Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Grounded Hope

A friend loaned a book to me that had been given her recently after her diagnosis of breast cancer. It is A Reason for Hope-Gaining Strength for your Fight Against Cancer by Michael S. Barry who is a chaplain for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and pastor of Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Libertyville, Ill. It was a little book full of hope and encouragement. Psalm 31:24 particularly jumped out at me: "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." Matthew 26:39 had a new meaning for me: "Yet not as I will, but as You will." I am trusting it to be God's will to heal me completely of this cancer. Jesus prayed those words before his crucifixion. Why would He pray for God's will when it would mean crucifixion, taking the sin of the world on His shoulders? God had a plan, a much bigger plan, and Jesus knew that. He wanted God's plan to be fulfilled. How can I pray for God's will for me when part of His plan means for me to deal with cancer? Cancer's not good and no one wants to deal with it. I'm glad God has a much bigger plan for me than cancer, and I don't want to limit Him fulfilling that plan by not trusting Him when I pray "yet not as I will, but as You will".

There was a prayer at the end of one of the chapters in the book that I wanted to share:

Father in heaven, help me to have hope by surrounding me with hopeful people. Help me not to receive bad news as though is is the last edition, but rather as one piece of information afloat on a river of facts flowing into a hopeful future. Heal me, I pray, not for my sake or anyone else's, but for Your sake. And ground my hope in the reality of Your profound and enduring love for me and desire for my well-being. In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen

Thank you for being hopeful people who surround me.

Part 2-Recovery at home

We got home from the hospital comfortably by Sunday afternoon. I was looking forward to being able to really get some much needed rest in my own bed. John, of course, was a great nurse taking care of my every need. With the splint on my left arm I was not able to easily shower or dress without his help. He took care of my neck incision every morning and evening. He had my breakfast and lunch prepared or came back to help with lunch if he could. I've had so much going on in my mouth with stitches and swelling that only liquid or creamy things have been part of my diet so far. Can't handle anything with even small chunks or texture quite yet. I was looking forward to going back for my follow-up on Monday, the 16th. I was hoping the splint would come off and my doctor would shed more light on the swelling in my mouth. He had told us when we left the hospital that it would take 6 weeks for it to completely go down. He had said the swelling should be down 50% from what it was till I came back for the follow-up. I wasn't so sure it had gotten down that much when we went back. He did remove the splint, plus staples from an incision that went from my wrist where the flap was removed to my elbow. I wasn't expecting that. I had no idea the extent this surgery took to make sure the flap in my mouth would have the veins and arteries needed to make it work properly. He and the nurses were quite pleased with my progress and all seemed according to plan though it is such an adjustment for me. He told me before I left his office that it might be 8 weeks for the area to completely heal to a normal state. I'll see him again in 4 weeks. The stitches and swelling in my mouth not only limits my ability to eat and drink but also to talk. That would be a huge prayer request...that my mouth will quickly heal, and I would be able to eat more easily. It is great to be able to use my left arm now. The wrist is still quite touchy and my arm is recovering from soreness I'm sure because of the incision that had to be made. I was able to blow dry my hair today on my own for the first time...and I'm able to type using both hands now. This has to be the most challenging recovery I've ever had from surgery. It's actually like having 3 individual major surgeries to get over. It's just going to be more time intensive. Cannot wait for 8 weeks to be here so I can hopefully see great improvement. Thank you for your many thoughts and prayers during all of this time.

