Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dr.'s Visit - A Significant Concern

Linda saw her Infectious Diseases Doctor today. He expressed concern about her liver counts – they are high. He suggested that if the numbers are not better by Monday when the next round of blood work is done, that he may take her off the antibiotics that are being administered at home through IV. The problem is that she needs the antibiotics to ward off a return of the Listeria. He spoke about decisions (difficult ones) that we will need to make about how aggressively we want to treat new ailments that arise. We are, as you can see, at a critical juncture in Linda’s treatment – and we are not even talking about treatment for the tumor/cancer. It is crucial, though, because we may be forced to choose between a high likelihood of liver problems and a significant possibility of a recurrence of Listeria. Neither option is the least bit appealing!

I do not know if any of us could take another round of Listeria. It hurt us deeply to watch Linda in such agony. We are extremely grateful that she does not recall any of it. She does not even remember the initial headache and trip to the hospital, even though she was completely aware of what was going on at the time. We will, of course, walk with her through any valley God causes her to walk through, but we want to avoid that particular valley if at all possible!

So, we are asking as many of you as will to pray that her liver counts are better by Monday. We will be doing our part here, but we are aware that we need a specific touch from God. Please pray continually (not continuously – continually will do just fine!) about these liver counts specifically. Also, her blood sugar remains quite high – pray about that, also. We are going to increase protein for the sugar and introduce specific supplements for the liver, but again, we need the Lord to intervene. Above all, we need an awareness of His presence, and we need His grace during these difficult days. I pray the same for you, whether your days be challenging or worry-free (for the time, at least). God bless you!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Grace

Linda has often said that grace walks through our door over and over as people bring meals and other blessings into our home. She is referring, of course, to God's grace in tangible form. How we thank God for His many evidences of grace in our lives, often time delivered by you in the form of a kind word of encouragement! Linda is with us and feeling well - God's gracious gift to us. All of our family has been with us, though Brian and Autumn just left for New York to see one of the last showings of Les Miserables on Broadway. That's OK, since our good friends (who are also Brian's parents) Ron and Debbie Stafford are here with us - and will be all week. Michael, newly engaged to Laura Hall and set to marry in late April, is here, as are Ben and Liz with the three grandchildren - Laurel, Judge, and Willow. All this on top of a blessed Christmas Eve Service with my church family. It has been a wonderful, gracious Christmas.

I have repeatedly been amazed by God's grace this season. His blessings to me come for no reason at all. My fleshly heart seeks to identify the reasons God is "rewarding" me, but I find only failure and unworthiness, leaving no doubt that every good and precious gift in my life comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no changing at all. It is grace - all grace. I trust you are tasting God's grace today with your loved ones. Merry Christmas! Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose first coming we celebrate on this day. We love you!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Snapshots, The Big Picture, and The BIG Picture

Linda is home. She is really glad to be home, and we are all thrilled to have her here! She is having a good day. If I had written yesterday, I would have said that she was having a difficult day. Whenever I give a report about how she is doing, it is simply a snapshot, a small piece of a puzzle, or only a portion of a much larger picture. I spoke with several doctors while Linda was in the hospital. One doctor told us that we could be talking a year from now about the same issues she is struggling with now because the tumor is not growing at all (though some problems clearly emanate from the brain). The biggest concern at present is that she is extremely susceptible to infection right now. That is apparent when you consider how very rare listeria meningitis is for adults.

I tend to be fairly analytical. As you might imagine, there is plenty to analyze with Linda's illness, but since her various maladies and symptoms are ever-changing, I tend to go up and down with her condition - thus, my many references to the roller coaster ride we are on.

Since I often report on the snapshot, you may not get an accurate sense of the big picture. I know that some of you have read the blog or spoken to me on the phone for a report and you perceive one thing, but then you hear a very different report from another family member or someone else close to the situation. Which report is accurate? Both are! But they are only a small part of the big picture, or really, more like a very small piece of a mosaic. Also, like a mosaic, the image is not always crystal clear even when you have the whole picture.

So, what are we to do with so very many different parts of a picture? I have decided to take the advice, offered at different times, by Autumn (our daughter) and by Virginia (Linda's mother): take it, not day by day, but hour by hour.

In general (disregarding my commitment announced in the last paragraph), Linda is doing better. She has a headache tonight, but not nearly as much fatigue, nausea, and confusion as she has had in the last week. She is much better today, actually, than she was yesterday. I will stop there even though I am tempted to go further.

