A Stroll At Leisure With God

So Far, So Good

Sorry about yesterday. Don’t know why this blog didn’t publish. Hope you get both today!

I haven’t thrown up yet … Hopefully I can keep my breakfast down. I can tell that I am going down, down, down …

Back to yesterday, thanks for praying for my mom. Marilyn had to take her to the hospital yesterday. She ended up spending most of the day there. It was packed out. They told Marilyn that my mom now needs to be on oxygen 24/7. They will bring it to the Memory Care house. Hopefully this will stabilize her a bit.

Marilyn was totally exhausted when she got home. I’m encouraging her to rest today.

In the meantime, Brent my neighbor took me down to the hospital. It was very nice of him. We had a great visit on the way.

As it turns out, they did not give me a blood transfusion—my counts were not low enough! Go figure. Instead, Dr. Ali gave me a hydration treatment and scolded me a bit—“You need to drink more water.” Will do.

Connor picked me up and brought me home. By the time I got here, it felt as if someone were literally just pushing me down. I felt horrible.

I tried to eat also, but I ended up throwing up most of what I had eaten the whole day. This is my greatest challenge: eating and drinking and keeping it down.

Well, that’s about it for today. THANKS AGAIN, to all of you, for praying for us.

“God, listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer. When I’m far from anywhere, down to my last gasp, I call out, “Guide me up High Rock Mountain!” (Psalm
61:1-2 MSG).

Yes, God, as my blood counts go down, guide me UP. Amen.

Life in the Nadir, Life to the Hilt

Forgive me for being a little graphic here but I just threw up everything I tried to eat for breakfast …

Yesterday was a rough day, made a lot tougher by the fact that I threw up five or six times.

As I was commiserating with Marilyn about it, she said, “Well, remember the doctors said these would be tough days—the nadir.” Oh, yeah. Somehow I had forgotten that in the euphoria of going home and in the expectation that since I was headed there, I would somehow feel automatically better.

I do remember now … my white blood cell counts are at their lowest ebb. This is why this afternoon I have an appointment at CBCI for a blood transfusion. I hope this gives me a bit of an energy boost because I certainly have very little now, especially after throwing up.

Vomiting with cancer treatment is different than throwing up with the flu … I think I will just leave it at that.

So much to share with all of you and no energy to do it. Let me just mention one young man I met a couple of days ago as both of us were out in the hall walking around. He actually initiated the contact. His name is Daniel. He and his family were serving as missionaries in Cambodia when he received word that he had a particular virulent form of lymphoma. They just left their home and ministry there to return to the United States.

I have to tell you that I am fighting back tears even as I write. My heart goes out to this young man. He told me he doesn’t believe the Lord is finished with him yet and he is fighting to stay alive for his wife Kara and his three kids Andrew, Autumn, and Alex. Please pray for this family.

In between receiving these aggressive treatments, he is also undergoing treatment at a Wellness Center and it doesn’t sound like a bed of roses either.

We had a good long visit the other day. I hope our paths cross again.

I will always think of Daniel when I see these words: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, GOD showed up and said to him, ‘I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family’” (Genesis
17:1-2 MSG).

Lord, I lift up Daniel and his family today. Give us the grace to live all out for you! No matter what, no matter where. Amen.

Heading Home Today

I can hardly contain myself as I write these words, and I am so grateful to God. A few days ago, Dr. Ali was the first to mention that I MIGHT be able to go home on Wednesday (today), but yet, even as he made the statement, I was doubtful. Sunday and Monday were both very long and difficult days in which I had so force myself to get out of this bed, even to use the restroom.

Plus, I think the fact of leaving the hospital was intimidating to both Marilyn and me.

Yesterday, one of the nurses handed me a packet that they give all the patients who check out. This waylaid our concerns to a large degree. I think we were confusing what we needed to after chemo with what must occur before and after transplant on the home front—a whole different ball of wax as you could imagine.

One more thing: today is the day for my mom’s move to memory care as well. Marilyn has been pulled in so many directions … Last night, we decided again that we needed to ask for help. I called Connor. He is perfectly ready and able to come and pick me up today since Marilyn’s hands will be full with my mom.

Anyway, there is so much more to share about these past NINE days in this hospital. I will share as much as I am able over the course of the next few days or so.

AND, just because I am coming home, it does not mean that I am just going to be sitting around. Tomorrow, Lord willing, will be a day of rest, but Friday, I have to come back down to visit the clinic for a transfusion. That should be no short-lived process.

Thus, please pray that everything comes together today, especially as the “three-ring circus” we have been living continues. I’m sure we will need things, my church family, and I will try to let you know

Lord, as this adventure continues, give me the grace just to walk, “one day at a time.” Amen.

A Goal

Well, I am eight hours into a 24-hour infusion and feeling a lot better than I ever dreamed I would at this point. I attribute that to the praying of God’s people—all of you. Thanks. The nurse did tell Marilyn and me last night that the first few hours would be the easiest. She promised things would get harder as the day wears on. This is another reason that I thought I would jump on writing now at the crisp time of 4:50 AM.

So much to share from yesterday …

As we were driving to the hospital, Marilyn said, “John, this is April 19
th, right? I want you to think of April 19, 2017. This time next year you will be driving to a golf course … in Phoenix.”

Ha, well. Okay. A very good visual, but the Lord added to it.

As we arrived at the hospital with our stuff, Rose from admissions called us up the stairs and into a locked space to her office. I noticed it immediately—a beautiful picture of a golf hole somewhere next to a body of water with sail boats on it. Across the bay, it looked like a tropical setting of some sort. Somehow, I just could not keep my eyes off of it. Marilyn noticed it as well.

Finally, the suspense killing me, I asked, “Rose, I love that picture. Where is that golf course?”

