So…how are you dealing with the COVID-19 restrictions? We are finishing up the second full week of social distancing in our town and Sunday marked the third Lord’s Day that there have been no services at the Church. The staff meet in the sanctuary and the congregation live streams the worship time. It’s certainly not as good as live fellowship with other believers, but it is necessary in these trying times.
During the week my wife and I take a short drive every few days to places we enjoy spending time. The other day she met a friend for coffee on the town square and they walked along a local trail while visiting at the preferred social distance. When she got home she said, “Have you seen the flowers on the square?” “No, I haven’t”, was my reply so I was advised that I needed to grab my camera and go take a few photos. The tulips were in full bloom around the square which means they won’t be with us much longer, so I headed out the door with camera in hand and sure enough the square was ablaze with tulips. here are a few images from my photo walk around the town square. I must say, the flowers were Aww…some and a bright spot in my week.
So the music theme this week is walking. I guess the photos above prove that I at least took a walk around the town square. We took another walk at one of the local parks, but those images have not been processed. It these days of no restaurants, movies, cross-fit gyms, or concerts, walking the neighborhood has become a very popular pastime for many Americans. Sheltering in place may give rise to a whole new fitness trend. Our cocker spaniel is enjoying the walks into areas of the neighborhood that she has never seen, but she is not a fan of social distancing. Lucy wants to play with everybody and their dog…literally. So what about walking songs. Well, if you live in Northwest Arkansas, walking to New Orleans can take quite awhile.
But if you think it’s a long walk to New Orleans, how about walking to Jerusalem?
Of course the stroll is kind of like walking only with a little rythum…sometimes very little rythum. Just sayin’
During difficult times whether in our personal lives or during a global pandemic, there is no better time to walk closer to the One who created us, loves us, and wants to spend eternity with us. Have a blessed week.
So…whatcha been doing since we have all been advised or ordered to shelter in place? I suppose there are all sorts of options for entertainment that we don’t normally practice when we have movies, restaurants, concerts, and sporting events to attend and satisfy our craving to be amused, thrilled, excited or fed. I have been working on a couple of photo projects. I think I have deleted a couple of thousand images from my files that are either bad photos or they have no longer any value in my archives. The weather has been cold and wet recently so I have only made one photo walk recently but I am taking a couple of online courses, one in photography and one Bible study in the book of Daniel. And, as you can see my wife and I mastered a 300 piece puzzle recently. We talked about what we might do for amusement before everything got crazy and my wife said she has always liked puzzles. Therefore, I went into our local Walmart,bypassed the paper towels, toilet paper, antibacterial soap, and spray disinfectant to get to the toy department and purchase a puzzle. Seems that no one was hoarding those at the time. Anyway, I picked out a couple and brought them home. It took several hours over several days to complete the pictured above. I thought we would start with a little easier challenge since this puzzle only has 300 pieces. It really was beautiful once we completed it. Our next one is 1000 pieces and we haven’t opened that box yet. Just the cover photo is a little intimidating but I am sure we will unbox the beast and start stretching our brains again soon. Here is our next adventure in puzzle land.
As I said, my wife and I made the decision to travel to Little Rock, AR a couple of days early prior to my surgery. Our oldest granddaughter and her husband live in Little Rock and were in the process of building/buying their first home so we had an early dinner with them then drove out to their new abode. The house was still a couple of weeks from completion but it was a nice starter home and they were super excited about leaving the world of apartment living and owning their own piece of the dream.
The day before surgery there is the usual preparations of diet, bathing with anti-bacterial soap etc. I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 9:00 a.m. on October 30, with surgery to start around 11:00. We got to the hospital on time and by 9:30 I was checked in and headed toward the staging area. While there, three of the pastors from our church and their wives gathered with our family to pray. Then the pain team came in and administered the first round of drugs to relax me and roll me down to the surgical suite. UAMS is a teaching hospital so there were several interns, nursing students and interested observers in the surgical suite from what little I can recall. The anesthesia was administered and I drifted off. The surgery took six hours and the team was able to successfully remove a thirty-one pound tumor. Yes, I said thirty-one pounds! It had occupied the majority of my abdominal cavity and was pushing other organs out of place, including my colon. The mass had also surrounded the left kidney, so the kidney had to be removed as well. I had lost about forty pounds in less than twenty-four hours. By the end of my hospital stay I had dropped an additional ten pounds.
When I got out of recovery and into my room, my family was waiting for me. The next two days were spent on a liquid diet and on day two I took my first steps from the bed to the chair in the room. Several hours later I walked from the chair to the door and then to bed. Rehab had commenced. Seven days after entering the hospital, I walked out the doors and was headed home to my own bed. God is good and He had placed some marvelous medical professionals in my life on this journey and had put His very best caregiver at my side in the person of my wife. The Creator had also provided a miracle for everyone the see. I had no pain throughout the entire experience and I took no pain medicine when I got home. Two weeks after surgery, I returned to UAMS to have the staples removed, and there were a lot of staples. I looked like someone built a model railroad track on my abdomen. Now that the tumor had been removed, a recovery period was necessary before we could deal with the prostrate by means of external beam radiation.
