Sunday, September 28, 2008

PET Scan Blues

With antibiotics I was able to recover from pneumonia and got back into speech and physical therapy this past week. The awesome answer to prayer is that because I was knocked out by pneumonia I didn't do any exercises in my mouth or neck which helped some of the painful sores in my mouth and throat heal. This allowed me to back off of some of my narcotics. So far I'm at half the dosage I was at before. If it weren't for the terrible withdrawl symptoms I would get off the narcotics faster. The withdrawl makes me extremely irritated and jittery so I have to try really hard to be patient with people.

The hardest thing about waiting for my PET scan on October 1 is just not knowing what to do next with my life. I want to know if I'm going to have a few more months cancer free, or if I'm going to have to gear up for more treatments. I want answers to all the weird things I'm feeling like pain, shortness of breath, and swelling in my neck. In a lot of ways I feel unmotivated because I don't know if my efforts are going to matter. Am I going to live or die? I know its crazy to think that way, but those thoughts bombard my mind all day long and I have to fight to push them out. Please pray that the unknowns would not paralyze me and cause me to be fruitless in my duties as a husband, father and leader of my home. My family needs me more than ever, and I feel weaker and more distracted than ever.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

We're covered, right?


I woke up this morning and felt really anxious about all the different pressures and pains I feel around my head and neck. I sat up in bed to make it a little easier to breathe as Grace lay beside me still sleeping. I thought, "if cancer did return and took my life, what would I want it to be like at that very last moment when I breathe my last?"

When Grace woke up I told her that I was really struggling. She rolled over onto my chest and looked straight into my eyes. Tears began to roll down my cheeks and I said, "If I die. I want you to smile and not cry. I want you to be happy and excited for me. Then I'll be the happiest I've ever been, for that last moment."

What bothers me so much about the thought of death, other than extreme pain, is the thought of leaving my wife to be so sad without me to comfort her.

She asked, "Are you afraid to die?"

"No. I'm more afraid of what is going to happen to you guys."

Grace responded, "I struggle more with being afraid to die, but God has given me the faith to believe that He's just going to take care of us if you die. He's always been faithful. Then we're covered, right? God has provided special faith for you to not be afraid to die, and He has provided me with special faith to trust that everything will be alright without you."

I wish people could see just how wonderful my wife is. Her smile is like the bright morning sun that wakes you up assured that it is going to be a good happy day. And her kind words melt away the fear and loneliness that are an impenetrable block of ice around my heart.

It almost makes me angry that people don't always see the multifaceted beauty that I see in her every day. Its like you take the 7:14 AM commuter bus into the city and you sit next to the same group of strangers in suits every day not knowing that one of them is an angel. That's Grace.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The kids have had a cough this week and passed it onto Andrew. Due to the damage chemotherapy did to Andrew's immune system, that cold progressed into pneumonia for him.

Thankfully, his vital signs and oxygen levels are good, so they do not have to admit him into the hospital. They prescribed antibiotics, which should hopefully make him feel better within 2-3 days. If not, then they will have to check if he has an additional infection that he would need to be treated for.

Please pray:
1 - for quick healing for Andrew and that the antibiotics he is now on would be effective and sufficient.

2 - that I would not get sick, as I have felt like I have been fighting off a cold since last week. Pray for all of us, as Andrew's pneumonia is contagious.

3 - for wisdom and effectiveness to take good care of Andrew

Things we can be grateful for:
- that the Lord gave Andrew the wisdom to insist to talk to a doctor before his PET scan yesterday. The doctor then recommended postponing the scan for two weeks, despite that all the PET scan technicians had said it would be okay to do the scan. Perhaps this is in answer to our prayer that his PET scan would be accurate, as the PET would have registered the fever and swelling in the head and neck region as well as the infection in the lung as a false positive.

- that this is the first time Andrew has gotten sick since last January. Praise the Lord he never got sick during radiation and chemotherapy in May and June, despite how he was even more vulnerable than he is now.

Thank you again, everyone, for all your prayers and concern.


The Mark Family

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rain from Heaven


The Wednesday before last, Audrey Frost came to my house. She smiled at me as she walked in, put her hands firmly on my shoulder and looked at me with her blue eyes through her silver-rimmed glassed. Her chin-length hair was grey. She was one of the ones who had been around the church since the beginning 40 years ago.

"Grace," she said, "I'm so concerned for you."

