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Thursday, October 28, 2010

First follow up appointment #Entry 37

We are back from St.John's and my first follow up appointment with the radiation oncologist.
(8 hrs round trip,two hour wait,7 minutes with the Doctor!)

When I was ushered into the exam room it was similar to the first time I visited the Health Science Cancer Clinic in that a host of people,(although a smaller group), joined the doctor to have a look. Another similarity was in the reality,that once again we were waiting for some news about my future.
Accompanying Dr. Saythya was Dr. Smith,who provided an ENT consult,a student,and a nurse practitioner who works with the radiation department. I really wasn't expecting to hear a lot,because up to this point I haven't had any extra tests done. Nevertheless,It was good to see the doctor and hear what he had to say.

Both Dr. Saytha and Dr. Smith had a look down my throat,and agreed,that while things look promising,it is far too early to make any pronouncement about how successful things have been.
I am okay with that. I felt much better after seeing the Doctors,and left with hope.
It's amazing how stressful it is before an appointment,and waiting to hear some results. I remember,years ago when Dad was seeing the cancer clinic in St. John's how we used to feel after every CT scan. We were so anxious to know what to expect.

Well, the shoe is on the other foot now,and some one waits with me to hear the news.
Another appointment has been made,and I am waiting for an appointment for a CT scan or MRI within the next six weeks.

I have to express again and again how thankful I am for the support which has held us up,and still does. From a solid reassurance of prayer and love,to financial support,and countless emails and letters of encouragement,God has been present through you all to bless and heal. I will never be able to thank everyone individually,but we will try!

How am I doing?
I am doing better. The Doctor has told me to start eating,regardless of the pain in my mouth and throat. This is important to prevent the scar tissue caused by the radiation from tightening and constricting the passage. So, I am trying a little harder every day.
I am still underweight,get tired easily and some days I get emotional with thanksgiving or even just a feeling of being overwhelmed. BUT..I always feel the love projected towards me.
My appetite comes and goes,and eating is a real,painful challenge. Along with the pain,food has absolutely no taste at all.
When I try to walk,I get dizzy and weak. I am also getting a bit frustrated because there is so much I want to do,and can't quite get to it yet. I ask God to grant me the patience,and for folks to bear with me a little longer! I take that as a good sign!
I can live with a bit of pain,and I am determined to "get back" to the gift that is my life,as soon as I can.

I am also thankful to those who take the time to read this blog. It has been helpful to me,especially in light of all the cards,notes and emails I have received because of it. It has become (as I have prayed) A tool and means by which God could bless and encourage His people. After I have completed it,I will make arrangements for copies to be available. Thank you everyone,for your hands,hearts and minds with us. We have and still do need you!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some Shared Thoughts Entry #36

Some Shared Thoughts
We have been home from St. John’s for two weeks now. It seems like forever. Ending up in hospital in Gander certainly put a whole new slant on things:
While it was difficult and frustrating to realize that I could (and WAS) getting sicker, I am now at home with a focus on getting better that I could not have reached without help.

The last couple of days I have been reflecting upon this whole journey.
Oh how I wish there could be something else in the day besides thinking about the chemotherapy that has made me so sick and the radiation which still burns my flesh. Ever since my diagnosis I had to go to war with cancer. Every single day it’s in my face. Well, right back at you Cancer. I haven’t forgotten that every drop of poison and every moment of radiation means there is part of my life that you cannot have.

Right from the beginning of this tumultuous journey, it was my goal to never allow the “polite silences of cancer” to become part of my life. One Sunday morning just before service Revd. Brian and I were in the vestry preparing for worship. He was asking me about my nagging sore throat. “Brian,” I responded:” I’m not fooling myself. This could be serious. I think Cancer has come to St. Martins .Lets ask God to help us figure this out.”
Revd. Brian was about to be asked to carry my torch for a while. He has done so faithfully and lovingly.
Because of my love for the Church, I determined from the beginning to share this journey with God’s people. I honestly believed (and still do) that God would use this as a healing and teaching time for his beloved people. I wanted my cancer to have some meaning, a heart, and if possible – a smile and a hope
Thanks be to God because:
- The response from St. Martins and the outside community has shown this to be true. The power of love, prayer and generosity has been amazing. What have we unlocked in our Church? The Love of God!
- The blessings bestowed upon me from the doctors, nurses and other cancer caregivers is something I could never know without this dreaded companion.
- The faithfulness and presence of my wife through every moment is something I will forever be thankful for.
Indeed: More than I could ask or imagine

But I am human too. Believe me.
How many times in the quiet of treatment, or in fear of what the MRI or CT scans....have I prayed Please.... Please...God – here I am. I need you.