Obviously, she had been asked that question before, but she had no personal knowledge or interest. She pulled a card out of her desk drawer with the answer scribbled on it, “Kapalua in Maui in Hawaii.” Then she went on, “Some folks sitting in here say it isn’t in Hawaii. I don’t know for sure.”

Kapalua is a famous golf resort in Maui. I have a friend whose parents owned a home there years ago. I vote for it. That is the answer I choose. Right then and there, (this sounds weird), standing on the tee of THAT hole at Kapalua, looking at the Pacific with sail boats on it, hitting a shot that sticks four feet from the pin, holing out for birdie, kneeling on that green to thank Dr. Jesus—became my goal. How about that?

Anyway, we finally got up to my room on the fourth floor of Presbyterian/St Luke’s Hospital. It wasn’t long before a bright and cheery woman, Colleen, and her young assistant, Kala (from Thornton, by the way) greeted us and immediately starting in on giving us the scoop. There is a lot of scoop to share.

First, anyone who enters this room must wear a gown, gloves, and mask. Every single time the nurses enter, they go through this ritual. I don’t have to wear one in HERE, but if I leave this room to walk the hall, then I must wear one myself.

Why? The goal of this treatment is to knock my immunity down to zero. Thus, I am susceptible to every tiny germ there is, and it is a huge danger. So … that is why.

Also, if anyone who comes to visit has even a sniffle, he or she is not allowed.

After all the orientation, I got started on a protein I had taken before. It is called Rituxin. I ended up having to slow the intake of this substance because I got what was the beginning of hives on my neck where the new swelling exists. They had to address it quickly.

In fact, I have to tell them about absolutely any hint of anything that might be problematic. It is crazy, almost paranoid, but again, my biggest enemy is infection. It could be lethal.

About 9:00 PM, she unhooked me for a bit so that I could take a show before beginning this first actual chemo drug. It will take 24 hours for this infusion to be completed. The reason (well one, according to Colleen) is that it is so aggressive that they take it very slow to lessen all the side effects and there is a list as long as your arm, the main one being nausea and vomiting.

So far, even though I did not sleep very well, my only issue is the onslaught of a headache.

But as most of you know, I am sure, sleeping in a hospital is a nearly impossible endeavor, because they are in and out of the room all night. Kara and Colleen’s night replacement, Val, certainly fit that bill, but this aggressive treatment demands constant vigilance.

So, it should be completely by 9:00 PM this evening. I have one more chemo drug to take—it only takes 12 hours! Ha. Well, actually, the truth is that the first installment is 12 hours, followed by a twelve hour “break,” and the second installment of 12 hours. Then, I will be done, and hopefully, Dr. Ali will give the order for me to be able to go home.

It is unlikely, however. Colleen told Marilyn and me that the AVERAGE length of stay on this ward is 21 days. Plus, I don’t want to go home unless I feel decent and am confident that I can be there without any issues. The doctor will have a big part in the decision.

So, that’s about it. A couple more things: my mom’s departure from rehab has been delaying because of a urinary tract infection. Now, the target date is Monday, April 25
th. This is very frustrating for Marilyn and me. We want her out of there, but it is the Lord’s timing.

I just have to say that I am so thankful for good ole Abe and his story in Genesis. Do you realize that Abraham, the Father of the Faithful and key figure in the Old Testament, was a pansy liar? Not just once, either, but twice. He lied to save his own life while putting Sarah in jeopardy. Once again, I LOVE the fact that biblical characters like Job and Abraham were eminently HUMAN, and the pages of scripture do not sugarcoat it.

I’m sick and tired of people who make me feel bad when I give human answers as if this is some sort of denial of God. There are certain days, especially now and for the next several months, where I am going to feel bad, and I am going to say so. This is not a denial of God, for crying out loud! This is an affirmation of the One on His throne that never sleeps or slumbers. I think I am going to feel bad today, but God never does, and YET He understands and loves us nonetheless.

Oh, I did finally find a that picture in Rose’s office online. I am going to purchase it and hang it in a prominent place. The title of it is GOALS. The caption reads:
You can't set the course for where you're going. Until you know where you are.

Humm, interesting statement. I’m sure if I didn’t have a headache I could make some spiritual application of that exact statement.

At first glance, though, I would like to edit the last phrase to be “Until you know WHOSE you are. Put that phrase with the picture and you have a goal. Amen.


Headed to the Hospital

Yesterday, the doc shared with Jim and me about my chemo regimen. I’m glad Jim was there. I invited him to come as an extra set of ears to make sure I get things down. Marilyn had a lot going on yesterday.

It looks as if my mom will be moving to a memory care facility on Wednesday if she recovers quickly from a urinary tract infection the doctor discovered.

Back to this chemo regimen, it is definitely going to be the most difficult one I have ever gone through. Dr. Ali spent a lot of time going through the list of side effects.

One little bit of possible good news: I may not have to stay in the hospital for more than five days! If I am doing well, I may get to go home. We will just have to see.

I’ve honestly dreaded this whole thing. Yesterday’s doctor visit did not help much with that. However, this morning, I find that I am a little relieved that the starting day is here and I can get moving on getting my life back. It promises to be a long and hard road, but as I have said before, I really don’t have a choice at this point.

Another immediate benefit will be that this ever-increasing swelling in my neck will decrease. It is just getting more and more intolerable. Plus, I’m starting to have some weird nerve stuff occur. It is just time.

Well, I wanted to say this: I HOPE TO KEEP WRITING WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL. But, I have no idea if I will be able to for a variety of reasons.

Remember our rule of thumb: if there is no blog on a certain day or series of days, please just pray.

If I just can’t write, Marilyn has promised to “take dictation” and get something up online at some point. Who knows?

I read about Abraham this morning. God called him to leave everything and go to an unknown land that the Lord would show him. I’m not trying to dramatize this, but I believe that this is EXACTLY what is going on with me.

My life is never going to be the same.

“I am bound for the Promised Land; I am bound for the Promised Land,” as the hymn says. I love you all. I love you, Jesus. Amen.

