Friday, April 20, 2012

From the Hotel Vanderbilt: Update

I received partial results from the Bronchoscopy today and they have ruled out TB and any fungal problems. This means that I am no longer on isolation status and can have my room door open. This makes me happy because with the door closed, I was getting very chilly. They are still waiting for results of the tissues they got from the biopsy-in this they will look for malignant cells. They are also growing some cultures from the procedure screen for  problems that may be associated with other infections.

Tomorrow I will have an Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. During this procedure they will look for obstructions of the common bile ducts, check out the gall bladder, the liver, and do some biopsies of the pancreas. They will be looking for the specific causes of the jaundice as well as the causes for the enlargement of the liver and pancreas, It looks like a couple more days of waiting and resting at the Hotel Vanderbilt.

On another positive note, the medicine they are giving me for the jaundice does seem to be working. I have also had several opportunities to share with the docs and the staff how I am just trusting God throughout this whole process, and how many people are praying for them as they work to uncover a specific diagnosis.

To that end, I ask you to continue to pray for wisdom for the medical teams, ask the Lord to guide and direct their hands, eyes and minds as they perform the various procedures and to give them the analytical skill needed as they study the various cultures and tissues  in search of diagnosis. Last, but not least, that His will, not mine be done, and in this process I can continue to model a Romans 8:28 attitude and that all honor and glory be given to God.

Well, that is it for now, and as I get more information, I will send out some more updates. As always, I thank you for your love, support, and most of all your prayers. Until the next time...

Romans 8:28

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Still Waitng and Resting at the Hotel Vanderbilt: Medical Update

Before I begin the update, I want to retract a recent prayer request and refocus all prayer requests to be centered on God's will in this matter. The other day I had asked to pray that my problem was tuberculosis. Well, I am sorry I asked you to do that as it was not biblical, and actually a rather selfish request.

First, in addressing the selfishness, it is human nature to want the best and easiest solution for ourselves. But, the problem is this, I was asking for a disease for myself, that would be the answer to my problems, and be the easiest to receive treatment for. In my rashness, I failed to consider the consequences for others. I would have been essentially asking for literally hundreds of others to be exposed to TB by having coming into contact with them. That means my church family, on a small scale so far, but on an even larger scale, my students and friends back in China, and all of the people they would come into contact with. If tested positive for TB, then all would run the risk of contracting the disease as well. Seeing how the exposure to my family and church family has been rather small, contacting them would not be much of a problem. But the exposure to my students and friends in China would be, as stated earlier, be literally hundreds of people, and there would be a great difficulty reaching all those whom I had come into contact with, and that would bring great possibilities that many would be infected and not even be aware of the fact. I would not want even just one to be infected with TB just so I could have a greater chance of being healed.

Second, as for being biblical, we see in Matthew 6:10 that Jesus teaches us to pray this way:
 10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.(NASB). Jesus models this prayer again  on the Mount of Olives ( Luke 22:42: 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”) when He clearly knew the fate that he would soon be suffering. His prayer that the cup be removed was more a way of asking for another way to accomplish the same purpose that would involve less suffering for Him, and would not inflict suffering on anyone else. ( That is just my take on that.). However, He quickly stated that the will of the Father be done in order to accomplish  His Father's will. In other words, Christ is saying Father, I don't really look forward to this horrible death set before me, but if it is to accomplish your will, I am ready willing and able. In praying this way we see in verse 43 that the Father prepares and strengthens Him for the task ahead: 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. I know God will also do this for me as well!

So, dear friends and family, please revert back to praying this way for me: That not my will ( or desire) be done, but His will. Thank you so much for you love support and prayers.

Now for the update: It has been decided that the first step toward a definitive diagnosis will be what is called a Bronchoscopy, a procedure where they will insert a tube into my lung by way of the nostril. What they will do is spray a solution into the airways, and then use a suction device to retrieve the solution, which will bring some of the small particles back into the tube. They will then culture the particles in hopes of making a diagnosis. At the same time, they will also use this procedure to collect some lung tissue via biopsies.  Together with the cultures, they will then attempt to make a diagnosis, at least to what they are seeing in my lungs.

