Day 16 – Saturday (9/08/18)

Note:  I updated “Day 15” this morning.  If you haven’t looked at it since last night, you may want to go back.  I have added in details from the actual surgery.

Praise report!  Today was a good day.  I thank everyone for their prayers.  I’m having zero pain after my surgery yesterday.  God is so good.  It’s almost like it never happened.  I have been able to get up, walk, eat normal, do normal things (and take a nap like normal, haha).  We spent most of the day at my parent’s house.  My aunt and uncle came in from Kansas last night to come be with us for the weekend.  It was a nice surprise that I hadn’t expected.  Since I’m actually feeling pretty good (praise God again), I think we have some fun activities planned for tomorrow that all of us can do as a family that will help be a distraction from the current situation.

The next medical milestone we are looking for is the results from the biopsy.  As stated before, I personally think it could be as late as Wednesday before we hear anything.  I’ll continue to post blogs and keep everyone posted, but they may go back to just being “thoughts for the day” while we wait.  I think I used up most of my creative juices this morning when I updated the blog from yesterday, so my only “thought for the day” today is… bedtime.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for allowing safe travels for my Aunt and Uncle as they came from Kansas.  Thank You for helping me have zero pain from the surgery yesterday.  It is a true blessing to have such an easy recovery.  I pray that You help me follow doctors orders to ice it, to do the breathing exercises, and to walk and not just sit all day.  Sometimes I’m not good at following directions, but You have surrounded me with people that care enough to make sure I do what I’m supposed too.  Over the last few days, I have heard a lot of prayer requests from other people with family members or friends having health issues… from heart attacks, to cancer, to general illness.  While I do not use names on this blog, I know that You know every name and every situation.  I pray that You would work in every situation according to Your will, and that You would provide strength, peace, and encouragement to them all.  I pray for our Church (and really all of Your Churches) that the Holy Spirit would come and fill the congregations during service tomorrow.  Help stir Your Church (us) to whatever action You have for us that will bring honor and glory to You.  You tell us in 1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” and each member is gifted in certain ways (1 Corinthians, Chapter 12).  Help us to use our gifts for You, each and every day.  Thank You Lord.  Amen

Day 15 – Friday (9/07/18)

UPDATED!!!

I did a quick post before surgery.  I have now finalized this day in history within the blog to include the surgery (starting on paragraph 3).

Hi Everyone!  Today is the next big day in my adventure.  I will be heading to the hospital in a little while, but this was my only moment to quickly type something.  As I mentioned yesterday, I won’t have time tonight to update the blog, so I will fill in details tomorrow.

I have received a lot of texts and notes from blog readers praying for my procedure today.  It is greatly appreciated.  The Lord willing, we should have a good sample by the end of the day, which the pathologist can use to get some final answers.

I arrived at the hospital, for my oddly specific surgery time of 3:42pm.  Check-in went super quick, and we sat down in the waiting room (at this time, just my mom and wife.  My dad, pastor, and in-laws were coming shortly).  Within what seemed 30 seconds, they called for me to come back.  I got up and started back, and my wife was like “Hey”!?!  Whoops… strike one.  Things went so quick I didn’t tell her bye, give her a hug and kiss… nothing.  I quickly turn around and return to where she was sitting.  With me standing and her sitting, things were awkward, and what came out was a pat on the shoulder and a kiss on her forehead with a quick “I love you”.  Strike two…  I quickly left the batter’s box knowing that I was down in the count, and scurried after the nurse.  At this point I realized I had ignored my mom too.  Strike three… and I wasn’t even in the box to take the pitch.  (Baseball fans, forgive me… I probably butchered the analogy…  I’m not exactly a sports guy).

Once I got to the back room, they got me all prepped with a flattering open-back hospital gown, an IV, and a TV remote… hmmm… maybe I’ll be in here longer than I thought?  (I would soon realize how correct this thought was).  At this time, my family and pastor were able to come back, two by two… Noah style.  THIS time, I made sure I didn’t screw up the hellos and goodbyes.  Praise God for second chances!  My marriage was saved.  My wife was able to stay in the room with me until they came to take me to surgery.  So much for 3:42pm…  I finally went back to surgery about 5:10pm.  In the time between, we did utilize the TV remote.  Big mistake.  Do you know how many commercials there are for food!  Not good for the guy chewing on a coffee stirring stick to keep from being hungry!  (Irony… flash forward to after the surgery… I was so nauseous; those same commercials would disgust me).

