Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bike Rides and Sorbet


Praise God that today (Tuesday) Andrew received his last chemo treatment! I feel so grateful to the Lord for getting us through the past 6.5 weeks. Only two more radiation treatments left! Praise the Lord!

I want to thank all of you for the comments you left. Andrew had not been keeping up with all the new ones for the past couple of weeks. Tonight, he read some of them. Afterwards, Andrew updated the group at our prayer-for-him at our house that he didn't realize how discouraged he had been feeling until he felt so encouraged by reading your comments tonight. He was deeply moved by the things you wrote, seeing how much God truly is at work.

So keep the comments coming!

I think, too, that many of you must have been praying for us after I wrote that update on "Five Weeks of Treatment Down." Because last week a lot of the things I had written that weren't going so great went well last week. For instance, Andrew didn't go through a Tuesday night dip into misery that normally lasts 3 or 4 days. He started feeling good on Sunday and it lasted until Saturday! As a result, he was able to go bike riding every day, which made him feel a lot better and also made his sleep much better. He said the biking relieved a lot of the soreness his muscles were feeling from sleeping so much, and it also stretched his neck because you have to look up when you're riding a bike. So even though he was up and about more, he felt like he was getting more rest than normal.

One day we went on a really long bike ride for a half hour (well, long relative to what Andrew can handle) together around one of the lakes near our house and then around the neighborhood. Later, I found out he would have gone faster [if not for me slowing him down=) (Hey, my default is to enjoy the scenery. It never occurs to me to be fast)]. Andrew had so much energy, he was talking so much, I can't even remember the last time he talked that much. Hearing from my Andrew made me feel like I had my old Andrew back.

When we were riding, he said, "Hey, let's take turns choosing which way to turn. Remember when we were dating and we were driving one night and we decided to take turns saying which way to turn?" We had had no destination that afternoon in California and figured our random turns would eventually take us somewhere fun. As we found ourselves at Dockweiler Beach, we decided our goal should be to make a bonfire without spending any money and without having to return home. So Andrew took me to a wood dumpster - which of course somehow he knew exactly where one was - outside a fenced building being constructed. Being that we were in Los Angeles and people are generally not outwardly rude, no one walking by made any indication of staring as we jumped in and out of a dumpster and loaded large slabs of wood into Andrew's car (It was very clean by the way. Only wood was in the dumpster).

Then Andrew took me to Seven Eleven to pick up some lighter fluid for $1 - okay we exceeded our zero budget - but it afforded us a free book of matches. Outside of Seven Eleven, Andrew grabbed a variety of free magazines to get the fire started. When we arrived at the beach, all the bonfire pits were taken, so we sat on the sand and watched an incredible sunset with pink and violet streaking the sky. Out of Andrew's mouth slipped that if someone asked him how things were going between us he would tell them how he had fallen madly in love. I didn't want him to tell me he loved me until he asked me to marry him, so I exclaimed, "What?" and he laughed, and said, "Oh just kidding."

Somehow me ruining the moment didn't ruin the moment at all. I think the New Jersey culture in us made us able to say really blunt or abrasive things or back and forth make fun of each other and it was all laugh-out-loud hilarious to us.

A few mintues later, a family finished their bonfire and waved us over to offer us their pit. That was so nice of them. And for $1 Andrew made us a giant bonfire.

Biking through our neighborhood of Eden Prairie also made me think about why we hadn't ridden bikes together in years. The last time had been a few days after I found out I was pregnant with A.J., and I was having a miserable first trimester. While we were biking, I had said, "I don't like bike riding. I don't want to do this anymore," which actually was news to me as it came out of my mouth.

And Andrew had said, "No, it's just because you're pregnant...And you're going uphill...And your tire is flat."

Yeah for some reason reason I rode my bike even though we both knew there was a hole in my tire.

When we returned home from biking last week, after dinner, Andrew said he felt like eating something soft like yogurt, but not yogurt. We just got this special juicer where on a certain setting if you put frozen blueberries in it, it comes out as sorbet. So I made some for Andrew and everyone, and not only was Andrew able to eat the whole bowlful, he said, "Mmmmm. That was so satisfying."

I was so excited and happy and praising God. Just that afternoon after a difficult attempt to eat an avocado, he had been feeling discouraged that he would never be able to enjoy food again, and yet here was a glimpse of hope.

In addition to biking together last week, feeling like I had access to my Andrew again, and him enjoying blueberry sorbet, Andrew never threw up those several days. Doesn't it sound like these surprises are the fruit of your prayers for us?

After last year's cancer, my aunt introduced me to a lot of books on nutrition. I skimmed them with a lot of skepticism. Then, Andrew's co-worker, who had oral cancer 25 years ago, told us about The China Study by Cornell professor and leading nutritional giant, Colin T. Campbell. This co-worker was diagnosed with radiation-induced cancer in his mouth shortly after Andrew completed his treatments last year, but this man's tumors began healing themselves simply by changing his diet a few months ago. No other types of treatment. Our ears were perked. This was no infomercial. This was someone Andrew actually knew in real life and accomplished what he claimed. And it was the type of cancer directly related to what Andrew was going through. So we read The China Study and it was an epiphany for the both of us. It was the scientific evidence I needed and became the framework through which I filtered all the books I read about nutrition. I read this book only weeks before Andrew's diagnosis.