Crusts and Crumbs

I lost it last night. That is the only way I can put it.

Marilyn reminded me of the only way I can make it through this—one day at a time. That is no cliché. It is truth, and it goes back to the verse that the Lord gave me when I was first diagnosed—Matthew 6:34: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

This morning, in my reading, I discovered another resource—the lesson that Job learned through his trial—the knowledge of God.

“I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor” (Job 42:1-6, MSG, emphasis mine). No more crusts and crumbs. One cannot live on those.

The only foundation for a rock-solid faith is the genuine knowledge of God.

Today, I have a lot to do to get ready to go into the hospital and be out of pocket for up to three weeks. Plus, I have my follow-up appointment with Dr. Ali this afternoon. Please pray that in all the communication, I don’t allow myself to get too far ahead and get back into the mess I was in last night.

Today. Thank You for today. Meat and potatoes—knowledge of You. No more crusts. Boiling life down to its essentials. Thank You for all the support and prayers and love. Thank You for Becca and her passion for prayer and all the others—an army of prayer warriors. Bless those who are praying for us, Lord. Amen.

God's Questions and the Holy Spirit

One of the things I love about these reading plans is that put passages together that I never associated before. Today, in the Solid Life Plan, the readings were: Job 39 and 40 (basically two chapters of intense God-questions to Job) and Acts 2 (the story of Pentecost).

These three chapters are full of mystery and unanswered questions. Many unanswered questions.

This is very convicting because, over the past few days and weeks, as I sit here feeling bad, that is just about all I have done—ask questions. I just don’t get what God is up to, BUT I’m thankful for the encouragements and responses from those of you who know people who have gone through a Bone Marrow Transplant and come out on the other side. Thanks for that.

But here’s the point: how does God deal with our questions? It is a very human reaction to trial and difficulty. The question “why” leads to speculation as Al reminded me the other day. Very good point. So, there aren’t many answers (satisfying ones at least) to that question in scripture.

Here is my answer to how God deals with our questions: He gives us more! Even more unsatisfying! At least that is his approach to Job. The final chapters of this fascinating wisdom book of the Old Testament are chuck full of questions that neither Job nor Einstein can answer.

AND, I believe that Pentecost is the New Testament counterpart to the final chapters of Job. It was a day and time in which God moved in such a powerful and mysterious way that no one could figure it out. They were left with the gospel and responding to it and living out its implications in ways no one told them to. They just did it. They just started DOING church.

So, instead of asking all types of questions, I seem to do better when I focus on DOING right now what God wants on a daily basis. Today, God is giving me another opportunity to rest. That is all I want to do—my only focus for the day.

I will miss church. I appreciate Connor leading worship AND preaching in my absence. I have asked Al to get preachers for the next few weeks. Hopefully, we can make other arrangements down the road. But I am not going to worry about that.

It is likely that the second I post this blog, I will go back to sleep for a while, choosing to trust Dr. Jesus, leaving my questions on the Holy Spirit altar. Amen.

"Two to Three Weeks in the Hospital"

When Callee called yesterday, that is what she said. Huh? Wha-what?

Let me back up to Thursday. Marilyn and I felt as if we were dropped into ANOTHER world at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s hospital. There is a whole wing of the hospital devoted to the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (CBCI). Somehow, I had never known about it. A brave new world or more accurate to how I was feeling, a scared to death near world.

We were glad to have met a young man named Cory near the elevators in the main hospital. We believe the Lord sent him to help us. He claimed to be a believer—one of those angels unawares that Hebrews talks about.

He works at CBCI or we would never have found it. We got to the right area. Heidi took me back for measurements, then to a waiting room. First, Callee came in to introduce herself and it wasn’t long before the doctor came in. Because his last name is difficult to pronounce, everyone calls him by a shortened version of his first name—Ali. Dr. Ali.

He spent some time confirming some of my cancer history and then told me that he and the other nine doctors in CBCI will be meeting Friday (yesterday) to discuss my case. I was very impressed and assured by that. He then checked me over, said he would see me Monday to talk about my treatment plan, said good-bye, and left. Marilyn and I both like Dr. Ali—he seems very conscientious about his patients.

After he left, Callee spent some time talking about the whole transplant process and what is involved in it. And believe me, THERE IS A LOT. As it turns out, the goal for treating Mantel Cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a Bone Marrow Transplant. Both Callee and Dr. Ali told me in no uncertain terms that this is my only hope for a cure. And unlike Dr. Jotte, they used the word CURE. Wow.

The whole process involves essentially breaking me down completely, ridding me of this cancer with aggressive treatments in which I will be at the hospital for days and/or at home in need of 24-hour care from a nurse. I don’t know but this tells me that they are basically going to knock me for a loop.

Plus, they are starting now to look for a donor. Guess who is first on the list? Marilyn. They took her blood and mine. They will test it to see. They are hoping for a hundred percent “match” in blood for this transplant; if Marilyn doesn’t work, then there is apparently a bone marrow bank out there. Maybe a match can be found from that.

Anyway, after a process that totally tears me down and when I am in remission, then they do the stem cell transplant. And the one who gives me the stem cell, my blood type will actually change to his or her type. Callee joked, “After this transplant, it is a good time to commit a crime because the police will not have this blood type associated with you.” I laughed … a little.

After the transplant, there is a 100-day period of intense scrutiny. So many things can go wrong when they put someone else’s cells in you, but again, it is the best chance for a cure.

I have even shared a third of the information they gave us, but it is involved, and it doesn’t look as if there is any way I can work for the next few months … but that is a bridge to cross later.

Marilyn and I spent yesterday after visiting Mother trying to wrap our brains around all this. This is when Callee called to tell me that we are going to have an appointment with them on Monday and then Tuesday morning, I am supposed to check into the hospital for two to three WEEKS in which I will be receiving aggressive treatment. I guess this is so aggressive and disruptive to the system that I need to be monitored 24/7. The wrapping came off!

