Monthly Archives: November 2005

11/30/2005

So far, so good. I take 12 chemo pills every Monday. Last week went better than expected. This week’s going better than that. Thanksgiving was a blast. Jen’s sister served up a bird Martha Stewart style. And I managed TWO pieces of cheesecake for dessert. It snowed all day Friday. I took Aedan sledding Saturday afternoon. No baby yet. Jen did some vigorous Christmas shopping with subtle hopes the activity might induce labor. Nothing yet. Nevertheless, we’re savoring our remaining days as a manageable threesome. Looks like a December baby is likely.

I spoke some with my doctor Monday regarding the next phase of my treatment. It’s expected to be similar to the first. They put me in the hospital right after Christmas, load me up with all kinds of chemotherapy, some of it brand new to my body, then keep me there till I bottom out and get better again. Another one of those “anywhere from 2 to 6 week” deals. Once I’m through, they pull the tubes out of my chest (I’ve got two 12-inch plastic tubes dangling from my chest on my right side that go directly into my aorta for IVs and such. I tend them every day. Will be nice to be able to roll over in bed without getting all tangled up) and send me home.

There I’ll finish the remaining days of Round 4. They call Round 4 “Late Intensification Period.” Isn’t that great? I guess it’s good they’re honest. Better that than “Feels Like You’re On Vacation Period,” or “Just Another Walk In The Park Period.” Other than the fact that it should be the last hard-core chemo Crash I have to endure, I’m really not looking forward to it. We’ll have a brand new baby at home. Jen will need my help. Aedan will need my company. And there’s some concern my lethargic white-blood cell makers may make my recovery a lengthy ordeal. We’ve taken some consolation in their recent rebound from my October/November crash. Guess that’d be a good thing to start praying about right now. Prior to starting this last half of Phase 3, we’d been praying like crazy that I wouldn’t experience any terrible side effects, and I haven’t. There’s something to Dr. Luke’s account of the persistent widow. Jesus knew what He was talking about: Ask often. And don’t quit.

In the meantime, there are still things to keep life a hair less than normal. I’m still very bald. Much more noticeable for me here in the winter. Anybody think wearing two hats looks funny? While I’m gaining some weight back ever so slowly, I’m still 10-20 pounds underweight (I’m not sure I remember what’s “normal”). The loss of mass, and the 3-4 months spent in bed this last year have effectively atrophied most of my major muscle groups. Add that to a goofed-up back (3 mildly compressed, bulging discs) and you get why I’m on pain meds every day. And it goes without saying that I’m not as strong as I once was. That’s tougher and tougher as Aedan gets bigger. I can still take him, though. I wrestled in seventh grade.

Crohn’s hasn’t bothered me too much. I do have to take extra care each time I’m on chemo, though. Side effect warnings like “may constipate” or “can cause diarrhea,” mean I have to bust out another 5 or 6 bottles of pre-meds and counter-meds (and dried apricots). My gut’s as prone to extremes as my whims. In spite of that, the therapy I’ve been on for cancer has really been effective at treating my Crohn’s as well. Something I was just thinking about though, is that when I’m through with all this, all the treatments I’ve previously been on for Crohn’s potentially put me at risk for a lymphoma relapse. And there are few treatment options left.

So, one could pray that I achieve permanent remission in them both. No more Crohn’s. No more Cancer. For the rest of my life, period. When it’s time for me to go, I’d rather go out like Elijah. Fatal illness is the ticket for guys much tougher in the physical and in faith than I’ll ever be. Beyond that, I’d really like to be well again. I pray that wellness wouldn’t lead me to apathy, and that I’d use whatever strength God gives me for the best things. In spite of all the good that I’ve come to experience in these dark times (like finding in the lowest possible place that God is still beneath me, holding me up), I’d really prefer being well, and learn how to meet and serve God there.

I’m intending to write another mass email – like the one I sent out and posted in May when this all begin. Please pray with me as I do this. That I’d be brief. That I’d say the things that should be said. The last one ended up in front of more people than I could’ve anticipated. Entire congregations I had never visited. Radio stations in Minneapolis and Duluth. Newspapers and online newsletters. There may’ve simply been an anointing on that letter that shouldn’t be expected again. Nevertheless, I had only two weeks behind me then. It’s a considerably more complicated testimony (and much more information) half a year later. I hardly have a clue where to start.

