Another Not So Great Day

Today has been another not so great day for Greg.  We slept pretty well last night, but he has felt really tired and weak today.  On Friday, his hemoglobin was low at 9 and today it was even lower at 7.   So, I think this may account for some of his weakness.  They usually don’t do a transfusion until the level reaches about a 6.  Today he was started on an iron supplement to see if that will help.  He also has a very poor appetite and has not been eating too much.  He did eat better at lunch today, but hasn’t wanted any supper yet.  He says that the medicine or something is making everything have a weird taste, so that doesn’t help to stimulate his appetite.

He also has a seroma that has developed in his groin area.  It is where a large catheter had been placed in a vein during surgery  to collect blood while Greg was on the bypass machine.  A seroma is a collection of fluid that seeps out after the surgery.  It causes and tenderness.  They have been putting warm compresses on it throughout the day, to try to reduce it.

Greg has been up in the chair and walking a good bit today.  We even went outside for about ten minutes, just for a change of scenery!  His pain medication has been changed from IV to oral.  He no longer has an IV at all.  Only lines left are for being hooked up to a heart monitor an oxygen saturation monitor when he is the room.  As of now, he is still scheduled to be discharged tomorrow.  Once discharged, we will go back to the hotel for several days until Greg feels ready to travel back home.

Please pray:

1. That Greg’s hemoglobin would increase (due to be checked again in the morning )

2. That Greg’s appetite would increase

3. That the seroma would resolve on its own with no need for intervention

4. That we would sleep well tonight

5. That Greg’s pain would be managed well with the oral medication

6. That the kids would be safe and healthy and have fun while we are away

Thanks again for faithfully praying for our family!!

Trusting His Plan,

Greg, Sandra, Katie, Emilie and Jacob

We Are In A Battle

So, we are in this battle against cancer.  The Lord has been dealing with Greg and I individually about “being in the battle”, “preparing/training for battle”, etc.  We realize that the enemy in this battle is not really the disease, but satan.  We know that sickness and death is a result of living in a fallen world.  We do not believe that this disease was given to Greg as a punishment.  We also believe that as Christ-followers,  NOTHING can come into our lives without God allowing it.  We may not know why He allowed it, we may not be too happy that He allowed it; but we believe that everything that happens to us is for our good and for His glory.  The outcome of the battle is not for us to decide….God is sovereign.  Our job is to fight this battle in a way that pleases the Lord, brings glory to Him and points others to Him.

One of the ways that God has been speaking to me about “being in the battle”, is through a book that I “just happened to” (I don’t think so!)  come across called “Beautiful Battlefields” by Bo Stern.  I haven’t finished the book yet, but it is about a lady and her husband who are in their own battle. Bo’s husband was diagnosed with ALS a couple of years ago.  I did an internet search for her and came upon her blog.  I’ve been reading through some of the archives, and came across this post.  It is so good and really puts into words some of the feelings that I have.  It is a little long, but I highly recommend you reading it whether you are in the midst of your own battle, gearing up for a battle, or just coming out of a battle.  Actually, I think that covers all of us!  Thank you for fighting WITH us and FOR us!        Bo’s website is www.bostern.com

Banquets & Bullets:

Three weeks ago, I received an invitation. It was engraved in gold on beautiful parchment and wrapped in ribbons the colors of fall, and I felt beautiful as I opened it. Just imagining that the kind of person who could create such a lovely invitation would also want to include me in the event gave me goosebumps and I couldn’t wait to see what it would say.

Well, I recognized the handwriting right away and my pulse quickened when I realized that I had been invited to a special dinner party. Now, if you know me, you know how I love a good dinner party and this friend’s cooking skills astound me every time. My eyes scanned the details as I raced to my calendar to mark the event, knowing I would happily drop all other plans to make this one happen. Event description, time, place…uh oh. My stomach dropped a little.

What a strange location for a dinner party.

I’ve been to parties at his house before, and we have him over all the time, but I have never gone to a party in exactly this neighborhood. Let me just be candid here: it’s not safe. It’s filled with crime and grime and all sorts of unsavory characters. Nearly every story of danger and intrigue seems to have some connection to this part of town. In fact, I’ve made it a rule not to hang out near this address and I would definitely never let my kids go.

I will have to send my regrets. It’s just not wise and frankly, it doesn’t seem fair that he would make his friends choose between time with him and their own personal safety.

And yet…

He’s a good friend. He’s been really loyal to our family through the years. Surely he considered this and he wouldn’t risk our lives just to throw a party, right? He must have a secure building or maybe a second home there.

