be confused with Dr. David Moore, who I visited last year from the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle). Dr. Moore reviewed my recent scan. His opinion is that this recurrence is most likely a lymph node metastasis that grew into the floor of the mouth from the bottom. I'm not sure if this is true, because the primary tumor that I had last year was in the tongue and grew into the floor of mouth from the top. So this may be a recurrence in the primary site.

Then Dr. Moore said, "It isn't near anything that would make it impossible to operate on such as the carotid artery or the spine or the brain stem or even any of the nerves. It seems to be in a place where we can just cut it all out and are free to cut out a bunch of stuff around it without interfering with anything essential."

Grace looked up from her notebook where she was taking notes and burst: "Well, at least that's some good news!" laughing.

Our eyes met and I laughed back, "Yeah!"

She looked at the doctor.

No laugh.

The two residents followed their mentor's reaction.

Grace gave them one last second to save everyone from the awkward silence. "Heheh," she attempted one last time.

Not even a crack of a smile. Barely a nod.

Well, at least we can definitely praise God for answering that prayer!

Dr. Moore said that he would remove most of the floor of mouth on the right side. There will be a big hole and he will reconstruct it with tissue from my thigh. He wants to be as aggressive as necessary. He doesn't think he will have to remove much of what is left of my tongue, so that my speech won't be affected too much more.

The effects of my radiation really muddy up the scans, which is why they are so hard to read. There is a possibility that the cancer may be in the base of the tongue and jaw bone, in which case he would have to remove more than anticipated in surgery. The funny thing is that Dr. Moore said that if we don't go to him, we should go back to Seattle and have surgery there because Dr. Futran is so good. I never thought I would hear that from the Mayo Clinic.

Whoever I choose, I will likely have surgery Thursday of next week, since the doctors all do their surgeries on the same day. We can't do it this Thursday, because Dr. Moore's partner is away this week, and he would have to do the 10 or so hour surgery by himself, which we don't like the sound of. For one thing, Dr. Yueh has said in the past that psychologically they say it's better to have two people do this type of surgery, one to do removal and one to do re-construction. If one person did both, he might be inclined to save things more often to make the re-construction easier. Not to mention, can you imagine doing surgery for 10 or so hours? Wouldn't want him dozing off. I mean, I know this is his thing, but he's still human right?

Dr. Yueh said he used to do the removal back in Seattle, and Dr. Futran did the reconstruction. Dr. Yueh can't fit us in until next week, which is actually his vacation, but he said he would come in to do this surgery for us. Dr. Yueh is really nice. Last time we saw him, he looked like he wanted to cry when he said, "I mean, you have two kids. You have two kids!" (He had met them when we used to bring A.J. and Gracie with us for our regular check-ups).

I think the main reason we wouldn't choose Dr. Futran is only because it is so hard to get into his schedule, and it is inadvisable to wait any longer than next week. Grace's dream would be to have Dr. Yueh make a special trip - on his vacation - with us to Seattle and perform the surgery with his best friend.

There are so many unknowns, and each surgeon is going to have a slightly different opinion on how much needs to be removed. We and many others are praying that God would just heal me miraculously. We know that He is able to do abundantly more than we can ask, think, or imagine.

Our church, Redeemer Bible Church, had a special prayer for healing service this past Sunday. I was so convicted that I was trusting in doctors more than the Creator to heal me. It is true that God tends to work through means nowadays, but it is only by God's grace that those means work. It is totally in God's hands whether any doctor can successfully treat me or not. After repenting of my sin, and asking God to help my unbelief, I've found that I'm not as stressed out about the choice of doctors anymore. I know that God is the One who I need to ask to heal me, not the doctors.

Last year, I went to perhaps the best surgeon in the world for this type of cancer. Then, I did both radiation and chemotherapy. We took the most radical approach possible. Everything was done right. The cancer still came back.

If we looked at statistics, I wouldn't have cancer. Only 50,000 people a year in America get tongue cancer. And of those, 95% of them are over the age of 60 and have been smoking and drinking every day of their lives for the past 40 years. Clearly, we cannot place our trust in doctors, technology, statistics.

