Radiation Update: Bathroom Edition

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I haven’t written about the radiation treatments lately. So, on this “low Saturday”, I thought I’d take a moment to catch you up and share something…intimate with you! First off, I am crossed the halfway point on this round of treatments. After yesterday’s dosage, I now have 9 down, 6 to go. That means that I will done a week from Monday. So far, the side effects haven’t reared their ugly heads. I have really had NONE. (But last time, the side effects from radiation didn’t show up until I was done, so…!)  

I can’t eat or drink anything for three hours prior to the daily treatments. Which means, by the time I’m done with a treatment, I need to eat something. And yet, I can’t really swallow a lot of really solid food these days. So, we have started a “tradition”- we drive to the Checkers fast food restaurant down the road where I get a chocolate shake! Call it late lunch! 

But there is a general side effect to cancer treatments that I realize cancer patients don’t really talk about. It deals with, shall we say, “gastro-intestinal issues”. Yep- constipation and/or diarrhea. They have been something I have dealt with relatively constantly since I first started chemo and radiation back in June of last year. 

Constipation is the primary issue. And while we have all dealt with that at times in our lives, it’s different when you deal with pretty much all the time. And it turns out that it’s a pretty delicate balance. You GET it. You try to treat it without going overboard. You slowly escalate the treatment approach over a couple/few days. And then, suddenly, you’ve swung too far the OTHER way!  

So, you adjust your diet (BRAT- bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) and you stop the treatment you WERE doing. And you your body starts to swing back to “center”. And for a few days…all is well. And then your body starts to swing back toward constipation. And the vicious circle starts all over again! 

When you deal with NOT going on a regular basis, you’d be shocked at the impact it has on how you feel. (Hint- it’s NOT good!) And when you swing too far the other way, you fell SO much better…but you can’t stray too far from a bathroom! (Darn!) 

I share this, embarrassing as it is, because I find that most cancer patients are A. quick to compare notes on the subjects with their fellow patients and B. reluctant to share at all with “civilians”. (See note on “embarrassing”!) And I get all of that. But it’s important for people to understand what cancer patients deal with. I think it helps. I think it’s also good to remind cancer patients and their caregivers that you are not in this alone. You are not the only one experiencing these things. Others understand and are willing to walk the journey with you.  

As I said, it’s NOT the most pleasant of conversations to have…or to share! But’s it’s pretty universal to cancer patients. And if I am going to continue to be committed to being transparent about my prognosis, treatment and circumstances, I needed to share that, too! The good, the bad and…the UGLY! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

Why is Friday So Good?

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Today is Good Friday- the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. Let’s take a look at what the act of crucifixion ACTUALLY consisted of.
Crucifixion is thought to have been invented by the Persians around 300 BC. But it was Rome who “perfected” it in the first century BC. The common crucifixion cross consisted of an upright pole permanently fixed in the ground with a removable crossbar that weighed about 100 lbs. The victim was laid on their back with their arms outstretched- they were then nailed to the crossbar. Nails (about 7-9 inches long) were driven through the area surrounded by the radius and ulna arm bones and the small carpal bones of the hand. The nail placement was intentional- that specific area is strong enough to support the body, the nail would sever the median nerve in the hand, causing burning pain and rendering the hand useless, and there would be minimal blood loss, prolonging death.
The positioning of the feet was also crucial. The knees were bent and the feet flexed until they were parallel to the vertical part of the cross. Another 7-9 inch nail was driven through both feet between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsals. That nail would sever the dorsal pedal artery, but again blood loss was insufficient to cause death. The resulting body position created a horrific sequence of events- events that resulted in a slow, painful death.
The bend of the knees caused the victim to bear their weight with their thigh muscles- which was impossible to maintain for any great length of time. As leg strength gave out, the body weight had to be sustained by the arms and shoulders.
As the arms gave out, the body weight was transferred to the chest, putting pressure on the rib cage. In order to exhale, the victim had to push their feet down so their rib muscles could relax. As the legs tired again, the victim was less and less able to bear their weight, making breathing more and more difficult. The inadequate breathing caused the blood oxygen level to diminish and the blood carbon dioxide (CO2) level to rise. The rising CO2 level caused the heart to beat faster in an effort to increase oxygen delivery.
Unable to deliver more oxygen, the rising heart rate only increased oxygen demand. After several hours, the heart began to fail and the lungs began to collapse and fill with fluid. The combination of blood loss and hyperventilation caused severe dehydration. This combination of collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and inadequate oxygen supply eventually caused death. The victim, in effect, suffocated to death. When the Romans wanted to expedite death…they would break the victim’s legs, causing them to suffocate in a matter of minutes. A more gruesome death would be hard to find.
So, why in the WORLD would a day when we remember the HORRIBLE death Jesus endured be called GOOD Friday? One theory is that the words “God” and “good” were inadvertently switched because of their similarity. So, “God Friday” became “Good Friday”. But I think it’s more simple and direct than that- we call it Good Friday because, with the benefit of hindsight, the events of that horribly “bad” Friday 2000 years ago ultimately brought about the greatest good there could ever be. So a bad Friday becomes the ultimate Good Friday.
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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!

 

Monday…WHAT?

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The preacher was delivering a sermon on the evils of alcohol. “If had all the wine in the world, I’d pour it in the river! If I had ALL the wine in the world,” shaking his fist in the air, “all the wine in the world, I would THROW it in the river!” He then sat down, satisfied with a job well done. Immediately, the song leader stood up and said to the congregation, “Will you join me in our Hymn of Response- #365, Shall We Gather At the River!”
All the wine in the world can’t compare to the transforming power of the Communion cup. Today is Maundy Thursday- NOT “Monday” Thursday, but MAUNDY Thursday. It is also known as Holy Thursday. It’s the Christian feast day that falls on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper. The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin “mandatum”, the first word in the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”- which translates “A new commandment I give you- love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus said this to the disciples as they sat in the Upper Room that night, sharing the Passover meal. Up to that point, folks had been instructed to follow THE commandments- the 10 Commandments- as a guiding principle in their lives. But Jesus offers a new commandment- love one another as I have loved you. Throughout the centuries, people have argued that this “new commandment” is simply too short and too simple to be of any real, intrinsic value. I think, however, that misses the point. The 10 Commandments are a GOOD set of guidelines, but they can become a bit…cumbersome. Imagine if we all lived our lives by this “new commandment”. If we TRULY loved each other as Jesus loves us, then we wouldn’t lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and all the other things covered in the original commandments. We would honor our parents, we would love our spouse and children, we would treat each other with respect and care. Suddenly, this overly short, overly simple new commandment seems to scratch us right where we’re itching!
Whether or not you are a “religious” person (and let me just say, I tend to NOT be a “religious” person, but a person of faith- there is a fairly big difference) or not, whether or not you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I invite you to take some time today to meditate on this “new commandment”. See how it can apply to your life. Where are the areas that you feel you’re doing a pretty good job living it out in real time, and where are the areas that could use some work? Pray about that and ask God for the strength to continue doing the things that are going well and to “shore up” the things that are not going so well.
They walked in tandem, each of the 92 students filing into the crowded auditorium. With rich, maroon gowns and traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt. Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, Moms brushed away tears. It was graduation day, but this class would NOT pray during commencement…not by choice, but by court ruling. As the ceremony unfolded, the principal, the president of the school board, and several students were very careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the court. They gave inspirational, challenging speeches, but no one mentioned God or asked for His blessings. The speeches were nice, if routine…until the final speech. A student walked to the microphone, and the entire auditorium was still and silent. Then- it happened! ALL 92 graduating students, as if as one…SNEEZED! The student on stage leaned in to the microphone, winked, and said, “‘GOD BLESS YOU, each and every one of you!’ He then walked off the stage as the audience exploded in applause. He was able to invoke God’s blessing on the future with or without the court’s approval. Nothing could separate those students from what they felt was essential. Likewise, nothing can separate Jesus Christ from those who seek Him, and nothing should separate us from His presence and love.
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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!