Thank you, each and all who are praying. Forgive me for not being as grateful as I ought to be. And for being so unable to personally express gratitude to each of you. In time, perhaps, God will ordain a way for me to return the favor.

Until then,

Indebted and grateful still,
Jeremy

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11/22/2005

Aedan turned two yesterday. And I finally began my next pass of chemotherapy. We had a party on Sunday with balloons, candles, cake and all. There’s been much to enjoy in life as of late. Much to be thankful for.

The chemo is slowing me down a little. I can feel it while I write. Can’t think as clearly or as creatively. Or as quick. That first paragraph went through three revisions in about fifteen minutes to end up being what it is – brief and a bit boring. Much like the kind of conversation one might get out of me while I’m on this medicine – not nearly as much fun as me in the hospital on morphine. You should hear me talk then.

We’re hopeful these days, too. I take 12 pills every Monday for the next month, then spend the rest of each week giving my body what it needs to get rid of the poison. Good food. Good rest. A lot of water. That’s the plan, anyway. We’ve spent much time praying that God would fortify my body against the nasty effects of this medicine (nausea, loss of appetite, lack of sleep, etc…), and we believe He has done that.

Baby number two is expected to arrive soon. We’re also praying that the day God’s ordained for this new voice to make itself heard would be a day its daddy is feeling well. Jen is doing great and feeling altogether much too comfortable for being this close to labor (her midwife said last week, “within a week or two…”). We’re thankful for that, too.

So, while I wish I had something more exciting to write, I’m at the same time quite thankful I don’t. Life is fairly good right now. God has shown mercy in more ways than the Cross, though without the Cross those other ways wouldn’t mean so much. But within the context of Christ’s forgiveness, being now reconciled to God, these days of wellness and rest are sweet kisses of Grace. We are grateful to be recipients of His love in this way, and thank each of you for praying on our behalf.

May your Thanksgiving be as deeply felt as ours.

Simply grateful,

Jeremy

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11/18/2005

CT Scan last Friday showed I’m still in remission. Good news. Not as good news: my white blood count was lower this week than it was last. I did have a bone-marrow biopsy done Monday (ridiculously painful – I guess college students get paid $100 to volunteer for such procedures, but really, who’d want to?). My doctor called with the results Wednesday night. We were concerned there might be marrow damage, or worse, lymphoma in the marrow – both of which would demand a transplant. Neither, thank God (really), was the case. It turns out my marrow is just particularly sluggish from all the therapy. I started booster shots today that are sort of like the giddy-up for my white blood makers. I’ll be taking those through the weekend, then returning to the clinic Monday for another blood test. If I’ve recovered sufficiently (my counts have been absurdly low, all things considered – like don’t sneeze in my zip-code low), I’ll finally begin the second half of Phase 3. My friend Jessica’s been on the meds for several weeks now, and it hasn’t been delightful, to say the least. Pray for her. And pray that my body would react kindly to the chemo. Baby #2 is right around the corner. Daddy really badly wants to be up-and-at-em when the time comes. Jen’s still doing great. And Aedan, it turns out, is pushing two more molars just in time for his second birthday.

Thanking God still for all the good,

Jeremy

Ps. If you haven’t read the last update (just below this one), please do. That is, if you’re interested in background and feelings and such…

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11/13/2005

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Jen & I have been reading C.H. Spurgeon devotionals before bedtime for the last several months. As of late, I haven’t much liked them. That is to say, they’re speaking biblical truth I’d rather not hear. Most often, the scripture referenced is text on suffering from one angle or another. One would think this might hit the spot in a season such as this. But let me be honest: I’m really tired of suffering. It’s not that I feel I’ve had my share of it or that I think the goal of my suffering has been accomplished, it’s just that I’m tired of it. I’d prefer strength and comfort again. Predictability. And wellness.

And while we’re praying earnestly for recovery and relief, Spurgeon’s words seem ominous, if only because they seem to imply more suffering. Let me quote several that hit close to home:

“Believer, if your inheritance be a lowly one you should be satisfied with your earthly portion; for you may rest assured that it is the fittest for you… Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there… Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God” [November 11, PM].

“Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials… You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods” [November 12, AM].