The day of the event arrived and I got ready in anticipation of all the delights I would feast on and the conversation we would enjoy. It was going to be a grand evening, in spite of the awkward location. I would just drive there, park my car and run into the safety of the house.

It was late afternoon as I arrived at the outskirts of the neighborhood and what began as an uneasy feeling quickly became full fledged fear as I turned onto the street where my party would live. If it’s possible for one neighborhood to dim the light of the sun itself, this one had done it. Big guys in black seemed to lurk behind trees, waiting to pounce on innocent passers-by. But were there any innocents here? The place seemed to be crawling with dark and violent intentions. I wanted to turn my car around in the worst way…wanted to do anything other than go deeper into the heart of this danger, but something kept me moving toward the address on my invitation. Something kept my heart seeking safety in the middle of this madness.

My final turn, the address in sight, my mouth dropped open in utter disbelief. There would be no safe, warm house to run to.

My friend had set up a table in the middle of the street.

I kid you not, there was an actual banquet table, decked in fine china and crystal and linens and silver. Platters filled with every sort of delicacy circled a centerpiece dripping with flowers of every kind and color. It was a stunning display. Just stunning.

The sound of gunshots rang out in the distance pierced through my amazement at the beauty of the table and honestly made me begin to question the mental stability of my host. Why here? This stuff is all going to get ruined out here. People will steal it. People may even kill me to get to the crystal! I could feel my heart beating in my throat and the words that had been whispering in the back of my mind became a loud – nearly deafening – chant: I can’t stay, I can’t stay, I can’t stay. I almost turned my car around and raced for safety…but then I saw him.

He emerged from I-don’t-know-where and he was smiling the warmest smile and seemed so happy that I had come. I didn’t want to offend him, so I decided I would just stay long enough to ask him what kind of person throws a dinner party outside a crack house. Really, what kind of person does that?

He met me at my car which was a relief because I was afraid to get out. I thanked him for coming to get me and he smiled and said, “I wouldn’t want you to walk alone through this neighborhood.”

Well, good. At least he understands my safety concerns. I seized on this and said, “Um, yeah. This is an odd place to meet, don’t you think?”

He chuckled softly as he pulled my chair out for me and replied, “You know, yes, I suppose it is. But it’s still one of my favorite places to have dinner with a friend. I don’t invite everyone to this place – only those I think might actually come.” He chuckled again at his own joke as he handed me a daisy from the fragrant display. “Nothing cements a friendship like a banquet amidst bullets, don’t you think?”

Did I think? No, I did not. My exact thought was, Nothing makes one friend question another friend’s sanity like inviting them to a dinner they have to risk their lives to find. That was my very thought and with every frightening noise, I fought the urge to run. The problem? My friend is a big guy and a good fighter, so to run for safety would also mean running from safety.

As he began filling plates with food I had yet to really see, he hummed cheerfully and asked about my day. I tried to act normal because he was acting normal but at one point a bullet literally whizzed by my left ear and I jumped in my seat. He looked up – looked me right in the eyes – and said, “You need to look at me. Only me.”

Finally, my emotional reserve was tapped out and I felt tears threatening to spill over onto my beautiful linen napkin and I said honestly, “But really, why? Why do we have to meet here? Couldn’t we meet at my house or at your house? I mean, this dinner is lovely but it’s hard to enjoy when I’m fearing for my life.”

Again with the smile. “That’s why you need to look at me, then you won’t fear for your life. I will keep you safe and so will they – it’s up to you whether or not you enjoy this dinner.”

“They?” I asked, looking around and hoping for an army of Green Berets or Navy SEALS. Nope. I saw people I hadn’t seen before – but they weren’t soldiers, they were just regular people doing pretty regular things. A guy mowing a lawn. A woman having coffee with a friend. A grandma with a Bible and a lap top.

“They’re the fighters,” he said.

As if on cue, I watched an arrow zing out of a bow and I saw my life flash before me as the fiery little missile rocketed toward my heart. Just then, the grandma reached out and snatched it in midair. With nearly imperceptible speed and skill, she notched it into her bow and shot it back at the one who had launched it at me. I heard him gasp and saw him clutch his chest as he fell dead in the bushes behind my table.

Suddenly, my eyes were open to see this incognito army, moving at ninja speed and turning back my enemy’s advances in the nick of time, every time.

“Who are they?” I asked in awe of their skill and grace.

Eyes twinkling, he said, “Look more closely.”

Now my tears fell freely as I began to recognize them. My sisters. My dad. My pastor. A friend I haven’t seen since college. I paused and tried to put a name to one of the faces. “I don’t think I know her,” I whispered.