 

“I’m Sorry For the Funeral!”

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There is an interesting dynamic that occurs when you are a pastor. (There are actually many…countless…dynamics that occur when you’re a pastor! But today, we are going to look at one!) This particular one showed up most recently yesterday. I started in the ministry wearing a suit, or at least a shirt and tie, every day. A suit was a MUST on Sunday- the coat would come off and the clergy robe would go on for worship. But a shirt and tie were pretty ubiquitous back then.  

The change probably started in the Sunday wardrobe. I started to get away from “robing” and started, more and more, wearing suits on Sunday morning. Then, the Monday-Friday wardrobe started to relax a bit- sweaters and dress shirt without ties started replacing the “tie every day” look.  

Slowly, over time, the wardrobe continued to morph, Eventually, over several years, I came to what I currently wear- during the week, it’s black jeans, polo shirts and tennis shoes in the warmer months and black jeans, sweaters and tennis shoes in the colder months. On Sundays, it’s black jeans, custom dress shirts (button-down collar with top button open and monogramed with the church name) and black shoes that are, in reality, tennis shoes in disguise! People don’t see me in a suit and tie very often these days. 

So, suits and ties have gone from the rule to the exception for me over the years. But there are times when a suit is still the order of the day. And one of those times is when I perform a funeral. If the service is in the church, I robe. If it’s at the funeral home, I wear a suit. And I always end up at the graveside with a suit on, regardless of where I started the proceedings.  

Yesterday, I performed a funeral. And, because of timing, we had to go straight from the cemetery to my daily radiation appointment. On the way there, I said to my wife, “I am going to make a prediction. I will have at least one conversation at the treatment center that will go like this- “My, you look nice!” “Thank you. I had to perform a funeral.” “Oh! I’m sorry!” 

We walked in, checked in and my wife waited in the outer waiting room while I went into the inner waiting room. On the way there, I passed a nurse we deal with often. She said, “My you look dapper!” I said, “I had to perform a funeral.” She said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” The, the tech who came and got me said, “Well, aren’t you handsome!” I said, “I had to perform a funeral.” She said, “Oh, I’m sorry!”  

It’s funny that I can predict those conversations with such specificity. But it makes sense, if you think about it. Ministers deal with things like funeral on a regular basis- several times a year. On the other hand, most other humans (who aren’t Funeral Directors) don’t deal with funerals much at all. Ministers have the challenge…and the blessing…of sharing the highlights of people’s lives with them- weddings, births, baptisms…and funerals. 

I am grateful to be able to share in the lives of my parishioners. It is a true honor. I am ALSO grateful that I have come to a point in life where suits are the exception and NOT the rule. I am SO much more comfortable in jeans and sweaters!! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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 Exam!

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Can YOU say “gastroenterologist”? I can! (I need a little help from spell check to actually TYPE it. But I can SAY it!) This is the doctor I saw back in the summer who ended up doing an endoscopy on me and found the adenoma carcinoma of my esophagus. After my 5th radiation treatment (Yep! I already have 5 “in the history books with 10 more to go!) yesterday, we drove “across town” and had a consult with him. 

Why? Because the most recent CT scan found “significant thickening” of the esophagus as well as “thickening” in the colon area. So, we went for my radiation treatment and then…headed to Panera’s! I can’t eat or drink anything for 3 hours leading up to each radiation treatment, since they are aimed at the esophagus. And this treatment was at 1:15PM, which means I hadn’t eaten lunch. And since we had some time to kill between appointments, my smart wife suggested some soup at Panera’s! (I had the creamy tomato. It was good and went down easily!) 

We then headed over to the doctor’s office. I checked in, they took us back and took vitals and such. Then, there was that ubiquitous “interview” with the nurse ahead of the doctor coming in. That all went well. But the time between nurse and doctor- not so much! Actually, I got to sit and talk with my wife, which is always a good thing. But the reason I got to sit and talk with my wife was that we were an HOUR past my appointment time before we laid eyes on the doctor!  

But our experience with him is that, when you finally GET him…you get ALL of him. He is attentive, asks good questions and listens to what you have to say. “In the end” (with EVERY pun intended! Think it through- it’ll hit you!), I also go an “exam” which, while not the most pleasant thing in the world, prompted him to say, “I don’t feel anything BAD going on.” His decision? We are going to do a colonoscopy in April. He had reason for hope in that area, but feels that, with everything going on in my body, the signs that we are seeing and the fact that I’m 56 years old and have never had one all point I get to “join the club”! (Oh, boy!) 

All in all, we left there on a positive note- “I don’t feel anything bad going on”. While we understand that comment doesn’t guarantee ANYTHING, it DOES lend some hope. And we will take ANYTHING that lends hope! We will be back to see him in mid-April and go from there! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

I’m Supposed to Love THEM?

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A farmer had a hired hand who was in love with the neighbor’s daughter. Every day after his work was done, the hand would borrow the farmer’s lantern and walk over to the neighbor’s house to court his beautiful daughter. And every night the farmer and his wife would sit on the porch and watch the young man in his quest, remembering their own courting days.
One day while they were working in the field, the farmer brought up the subject of the young man’s courtship. The farmer expressed his approval of the relationship but stated his displeasure with one thing: “You keep taking a lantern over when you go. That’s wasting valuable oil, son. Why, when I was courting my wife, I didn’t use a lantern at all.” Wryly the hired hand replied, “Yes, and see what you got stuck with!” Who do you love? I mean…REALLY love? Jesus addresses that in thiss Scripture-
     Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ‘ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself. ‘ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love God…and love neighbor? Really? I wonder- which one of those things is harder? For some, the automatic response might be God. But I think, if we’re honest, the harder one of the two to love is…neighbor! I mean, it’s easy to love the people around us who are…you know…loveable. But then there are those people who are just not all that loveable. We don’t like to even be around them- let alone love them.
But Jesus has other plans in this scenario. He says we are to love our neighbors…even those…especially those we struggle to like. But how? How in the world do we love people that we can’t even stand to be around? We try to live our lives a bit more like Jesus. When He walked this earth, He was willing to linger with those whom society declared unlikeable…off-limits. He hung out with people who were rejected by society. He loved…His neighbor.
How do YOU do in that department? Take some time this week to think that question through. Try and identify the people in your life that you try hard to avoid…and ask yourself, “Why?” Then set out to try and make that relationship better. This Easter, give Jesus’ way a shot. Take time to love God…and neighbor!
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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!

