Archive for the 'Ailments' Category

The Flesh is Perverse

Our human body is a marvel, to be sure, but it’s also perverse, given to auto immune disorders wherein it attacks itself with its own antibodies intended to defend against outside invaders — like Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, CREST syndrome….

Or, an even better example, cancer, where some region of cells will suddenly start growing all out-of-bounds and out of whack, distorting the organ or tissue where they begin until it can no longer function properly.

Recently an even more egregious aspect of this perversity has emerged in the results reported in a newly released study on the effectiveness of chemotherapy. You probably know that there are various kinds of chemo drugs — powerful toxins — developed and administered to cancer patients with the intent that these toxins will target the cancer cells and kill them. And so they do.

The first time around.

But often after the first round has been successful and the cancer has been eradicated, at some point it will return in the same or a new location. In the case of my mother, the first cancer cells developed in her breast. Surgery, chemo and radiation treatments resulted in her being pronounced “cancer free” some eight months after the cancer was first discovered. But only six months later, it returned, this time in her thigh bone.

This is so common an occurance that at a routine post-cancer visit, the minute she mentioned having pain there — after we’d spent three months going to various other doctors for answers — her oncologist sat up straight and took strong notice. He ordered an immediate CAT scan and sure enough, the cancer was back.

Scientists have long sought to understand why, especially since cancer cells outside the body are so easily killed. Apparently they have finally discovered some answers.

Turns out that while the initial round of toxins are killing the tumors, they are also affecting the healthy cells that surround the tumor, changing their DNA, and provoking them into eventually releasing “a protein that sustains tumour growth and resistance to further treatment.” This protein, called WNT16B, “interacts with nearby tumor cells, [causing] them to grow, invade, and importantly, resist subsequent therapy.”

“‘The increase in WNT16B was completely unexpected,” study co-author Peter Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle told AFP.”

Indeed, who would expect our own bodies, already killing themselves with the mad growth of cancer cells, to use the intended cure to actually help the mutated cells survive and prosper? Typical of the flesh, though, and the way so many of us, when in its grip, attack our own lives, tormenting ourselves with self-debilitating thoughts, or self-destructive behaviors.

I do not believe this is coincidence, but rather a vivid illustration of the death and perversity that lives in our bodies — the outer man, which is decaying even now — and yet another reason to give thanks for the new life we have received through faith in Christ, that inner man which has the potential of being renewed day by day, regardless of what’s happening to our flesh.

Ups and Downs and an Obsession

Well, the second week of my recovery wasn’t quite as “good” as the first. Probably I was expecting too much. Or doing too much.

Anyway, I felt both better and worse.  Maybe it was the susiding of the initial pain of the incisions healing that made other… discomforts more noticeable.

In any case, I was more tired and seemed to be more bothered by my discomforts. Since, as I wrote last week, I had read about the need to rest after a major surgery, I decided to do more resting. I can’t really describe the discomforts I was having, because it wasn’t exactly pain, but sometimes was, and then it seemed like gas, or maybe something else… at one point I even thought I had developed a bladder infection.

While I was dithering around on Thursday, trying to decide if I needed to call the doctor, God arranged for the nurse from our health insurance “nurseline” to do her last follow up call. She told me to go ahead and call the doctor’s office and let them decide.

They had me come in the next day to be tested and determined that I had no infection. It was just a case of  my various abdominal organs not working the way they normally do as a result of having to adjust to their new and unfamiliar configurationas a result of the surgery.

Well, that was a relief. Oddly, the day after I learned all that, most of my discomfort eased, so I guess my organs are a little more settled with their new digs now.

On Thursday I thought that I probably needed a book to read to keep myself lying down more than I was, and as the Lord would have it, when I went to the grocery store that morning, I happened to walk down the aisle that led to the books — something I rarely do, and there was a new Dean Koontz book sitting on the shelf. Only one. For $5.  I have never seen a Koontz book in that store (though, as I said I rarely peruse the book section).  That just seemed too fortuitous to ignore. So I bought it, went home and started reading it.