The anesthesiologist wheeled me back to the surgery room.  Big lights, table of sharp tools, about 7 people rushing around.  They got me shift over to the operating table.  The anesthesiologist gave me a “shot” in the IV and said this will just help get you started calming down.  Not sure if the trick was on me or on him… because that is all she wrote.  That is the last thing I remember.  The next memory I have is what felt like 4 different people saying my name.  I hear them say we need to move him upstairs since he isn’t waking up quickly.  Then boom!  Its 10:00pm.  Wow, that was an interesting time warp.  I finally come to my senses and I’m able to sit up.  Quick, get me a bowl!  I thought for sure I was going to throw up, but I was able to restrain.  I got some soda crackers down and some ginger ale, and the nurse gave me some nausea medicine, and this seemed to help my stomach calm down.  I had a slight headache, probably from not getting my coffee all day, and they gave me some $100 Tylenol tablets (haha).  I had to hang out for around 1 more hour while they watched my oxygen level.  Apparently I was low enough they had put me on oxygen while I was out.  Hmmm…  There are tubes in my nose.  Cool.  Strange I just now noticed!  They stepped me down off the oxygen, and made sure I was holding above 92% before they let me go.  My parents drove us home and I ate some ice cream and went to bed.

Note:  I did not personally get to hear anything from the doctor, but he did speak with my family.  He said that everything he saw was what he expected.  He got a good sample from blobby, and also took out two lymph nodes.  We are guessing… not sure… these may be the two that looked suspicious on the PET scan?  I’m assuming, if so, those may also help hold some answers as to whom blobby really is.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You so much for all of the friends, family, co-workers, etc  I have praying for me.  Please be with the doctor as he is going through his day.  I pray that everything is going well for him, and that he will be focused and ready at the appointed time for my procedure.  Please guide his hands and help us to get a good sample of Blobby.  Thank you for helping me find a coffee stirrer stick at work to chew on that has really helped me not feel hungry today!  Sometimes it is the little things that make a big difference.  I love you Lord, amen…….  Amended (post procedure)…  Thank You so much Lord for helping the surgery go well.  I was getting antsy as the 3:42 time came and went, but You helped me stay patient.  I don’t know what the hold-up was, but if there were complications in the surgery before me, I pray that You are helping that individual in whatever their current needs are.  I continue to pray that the samples collected are pristine, and that we can have some answers this coming week.  You are an awesome God.  Amen.

Day 14 – Thursday (9/06/18)

I saw this on a Church Sign on my way home today.  “If God is your copilot, get out of the cockpit.”  I found this very clever and very true.

Today, similar to yesterday, was a fairly ordinary day.  I’ll stick to a thought for the day and a prayer.  A real quick note first… my surgical biopsy is late afternoon tomorrow.  I suspect I won’t get out of the hospital until late evening, and I’ll probably be too groggy from the anesthesia to focus on typing about my experience.  With that said, I’ll try to do Fridays post early Saturday morning.

Now… my thought for the day… what does patience look like?  To a child, it may be calling for mommy, and being told “I’ll be there in a minute!”  They wait one minute, mommy shows up, and viola!  They were patient.  For me, it may be having to wait one week, then two weeks for final results and a treatment plan to evict blobby.  For a praying parent/grandparent, it could a lifetime of waiting and praying for a child or grandchild to accept Jesus as their personal savior.  Wisdom Hunters today talked about the patience across many, many generations as the Israelites waited for the fulfillment of the promise that a Savior would come.  We as Christians have been waiting close to 2000 years since Jesus’ death on the cross for the promise of His return.  While it may be hard for us to be patient sometimes, rest assured, God will keep his promises.  II Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance