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!: Jerusalem

The Places You'll Go Jerusalem

It was Palm Sunday but because of a sore throat, 5-year-old Johnny stayed home from church with his dad. When the rest of the family returned home from church, they were carrying several palm fronds. Johnny asked them what they were for. “People held them and waved them as Jesus walked by,” his mom told him. “Well that’s just GREAT!” Johnny fumed, “The ONE Sunday I don’t go to church and Jesus shows up!”

We are in the middle of a true journey- traveling from one geographic location to another- as we walk through this series- Oh, the Places You’ll Go, based on the Dr. Suess book of the same name! We’re looking at the geography of the Easter narrative. We started in the wilderness as Jesus faced temptation. We’ve traveled north to the city of Cana to attend a wedding. We then traveled back south to the hub of the Ancient Near eastern world- Jerusalem- where Jesus cleansed the temple. Last week, we headed back to the area of Galilee, going through Samaria and stopping at Jacob’s Well. From there, Jesus finished the trip to Galilee, going to Nazareth and Capernaum. He crossed the Sea of Galilee and healed the man possessed by demons. He then crossed BACK- Jairus’ daughter was raise from the dead. More healings occurred. He headed back to Jerusalem, offered a series of parables AND the Sermon on the Mount. He headed BACK into the area of Galilee, to Nain, raising the young man from the dead. The Transfiguration happens. The disciples argue over who will be the greatest. More healing. More teaching. Lazarus is raised from the dead. Jesus encounters both the Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus. And that gets us to today’s story-

Luke 19:28-40 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them. “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.” They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

It’s the beginning of the end. The die has been cast. Before the end of the week, Jesus will be nailed to a cross…dying. But NOT yet! The mood was MUCH different on Palm Sunday. It was much less a funeral procession and much more the Beatles making their initial arrival in America- it was an event! And as the people gathered to see Him, welcome Him, praise Him, they waved their palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!”

Have you ever actually THOUGHT about what that word really means? Well, wonder NO more! Oddly, even though the New Testament was written in Greek and Aramaic, the word “hosanna” has an Old Testament, Hebrew origin. When it comes to figuring out the origin of a word, there are two things to consider-   translation and transliteration.

Translation is to express the meaning of a word in another language. Transliterate is to write the word in the characters of another language. So to translate something is to swap its entire meaning from one language to another. To transliterate something is to swap one letter at a time with the letter of another language so that the word is the closest match. “Hosanna” isn’t a translation from Hebrew- it’s a transliteration…of two Hebrew words. Those two words are “yasha” and “na”. “Yasha” means “save us” and “Na” means “we beg you”. So literally, the original Hebrew means, “Save us, we beg you.” Originally an appeal for deliverance, it came to be seen as an expression of joy and praise for deliverance already granted…or anticipated. So when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem for the final time, “hosanna” came readily to the lips of the Passover crowd.

Another important thing to understand here is that, historically, a king entering a city during war time would enter riding a horse and wielding a sword. However, a king entering a city during peace time would enter…riding a donkey. This was NOT a happy coincidence- Jesus orchestrated this event to further illustrate that His is a Kingdom of peace.

All too often, we fail to see the power and the majesty of Jesus while we are in the midst of it all- only afterward, with the gift of hindsight, do we more fully appreciate what He’s done for us. But in this case, the news of the miraculous things Jesus had done preceded Him. As He rode into Jerusalem that day, the crowd that gathered wanted to see this Miracle Worker for themselves.

    But did you notice? Even in the midst of such wild adulation, the plans to put an end to it and squash this fledgling ministry once and for all like the bug the religious leaders thought it to be were already in motion.

Palm Sunday is, at its core, a bittersweet proposition. Jesus knew Friday was coming. Many who waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday would be shouting, “Crucify Him” by Thursday. The wild adulation of Palm Sunday was short-lived.

The older I get, the more I realize the impact attitude has on life- it can make or break an individual, a family, a church. Why? Because life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. And we have a choice regarding our attitude. We can’t change the past, but we CAN impact the future. On this Palm Sunday, it’s time for us to examine our responses and our attitudes. What choice will YOU make?

    Today, we get to decide how close we want to get to Jesus. Are we willing to come right alongside Him…to stand in the shadow of the cross? Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, where our sins…past, present and future…are the nails that hold Jesus to the cross. Once we realize that…once we acknowledge that…our unwillingness will be gone. There are dark days still ahead…but Sunday’s coming. So, for now- celebrate good times- come on!

Opening Day!

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Opening Day is ALMOST here! Soon, the first pitch will be thrown out of the 2018 Major League Baseball season…and I
will be in HOG HEAVEN! I won’t mention which team I root for because I don’t want to create enemies (OK…it’s the St. Louis Cardinals!), but the beginning of the baseball season is a special time for me.

I didn’t even like baseball when I was a kid. My family wasn’t really a bunch of
sports fans, and I followed right along. The Cardinals made it to the World Series 3 times in the 60’s- the first decade I was alive. I was AWARE of it, I sort of paid attention to it, but I really didn’t care that much. Then…a kid moved in down the road (growing up in the country, we didn’t have streets…we had ROADS!) who was to become my constant “boon” companion for years.
As little of a sports fan as I was, that’s how BIG of a sports fan he was. He taught me about hockey, football, basketball…and baseball! I enjoyed learning about the other sports, and have remained a fan of each of them to varying degrees, but when baseball and I met, it began a lifelong love affair!

There is something magical about baseball. It is the only sport where the defense
controls the ball (think about it). It is the only major sport that has NO time
restrictions- the half-inning ends when three outs happen…however long that
takes! Likewise, the game ends when nine innings are completed…however long
THAT takes…UNLESS of course the teams are tied. Then…extra innings!! And
although it is a team sport, there are moments when it comes down to one person against another. The pitcher stands on the mound, gripping the ball and
communicating, long-distant and silently, with the catcher. The hitter stands
in the batter’s box, bat in hand, digging his feet in, getting his stance just
the way he wants it, and waiting for HIS pitch. THAT is the drama of baseball.
Pitcher and catcher…and nothing else matters at that moment. Both players
shut out everything around them….it is tunnel vision between pitcher’s mound
and batter’s box. And the first time that the bat makes contact with the
ball…ah…music to my ears! The ball on the bat, the ball in the glove, the
sound of feet thundering around the bases, the chatter…it is the music of
baseball…and I love every minute of it!

What are YOU passionate about? It may not be the same things I’m passionate
about, but what are the things that really get your juices flowing? Whatever
they are, I have two thoughts for you:

1. do everything you can to actually participate in the things about which you passionate. Life is too short to not spend some time doing the things you love. Believe me, it is
good for the soul!

2. is your commitment to God as complete as your commitment to the things from Question #1? Life is ALSO too short to NOT have a relationship with God. And, like the things in Question #1, believe me, it is GOOD for the soul!

