Isolation

isolation

In this space, I recently shared about the impact that the radiation treatments to the thyroid had on my voice. In addition to the swelling and sore throat (which are both gone, thank you very much!) and the external radiation burns (which I am still dealing with), the voice issues were the other, more obvious, side effect. A week ago, I spent Wednesday through Saturday morning of that week doing a lot of nodding, pointing and pantomiming! That Friday was maybe the worst of it- I literally couldn’t talk. And as I also shared, that Saturday, a bit more than a week ago, my voice went from almost mom-existent when I got out of bed to adequate enough for me to video my sermon after lunch that day- in case I couldn’t “answer the bell” that Sunday! 

What I really didn’t dig deeper into in that previous post was the larger issue. I DID mention that I began to worry that my voice simply wouldn’t come back. And for someone who has spent their entire life communicating- being “in front of people”- that was a bit…daunting…to consider. But there was another layer to that story. 

If you have been reading this space for a while, or if you know very well at all, you know that the Giant Cell Reparative Granuloma (i.e. “tumor”) that I had sitting on top of my right ear canal, among other things, destroyed the hearing in the ear. Not damaged- destroyed. There are no “guts” to my ear. It’s simply cosmetic at this point. (And it IS a handsome-looking ear, if I do say so myself!) 

What a lot of people don’t really realize is just how deaf I am. Between being 100% deaf on the right side and having ALREADY existing hearing loss on the left side (years of playing the drums), my “baseline hearing” is probably 35-40% of what it should be. Add to that two other factors: 1. rather severe tinnitus (I have 4 or 5 separate yet distinguishable LOUD sounds that are in my ears/head 24/7/365) and 2. the fact that, with one ear worthless, my ability to distinguish where sound comes from (apparently that comes from your right ear) is gone. Factor all of that together and I am functionally working with MAYBE 20% of what should be “normal” hearing. (And while I appreciate suggestions, let me be proactive- I have tried hearing aids and other “assist” potentials to no avail. The only thing the experts think MIGHT work requires MORE surgery and a LOT of money that insurance won’t cover!) 

So, I live with 20% of my hearing. I have gotten WAY better than most people realize at lip reading, as well as reading body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, context and how other people are reacting. “Hearing”. For me, has become a multi-sensory, focused exercise. And even with that, there are LOTS of settings that cause me to feel pretty isolated. (Imagine larger gatherings in larger spaces with a decent amount of ambient noise. Imagine sound that is being amplified through a sound system.) 

And then- this “loss of voice” came up. And I had a few days of pretty harsh reality that I didn’t see coming. For those few days, I was, in many measurable ways, deaf and mute. And I had NO idea how isolating that would be. For example, I was sitting at dinner during our Vacation Bible School. (And I LOVE a good church dinner!) Because of the sound bouncing around in that fairly good-sized room, I could “hear” everything but sort out and comprehend…nothing. Add to that the fact that I also couldn’t talk. So, there I was, sitting in a room full of people that I know and love, breaking bread together…and I could hear them or talk to them. You quickly find yourself pulling in and ignoring everybody. It is shockingly isolating. 

I share this NOT for sympathy- not my style. Instead. I share it because it made me SO much more aware of what some folks deal with every day. When you have no overt, obvious “disability”, it’s pretty easy to take everything for granted. Hearing. Speaking. Walking. Whatever it is. But those few days really gave me a taste- and I fully acknowledge that it was JUST a taste- of what some deal with EVERY day.  

Here’s my “take-away” for today- don’t assume you know what someone else goes through or how they feel simply based on what you see. As a minister, I think one of the worst things we can say to someone is “I know how you feel”. Why? Because the truth is that…no we don’t know how they feel. We can’t. We know how WE felt when we went through something that may have been…or may not have been…similar. We THINK we know how we WOULD feel in their circumstance…which we really don’t. But we simply can’t know how someone else feels. 