 This procedure will take place today, April 18 in the late afternoon. Please pray for the God to direct the hands of the operating team and to sharpen their wisdom and skill. The cultures will probably take about two days to yield an analysis.

Then, probably on Friday, they will do  GI scope for the purpose of trying to collect some tissue samples of the pancreas and have a look see in the abdominal area. As, I find out more about the results and diagnosis, I will be sure to keep you informed.

As always, thanks for reading. I also especially thank you for your love, support, and most of all your prayers. May you experience the full nature of God's blessings that He has prepared for you today! Until the next time...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Goodbyes, Planes, Hugs, and ER Rooms: God is Good...

On Thursday evening, I attended our English Corner/ Bible Study. Although, the Luke had prepared a lesson for that evening, they asked me if I wanted to and give a message seeing how I might be gone for awhile. I did not really have anything prepared, and was really tired, but if you know me, I don't turn down opportunities to talk. God provided wonderfully here by giving me this passage to share 2 Corinthians 4:16-18;5:1-10
Thursday English Corner/ Bible Study

I began by giving them some testimony about my coming to salvation, and as I shared with my students the night before, there are two outcomes to this to this upcoming battle. Both of which are a win-win

I explained how that if I won the physical fight with cancer, then I get to stay here on this earth for a while longer, but if I lose the physical fight with cancer, I get to go home! I explained how that for one who is a believer, that this place on earth is not our home-that heaven is the true home of the believer. I had referenced the scripture before starting, but we had not yet read the scripture. As I finished sharing, I told them that this was not just something I had made up to comfort myself, but that I believed it because God had stated it through Paul in the Bible. And, that even though none of us had never seen heaven, or God for that matter, we can still believe both God and heaven were real because scripture tells so.: 2Cor.5:7-8. I also told them that the bible tells us this in many other passages. We then turned to the scriptures and they all took turns reading a verse. I was then able to reiterate that this was available for anyone who would believe in Jesus as God's Son, and trusting Him to forgive them of their sins, reinforcing the strong gospel presentation given by Elaine as we headed into the Easter weekend. So, pray for those who are coming and as of yet do not believe, that these, and future messages will continue to draw them to God. I must say that it was my pleasure and honor to serve God alongside of Matthijis, and Luke & Elaine. I believe that under their guidance, God will use them and this study to bring honor and glory to His name.

On Friday, a group of my students came to say goodbye and help deliver my luggage downstairs and we were able to have a group picture together. How I wish I would have thought to have a group picture like this with the other class.
Crazy Goodbyes!

I just flew in from China and boy are my arms tired (said while duck walking). Ha ha, not my arms, but my whole body. I woke up Saturday morning with a bad case of the runs. Funny thing is that while packing, I looked at the Imodium  ( medicine), and thought, "Nah, I don't need that."
Famous last words. Unfortunately, I could have sorely used that Imodium. On the first leg of the flight, the crew was able to help me out, but the last 2 legs, Shanghai-to-Atlanta (2hr layover), and then Atlanta-to-Nashville, I was on my own. Even though I was given special assistance along the way by being in a wheel chair, I had just bought some in Atlanta when they called for me to board the flight to Nashville. I decided then not to take them as I would soon be in Vanderbilt Hospital and figure the less medicine I took on my own, the better off I would be for them to treat me.

I only tell that story to emphasize how miserable I was coming home, that coupled with almost total exhaustion made for a long miserable 21 hour trip home. Even so, all that misery was wiped away in an instant. As I was being wheeled out of terminal heading towards the baggage claim, I caught a glimpse of some familiar faces. The young man pushing me asked if there would be someone coming to pick me up. I said "Oh yeah" and pointed to my sisters and a group of about 30 of my church family members. At first, he did not realize there were so many until we got a little closer. I told him how blessed I felt. My spirit was greatly uplifted. We all had a hug-fest right there at the terminal exit. After retrieving my luggage, we waited until my sister got her car and came to exit level we were on, had another hug-fest, and I said my goodbyes and headed off to Vanderbilt Emergency room.  After getting turned  around a bit we arrived around 7:30 p.m.