As much as I love baseball (and I LOVE baseball), as much as I love my job (and I
LOVE my job), as much as I love my family (and I REALLY LOVE my family), I try,
every day, to put my relationship with God above all those things. I have found that, if you are able to truly put God first in your life, then the rest of the things in your life seem to just…fall into place. It doesn’t mean that everything will be all kittens and moonbeams- life will still have its ups and downs. But it DOES mean that, as you walk through the difficulties…you won’t walk through them alone. And I, for one, find that VERY comforting! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go rub some glove oil into my baseball glove…opening day is ALMOST here!

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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!

 

Routine Oriented

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Routine is an interesting thing. I can be VERY spontaneous. But I can also be deeply rooted in routine. I noticed that latter most recently yesterday. I have already established a routine for this round of radiation treatments. And here it is. 

I walk into the building…and smell the “chlorine swimming pool” smell. (I have to assume there is a fountain somewhere in the building that I haven’t seen. But you KNOW what I mean. It’s that smell that hits you when you walk into the lobby of a hotel that has an over-chlorinated pool. “Mmmm…BLEACH! Delicious!” Every day, I chuckle and think, “Gee, I can’t WAIT to get into the pool!” 

I walk to the check-in desk. They know me by name. (It’s like going to Cheers- “NORM!”) I spout off my date of birth…because I KNOW they are going to ask. They confirm that and say, “OK, you’re good to go!” From there, I head back to the designated waiting room. (There is more than one in that area- it depends on which machine is your destination.)  

I log into the center’s wifi and check my email. I may or may not read some news items. Then, they come and get me. I walk back with them, stop at a particular desk and, seemingly out of the blue, spout my name and date of birth…because I know they are going to ask me. 

Then, it’s around the corner, through the double doors and into the treatment room. The instant I step into that room, the baseball cap comes off. It is immediately followed by the sweater and the t-shirt- strip to the waist. Nobody tells me to. And no one in the room is surprised or shocked that I do.  

Then, it straight to the table. Lay down, tuck my head into the “holder”, raise my arms above my head, lay them in the “troughs” that run alongside my head and grab the handholds. I raise my legs off the table so they can slide the block under my knees. I close my eyes while they cover me with a warm blanket (I get cold EASILY these days!), gently push and pull me into place and then start the machine. I lay there for about 18 minutes without moving ANYTHING except what is required to breathe.  

When I feel the table I’m on slide out, I know I can move and so I bring my arms down. I raise my legs so that they can slide the block out. They take the blanket, offer a hand and help me up. I get re-dressed while we talk about the weather or whatever. Then, it’s a brief goodbye and I’m out. Not once is there any conversation about what to do or what is actually taking place there. They know what to do…and so do I! 

Today will be Treatment #4 AND the last treatment for the week. After today, I have 11 treatments left. (Counting down!) From there, it will be re-evaluate and almost assuredly start a new round of chemo. BUT…tomorrow is another day, Scarlett! (“Fiddle-de-de!”)  

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

Inspirational? Really?

inspirational

“Inspiration” is an interesting word. And to be honest, it is a word I have heard a lot over the past 9 months. About 9 months ago, give or take, we received the news we didn’t want to hear about my health. And we have heard LOTS of things since then, to be sure. But that one word, “inspiration”, keeps coming up.  

Let me say right up front, I am NOT writing about it today because I am trying to fish for compliments. Not even close, in fact. Instead, I like to think through things, trying to figure out the motivation behind them. And so, I think through the fact that so many people keep telling me and my wife that we are an “inspiration”.  

On the one hand, I am incredibly grateful and touched that people see us as inspirational. If I have to go through this (And, apparently, I do!), then at least I can hopefully positively impact someone else who may go through this, go through something else difficult or be helping a loved one walk through it. But on the other hand, I don’t always see why I am so “inspirational”. I am simply behaving the way I was taught to behave and trying to put the most positive spin I can on a bad situation.  

Quite frankly, based on who I am, I don’t know any other response to offer. I’m not a whiner. I hate to complain. It drives me nearly insane when people want to complain about EVERYTHING, cry about EVERYTHING and assume that absolutely everything that happens is A. bad, B. aimed at them and C. worse than anything anyone else is going through. And so, I try to look for the silver lining.  

There are those folks who thrive on drama SO much that, if they don’t have any…they will FIND some! Even though I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Drama (Remember- college degree in acting!), I have little interest in living in it all the time! I have NO control over this cancer that is worked HARD on my body. I wish I DID have control, but I don’t! What I DO have control over is A. deciding what I’m willing to accept as treatment and what I’m not and B. how I respond daily to the whole process. And I choose joy. WE choose joy! My wife and I make a conscious decision every day to choose joy over sorrow, today over tomorrow and life over death. If that’s inspirational, then label us guilty as charged! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

One Down- 14 to Go!

RadiationTherapy

To quote those great theologians from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode 5…PLEASE!), “The first transport is away!” I had my first Radiation Round 2 treatment yesterday. The picture I ran YESTERDAY was simply based on previous experience. It turns out, I am on a different type of machine this time around- I guess because the radiation is focused in a different area.  

The picture you see today looks a LOT like the machine I was on yesterday. An MRI machine looks like a long tube that you get slid into. It can be very claustrophobic. The Radiation machine I was in last time looked a decent amount like a CT scan- a ring that you get slid (Slided? Slud?) through. That one could feel claustrophobic- NOT because of going into a tube but because of the form-fitting mask that bolts you to the table. This one looks like a table with a mechanical, multi-armed sea creature attached to the end of it. You lie (Lay?) there while these mechanical arms, each with a different-looking piece of equipment attached to the end, slowly rotate around you. It is NOT claustrophobic.  

Since this was the first treatment, there were several scans that had to be done, to make sure I was in the right spot and the plans the doctor made would work correctly in real time. Once he was satisfied with where we were, I received the actual treatment. The scanning part took longer than the treating part! 

They have me lay (Lie?) on the table, on my back. My arms come up over my head and I grab ahold of two handles that are kind of like bicycle handlebars. They then tell me to “lay heavy” (don’t move or try to HELP them move me) while the use the sheet I’m on to slide me around, push and twist me until I am in exactly the right position. They then tell me to NOT move! In case you don’t know or wonder, the actual treatment is something you don’t feel. Literally. You would have NO idea anything is happening if the machine wasn’t moving. In fact, like the last round, I fell asleep. All in all, I was only in the building for about 30 minutes or so. The treatments from here on out will take less time, because all of that scanning isn’t necessary. 

I had green Sharpie marks (bullseyes) from last Friday’s scans drawn on me already- one on each side a bit below the armpit and one dead-center on my chest about where the sternum is. As I mentioned, they said they would end up permanently tattooing those spots, but that they wouldn’t do them today. As they were “putting me back together” afterwards, I said that, if they needed me to, I could easily shave the part of my chest where the mark is. She thought that might help, but then said, “We COULD just go ahead and tattoo you now.” I assured her that whatever they needed to do was fine with me. 

