I thought I would summarize how I came to find out that I have cancer (I’ll be a bit explicit). It was late June, I had stopped at McDonalds on my way home from work (pretty normal for a Friday night, it was my way of rewarding myself for a week of work successfully completed — I work the swing shift 4:30 pm to 1:00 am at Toyota Logistics Services @ the “port”), downed a Big Mac, fries, and a coke; later than night I woke up with terrible terrible gas, I thought it was just because I had eaten McDonalds. Anyway, I woke up the next morning (late), and I still seemed to have a pain in my right abdominal area; I thought that I still had gas, or maybe that I had a pulled muscle. I continued to live with this for awhile, we made a trip to So. Cal. to my parents, we came home; and I still had this discomfort, the way it was radiating I was starting to think I had a hernia. So I scheduled an appointment probably around August with a doctor, he checked me out, and said that it was indeed a hernia (and the pain I had in my abdomen was “just gas”). He said I could try and live with this hernia for awhile (if not indefinitely); or he said I could have surgery for it, but he didn’t encourage that. I thought I would just try to live with it then; a month went on until one evening I was sitting in the living room across from the computer, and the LORD prompted me to look up hernia on the computer (normally I don’t look up health stuff on the computer, by the time I’m done I’ve gone from a hang-nail to a month to live ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), so I did, and I decided to make an appointment with a hernia specialist — I really didn’t want to live with a hernia if Ididn’t have to. I went to the specialist, and he didn’t find any physical evidence for a hernia, so he scheduled a CT scan for me (pretty typical). A week later I went to get my CT scan (of my abdomen), after I was finished with the scan there seemed to be something wrong (but the CT tech couldn’t tell me what); they had me do an unscheduled US testicular immediately following the CT, at this point my hypochondria kicked in, I was sure there was something seriously wrong. I asked the techs, and they couldn’t tell me; they just kept saying that I needed to call my doctor for the results. I did that evening, a Medical Assistant eventually called me back that evening and said that there was an abnormalty that showed up on the scan. I had to wait another week before I could get in to see the doctor to get the whole picture; I convinced myself that the abnormalty was a hernia (I did some checking and Ultrasound testiculars are normal follow ups to CT scans when checking for a hernia), although I still was a nervous wreck. Finally the day came to see the doctor, I went by myself, because I thought that all I had was hernia; the doctor came into the room, I thought I was going to pass out I was so nervous, and then the dagger came. The doctor said, very matter of factly, “they found a mass in your right abdominal area.” My head spun. And then it kept spinning, I thought I was having an out-of-body experience. My first question to the doctor was: “am I going to die?” And his response was “No!” Then he proceeded to explain all the possibilities that it could be, he said it could be: “lymphoma (which he really believed it was), sarcoma (which is what it is), or benign (which of course I hoped it was).”ย  I left the doctor’s office in a bundle of tears and fears, I called my wife — she was on her way to her parents (with her parents) in Olympia, WA — she too went completely into shock, as did everybody else once I told them (i.e. parents, in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody). We latched on to the hope that it might be benign. I was scheduled for a CT needle biopsy about a week later. Many of you have been following this from at least this point; we did the biopsy, and then more hellish waiting (and I mean hellish). The radiologist who did the biopsy said that theyย should have the results in about 3 days; about 5 days later we went into the doctors, this time I went with my beautiful wife. The doctor came in and said that all he had was the preliminary results, which were that I had lymphoma; we would have to wait another nightmarish week for the final results (he said they could actually still come back benign). About a week later I received a call from the doctor’s medical assistant who told me point blank that my final results came back positive for a sarcoma (I had already talked to another doctor who I know from on-line via phone, and he said that a sarcoma, esp. where mine was located would not be all that good — that lymphoma would be much better); my stomach dropped, then came up through my throat, and then dropped again. I thought I had just received a “death-sentence.” We went in to the doctor the next day (with my lovely wife again), and I was prepared for the worst (terminal); although hoping for the best (that the sarcoma was self-contained, not spread). Lots of prayer from you all, and other folks (off-line, family and friends, prayer chains and groups, churches all over the world) prepared our way; we stepped into the doctor’s office, he entered, he said, straightaway, it is a sarcoma, a very very rare sarcoma, a desmo-plastic small cell tumor. He immediatley said what they could do for it, he said it appeared to be self contained; that this kind of cancer is primarily a “surgical disease,” he said they could remove it, but that they would have to remove my right kidney to get a clear shot at it, and that they would also have to reconstruct my large vein, the inferior vena cava (runs from the kidney to the heart, huge like a water hose). He said ideally they could in and remove it, and that would be it! That sounded like great news, given the alternative. We told him that we had an appointment with Dr. Chris Ryan at OHSU at their sarcoma center (that next Wednesday); he said to see what he had to say, and that if surgery is not the primary modality for dealing with this sarcoma we should get back to him.