And then this one:

“Perhaps your affliction will continue upon you till you dare to trust your God, and then it shall end” [November 9, PM].

I mean, the question I have is this: do I trust Him? If the spiritual maturity for which I’ve often prayed (perhaps more so when I was younger than now) and the culmination of God’s glory in my life lies beyond the borders of this trial, and the only way to it is through this suffering, do I trust God to complete His work in me? Do I trust that His way really is the best way?

Yes. The answer I would give now and always is yes. However, do I trust Him to sustain me in the midst of such a trial? I know He would have to, if I were to make it at all. For I know my strength would fail me – because it already has many times. And He has sustained me, often in some sort of deliverance, a rescue. I’ve prayed for a way out, and He’s provided.

But in the end, when the rubber meets the road, as they say, it seems none of that matters. I want out. I mean, I want out of the trial. I don’t want more suffering. Who would?

But He gives beauty for ashes.

I still have a long way to go in all this: in my understanding of suffering, in the testing and building up of my faith, in my treatment for cancer, and in my telling of it. Yet I want it to be over. I want the strength to sing my songs again. I want the agility to wrestle my boy. I want the drive to speak truth to congregations. I want the stamina to care for my bride and my baby. Weakness isn’t fun. Regardless of what it teaches you or what it makes you, it’s not something to be enjoyed. Paul may have rejoiced in his weakness – for the opportunity it gave God to show Himself – but I have not read that he ever enjoyed it. Rather he prayed for his thorn to be removed. I am praying here.

My white blood counts have been terribly slow to recover from the last pass. Every time I’ve gone in to begin the second half of Phase 3, my counts have come back lower than the week before. My doctor was concerned enough with the delay of treatment that he wrote orders for another CT Scan, just to be sure the cancer wasn’t returning to my chest. I had the scan Friday, and will know the results tomorrow. If my counts haven’t gone up from last Wednesday, I’ll likely be doing another bone-marrow biopsy within the week. The procedure is something like carpentry with hand drills and such; only I’m the wood. As unfun as it is, I’m more than willing if it might provide us with some answers. Especially if the answers bring good news.

Chances are my white counts have risen. I’m feeling better today than I have in awhile, and my boy’s had the sniffles and a bad cough for nearly two weeks now, and I haven’t had so much as a runny nose. I’ve been eating much better as of late. Have yet to break a buck and a quarter on the bathroom scale though. It’s amazing to me how each successive pass requires a longer period for recovery. I feel like a boxer getting knocked down again and again, rising after each blow, but taking more time between each fall to find my stance. And weaker when I rise than I was before.

But by the grace of God, I fight still. If all is good tomorrow, or as soon as it is, I’ll begin the pill form of the drug they’ve been squirting into my central nervous system. Word in the ward is it makes you sick for 3-4 days at a time, and I take it once a week through Christmas. Our baby’s due sometime in the next month. I’m not the only one here hoping I’m healthy enough to be at Jen’s bedside for the delivery. So we’re praying that my counts would rise and that my body would be fortified by God’s Spirit against the ill effects of the chemo.

And we’d really appreciate it if you prayed with us.

And thank and praise God with us for the good: Jen & I have been on two dates recently. I was able to make it home to hunt deer with my Dad and brother one week back. While Aedan’s been a bit under the weather, he’s been very happy and quite agreeable. We’ve got a home where we’ll be kept warm through the winter. There is good art in the world still (and better food). We belong to a church who cares for its own and who has risen to the occasion more than once. And God’s Word is living and active, speaking into our deepest needs and fears, bringing light and hope, conviction and freedom, releasing the Spirit of God into our darkness.

And let us be praying for our brothers and sisters in Sudan and Egypt, and anywhere else where they know so much more about suffering than we know here,

May we be shown how we can be used of God to bring them hope and healing.

Praying with the Church,

Jeremy

If we do not post again for a time, assume good things. The status quo should be rebounding white blood counts, no need for a bone-marrow biopsy, continued treatment, and mild, endurable side effects. If something else arises, we will post what news we know.

Also, please consider checking the status of two other friends fighting cancer at this time as well. And pray for them. Access http://www.caringbridge.org and visit Jessica Lutz (she’s on the same therapy as I am, same phase) and Brent Carlson (type in specifically: http://www.caringbridge.org/mn/brent/). Thank you.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

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