So, she got out what I THINK was something that looked kind of like a handgun. (I really couldn’t see it, however.) She prepped the area under my left armpit, got the apparatus in place and said, “OK, here we go. It’s going to feel like a mosquito bite.” And while it was FAR from the worst pain I’ve ever had, it would have been a pretty decent mosquito! She then prepped the spot on my chest. Felt like a bigger mosquito because there is less “meat” there. She then finished the trifecta with the spot under my right armpit. In the end, I have three black “dots” permanently on my body.  

I told the woman who did the tattooing my story to the congregation we currently serve about imagining that there would be Dr. Lee in his lab coat, med techs in their scrubs and some big hairy biker dude name Vinnie who would be doing the tattooing! She thought that was funny but wanted to make sure that I pointed out that is was NOT some hairly biker dude but a rather petite woman instead! 

So, it’s one down, 14 to go! If all goes according to plan, I will finish up the 9th of April- a week and a day after Easter. It was Easter Sunday, 2014 that I was released from the hospital in St. Louis following my cranial surgery. So, Easter has taken on a WHOLE new meaning for me! I will keep you posted here as to how the treatments are going and how the side effects are doing. We appreciate greatly your prayers and concern! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

Day 1

radiation-therapy

Today marks Radiation 2.0- Session 1! To unpack that, it is the second round of radiation, the first of those treatments! The last time I had radiation, it was to the thyroid and it was 10 treatments over the course of 2 weeks. (Basically- because the 4th of July was in the middle of that so I had to go one day into Week 3 to get that 10th treatment.) This time, it is to the esophagus and it will be 15 treatments over the course of 3 weeks. (Again, basically because I am starting on a Tuesday so we will have to slide one day into Week 4 at the end.)  

The specific area being treated is the “distal third of the esophagus”. The esophagus is basically divided into three relatively equal parts- 1. the Upper Thoracic (Proximal), 2. Mid Thoracic (Middle) and 3. Lower Thoracic (Distal). The distal (lower) third is roughly 3″-4″ long. They will start today with the highest dose I will receive. They will then SLOWLY decrease that amount daily over the next three weeks.   

As I said Saturday, many of the potential side effects for this round are much the same as they were for the last round- sore throat, difficulty swallowing, “sunburned” skin, etc. But the potential side effects that will be new this time include the fact that, given the proximity of the lungs to the treatment area, I could experience shortness of breath. Also, given the proximity of the heart, it could cause heart disease…10-15 years down the road. The likelihood of either of those is fairly low. Also, if the difficulty swallowing was substantial enough, they would have to insert a feeding tube- also a rather low-risk chance. Each treatment of the radiation I had this summer took about 16 minutes, once they “took me back”. This time, it will only be slightly longer- 20-25 minutes. 

If experience holds true, the first week will produce NO side effects. It will simply amount us making a 90-minute round trip drive for me to lie (lay?) on a table for 20-25 minutes. Period. The side effects, whatever they may end up being, won’t kick in until week 2 or even week 3. Some of them may not even show up until I am done with treatments. The reality, however, is that experience also tells me that radiation will make things worse before it makes things better. But it WILL make things better. 

And so, the next step in the journey begins. We can’t thank you enough for your prayers, your concern, your compassion and your love. We feel it. We appreciate it. And we are strengthened by it. We are also humbled by it! Thank you. 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

10 Gallons of Paint…

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Thank goodness I only work one day a week, because yesterday was QUITE a day! There is an expression that, to my knowledge, I coined and have written about more than once in this space. And that expression is, “We are trying to get 10 gallons of theological paint in a 5-gallon bucket!” To me, it blends the fact that I have a Master’s Degree in Theology with the folksy humor or my country upbringing. (But then again…maybe not!)
Here’s what yesterday looked like. In 3½ hours, from 8AM to 11:30AM, I led 3 worship services. That’s two different versions of the same sermon. That’s serving Communion once. That’s playing drums on 9 songs. That’s 3 baptisms. That’s 6 new members. That’s Confirmation. What. A. Day!
The beauty of three Sunday morning worship services is that there is always a variety…and a choice. Like a “first thing in the morning” service? Great- 8AM. Like a “not too early but early enough that I still have part of the morning available” time? No problem- 9:15AM. Want a “I like to sleep in on Sunday but still want to come to church” offering? Got it- 10:30AM. Like Contemporary Worship? Got it. Like Rock & Roll? Yep! Like a more Traditional Worship? No problem.
Another beauty of multiple offerings is that, maybe 10:30AM is your “normal” service. You like the time. You like the style. It works for you. But THIS week, you need to be on the road by 10:30AM for a Family Reunion. No problem- come to an earlier service for the week. The sermon is the same. The style is different.
So, that’s three morning services. The Rock & Worship service has Communion weekly, while the other two have it on the first Sunday of the month. The bread we use comes from a weekly bakery delivery we get EVERY Saturday morning from a local grocery chain. I describe the delivery in general and the bread we use for Communion as manna from heaven!
I have this standing gig- there is NO bad day for a baptism or a new member. I have clergy friends who plan baptisms and new members on specific days and that is totally their prerogative. But for me, if you want to be baptized and/or join the church and there is a certain day and time that works for you- sign me up!
The 10:30AM service was the one where we recognized Confirmation Sunday. The sermon at that service was what I describe as a “Reader’s Digest” version- it was a shortened version of the sermon that the other 2 services heard. That led to baptizing 3 Confirmands. We then talked about Confirmation itself- what it is, what we do and why we do it. Then the 6 Confirmands (a 7th Confirmand had a sudden death in the family and will be baptized and join the church at a later date.) were confirmed and joined the church. We ended the service with the Confirmands at the Prayer Rail with a large portion of the congregation gathered around them, praying and singing. It was PRETTY awesome!
The evening (6PM-9:30PM) was devoted to our monthly “business” meetings for the church- Trustees, Finance and Administrative Council. Was it a demanding day? Yep. Was I tired by the time I got home? You bet! But it is days like yesterday that remind you why you go into the ministry in the first place. Baptizing folks and bringing in new members to the church is why we exist. There are few things better than pulling up a few more chairs around our ever-expanding table of grace. In fact, our church Mission Statement sums that up well- “We exist to connect people to Jesus Christ”! Doesn’t get a whole lot better than that!