Appreciate what you have instead of dwelling on what you don’t have. Learn to make the most of the “tools” that are actually IN your “toolbelt” instead of simply worrying so much about the tools you WISH you had. Make the most of every moment. Appreciate another day to be upright, breathing and about God’s business. Life is short. Don’t waste it. We continue to walk by faith and not by sight. We continue to claim, openly and unabashedly, that God is good, all the time! #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! 

We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The World As Best I Remember It: Breaking Through Barriers

The World as Best Breaking Through Barriers

Creativity. Dreaming. They are the stuff that baffle many…but also the stuff that the very fabric of humanity is sewn from. And rather than try to TELL you about creativity and dreaming- I’ll show you.

(A video is then shown. Click the link to watch it. Then…come back!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3KwpmVHRpw) 

Coloring outside the lines. Using your imagination. Not be fenced in by conventional wisdom or “we’ve always done it that way”. Noticing the wonder around you. However, you want to phrase it, we are focusing on dreaming and creativity today.  

This sermon series- The World As Best I Remember It- is what I would love for people to “hang their spiritual hat on”. Squirming is optional…but somewhat expected! 

In today’s main Scripture, a horrible thing has just happened. John the Baptist has just been murdered- beheaded at the whim of Herod’s wife. The news of this horrible crime reaches Jesus. And that’s where we pick up the story. 

Matthew 14:13-21 When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to Me,” he said. And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. 

The feeding of the five thousand- one of the best-known, most easily overlooked stories, in the Bible. It’s also one more example of the disciples overemphasizing the problem and underemphasizing the resources.  

John the Baptist has been murdered. Jesus hears, hops in a boat and heads off “to a solitary place”. But He’s a magnet- people are drawn to Him. So, large crowds follow Him, greeting Him on that far shore.  

Unlike us, Jesus sees them there and “had compassion on them and healed their sick”. Later, the disciples, trying to be logical and proactive, say, “Hey, Jesus- it’s late, we’re out here, a full mile PAST nowhere, and it’s time to eat. Wrap it up and get them out of here so they can go find something to eat…and leave us alone!” (I believe that might be The Message translation!)  

But Jesus sees the teachable moment. “Nope- not sending them away. You figure it out. Be creative. Dream big. Feed them.” They immediately fire back with, “We don’t have JACK- 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Have you SEEN this crowd?” I can picture Jesus shaking His head and quietly smiling to Himself. “Bring it here.” 

He takes the meager food, prays over it and starts handing it out to the disciples to distribute. In the end, everybody is fed, everybody is full and the leftovers are enough to fill 12 baskets. (12 baskets, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples- coincidence? I think not!) And we are told that there are 5,000 MEN there- not counting women and children. If you take that to its logical conclusion, this really ISN’T the feeding of the 5,000…it’s more like the feeding of the 15,000-20,000! 

A miraculous story, to be sure. But what does it have to do with creativity and dreaming big? In a word- everything. The disciples are faced with what seems to be an impossible task- feed 20,000 with some kid’s PBJ, chips and pudding cup. IMPOSSIBLE- right?! Apparently not!  

The obvious answer to the problem this story creates is the one the disciples offer up in the first place- send the people away so they can solve their own problem. In other words- pass the buck. But Jesus is no buck-passer. He opens the disciples’ eyes to creativity and dreaming big in ways they obviously couldn’t imagine. And it’s THEN that the true miracle happens. And it’s important to note that, while the disciples don’t actually PERFORM the miracle…it happens IN THEIR HANDS! Magicians say that the best kind of magic trick is one you can make happen IN the hand of an audience member. Well, if that’s the best kind of simple parlor trick, imagine how much powerful a true miracle of God is when it happens that very same way.  

So, dreaming big, being creative. How do you DO that? I’m certain there are many of you sitting here right now thinking, “Pffft! SOUNDS great, Pastor, but I have not ONE creative bone in my body!” And while I fully understand that not everybody can draw, or paint, or sew, or build, or write, or play music or…whatever…we ALL have the capacity to be creative, to dream big, in our own way.  

