If you live in the South, you’re probably enjoying the ramifications of the 1-3″ of snow that sheeted our region this week. We just learned that the kids are out of school again, and so they’re planning play dates and a potential trip to the movie theater. Obviously, staying safe is critical at times like these…
My last post was meant to be pure information delivery, as a lot was going on and I didn’t want to make you read a short-story. However, based up some of the responses I received, I think it came across more somber than intended. Look, I’m fine, folks, really. It ain’t always easy, but I promise every day I find reason to smile and be thankful. I mean it.
You’ll recall that over the holidays I had a few incidents of my internal plumbing clogging up. My oncologist took me off treatment for a cycle and put me on steroids in hopes that the inflammation seen on a CT scan would resolve and relieve my symptoms. However, even after a subsequent scan revealed that the steroids have been effective, the GI doctor still wants to perform surgery to address a kink in my small bowel and other issues, and he wanted to do so immediately. As in, it should have already happened. The big problem with having my abdomen cut open again, though, is that it might entail my being off treatment for 4 to 6 weeks. Even if this is deemed a safe time period from a disease progression standpoint, added to the 4 weeks I had already been off treatment, it is likely that I would have been withdrawn from the experimental drug study. And this means I would no longer be eligible for the current treatment. This just can’t happen.
So, the latter part of last week found me on the phone or emailing the medical people in Houston, Nashville, and Athens, obtaining medical records from the hospital and faxing or shipping them to the appropriate individuals, and generally spending at least 50% of my mental capacity on personal health care. However, from an eating standpoint, the situation improved. I’m not able to eat a full diet, but I’m not wasting away on clear liquids either, so I think the GI doctor’s urgency is not an emergency. I had decided to *not* schedule surgery but rather implored my oncologist to treat me this week. I must have sounded frantic, although I thought I was as calm as possible; one of the research nurses called me last Thursday and suggested, with zero humor, that I take a Xanax. Ha.
Well, I didn’t heed her advice. But that night, a group of about 10 men gathered in my basement to fellowship and to pray for each other. There was the requisite focus on me because of the current situation, but it was fulfilling to hear about the struggles of others and pray with them and their families as well. And, yet, it seemed somewhat strange that a group of grown men would love on each other like that and would petition an invisible but loving God for help in difficult times. This isn’t common, I don’t think, at least it isn’t something people talk about much publicly, and it certainly isn’t newsworthy. But it was reassuring to remember that men (and women) have been gathering in like fashion for over two thousand years. And we believe prayer works.
On Sunday, Kim, Caroline (daughter, 14), and I made the 300 mile trip to Nashville without event. We had a nice meal at the Stillery on 2nd Avenue (yes, Scott C, we finally went…they were out of T-shirts or I’d have bought you one). We stayed at the beautiful Union Station Hotel (the former 19th century Nashville rail station), and had breakfast at the Sky Blue Cafe, a hip joint in East Nashville that we have fallen in love with. Then we went to Tennessee Oncology for my bi-weekly appointment. I told the nurses, the physician’s assistant, and my doctor my story. They listened to me, but, mostly I think, they looked at me; appearance says a lot, too. I suppose I looked fit enough, because they hardly touched me, though they did have to stick an IV in me because I no longer have the icky port in my chest that was making me sick. And then they treated me and sent me home with a new box of pills to take every day.
So, for now, it is soft foods, whatever I can tolerate, and we’ll decide about the surgery in due course. I actually haven’t heard a peep from either surgical team (Athens or MD Anderson), so I wonder if I’ve successfully complicated matters. But it will work itself out, and we’ll plan the procedure so that it won’t put my treatment regimen at risk; as far as we can tell, the drugs are still doing their job, and that really is what is most important. I can eat a lot of soup and rice if it means another birthday. And wine is still on the menu, too, which, on this cold night by the fire, is helping “to gladden the heart of man” (Psalm 104:15). There’s a scripture verse for you .
Note: the featured image is of Caroline threatening us with a snowball from atop the parking deck by the Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.