Praise God that He is patient with us, and has allowed us soooo much time and so many chances, in hopes that we would accept Him (however, do not take advantage of his patience.  If you do not know Jesus as your personal savior, make sure to settle that today!  For we do not know what tomorrow brings).  Also, praise God that He is full of patience, mercy, forgiveness, and grace when we commit the same sins over and over and over again.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your patience with us.  Thank You for Your forgiveness, mercy, and grace.  Thank You for always keeping Your promises.  I pray for the surgical doctor tonight that he would get a restful night’s sleep.  I pray that tomorrow You would guide his hands, and help him to get a good sample of Blobby; one that will tell us all the data we need.  I selfishly pray that you will help my hunger pains tomorrow, as I cannot eat after midnight, and the surgery is not until late afternoon.  I say “selfishly”, as I realize there are many people and children in this world who miss multiple meals every day due to various circumstances.  I pray for them Lord, that You would provide for them in Your way, and utilize Your Church to help as You see fit.  Thank You for all that You do, amen.

Day 13 – Wednesday (9/05/18)

The next couple days are just going to be treading water while we wait for the next biopsy on Friday.  With that said, I’m just going to keep the blog short, and stick to a few thoughts for the day, and a prayer (unless something super crazy exciting happens… then I’ll have to write about it!).

My thought for the day is not original, but instead is brought to you courtesy of our Wednesday Night Bible study.  In Joshua chapter 1, God gives instructions to Joshua.  Remember, Moses had just died, and the Israelites were without a leader.  God had chosen Joshua to fill that role.  God tells Joshua in verse 6, 7, and 9 “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

In these versus, God tells Joshua, not one, not two, but three times to be strong and courageous.  He should not be afraid or dismayed.  He is to also to be obedient to the law that was given to Moses (which Moses recorded in the first 5 books of the Bible).  So the question you may ask.  How?  It is easy to tell Joshua to do this… but boy it would sure be nice to know HOW!  Now we look at verse 8. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”  This was God’s answer to the “how”.  Joshua could be successful in being strong and courageous if he studied the Word of God (at that time, only 5 books), and OBEY what it said.  Today, we have 66 books to study and obey.  This may seem like a monumental task, but taking it verse by verse, we can study and obey.

Dear heavenly Father, I would like to thank You again for my church family.  Thank You for providing a place where we all can go to study Your Word together, and learn more about You.  Thank You for reminding me tonight that I need to be strong and courageous in the storm I am facing.  Please help anyone who is facing a storm today to realize the same.  Thank You for showing us how to do that.  Thank You for giving us the Bible in a language we can read, that we may study it to learn more about You.  Help us to obey the commands you give in the Bible, starting with Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees when they asked him which law is the greatest in Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” If there is one thing you are teaching me through my current trial, it is empathy.  I have heard “catch” words like “biopsy”, “cancer”, etc many times… but I never truly stopped to put myself in the shoes of my neighbor to REALLY understand what they were going through.  Well, now I am learning… and my eyes are opening.  Thank You for helping to show me what it really means to love your neighbor, to take a step into their shoes and lives, and genuinely try to understand what they are going through.  Please help me to always stay focused on You, that I may love You with all of my heart, soul, and mind.  Amen.

Day 12 – Tuesday (9/04/18)

I believe I made up for yesterday’s “lazy day.”  I’d call today… a little hectic.  I did get some call backs from the doctor, then had a last minute appointment with another doctor, and was given an information overload.  Unfortunately, even with all the information I got today, there are still more questions than answers.  I’m going to bullet point the information (mainly for my sake, so I can process and remember it).