I have cancer because the Lord allowed it. We are convinced that He has done it for His glory and our good, as He does everything for His glory and our good. How that plays out is what is unknown. And just as He has allowed cancer, He can just as easily remove it. And so, we must beg God for healing, plead with Him, and as Spurgeon says, make our case like a lawyer, holding Him to all His promises in Scripture. Praise God that he bids believers to come boldly before His throne of grace. The Lord is so kind. He is inclined to say "yes" to His children's pleas.

So please, please, pray that God would heal me miraculously. And if he chooses not to do it miraculously, that he would instead perform a miracle through whichever doctor we end up choosing.

grandpa's garage
On the 90 mile drive back from Rochester we got a little taste of Booneytown, MN. We had to exit and turn around to get a picture of this.

Not sure I'd have wanted our wedding reception here...


Friday, March 07, 2008

The Power of Prayer in a Believer's Life

To hear you are praying for us is probably the most encouraging news (other than those prayers answered) we can hear whenever we are going through these trials. It feels as if so many believers' voices lifted to the Lord on our behalf is a safe place. We feel hedged in by your prayers, comforted, encouraged. And now we cannot believe the additional encouragement we have received in our email inbox. This Sunday our church will be consolidating our normal two services: "so that our whole church body can worship together at 11:00 for a special 'Prayer for Healing' service."

And then this evening we received another email from Laurie, our church secretary. Apparently two men from our church are at the Sherherd's Conference this week at our old church, Grace Community in Los Angeles. Despite the thousands of people at Grace Community as well as the hundreds there for the conference, somehow they met and talked to our old college pastors, Rick Holland and Jon Rourke. Laurie wrote:

"Rick Holland and Jon Rourke are going to rally the groups of people that they lead (about 1300 combined) to pray for you from CA while we are praying here in MN during our Prayer Service."

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up...The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit."
- James 5:14-18

Update Email 3-7-08

Andrew’s surgery has been postponed. We will meet with our doctor next week to make further plans as well as get 2nd and 3rd opinions at the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Futran, our surgeon in Seattle.

In addition to the neck, cancer has been found in his tongue area at the original site, which calls for a much more extensive surgery. Our doctor said much will have to be removed in order to be as aggressive as possible and do our best so that the cancer will not return.

When we learned the news yesterday, I cried and cried. Then I begged God to help me to know that this is for His glory. This must be for His glory, because that’s what His Word promises, which means this is not just to hurt us. And if this is for His purpose, and not random, then clearly God can just as easily heal Andrew if He chooses. It is not beyond Him, regardless of how optimistic or pessimistic things look.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). I keep thinking maybe that I’m an exception to this verse, that I can lean on my own understanding, but that’s a lie, and I must believe what’s true.

Please pray for:

1. WISDOM – for our doctors and for us about our treatments.

2. HEALING – Complete healing once and for all.

3. JOY – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). Pray that we all would be perfected through this trial, learning what the Lord wants us to from this.

Next week’s schedule:

Monday:

- 2pm Mayo Clinic

- Dr. Futran in Seattle will review our scans and call us with his opinion

Wednesay:

- 10am Discuss with Dr. Yueh at the University of Minnesota

Thursday, March 06, 2008

How Firm a Foundation

ANDREW WRITES:

My doctor postponed today's surgery at the last minute. He reviewed last night's scan and noticed that the tumor is actually in both the tongue/floor of mouth and neck. This was not good news.

What we thought would be a relatively simple surgery is going to be a very complex one. We'll need to postpone surgery for about 2 weeks while we put together a game plan to tackle this nasty tumor. In the mean time we'll be busy visiting doctors and praying fervently for healing.

When I first heard the news I was quite disappointed, but after 10 minutes of deep depression what came to mind was that we needed to celebrate. I told Grace that we should go out for lunch to celebrate. She said, "Celebrate what?"

I said, "Celebrate that we have this day together! I'm still alive, aren't I? This is another day that we have together."