So, the big picture is in the Lord's hands as He puts the pieces into place - and we must trust Him for the finished product. Besides, when we focus only on the pictures that come into view in this world, we miss the BIG picture. Some good friends from the NC Mountains sent us some verses from 2 Corinthians 4 (as they are written in The Message) that have long guided us in our difficulties - verses 15-18:

"So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Now, that's THE BIG PICTURE!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Going Home!

We are going home this afternoon! Praise the Lord! Soon after we arrived here (almost two weeks ago), we were concerned that she might never go home again. We are so very thankful that God had planned for her to go home all along!

The doctor was just in and gave a fairly positive report on Linda's condition, though as is always the case, not all of our questions were answered, and some questions remain in critical areas. We can say that as of December 11, Linda's liver counts were much better than they have been - a definite praise.

One huge request - it appears Linda's treatment at home will be more difficult to manage than we had thought it might be. Please pray that we (children, Linda's parents, siblings, etc.) will be at our best as we care for our precious Linda.

I hope to write more fully about Linda's present health state later today. If you are reading this before 3:00 EST, please pray that we will have an uneventful trip home. God bless you!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Morning

Another night where, in spite of Ambien (sleep aid) for Linda, we were up much of the night. The good news is that Linda was not as confused as she has been during night - for the first time since she has been in the hospital. In fact, there was little confusion at all.

It is often difficult to communicate the big picture in this space. It seems that it ends up being mostly one way or the other - expressions of praise or concern. Every day, though, there are signs that indicate Linda is doing better (from the infection) and equal indications that she is not doing as well as she was before she came into the hospital, and her condition was not good at that time. I have, at least for this morning, quit trying to analyze why Linda has so many unexplainable medical problems. Even when there is an explanation, it is often puzzling that such a significant issue (swelling, liver, lipids) would result from such a small dose of medication (steroids).

Fortunately, as we read last night from Isaiah 40, God is aware of every cell in our bodies. He carries us like a shepherd carries a lamb - a picture of truth that has meant so very much to Linda as she can do little but rest in the arms of her Great Shepherd. As Jim Aycock said in his prayer with us yesterday, God's will is always best, whether we understand - or like - it or not.

Linda will be going home tomorrow - at least that is the plan. It is going to be difficult - very difficult, in fact, at home. Her needs have increased significantly in this past two weeks. I know you will be praying for us, though we never take your prayers, nor God's grace, for granted. We are eagerly anticipating this Christmas at home!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Feeling Much Better!

Linda is feeling much better today - not nearly as discouraged as she has been. Thank you so much for praying!

She'll Be Home For Christmas!

At least those are the plans for now. The doctors will be releasing her from the hospital on Monday or Tuesday when the first round of antibiotics will be completed. Gentamycin is a powerful antibiotic that must be monitered carefully. So far, so good. All of the family has confessed that last weekend we did not think Linda would be going home - it did not look like she would make it. PRAISE THE LORD - it appears she will be home for Christmas! Well, even if our fears last weekend had been fully realized, she would be HOME for Christmas. What a blessing to know the Savior Whose birthday we will soon celebrate!

As I have already mentioned, Linda has been a bit blue these past few days. It is most likely the medicine, but the long arduous journey is beginning to weigh on her. Scripture lifts her spirits considerably. Would you please pray for God's grace to overwhelm her? Also, please pray that she will keep her nights and days straight.

Your many expressions of love continue to encourage us - it is one of God's ways of sustaining us. May God give you opportunities during this Advent season to share the good news of Jesus' sacrifice with those who do not know Him.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Special Case

Dr. Moore, Linda's oncologist, confirmed today what I have suspected for awhile - Linda's case is somewhat unique. While MRI's continue to show that the tumor is slowly shrinking, her symptoms worsen. I asked Dr. Lacin, her neurosurgeon, if it is possible that the tumor is doing something in the brain that we do not see. He said, no, that is not possible. Why the total left side weakness, then? No good explanation. Nor is there a good explanation for her liver concerns, outrageously high lipids, and diabetes. The steroid dosage she has received for this year should not have led to such profound problems. Linda's inability to move could have caused some of the problems, but why did she lose all movement in her left arm and hand, and most of the ability to move her left leg and foot? And listeria meningitis - Neither Dr. Moore nor Dr. Lacin has ever known of anyone (at least an adult) who had this rare infection.