  • The final result from the first biopsy conducted last Tuesday – inconclusive. However, we did learn some things, just not enough.  Here is what we know with reasonable certainty:
    • Blobby appears to be a malignant Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Type B.
    • Blobby appears to have formed quickly and is growing rapidly. This is the explanation for the necrotic tissue.  The way it was explained to me is that some tumors form and grow slowly.  This allows the blood vessels to grow and expand at a similar rate, and gives good nutrients to the tumor, keeping it “healthy”.  Now… if you have a fast growing tumor that grows quicker than the blood vessels can, some of the blood vessels can pop.  Once they pop, portions of the tumor can no longer get nutrients.  These sections of the tumor die, leaving behind necrotic tissue.
    • It just so happens that the first biopsy hit a chunk of blobby that was dying… hence the difficulties getting a confirmed result.
  • An analogy the doctor used when trying to diagnose a tumor. Picture a car crash where there is nothing left but twisted metal.  If you look close, you may find the Chevy symbol.  There is one clue.  Keep looking and you may find a Malibu badge.  There is another clue.  The necrotic tissue… they are nuts and bolts.  They are part of the car, but don’t really tell you anything about it (one could argue metric vs. standard would give a clue… but you get the point).
  • Basically, the first biopsy gave us the make and model, but we are missing the rest of the VIN number. Within the Non-Hodgkin’s Type B Lymphoma, there are some 30 sub-classes.  These classes are very important in matching the right treatments to evict Blobby.
  • Based on the location and our current understanding of Blobby, the surgeon said that he seriously doubts we will “cut him out”. He said the risk is too great.  This is likely a chemo-only type of treatment… possibly mixed with a touch of radiation.  Honestly though, too soon to tell.
  • What the surgeon will do, is perform the second biopsy. Between the PET scan and a camera he will use during the operation, he can ensure that he gets a living (non-necrotic) chunk of blobby for an actual good biopsy.
  • The surgery is tentatively scheduled for Friday, 9/7, at 4:00pm. It is expected I will be there for 4-6 hours, but only “under the knife” for 1.5 hours.  The results from this biopsy… another 48 to 72 hours… and that may not include the weekend.  This means it may be Wednesday, 9/12, before we have a positive ID on blobby (the full VIN number).
  • The results of the PET scan also came today. It appears, at this point, that the cancer has not spread throughout the entire lymphatic system.  There are a couple of lymph nodes in the general area of blobby that show concern, but at least they are still in the upper torso.  The doctor said when dealing with lymphoma, another reason why they typically stick with a straight chemo regiment, is that it goes throughout the whole body and will take care of any “mini-me” blobby’s, even if we missed them on the PET scan.

Alright, I think that is the highlights.  If anybody has any questions on all the information, I’m open to talk with you.  Just shoot me a text, email, or call (me or my wife).  What would be even more of a blessing would be to talk about who Jesus Christ is to me, and who He can be to you as well.  If anyone reading this blog doesn’t know Jesus Christ as your personal savior, and you have questions what that means, and want to know more about where I get the peace that I have had through this process, please email balfour@balfourbaptistchurch.org   Just make sure to let us know how to contact you back.

Also, I would like all fellow blog readers to pray today for the principal at my wife’s school… and her husband and family.  Her husband had a heart attack on Sunday.  He is having a heart cath today.  I’m not sure what else is involved in the process, but I know they could use our prayers while they go through this time.

Dear heavenly Father, wow… what a day.  I feel like my head is about to explode with all the information that was discussed today.  Thank You for giving me the idea for this blog, where I can get everything out in one place, to help remember and process.  However, I pray that You will use this blog for much more than that.  I pray that people will see You in this blog, and will ask questions, and seek You.  I pray that people would read and be encouraged, inspired, motivated, etc in their own trials that they may be going through.  Potentially they may see that they are not alone… that we are all one body of Christ, for those who have accepted You.  We should not be scared to share our experiences with others.  I pray for the family of the principal at my wife’s school, and directly for her husband.  I pray that he will have a full recovery from his recent heart attack, and that You will guide the doctors working with him.  I pray for continued patience as I now have to wait potentially another week before the final answers are received.  I pray that You will keep blobby contained during the waiting period, and that treatment will start right on time according to Your will, and that it will be effective.  As always Lord, I thank You for all that You do for me, each and every day.  Amen.

Day 11 – Monday (9/03/18)

Well fellow blog readers, today was one of those days that I like to call “a lazy day”.  I don’t want you to think that this is something new that has happened since/because of my current circumstances.  This is something that goes back many many years.  Some days… I just feel lazy.  I’m not sure what triggers it.  I’m not sure if a lazy day can be scheduled or predicted.  They just… happen, and today was one of them.

