Saturday, December 29, 2012

KU Med Center

On Thursday, December 27 our family took a trip to Kansas City mainly to have a consultation with the KU Med Center staff about my upcoming bone marrow transplant. We took the whole family and tried to make a fun day of it. Velda and I dropped off the children in Crown Center to spend Christmas money while we were at the Med Center. It was not exceptionally eye-opening but added a little clarity. We as well as many of you have wondered how the transplant works. Let me elucidate. I will be given a hormone that the body normally produces to encourage stem cell production in the bone marrow. I will given so much that my body will over-produce them. The bone marrow will then kick out the excess stem cells into the blood stream. At that time the staff at KU will draw some of my blood and separate the stem cells and freeze them. Step 2: now they will subject me to intense chemotherapy that will kill everything that remains in the area of my bone marrow (i.e. good cells as well as the malignant ones). I will be left with no living bone marrow. Step 3: is to put back into my blood stream my own stem cells. They will swim to their home in the bone marrow and start replenishing the bone marrow. It is about as complex for me as giving blood. It can be an outpatient procedure. My doctor will be Siddhartha Ganguly. Dr. Gangluly and Dr. Beck (Salina) have stressed the need for my kidneys to return to full functions. The myeloma cells have adversely effected them and are causing complications to the whole process. I believe that is why I have what is known as multiple myeloma. My kidneys have been "myeloma-tized". If the kidneys don't respond, the simple three step process becomes more involved. I won't go into those details at this time. I am suffering from information overload and I don't want you to be inflicted as well. The plan is to continue chemotherapy for 3 more months. During that time I will have a 2 day visit to KU and  5 day visit for the purpose of analyzing the effectiveness of the chemotherapy. At the end of March I will go for the bone marrow transplant and will have to stay 30 days. It takes that long for the bone marrow to be restored. I have weekly labs in Salina to monitor the effectiveness as well. They are on Wednesdays. On Thursday I have a consultation with the nurse-practitioner or Dr. Beck to interpret the lab results for me. Because I went to KC this past Thursday I have no updates on the latest labs. The routine will be restored next week at which time I will divulge the results of possibly 2 labs. After the appointment we picked up our children and had a meal at Grinder's West in the 18th and Vine district of KC. The whole day lasted from 9AM when we left Salina to 9PM when we arrived back home.

Spiritually. In Matthew 6:24-34 the King James Version uses the phrase "take no thought" three times. Modern versions use phrases like "don't worry" or "don't be anxious" but this is one time that I think the KJV got it right. Jesus didn't speak english when he was on this earth. This makes it important to catch the meaning as well as the nuances as well. The word means to focus your thoughts in such a way that it has a negative effect on your mental state. Let me illustrate. I was one of the smallest in my class in elementary school. If a bigger boy were to tell me that he was going to pound me after school, it would be good cause for me to worry. If I were to focus my thoughts on my impending doom the worrying would most likely escalate. This type of thinking is what Jesus is telling me not to do in this passage. So what am I to do? In the same passage Jesus tells us what to do. Instead focusing on things that will cause us to worry He redirects our focus to our heavenly Father. Let's go back to elementary school again. When this guy threatens me I should allow my mind to take in all the facts. I should remember that my father is picking me up after school. When I am waiting after school for my dad, I will take note of the bully and possibly his friends but not to the point that I can't see my 6 foot 3 inch 240 pound father getting out of the car at the same time. I am in a situation where the temptation is to focus on the wrong information. The key to avoid worry is to take in all the information and to factor in God and His promises.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Roller Coaster

Physically. What a ride! Last week things looked good. This week the numbers were bad. My doctor is "concerned" but not "panicked" (his words). The shot/pill combination I'm using is not the optimum he would like to use because it takes a while to get the newest meds. He proceeded with an older combination because he had it on hand. The newer meds are on the way. I am to use the older meds until they arrive. Estimated time of arrival is mid-January. I go to KU Med Center this coming Thursday(12/27). I will update after that visit which is primarily about a bone marrow transplant but could also influence what meds I use. When the doctor first walked in the examining room he asked somewhat facetiously "Why aren't you sick?!?" He went through his routine questions to see if I have any symptoms of the disease. None. He went through his routine questions to see if I have any side effects from meds. None. I feel pretty normal. Long days do drain me so I have cut out evening musical rehearsals. I barely made it through the Winter Concert last Monday. I was literally weak in the knees as I was directing the last song "Silent Night". Otherwise I can  put in a normal day. One good note, at the request of my lovely wife Velda, my meds have been adjusted to be more proactive about my anemia. Now, hopefully, I will not have to have an occasional blood transfusion when my tank (a.k.a. red blood cells) gets too low.