Well, having thought out loud, let me report on this day. It was not very good. Perhaps she was tired from yesterday, but I doubt that is all that is going on. She slept a good bit of the day, and when she was awake, she was agitated. If you know Linda, you have to know that something is wrong for her to be agitated. Oh, she has been agitated a time or two with me (I think I remember at least once that she was upset with me :)), but she rarely lets others see her frustration. In addition to an agitated state, today Linda has been a bit like she was last week a few days before the severe headache sent her to the emergency room. She has been on these powerful antibiotics for three and a half days, so if the infection caused the extreme confusion last week, we should not go back down that road again. There are signs, though, and that is disconcerting.

If it seems like one post is positive and the next post is laced with concern - well, that's the roller coaster of which I have often spoken. Thank God for His steadfast love, His unchangeable nature, and His eternal Word! Linda's medical condition is unique - much like the one who hosts these myriad anomalies (sounds like an oxymoron - unfortunately, it is not) is unique. A couple of days ago, Linda's good friend, Rebecca, told Linda that she had never heard one unkind word spoken about her. What a testimony! Thank You, Lord, for such a faithful witness to Your love and goodness in Your servant, Linda. If there is a cause for all of these problems that is yet undetected, please reveal it to the doctors and help them to treat it. Bring our girl all the way back to us! We trust You, Father, for Your perfect will to be done in Linda's life - and, in all of our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Good News!

The doctors today said that Linda is recovering remarkably well from her infection. That does not mean she is out of the woods - this infection is resistant and resilient. As you know, if you have followed this blog, there are myriad issues Linda is dealing with, all caused directly or indirectly by the tumor. There is no way to describe the roller coaster this has been, though you have a sense if you have visited here frequently. It has certainly been a comfort to us that so many of you have come along for the ride!

Last night was one of those blessed nights I had been longing for - thank you for praying! About 3:45, Linda woke up and so did I - there was not much sleep afterwards, but it was more than worth being awake most of the night. We talked and prayed - and were so very blessed by God's Word. We read (very deliberately) the whole of Romans 8 and the entire 14th chapter of John's Gospel. Over and over the passages spoke of the many gracious gifts that God has given us. No matter the outcome of Linda's illness, nor of any reverses in my own health or circumstances, we are safe and secure in the Father's hand. When we look at God's sacrifice in giving Jesus up for us, and when we look at the cross, we pull up short of complaining about our own suffering. After all, the suffering is temporary, the glory will be eternal!

To give you just an idea of the roller coaster, our spirits were high as we absorbed God's Word - oh, how it spoke to our need! Then, somewhere around 5, Linda began to experience a fair amount of pain (head, neck, shoulders, lower back) and discomfort. The most unsettling aspect of her discomfort was the difficulty she had breathing. It was so tough that she began to wonder if she could go on. The nurse came and gave her a nasal spray and repositioned her on the bed and, VOILA - she went right to sleep! She awoke with some considerable confusion, which I (most likely, wrongly) attributed to the tumor. My concern was great this morning - until the doctors came in and said she is doing remarkably well. Her oxygen levels are very high! Our anticipation of Christmas together with our family at home is growing stronger by the hour. If she beats the infection. well, you know the laundry list - liver, lipids, kidneys, etc.

Linda is quite tired. She had a lot of visitors today, all of whom she VERY much wanted to see - but I think we are going to have to limit visitors in the next few days at least. Please pray for her - she is a bit discouraged. I am sure you understand. Pray that she will sleep well tonight and be refreshed in the morning. As much as I enjoyed last night, we both need to sleep tonight. And on that note . . .

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Mostly Good Day

Linda was alert today. She was cracking jokes and keeping us laughing all day! My sister, Nan, told her that we were going to send her on a comedy tour, to which Linda immediately replied, "It can't be stand-up comedy - it will have to be prop-up comedy." We howled.

Linda's condition is not good. Even though she had quite a good day, she also experienced pain (headaches), nausea (finally getting to eat after 5 days), more tests (x-rays looking for pneumonia - no word yet), and the insertion of a pic line (to administer drugs to and through a vein that carries blood directly to the heart). There is talk that she will go home later this week. If so, it will be insurance driven, because I cannot see that she will be "ready" to go later this week. She is having difficulty breathing, though that may be due more to a stuffy nose than to compromised lungs.

Linda is sleeping now after a long and busy day. We will read Scripture if she awakens in the night. Thank you for your many prayers and encouraging words. We love you!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Diagnosis and Treatment Plan

Linda has listeria meningitis - so say the lab results from the spinal fluid. Listeria meningitis is an infection that tends to find immunocompromised individuals, the elderly, and pregnant women. It is a food-borne illness that is most often picked up from deli meats and soft cheeses. Linda will be treated with the powerful (and potentially risky) antibiotic, gentamicin. She has received morphine a couple of times today because of pain in her neck, shoulders, and back. Tonight, the pain even spread to her legs.