I could not have asked for a nicer group of  folks to admit and care for me as they evaluated my situation. From the intake people-to the ER doc and her residents, everyone was kind, caring and very thorough in their work. Because Vanderbilt is a teaching hospital, I would be asked many of the same questions by the ER doc, and her residents (they each saw me separately), but they were very nice and apologetic, and I realized that they were in the learning process and on their way to being future great doctors. Ha ha, the shot of morphine and Zofran they gave me mellowed me out to the point I probably would have not cared if a 100 people interviewed me during the course of evaluation.  

I had another ultra sound and CAT Scan performed, and what seemed like a quart of blood drawn. After that my sister's Jane, Molly, and I waited in our examining room as the staff processed and analyzed the results. They were trying to determine exactly which medical team I would be handed over to for future treatment. Poor Jane was so tired, that after the CAT Scan, the nurse opened the door and there she was laying my bed! Bless her heart!

Finally, around 1:30 a.m. or so, I was admitted and taken to my room. By the time we got settled, I believe it was nearly 2:30 a.m. Jane and Molly stayed until I was completely settled and they had long drive home.

The next day (Sunday April 15th-which is today for me) my medical team came in to interview me. They were still waiting for some results and decided that nothing would be happening until at least Monday. Once they received the results, they would determine a course of action. The first is in addressing my jaundice and trying to identify the exact source of the jaundice. The lead doctor has the opinion that the gall stones and gall bladder are not the major issue. For now, I am receiving some general antibiotics.

However, I did have a major pain inducing episode from the gall bladder area this morning. Although, they were a bit slow in getting me the pain med, they finally did in the form of a Lori tab, Tennessee's ( and probably the US's most abused prescription drug. At first it made me groggy, and finally it made its way into my system and the pain subsided. There was some confusion about the availability of a pain med for me, but as it turns out, they do have pain meds listed in my chart as "prn" every four hours( you nurses out there, feel free to correct me if I got the term wrong, he he) which means roughly that a pain med is available every four hours as needed. Hopefully, I won't need them and I will not request them unless necessary. In China, I became quite familiar with the beginning signs of these gall bladder attacks, and have told the nurses that I would only ask for them as I recognized the beginning stages.

The second step they are trying to determine is where, and what kind of biopsies they want to perform to gain the needed suspected tissues for examination to determine the exact nature of their malignancy, or benignity. We are all pretty sure that there is some malignancy because of the scans and some of the early returns of the blood work. I am thinking, from the conversations, that they will set these biopsies tomorrow at the earliest, or Tuesday at the latest. Then we can get on with the treatment.

The good news in all of this is that today I've felt much better than I have in weeks. They are giving me meds to relieve the itchy skin, which also makes me a bit groggy. But, that has allowed me to rest more than I've been able to for quite some time.I have also been able to share a little bit with various members of the staff, including Dr. Jirjis, the head of my medical team about my work and purpose for being in China for the last five years.

So, as I close, I ask you to pray for wisdom and guidance for the medical team. Ask God to be honing their skills even now before they do the first procedure. Pray the same for my nursing staff as they go about their duties of caring for me during my stay. Pray for my sisters, my family, and members of my church family, as they make the journeys back and forth form Shelbyville-to-Nashville-and back again as they come to support and help with my needs. Pray for their safe journeys, and give God some praise for the love and caring of me. Praise God for His provision for me. Please continue to pray for the study group back in China, that through that group, God will be honored and glorified, with new believers coming into the family, and present believers being strengthened and  spiritually fed by the teaching. And pray for me, that I can maintain that Romans 8:28 attitude as all of this unfolds.  As always, I thank you for reading, and hope that you will find some blessings here. God is always looking for, and does bless us. Let us look for those blessings and give Him the honor and glory He deserves. Until the next time...

