Monthly Archives: October 2005

10/30/2005

While things were better this week than they’ve been in awhile, I still haven’t felt up to much. We made it up to my parents’ place last weekend. That was good. Felt well enough Friday to make the drive. Came back late Sunday. Had a great time with family while there. Last Monday was my follow up appointment with Dr. Hurley after my week-off from spinal taps. He thought it best that we call off spinal taps altogether. That was good news. He also determined I was yet too sick to begin the second half of phase three.

Still throwing up earlier this week, and having a difficult time eating, I remained sub-par up till Saturday sometime. Then a pack of friends from church showed up at our place to replace our windows and rake our leaves. It was a good day, and an excellent distraction. This morning (Sunday), I made it to church. Jen stayed home with Aedan, as he’s been somewhat sick with a cold. Jen, too, actually.

Enjoying the afternoon with a little bit of Tolkein and an autumn musk candle in the corner. I need to get better. An important part of post-radiation recovery is eating much. Hydration and nutrition provide what my body needs to rebuild the good cells that were fried during treatment. I haven’t been able to eat or drink much on a daily basis for a month now. Friday I was in at the clinic for a liter and a half of IV fluids. Dr. Hurley stopped in and said I should give my GI doctor a call, as he’s now clueless why I’m not healing up faster.

Dr. Purdy does speculative work on my gut. He’s not in till Tuesday. I’m scheduled to start the second half of Phase 3 tomorrow (Monday). The chemo medicine that they’ve been injecting into my central nervous system via spinal taps they’ll now give me in pill form. We’ve no clue yet what that’ll do to my belly, or the rest of me, for that matter. I’m hoping to stay well enough that I can go north next weekend to hunt deer with my dad and brother. Normalcy is very therapeutic right now.

It’s been an almost unbearably long month. But the truth is I’m happier now than I was one month ago. I’ve crossed the halfway point, and if all goes well, I’ve got only one more intense pass at the top of January. We’ve a baby due in the next six weeks, and the fall has brought us sustenance and grace. God has been good to us, and He is yet teaching us how to trust Him, how to pray to Him.

Please continue to pray with us, and for us. I really want to be healthy for baby number two. Jen’s going to need my help, rather than the current norm – that of me being in such need of her help. Plus, Thanksgiving and Christmas serves up some of the tastiest morsels of the calendar year. Who wouldn’t want to have a good appetite for such great gifts from God?

More seriously, we’d ask you to continue praying for our recovery on the other side of this junk, and our perseverance in the midst of it. I can understand how people can become bitter or cool as a result of their sufferings. I can understand anger or denial – the preference to ignore suffering altogether once it’s been removed from the everyday experience. We don’t want that to happen here. And the reentry into ministry and normal workday routine will be tricky to navigate after a yearlong experience such as this, in addition to the slow quest for health and well-being. Mostly, we want to be ready to minister in whatever ways God sees fit.

Intending and longing to live a life of gratitude, now AND then…

By the grace of God,

Enduring,
Jeremy (& Jenny)

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10/18/2005

It feels good to feel good. Or a whole lot better, at least. It’s also a beautiful day. I’m writing from the swing on our backyard deck. A bible, a bag of beef jerky, and a Gatorade on the bench beside me.

It’s one of the warmest days we’ve had this October.

The wind. The leaves. The sky. The sun.

I like it all very much.

I woke up early yesterday morning to throw up the water I’d had to drink through the night. Jen put her hand on my arm as I came back to bed…

“I’m not starting again today. I’m not.” I said.

As we lay in bed over the next hour, I became thoroughly confident I could talk my way out of a spinal tap later that morning. And I set my mind to do so. Then, as the sun was coming up, Jen began to pray.

As she prayed, I began to wonder whether it would be right for me to talk my way out of a temporary suffering like this. Seeing that God had seen fit to put me here in the first place, and knowing that He has a way of redeeming our sorrows for His purposes, I questioned the rightness of my insistence upon getting out.

Yet I realized I had already determined in my heart to do everything I could to avoid the next spinal tap, and whether it was right or not, that’s what I was going to do.

Then I prayed. And I told God all that I was feeling – what I was thinking, what I had determined to do – and I told Him I feared I hadn’t the strength to do otherwise, even if He made clear to us that’s what He desired me to do.

We prayed together that I wouldn’t have to make that decision. We didn’t pray for a “show me” moment when we’d know what was right, we just prayed that He would save me from sinning against Him (by choosing my way over His), yet somehow deliver me from the perpetual suffering of the previous two weeks.

Then I called my dad and my brother, to garner up strength and support for my refusal to continue (I was really only rallying for a week off).

