Sunday, February 21, 2010

Detailed update...

I was reminded last week by loving friends that I was remiss in updating the blog on the MDA trip. Sorry about that!

Great trip out. Even Baton Rouge wasn't bad traffic-wise. (It was AWFUL for the return trip, but that's another thing...)

Stayed w/ a very sweet HS classmate again. (Reminder to USM types: she's a proud USM grad who represents the school well!)

Speaking of USM types who rep the school well, we rolled out there--again--in a nice ride loaned by another friend who's a proud USM type.

Thursday was bloodwork & P.E.T. scan day. As w/ the trip out, the waits were very short, which is good. (Especially given that I'm not allowed to have any food or--worse--coffee on P.E.T. scan day. *grin*)

Thursday night was a very nice Tex-Mex meal w/ another sweet HS classmate (who has let us stay @ her house as well...)

Friday morning: the latest most-important-Dr.-appt-of-my-life with Dr. Homsi who is my medical melanomam Dr. out there.

BOTTOM LINE: A good visit w/ good results.

Most important result: nothing new on the P.E.T. scan. That's huge w/ a history of metastatic melanoma.

Another very important result: the same little spot is still there on my chest wall. It's been there these last several trips, and is still there. (If you remember, I was to have surgery last May to remove this spot, but the surgery was cancelled after the P.E.T. scan then). They're not sure what it is. It has grown a little, but only a little. Thus, it's likely not melanoma, which tends to grow fast & aggressively. Dr. H. said it may not even be cancer at all. They don't know.

Therefore, we go back in May for another P.E.T. scan, and appt. w/ Dr. Homsi, PLUS, an appt. w/ Dr. Mehran the surgeon. My hunch is that they'll opt for surgery this time, tho I obviously don't know.

At any rate, a good visit, all in all. We're pleased.

I'll leave you with a quote from Dr. Homsi:
"You've already beaten all the numbers (odds) just by being here."

That is the handiwork of a sovereign healing God Who has chosen to keep the melanoma away and to keep me here for reasons that I'll not fully know this side of glory. It is certainly NOT because of intrinsic worth in this dude! I'm persuaded that in eternity we will discover that He chose to heal & keep me here in response to the prayers of so many of you. THANKS FOR PRAYING!!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Back On the Road Again...

...and I'm not referring here to the excellent song by REO Speedwagon. (although that song is now officially stuck in my head...)

Lisa & I head back out to Houston Wednesday, 2/17. It's time for another batch of nuking & bloodsucking (as I so delicately refer to it).

Routine followup appt.

As if there will ever again be such a thing for me...*sigh*

The Schedule:
--Wed. - drive to Houston (in a nice borrowed ride, courtesy of a buddy here!)

--Thurs. - blood work + P.E.T. scan
Note: no bkfst, no lunch, no morning coffee = Bummer!! On the plus side, we'll have a HUGE supper with LOTS of good Tex-Mex food @ Gringo's w/ two HS classmates & friends who landed out there and whose homes we've invaded before. I'm planning on embarrassing everyone @ our table w/ the sheer volume of food I'll consume. You've all been warned...

--Fri a.m. - the next in a series of "most-impt-Dr.-appts.-in-my-whole-life"

--Fri. afternoon - celebrate while driving back to H'burg (well, that's our plan anyway...)

We'll be staying w/ one of the two HS classmates, who is graciously opening her home to us again. (Note to USM friends: she's a proud USM grad who was a Dixie Darling during her days here in town)

We'll also be rolling in a much nicer vehicle than any of ours, courtesy of another great sacrifical giving type friend here who's letting us borrow his truck.

Prayer Requests:
--safe travels to & from, and safe driving in Houston

--accurate scans that show "nothing to see here..." (in other words, pray that there's nothing amiss, & that the scans show that)

--peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7)

--pray for these VERY generous friends who let us borrow cars and invade homes; Please ask God to bless both of these friends--one lives here, & one lives there

The bottom line answer to this question: "so, what's it like walking into M.D. Anderson?"
Absolutely overwhelming! One NEVER wants to walk in there as a patient. Pretty much nobody gets referred there by being slightly sick. (Remember, mine was stage IV in both lungs when I first made the trip in 08...)

