Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Dr. Reardon at Duke last week confirmed that the tumor is stable. Sprague Cheshire, the PA who worked with us, agreed with Dr. Moore's (Linda's oncologist) assessment earlier that the tumor is actually smaller. Either way, we are greatly encouraged that Linda is with us and actually seems to be making progress in her battle with cancer.
Since we have received the good news, Linda and I (mostly at her initiation, not mine) have begun discussing our hope of heaven again. We discussed the next life rather extensively at first because we were told that her time on this earth would come to an end in three to five months. Now, almost eight months later . . . Praise the LORD!
Should that time come again when either of us are facing our mortality at the level Linda faced hers in February, we will once again speak much to one another of the blessings of heaven. When she seemed to be in a holding pattern in late spring and early to mid summer, it was difficult to talk about heaven because it seemed to do so was to concede the battle to the cancer, and that we were not willing to do. Now that the news seems better about the tumor, it is a bit easier to talk about things that need to be discussed involving end of life issues.
But, stop for a moment and try to gain perspective (he says to himself). First of all, heaven is better than this place. Do you believe it? Sure you do, but you sing the lyrics along with me, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." A big part of the reason for this dichotomy of emotions is the drive to live that God put inside us. But, we only have so much to say about when we will transition from this life to eternity (if we know Christ as our Savior, that is). God has numbered our days - the beginning and the end are already determined and we don't know when our time in this life will be up. (If you knew Linda well before she was diagnosed with this tumor, you know that she was VERY nutritionally minded and careful with her diet.) So, even if you do not have a brain tumor, it would be a good thing to prepare for the day when you will see Jesus face to face!
Even though Linda's tumor is smaller, there are myriad issues that are disconcerting when we give ourselves to worry rather than to trust. Even when we are fully trusting the Lord in this trial, there are several issues that warrant attention and prayer. As has been the case for so long, we are grateful when you join us in bringing our concerns to our great God. So, here we go.
First, the steroids. Linda has continued to take 2 mg of dexamethazone (dekadron) per day up until Friday. At the beginning of the weekend, we reduced the amount to one and a half mg. You would not thing such a small reduction would affect Linda so much, but when you think about it, that is a 25% reduction in her dosage. Her adrenal glands have been sitting idly by while the steroids have done their work. It takes up to several days for them to get back in gear and do their job. So, while Linda waits for active adrenal glands, her mobility is compromised, fatigue creeps in, and she even struggles emotionally.Why does she need steroids in the first place? To keep the swelling in the brain down, which comes as a result of the tumor. As you know, she has not moved that well since February anyway, so when she becomes less mobile than normal, the complications from swelling in the brain become more acute. With less mobility comes muscle atrophy and increased risk of blood clots, which are always dangerous.
So, is it worth it to try to get off the steroids? Oh, yes! In addition to significant weight gain and puffiness (especially in the face) that cause a fair amount of angst, the change in blood chemistry and damage to muscles create plenty of incentive to eliminate steroid use if at all possible. Dr. Reardon told us last week that there are some brain tumor patients who are able to eliminate steroid use while others are not able to do so. If I am not mistaken, this is the third time we have tried to reduce the steroid amount. Please pray that the third time will be the charm for Linda!
One of the ways we have attempted to facilitate steroid reduction is to introduce salmon oil (Omega 3's) into Linda's supplement regimen. The only problem is that the fish oils interact with the Coumadin (blood thinner) she must take in order to dissolve the clot (there is a better medical explanation, but you know what I mean). There are other drug interactions that create challenges, but that will be enough to inform your prayer life in this area. Oh, how we thank our Father for so many faithful prayer partners!
One of our biggest prayer concerns involves the Temodar (chemo therapy) that Linda will begin taking again later today (since it is after midnight). God is likely using the medicine to reduce the tumor, so we are glad for her to be able to take it. The last couple of times she has taken the Temodar, she is nauseated early in the five day regimen. That is part of the territory, and though some deal with much worse, we would appreciate your prayers for her in this crucial time. Also pray that she will not get sick as her immune system takes a hit!
Aren't you glad that our hope is not in this life? Now, we are doing everything we can to extend Linda's life just as we would do if it were me in her place, but we must keep our eyes on Jesus, knowing that we will ultimately stand before Him one day. And, I know you would agree, heaven is better than this place!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Even with the reduction in the size of the tumor, Linda is not moving as well as she has in the past. I know you will pray about that. Her coughing is improving day by day. She has been treated for reflux and thrush (almost inevitable with so many antibiotics), and those drugs seem to be helping considerably. Her INR levels (blood clotting factor) are all over the map, so please pray that will regulate.
We will go to Duke on Wednesday, so hopefully we will know even more by Thursday. Thank you for traveling this road with us! Praise be to God!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Since I last wrote (in mid-August), Linda has enjoyed relatively good days - until this past week. A small cough visited her on Monday. It came more often as the week progressed, and by Thursday night, it was a full-blown resident in her chest. It is a dry cough, exactly like the one that preceded pneumonia the last time. We were blessed (by good friends) with four days at the beach. We did not have caregivers this past week, and my time away from home is limited anyway, so we enjoyed the beautiful September days by the sea.
When we left Myrtle Beach Friday morning, we headed straight to the hospital in Raleigh. Blood work showed Linda's white cell and hemoglobin counts to be good. A chest x-ray did not reveal any concern. The doctors want to keep a close watch, though, so she will have two to three appointments this week. Linda's cough has worsened over the weekend, so we would appreciate your immediate prayers in this area.
The chemo treatments compromise the immune system, of course, and though it recovers, it can create significant problems while down. Linda's numbers are good, but she clearly has upper respiratory problems. She was scheduled to begin her next round of Temodar (chemo) next Sunday, but Duke wants to wait until after a September 19 appointment. She will have an MRI in the interim, so we will get an idea of what the tumor is doing.
We rejoice in every day that God gives us and anticipate many more. According to the earliest medical reports, Linda was not supposed to be here now. Job spoke words of truth (14:5) when he said, "Man's days are determined; You (Lord) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." Doctors do not know the number of days - but they do have quite a bit of experience with patients who have particular kinds of illnesses. Linda's tumor is bad any way you cut it, which is why we want you to continue to pray for a miracle, for God to heal her completely! Her days are already determined as are yours and mine, and our time may be up long before hers. Living with a terminal disease does tend to focus one's priorities. But, as believers, we should already be focused on the right things, shouldn't we?
Yesterday morning, I was blessed when I read the first chapter of 1 Peter. It speaks of eternal life, which is our ultimate hope, and it speaks of difficulties in this life as well as the glory of the knowledge of our relationship with Jesus. I would like to share 1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) with you. Would you please stop right now and ask God to speak directly and clearly to you as you read His eternal Word? Aren't you glad we have access to His eternal Word? God bless you!
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it be tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." AMEN!