It worked. I think I lay on the couch pretty much all day. Except for when I was talking on the phone to the nurses and doctor’s office receptionists.

Oh, and the “Obsession” in my title? That would be with card making. On Thursday, having tired of reading after a day of it, I decided to sign up for an online card class called Clean and Simple Cardmaking. It was originally offered as an interactive, real time sort of class, that occurred every day for two weeks. After that it became independent study, where students could go at their own pace. Once you sign up for the class you have permanent access to all the instructions, videos, forums and galleries.

I have long thought it would be fun, but didn’t want to get stuck in a real time class where I would feel like I had to attend every day, causing other things … like writing … to fall by the wayside. I thought this might be a fun way to get my toes wet.


So I’ve gone through the first two classes, over a period of 4 days, and have made 9 cards, with one more in progress. I’ve been obsessed. I think it’s sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle when you reach that point when all the pieces start going together and you just can’t stop yourself because as soon as you start to get up you see where yet another piece goes….

Only with the cards, you get another idea for something to do either on the card you’re currently working on or one of the three that you’ve set aside, or just had lying around or whatever. I guess I knew that it would be like this, because I told myself when I signed up that I would treat it like a class for the next four days but come Monday, I would have to go back to work again.

On Sky, that is. And probably the house as well… I feel recovered enough to start doing the housework again — I actually put the waterbed sheets on the bed myself today. I feel like I could probably handle Quigley on a walk, just don’t know if 3 miles would tire me out too much yet. In any case… tomorrow I get back to work. Cards will have to be for after hours or next weekend.

( Please try not to injure yourself while laughing at that last statement…)

Follow Up Appointment

Well, today I went for my ten-day follow-up appointment after the surgery. The doctor took off my waterproof bandages and removed a stitch or two, said all was healing up nicely.

In fact, he was surprised by how well I was doing.

He said that every day he sees multiple women who’ve had this same surgery — and I am way ahead of the curve in terms of recovery.  He was concerned though, that feeling as good as I do, I might easily overdo, and warned me to move slowly. Still… when I asked him what vacuuming might do to me (I slipped up and did it this morning… just couldn’t stand the crumbles of dog biscuit on the living room floor any more) he said I wouldn’t be doing any internal damage to the surgery healing, just that I might hurt my back.

Really? Hmm. I’ve had to watch out for my back for years, so maybe I can do a little more vacuuming after all.

So, clearly that is good news, as is the fact that the final pathology report showed no cancer. I just had the “complex hyperplasia with atypia” which is the fancy way of saying “pre-cancerous. Yay!  More answered prayers, so thank you all for lifting me up before our Father. 🙂

The main thing I’ve been noticing is that I seem to get REALLY tired… Of course, I’ve had a lot going in the last week: friends over for an afternoon, a day of driving across town to have lunch with my editor — a magical wonderful day, but when I got home I was totally blitzed. Even fell asleep in the middle of Bible Class which I almost never do.

Friday we attended a friends’ defense of her Master’s Thesis, and out to dinner afterward. Another amazing day… and when I got home… completely wiped out.

So today, with the doctor’s admonitions ringing in my ears, I wondered if this exceptional tiredness might be because of the surgery. So I just now looked it up and bingo!  From eHow’s “ What to Expect After a Hysterectomy“:

“You should expect to have a lower level of energy than you normally have. You may feel this way for up to two weeks.”

Well, I’ve got one week down, so maybe only one to go. We’ve been watching a lot of The Mentalist. 🙂

So that’s my first follow-up appointment report. I’m hoping to get back to work on Sky tomorrow.

A Dire Event Turns Into a Fun Weekend

Well, I’m probably overstating the “direness” of my event last weekend, but nevertheless, it seems generally that whenever the potential of having cancer is mentioned people take it as dire. Major surgery is, I suppose, regarded by most as dire, as well. Maybe I was just in denial but I don’t think so.  I’ve known for some time that God had complete control over the matter and I had none. Zip. Zero. Oddly, that realization is the one that most often gives me peace.

So, how did this “dire” event become a fun weekend? Well, the Lord just had a bunch of little and big blessings stacked in waiting to unfold.