Oh, man. Overwhelming. That is all I can say. Jumping into the deep end of the pool, I guess.

In one sense, I am glad they are getting this show on the road because my neck is swelling up again. It is becoming quite painful, so much so that I couldn’t lay down to try to sleep last night. I had to sit up. UGH.

Please pray for Marilyn in all of this: now she has two people in our family with life-altering stuff going on to take care of. I’m concerned about her. We are crying out to God, “HELP!”

Dr. Jesus, I don’t even know what to pray. Help us. Help Marilyn. Give her strength. Give us grace to start what I am now realizing will be the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. Amen.

Visit with Doc at CBCI

Please pray for me. I have a headache that just will not quit. This whole “bone marrow transplant” thing is overwhelming to me. I have a lot of questions to ask.

Plus, one more thing. I was talking with a brother last night. He recommended that I get a second opinion before I move forward on this transplant.

Excellent idea. I just hope I have time. I say that because, as I was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom before getting my shower, I noticed that there is significant swelling in my left chest right below my neck. Once again, this cancer seems to be a fast mover. There is no messing around.

Again, I will ask the doc at Colorado Blood Cancer Institute.

Marilyn is going with me. I’m glad to have another set of eyes and ears because I feel zonked.

“Get out of here, you Devil’s crew: at last GOD has heard my sobs. My requests have all been granted, my prayers are answered” (Psalm
6:8-9 MSG).

Lord, I hang my hat on this and on You this morning. I give You this appointment and everything else. I love You, Jesus. Amen.

Drastic Stuff

Up to yesterday, I just didn’t want to know anything about “Bone Marrow Transplants.” After our talk with Dr. Jotte, I still don’t.

Oh, man. I have to tell all of you that as I sit here this morning, I am (once again, a word I’ve been using a lot these days) OVERWHELMED.

I’m not sure I want to hash it out here quite yet—still a lot to process.

The one thing I will say: it is a SIX MONTH-process that will demand all of my focus and attention. What does this mean for me?

This is what I am trying to process.

As of today, we are still working on my mom’s future living situation. What we need is wisdom to know exactly what to do at this point. Marilyn wants to get her settled in her new place before the weekend because there is a possibility that I will be starting chemo THIS weekend. That’s what Dr. Jotte said, at least.

I will find out for sure tomorrow when I meet with the doctor at the Colorado Blood Cancer Center in the morning.

This exhortation from Jesus to Peter resonates this morning: “Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start” (Luke
22:31-32 MSG).

“When you have come through your time of testing”—will that indeed happen with Marilyn and me? Is there really light at the end of this long tunnel? I know what is in my head. My heart just needs to do a lot of catching up.

Lord, grace for this day. That’s it. I lift up Marilyn as well. Help us! Amen.

First Cancer Doc Appointment This Week

Before I talk about my stuff, I just want to share an update about my mom. We are moving forward on getting her out of this rehab place and into a memory care facility. I am working on the very lengthy admission papers now.

Rather than send her to what some call a “big box” place, we have opted instead for a home setting. In the particular unit we have chosen, there are only eight seniors and the care seems excellent. We are confident that my mom won’t get lost in the shuffle. We hope that it will feel more like home than where she is now.

This progress could be happening none too soon. My mom seemed to be doing better yesterday morning and late yesterday afternoon only to deteriorate rapidly both times. At dinner last night, she was actually talking with the other family seated at the table with the sitter and I. It was unbelievable, but not a half an hour later, it changed for the worse and she was confused and angry and belligerent.

I guess that is “the nature of the beast” with dementia, but it is extremely difficult to deal with, and of course, there is no logic involved in this huge mood shifts.

I said that Marilyn and I are frustrated because it doesn’t seem as if the rehab place is doing anything. Well, actually, they ARE trying various medication options to help her. I hope they find the right mix or at least something that helps even a little more.

In the meantime, Marilyn is going with me this morning to see Dr. Jotte. This was originally scheduled to be an infusion. Now that I am on the grow again and moving to a new treatment, I’m not sure what will happen today.

But I have an agenda. My neck as well as my chest are starting to bother me. I don’t want to get into a similar situation as last summer where things start expanding exponentially and I’ve got this big swelling. Hopefully, he has some stopgap measure for me.

I just need to shoot straight with him because lately, it feels as if he is at the end of his rope and he has dumped us. That is strong language, but Marilyn and I both feel this way. If so, it is time to choose another doctor and move on. We will see.

The other question I have is: what is or should be my reasonable expectation of how I should feel? What is the goal here? These past few weeks have been frustrating because I just haven’t felt well—no energy, fatigue, nausea, chills, and anxiety. The stress of the situation with my mom only contributes to all of this. I know that. But I still …

So, please pray for wisdom for both of us as we talk to him AND for some kind of help with my cancer as it is.

This morning, I got a lot of encouragement as I read these words of Jesus. He is speaking about what will happen in the days before His return: ““You’ll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. There’s no telling who will hate you because of me. Even so, every detail of your body and soul—even the hairs of your head!—is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved” (Luke
21:16-19 MSG).

Every detail is in His care. Thus, stay with it to the end. Okay.

Lord, I thank You this morning for Your BIGNESS. You are in charge of the whole universe, but I also praise You for Your SMALLNESS. You know every detail about me and are in total charge of every atom and molecule. Take care of my mom today as always and our appointment with the doc. Thanks DOC. Amen.

The Sun is Gone

Hold on! I will explain that title in a moment.

Well, I am sitting here exhausted again. After preaching and visiting with Dan and Michelle a bit, I came home to crash. Then, later in the afternoon, I went over to rehab to see my mom and have dinner with her. I could tell right off the bat that the sitter who was with her was overwhelmed. It didn’t take me long to feel that way myself.