“No. Some you know and some you don’t. But all of them are fighting so you can stay here with me.”

I started to rise from my chair, saying, “No, I need to go help them!”

His big hand rested over the top of my small, shaking one, stopping me. “No. There’s a time for fighting and a time for feasting. This is your time to feast. The fight will still be there when we’re done.”

“But how will I ever pay them back?” I murmured, feeling more humbled than I have ever felt in my life.

This time, he let out a full laugh that sounded like bells on Christmas morning, “Oh, Bo, that’s the beauty – the absolute, unimaginable beauty – woven into the very fabric of the kingdom. Some of them have asked that exact same question about you, and that’s why they’re here.”

I peered out again into the battlefield and the pages of their stories opened like a book in front of me. I remembered the heat of their battles – a child lost, a husband gone, a sickness faced – and remembered being a tiny part of the army that kept them safe and brought them home. “What about the others?” I whispered, “the ones I haven’t fought for?”

“They’re just fighters,” he said simply.

“But why would they do this for me? Why would anyone fight for someone they don’t even know?”

“Because,” he said, passing me a platter of Twinkies, “everyone was made for both fighting and feasting. Those who never fight waste away and those who never feast….waste away.”

It began to make some sense. Finally, I was understanding just a corner of his reasoning and I found myself beginning to relax and fall into the comfortable rhythm of conversation that we have enjoyed in more peaceful times. As my fear fell, I looked around at the neighborhood again and noticed beauty I had missed when I had first arrived. The colors of fall were everywhere. The lights were going on in some houses and casting a warm glow into the surrounding streets. Before long, the sights and smell of battle faded into a distant dream as I settled into a long talk over coffee with my dinner date. We talked about nothing and everything. Hopes and dreams. Joy and sorrow. Fear and faith and the future. As the fighters helped silence the sounds of the enemy, I could hear my dear companion clearly and his words were as nourishing as the food on my plate.

“So, really,” I asked at the end of the night, “Why here?”

An enemy soldier fell dead not twenty feet from our table and my friend glanced over, smiled and said, “That’s why. It’s not his neighborhood, he only fights here. I want to remind him his time here is short.” Then he turned back to me and added, “And I wanted you to know that if we can be friends here, we can be friends anywhere.”

I went home safe, satisfied and filled with hope.

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies…” Psalm 23:5

Surrounded By Scripture

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Greg and I just finished reading through some scripture cards that our family and friends made for us.  So many people took the time to write out these cards for us to bring to Houston with us, and today is just one of the times that we have pulled them out and gained encouragement from them.  I just LOVE God’s Word!!

God’s Word is PEACE.

God’s Word is ENCOURAGEMENT.

God’s Word is COMFORT.

God’s Word is JOY.

God’s Word is COURAGE.

God’s Word is STRENGTH.

God’s Word is CALMING.

God’s Word is WISDOM.

God’s Word is GUIDANCE.

God’s Word is HEALING.

To all of you that blessed us by sharing God’s Word…….THANK YOU!!

Greg has had a good day today!  Out of bed a lot and walking the most that he has since the surgery.  He is pretty tired now and is just taking it easy.  The surgeon came in this afternoon and is really pleased with Greg’s progress.  He said that they would begin the transition from IV to oral pain meds soon.  He even mentioned a possibility of Greg being discharged tomorrow, but it will probably be Monday as long as he keeps progressing as he is.  Praise God for His goodness and for answering so many of our specific prayer requests!  Thank YOU for interceding on our behalf!  He is faithful and He is good!

Trusting His Plan,

Greg, Sandra, Katie, Emilie and Jacob

Busy Morning

Last night was a better night.  We both got more sleep than the previous two nights.  Greg got up around 3am to go to the bathroom and decided that while he was up, he would go ahead and do some walking.  He made a couple of laps around the floor, then back to bed. 

The doctor came in this morning and removed his chest tube and the pacing wires…that means NO pacemaker….thank you Jesus!!!  Only tube left now is one IV!  Did more walking this morning.  Vital signs continue to be good.  Continues with some pain, but it is manageable with medications.  Also has had a headache today.  All in all, a better day than yesterday!

Greg’s parents and the kids came by for a couple of hours, before leaving for the airport for their flight home.  Hopefully, it won’t be too many more days until we will be headed home ourselves!

Thank you for your continued prayers:

1. That all make the flight home today and that it all goes smoothly.

2. That Greg continues to feel well and develops no other complications.

3. That Greg would be well enough to be discharged on Monday.

Trusting His Plan,

Sandra

Not A Great Day

Been meaning to post an update since last night, but never seems to be the right time.  Greg got moved to a regular room last night and was doing well.  We slept better last night than the previous night in ICU; although still a good many interruptions.