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!: Nain

The Places You'll Go Nain Today is Confirmation Sunday. This year, 4 young people will be baptized and 7 confirmed- becoming full members of the church in the process. This is our 21st year in the ministry…and the FIRST year I haven’t taught Confirmation. Other than 30 minutes last week to “walk through” what the actual ceremony will be like, I haven’t been involved this year- I have been grooming our Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries for the past few years to take it over. And that proved to be good timing given my current health issues.
I have had years where there were 4-7 kids. And I have had years when there were 25-30 kids! (No foolin’!) So, while I don’t have 100% accurate records (I didn’t know enough to keep really good records the first few years of our ministry!) I estimate that, with today’s Confirmation class, I have helped lead somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 kids through the process- including BOTH of my own kids AND a former staff member of the church we currently serve!
If there is one “take away” I have from seeing all of those kids go through the process, it is this- we are in good hands. You can say, “These kids today…!” all you want, but my experience is that there are a LOT of awesome kids out there…and in here!
Kids are a gift from God. We can all joke about, “Well, there are times…!” In fact, our younger son and I have this running joke. His mom says, “I love you!” I say, “I tolerate you!” And he replies, “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me!” But kids ARE a gift from God, plain and simple. And today’s story is a literal, living example of that truth.
We are in the middle of a true journey- traveling from one geographic location to another- as we walk through this series- Oh, the Places You’ll Go, based on the Dr. Suess book of the same name! We’re looking at the geography of the Easter narrative. We started in the wilderness as Jesus faced temptation. We’ve traveled north to the city of Cana to attend a wedding. We then traveled back south to the hub of the Ancient Near eastern world- Jerusalem- where Jesus cleansed the temple. Last week, we headed back to the area of Galilee, going through Samaria and stopping at Jacob’s Well. From there, Jesus finished the trip to Galilee, going to Nazareth and Capernaum. He ended crossing the Sea of Galilee and healing the man possessed by demons.
He then crosses the Sea of Galilee again. Jairus’ daughter is raise from the dead. More healings occur. Jesus heads back to Jerusalem. He offers s series of parables AND the Sermon on the Mount- the best sermon ever delivered. He heads BACK into the area of Galilee, ending up outside of a town called Nain- that’s where today’s story picks up:
Luke 7:11-17 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
So, Jesus is traveling from Capernaum when he comes to the city of Nain. Nain is 25 miles southwest of Capernaum and 10 miles southeast of Nazareth. Near the East Gate into Nain were a series of rock tombs. As Jesus nears the East Gate, He meets a funeral procession coming out of the city. The funeral Is for a young man whose only surviving family is his mother.
This woman is now completely alone and unprotected, being without a close male relative. There’s a large crowd following the funeral procession. The bereaved mother/widow would be walking in front of the procession, so Jesus meets her first. As He encounters her, He sees her pain, her loss and her grief. His heart goes out to her- He shows compassion. He tries to comfort her, “Don’t cry.”
Have you ever felt so much pain, loss and grief that you felt like you simply couldn’t go on? Have you ever felt like it didn’t matter, like nobody cared? The first thing that happens is people offer consolation. And that can be a difficult thing to both give and receive. You try to make people feel better, but the initial cause of the grief is still there. But in THIS story, Jesus doesn’t just try to offer consolation- He removes the very cause of the grief.
A note of clarification: the Scripture uses the word “bier” to describe what the son’s body is on. That’s a word we don’t use today. So, what is a “bier”? Picture an open stretcher. The body is on the stretcher, covered by a cloth and carried by four men. Jesus walks up and touches the bier…just TOUCHES it…and the whole entourage stands still. Why? Well, according to the common thought of the day, by touching the bier, Jesus is immediately and automatically rendered unclean- the worst form of ritual impurity. But you know what? Jesus simply doesn’t
care; those are man-made rules. They’re theologically legal tenets, designed for those who want to follow the letter of law and NOT the spirit.
Jesus stops the procession and commands…COMMANDS…the dead man to get up. The adult son then easily sits up and begins to talk. He is TRULY alive.
He is breathing life. In this one radical, unexpected act of tenderness, Jesus gives this “boy” back to his rejoicing mother. THAT is a true, unadulterated example of compassion.
The people are filled with awe and begin praising God. Notice how the people identify Jesus- they call Him a “great prophet” and say “God has come to help His people.” They are SO close…and yet SO far! Regardless, the news about Jesus immediately begins to spread.
Four special meetings took place at the city gate that day.
1. Two crowds met- there is a HUGE contrast between the crowd following Jesus and the crowd following the widow. Jesus and the disciples are rejoicing God’s
blessing while the widow and her friends are lamenting a death. Jesus is heading in and the mourners are heading out. If you were to find yourself in one of those crowds- which one would it be? Would it be the one that is triumphantly entering the city, joyfully entering into greater contact with the world of the living? Or would you be heading out of town, pulling farther away, lost in grief, sorrow and sadness?
2. Two sons met- one was alive, destined to die, while the other was dead, but destined to live.
One was an “only son” while the other was the “only begotten Son”. The One Who was destined to die can make you the one destined to live.
3. Two enemies met- Jesus Christ, the Prince of Life, met the “last enemy”- death. He met it…and conquered it. And because of that, death no longer had same hold
on the family, on life.
He didn’t eliminate death, which is a natural part of life. Instead, He defeated its hold on us and offered us a different way.
4. Two sufferers met- Jesus could easily identify with the widow’s heartache. She not only full of sorrow she was, but alone with no resources. Jesus not only saw
but felt the pain that sin and death brought into the world…and He did something about it.
So, is this a story about a grieving mother or is it a story about raising someone from dead? The answer is, “Yes!” It’s BOTH of those things…and so much more! But the questions is this- where are YOU in the story? Are you one of the disciples? Maybe you’re in the crowd following Jesus? Maybe you’re in the crowd following the widow?
Maybe you ARE the widow? Maybe you’re the son? Or maybe, if you are like me, the answer to that question depends on the day and time! We are ALL of them at different times.
Jesus has the power to bring hope out of tragedy. He has the ability to bring life by the power of His Word. He has the power to take away our sorrow and ease our pain. He has the power to resurrect our lives and put them back on track. Why? Because Jesus has compassion- for everyone. New life in a backwater town reminds us that Jesus’ touch is for everyone.

Bring on the Next Challenger!

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The next phase has begun. Yesterday, I met with the radiologist. What we assumed going in turned out to be exactly right. He wants to start radiation and he wants to start it as soon as possible. He stressed that there really is no time to lose here. So, the treatments will start sometime early next week- no day is set yet but it’s coming soon.  

There will be a total of 15 treatments this time- 3 weeks of 5 days a week. They will target specifically the lowest third of the esophagus, which turns out to be more “area” than I thought going in. The digestive symptoms I am experiencing continue- maybe worsen. And so these treatments are designed to attack that area quickly- the level of radiation will start high and SLOWLY diminish with each day’s treatment.  

Unlike last time, there will be no “body cast” with markers on it that will bolt me to the table for the treatments. Instead, the markers will be directly on my skin in the form of permanent tattoos. (I currently have what amounts to 3 Sharpie marks- one on each side up high, not far below the armpit and one dead-center in my chest.) They will add the permanent tattoos the day of the first treatment. (I picture, along with all of these medical professionals in scrubs, the staff includes some big, hairy “biker dude” who will apply the tattoos! Perhaps not!)  

Potential side effects include sore throat and impaired ability to swallow. Since the lungs are so close, I could experience some shortness of breath. And since the heart is so close, there is some slight risk of heart disease. But he said that would take 10-15 years to develop- if it does- and so…well…that’s not really a concern! A worse-case scenario is that I temporarily lose the ability to swallow altogether and have to have a feeding tube installed. (Or as we call it at home- a gas cap!) The worse the potential side effect, the less likely it is- that’s the good news! 