On December 16, I began my first of forty-four radiation treatments at the office of my local oncologist. Yes, every day for two months I made the short drive to the clinic and spent a few minutes under the machine. It took more time to undress and dress than the treatment itself. I did get Christmas and New Years off. There is a tradition among most cancer patients that undergo chemo to ring a bell on the day of their last treatment. Apparently radiation patients have no such tradition so I decided that I would start one. I went to Marshall’s/Home Goods and purchased the brightest pair of socks I could find and wore them to my final radiation treatment. They became my “Happy Socks”. The clinical staff and radiation techs loved them. The next step in the journey would be follow-up.
In February we traveled back to Little Rock for my first post-surgery CT scan to see if there was any evidence of cancer. You see, since a sarcoma does not directly attack an organ so there is no “margin” to achieve during surgery. They have either removed all of the tumor or they haven’t. The results of the scan appear to be all clear!!! Praise the Lord, God is good! This past week I had lab work done and met with my oncologist to discuss the results of the radiation treatments. Again, the results were great! There is ongoing hormone therapy that will continue for a few years, and there will be periodical CT scans and lab tests, but overall I am good to go. I think I may go buy some more Happy Socks!
This week is a freedom of choice week at 4M so I am going to share a couple of songs that have become very special to me through the “Happy Socks” journey. When faced with the reality that I had two types of cancer and both of them could take my life, there was a brief time in this journey that I was fearful. I might not see all of my grandchildren graduate high school. I might not get to witness all of them get married. I might not hear the proclamation that I had become a great-grandfather. I might not get to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with the love of my life. The flood of things that I might not live to see was overwhelming and I wept. Still, my prayer was not solely for a healing but that my Savior would be honored and glorified. I asked God to do things that only He could do as a witness to the world that He is still on the throne. If He chose to call me home then I asked that He would make my final days a testimony of faith and trust in Him. Two songs became my personal anthems during this time. The first was a song by Mercy Me called “Even If” and it speaks to exactly what I was facing. I worship and serve a God that is capable of healing me with the touch of His hand, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is in Him alone. The lines from the song;
You’ve been faithful
You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can
I know You’re able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow
I know the hurt
Would all go away
If You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well
It is well with my soul
The other song comes from one of my favorite Southern Gospel groups, The Booth Brothers. Again the song speaks to what most believers would hope to be said about them. In my case, God has chosen to give me victory over cancer. But that victory came because He placed the people in my life to successfully deal with the disease. Post surgery, God knew that I was going to need a very good caregiver, so 47 years previous He gave me the best one He had in the person of my wife. Sometimes God answers our prayers before we are aware of the need. But even if He had chosen to call me home, I could be thankful for the life I was given to live and the source of strength that I found to live through every journey came from my God.
The lines from this song;
In Christ alone I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory let it be said of me
My source of strength, my source of hope
To God be the glory. Have a blessed week.
I trust that everyone is well and dealing with whatever changes that the corona virus has made in your lives. I must say that I really feel sorry for the high school and college athletes who have their senior seasons cut short. Some campuses may even cancel graduation services and those who have worked so very hard for a degree will not experience the joy of actually walking across the platform and receiving their diploma. As you have read in previous posts our youngest grand daughter is on the high school track team and was on track to have a great season. The team had the chance to win their third consecutive state championship. That is certainly in jeopardy. Fortunately our grand daughter will get to compete on the college level, but the vast majority of high school/college athletes in their senior year are closing out their athletic careers and will never know how their senior season would have ended and will never again step into the arena of competitive sports. With that said, keep this entire planet in your thoughts and prayers and global leadership, science, and medicine attempt to get this virus under control and find a cure.
Happy Socks Part II
If you want the full story about these colorful socks you will have to begin at the beginning. Scroll back to last week for Part I of the journey.
As I shared last week tests revealed that I had a large soft tissue sarcoma in my abdomen and needed to be removed and none of the local surgeons were comfortable dealing with a mass the size of the one that occupied my abdominal cavity. What surprised them was that I was showing no signs of any problem. I was not experiencing any pain. All of my normal functions were functioning normally. Other than appearing to be significantly overweight there was no indication that a large mass was rearranging the position of multiple organs. The CT guided biopsy was done in mid September. After several days I was told that I had an appointment to see a surgeon at the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) this first week of October. So we wait again. So far the thought that this whole process might be deadly serious had not really sunk in. We met with the surgeon in Little Rock and he explained that this type of cancer does not often show signs of it’s presence because it doesn’t attack organs. It grows on a fatty soft tissue tumor and is not typically discovered until doctors are looking for something else that requires a CT scan. He was very confident that the mass could be removed but that a kidney might be lost in the process because the mass had grown around it, kind of like tree roots growing around a rock. It’s easier to just dig up the rock than try to remove each root and save the rock. Surgery was scheduled for the last of October so we wait again. During the waiting period I was to be on a low fat diet which is not as difficult as it sounds.