So we went out and got lunch with Gayle, Grace's sister and their kids. Right now Grace and I are doing fine but it was a tough day in general battling in the mind to think on what's true. This life is a rollercoaster, but God is a firm foundation, in whom we trust. Keep the emails, phone calls and letters coming because it reminds us that we are not alone.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trials to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply,
The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design
thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

- How Firm A Foundation, hymn author unknown

Grace's Update email 3/5/08

Dear Everyone,

Last Wednesday Andrew had another biopsy on his neck. On Monday morning we found out it came back positive. He has cancer again.

Unless plans change last minute, he will be having surgery tomorrow, Thursday, March 6th at 2pm CST. Dr. Yueh at the University of Minnesota will be performing the surgery.

Please pray for:

- SKILL. for supernatural skill, stamina, and wisdom for the doctors and all the people involved in his surgery.

- DONE. Complete healing. That we would be done with cancer and it would never return again. That the Lord would bless Andrew with long life.

- LOCALIZED. That the cancer is localized and not on the carotid artery, base of the tongue, lingual nerve (provides taste), the hypoglossal nerve (causes tongue to move), or anywhere else in his body

Before they start dissecting his neck tomorrow, they will examine his tongue and throat more thoroughly. If either of the nerves must be removed, he will lose its function. If it is on the base of the tongue, a much more involved procedure will be necessary and they will have to postpone the surgery and come up with a new game plan. If the cancer is on the carotid artery, surgery will not be possible.

Due to all the scar tissue and nerves and things being put back in different places last time, the surgery will take twice as long as last time, 6-8 hours.

we are doing okay. just trying to keep our minds thinking on what's true and not racing towards all the different possibilities. andrew is especially doing well in comparison to last time we got a cancer diagnosis. He seems at peace and even kind of happy. he is doing well controling his mind and i think the Lord prepared us for this news. we are just trying to trust the Lord. we know He is in control and that He is good, that everything He does is for His own glory and our good.

I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
O may Your lovingkindness comfort me,
According to Your word to Your servant.

Psalm 119:75-76


Thanks so much.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Here we go again

ANDREW WRITES:

The past two months I’ve been struggling with pain in my upper throat and ear. I had a biopsy in January which came back negative for cancer on the inside of my mouth. Over the past month my pain got a little worse and my swallowing got much worse, so I went to the doctor again at the end of February and he found a little lump under my jaw on the outside. Immediately, they did a biopsy from the outside and it came back positive for malignancy. I don’t know all the details yet, but I will update you all as I get them. I have a scan scheduled for tomorrow to see if there is any other cancer in the area.

This brings back a lot of memories from last year when I was first diagnosed. I’m not really surprised this time because yesterday morning before I got the results of my biopsy, I was thinking that even if the results came back negative, I would ask my doctor to do another biopsy because there was really something wrong in that area. The pain has been so persistent, and it felt a lot like it did last year with my original tumor.

Spiritually, I felt much more prepared than last year. I had spent a lot of time in prayer about it and reread John Piper’s article, Don’t’ Waste Your Cancer, the night before I received the biopsy results. I felt like if I did have cancer it would be because God is choosing to use that in my life for His glory. Last year when I received the news it felt like a train had hit me. This time when I received the news my reaction was to say, “Well, here we go again.” Even though my reaction was very different this year, it is still an intense daily struggle in the mind. I find myself thinking a lot about how I could have done things differently in the past, or what life may or may not be like in the future. In the end, I just need to live for today. God only provides the grace to make it through today, not tomorrow. So, I’ll just take it 15 minutes at time.

Thank you all for bearing this burden with us and for your prayers and support. Please stay in touch and grow with us as we continue to battle cancer. This battle is going to be a tough one, so please keep praying for us daily. Please pray especially that we would depend on Jesus during these difficult times, and that God would heal me of cancer medically or miraculously. We take heart that we serve the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, who made all things from nothing.

Psalm 119:73-77
Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
May those who fear You see me and be glad,
Because I wait for Your word.
I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
O may Your lovingkindness comfort me,
According to Your word to Your servant.
May Your compassion come to me that I may live,
For Your law is my delight.