Back to Dan and Michelle—it was so awesome to see them yesterday. After the service, we visited a bit. Michelle helped me understand dementia a little bit more. I certainly appreciate that, but even with that knowledge, it is just so difficult.

I won’t go into detail at this point, but when I got home, Marilyn and I had a long talk about everything and prayed together once again. She had spent all morning and into the afternoon at the rehab center and was also totally spent.

This morning, we are hoping to have a meeting with her care team at this place—Brookdale—and we have a lot to say. We are not pleased with her care there (or lack thereof). Please pray that we will have a good meeting. Something has got to give—for my mom’s sake and ours. We already feel as if we are close to the end of our rope.

We are still a bit in process with the next place we hope she can go to for her continued care. I thought we were settled as I told some folks at church yesterday, but some things have shifted a bit, so we are still in process. Sorry for the nebulous language here. When things solidify, I will certainly let all of you know. Please pray for THAT as well.

On to the readings for today—still in Job. Again, I am not classing myself with him, but I get so much comfort from reading this book—more than I ever have before.

“What did I do to deserve this? Did I ever hit anyone who was calling for help? Haven’t I wept for those who live a hard life, been heartsick over the lot of the poor? But where did it get me? I expected good but evil showed up. I looked for light but darkness fell. My stomach’s in a constant churning, never settles down. Each day confronts me with more suffering. I walk under a black cloud.
The sun is gone. I stand in the congregation and protest. I howl with the jackals, I hoot with the owls. I’m black-and-blue all over, burning up with fever. My fiddle plays nothing but the blues; my mouth harp wails laments” (Job 30:24-31 MSG, emphasis mine).

That little sentence—the sun is gone—hit me straight in the face. Job is commenting about the way the world looks as he stands right in the middle of suffering. Everything seems dark and different. This describes exactly how I feel.

This is my favorite time of year, but honestly, the sun is gone now. Everything seems different. Again, maybe one of the major reasons is that I just don’t feel well because of this cancer stuff in addition to this situation with my mom—I don’t know. It is hard to have the initiative or drive to do anything these days.

Lord, the sun may be gone but I know and I affirm—You are still there. Help us today with all this stuff. The load is heavy. I pray for some light and resolution of some of this. Again, we are crying out for help. Amen.

Rolled Down a Hill

It is amazing what the Lord uses to encourage you. I will get to it in a moment.

Yesterday, Marilyn and I spent some time scouting out a place for my mom when it is time to move on from rehab. We think we found one … I will tell more about it later.

In the meantime, we just don’t know how much longer she can be at the rehab place because, as I said, her main issue is dementia and it just seems to be getting worse. We will keep plugging and talking to the doctors and therapists there.

In the meantime, (and what I am going to write has played in big time when we are thinking about her continuing care AND I realize that rehab is different from other kinds of care), I am growing increasingly disillusioned with the main model that is out there—sticking seniors in a big building where they sit in their rooms most of the day alone.

The seniors who are in rehab look so sad to Marilyn and me. Most of them have no visitors. They are stuck there before they are moved to some other place to continue to be alone.

When we eat meals, we get to visit with them. Yesterday morning at breakfast, Lloyd and John sat with my mom and me. John told me about his work life; Lloyd really didn’t utter a word.

My heart breaks for them and this is REHAB. What about other phases of care? I’ve seen folks in all the places …

Well, today, I am headed up to church to preach. It will be great to see my church family. The truth is that I feel as if I have been on a different planet these past couple of weeks. It will be weird this morning NOT going to the rehab center to spend time with my mom and eat breakfast with her. But I feel a compulsion to go today.

Back to an encouragement from yesterday. I received a card from a dear couple in our church—Jim and Patti. I assume that Patti wrote the card. In it, shoe told about going to the Botanical Gardens the other day with her daughter and grandson, Luis. Before they left, Patti said she “rolled down a hill” with Luis! Ha! Awesome.

She went on, “Crazy, because I never did that when I was a kid but waited til age 66. So moral to the story—those who wait upon the Lord will re-new their strength.”

Wow. Somehow, I think of Patti rolling down that hill and it reminds me that the Lord can do anything. He can get us through this trial. He enables us mount up with wings as eagles, to run and not be weary, and here is the clincher—WALK AND NOT FAINT.

That is where things are today.

Lord, thanks for this wonderfully encouraging image of Your strength and grace and companionship in my life—whatever the challenge—mounting, running, walking, or rolling. You are there. Thanks for Jim and Patti. I pray for those folks in rehab, specifically Lloyd and John and Paulene. I continue to lift up my mom. I just think about her and hurt for her relentlessly and so does Marilyn. We ask for help to make it through another day. Amen.

P. S. Patti, I hope it is okay that I shared this today. Thanks for the card.

Emotional Angst

As many of you who have known my mom remember, she is fiercely independent and opinionated. These are qualities that the Lord used to get her through my dad’s death and raising two teenagers all by herself. And then, she continued to help us all through these years.

Now, the proverbial shoe is on the other foot.

It is just so hard seeing her in this facility, totally dependent on everyone else for all her needs. She is confused. She doesn’t know where she is. She is angry and “just wants to go home.” We have to keep explaining things to her over and over and over.

This just makes this whole thing ten times more difficult. By the end of the day, even though Marilyn and I did very little more than sit, we were/are thoroughly exhausted. It is emotional fatigue—makes one more tired than running a marathon (so I have heard; I have never actually experienced THAT—ha!).

Again, we are so grateful for these sitters who are coming to stay with Mother through the night and during the hours of the day we just can’t be there.

Yesterday, we did more research and talked to a man about an option for her care after the rehab. We will continue to work on this today.