P.S. I did do a spell check and briefly proofed it but I wrote this pretty late, so do forgive my usual poor grammar and punctuation. Thanks.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Medical Update: The Rose Garden Has Some Weeds That Need Pulling

Ok, I have had my interpretation, and it is not the rosiest picture ever painted but, God is control and I will trust in Him. I saw Dr. Sheng last night, and as suspected, they believe that they are seeing some cancer but, they are not sure what type of cancer it is. I told him about my itchy skin, heartburn, and the discomfort I've been having in my upper abdomen area. Also, I told him Pamfort had told me at church that my eyes looked jaundiced.

So, he took me to an examining room and after a few pokes and a look at my eyes, combined with what he saw in the scan, he thinks there is also a problem with my liver. He asked me to come back this morning for some blood tests. They are going to do some various cancer screens, one for the recurrence of my previous cancer, and to look for another type of cancer ( don't know what type). In addition they are doing some bile test for the liver. He says, that depending on that test, he may want to admit me to the hospital for treatment-antibiotics. I suppose there is some sort of infection that is causing swelling. He tells me that ther is an outside obstruction of the common bile duct, and that needs to be treated to keep from getting worse. He has also suggest that I return home as soon as possible and has written as such in my medical records. I will return to the hospital shortly to get the results of the blood tests. I do suspect that he will want to admit me for the liver problem

Dr. Sheng has been a blessing from God, in that He has been able to communicate with me in English. Not only that, he seems to genuinely care about his patients. Last night, he met me in his office to read the PET Scan report, and today when I arrived, He was looking at a copy of the previous CT report, and that is where he noticed the outer obstruction and, along with my symptoms decided to do the additional liver test. He walked me to the registration window and gave the clerk the order slip. Ha ha, he even paid for the test (600rmb =$94 USD) because I did not bring enough money.  Of course I will pay him back this afternoon. But, he did not hesitate to pull out his wallet and pay. He then walked me right to the where the lab techs write their reports and one of them immediately took me to another office and drew my blood.

As we were walking out, he told me that this must be a difficult time. I told him yes it is, but that I believe in God, and trust Him no matter what happens as He has a purpose for everything. I also told him how that we believe that it was God who had put him in my path to help me and that his help has been a blessing to me.

The rose garden has some weeds that need pulling. But, the picture is coming to a clearer focus. After I get the results of the blood test, hopefully, we can know the specific type of cancer. From there, I have some decisions to make. They mostly concern as to where I should return to in the U.S. My first inclination is to Tennessee, where my home and church family has been for the last 12 years. Vanderbilt is a teaching hospital that has many good cancer specialist. Another option involves two places in Virgina. One is in my boyhood hometown of Norfolk, (actually, I would stay with my sister in Chesapeake) and go to the hospitals there where I battled cancer the first time. The other is that my brother has suggested that I could come to Charlottesville where he and his wife Judy live. They are near the UVA hospital.

However, I think my biggest challenge is insurance. I don't have any in the U.S. I have talked to my sister Pat and she has told me that I can go online and start filling out the paper work for Social Security disability. So, I will begin to do that in the next day or so. I will keep you posted as regularly as possible.

I love and miss you all so much. Your words of encouragement and prayer have helped me feel less lonely in this difficult time. As I close, the words to a song that our youth band One Way sings comes to mind: Mighty Mighty Mighty, Mighty  is our God. Holy Holy Holy, Holy is our God. Let us remember that as we pray for each other. Thanks for reading. Until the next time...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Medical Update: PET Scan Complete, Still Waiting for Interpretation

It was a long day in Shanghai. Got there around 11 after the two hour drive. The check in process was smooth. Then I had to drink 4-5 300ml cups of water. The test only took 10 minutes. It was a PET/CT scan combination.  I paid extra for an English Translation, but at first they told me it would be Monday, but said the Chinese result/translation would be available at 6 p.m. Then they said the English translation would also be ready at 6. So, we went and had dinner and came back. But the English translation was not ready and won't be ready until Monday. The Chinese translation was too technical for  Mr. Yang to interpret, and there were no doctors there.