Here’s how God came through:

Before my doctor sees me, an oncology nurse does a pre-evaluation (like they do at most clinics) and fills out a form the doctor looks at before entering the room. Yesterday morning, that pre-eval took three-times longer than normal. And instead of sitting in the chair as usual, because of my stomach, I needed to lie down on the exam table.

As my nurse was leaving our room, she put her hand on my knee and said, “Remember, you have the right to say when enough is enough.” Jen and I were in tears instantly. It surprised us. We’d been in that room with that particular nurse at least ten times before, and this was something neither of us could have expected her to say.

As if that wasn’t green light enough, minutes later, when my doc came through the door, the first thing he said was, “Things aren’t going so well, huh? No spinal tap today, okay?”

Decision made, but not by me.

I cried again as he continued, telling us that it may not be necessary for me to do the rest of the spinal taps altogether; that we may be able to skip ahead to the less intense half of this phase.

All of that was to be decided next week. First, he said we had to figure out what was going wrong with me, and do what we needed to do to get me better. So we did an ultrasound on my belly, waited around for 2 liters of IV hydration, and went home with some last line defenses for nausea.

Within hours I was feeling better, and eating more. I slept most of the night, without taking any sleep aids at bedtime. And I woke this morning with just a slight trace of the discomfort that has been so persistent these last weeks.

I’m moving around more, and able to read again. Top all that with the potential for permanent release from the spinal tap experience, and I’m a very happy man.

These last weeks seem like years. My back and legs will take weeks to recover. My appetite is slowly gaining steam, and I feel a bit woozy from the meds. I’m still taking (and will have to take for a long time) chemo pills. But I’ll manage. Compared to these last two weeks, life’s on an upswing.

And once again, I’ve been surprised by the mercy of God. Delightfully so.

Grateful again for the things He’s shown me in scripture, this time from Hebrews 12.

And as I think about it, Second Peter 5:10:”AFTER you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace will Himself perfect you…” I’ll never forget how I was taught the fruit comes AFTER. It comes after the seed has been planted in the ground and dies. It comes after the season of challenging weather and growth. But it comes.

And I’ll never forget how God answered our prayers and showed us mercy one particularly painful Monday morning.

Thank you for your prayers.

I’ve been very grateful, these last weeks, for the different communities of believers God has allowed me to be a part of through my life. Most recently, I’ve been thinking much of Galilee Bible Camp in northern Minnesota, and the friends I made there; where we encountered God together in His Word, and wrestled with what it meant to be His. I’m curious who from those days might be reading this. Remember spear-grass in grade school? And Thursday night “banquets?” I’d love to hear from you – how you’re doing, where you are… Drop me a line, if you could.

More next week. The ultrasound came back good. The rest of this week should be uneventful. Just trying to fatten up.

As my buddy Andy Britz might say…

In His Grip,
Jeremy

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10/16/2005

It’s been a very difficult couple of weeks. Days are long with discomfort. Nights are long without sleep. I’m done with radiation and just beginning to experience very mild side effects from two weeks of it to my head. Feels like sunburn, except on the inside. Glad it’s done, but more concerned with the weekly spinal taps. Methotrexate is the chemo drug being injected into my central nervous system every seven days. It’s poison and I hate it. Seems seven days isn’t enough for me to recover from the hit. It’s Sunday, and I was throwing up this morning. Just like Wednesday. And Thursday. My inability to eat or to keep food down when I do has cost me near five pounds this week. Same as last. At this rate, unless something changes, I’ll be a hair over a hundred pounds by the time it’s all over. My back continues to atrophy and cause me pain. I’m on my feet very little. Haven’t been able to sit up much, either. Not doing much at home. Can’t stare at a computer screen for long without feeling sick. Can’t stare at a page for long without feeling restless. Been glad there’s baseball. And John Piper sermons. Nightly news is almost as hard to bear as the chemo.

I don’t want to go in tomorrow. I can bear the needles now. Even the four-incher that pushes through my back and into my spinal canal doesn’t bug me as much as it used to. And I think with enough hydration and the caffeine drip following the tap we can hold the headaches at bay. But I can’t imagine bearing up under another week of this junk in my system, my brain floating in a pool of poisonous fluid, my soul crawling all over inside trying to escape the chaos that has become of my body.

July was hard. I think there were days then that rivaled what I’m experiencing now, but October will be a month I will remember till death as the month I had to ENDURE. It’s the slow passing of time that’s hurting me. The new every morning battle for joy and hope that has me weeping daily. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I bite my lip and hold my belly. I wish things were different. I really, really do.