It started with my son and daughter-in-law arriving with little Lily Thursday night. I kind of protested them making the rather large effort it is to pack all the paraphernalia that one must bring when traveling with a baby and spend about 8 hours driving over here after a full day of work… after all I was going to be in the hospital most of the time they would be here and what were they going to do? But they wanted to come, so I didn’t protest too much, because any chance to see them I am happy for.  In retrospect, I am so glad they came.

In the morning, they slept in, since I would be sequestered in the bowels of the hospital without visitation from about 5:30 when we arrived until about 10 when my surgery, slated to begin at 7:30, was to end. They planned to come sometime after 7:30 to be there at that time.

At 5:15am  I walked out of the house in the still dark wee hours of the morning and the first thing I saw was a huge full moon hanging low over the western horizon. Very cool.

When we arrived I was the first person to be escorted back to the preparation area — and into Rm #3. I have this game that I think God sometimes plays with me using the numbers —  3 is the number of God… so that was to me, a cool reassurance.

Overall, I was totally relaxed. I always seem to like my nurses and techs, and this time was no exception. Eventually they brought me into pre-op where the anesthesiologist introduced himself and told me all about what was to happen. Then we waited for the doctors to arrive. Mine was late, but at one point some random nurse, not the one caring for me, came by and told me I was really lucky, that my doctor was really good. “He’s a surgeon’s surgeon,” she said. I counted that another unexpected reassurance from the Lord.

Finally the doctor arrived, we talked a bit and then it was time. The anesthesiologist told me he was going to give me a light sedative before we left pre-op during which I’d still be awake so I could follow different commands to move from the gurney to the operating table, etc.  Well, awake or not, his words were the last thing I remember.

Next thing I knew I was waking up and being wheeled through the a hall, through a familiar double door to a familiar waiting room which was filled with people that I knew — my husband, son, daughter in law, grand-daughter and one of my closest friends. I got a room right by the nurses station with a view of the mountains. Room 1411.  Hmm. Three ones and a four. Four refers to God’s creation, the natural world – and by implication His power over it. And 3 and 4 make seven, the number of perfection. (Yes, I know, I’m weird. Really — it’s just a fun little game and keeps me amused in times like these.)

My husband and friend came in and I got the news — the surgery, ten minutes late to start had finished ten minutes early and “everything had gone exactly as it should go.” Plus, as I mentioned yesterday, they found no sign of cancer.

As my friend was leaving my son and his family came in and turns out they spent pretty much the whole day there, except for when they went out for lunch and dinner. And they brought Lily. I had not expected that, I guess because I had this idea that people just didn’t bring babies to hospitals if they didn’t have to. Plus I’d found out that my daughter-in-law’s mother and brother were in town that same weekend, so I figured she’d spend the day with them.

Thinking I probably wasn’t going to get to see much of her, I’d prayed in a random sort of way that “sometime” (like in the more distant future) I’d get some one on one time with her to just visit and get to know her better. But no way did I expect the Lord to answer that prayer the very next day. Yet that’s what He did. It was cool to sit there and realize He had done it, too. What a gift. She’s a very busy young woman, and doing a great job mothering Lily, too.

So, overall, a fun day of visiting, and watching Lily, who’s crawling now, and squeals like a dinosaur and just seems to be a generally cheerful child with lots of smiles and grins for everyone. Her two little teeth are sooo cute!

That night my son suggested we do a “Good Friday Service” wherein we all read aloud in turn a sequence of passages my d-i-l had assembled narrating Peter’s denials and Jesus’s death on the cross.

Saturday was a long process of the nurses making sure all my plumbing was working correctly and that I could eat without nausea. My biggest problem was the CO2 gas they pump into your abdomen to make the organs easier to see and deal with during surgery. They try to press some of it out but there’s still a lot left, which takes the body a few days to absorb and eliminate, through excretion or exhalation. It hurts, and moves around, and pushes on nerves that for some reason register pain in your neck and shoulders, even though there’s no gas there. And it makes it difficult to eat since you feel like there’s no room in your stomach for anything.