With that said, we have had AMAZINGLY GREAT Drs. & nurses & techs. Our MDA experience has been very good (well,...good within the context of the previous paragraph...)

This trip's medical stuff:
--bloodwork - no biggie; they'll draw several vials from my arm/hand. It is mind-boggling though how many people hang out waiting to get stuck.

--P.E.T. scan - get hooked up w/ IV device; get injected w/ the nuclear stuff (mildly radioactive sugar solution, more or less...the cool movie-effect part is that they wheel it in on a cart in a metal container that's smoking all scary-like); forced lie-still nap for an hour or so in a small room; then the scan, which lasts about 40 minutes; the most, um, exciting part is when the tech says over the speaker "OK, Mr. Madaris, here comes the contrast solution"...Have you ever felt like you were losing control of your bladder? Yeah, this feels a lot like that...only you can't move...(why I thought you'd all want to know that escapes me, but there it is)

P.E.T. stands for "Positive Emission Tomography"...or "Pretty Expensive Test" whichever. (*grin*) The results of the test are quite amazing; essentially a 3D set of scan results that the Dr. can scroll through & slice & dice in different ways. What they're looking for is spots that "light up" on the scan, meaning something is drawing in LOTS of the sugar solution, meaning something's amiss.

Based on my experience w/ bad scans, picture a satellite photo of a solar eclipse...w/ the light from the sun shooting out in rays from behind the moon. If something like that shows up on a P.E.T., that's bad. (Seen those results on previous scans!)

We'll do the medical fun Thursday from 8 - 1 or so (depending on wait times); Lisa will be bored out of her skull, as she'll spend all this time waiting...and waiting...a n d w a i t i n g...

We'll meet w/ Dr. Homsi, my medical melanoma oncologist Friday morning to get the results. (reminder: "medical melanoma oncologist" as opposed to Dr. Mehran, my surgeon, and Dr. Kim, my lung dude, and Dr. Hwu my immunotherapy guy.) Just the one appt. this time, assuming nothing lights up.

So, it's time to unblock the travel routes & details I've blocked for 5 months now. *another sigh*

Your prayers are MOST welcome and MOST appreciated.

With Love & Hope,

Only eternity will show you how much you & your prayers mean to Lisa and me...For now, "thank you" plus hugs to any whose path I cross will have to suffice.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

She asked me out 1st...& then I returned the favor!

1981. Sadie Hawkins Valentine's Day Banquet @ the Baptist Student Union on the campus of the University of Alabama. ("Sadie Hawkins" = ladies ask the guys; totally old-school concept dating back to those quaint, honorable times when guys actually did the asking...)

Aside from my excessive hotness (*grin*), there was pretty much nothing to commend me as a good Sadie Hawkins ask target. Really, I wasn't much of a catch back then. I'm not much of one now either, but I REALLY wasn't a catch then. Thus, I threw myself at her shamelessly, until she finally got tired of it & asked me to the banquet.

Oh, we had hung out a bit in group settings, and she had humored me by patiently enduring numerous requests along the lines of "hey, listen to this obscure hard rock CD nobody's ever heard & with good reason". She & her roommates were friends with my roommates. Plus, most conveniently, our apt. was downstairs & across the breezeway from their apt. (The Lord knew that while I'm pretty clueless now, I was REALLY clueless then; thus this little bit of gracious providence for which I am eternally grateful...)

But Valentine's Day, 1981 was our first official date. It must have gone OK. There were other dates. Then *lots* of other dates. Then a fraternity pin (speaking of old-school cool-ness...)...followed by a proposal.

There was a wedding in Gilbertown, AL on June 2, 1984.

A move to Terre Haute, IN. A house purchase & everything. A kid playing grownup, with a house, a job as a professor, debt,...the works!

Then a son.

A move to Hattiesburg, MS in August, 1989.

Followed shortly by a daughter.

Along the way, there have been triumphs, tragedies, job changes, illnesses, financial (& other) challenges, successes, failures, joys, sorrows...But through it all, dreams fulfilled & prayers answered beyond my wildest imaginations.

She still pretty much looks the same; I singularly do not. Oh, what a journey it's been! Can't wait for the next 29 years! And it all dates back to Valentine's Day 29 years ago.

I'll let some songwriters complete this one.