There was a special grace given me in the early weeks of this ordeal. A very tangible, evident grace. By it, God sustained my soul, holding me above the tumultuous waters of this therapy. It seemed I was more able then to embrace this trial and its implications. It seemed then I was able still to rejoice on impulse. While these days are different at least from July when I couldn’t even recall the better days of my life, they seem years away from those early days of June, when hope seemed so available. When God’s purposes in this suffering were enough to keep my head and heart up where I could breathe freely.

I knew then that darker days were coming. They always do. They’re promised to those who seek hard after God, actually. Promised. Promised as days of testing and refining, the suffering giving occasion for the making of perseverance and proven character, for the impartation of peace and hope.

I’m asking now for that peace, for that hope. And I’m praying for healing. And for faith. For I know now beyond a doubt that apart from the gifts God gives I do not have what it takes to endure this pain. I do not. I’d rather bail. Some days I think I just might. And perhaps God yet will provide some way out, but if not…

I find reason to hope in Christ, who for the joy out in front of Him – ungraspable, on the other side of His suffering – endured the Cross, who, much more than I with this cancer, DESPISED the shame of it! The point: He didn’t like it. That means I don’t have to either. It means I don’t have to expect my heart to be so lifted that I somehow take pleasure in this pain. I hate it. I hate the pain. I hate that it’s necessary. The beautiful thing is, the fruit comes after. I don’t have to be discouraged by my “lack of spirit” in the moment, for scriptures say (in Hebrews 12) that ALL discipline seems not pleasant at the time, but SORROWFUL, yet for those who are trained by it, AFTERWARDS it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

So, while trusting in the sovereign grace of my Maker, and thanking Him for the fruit that’s promised, I pray to be released from this suffering. And I ask you reading this to pray with me. As the writer of the letter to the Jewish Christians requested in his own words:

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.” Hebrews 13:18-19

Please know Jen has been so good to me through this time (and always). Please continue to keep her, the little one, and Aedan before the throne as you pray as well.

Needing Him now more than ever,

Jeremy

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10/9/2005

Jeremy’s asked me to write the update this weekend…

Last Monday (Oct. 3rd) Jeremy was scheduled (after 2 weeks of delay) to begin Phase III of his chemotherapy, which also includes 10 days of radiation. Although Phase III is 12 weeks long (bringing us through Christmas), the first five weeks are most apt to be the most hard-hitting stuff. And unfortunately, it proved to be hard-hitting for Jer. He had his first of five spinal taps on Monday to get the chemo into his Central Nervous System. The actual procedure when well, but within two hours Jeremy was battling nausea and headaches. It was decided that he should spend the night at the hospital. The night turned into the week. Jeremy returned home Friday night (Oct. 7) not feeling much better.

The week was a battle in many ways. The doctors expected him to get better quickly. By Thursday, they finally determined they needed to spend some time being proactive about his condition. The likely culprit is a spinal headache (which in turn is causing the nausea) due to leaking fluid from his tap. This would eventually mend on it’s own, but with 4 more weeks of Monday afternoon spinal taps, this all just seems quite unbearable. To help prompt some healing, they gave Jeremy IV caffeine Thursday night and Friday morning to help the headaches. When that didn’t prove to have a lasting effect, they tried switching him to some new anti-nausea and pain medication (which he didn’t keep down for long). As a final, and hopeful resort, the doctors pulled some strings to have a procedure done Friday evening that would patch the hole they believed the fluid was leaking from. Jer came home that night, and other than the joy of being at home (and having his parents here this weekend), we haven’t seen much improvement from his headaches and nausea.

What’s been so difficult is to know what exactly is causing these symptoms–the spinal tap, the actual chemo, or radiation. The doctors say the radiation and the chemo should not be the cause of the headaches or nausea, which leaves the spinal tap, and they’ve done what they can to combat those effects without success. Jeremy had little appetite last week so he is recovering in that regard also.

So we’re praying (and asking you to join us) for many miracles. We will be going in tomorrow morning (October 10th) for blood work, the second (and final) week of daily cranial radiation, meetings with his docs, and an afternoon spinal tap. We won’t know until tomorrow what the doctors suggest to do to make this week better than last. They’ve talked about highly hydrating Jer before and after the procedure along with giving him a cup of Joe to help prevent the headaches.

Please pray for our hearts this week. Last week everything felt and seemed so impossible when we looked to the future. We were planning to attend a conference held by Desiring God Ministries this weekend devoted to Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. We made it only to the final session this morning where we sat under the teaching of Pastor John Piper. Just being under that Spirit-filled teaching was refreshing to say the least. Even still, physically, it was a struggle for Jeremy to attend. The trip home had him laying down in the backseat of the car.

We’re heading into this week with only God’s grace and praying that He will work through medicine and doctors and Jeremy’s own ability to “read” his body. We all need discernment and hope. Thank you for your continued prayers to this end.

With Jeremy,
Jenny

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