I can sum up all the events of my day in just a few sentences.  We woke up.  We dropped the kid’s projects off at the fair grounds (the state fair starts this Friday, 9/7).  We went to my in-laws for lunch.  We came home and I took about a 3 hour nap.  We may go to the park in a bit to let the kids run off some energy.  There you have it… lazy day.

I’m hoping that tomorrow’s blog will be full of useful information from the doctors, and that I will have some finalized test results to share.  I obviously can’t promise “a big day”, but I can hope!  If God wants it to be tomorrow, it will be tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for “lazy days”.  In Genesis 2:2-3, it says “and on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”  Now I know that Your commandment to us regarding the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-10a “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.  In it you shall do no work…”) does not really fall in line with my lazy day concept directly.  However, it does show that rest is important as well as taking one day a week to reflect and do nothing but seek You.  Please help us to obey this commandment, even though society today says we are too busy to comply.  Thank You for giving me the opportunity to rest today.  I continue to pray for Your will tomorrow concerning test results, and whether they will be accurate and ready.  Please be with everyone as they head back to work and school tomorrow.  Please keep everyone safe.  Amen.

Day 10 – Sunday (9/02/18)

Hi everyone!  Today was another step in the process to fully understand the extent of my situation.  My family took me to the hospital this morning for a scheduled PET scan (positron emission tomography).  This is the scan where they injected me with a special sugar solution that contained radioactive tracers.  Tumors in the body absorb sugar much faster than other cells, so they fill with the tracers and show up on the scan.  After the injection of the solution, I had to wait 1 hour.  Then they put me on the PET scan bed (it was a Siemens Biograph 6… for those technical people reading).  The scan itself took about 30 minutes.  The scan started at my head, and would scan for 3 minutes.  Then they would move the table 10cm (4 inches), and scan another 3 minutes.  This continued until they had scanned down below my waste.  They did not scan my legs.  The trick was, you had to lay completely still for these 30 minutes, so the image would not blur.  I think I did really well keeping still.  The only issue I had was my arms went numb during the test (I had to keep them over my head).  I didn’t realize they were numb until I was allowed to move them.  That was when the “prickly” feeling started all over them (I’m sure you all know the feeling I’m talking about).  All in all, the test went flawlessly, and they said they got some good pictures.  Unfortunately, the people doing the scanning are not allowed to “read” the scans and tell me what they saw.  The doctor who analyzes the scans and gives the report usually does it on Monday.  However, since tomorrow is a holiday, it will likely be Tuesday.  I expect a call on Tuesday afternoon letting me know the results and whether the pathologist had any luck.

Now let me take this opportunity to brag on God.  I found out through conversation during the PET scan that God, in his providentially perfect timing, had worked out some logistics I didn’t even know could have been an issue.  While the PET scan machine appears very similar to the CAT scan machine, they are apparently different.  The hospitals purchase and own CAT scan machines, but PET scan machines fall into a different category.  I was told our State has certain rules for medical equipment that exceeds a certain cost.  The PET scan machine falls into that category (too expensive).  The state only allows these machines to be in “mobile units” that travel to different areas around the state.  It just so happens that the mobile unit I used only comes to our town every other Sunday.  Talk about (God’s) perfect timing!  How convenient the time I needed the scan is the same weekend that the mobile unit scan machine is in town!  Thank you God for working that out in your infinite power!

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for helping me through the PET scan today.  Thank You for working out the logistics that I didn’t even know could have been a problem.  This helps reinforce the understanding of how little control I have over this or any situation, and how I just need to rest in the fact that You have it all under control.  I continue to pray that the results will be clear from this test and the pathology report on the biopsy.  I continue to pray for the lost.  As I saw at least two more people going through a PET scan today, it reminded me that there are a lot of people dealing with potential cancer diagnosis right there with me.  I don’t know the hearts of the two people I saw today, nor the hearts of anybody else that has been recently diagnosed.  What I do know, is that if they are going through this trial without knowing You, they have a hard road ahead.  I pray that if I come across anybody during my journey who is looking for hope, that they would see You in me, and that I can share with them the source of my hope.  1 Peter 3:15b “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”  Thank You Lord for all that you continue to do, each and every day.  Amen.