In my reading in the Solid Life plan this morning, two passages stand out. Notice these words of Jesus as He teaches us about prayer:

“Then the Master said, ‘Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?’” (Luke
18:6-8 MSG)

The second comes from Revelation: “Are you listening to this? They’ve made their bed; now they must lie in it. Anyone marked for prison goes straight to prison; anyone pulling a sword goes down by the sword. Meanwhile, God’s holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground” (Revelation
13:9-10 MSG).

Persistent faith and passionate standing—the need of the hour.

This is particularly a need for us because it is just hard to see someone you love suffer in confusion and pain and wonder why God is allowing her to go through this—a tough pill to swallow.

But we don’t need to—just continue to trust Him and stand against the wiles of the devil and in times of intense difficulty. That’s it.

Lord, when I write it, it seems so easy. Of course, You know better than anyone that it is not. Please help my mom. That’s all I know what to pray for. Give us grace. Thank You AGAIN and ALWAYS for everyone who is reading this and praying and is there. Help for another day. Amen.

Life on God's Terms

Marilyn and I spend some time, before we go to bed each night, touching base on the day.

Last night, we expressed that our concern for my mom now is more for the mental than the physical. Her dementia seems to be getting worse. Pray that we will have the wisdom to know how to help her in this regard. We need to talk to some folks today.

In the meantime, we deeply appreciate the “sitters” who are coming to be with her when neither of us can be there.

Late yesterday afternoon, I had a good visit with Emma. She is originally from England. It was great to hear her story. She came with my mom and me as we ate dinner last night. Another couple joined us at the table—Byron and his wife Jilly.

Somehow, it helped to visit with these folks as sometimes this whole thing just becomes so all-consuming.

“The whole thing” involves my health as well. I finally got in touch with the Colorado Bone Cancer Institute. They could not see me until Thursday of next week. In the meantime, I’m starting to experience some more pain in my neck. UGH.

Notice these words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit emphasized them to me this morning: “When the Day arrives and you’re out working in the yard, don’t run into the house to get anything. And if you’re out in the field, don’t go back and get your coat. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms” (Luke
17:31-33 MSG).

Wow, this frames the whole thing differently. All this stuff we are going through is a call—a call to live life on God’s terms, not ours.

Lord, show me what this means— “life on God’s terms”—for this new day, for me and everyone reading this blog. I lift up Emma and Byron and Jilly. Help them to meet You and experience life on Your terms. Thanks again for everyone who is reading this and cares about us and is doing the real work—the “heavy lifting” of prayer. Help them not to stop. Amen.

Singular and Sovereign

Yesterday was a long, hard day but a good day.

Our first choice of a rehab center unexpectedly and shockingly just canceled us out. We are still rather angry about this—no way to treat people.

However, our second choice welcomed us and now we are convinced that this is where the Lord wanted us all along, but it took all day to get my mom there.

It wasn’t long after we were in the room that this gregarious, vivacious African woman entered. Her name is Pamela and she has a distinct accent. When I asked where she was from, she replied, “Kenya.” It seems that most of the nurses are from Africa. All were very accommodating and friendly to us. So, we believe that the Lord has my mom in a good place.

Plus, there is a requirement that my mom have a sitter—someone to be with her constantly for the first 72 hours of rehab. Paula is with her right now until 8:00. I’m going up there in a little bit to talk with her to see how things went. Marilyn, who is totally worn out, is coming a little later.

Understandably, my mom was a little disoriented in the new place and very much afraid. Please pray for her.

Back to Pamela—she gave us the orientation speech and told Mother that they are going to be evaluating her today so that they will know how to work with her.

As she was wrapping up, she added, “I have a patient in here who invited me to his church. It was a little embarrassing because they asked the visitors to stand up. I didn’t really like that, but I do like the church.” Then, she pointed to Lillian who was standing next to her. “She is a worship leader at her church.”

When I told her I was a pastor, she gave me a high five. She is really an awesome person.

As I was leaving a little later on, Pam and Lillian were sitting at the front desk to the rehab ward. I told them that I have cancer and am struggling with it at the moment. I could tell that both of them really care. Lillian shared this verse with me. Here it is in the Message Version: “Fear nothing in the things you’re about to suffer—but stay on guard! Fear nothing! The Devil is about to throw you in jail for a time of testing—ten days. It won’t last forever” (Revelation 2:10). Amen. How about that?

In the course of the day, I was also able to have two other very encouraging conversations with my roommate in college, Carter, our family friend, Cindy, and my friend Andy. I praise God for all of them.

This helped because I did not hear from the scheduler about my appointment with the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute. No news to report there.

One more passage from my buddy Job. Please understand, I am not classing myself with him, but I really appreciate his honesty in his trial. No need to sugarcoat anything: “But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him? He does what he wants, when he wants to. He’ll complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do. Is it any wonder that I dread meeting him? Whenever I think about it, I get scared all over again. God makes my heart sink! God Almighty gives me the shudders! I’m completely in the dark, I can’t see my hand in front of my face” (Job
23:13-17 MSG).

I want to add these words from Jesus: “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right —using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior” (Luke
16:8-9 MSG).

Singular and Sovereign Lord, give us the grace of creative survival for another day. Thank You for Carter, Cindy, Pam, Lillian, Andy, and absolutely everyone who is praying for us. I love you all. Please deliver my mom from fear and give her a good day. You will complete in detail what You have decided for us. That’s it. Amen.

When It Rains, It Pours

Well, not good news at the doc’s office yesterday: my cancer has started to grow again. Dr. Jotte seems to be at his wit’s end. With a sigh, he declared, “I’m just not pleased with the lack of durability of these treatments. I think we need to look into a transplant.”

Huh? What?

A Bone Marrow Transplant.

He is going to schedule an appointment with me at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute. It is located basically across the street in Midtown from the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center. His scheduler, Vanessa, is going to call me when I am scheduled.

Dr. Jotte went on, “Go see them. Get their opinion as to what we should do next. Maybe they will recommend another chemo treatment, or not.” So we will see.