Part 1-February 5th Surgery

We reported to the 3rd floor of St. Vincent's Hospital at 5:00 a.m. sharp to sign in for my scheduled surgery. They took me immediately to the 4th floor to get me prepped for surgery. This time I honestly don't remember ever leaving the room where they get your IV started and all that stuff. (I had to get the IV in my left foot since my surgeon was going to be working on my left arm, and I can't have sticks in my right arm due to nodes being removed after my lumpectomy in 2000.) I remember the anesthesiologist saying he was going to give me something to help me relax. That's the last thing I remember until I woke up in recovery saying my throat was hurting. They hadn't removed the breathing tube yet and said that was probably why and removed it. I remember having to cough a lot, which I've never done after surgery. I later learned my surgery took 4 hours. I've never had tubes down my nose and throat for that length of time while doing all kinds of surgeries on me. I knew the doctors would be removing the cancer from the inside of my cheek and then sew a flap of skin from the inside of my forearm to the area so it could heal. Veins and arteries would be attached microscopically and the blood flow to the area would have to come from the left side of my neck. I have had too many surgeries and radiation on the right side to get a good blood flow for the flap. I asked the nurse in recovery by note how long my incision was on my neck. She said it was from under my ear to across the center of my neck. The nurses were talking about how good the incision had been closed up. I later noticed the splint I knew would be on my left arm looked more like a cast with the thick ace bandage wrapped from my fingertips to above my elbow. I was in recovery for about 6 hours waiting for a room in ICU where I was scheduled to spend the night. All this time I'm wondering how I'm going to get up and use the bathroom when I have to go. I later learned I had a catheter. That was really a relief to me to know I didn't have to try to get up and go. The nurses in ICU would frequently look in my mouth with a flashlight to make sure the flap was pink, getting blood flow. They even checked it with a mini Doppler machine where they could pick up the pulse of the blood flow around my mouth and cheek. The doctor had the temperature of the room stay between 75 and 80 degrees to help encourage blood flow so the vessels wouldn't get cooled down and constrict. I ended up staying in ICU two nights with male nurses which was quite interesting to say the least. A (female) nurse removed the catheter the next day in ICU and that was fine. One of my doctors so nicely arranged to have me moved to the new wing when I left ICU on Saturday afternoon. (He had already sent John to his office across the street to get 2 shots for a sinus infection that had really taken hold of him.) It was nice to finally be in a 'regular' room...a regular room with a mirror in the bathroom. I had NO idea till I saw myself in the mirror just how swollen my face and mouth were from the surgery. It was quite a shock. The assisting surgeon had said in ICU that I would probably go home on Tuesday or Wednesday. However, my regular doctor came in to see us on Sunday morning and said I could go home on Monday unless I wanted to go home Sunday. I was so ready to go home. The nights were so long in the hospital. So we were able to go home Sunday which was a huge blessing. The flap was proving to be a successful transplant, and I was doing well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Delayed update

I'll give a full account of my surgery and recovery as soon as I'm able to use both hands to type. I'm still only right handed for typing right now. Hopefully, just a few more days and I'll have full typing access of my left hand, too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This is My doing

Just had to share one more excerpt with you from Streams in the Desert.

February 1:
This is my doing. 1 Kings 12:24
My child, I have a message for you today. Let me whisper it in your ear so any storm clouds that may arise will shine with glory, and the rough places you may have to walk will be made smooth. It is only four words, but let them sink into your inner being, and use them as a pillow to rest your weary head. "This is my doing." Have you realized that whatever concerns you concerns Me, too? "For whosoever touches you touches the apple of [my] eye" Zech 2:8. "You are precious and honored in my sight" Isaiah 43:4. Therefore it is My special delight to teach you. Are you in difficult circumstances..."This is my doing." I am the God of circumstances. You did not come to this place by accident--you are exactly where I meant for you to be. Laura A. Barter Snow

Is this but a perfect expression of His Sovereignty!!

Seriously, I need to get busy about getting ready to leave in the morning. Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers. I will update when we get back.

She will not be moved

Well, I need to be getting myself ready to leave for Birmingham in the morning, but I wanted to leave a word first. I (we) have just been overwhelming by the great outpouring of love and care to John and me since Sunday. Though I am nervous and dreading the next few days, I already have that unmistakable peace that only God can give. I wanted to share my devotional from the other day from Streams in the Desert.

January 29:
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. Psalm 46:5 NASB
"Will not be moved"--what an inspiring declaration! Is it possible for us who are so easily moved by earthly things to come to a point where nothing can upset us or disturb our peace? The answer is yes, and the apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit warned him that "prison and hardships" (Acts 20:23) awaited him. Yet he could triumphantly say, "But none of these things move me" (Acts 20:24 KJV). Everything in Paul's life and experience that could be disturbed had already been shaken, and he no longer considered his life or any of his possessions as having any earthly value. And if we will only let God have His way with us, we can come to the same point. Then, like Paul, neither the stress and strain of little things nor the great and heavy trials of life will have enough power to move us from "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). God declares peace to be the inheritance of those who have learned to rest only on Him. Hannah Whitall Smith