I don't know Audrey very well, we sit in the same row at church on Sunday mornings, and have only exchanged a few conversations here and there. She explained that she doesn't get internet very well in her house, but she had read my last blog. "You sound so discouraged, Grace," she said. "And I believe one of the gifts God has given me is to have such a strong sense when someone needs me. Now, I know you have other people, but I don't know, I just feel so strongly that the Lord wants me to come alongside you and be a mother to you and encourage you."

I began to cry. Somehow when she said that, it just seemed so perfect, though I had never thought of that. "Yes, yes! That's exactly what I need," I cried. I may not know my needs, but the Lord always does. And He meets all our true needs, so kindly, even when we aren't aware of our needs ourselves. Having a true "older woman" by definition, who looked and talked like she had fallen off of the pages of Titus 2 was like a dream come true.

"Grace, I feel so concerned for you, because you sounded so discouraged in your blog. Now, you said that you feel guilty about so many things. Why do you feel so guilty?" She was holding my hand as we walked into the living room.

I went on to say how sad I was that I couldn't be a full-time mom to my children and a full-time nurse to my husband and that I would just do absolutely anything to keep my husband from dying...not that it's really up to me.

She sat me down on the couch and sat directly in front of me on the ottoman, her hands firmly holding my shoulders, looking into my eyes, smiling. "Well that's not sin," she said. "That's weakness. And you don't need to feel guilty for that. And the Lord can give you strength to do all those things, and if you can't do it on your own, then the Lord will send someone to help you."

I certainly knew that to be true.

"And if you have sinned, what does 1John 1:9 say you have to do?" she said.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness," I answered.

"That's right!" she said. "So if you've done that then you don't have to feel guilty. Because what is it saying, if we still feel guilty even after we've repented of our sins?"

"That Christ's blood is not enough."

"That's right," she said.

"But I feel guilty all the time anyway," I said. "I always feel guilty because I know there must be sins that I haven't confessed either because I'm unaware or because I've just blown it off and haven't thought deeply enough about it."

"Well then you can pray what David did in Psalm 139: 'Search me, oh God, and know me. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me...'"

I looked at her like, let me tell you, there have been times where I have sung that all day long.

As if in response she said, "And if you asked the Lord to reveal to you any sin and He doesn't, then you don't have to worry about it then. That's why He said in 1John 1:9 that He purifies you from all unrighteousness. He knows. He knows that we are weak and don't know all our sins. There's too many. That's why when we confess the sins that He does reveal to us, He purifies us from all unrighteousness."

I nodded, still crying.

She offered me a tissue. "The Lord loves you. And is for you and rejoices over you. He loves you so much."

I stared at her lips, mouthing her words, the tears pouring. Each day the gospel still continues to be a shock to me. How is it after my relentless sin, He continues to forgive me and is for me and is not only not reluctant in His favor, but rejoices over me? How could THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE adopt me as His precious child?

"There are only a few things that the Lord says we need to get done everyday," she said. "And what are those things?"

I was silent for a few seconds. Then laughed and cried at the same time: "I'm trying to think of all the 'right' answers, rather than say what I'm really thinking and struggling with."

She nodded, still smiling at me so warmly, still bracing my shoulders and looking into my eyes. "That's okay," she said.

"Feed my children and my husband. Make sure they don't die," I said.

She continued looking warmly at me.

"I don't know why I'm so obsessed with that, so fearful that they're not going to get fed. It just takes so much time to make all of Andrew's foods and juices. And yet by God's grace, He has always helped me to get those things done."

She nodded. "What else? What does the Bible say we need to get done everyday?"

"Worship Him?" I offered.

"That's right," she said. What else?"

"Well, I guess we are to love Him...Trust Him...Obey Him..."

"Right. And what does Philippians 4 say?"

"To be anxious for nothing, but to make all our requests known to God in thanksgiving and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and our mind," I said.

"So you see, He says not to be anxious, because He will take care of it. And it takes so much energy away from you to be worried. I'm concerned for you and your health. It's not good for you to be worrying all the time."

I nodded, sniffling with more tears. I had been feeling convicted of those very things that week.

"And what about 1 Thessalonians 5:16, what does that say?" she said.

"To rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks."

"That's right!" she said. "And why are we able to give thanks in everything?"

"Because He is good and does everything for our good and His glory.

She nodded.

We talked for a little while longer about various things, Audrey continuing to express love and concern to me. She hugged me.

"Thank you, Audrey," I said. "Thank you for ministering the gospel to me."

The next morning Audrey called me while I was parking the car at the doctor's office. "Grace, how are you?" she said.