I firmly believe that the one thing that holds most people, groups, organizations…churches…back is the “It won’t work” attitude. You know- “That will NEVER work! We could NEVER do that!” Well, not with THAT attitude you can’t! At every church we’ve served, I’ve led, or helped lead, the church leadership through a discernment process to see where we were, where we were headed and what we needed in order to get there. And one of my first steps is always, “What dreams do you have for your church?” I caution that, at that stage of the process, NO dream is too big or outlandish. I encourage creativity- thinking outside the box. Don’t be restricted by money, or space, or time, or resources, or manpower- just make a list of your dreams for the church. 

I then gather all those dreams in a list and get the leadership back together. The ONLY ground rule? NOBODY gets to comment negatively about anything on the list. No “we tried that once, forty-leven years ago, and it didn’t work!” No “that would cost too much money!” No “You have GOT to be kidding me?! We could NEVER do that!” You either say something positive…or you keep your big yapper shut! The time for more critical analysis and discernment is later- AFTER the creativity and dreaming big is done. At that moment, no idea is too crazy, too stupid, too “out there”. Let’s throw ALL the cooked spaghetti against the wall…and see what sticks! 

What dreams do you have for your life? For your family? For your church? For your world? Identify those dreams…and dream BIG when you do it! Be creative. Think outside the box. Color outside the lines. BUT- make sure your dreams aren’t selfish ones. If the dreams you identify are based on what YOU like…they aren’t really big, creative dreams. They’re self-serving desires. If your dreams circle around going back to “the good old days”, let me remind you what that great theologian Billy Joel said, “The good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems!” Who is God calling you…US…to be? Whatever that looks like, be willing to break through the barriers that keep you…us…from it. We have been given a gift here- one that most churches will never experience. I’ve had the extreme joy of experiencing growth at all 3 churches we’ve served…and it never gets old. Why? Because that’s why we exist- to connect people to Jesus Christ! Don’t dream a LITTLE dream- dream a BIG one!

The Whirlwind Family Tour

family

(The picture that accompanies today’s blog was chosen with care! It not only captures the word that I am focusing on today, but the fact that it’s spelled out in Scrabble tiles is NOT accidental- my mom was HARDCORE Scrabble player!) 

One of the things my wife and I decided early on in this cancer diagnosis was that we were going to adopt an “open-door” policy for my family. I have a brother and sister who both live in the St. Louis area- on the Illinois side- and a sister who lives in the panhandle of Florida. All three are married and all three have children who are scattered about- several of who have produced grandchildren as well!  

We tend to be rather private people. But as my wife pointed out, in many ways, we are WAYS past “private” now! So, we contacted my siblings and made the “open-door” offer. And after some jockeying of schedules and some planning back and forth, those visits are about to start happening. Over the next couple of weeks, all three siblings and some variations of spouses, children and grandchildren will be coming in. Some overlap. Some don’t. Some will stay at the house- we have a spare bedroom with a queen-sized bed AND cable TV! (“That’s a little France-y!”) Some will stay in one of the local motels. Some will be here overnight. Some will be here for a few nights.  

When we made this offer, I was still wrestling with the reality of this whole thing. And because of that, it kind of felt like what they call in the stage musical Evita “The Rainbow Tour”. In other words, I worried a bit that this would end up as some maudlin “visitation” as everybody filed past, telling me how good I looked. And I wasn’t sure I was up for that…at the time. 

But with some time to process, think through and get a handle on, I am looking forward to it! There was a time when we all lived in relative proximity to each other AND our parents were alive. We made sure to get together for major events and such. Even after my immediate family moved away, we always went home for at least Christmas. But as the years have passed, and our parents ALSO both passed, and we have become more “scattered”, the reality of life has set in. We simply don’t see each other very often. And that’s a shame. 