In the meantime, I’m going to stay on the trial a few more days, hoping that it holds my cancer in check a little bit, but both the doctor and I agree that we did not want to come anywhere near the “swollen neck” days of last August. Thus, I have a feeling that this appointment will be happening soon.

As I left the office, this thought crossed my brain: “I’m going to search Google for “bone marrow transplants.” And then, I quickly dismissed the idea. I’ve heard some very unpleasant things about them, but I am not going to cross “that bridge” until I come to it.

Those of you who are reading this blog—please don’t tell me anything about it quite yet. Thanks.

Of course, the timing of this could not be worse.

The hospital has said that they are going to move my mom into rehab later today or tomorrow. Things keep getting pushed back in that move, so we will see.

In the meantime, please pray for us as this “adventure” continues. I sure don’t feel well today, so I need to sign off.

I love all of you. I love You, Jesus. Make no mistake, though. God, I affirm that You are still on Your throne—robed and ruling and IN CHARGE. Amen.

One More Thing ...

Two things came to mind/happened yesterday morning. First, I remember something that Richard Jackson, the well-known former pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, said in a sermon. I used to listen to his sermons. Our family got the “tapes.” This shows how long ago it was. We would always attend North Phoenix when we traveled to the Phoenix area for spring break when I was a kid.

Anyway, Jackson told about a dream he had. He said that the telephone rang and someone on the other end told him that one of his children had died. Just as he said, “I can’t take this,” he woke up with an overwhelming feeling of the sufficiency of God’s grace. Interesting.

Second, yesterday morning as we were sitting in the hospital waiting for the care team to arrive, Marilyn said, “Well, I guess we won’t be asking God, ‘Can it get any harder?’ any longer, right?” Ha. Right.

Why would she say that?

Well, as I was preparing to head to the hospital yesterday morning, I got a call from the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center. It was Shantel who coordinates the Clinical trials—mine, in particular. “John, Dr. Jotte needs to see you tomorrow. Can you call Vanessa, the scheduler, and make an appointment?”

Okay. “What is going on?”

“Well, I don’t really know. It may have something to do with that spot on your chest. I don’t really know. The doctor would just like to see you in person.”

Well, I have to tell all of you that, at that moment, it was almost like the proverbial straw on the camel’s back—mine. I felt like Jackson in his dream.

I hate this method of sharing news, by the way. Why can’t the doc just call and tell you, at least just do THAT so you are not left wondering, for a day and a half?

Marilyn had already left earlier for the hospital. I drove over there, parked, walked, took the elevator, found the room, signaled Marilyn to come outside, and shared this news. Both of us hugged each other and wept. ONE MORE THING—whatever it is.

So, today, I have an appointment at 2:30. Marilyn is going with me, taking a break from being with Mother. I so appreciate this.

Back to yesterday, after sharing this news and going into the room to see Mother, I did experience what Jackson shared—an overwhelming sense of the grace of God to meet me in my place of “overwhelmedness”
One more thing: my mom did not go to rehab yesterday. They needed to run another test on her as it turned out and she will be going tomorrow—hopefully, if they can get everything arranged. This is another reason Marilyn feels fairly comfortable to come with me. The Lord worked this out as well.

How about these words from my buddy Job? ““Oh, friends, dear friends, take pity on me. God has come down hard on me! Do you have to be hard on me, too? Don’t you ever tire of abusing me? If only my words were written in a book— better yet, chiseled in stone! Still, I know that God lives—the One who gives me back my life— and eventually he’ll take his stand on earth. And I’ll see him—even though I get skinned alive!— see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!” (Job
19:21-27 MSG).

Yes. Amen. Thank You Lord for Your grace, for meeting us when one more straw makes the load too heavy. You are there. Always there. And someday, … bring it on! Amen.

Update on my Mom

My mom seemed to be doing a little better yesterday. She was more coherent and calm. Marilyn and I were greatly relieved. However, she greatly resisted Marilyn coming home last night. We worry about her overnight, but we just have to continually turn her over to the Lord.

This morning, we have a meeting schedule with the doctor and the hospital personnel (such as therapists) who have been caring for her.

Then, my understanding is that they are going to discharge her and move her to a rehab center.

Yesterday afternoon, Marilyn and I drove around a bit, visiting the rehab places recommended by the hospital and a couple of others—quite an experience and education, I must say. I could say a whole lot more about all of that right now, but I won’t.

Suffice it to say that we have made our first and second choice and are ready for the transfer.

This is a huge point for prayer: my mom will NOT be ready. She just wants to go home. We are already explaining to her that she can’t right now. This is the best step for her at the present.

After two weeks in rehab, wherever we go will tell us how she is doing and make recommendations about the next step from there.

It is hard not to get ahead of ourselves at this point. After all, two weeks is not that long, but we are trying to focus on each day and take one step at a time.

Please pray for me as well. I have been feeling increasing bad over the past couple of days, yesterday especially. I would not have been able to preach, even if this had not happened with my mom. I’m going to call Dr. Jotte today and let him know what is going on.

This will not prevent me being at the hospital and helping out with everything today. It just makes everything much harder. I am pretty much at the end of my rope with this clinical trial … I think I’m going to tell the doc that I am done and ask him to put me on something else. We will see.

In the meantime, the focus today is getting my mom moved and making sure she is in a good spot for the next couple of weeks.

“One day at a time, sweet Jesus.” Amen.

Stroke (s)

Yesterday morning, the doctor came in and told Marilyn that my mom had multiple small strokes and a bigger one the day before yesterday.

As you can imagine, we are reeling a bit with this news. I thought I would be able to go to church this morning and preach my sermon, but yesterday evening, I realized I just could not.

It was a very hard day yesterday. At times, my mom was belligerent. She does not want to be there and fought Marilyn and the nurses on a couple of occasions.