Eventually though, I was discharged and wheeled out to the hospital’s front entrance and the car (we laughed because for two days they’d been urging me to walk — which I’d been doing — to help mitigate the effects of the surgical gas, and now that I was leaving insisted I ride in the wheel chair.)

That night we watched my new favorite TV show, The Mentalist. My son had determined this that same morning by asking me about the shows I watched while he watched the monitor showing my pulse  and blood pressure. The Mentalist elicited the greatest increase in pulse, ergo it must be my favorite.

Then Sunday we all went to church together, which I don’t think has ever happened. That day, too, was a reunion of sorts for the members of the Sunday School class I taught for 14 years. Kids who started as toddlers, now grown, some of them engaged or married, and with kids of their own were there. One of them told me we had the largest number of them together since the class had disbanded some 10+ years ago. So that was pretty cool, too.

Afterward my husband took us out for Easter dinner, and then my d-i-l changed the sheets on our waterbed (which I’m not allowed to do since I’m not to lift more than 10 lbs for 4 weeks, nor strain my abdominal muscles) and my son vacuumed (another forbidden activity).  (I also can’t walk Quigley since he would definitely strain my abdominal muscles)

After that they left to drive back to southern California and I was just basking in the pleasure of it all. What a blessing it had all been. (So, if you’re reading, guys, thanks for coming out and providing such great support. It was greatly appreciated and enjoyed.)

Who would ever have thought the weekend of surgery would turn into such a wonderful set of memories?

Short Update

Hi everyone!  Thanks for your prayers and well wishes. The surgery went “exactly as it was supposed to go” (except faster) and I came home Saturday. No sign of cancer, only the pre-cancer stuff they’d already found.  We’re still waiting for the full pathology report, but I’ll take good news in whatever increments the Lord decides to present it. 

I’ll try to write a more detailed update tomorrow. Somehow the Lord took what most would consider a “dire” event and made it into a fun weekend…

Catching Up

So, where have I been the last seven-plus days? Well, after the last post about my trip to the zoo, I actually got down to business and worked on Sky for three hours every day for the next three days. Then came Saturday, which was filled with many things that did not concern writing. Sunday was our first of the month pot luck at church and the transfer of a telescope from my carport to my car to the car of the friend who will be taking it home to keep and enjoy.  I came home and crashed, exhausted.

Monday I went to the hospital to do the check-in and pre testing for my surgery, set for this Friday. That took a couple of hours. No writing on that day, either. Tuesday I focused on catching up on housework and preparing for visitors. Today, Wednesday I continued the catch up and preparations, plus I have a standing lunch date with friends that lasts the afternoon. 

Tomorrow I might actually be able to get around to writing since I should be home for most of the day drinking my clear liquids and eating my jello in preparation for the big day… Friday. Of course, no writing will occur Friday, nor for the rest of the weekend since my son and his family will be arriving tomorrow night to help out, provide moral support etc. Can’t wait to see them!

And now, seeing as the news is almost over and my eyes keep wanting to shut, I’d better sign off. I’ll be back in a few days with my report of whether all this went as smoothly as it was supposed to.

I Know the Plans That I Have for You

Well, I’m not sure why I haven’t been posting. Off the top of my head I’m not sure what all I’ve been doing. Working some on Sky, doing Morning Routines, making cards (I have a lot of friends and family with events in March), walking Quigley, going to the Y, doing Bible Class, thinking about Bible Class and writing in my journal…

I got my surgery date two days after I saw the GYN oncologist (see last blog post). It was for three weeks off (a little less than two weeks now as I write this), the only spot the doctor had open at my hospital of choice and with my regular gynecologist to assist. Even if I took the latter two out of the picture, the most I could have gained was four days earlier. So I was looking at much longer wait than I was anticipating.

During this time, Pastor John has been teaching about patience. About how patience is part of our calling, and part of our bringing glory to God — when we trust Him and wait patiently, without anxiety, tension or frustration, and then He comes through for us… that brings Him glory.

So it was pretty clear to me the moment the surgery scheduler told me it was going to be three weeks, that this was part of God’s training in developing patience. 

