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.
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.
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.
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...