So, at church today, I saw Pamfort, the Chinese doctor who comes to the Thursday bible study. I don't know why, but I was not expecting to see him there. He told me my eyes looked jaundiced, and then he called Dr. Sheng and found out he will be working tonight. I have made arrangements to go see him with my report. Dr.Sheng is the cardiac doctor. He is working Sunday night! He told me it would be his pleasure to see me. God is so good.

So, tonight I will go see Dr. Sheng and hopefully, he can let me know. I assume there is a diagnosis in the report summary. As always, your prayers are coveted. I have been beset by various maladies from itchy skin to heartburn that has prevented me from getting a good nights rest. So, I am rather worn down, exhausted would be more precise. I have washed all my bed coverings to day in case there were bed bugs, but even when I stayed in the Hotel in Zhenjiang on Friday evening, the itchy skin was terrible, and I did not pack my antacid. Last night was better, but I need a good uninterrupted rest. Pleas pray that for me. Thank you again for support, your love, and your prayers.

Just a short note about church today. No one was available to come, but I went anyway. I am glad I did. The Chinese Church generally has baptisms twice a year for new members, and Easter Sunday is one of those times. I lost count, but there were about 30 new members admitted today. Then for the Lord's supper, the side I was sitting on did not receive any of the bread and when the Pastor asked if there were any who had not received the bread, all of our hands went up. She looked a little worried, but then collected some of the plates to distribute. I watched as some to there bread and broke in two to share with others. Ha ha, after we all received some, she held up the plate and there was bread to spare. The spirit of Jesus must have been breaking that bread!

So, as many of  you all awaken to see this message, I pray that you will give thanks to God and have the opportunity to honor Him with your presence in His house today.
Until the next time...He is Risen!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Medical Update: PET Scan Schedule; Insurance Companies Are...

Ok, this weekend I went to Zhenjiang on Sunday evening to arrange for my PET Scan and to take my receipts to begin the reimbursement process. I met with Mr. Yang on Sunday evening and gave him the names of the of the two hospitals and my receipts. He told me he would let me know on Monday what he found out. We were hoping that by some chance the hospital in Zhenjiang had the equipment. No go!

So, he came to meet me and let me know that the PET Scan was scheduled for Thursday in Shanghai. I told him that I had a class Thursday afternoon. Wednesday would be no good either as it was still the holiday. However, I have no classes on Friday so he called the hospital and they agreed to change my appointment to Friday at 12: noon. I will be interested in seeing if that schedule holds, as the hospitals here take a break from around 11:30 a.m until 1:15 p.m. Anyway, he will call the school tomorrow and ask them to arrange a car to take me to Shanghai. He will leave Zhenjiang by train and meet me in Shanghai at the hospital and serve as my interpreter.

Insurance: The insurance will not pay for the PET Scan, (don't know why) and will probably only pay 50% of the CT Scan. Mr. Yang says that is normal, even for Chinese. On the plus side, he was told the scan will be 7000rmb instead of 9500rmb like I'd heard. Even so, that pretty well takes care of a month's salary. But, God is good, I have some extra rmb set aside.

I had previously had a discussion with my friend Tuo about how insurance worked in the U.S. I told him how we generally have a co-pay of 15% and that was on most everything, like Dr.'s visits, medical tests, and hospital stays. And, once we reached a certain out of pocket limit, the insurance company would pay for the rest. He told me that his insurance is a bit different in that at the beginning of each year, he has a a certain amount of funds that is available to pay for medical needs, but once that limit is reached, then he has to pay out of his pocket a certain amount, and then the insurance would kick back in. It was kind of confusing but, then what do you expect from insurance companies. Seems nothing is ever simple.

As far as treatments go, Mr. Yang believes they would cover the surgery removing the gall bladder, but if there is something more seriously wrong, the insurance company will probably not provide any coverage. So, the story continues.

I am hoping that the PET Scan will provide some definitive answers one way or the other. I know something is not right, whether it is the gall bladder problems or something else, I have lost weight much more quickly than was planned for. I am down to 86kgs (189lbs). I had been targeting 176-180 lbs, but the date was to be in June, not April. In addition to the weight loss, I seem to be constantly drained of energy. Even if I get a decent nights sleep, within a few hours of being awake, I am pretty tired, and that is just not normal for me. So, I ask for prayer that this test will give a diagnosis and then that I could plan accordingly.