We waited another week (hellish, I was afraid it was going to metastisize while we waited over the Thanksgiving break, but the LORD assured me that not only was the mass “self-contained” but that it was “God-contained,” that He wasn’t going to let it go anywhere); we finally made it to Wednesday (this last Wed. now), my wife and I were pretty nervous, truth be told. We met with the “team” of doctors that they have at this world-class center, Dr. Ryan confirmed what our other doctor had told us (Dr. Gilster); that I had a rare, rare, rare sarcoma (sarcomas make up 1% of all cancer diagnoses, and then mine is rare within that category — there wasn’t an official diagnosis for mine until 1991 — how special that made me feel ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). But, surprisingly to him, and the staff, it hadn’t spread. He said if it was going to spread it would’ve already done that by now (and that I would be physcially sick, which is how most find out about it — I’m just thanking the LORD for the gas I had earlier, last June); he laid out a tentative plan for treatment, but he wanted me to meet with Dr. Billingsley, the head of surgial oncology at OHSU. Again, we became nervous, we waited (same day), and finally Dr. Billingsely, and his fellow, Dr. Ballard entered our room; he started out by asking me to explain how I first was alerted to my cancer (I told him everything I’m telling you here). He seemed uncannily in control, very measured, with his head kind’ve cocked to the right he looked at me and my wife and said “we can help you;” which was awesome, we were afraid it might not be operable. He proceeded to engage me an my wife, probing us with questions, each time he sat there very attentively, as if he was formulating his responses with surgical precision, before we finished giving him our feedback. He explained how he wanted to proceed (I’m not sure if Billingsely is a Christian, either way I saw the LORD in this man, so did my wife, he almost seemed super human); he said that he wanted to use chemo first (which is what the other doctor said might not be the best approach, my first surgeon, the hernia specialist), that he thought that that would shrink the tumor, prepare my system at a systemic level with chemo, and potentially allow him to save my kidney and not reconstruct the vena cava. I told him what the other surgeon said about using surgery first, and he said that surgery was still the primary modality in this instance; but that we wanted to follow the best order (in other words, the chemo is to serve as the primer for surgery, so surgery is still the primary method for dealing with this ridiculous disease). He said he would consult with Dr. Ryan (the medical oncologist), and so he did — he walked down the hall and consulted with him (brilliant, they all work in concert, in the same office) — by the way I wanted to say that at the end of the consult with Dr. Billingsley he looked into my eyes and said he was very sorry this was happening to me (us), at which point I broke down and cried, he came and put his arms around me, comforted me, gathered himself (my wife said she thought it looked like his eyes watered a little), and then proceeded to consult with Dr. Ryan.

Since then, the next day, I had my blood taken, yesterday I had a port put into my upper right chest (still tender), Monday I have a CT/PET scan and have my heart checked (to make sure it can handle the chemo), and then Tuesday-Wednesday I check into the hospital for my first series of chemo (48 hr session). We will follow this regimen (with CT scans thrown in to check the progress of my shrinking tumor [the Drs said it could potentially shrink to a nodule, I’m praying to nothing]) for the next 2.5 months (alternating between this two-day series, wait 3 weeks and do a five day series); and then they will go in and cut the tumor out (and hopefull that will be the end of this, they may follow that with some more chemo). Like I’ve said, we are going to need financial help to make up for the short-fall we will be experiencing (I’ll get less than half my wages from work); we have some family already stepping up to help us out, I put our mailing address in the last post for anyone interested in helping us, and hopefully by tomorrow I will have an active paypal account).

I realize this post is running really long, but let me just close this whole thing with this. The LORD has been speaking to my heart through all of this like never before. He has given me scriptures like Philippians 1, Heb. 12, Jn 11:4, Jer. 32:17, 27 and way more; He has assured me that this is not going to end in death (Jn 11:4), but to glorify His name. That He is using this season to forward His gospel, but that I will continue on with you all; He has reminded me of Acts 27 where he stood with Paul in the bottom of ship, encouraging Him that he would live and all those with him on the ship. You see, I don’t plan on dying from this; what the LORD has been encouraging me with is that he previously told me that He would contain this tumor from spreading, and He has, He has also encouraged me that just like His faithfulness in that, He will be faithful to see me and my family through this. That He will magnify His name in ways that we could never imagine right now; and that He is doing things, not just in our lives, but in the lives of thousands of people through this (for some drawing His own closer to Himself, for others drawing them to Himself for the very first time, etc.). We are praying that the LORD would do a miraculous healing, even now; and if not, that He will indeed heal (either way He is the one who ultimately heals, whether through the doctors, or through His own finger). If you are reading here, and don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then let me know! Keep praying, I think this season is in the beginning stages of ending . . .

P.S. I am going to rename this blog to “The Evangelical Christian,” if and when I am going to blog on Evangelical Calvinism it will be back over at my original blog @: http://theevangelicalcalvinist.blogspot.com

Advertisements