So, the next chapter begins. And given the fatigue, the nausea and the stomach pain, I’m ready for something to change! I pray this is the thing that will change it. I certainly am “all in” committed to trying! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

What’s What About You Know What

News Well, the Ides of March has passed and we have some answers and a new direction. Here’s how the oncologist visit yesterday. Vitals were good. (My BP caused the nurse to say, “You’re perfect.” At the same moment, my wife agreed with her while I suggested she needed to get out more!) Blood work was good. (There are some numbers that AREN’T perfect, but they have been “not perfect” for a while now and they are not too far out of the acceptable range and therefore…fine.) I only lost 3-4 pounds over the past month-ish and, given how much my eating/digestive habits have changed during that time, that’s a good number.
Then there are the CT scans. We’ll start at the top and work our way down. The thyroid continues to look good- in the sense that it hasn’t grown any since the last scan which is now months ago. That’s great news. A bit surprising, to be honest. But great.
Next, we slide down to the lungs. The scan shows some “new” nodes in the lungs that are cancerous since the last scan. I was not surprised. While I am having NO problem breathing, the little nagging cough I had earlier is creeping back and my lungs just…”feel” different. I can tell. They do NOT know if those, or the earlier-detected lung nodes, are from the thyroid cancer or the esophageal cancer. And they COULD go in and biopsy them. But current thought is that there is really no reason to do that.
Then there is the esophagus. It shows “significant” thickening since the last CT scan. That is also no surprise. Some of the new symptoms, coupled with the way I have felt, would point to that reality. The oncologist feels that the growth in that area is a decent part of the reason I have developed the digestive issues- nausea and pain. So, today (they don’t mess around!) I meet with the radiologist who oversaw my previous radiation treatments. The idea is that he will probably want to start a round of radiation on that esophageal site ASAP. (It has had NO chemo thus far.) I will know more before today is out.
Moving farther south, the new contender in the “what more could happen here?” contest is in the area of the colon and rectum. There is a “thickening” there as well. That would explain the REST of the new symptoms I have been experiencing and, therefore, we were once again not terribly surprised to hear that latest news. Yet this month, I will meet with the doctor who did the endoscopy and biopsy earlier that identified the esophageal cancer to plan for a colonoscopy and biopsy to identify what’s going on “down south”. But the best guess is that the cancer has continued to spread and is now attached to that area as well. Once that testing is done, the next, post-radiation step, will be discussed. The oncologist is imagining another round of chemo is in my future.
As the oncologist said, there IS some good news here…and yet there is some news that we did not want to hear. But we walked out of the office with NOTHING that we didn’t have a fairly decent handle on walking in. The medical prognosis hasn’t changed. We are still approaching it as “palliative care”. We are still realistically keeping the notion that this is terminal firmly in the picture. We still continue to use expressions like “quality of life” as we all discuss what is happening and what WILL happen. But we are also still Hopeful Pragmatists. Behind the scenes, we plan for the worst. We hope for the best. And we praise God in the midst of the storm!
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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 Ides of March

March 15 Today is the day. Today, we meet with the oncologist to see what’s what about you know what. We already know two things (we have “insider info”!)- 1. my blood work looks pretty good and 2. there HAS been more thickening of the adenoma carcinoma of the distal (lower) third of the esophagus. The blood work is good news. The thickening of the cancer on the esophagus is no real surprise. The nausea and pain I have been experiencing in my stomach often feels to emanate from or settle in that “distal third” region.
The truth is that what started as some minor discomfort a month ago is now nausea and pain that is there ¾ of the time when I am awake and maybe a 1/3 of the time that I am in bed. It is at it’s worst after (and sometime during) eating. But it is not isolated to then. It continues and recurs all day. Further, I have one to two “bouts” every day where, out of the blue, I have to work really hard and concentrate really hard to not get physically sick. Thus far, I have completely dodged that bullet, but have choked quite substantially a few times. Nothing I currently have available to me, even the prescription meds I have on hand for chemo-related nausea, do much if anything to abate the symptoms.
As a reminder, here are the possible “remedies” I am fairly certainly will be discussed today:
1. Start full-bore chemo again ASAP
2. Start another round of low-level (2/3 the strength of the “radiation lite” they did last time) on the thyroid ASAP
3. Start an initial round of radiation (none has been done there yet) on the distal third of the esophagus ASAP
4. Some combination of 1-3
I will be entirely honest- I do not WANT to start…ANY of that. None of it is what you might call fun. BUT- I also don’t want to keep living with these digestive issues and it would seem that some form of invasive treatment might be the only option.
So, we go into today with a strong resolve and an open mind. We’ve had no illusion that the break from treatment was a sign that cancer was gone. We have just appreciated the reprieve. And now, that reprieve seems to be over. It’s time to roll up the sleeves and wade back into the midst of the fray. In tomorrow’s blog, I will update you on what was actually said and decided today.
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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!

Life Insurance- How Much is Enough?

life insurance

Here’s a factoid that many of do not know- I was only a licensed Insurance and Securities Agent in the state of Illinois! (I KNOW- “Is there a job you HAVEN’T had?” I haven’t been a brain surgeon…but I’ve HAD brain surgery, so…!) I used to sell life insurance and mutual funds. Let me say right up front- I stunk at it. Not my gig. I always told myself that I simply was not cut out to be a salesman. And in the more “classic” sense of the word, it’s true. I didn’t last terribly long in the industry. 

But over the years, I have come to realize that it’s not as simple as saying, “I’m not cut out to be a salesman”. The truth is- I can’t sell something…anything…that I’m not already “sold” on myself. And that’s why I failed at selling life insurance. I really didn’t see the need. And so, it was hard to create that need in others. In a sense, I am still a “salesman”, but now my “product” is Jesus Christ and BOY do I see the need! 

But, I digress. When I was trying to sell life insurance, I was young, strong, invincible. Who needs life insurance? I was like the song from Fame- “I’m gonna live forever”! But now, I’m older, I’m (I hope) wiser and a WHOLE lot of water has gone under the bridge. And I am PAINFULLY aware of the fact that I am NOT going to live forever.  

In our earlier married life, we were always both working. But 7 years into the ministry, we moved. Our younger son was only 3 years old. So, we made the conscious choice that my wife would be a stay-at-home mom, rather than “farming him out” to people that, because of the move, we didn’t even know. Financially, it was as tough decision. But for the good of the family, it was a GREAT decision. 

As he got older, she got an opportunity to work at the local high school, which was almost literally right across the street. She soon was considered full-time…indispensable! (If you know her, you CAN’T be surprised by that!) But then…two things happened. Within 6 months, we moved her parents in with us AND we moved to a new town/church! And so, we made another decision. She would once again be a “stay-at-home mom”, only to take care of her parents! She had also become an invaluable part of the ministry- we are truly a team! 

So, even though my wife was worked full-time in SOME capacity her entire adult life, I have been the primary money-earner for a while. (It only seems fair- between my years of “wandering” and then seminary, she did MORE than her share of “primary bread winning”!) And it dawned on my one day that, if something sudden, unexpected and catastrophic happened to me, she would be in an awkward position. The primary source of income would be gone AND the parsonage- the place where we live- wouldn’t be an option anymore. No husband/dad, no full-time salary and no home- all in one felled swoop! 

So, I bought life insurance. And then I bought some more. And then, some more. There have been some months, when the premiums came due, that I questioned our decision. But we always reminded each other that there was a reason- a GOOD reason- for having it. So, we kept the policies in force. 