So, I am very much looking forward to spending some time with my siblings, their spouses and other family members. I no longer look at it as a “wake”, but instead a great opportunity to just enjoy each other’s company and spend some time together. Although I am, frankly and selfishly, glad that my parents aren’t around to have to see me deal with these health issues, I am quite positive they would both be happy that their kids are intentionally gathering together. Who wouldn’t want THAT?! 

So, over the next few weeks, we will be enjoying “in-town” guests off and on. We will probably have some Sundays where we are introducing, or re-introducing in some cases, family members to the congregation. Bread will be broken. Stories will be told and re-told. Lots of laughter will happen. I won’t be surprised if a few tears are shed…but that’s OK! I am grateful for my family. We have been through a LOT together. Life was NOT always easy in our house growing up. But while we don’t see each other as much as we would should, we stick together. We support each other. We love each other. And it doesn’t get a lot better than that! We continue to walk by faith and not by sight. We continue to claim, openly and unabashedly, that God is good, all the time! #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! 

We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Blessing in the Curse

Blessing, Curse Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Blue Sky and Clouds.

In the midst of what my family is currently going through, my wife and I have noticed a rather interesting phenomenon- one that we didn’t see coming…but have grown to appreciate! It deals with how we are approaching this whole thing and how our approach is impacting others. I have been clear all along that we have chosen…CHOSEN…to be “glass half-full” people. And frankly, that’s not new to this situation. We have always tried to be positive, upbeat people. We have always tried to find the silver lining. We have always tried to find the humor…and the joy…in any situation.  

And so, that overall approach to life has spilled over into our response to all of this cancer stuff. Do we LIKE it? Not one little bit. Are we HAPPY about it? Nope. However, it is what it is. Whining, moping and giving up are NOT going to make this situation any better. (There seems to be NO medical studies that say otherwise!) We take the lemons…and make the best lemonade we are able to! 

As I mentioned earlier, the phenomenon grows out of that foundation and manifests itself in how other people are reacting. And perhaps the best way I can explain it is by giving you an example. 

We have met with, if I am keeping count accurately, 4 separate doctors who have the word “oncology” attached to their title- 2 that are “oncologists” and 2 that are “radiology oncologists”. It is one of those “oncologists” that this story centers around. She is the doctor who oversaw my first round of chemo treatments. She is also the doctor who has been helping me get through the most recent testing and prepare for the NEXT round of chemo.  

We like her. We have already developed great trust in her. She has tended to be rather…clinical. And I don’t mean that as a criticism. I understand. To be in the area of medicine that she is in, I would think there would almost HAVE to be a sense of “clinical” about you or you would not be able to deal with what you have to deal with every day! Not a lot of emotion. Not a lot of intensely personal contact. She’s very professional. 

And then, there came our consult with her earlier this week. She wanted to talk about the endoscopy and CT scans, what they meant and where we head next. And in the context of that consult, some rather frank conversation was had. As I have been clear to share all along, medically- this doesn’t end well. And it is the responsibility of the doctor (in my opinion) to help the patient understand the reality of the situation. So, she was clear about some things, as she (and everybody else) has been all along. And frankly…that’s what we want. Don’t sugar-coat. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t talk in code. Don’t undersell. Call it like it is. It’s the best way. And it’s what we want. 

We continued to assure her that we were well aware of the situation. And then…she apologized. “I’m sorry you have to go through this.” We thanked her but assured her that she had nothing to be sorry about and that we were determined to keep our heard high, regardless. That conversation continued for e few more moments. Then, she did something that neither of us expected. She moved her chair in close to the two of us…and took us both by the hand. “I am so glad to know you. You both are so good to work with.” And then she started to cry. Not a huge, sobbing cry but tears coming down both cheeks. “I wish everyone could have your attitude.” And then, she smiled. It was a huge, genuine smile. We had seen smiles from her before, but they had always been the controlled smiles of a professional. This was the unabashed grin of a human making genuine contact with other humans.  