It is vital for people who suffer to remember how important it is to keep a positive attitude through your illness and treatment.
It is equally important to accept the fact that cancer (and other things) can be hard, depressing and scary ,and that it is okay to have bad days. It’s okay to have different emotions – and you are NOT letting God or anyone else down, by admitting it.

I have an appointment with Dr. Sathya next week. He is the Radiation Oncologist who directed the radiation portion of my treatments. I’ll be very interested in what he will have to say to us. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.
Love ,and Peace, Always.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back in Hospital Entry #35

Well. Well.
Wednesday night was just getting started,and I was running a temp,the night wasn't full of promise,but I but still felt that maybe by tomorrow I would be doing okay. Our friend Joni drops in with the news that my latest blood test was showing lower numbers still – all around.
You must come to the Cancer Center tomorrow for blood.
I know she is right. I had been harbouring what I can only describe as a low, sickly feeling. And I really knew that it was taking far too long to recover this time; my heart is slowing starting to hurt because it senses I am on a slippery slide heading back to the hospital. I was right.
When we got to the clinic and were settled in the bed, with blood cultures done, I was given two units of blood. After a time Dr. St. Croix comes to share the news that the blood cultures show no strange activity but there is confirmation of a bladder infection. The only cure was intravenous antibiotics , and in her gentle but firm way, I will have to be admitted to get all of this under control. I know she is right. She has been always, gently firmly and blessedly accurate in all her dealings with me and I trust her absolutely.
With a stiff upper lip, we head upstairs to see our old friends on the medical unit.
As always these nurses are God blessings upon a weary body and soul.

But That's not all this week had in store for me.
Through the past week me ole bum was getting tender. On the left cheek, a tenderness grew into a visible spot which became larger and larger. The hospital staff dealt with it right away with a big bandage, and by telling me to stay off it; I am thankful that I have just regained the ability to sleep on my sides again. On Thursday thought i just might be feeling the twinges of something on my right bum cheek. I passed it off as quickly as possible, because the very idea of an abscess forming in the midst of all this was unthinkable. On Friday its prescence was known to me and i intended to speak to Dr. St Croix about it, but she left before I was able. By Saturday evening it was noticeable.(a very scary feeling for me –one of these alone is more than enough to put you in hospital) But, thanks be to god it broke while I was sitting up. Made quite a mess, but after all was cleaned up we thanked the good Lord that surgery would not be required.

So here I am on Monday the 18, with Karen, back in hospital, waiting to get home. We hope to be there soon. Maybe tomorrow?
Places and times like this can be a real oasis on a long and troubled journey. Karen and I were talking and I said "We probably won’t see any visitors tonight will we?"
"John this is just what you needed. This is the first night you have been conscious since we have been here." She was right- almost every hour I have spent in this period of isolation, I have been sound asleep.
So I wait upon the Lord, expecting a re-charge that is both physical and spiritual.
On Tuesday we went home.
I am feeling better ,Thank the Lord for His Mercies -,and all my friends for your prayers

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First days back home (entry 34)

Today is Tuesday October 12.
I am just beginning to feel that I am going to come out of this blackness.
My daily routine has been very similar -sleep when you can,eat when you can , read and pray. Just as I was told, the effects of the treatments have became more and more pronounced as the days passed.

I hope I have reached a turning point ....We shall see.

It is hard to explain just how difficult it is to accept and journey through the treatments. There is just so much to consider. When someone has cancer in the throat there are unique problems. Radiation and Chemotherapy quickly drains your body of energy, steals your appetite, and causes damage to healthy tissue as well as diseased tissue. The tissues in the throat are very sensitive,and before long (depending on the strength of the treatments) you are in a fair amount of pain. You can't eat anywhere near the amount of calories you need, So on it goes. Your body needs nutrition now like never before, but at the same time,your body makes it difficult. One evening,I was very pleased with myself because I was able to get everything I needed through my feeding tube. A couple of hours later,I lost everything down the toilet. That was very hard to deal with emotionally.