"I'm good!" I replied.

When I hung up the phone, I turned to Andrew and said, "I think that's the first time I've said 'I'm good' in at least a month or two."

The rest of the day felt like a celebration. I was able to enjoy all of God's gifts - the sunshine, my children, and the sudden energy that made my husband awake enough to be able to chat - rather than be in a cloud, distracted from what was in front of me. I could celebrate and enjoy those things all because of the gospel: that I knew I was accepted in Christ and that His wrath, indeed, was not against me. No, "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ." And yes, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" And, "Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ."

Rather than feeling condemned and judged, which only made me want to cower in a corner and hide from God, Audrey's ministering the gospel to me made me want to depend more on the Lord, pray more, and read His Word more, bringing all my disappointments, hurts, and frustrations to Him, because He cares for me and is not against me.

I love the gospel of grace. To be rescued from His wrath by trusting in His Son Jesus to have taken the guilt of my sin on Himself on the cross. What incredible injustice for Him to repay my guilt with his favor rather than His wrath. The gospel, what rain from heaven.

Please pray for us:

1. - That we would believe the gospel, (that Christ's blood is enough and so He is for us and rejoices over us and His condemnation is not against us). That we would not believe Satan's lies of discouragement. It is a daily battle.

2. - that we would be anxious for nothing but that the peace of Christ would rule our hearts

3. - and that Andrew would be able to get off his pain narcotics ASAP. Right now that seems impossible, his pain is so great, and yet I think it's mostly his narcotics that make him so tired and feel so yucky so much of the time. But I know the Lord answers our prayers, so we can come boldly before His throne with our cries and ask God to heal Andrew of all his pain so that he won't need the pain killers.

4. - that Andrew's full body PET scan on Wednesday, Sept. 17th would show Andrew to be cancer-free. That it would be accurate and there would be no confusion about the results. It will take a week to get the results.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Please keep praying

As I've mentioned before the pain in my mouth and throat has continued to increase. One possibility is that radiation has really destroyed the tissues and they have continued to swell, bleed and not heal more than any of the doctors expected. At this point, the doctors don't really know what to say because many things could be happening in my body for many reasons and it is so hard to tell.

What I'm feeling:

1) My tongue and throat are still very painful and it is extremely painful to talk, swallow or do any rehab exercises.
2) The swelling in my thoat has increased slightly in the past month which makes it difficult to protect my airway from saliva, mucus and water that I drink. It also can be difficult to breath if I turn my head certain directions. This is worrisome because sometimes swelling is due to tumor growth.
3) I'm starting to get some ringing nerve pains every now and then. This is also worrisome because I got this very bad last year when I was first diagnosed with cancer, but it has not been bad this year. I am just starting to notice more nerve pains in my ears.

Please pray that my PET scan on September 17th would not show any activity. That would be great. If the scan shows activity it may or may not be cancer, so pray that the doctors would have wisdom in interpreting the scan. Each day I wonder if my conversations that day will be some of my last. I pray that cancer will not return and that I will continue to be able to speak.

We take heart that the Lord is my father, and He rejoices over me.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Grace took me out to a movie on Saturday afternoon. Around lunch time she hinted that I should take a nap before we go because I usually need to take a nap in the afternoon in order to make it through the evening with my family. Not suspecting that anything was up her sleeve I figure that would be a good idea and went for a short nap. When I woke up we rushed out the door to the theater and bought tickets for Wall-E. Sometimes I wonder how kids understand those animated movies because it almost seems like they are geared towards adults. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and its commentary on modern society.

When we got back home at 4:45PM I was quite tired and told Grace that I need to run upstairs and take another nap until dinner. So I rushed in with nothing but my bed in mind - SURPRISE!

I was scared, shocked, and confused. At first I thought, did accomplish something recently? Did I just finish chemo or radiation and they're congratulating me? It took me a little while to realize that my birthday was coming up on 9/11 but I didn't expect a party this early.

I was so happy to see people from church, work and our neighborhood. After blowing out the candles on my birthday cake I chatted with friends for a while. Even though it hurts to talk I try really hard to talk as much as I can so that I can exercise my mouth muscles. I actually had to run upstairs to take a dose of pain meds to make it through a few hours of talking to people. Three hours later after everybody left I finally made it to my bed exhausted and passed out immediately. Thanks Mom and Dad for coming all the way out here to throw me a surprise party and thanks Grace and everybody else for helping to put it together! You really did surprise me.