Thank you so much for praying that Linda would be more lucid today. She was! She continues to crack jokes in her pain. I had slept last night on the pull out chair that sits beside the bed. I slept well, but my back paid the price (pray for Terri, Linda's sister, who will sleep here tonight!). I told Linda that we would perhaps switch beds tonight. Without blinking, she looked up at me and asked, "Do you like shots?"

Linda and I have read a great deal of Scripture this past year, often concentrating in the book of Colossians and in the Psalms. A particular passage that has blessed us of late is the second half of Romans 8. This disease is battering Linda's body, but God is in charge - and He loves us! He is conforming us to the image of His Son, the Son He gave up to suffer on our behalf. And what of us in such dire times? We are more than conquerors, no matter how these days conclude! How can this be?


And, Easter!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Awake! Sort of . . .

Linda woke up today - several times, but for very short intervals. Late this afternoon, Linda's sister, Terri, was touching her and speaking softly to her while Linda slept. Linda opened her eyes and said, "I was dreaming about you!" She recognized everyone who spoke to her and held out her right hand to several of us. She hugged her father good-bye. What a great day! She was smiling, not agitated at all when she interacted with us. We could not understand everything she said, but it was clear that she had a pretty good sense of what was going on.

I am here alone with Linda, now. She is still opening her eyes, but she appears a little more confused. A nurse came in and it startled her. She did not seem to understand where she was and what was going on. I imagine with all the Morphine she has received in addition to the infection, she will be disoriented off and on for a bit.

The doctors had told us we really need to see some improvement by tomorrow. Improvement appears to have begun, though there are still very many issues for her to overcome even if the infection is eliminated. Please pray for a restful night and an alert tomorrow! There are many who love her that would love to share their love to an awake and alert Linda.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Calmer Day

"How is Linda doing?" It continues to be an extremely difficult question to answer. The bottom line is that her body is in crisis - or, at the very least, is near crisis. She has had a calmer day, mostly because of Morphine and Adavan. Linda is still agitated when she is the least bit aware of her surroundings. She is not taking the medicines to ease the end of life, but to tide her over until she can get past the infection, which we hope is the cause of her struggles with delirium. She has a minor form of meningitis, as I shared with you last night, and that could well be causing enough pain and confusion to account for her difficulties.

Linda does have a fever tonight, once again approaching 103 degrees. As you can imagine, this is not a good thing. There is some optimism, though, that the antibiotics will arrest the fever and pain, and enable her to interact with us again. Where we go from there, who knows? It is enough, I think, to ask you to pray that she will awake from this stupor (it is not a coma) with a clear head. God bless!

Midnight Musings

It is after midnight and I am with my dear wife who is a patient in the hospital. I cannot help but recall the February nights some ten months ago on this very hall at Rex Hospital in Raleigh. Those nights were far different from these nights, and yet, similar. We had just learned of Linda's tumor and had been told that we had only three to five months before she would depart this world. I will never forget those nights as long as I live. We laughed, we cried, we read Scripture, we prayed, we drank in the goodness of life and the goodness of one another that God had allowed to become one flesh. We had nothing to confess, no forgiveness that needed to be asked, we simply exulted in God's blessings and prayed fervently for more time while doing our best to trust the Lord with all our hearts. It was, as I stated at the time, the worst week of my life, and the best week of my life.

Here we are together again in the East Wing of the sixth floor. Tonight is very different, though. Linda is breathing heavily as she sleeps with the merciful assistance of morphine. This is not the morphine that only seeks to limit pain and ease one's passing, but it is administered to allow her the rest she needs in order to overcome an infection (in the meningitis family, though not the "severe, contagious, quarantine everyone" variety!) that threatens her life. Even IF she beats this infection, there may be too many other obstacles for her to overcome. Only the Lord knows her time, but it appears it will be soon, short of a miracle.

I have been reading Scripture, praying, and talking to (though not "with") Linda tonight. I dare not wake her and trigger the almost inevitable agitation that nearly tore our hearts out of our chests most of the night (pray that Michael will forget the ordeal he endured through the night) and much of this day. The antibiotics have reduced the fever, so perhaps they will eliminate the hallucinations that have tormented her these past 24 hours. That is difficult for me to say, but it is truth and I should share at least that much with you. Earlier tonight I prayed for at least one more night like we had in February. Perhaps it will happen later this morning, but for now I am content to be able to be near the best person I have ever known.