Through the stages of life we all need healing. In my experience as a priest,I have met many wounded people who need to be healed not only from different kinds of disease, but of memories,guilt,remorse, fear,unforgiveness.....This list can grow quite long!

The very thing that makes us unique and beautiful ,makes us complicated as well.

That is because God has made us to be a "threefold being". We are made up of Body,Mind and Spirit. There are lots of Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible that we can draw on to learn more about this,but there is really no need to make it complicated.

Each part of who we are needs care and nurture to remain strong and healthy,because without all three we are not complete persons.

Often I am given the privilege to "come alongside" and walk with a person as Priest and friend. Usually this happens when someone who is physically ill, overcome by daily life,or spiritually unsure calls for help. I try to make sure people understand just how "God has made us",so that healing (which constantly flows around us) is possible.

Throughout this entire battle,I have done my best to focus on God's love and healing.

I have tried not to get angry at God.

I have tried to keep a positive attitude.

I have tried as a Priest to meet what I know is my responsibility

to proclaim and witness to the faithfulness and Love of God.

I find that in times of weakness and despair,all I have to do is "let it go" because I know that the Church,Cancer Clinic , my family,friends,and a host of witnesses were there to carry me through.

Through every moment Karen has been there with me,in Body,Mind and Spirit.

In just a few weeks I will be able to share the results of my treatments with you.
Peace and Health be yours!

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Home (Entry 33)

Last Radiation Treatment
On Friday October 1 we went to the Cancer Center for my last radiation treatment. Rather than leave right away for Gander,we decided to spend two more nights,so Karen could have Saturday with Joshua and Emma,and I could prepare for the trip home.

Believe me,that wasn't as easy as it sounds. The process of the Chemotherapy and Radiation is marching on,and I don't expect any respite within the next two or three weeks.
My present weight is 135 lbs

Friday Afternoon found me tired,hurting,and nauseous. I went to bed,and pretty much had to stay there until the evenings when our dear friend from Gander came and hooked me up to an I.V. to get some fluids and medications into my body.
On Sunday morning,fortified with Gravol and a few other anti nausea drugs, I gingerly made my way to the car,covered up in my blanket,and prayed that the dizziness would settle down.

By the time we got to the divided highway, I was feeling much better. I took Karen's hand for a squeeze and said "We are going home." Simple words yes,but they filled us both with emotion and hope. I fell asleep not waking until just outside Clarenville. By the time we reached Terra Nova Park,I was sleeping again.

So,we are home. Back in Gander,and I don't have to head out over the road again this week! Thanks be to God.
Remember what St. Paul Said to Timothy? :
I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.

I know the course is not yet completely run, but finishing those treatments is a major step in my healing. I know I have been blessed,wrapped in the arms of Love,extended by Jesus and the Father,through His Church - Through all of you.

Another Amazing Blessing.
I have written about my Grand Children, Joshua 7,Emma 4 (almost 5) and ,Delilah, 21 months
Delilah lives away,and is still far too young to understand what is happening to her Grandfather.
We spent several weeks in and out of Torbay while I was undergoing treatments,and stayed with our Daughter Chanda,and son in Law Jason. It was a real blessing for us to be with them during this time. My schedule of appointments was determined day by day,so we never really knew in advance when I would have to go to the hospital. We did go every day,sometimes as many as three times.
Joshua and Emma have been nearby ever since they were babies. Even when the family moved to Torbay,they have been with us regularly,whenever they can. They both adore Karen,who gives them as much time,love and attention as she can pack into each visit. Their energy levels are quite high!
Joshua and Emma are at the stage where they are old enough to ask serious questions,and young enough to accept simple,honest answers. "Is Pop going to die?" was one of them.
Young children are emotionally honest. They express their true feelings freely and spontaneously. For that reason,we explained as best we could what was happening with Pop. They watched me use my feeding tube,take my medications,receive an I.V.
Sometimes they would very quietly sneak down to my room,for a little cuddle,or to give me a blanket and say "I Love you Pop." When they were around me,I believe the Lord bestowed upon them a spirit of gentleness and healing that they passed on to me.
It was amazing how gentle and loving they were. Just like Jesus.