Around mid-morning, the physical therapist came by, asked her some questions, and helped her use her walker to get to the bathroom. It was very arduous. When Nicole was done, she looked at me and said, “I’m going to recommend that Mary go to rehab.”

I guess tomorrow they are going to transfer her there.

All of this is swirling around in my head right now. It is hard to handle. I know Marilyn feels the same way.

Lord, I lift up my mom to You. Help her not to suffer. Give Marilyn and me the grace to care for her in the right way. Thank You for Al who is preaching for me this morning and for my church family who is praying and everyone else. This is in Your hands, Dr. Jesus. Amen.

Further Developments with my Mom

The answer to Marilyn’s question, “Can it get any harder?” is YES. Much harder.

Let me back up a bit.

Yesterday morning, both of us could tell that something just wasn’t right with my mom. She was very disoriented. Her speech was slurred. She had weakness on her right side—her arm and leg.

At that point we feared the worst, but she seemed to do better and better as the morning progressed.

We took her to Spine 1 for the kyphoplasty procedure. Marilyn told them about what had happened earlier that morning, but they didn’t seem too concerned. I think the doctor told Marilyn that her symptoms were related to her back problems.

After she got situated and ready for the procedure, I came home.

So, they did the procedure. My mom made it through okay and both of them came home, but as the day progressed, she still was not doing well.

Marilyn called her new primary care—Dr. Davis. His nurse, upon hearing about what had happened earlier in the day and about her persisting symptoms (her right arm just wasn’t functioning and it was hard for her to walk) told us to take her to the ER.

So we did. They ran all sorts of tests on her, including a CT scan. The scan proved to be “inconclusive,” but our nurse in the ER told us that oftentimes, strokes don’t show up on scans at first.

At some point in the evening, I left to come home (I had taken my own car just as I had in the morning to Spine 1) and Marilyn stayed. They were going to move her to a room in the hospital and keep her overnight for observation.

Later that evening, Marilyn texted me to tell me that they were going to do an MRI on her last night. We both hope that they find something or nothing— “inconclusive” is a very unsatisfying term.

So, that is where things are.

I have a bad headache this morning that I just can’t shake, but I wanted to share this with all of you.

There are so many thoughts running through my mind right now … I am not going to share them at this point.

Again, we appreciate your prayers. We should know more as the morning progresses. I will certainly let all of you know. In the meantime, I’m just going to sit here and try to get over this headache.

Lord, Dr. Jesus, all of this is in Your hands. It seems overwhelming right now. I know Marilyn feels that way. We place this situation at Your feet. Thank You for everyone who is reading this blog and continues to pray. I love them all. Amen.

My Mom's Procedure Today: The Trial Continues

As my mom and sister and I were praying together the other night, I found myself saying this to the Lord, “I know we are in the midst of a trial. Lord, I don’t know if this is good to ask or not, because everything You allow into our lives is good, but I am going to ask it anyway, ‘Please shorten this trial we are in. It seems as if it is just too much.’”

Somehow, that has been on my mind the past couple of days since I prayed that to the Lord.

Yesterday seemed as if it lasted six months. I got the CT scan. As I said yesterday, it sticks in my craw (this is an old Kansas expression) a bit that I have to wait ten days or so for the results, but it is what it is.

My mom spent most of the day hurting again, except for the fact that we think we have landed on a drug that gives her the most relief because she slept most of the day. I’m not sure this is a good thing or not. We are worried about all the drugs we have given her, but anything that gives any relief is a relief, if I can say it that way.

Anyway, we are glad that finally, the day has arrived for this procedure. It is at 9:30 this morning. Once again, we count on all of you to pray for this. Of course, we are trusting Dr. Jesus, but if this doesn’t give her more complete and lasting relief from the pain, we have no backup plan. The stakes seem to be very high. But if I were a betting man, I still take that wager because we are banking on the Lord.

In the Solid Life Bible Plan, the readings in Job continue. Here is another honest heart cry from Job:

““My time is short—what’s left of my life races off too fast for me to even glimpse the good. My life is going fast, like a ship under full sail, like an eagle plummeting to its prey. Even if I say, ‘I’ll put all this behind me, I’ll look on the bright side and force a smile,’ All these troubles would still be like grit in my gut since it’s clear you’re not going to let up. The verdict has already been handed down—‘Guilty!’— so what’s the use of protests or appeals? Even if I scrub myself all over and wash myself with the strongest soap I can find, It wouldn’t last—you’d push me into a pigpen, or worse, so nobody could stand me for the stink” (Job
9:25-31 MSG).

These are desperate words, to be sure, but for some reason, they do encourage me. We do not grade or compare suffering. But it does seem as if what the Lord allowed in His life a couple of thousand plus years ago is much more difficult than our trial. Whatever the case may be, I love the fact that he continues to decry little flesh plans like, “Grin and bear it.”

I used to worry about what all of you would think if I were brutally honest, but then, I just gave up that form of pride. I don’t care, and I am going to give all of you more credit than that. I know you don’t either. You just care and pray. That means the world to my family and me.

But back to the point: I do resent all forms of human masks that we put up (by the way—that is the epitome of hypocrisy—look up the Greek word) to try to hide our pain. All of us need at least one person with whom we can be brutally honest and not worry about being judged or belittled.

Well, anyway, one more passage to cite this morning. These words come from the book of Revelation and are more future-focused: “when he ripped off the fifth seal, I saw the souls of those killed because they had held firm in their witness to the Word of God. They were gathered under the Altar, and cried out in loud prayers, ‘How long, Strong God, Holy and True? How long before you step in and avenge our murders?’ Then each martyr was given a white robe and told to sit back and wait until the full number of martyrs was filled from among their servant companions and friends in the faith” (Revelation
6:9-11 MSG).

What a picture—the souls of martyrs gathered under the Altar …

Lord, please take continue to take care of my mom and her pain today. Give us the grace to go through this trial until You decide to end it—not one second early. Help! Amen.