We’ve been somewhat amazed and very humbled to see how God has touched OTHER people through our journey. The reason it’s amazing and humbling is that we haven’t done anything we have done simply for the sake of what others will think. We are just trying to be the best “us” we can be, trying to guide our family though this rather tortuous trip as best we can. The fact that God can…and is…using this to positively touch others is a true blessing. And the fact that, in the midst of our “stuff”, we can see the blessing…is a blessing ALL by itself! We continue to walk by faith and not by sight. We continue to claim, openly and unabashedly, that God is good, all the time! #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! 

We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

In a New York Minute

New York Minute

It’s truly amazing how quickly life can change. (That great theologian Don Henley would describe as being “In a New York Minute”.)  Having a few days of no doctors, hospitals or tests (which is WONDERFUL, by the way!) has also given me a chance to catch my breath and assess the events of the past 7 weeks. Yep- 7 weeks. 7 weeks ago today, my wife and started the day in the office of our family doctor, a 4-minute drive from home, and ended the day in the ER of The University of Iowa Hospital, a 90-minute drive away. We were at our doctor’s office to get results of a CT scan I had done the day before on my neck.

Our doctor used two words that day (He actually used MANY words! He’s a smart guy!) that stood out and began to help us shape the seriousness of what we were facing. Those words were “mass” and “necrotic”. Finding a mass in your body is rarely a good thing and, since “necrotic” basically means “dead”, well…that can’t be good either!

We spent a few hours in the ER that. I had to challenge the doctor a bit as to why they were going to admit me…and in the end, they didn’t! (I can be VERY persuasive and VERY stubborn!) By the end of the next day, 7 weeks from tomorrow, I had 12 separate needle biopsies in my rearview mirror and we were talking to that very same doctor from the ER the day before…and the reality of what he had to tell us wasn’t good.

It has been a whirlwind ever since. I literally lost count of how many doctor’s appointments, treatments, tests and follow-ups we’ve had. Everything that was “the norm” for us 7 weeks ago is now a memory. There is, quite literally, NO facet of our daily lives NOW that is even close to what it was BC- Before Cancer. As you digest that last sentence, I want you to understand one thing- it’s MUCH less of a complaint or a “woe is me” moment and much MORE of an enlightened insight. Let me explain.

For the past 20+ years, we have been in the ministry. I was SO “green” when I started out, I didn’t know my apse from a hole in the ground! (In case you wonder, an “apse” is “a large semicircular or polygonal recess in a church, arched or with a domed roof, typically at the eastern end, and usually containing the altar“. I SO intentionally refuse to use those “fancy church words” that I would guess most of my parishioners don’t even know them!) But one constant (Not the ONLY one…but one!) has been the notion that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so live in the moment.

I will be the first to admit that, while I have preached that for 20+ years, I haven’t always been great at following my own advice. But as I’ve gotten older, I have come closer and closer. And now- this. And over these past 7 weeks, I have been reminded, over and over again, that life can change in the blink of an eye. My family has received a HEALTHY dose of that reality.      It hit me pretty early on in this process- that healthy dose of reality offers…FORCES a decision. And an opportunity. “Do I REALLY believe that no one is promised tomorrow? Do I REALLY believe that God is good, all the time? Do I REALLY believe that this brief, finite life is just a short precursor to an eternity with God?” A diagnosis like the one…ONES…I have received present what I have always called a “fish or cut bait” moment. (Interesting that I would use THAT analogy, since I don’t fish and don’t even LIKE to fish!)

