Dr. Yueh said that usually when cancer spreads to a place like the spine people on average live about 1 year. He said that you never know because his uncle lived 7 years even through the doctors told him he had about a year. Dr. Yueh also said that for me things will probably get very painful, so I might end up on very high doses of drugs which will make me unable to function properly. In addition, there might be a point where I lose by voice to the cancer, so I can't expect to be a fully capable person during the entire time I'm alive. In a conservative plan, I think we should plan for 6 months of alertness, and if I do better that would be awesome.
The pneumonia that I mentioned in my last post is clearing up. I'll be on antibiotics for longer this time. I actually felt pretty good by Tuesday and met with Bob at Starbucks to talk a little more about priorities. Grace and I are so thankful that the elders of our church are mentoring us through this because they are so much wiser than us. I wouldn't even know where to start in terms of making preparations to die. Bob gave me some good guidance to start prioritizing my time and planning for the next few months.At first I was a little hesitant about making plans to die, because it seems as if I'm throwing in the towel. But Bob told me that we need to both believe and pray that God will prolong my life, and at the same time get things ready as if I was going to die soon. Its like praying for the best but still being prepared for the worst. He gave me the example of how God said David's son would die after he sinned with Bathsheba, but David still prayed and fasted begging God to change his mind. Although everything we know about my current health situation would say that I may die soon, we can pray with faith begging God to prolong my life. If God does, then that would be awesome, but if God allows me to die of cancer then I want to be as ready as possible.
So in the next 6 months I'm going to focus on 4 main things:
a) Spending quality time with my wife and kids as well as some time with other loved ones.
b) Writing lots of letters of encouragement and instruction to my wife and kids especially for watershed moments in their lives.
c) Preparing Grace for life without me. That includes instructing her on future decisions, teaching her to do some of my jobs like the finances, reorganizing and setting up our house for her to be effective, etc...
d) Keeping myself healthy and mentally alert by exercising and doing miscellaneous work.
This week despite the sad news we've been quite happy. Not only have I been feeling better from pneumonia, I think God has answered your prayers and greatly encouraged our family. I've postponed my speech and physical therapy appointments until we figure out what we're going to do next. That gave me some time to just get out with my family and enjoy the beautiful fall colors. We drove through some parks in Minneapolis and took walks around some of the lakes and along the Mississippi river.
Since my health has been stable all week, we decided we should use Saturday to get some things done around the house. Friday afternoon we sent out a late notice email to ask for help for an hour to move our bed, 4 bookshelves, and some miscellaneous stuff around in our house. Since I was diagnosed with cancer just weeks after moving into our house, we've been waiting for a long time to get things set up properly. On Saturday 6 or 7 guys showed up and moved that stuff in about an hour as expected. Then to our surprise they kept asking what else they could do. We had a million other things that we needed done but didn't want to burden others with so much work. The guys stayed all afternoon and just humbly served us and completely rearranged and organized our 3 bedrooms upstairs and our family room. Somebody even vacuumed, mowed the lawn, raked the leaves, and brought a stack of firewood into our garage. Then to top it off they reconfigured our printers, TV, DVD player, lights and everything else that got moved, tangled and unplugged. Wow.
At the end of all the work I was resting in my recliner upstairs and our dear brother, Mark, came up before he left. I had asked him in the past specifically to pray for me and hold me accountable because I was struggling with leadership of my family. He asked me about it and I told him that my great anxiety right now is feeling overwhelmed by all that needs to be done to prepare my family for life without me. And my second greatest anxiety is fear of pain.
Mark said to me, "We love you guys so much. We would do anything for you guys. If you die God is going to take care of you family no matter what." He also reminded me that not only is the church going to take care of them if I die, Jesus is going to shepherd them. He is their Chief Shepherd. After he left, I felt so encouraged because the words he said to me were proven to be true with deeds. God sent men to our house to take care of more things than I could have asked for today, and He will continue to take care of all our needs.
I was holding Gracie the other night and she fell asleep in my arms curled up in a ball. I just sat there enjoying her soft breathing and the content expression on her face, wishing that I could go back to the days when my parents held me like that. Oh I how I longed to be tenderly held and cared for like my baby Gracie. Today, I truly felt that way.
1) That God would heal me of cancer completely. Especially of the tumors in my neck and spine.
2) That we could continue to be encouraged by God's promises to us. We have good days and bad days, but pray that we would just have good days.
3) For wisdom about alternative treatments
4) That we would be able to effectively use our time according to the priorities described above.
5) That I would not be anxious about what needs to be done or about pain but would cast those cares upon Jesus.
6) Pray for relief of discomforts in my neck and that I would be able to rest at night.