Today was not the best day for Greg.  The morning started out okay, but he started feeling worse as the day progressed.  Early in the day he felt really short of breath with tightness in his chest.  They called in respiratory therapy and gave him a breathing treatment.  That seemed to help.  As the day went on, he just generally felt bad.  Headache, weakness, a little nausea, pain, etc.  He is in bed for the night now and seems to be resting more comfortably.

He did get some walking in today, sat up in the chair a good bit and ate a little.  He also had some lines/tubes removed and now is down to just one IV, the chest tube, and the temporary pacing wires for his heart.  There is a possibility that the chest tube will be removed tomorrow.  The pacing wires will stay in place until the day of discharge….”just in case”.

Thanks again for your support and prayers for our family.  These are our current requests:

1.  That Greg and I would get some good rest tonight.

2. That Greg would feel better tomorrow and be able to get up and about more, and feel like eating more.

3.  For the kids and Greg’s parents as they fly home tomorrow.  I know it will be difficult for the kids to leave their Dad.

4. For minimal pain, especially when the chest tube is removed.

5. For there to be no need for a blood transfusion or pacemaker.

We appreciate you guys SO much!

Trusting His Plan,

Greg, Sandra, Katie, Emilie and Jacob

First Day Post-Op And Doing Great!

Well, last night was a night of very little rest for both Greg and I.  Lots of coming and going from the staff, lots of beeps and buzzes, and a good bit of pain for Greg.  Besides all of that, he had a good night.  I got maybe an hour and a half of sleep….in about ten minute increments, but am grateful that I could be here.  They ask for no visitors from  7-10 am, so I went back to the hotel and slept for about an hour, got a shower and something to eat.  When I got back to the hospital, Greg was sitting up in a chair.  He had even walked a few steps down the hall!!  He stayed in the chair for two hours, then back to bed.  They came in and took the catheter out of his neck…yeah for one less tube!  He has been able to have water to drink today and will get clear liquids later.  They are also planning to move him out of ICU to a regular room sometime today!  His pain continues but has been manageable with the medication.  Lots of dozing today…often drifting off in the middle of a conversation!  He’s also provided me and the kids with a few laughs with his frequent random thoughts!

Will try to update later this evening.  Thanks again for all of your prayers, thoughts and encouraging words.  I’m sorry that I can’t reply to everyone’s responses, emails, messages, etc, but I feel sure that you understand!  🙂

Trusting His Plan,

Sandra

Last Update For The Day

Wanted to let you all know that Greg has been in ICU since around 3:00. He is doing well and continues to remain stable. He has had considerable pain, especially after the first breathing exercises, but for the most part the pain has been managed pretty well. God is SO good……I have been able to be with Greg the entire time that he’s been in ICU! Everyone that was here for the surgery was able to come back and visit with him as well. We had to leave the room from 6-8pm for shift change, but that was it. They are even allowing me to stay overnight! Thank you, thank you for praying specifically for our requests!!
 
We did get one bit of bad news. The cells were not harvested for the TIL clinical trial as we had asked. There were things that happened in the surgery that caused the cells not to be able to be harvested.  We are disappointed about this, but we understand and agree that the most important thing was taking care of Greg’s immediate needs. If the Lord wants us to pursue this particular trial, I’m sure that He will make a way for us to obtain the tumor sample that is needed, possibly through the tumor in Greg’s thigh.
 
Please continue to pray for the following:
 
1. The kids were having a bit of a rough time tonight. They were really upset about having to leave Greg. I think a lot of it is that they are just emotionally worn out, not to mention being pretty tired from such a long day. It was also quite distressing for them to see their Dad in this condition, ie..in pain, very lethargic, lots of tubes, blood, etc. They all commented on how much better he looked when they told him goodbye, as compared to when they first saw him after surgery. 
 
2. That the next few days will prove that a pacemaker is not needed.
 
3. That a blood transfusion will not be needed.
 
4. That Greg’s pain will continue to be at a manageable level and that he will get some good rest tonight.
 
5. That I would be able to get some rest tonight, so that I will be the help to Greg that he needs me to be.
 
Thank you all once again for faithfully praying for our family. Your prayers are so evident by the peace that we continue to feel in a very difficult situation. We are SO thankful for the Lord’s goodness to us today!
 
It is now 11pm, and Greg is sleeping.  I am going to try to do the same!
 
Trusting His Plan,
Sandra
 

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