 The next day, after all the carrying on about cancer and talk of how this was going to be resolved quickly, I was a bit unnerved at the prospect that now I was going to have to wait three weeks. But I assured myself that the oncologist had my best interests in mind, and is an expert in this area. He’d looked at my charts and the tests and the ultrasound, and surely if he thought three weeks would lead to a major downturn in my status,  he’d not allow this to go that long. In fact, it’s likely he knew his schedule was full when we met, because when I suggested the possibility of surgery  “next week” he did NOT say it would be then. He said nothing. I started to take comfort in that…

And then realized how ridiculous I was being. Putting my trust in a mere man? What was I thinking? Yes, the doc probably does have my best interests in mind, more or less, but God absolutely and positively does, far more than any man ever could.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to His purpose.”   ~ Romans 8:28

“I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

He sent His Son to die for me. Of course He has my best interests in mind.

“If God is for us, who against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  ~ Romans 8:31b-32

What’s more, the doc might be able to make a good guess as to what’s going on in my uterus from the tests… but that’s all it is right now: a guess. He even said as much, adding we won’t really know what’s there until he does the surgery.

God, on the other hand, knows exactly what’s going on in there — now and in three weeks. God’s expertise — Omniscience — buries any paltry insights the doc may have gained over his years in the field.

Moreover, God could have provided a spot in the schedule far earlier, if that was the best thing; He could provide a cancellation, could have popped up a red flag, if there was trouble and we needed to get to the surgery sooner. He did not.

Because this is not about my physical condition. This is about teaching me to trust Him, to know Him, to wait in Him. To be at peace in Him.

Oh! But what if His will for me is to go through (fill in the most horrible outcome possible for the situation)?!

That morning as I had this thought… as this wretched thought wormed its way into my consciousness to torment me… I realized it was an old enemy. One that’s been a peace-killer for me my entire Christian life.

So I decided not to go down the path it was suggesting I take. Instead I told myself, “Why not wait until the event happens and then you can say, ‘This is horrible, but I know God wants me to go through it for my highest and best.’ That way I’d at least gain peace from it instead of giving myself the heebie-jeebies with something that is purely speculative.

It’s an evil arrogant thought, really. I presume to guess God’s will for me and I always malign Him when I do so, because it’s always something horrible. For example, I hear a noise when I’m home alone. And I think, Oh, no! Is that a burglar? And then, being a novelist and well versed in such things, I concoct an entire story wherein the burglar/rapist breaks in, attempts to assault me, I shoot him dead and then have to go to jail for murder where I am tormented by my fellow inmates so I can show the power of God in my strength and peace and joy.

Wow, it looks even more stupid and arrogant when I set it down like that than when I just think it. And how ironic that I’m scaring myself silly with a potential scenario I’m conjuring up as an avenue for me to bring God glory with my great strength and trust in Him. Something is not computing here.

And furthermore,  look how mean I’m making God out to be. Here we’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit as a manifestation of who God is — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — yet when I get in these situations the God I conjure up is stern, cruel, tight-lipped, legalistic.

“This is for your own good,” my imaginary God says. “All this stuff you don’t want to do, that’s what I have for you to do. And the things you love, and like to do — none of that. It’s only going to be hardness and sorrow and suffering for you.”

No room in that thinking for God wanting me to have an abundant life full of blessing. Or wanting to fill me with power and joy and peace.

So instead of trying to guess what awful thing this phony God I’ve created may have planned for me, I decided to concentrate instead on His goodness,  His grace and His kindness. On His faithfulness, and gentleness and love.

I’ll concentrate on the fact that He’s my loving Father who has everything under control. He knows exactly what’s going on in my body right now. He could speed it up or slow it down. He could take it all away in an instant. His timing is perfect.

In 2 Timothy 3:10, 11 Paul is talking to Timothy about all the trials and persecutions he’s gone through, and ends with, “and out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

Pastor John has recently spent a number of lessons on this verse. It’s one, says he, that applies to all of us as believers. And that’s to be the focus of my thinking, not my lame what-ifs.


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