So, my family has made a choice- a choice I’ve mentioned in the space before. We CHOOSE to say “yes” to all of those questions. We choose to live intentionally. We choose to not back down, give up, curl up in a collective ball and wait. We face the realities. We plan for all eventualities. And…we live. Intentionally. We certainly focus on my health. But we don’t dwell on it to the point that it swallows everything else up in its gravity. We laugh. We joke. We go to the grocery store. We play games. We watch movies. We talk about dumb, goofy, silly stuff. We…live. We continue to walk by faith and not by sight. We continue to claim, openly and unabashedly, that God is good, all the time! #TeamHarris #WarriorOn!

We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A New Name Has Been Added to the List

cancer

If you remember, when “last week’s episode” (yesterday’s blog!) ended, the cliffhanger was that we were waiting for pathology results from the biopsy taken off the mass on my lower esophagus. Well, wait no more! An assistant from the gastroenterologist’s office called at 10:30AM yesterday, wanting to know if I could be there at 11AM to talk about the results of the biopsy. (Do the math- 30 minutes.) I said that A. if I left immediately, the soonest I could get there was about 11:20-11:30AM and B. I was in a meeting so C. no, I couldn’t. She said she would check in available times today or tomorrow and call me “right back”.

In the meantime, my wife and I wondered why we really needed to actually drive there to see the doctor. We basically knew everything we needed to know- except the ACTUAL determination of what KIND of cancer this newly-biopsies tumor is. But we had decided that, if they wanted us to come…we would. Knowledge is power.

Late in the day yesterday (Turns out, THIS doctor wanted to talk to my oncologist- good choice- and that connection took much of the day to actually happen), the same assistant called back to say that, based on that doctor-to-doctor conversation, I really didn’t need to come in. My oncologist, who we JUST met with, knew what’s what and had a plan in place.

But there was still the ONE thing we didn’t know- what kind of cancer. But as I talked to the assistant, outside the back door of the church with rather bad cell reception and my BAD hearing, she said the name of the cancer. And I couldn’t understand her! She started to hang up, but I “dragged her back” into the conversation and asked if she would repeat that term she used- the name of the cancer. Adenoma Carcinoma. There it is- it has a name. I read on the Internet (I bet doctors HATE that us “lay folk” always run to Google and Wikipedia to look up “medical stuff”! If I were them, I would cringe every time a patient started a sentence with, “I read on the Internet…!”) that one of the potential causes of this type of cancer is gastroesophageal reflux. And I dealt with what I always called acid reflux for YEARS. I used to LIVE on Tums and couldn’t eat anything after a certain time of night without having major problems for half the night. Coincidence? Who knows!

So, Stage 4 Anaplastic Cancer of the thyroid and lymph nodes in the neck and Adenoma Carcinoma Cancer of the lower esophagus. One of them (we honestly don’t know which- possibly both, depending on the location and it REALLY doesn’t matter) is also in the lymph nodes of the upper chest and the lungs. Surgery is not an option on any of it. The two main locations- thyroid and esophagus- are both pretty major surgeries with decent risks involved and no real return- they would only address that particular location and nowhere else.

So, as you read this, a very special “chemo cocktail” is being brewed in a super-secret lab in an underground bunker somewhere…just for me! I am, after all, a “special snowflake”! (If only my wife and older son had actually created that Sarcasm Font they had been toying with! You would SEE the sarcasm in that title!) And “soon and very soon”, we will start that new round. It will look like this: 1. Blood work to make sure levels are good. 2. Chemo- 5-ish hours of infusion. 3. 3 weeks off to recover, including a trip to the oncologist to check “toxicity”. (I THINK that means I have the possibility of becoming a superhero- The Toxic Avenger- from all of this. So…I got THAT going for me!) 4. Second round, same as the first. 5. Scans to see what’s what with you know what. 6. Evaluate and decide what’s next.