Who is sufficient for times such as these? When will we learn that God must bring us to the depths so that we will look to Him? When you read such carefully crafted words, do not think the one who writes them to be spiritually minded. I am not. I have erred so often and so foolishly in this trial. Why God leads anyone to read this blog is beyond me. If there is anything of value it bears His strength shining through my weakness. Really.

Should this infection be overcome, very high blood sugar, triglycerides that are higher than doctors have ever seen, along with liver and kidney challenges await her. Even from a medical standpoint, these seemingly impossible odds can be overcome, and certainly it is true that God can reverse the direst of circumstances, but we may be soon forced to deal with the reality that Linda's time on this earth is near an end. Even since I wrote that her temperature has gone down a nurse came with a thermoter, which now reads 103.1 degrees - the highest yet. Please pray that should God choose to take her, that it will be with as little pain, stress, and agitation as possible.

Well, I can never thank God enough for bringing Linda Faile into my life. I have not deserved her. Really. God has melded our hearts, our spirits, our minds, our souls into one. A potential tearing is painful to consider, but I am so grateful to hurt so deeply because it means that we have loved so deeply. I would do it again a million times - I love her so much.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Brief update

This is Autumn again with a brief update on Mom's condition. She has been admitted to the hospital and I wish I could say she is resting peacefully. Although she does have periods of rest, she is mostly very agitated and out of touch with reality. Her body is in crisis right now. A CT scan last night revealed that the tumor has not grown and is not bleeding, so they are still working to find the source of her pain. The plan is to have a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) this afternoon, and to move forward from there. Thank you again for your love and prayer, and we will update you again as soon as we can.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Emergency Request

This is Autumn writing to ask you for emergency prayer. Dad is taking Mom to the hospital as I write this. She has severe headaches, and has been battling various infections this week. Please pray that she will be admitted quickly (last time there was a 4-hour wait). Pray also for comfort, strength, peace and trust. We will update the blog as soon as possible. Thank you so much for praying.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Most Difficult Question to Answer

"How is Linda doing?" is an extremely difficult question for me to answer. It is not that I mind being asked - we are SO very grateful for the love and concern that exists for Linda! It is just tough to know what to say because the answer is ever changing. I recently told you of the news we received from the doctor the week before Thanksgiving - Linda's body is shutting down. Last week Linda improved considerably and our hope was renewed. This week - well, Linda is suffering physically more than I recall during this entire year. She has begun having headaches, her throat hurts very badly (medical help is limited because of liver issues), and her chest and stomach hurt quite a bit. The are that hurts the most, though, is her lower back - no position seems to mitigate the pain at all. The doctor says that there may be a kidney infection and so he gave her an antibiotic that will not hurt her liver. If you are reading this on Tuesday night, PLEASE PRAY. Pray for the pain to leave, and for grace in the meantime. God is able to take away the pain - and, to give the grace to endure if He has called any of us to that. I prefer the removal of the problem, but God's will is better than ours.

All of us in the family have thought of what it would be like to have such limited mobility over such a long span of time. Some of you who are reading this have had loved ones to suffer for longer than ten months (and perhaps you have yourself), but it has been no easy calling for Linda. Always sleeping in the exact same position, sitting in only a few limited spots - can you imagine how much pressure that would put on your back?

Liz is here this week and I called Michael to come in and help - I was sick yesterday and today with a stomach bug. I did my best to avoid contact with Linda, but some contact was unavoidable. Please pray that she will not catch the bug I had (brief, but rather intense). Autumn comes tomorrow.

I do not think I have asked for specific prayer for me at this site beyond a request for wisdom. I would like to ask something specifically, now. I am really tired - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Tomorrow I am going to take a little time away to seek the Lord for strength in all areas. I am sure you understand that when I confess my exhaustion that it does not mean I am weary of taking care of my precious wife. As I have repeatedly said, I will take 40 years of life just as it is right now! Oh, we would have to make different arrangements, to be sure, but I want many, many more years with the woman who has been - and, is - a treasure to me. God blessed me beyond my wildest expectations when He gave Linda to me. I am tired, though, and need a bit of refreshment from the Lord. So, thank you for praying, and while you are at it, please pray for our children and their spouses, our grandchildren, Linda's parents, siblings and children, my parents (who are enduring a trial of their own), siblings, their spouses and children. I think that covers it!

There is more to say, but it will have to wait. I can never thank you adequately for your love and prayers!