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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A New Year Update

Just before Christmas 2010 I wrote about the latest "after treatment results". Since then I have made a number of overnight trips to St. John's for appointments at the Cancer clinic.

My first post treatment MRI was disappointing. It showed that there was very little shrinkage in the tumour. (Yes it is still called a tumour or "a mass"). The doctor's exam gave us hope that the cancer was gone - "However, a biopsy and surgery might still be a reality we would have to face".
"We need to keep a close eye on things."
That's what we have been doing since Christmas.

Christmas was Bittersweet. On the week before Christmas , (my Birthday) we held an open house. Karen cooked mountains of food,and some friends even sent along some treats. I wasn't able to do much more than sit and greet people. Folks understood though, and it was a wonderful day. We received a great number of people and much love through the day. Later that evening we were off to a friends for supper. I was exhausted so when we got there, I crashed on the couch, and enjoyed all the noise. It's amazing how comfortable a friend's couch can be!

Some of the members of our youth band gave me a cake and sang Happy Birthday.

I was also able to preach at St. Martin's at one of the Christmas Eve services.

Our grand kids from Torbay were with us in Gander which meant that on Christmas morning we would once again experience the joy of young children opening their gifts at 6:00 in the morning! After a nap,we enjoyed a quiet day with the kids. I invested a couple of hours with Joshua and his newest Lego set.
Throughout Christmas I wasn't feeling well. Every activity became a challenge,weakness and dizziness being constant companions.
I sat at the kitchen table doing some food preparation and helped present Christmas dinner to our family in the dining room. Although I was unable to eat much I did join the family at the table for Christmas dinner,and the following day carved the turkey and joined a large extended family group for another feast. I did not eat,but shared the fellowship with a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. Karen worked very hard to ensure Christmas at the Rectory would be a blessing. It really was.

Food and the Joy of Eating

Joining people for a meal is a special event at any time. By nature people are social and want to share time and provision with each other. Many solid friendships and life blessings result from fellowships around the table.

That's something I have never taken for granted. I have always enjoyed cooking. I enjoy helping Karen in the kitchen,and sharing a good meal with friends and family.
Before beginning any meal I always say Grace. It is important to me to thank our Lord for what I have been blessed with,and for His provision. I have always felt the need to return thanks and to ask that what we eat would be blessed,so that our strength would not just come from earthly food,but from God's own hand.

No one should eat a meal without Grace.
No one should ever take a meal,prepared and served by one to the other for granted. Amen?

As of today, I still have a feeding tube. Good thing too. After treatment I continued to lose weight. I had been going through each day trying to eat something. I actually made myself believe that I was doing good. That wasn't the case. Karen patiently let me do as I wished,eating small portions and cutting down on the liquid meal substitute that I pour into the feeding tube.
I even mentioned tom Dr. St. Croix that I thought it was time to remove the tube. She exchanged glances with Karen,looked at me with a reminder that I might still have to have a biopsy,and might need the tube again.
A few days later,I told my friend Joanie that I was down to 130 pounds. Joanie Wicks is the Patient Care Coordinator at the Gander Cancer Center. She has been with us through all of this journey and knew every detail of my progress and regressions.

She sat me down and told me I simply wasn't getting enough calories to maintain my weight and strength. If I continued in the way I was going,I was headed back to the hospital.

Okay...Okay I get it!
I returned to regular feedings of the "Jevity " liquid in the feeding tube. Six cans a day, and continued to eat what I could. That's what I am doing now.
It seems to be working.
My energy has increased,I am getting up earlier,feeling better and although I still look like a toothpick with the wood shaved off,I have gained four pounds!

Ahhh. Food...
Food still smells wonderful, but eating is a battle for me. Today every bite either burns, tastes bad ,or refuses to go down without a fight. The texture of food that I used to love simply turns my stomach. I drink a good sip of water with every bite,cough a little ,catch my breath and go for another bit.
My saliva glands are "kaput". Believe me ,you don't realize how important saliva is until it's gone. Saliva helps protect our teeth mouth and throat. It helps start digestion, and makes it possible to swallow. Saliva also causes the nessacary reaction between food and your taste buds,so you can enjoy your food. So thank God for spit.
Without belabouring the point,let me simply say: "Its awful".

I am not going to give up! I still watch my favorite cooking shows and go through our recipe books planning meals,and thanking God for the blessings of good meals,family and friends.
I must admit though that some of the stuff we cook is so good, it drives me crazy remembering the way it used to taste!

Some other Changes

I used to grow a beard every winter.
There is no hard and fast reason I do this other than the fact that I could - and some of the folks in the Church love to comment about it.
Some of the men offer me money for razors, and some of the ladies cringe when I come towards them with a greasy grin to rub their cheeks with my whiskers. It's all for a bit of fun.

One Sunday a parishioner told Karen that she wished I would hurry up and shave.

Karen responded by saying: "I like it. It's less of his face I have to look at!"

I don't spend much money on razors these days. Thanks to the radiation, what used to be a moustache and beard is just a reminder of my adolescent days when a little bit of growth over the lip and a few chin whiskers made their appearance.

Overall,I am feeling better and can finally say some of the uncertainty about having Cancer has evaporated. Having made several trips to St. John's, and to our Gander Clinic,I have only received positive speculation.
My recent MRI was in Gander on February 11. The results showed that the mass, in and under my tongue is shrinking slowly. To quote Dr. Burrage: "Good things get smaller - bad things get bigger"

There is a whole bunch of stuff that I have to deal with still,and while I have days of self pity (just hours really --and I think I have earned it!), I am in a very positive place.

I am still dizzy,tired and weak. Although its nothing compared to the past,there is always a level of pain in my throat an jaw.Thanks to the type of Chemotherapy I had, my feet feel numb and tingly all the time. My hands too - but to a lesser degree. I picked up my guitar a couple of nights ago and played a bit. It was really awkward,but felt great. People tell me my voice is good,but I am very aware that my diction is not what it used to be. I haven't tried to sing yet. We are still waiting - (and always will), for confirmation that Cancer has left me.

Thanks to Chemotherapy and Radiation I have been through.......something.
Thanks to Chemotherapy and Radiation ,and the wonderful people I have met along the way...I will live.
Thank You Chemotherapy and Radiation ,and the wonderful people I have met along the way. Thank You so much.

Starting next week there will be a series of check ups for at least another year. We believe God,and hope for good things.
Faith is the substance (that which you can hold and feel) of things hoped for,based upon the evidence of what you cannot see. We have much faith.

Today is February 26. It is raining heavily in Gander,and I am having a quiet morning.

Karen is having a well deserved "Rain Nap". We both love to relax and listen to the rain. She has been my absolute rock and uncompromising caregiver,infusing me with strength and faith.
Sometimes I look over at St. Martin's Cathedral - the building is just behind the rectory,and think of all that takes place there.
The church Building is in my backyard, but all around I am surrounded by The Church...the people of God,who have been a comfort,blessing and hope on my journey through the Valley of Shadows. I fear no evil and through the Grace of God I have been,and will joyfully continue on as servant and friend to God's people.