Then, along came the brain tumor. We worried at times that I wouldn’t survive that. But I did. And once we made it to the other side of that crisis, it dawned on me- I am no longer insurable. I couldn’t buy life insurance now…period. WAY too big of a risk for any insurance company. And then, as if to add t5he punctuation at the end of that sentence, along comes the cancer. Boy, talk about uninsurable! 

So here’s my sales pitch to you- be like Fagin from the musical Oliver!- review your situation. Where would your family be financially if something happened to you tomorrow? If your answer is anything but, “Perfectly fine”, then you really need to consider how much life insurance you have and how much your family would need if you were gone. The last thing you would want would be to have your family lose you AND be faced with financial devastation at the same time…especially if you can avoid it. $100,000 sounds like a LOT of money (as an example), but how many years of salary would that cover? Fewer than you would think. What can you do TODAY to help your family TOMORROW? 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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 IV is IN!

IV arm

Health testing is done. Yesterday started at 5:30AM. I got up to eat and have some coffee, because I had to cut off all food and drink at 6AM. So, 30 minutes later, breakfast was done, I had a few sips of coffee and was back in bed.  

At 6:50AM, I was back up to be up with our younger son while he got ready for school. He left at 7:30AM and went straight to “my chair”- complete with “my blanket”, which has become a living room staple since my “inner thermostat” went south on me! (I used to be SO warm-blooded! Now I’m basically a salamander- cold-blooded as they come!)  

At 8AM, I guzzled (and I DO mean “guzzled”!) the bottle of “berry-flavored liquid chalk” that contains the barium I have to have inside me to have one of the CT scans that was ordered. Then it was get dressed. Then, my wife and I hopped in the car and headed to the local hospital. 

The “upside” to having these tests done locally (beyond the obvious that it is close and easy to get to) is that you know most of the people who work there. So, we walked in the front door, handed to the paperwork to the woman who checks you in and headed to the lab. I have standing orders there and they know me, so it takes NO time at all to get in the system again, have the blood drawn and then head back to admitting.  

The woman in admitting had already processed the paperwork, which I had already signed and initialed, so we simply got handed the completed paperwork as we walked by with a “I’ve already called them to tell them you’re coming. Have a good day!” thrown in because she’s a nice person.  

The woman who works in radiology attends the church we currently serve, so she knew 24 hours ahead of time that we would be there! She greeted us and told us that, because my kidney function numbers were a little hinkey last time, they needed to wait for the results of the blood draw I just had done, to make sure the numbers were acceptable. (The CT scans I was having required more of the contrast to be injected in me, so the numbers were more important.)  

About 25-30 minutes later, we found out that, while one of the numbers they watch went up slightly from last time, they were still acceptable so…off we went! The earring was already out (If the zillion CT scans and MRIs I have had in the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that, if they are getting anywhere near my head, the earring HAS to come out!), so all I had to do was “lose” the sweater and glasses and I was good to go. 

Again, with that “warm-blooded is now cold-blooded” thermostat thing, I need a blanket these days when I go into the room where the scans happen. (It was heated! Bonus!) They start with me facing feet-first into the machine. They get the IV in place, get me in place and then do an initial scan of the abdomen. Then, they inject the first round of contrast (dye) and do the scan again.  

Then, they get me up, flip me around, end-for-end, and get me back on the table. They load more contrast (dye) in the machine and prepare for the scan of the thyroid area. Same scenario. (The injection of the contrast/dye is an odd feeling- you feel flush and, frankly, like you wet yourself!) And then…I’m done. The whole process- blood work, waiting, scans- took about 90 minutes. No too shabby! 

I don’t know if it’s the barium, the contrast/dye or just the activity itself, but I knew from experience that I wouldn’t feel like doing anything but going home after we were done. So, I planned work that way. We went home, I started drinking the water I needed to drink to flush all of that crud out and then went to bed and took a 2-hour nap! 

And now- we wait. Until Thursday. Then, we go and see the oncologist to see what the next step is. I assume that, by lunchtime on Thursday, we will have a new plan in place. Or at least, a better idea than we have now. I’m nearly certain it will include some combination of chemo and radiation. And while I can’t say I’m actually excited about that notion, I AM excited about anything that might make me feel a little better than I have lately.   

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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! 

An Unplanned Health Update

health update

It’s been an interesting month. If you remember, I had x-rays and blood work back in early February- a full 4 months after my last chemo treatment. That was followed up with a visit to the oncologist who, after reviewing the results and talking to and examining me, recommended that we wait another 3 months, until early May, for more follow-up. We were delighted! 

But it turned out that my body had other plans. Starting almost immediately after that visit to the oncologist, some of the symptoms from earlier started to show back up. My energy level, which had been slowly but steady climbing since my last chemo treatment, began to go the wrong direction. After months of only needing a nap on Sunday afternoons, I started getting tired more easily. It came on slowly but has gained momentum over the past month plus. Now, I work all morning and then struggle to have enough energy to make it through the afternoon. If I sit down after lunch, I have to fight to stay awake. If I have something “work-related” scheduled for later, I pretty much HAVE to take at least a “power nap”. And then, when 8PM-ish rolls around, I am again struggling to stay awake. 10PM bedtime has crept closer and closer to 9PM bedtime in recent weeks. 

I have also begun to have problems eating. I can still swallow. And my throat is NOT sore. But I have come to have to pay close attention to what I eat and how I eat it. There are some foods that simply don’t won’t to go down easily. I have choked more than once, including a pretty bad episode about a week ago. 

The new symptoms revolve around eating, as well. There is clearly something going on in and/or around the cancer that is on the distal third of my esophagus- it’s the area right near the base of the esophagus. More and more, I have rather severe nausea that nothing seems to touch. There is also pain in that area. It has decreased my appetite significantly. I eat some portion of a “regular” meal and…I’m done. I simply can’t eat anymore. Over the past several days, I have been replacing solid food with homemade protein shakes on several occasions. 

So, I called the oncologist, explained my current situation and said I didn’t think we could/should wait until May. She agreed. Today, I will have blood with and a nearly full-body scan- chin to pelvis- to see what’s going on. I’m fairly certain it will show that some or all of the cancer has begun to gain steam again. That means it is fairly likely more treatment is in my immediate future.  

Restarting chemo seems almost like a no-brainer. But radiation is still on the table. Ever though they usually don’t do radiation again in the same spot, what I had done to my thyroid was “radiation lite”. So, the radiologist has already told us that he would be OK with more radiation to that area. It would be even less strong- 2/3 of what I had last time. Further, the esophagus area has had NO radiation, so treatment there is a real possibility.  

We will begin to find the answers to all of those questions on Thursday, when we go back to the oncologist to get the results of today’s testing. Then…we move forward again. Part of me DREADS more chemo and radiation while part of me oddly welcomes the idea- even though it knocked the CRUD out of last time, it had a powerful positive impact on the cancer. Either way, we will have decisions to make on Thursday! 

Thank you for your prayers. We feel them. We covet them. We appreciate them more than you can imagine. I will keep you posted in this space as the next phase of this journey plays out in timr and space! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! 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!