To end on a high note, the Thursday night study has been very well attended, and this Thursday we will studying and discussing the days leading up to our Savior's crucifixion and rising from the grave, conquering death once and for all!  Please pray that this study will create some life changing events-for all of us, believers, and especially the non believers. Romans 1:16 tells us: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. and verses 17  tell us that 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”  So, be in prayer that the salvation will come to those who don't believe, and that those who do believe will be renewed  to Live by Faith!

I want to end by thanking and praising God for His loving kindness and for putting people like Dr.Sheng and Dr. Pamfort in my path. I also thank Him for you who have been supporting me and praying for me as I serve in China. He will never leave us nor forsake us! Hebrews 13:15. So, as always, thanks for your support, love, and prayers. Thanks for reading. Until the next time...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Medical Update

Ok, here we go. I went on Tuesday with my student to the hospital for the consultation with doctor whose English is very good.

As it turns out, they do not want me to have a "pot" CT, but a PET Scan. They are trying to either confirm the presence of cancer or rule it out. It seems that there are small lymph nodes  making an appearance in abdominal area, and they also want to better identify the small spots on the top of my kidneys.

I will have to say the gall stones were a blessing in disguise. As big of an emotional crybaby as I can sometimes be, I have a pretty high tolerance for physical pain. And let me tell you, those gall bladder episodes were as painful as anything that I have experienced. The pain got my attention and told me "YOU NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR!" If not for those gall stones, I would not have been going to a doctor, and wouldn't have had any of these tests done. So, God, in His infinite wisdom knew how to get my attention.

Now, this may turn out not to be cancer, but the doctor told me that is what they suspect. So, if it is, the gall stones have brought an early discovery, and that is always more desirable. I will have to go to Shanghai to have this test as the hospital here does not have the equipment to do it here in Zhangjiagang. Next weekend I will go to Zhenjiang and meet with Mr. Yang at the school and see about them helping make arrangements for the test in Shanghai. Until then, I will just place my trust in the Lord, and let Him be my peace, courage, and strength.

The doctor in Zhangjiagang Dr. Sheng, has given me his phone number and has told me to call him if I need any more assistance. He will help me to get all of my CT films put onto a USB so that I if needed, I can bring them back to the states. He has also recommended that if the tests do confirm cancer, to return to the U.S for treatment. Seems like and easy call, but I really still do need to pray about that for a number of reasons. I would ask you to also be praying. God is good. He put this doctor in my path. As  a side note, he is a cardiac surgeon, just goes to show you how different our health care system is, not many cardiac surgeons in the U.S. would be working on Saturdays seeing patients for ordinary internal medicine maladies.

As it "just so happens" there is a man who comes to the Thursday bible study who is also a doctor and whose English is also excellent! He has also offered his help to me. I figure between the two of them, I can get a good understanding of where to go in Shanghai, and then they can help me with interpretation of the results. Although, I figure that in Shanghai, I have pretty good chances of getting doctors with good oral English abilities.

Even as "bad" as all this may sound, God has given me quite a few opportunities to tell and demonstrate the "good" that is found  in "All things". One way you can know about this is at the end of my next blog(warning warning- if I was speaking, you would say it is long winded) that God has been prompting me to write for a few weeks now.  Other ways, is that I've also been able to share this with my students, telling of my trust and faith in God, and also with the Thursday bible study.  A dear lady named Nancy has reminded me several times that she is praying and that we are "marooned on the island of God's sovereignty" Think about that for a minute. There is no place I'd rather be. So, in closing, I just ask for your continued prayers, asking God to give the doctors ans me wisdom, for their are many things I need to consider. Ask him to continue to give me a Romans 8:28 foundation for my attitude. Healing, if it is in His will, and most of all trust and peace in His purpose. Thanks for reading. Until the next time...