Spiritually. It is hard to maintain our theme of rejoicing in our trials and glorying in this sickness. There are two reasons for this. First, this is not a natural reaction but correct for followers of Jesus. Second, because I don't feel sick, my sickness is not at the forefront of my thoughts. Because I can perform my normal duties each day, I get up and think about what I need to do for the day. The sickness is an afterthought. To correct this, I took Velda out for a date night after my appointment today and when we returned home I led our family in our theme song (Psalm 3:3-4). I have many friends who are keeping up with this episode in my life. Those of you who are followers of Jesus can help me. Instead of telling me that you have heard the unfortunate news, try saying that you have heard the great news of the opportunity that God is giving me. (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28, II Corinthians 12:7-11a, I Thessalonians 5:16-18, James 1:2-4) I also would like all of you to quit telling me that I can beat this. If that were true then when this is over I would proclaim to the world "Look what I've done". I have no plans of fighting this. I plan on putting myself in a position to allow God to do the fighting for me. When this is over, whether I live or die, I plan to say "Look what God has done!" If you don't start responding correctly I will correct you like a wrong note from a singer. Gently first but increasing in intensity if repeated. I look forward to further interaction with all of you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Update: 12/16/12

Physically. I had to have a blood transfusion this week because I had become to anemic to receive my chemotherapy shot. My first transfusion was the day before Thanksgiving. This time I was asked to cut back on my activities. No other part of the lab work was revealed to me at that time so I have no update on what is happening on the inside. I felt a little draggy last weekend but was not alarmed in any way. I still feel good enough to maintain normal activity but I'm cutting back on my evening activities at school. This happens to be my busiest time of the year so if I can make it another week I will be on winter break and can catch up on rest and relaxation. Still no serious symptoms from the disease or side effects from the chemotherapy.

Spiritually. This week I was going to share on Luke 18:1-8 and it turned out to be the subject of my sunday school class today. Christ said that the purpose of this story was "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint". In the story the widow banged on the unjust judge's door until she got satisfaction. I told God at the beginning of this in October that I would be banging on the door but tapered off as life got back to business as usual. I cannot allow this to happen again. I hope to continue to bang on the door. The good side is I have a benevolent parent who will respond speedily. I learned today that "speedily" does not mean "right now" but that the process when started will be quick. It is like communism in Russia or the Berlin Wall. They stood for a long time but when the process started they were both disassembled quite quickly. I have to prepare myself for a possible lengthy time of crying out to God day and night if He decides to bear long (verse 7). On another point. I appreciate all the sentiments of prayer and support for me. I want to also encourage everyone to hold up Velda just as diligently. I believe she has the greater burden. In addition to maintaining our household, she has been to every chemotherapy treatment, lab, consultation etc. She is taking notes at these as well maintaining a notebook for every document that we receive. I have received comforting cards, emails and notes. Would you consider sending Velda something similar? Sometimes we will be standing together and a person will say they are praying for me. Will you turn to Velda and say the same thing to her?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How Am I Doing?

Physically. This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. I feel just about normal aside from a couple of sleepless nights from side effects of the medications. This question is really about what is going on inside of me. I can only tell you what the professionals are telling me. First of all my oncologist said that if he didn't have it in black and white in front of him that I have myeloma he would think that I was a healthy person. I am not suffering from any outward ill effects. He also has never had myeloma detected in this early a stage in his career. I have had 2 chemotherapy treatments. They are on Thursdays. I have labs before each one to see if the chemo is working. The nurse looked at the lab report before my second treatment and said a lot of things that boiled down to "good". Things so far are moving in the right direction.

Spiritually. This summer I taught a class on God's grace. One of the lessons was on II Corinthians 12:7-11. The themes of this passage are that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. Therefore we are to take pleasure in sickness that the power of Christ may rest upon us. I taught this lesson and it looks like I am now in the lab trying it out as a practical application. We made a cake to celebrate this condition and have instituted a theme song as well. Along these lines I would like to state that I cannot fight this. God has made our bodies into incredible healing machines. We have discovered over the years more and more of God's ways which enhance the healing process. I am depending on God to control how my body reacts to treatments. God can also reach down and heal outside of the realm of the normal physical universe which I also am hoping He will do. Either way I am a spectator as I watch God work. My main involvement is to follow the directions of the professionals around me and most importantly to pray. More on prayer later.