So…after seven months of appointments and tests we know that I have two types of cancer, both are treatable but they have to be done in a certain order. Surgery first, then radiation. It was during this waiting period that the reality of the situation hit me. I might not survive this ordeal! I had never asked, “Why me?” I had always wondered “Why not me?” I had lost several younger friends to various diseases and found myself wondering why had I been spared these maladies. Apparently, my time had come. Until now I had not given much thought to my situation. Then one evening, when the house was quiet and empty, I cried. Later I would call it my “cancer cry”. I had become fully aware that one of these two forms of cancer might end my life. I never blamed God for my situation because I had seen better Christians than myself fall to disease. I cried out to God. I asked that He be honored and glorified. If he chose to heal me and give testimony to His power over all disease that would be glorious. However, if He had chosen to call me home by way of cancer I only asked that my witness and life through the journey would bring honor and glory to my Lord. It was at that point that I felt a peace about the whole situation. I had come the place where I understood what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Over the next couple of weeks it became apparent that a small army of fellow believers were lifting my wife and I up in prayer. We got cards, texts, emails and phone calls from every corner of this great nation and seemingly every decade of our lives that offered encouragement and prayers. As I said, waiting is the hard part. Three days prior to surgery we decided to head toward Little Rock and make preparations for my surgery. To be continued…
This week the theme is St. Patricks Day…of course.
The look I get when Lucy really isn’t interested in what I have to say.
These are my Happy Socks. They are not what I normally wear daily. In fact, these are the only pair of brightly colored and patterned socks that I own. I bought them recently for a specific purpose and that is the reason for this post. Spoiler alert, it will take more that one post to tell the whole story.
About a year ago I went to see my primary care physician for my annual physical. There was the usual conversation about the need to lose some weight and getting a little more exercise to go along with better diet and nutrition habits. A review of my lab tests revealed that my PSA number was elevated to the point of some concern. It was not high, but it was elevated and had risen one and one half points in eighteen months. That is considered a rapid rate of increase in PSA land. My doctor suggested that I see a urologist and have a biopsy done just to be sure that prostate cancer was not present. It would be several weeks before the urologist could see me and perform the biopsy. The results of the biopsy confirmed that cancer was present in the prostate and that it was aggressive. The urologist immediately scheduled a CT scan and a bone scan to determine that the cancer was limited to the prostate and had not spread anywhere else. The bone scan came back clear. However, the CT scan showed a large mass in my abdomen that was suspicious. I thought, “Well, now we know why I’ve been having trouble losing weight.” The next step suggested by the urologist was for me to have a CT guided biopsy to determine if there was any cancer on this mass. Again, there was a waiting period of several weeks. The waiting is the hard part.
The CT guided biopsy was performed and the results indicated that the large mass was a soft tissue sarcoma. Sarcoma is the medical politically correct term for cancer. So, I’m batting two for two. My next stop would be to visit with an oncology team to determine the best treatment. After their review of my situation it was determined that the prostate cancer could be successfully treated with radiation, but the sarcoma was blocking access to the prostate and would have to be removed first which means another appointment with another doctor in several weeks. My urologist made several phone calls to local surgeons about removing the sarcoma, but none of them were comfortable doing surgery on such a large mass and suggested that I travel to the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock to see an expert in the field. This journey started in March with a routine physical. It is now mid-September and there will be another wait.
To be continued…next week…
This week is a freedom of choice week at 4M so I can share anything that my heart desires. Several months ago I downloaded Spotify and it has become my musical new best friend. I listen to it when I ride my stationary elliptical. I listen to it when I am reading something on the net. I listen to Spotify when I am doing chores or working on a project around the house. I love the Daily Mix that they come up with, but I also have a couple of my own playlists that I listen to frequently. I think I’ll share a couple of songs from my personal playlists.
Country music from the 90’s is among my favorite listening experiences. One of my favorite artists was John Berry. This song speaks to me in a special way because I believe the the Creator of this universe placed a special person in my life. This May will mark our 46th wedding anniversary and the journey that we have been on this this past year I can honestly say that the only one who loves me more, is my Savior. Her love amazes me every day.
A contemporary Christian song comes to mind when I think about some of the days and nights that my wife and I have shared recently. Even if were days of fear, days of doubt or days of concern, my Savior and my wife were always there for me.
Have a blessed week.