And so, I went back to the books my aunt had given me and read them more carefully. My aunt has been really into nutrition for years and since her husband is a doctor, she also reads his medical journals. As a result of all I read, after Andrew returned home from the hospital in April, we started him on an intensive nutritional diet, including about 8 cups of fresh carrot juice with beat, ginger, garlic, leafy greens, etc. each day and homemade formula made from real, healthy foods that included the calories, fats, proteins, and fiber he needs. I love juicing for Andrew, feeling like every cupful is like what I thought medicine was as a child, rather than masking symptoms, it truly heals his body. Often, when I'm juicing I find my heart exulting in worship of God, who does all things excellently and mercifully created food that is so healing and nourishing to our bodies.

My hope is not in nutrition, just as it is not in doctors. My hope is in God and God alone. But I believe God usually works through means nowadays. When someone drives to work, God provided the means for him to get there - a car, a ride, etc. But it was the Lord who provided that car and it was the Lord who made the car work, and it was the Lord who got him safely to work. In the same way, I believe that if God provides the means, a doctor, nutrition, etc. to heal a person, it's because God has provided those means. Sometimes those means work, sometimes they don't. Sometimes God makes something not work when it should have, and sometimes God makes it work better than it should have. Sometimes He just plain miraculously does something that no one can explain. Either way, it's because God made it do what He chose to do. Either way praise God because He is sovereign and has dominion over all things and all things are from His hand.

I always run the nutritional things I'm doing by our radiation doctors. They have actually been very supportive and have encouraged us to continue to do it, saying it's supported by studies. Nonetheless, when Andrew and I committed to radiation and chemo, we agreed that to make it through, if Andrew couldn't tolerate the natural stuff I made for him anymore, he would have to resort to the hospital formula.

As the chemo further depleted him and things like his hematocrit would go down making him anemic, I would do things like add lots of spinach to his juices to compensate, and things like that were really working. But as he got sicker and sicker, more and more formula started to replace his normal foods. By week 5 of treatment, it got to the point where sometimes he even threw up the hospital formula.

I began feeling nervous about increasingly not being able to give Andrew fresh juices and homemade formula. I was concerned that as he got more and more nauseated, and thus had less and less of the nutrition I wanted to give him, he would continue in a downward spiral of sickness and worse and worse health.

Well, since he didn't feel nauseated last week, he was able to tolerate tons of juice, as well as the homemade formula. I made the juice much simpler than before and only put carrot juice with broccoli or celery. He said the fresh carrot juice soothed his stomach and gave him loads of energy, which then allowed him to exercise a lot. (Carrot juice gives you lots of energy, except unlike the lattes I so enjoy, it's extremely good for you and healing, even essential). So instead of a downward spiral, he went in an upward spiral of improvement. In fact, his lab results from yesterday show that for the first time since he started his treatments, he is not anemic, despite how after 7 weeks of treatment, he is supposed to be worse off than ever.

I went back today and looked at Andrew's lab results from last year, before we had read any of the books I had mentioned, and in August, two months after he had finished his course of treatments, he was still very anemic, more anemic than he had ever been this round of treatments.

Andrew for some reason felt nauseated this weekend. So this week I would really like to pray that the Lord would spare Andrew from nausea and that he would be able to get all the nourishment he needs.

I also really want to pray that he would be able to eat a full meal through his mouth shockingly soon.

Thanks so much for your encouragement and prayers. I don't think you all know just how much you help us through both of them.

Please continue to pray for our PLEES!


  1. Praise God! I'm so happy to hear how God is working and healing and just encouraging both of you. Your journey encourages me and reminds me that yes indeed, God gives us the means.

    LA, CA

  2. What a wonderful turn of events! Praise the Lord! We are so excited to know that this last week wasn't nearly as bad as you were told it would be. Awesome!

    On our end of things, we are in the midst of an unstructured, seemingly unproductive, at times frustrating life as a missionaries in the throws of our first year of language and cultural learning/adaptation. And even when I'm shame spiraling for spending too much time on the Internet, I always feel like the one blog worth my time is yours. No recipes, no silly stories (most of the time), just an update on our dear friends who are always on our hearts and minds. I just thought you'd appreciate knowing that.

  3. i am sooo blessed reading your updates!!! thank you so much for the details. i am misty with joy reading that your dear husband's health is improving, and the Lord has seen fit to give you the wisdom and means to nourish andrew healthily. what blessings. praying for plees and for no nausea! :)

  4. Thank you for the update! It is wonderful to hear that Andrew is feeling better! I think of your family often, and will continue to pray for your PLEES :)

  5. Yes. Your PLEES are on our Prayer List. But despite your PLEES, IS GOD AWESOME or what? He is the ultimate healer. Praise Him for Andrew's healing! It sounds like Andrew is doing better and lets pray this is not just a phase. You have over and over requested that we pray for his total healing and it looks like it's beggining. Praise God. I am totally amazed at your faith and I believe God is rewarding you for it. I sais it before, Andrew is the Man. Not to mention that Grace you are the Woman, you have stayed by his side through it all. Way to go!

    ANy way I'm at work, so I gotta go.

    Praise God,

    Erik Greene

  6. Dear Grace and Andrew:
    So glad to know you are both better in spirit and health. Pretty soon Andrew is finished with radiation too!!! Praise our Lord that Has has indeed been faithful to uphold both of you.

    Enjoy the healthy juicing. Apparently it's specially effective for head and neck cancer.
    Have a most blessed week-end!
    NJ is lovely these last few days- cool and dry, as early summer goes.
    We keep praying your PLEES

    Gloria, NJ

  7. Again you guys are the subject of our Sunday School prayers. It is so great that in this blog Andrew is doing better. Your spirits seem to be upbeat as well Grace. Hopefully the healing Andrew is experiencing is more than just in the moment. You are both a key subject in my prayers to God. Your PLEES included. Again, you are in our prayers.

    Erik Greene