"In joy and sorrow my home's in your arms
In a world so hollow, It's breaking my heart
Oh girl we are the same; We are strong and blessed and so brave
With souls to be saved, And faith regained
All our tears wipe away
In joy and sorrow my home's in your arms..."
HIM, "In Joy & Sorrow"

"But, Baby, what will we do when it comes back to me & you? "
Wayne Watson, "Watercolor Ponies"
(note: Is yours a child-centered home? Might want to re-think that if so. I'm glad our children knew/know they are DEARLY loved and HUGELY missed...and I'm VERY glad Lisa & I have spent some time on our relationship these past 25 years of married life! As Wayne W. says, "the watercolor ponies will one day ride away...")

"I often dream of nights I'd sit and watch the rising sun, and I spoke to you of life, and of the battles I had won. A warm wind blowing memories makes me long for home, and a cold wind blows much harder and makes me wanna roam...I search to find the meaning of the path that I am on, and I hope that my direction will not make me walk alone..."
Axe, "Battles"
(One of my all-time favorite songs...pulled me through some very dark days/months/years by giving me hope. Plus, it just kicks booty as a great rock song w/ a great guitar solo...*smile*

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Genesis 2:18
(One can almost imagine the Lord looking forward in time at me & going "and it's especially not good for that guy to be alone...")

"And now a smile, a face, a girl that shares my name,
Now I'm through with the game, this boy will never be the same.

Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with ya honey,
Everything will bring a chain of love.
In the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes,
And tell me everything is gonna be alright....
Loggins & Messina, "Danny's Song"

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh..."
Genesis 2:24

"And my lady is the softness in my world...And my lady hears every note I play..."
Mountain, "My Lady"
(Another favorite by a favorite group. I sang along w/ this for years, dreaming the whole time...and then the dreams came through in Tuscaloosa, AL. I *love* the line "my lady hears every note I play" even though I don't play music any more. Excellent description of Lisa...)


With more love than I could ever capture in words,

P.S. - thanks for asking me out! ;-{)}

Monday, February 08, 2010

For Bill & Traci

(note: I wrote this last Thursday, 2/4, with final edit & finishing touches today)

So, here I sit @ 12:15 a.m., well past my bedtime, pondering the depths of God's providence.

Our dear friends Bill & Traci Massey got the call NOBODY wants to get today. Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a.k.a., Hodgkin's Disease, is Traci's diagnosis. They go to the Dr. tomorrow. (update: and to the oncologist later this week)

Cancer sucks.

Not a word I use very often...but I use it here because it fits. How else to describe this wonderful, godly, servant-minded, Christ-centered, go-the-extra-mile couple with three young daughters getting the phone call today that changed the entire trajectory of their lives??

But cancer is most assuredly NOT ultimate!!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair...So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:7-8, 16-18

*That* my friends, is what is ultimate. Re-read this phrase slowly: an eternal weight of glory...

My friends Bill & Traci already had one of those secured. Yet in His providence, our Lord has seen fit to somehow magnify their weight of glory.

I praise You in this storm, & I will lift my hands, for You are Who You are no matter where I am...and every tear I cry, You hold in Your hands...You never left my side...and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm...
Casting Crowns, "Praise You in This Storm"

(press >>>THIS<<<>every Thursday night via ipod while driving back from night class)

Now I guarantee you that where they are right now, & where they will likely be in the days & months to come will NOT seem like a "light momentary affliction." But in light of an eternal weight of glory, it will be.

As Margaret Becker once sang, "when glory, ever more glorious, stands revealed" that eternal weight of glory will be seen. And in its His light...Hodgkin's Lymphoma will seem like a blip on the radar screen.

But not yet.

Right now, it is an all-consuming thing that would consume Bill & Traci's every thought and devour every moment of time they have.

So would you please join me in praying that the sovereign Lord of the universe, who has called us by name & we are His, would sustain and encourage and empower and equip them?

And would you please join me in praying that my friend Traci would be totally & completely healed of this dreadful disease?

And would you please join me in praying that God would magnify Himself and His name and His character through Bill & Traci's time in the valley of the shadow?

Thanks so very much!

With a heavy heart,

p.s. - a passage my oncologist shared with Lisa and me on our first visit to his office in December '05:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1-3