The side effects from the first round of chemo/radiation are nearly gone. Facial hair (especially near and under the chin and jawline) continues to fall out, so I have shaved the beard (which I wear VERY short anyway) down to stubble. (Picture Don Johnson from Miami Vice, only NOT so ruggedly handsome!) Most of the radiation burns on my neck are nearly gone. I still have to treat the line where my neck meets my upper torso 3-4 times a day with a variety of creams, but that’s it. The voice, while not FULLY back, is good enough that last night, as I cooked dinner (which I LOVE to be able to do again!), I was able to (somewhat) sing along with the Classic Rock my iPod was spitting out. First time in weeks. We continue to walk by faith and not by sight. We continue to claim, openly and unabashedly, that God is good, all the time! #TeamHarris #WarriorOn!

We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Bad News, Good News

bad news good news

Yesterday was the follow-up visit with my oncologist. (Reminder: this was following up on the endoscopy and CT scans I had last week.) Frankly, we went in with eyes wide-open, because we already knew they had found a mass farther down on my esophagus. So, we weren’t surprised to have them confirm that it’s there and it is a cancerous tumor. And while the pathology isn’t back yet, they fully expect this will prove to be a different kind of cancer than the Anaplastic Cancer that’s in my thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes.

Under “normal” circumstances, surgery would be a logical next step- remove the tumor from the esophagus. But these aren’t “normal” circumstances- remember, I’m a “special little snowflake”! That type of surgery is major and wouldn’t address any other the other problem areas. So, surgery has already been taken off the table. The next step, probably, is the one we expected anyway- a ramped-up round of chemo. The only real question is two-fold: 1. will the pathology results push the doctors into a different “cocktail” for chemo and 2. will radiation be a part of the mix again? As they say in the theater- all will be revealed in the last act!

One of the concerns surrounding this most recent revelation is that, while it is NOT right now, there is the possibility that this newly-identified tumor will start to restrict my esophagus, making eating and drinking an issue. A discussion was had about the possibility of a feeding tube in my stomach at some point- a conversation that we’ve already had, a few weeks ago. We will cross that bridge when, and if, we come to it. To quote that great theologian Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day!”

I mentioned bad news/good news today’s title. Here’s the good news- I feel better than I have in two months. My throat is better. I can swallow MUCH better. My voice is coming back strong. AND…I’m back sleeping in a bed! I sleep OK in the recliner, but nothing like in the bed! An un-sore throat. A voice. A bed. Those are all things I took for granted two months ago. Today? They are cause for celebration!

Also, the CT scans I had last week confirmed that the first round of chemo and radiation did what they hoped it would do- slow this runaway train down just a bit. The cancerous thyroid and lymph nodes shrunk, which I why my throat is so much better. Even the cancerous lung nodes shrunk a bit. It is still considered palliative care, but SOME relief is GREAT relief right now!

My wife and I are what I would call hopeful pragmatists. We are, in large part, pragmatic (adjective: “dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations“) by nature. We try to realistically face things head on, acknowledging the reality of a situation and seeking the best path forward. And we understand the reality of this situation. Medically speaking, “palliative care” speaks for itself. And so, we have been approaching things with a strong sense of reality- what NEEDS to be done?

But we are also very hopeful people. And for us, it’s not a “pie in the sky in the great by and by” kind of hopeful. It is a very genuine hope, rooted squarely and firmly in our faith. Do the doctors think I will survive this? Quite frankly- no. Can God perform a miracle and heal me? Absolutely. Do we pray for that? You bet. Will it happen? Only God knows. Regardless of which way this goes, will we fully understand the “whys” of the equation? Nope.

There’s a lot we don’t know. But what we DO know is that we have today. We have each other. We have a great family. We have a great church family. We have awesome support from…literally around the world. And we serve a God Who loves us more than we can fathom. And frankly, none of us is promised tomorrow. So, we are committed to living every day with intention. Embrace the moment. Plan ahead, to be sure, but don’t get so caught up in the “maybes” and “what ifs” of tomorrow that we miss the wonder, beauty and joy of today. We continue to walk by faith and not by sight. We continue to claim, openly and unabashedly, that God is good, all the time! #TeamHarris #WarriorOn!

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Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!