No Radiation – We’re In Charge Now

  1. Monday, April 10 was the surgery.
  2. Tuesday, April 18 they removed the drain tubes.
  3. Monday, April 24 they removed the stitches.

During this last meeting when they removed the sutures, the doctor said the consensus from their panel discussions with the other doctors was that it’s not necessary for her to have radiation. This news was a big relief. That means no radiation and no chemo.

We’re good with that.

Hail StormThe current process is for Lucia to rest and heal. The healing is going well, and she’s getting plenty of rest. For the first two weeks, Lucia could go about two hours at a time before needing to sleep, which was perfect for her, except it was making her body clock wonky, so she decided to stay up all day this past Saturday. It was a challenge, but she persevered, and reset her clock.

She’s persevering better now. She has stayed up another whole day (or two), though she sleeps longer through the night and into the morning. Everything seems to be progressing normally.

(This morning she had no choice but to get up as the roofers were here early, banging on the roof. The hail storm from a few weeks back damaged our roof, house siding, and backyard fence. We’ve been in process of replacing those things. The past two days it has been the roofers.)

Multi-Focal

The only concern from the surgeons is the multi-focal iteration of the cancer. There were seven focal points around the breast, and they said this was an anomaly. They don’t have an answer for the multi-focal problem, but they are not suggesting a plan other than a standard healing, reconstruction process.

From this point forward, we are more in charge of the next steps, which means we can set the timetable for “recovery events.” The most important of which is accepting the kind offer from our long-time friend, Jim, to use his beach house in June. That should be part of anyone’s healing.

In August, I will be teaching in Denver, so the hope is that Lucia will get to get her “Rocky Mountain high fix on” at that time as we spend time with our friends out there. Another friend, Joanne, invited us to her island in the Gulf of Mexico (off Florida), which I think would be an excellent “tie over” between Surfside Beach, SC and the Rocky Mountains. If the Lord pulls all this off, it would be good for our souls, as the past year has been an arduous journey.

Somewhere in the next few months, we will plan the reconstruction. I mentioned in the last update that the nurse said we could wait a few weeks or a few years on that. The main thing is cancer removal. We like that plan.

The primary thing for me is that Lucia is comfortable with the plan and, honestly, that is all that matters.

I will post any new developments here, but we’re not anticipating anything new for a while. You can pray the “multi-focal dilemma” is not a problem and that the cancer is indeed gone, and we can get back to serving others.

As for serving us? So many have done so much. I’m hesitant to name names because I will miss someone, and I don’t want to do that, but you know who you are. Your words and deeds have been amazing.

Advertisements

The Path to and From the Pathology

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 18), we went to the doctor to have the drain tubes in Lucia’s chest removed. The doctor said, “This is going to burn and sting a little bit,” and before Lucia could prepare herself for the “burn and sting,” he pulled them out briskly.

That was probably the best way to do it. He did not want–I assume–to give her time to think about it. Just do it. Lucia flinched and said something like, “Oh my,” and that was that. Tubes removed.

With the tubes and bandage out of the way, it was our first look at her chest without the patch. It was a sober reminder of what sin does to a person. It also deepened our love. Strange how trials can do that to two people. War wounds–a distant echo of the gospel and how wounds remind us of what’s really important.

The doctor was careful and patient with his bedside manner–other than “yanking” the tubes out of her chest. He listens well and stays in tune with our preferences. There is much to learn from “his way.”

The short story is the pathology report showed all cancer is gone. The doctor is “somewhat suggesting” radiation though he’s not adamant about it. We understand; he wants cancer “killed dead,” as we say in the south. (That’s doubly doggone sure it’s dead.) We want it “killed dead” too.

It’s not the time for us to think about a recovery plan. With all cancer–hopefully–gone, we can take our time to recover at our pace, which means it’s time to sleep. Lucia has been more tired than usual since the surgery. She can go about two hours. There were a few times where she was up longer, but it was hard on her. She’s an excellent patient; when I suggest she go to bed, she will. Most of the time she goes on her own. Tired is tired, and she knows when she’s tired. Her determination about healing, pre- and post-surgery, is the same. So she sleeps.

We are not talking at this point about radiation, chemotherapy, or a pill. Currently, Lucia’s glad the drain tubes are gone, and she can sleep on her side. We’re taking “baby steps” here.

One of the tips the nurse gave us is that the main thing was cancer removal, not a recovery plan. The nurse said Lucia could wait six months or six years before she did reconstruction; we’re on a different timetable now. We won’t wait six years, of course, but we’re not in a hurry either. There is no need to create an artificial timeline “out there somewhere” that speeds things up faster than our minds can clearly think about next steps. We’ll take our time.

The next step is to go back to the surgeon next week to have the sutures removed. We’re planning to head to the beach after the children finish school. The ocean is about five hours from us. Lucia loves the beach more than any place in the world. She has always been fascinated with God’s creation; she sees His “handiwork” by the things He has made, and the beach is a 4D spiritual experience for her.

Personally, I disdain the ocean. It’s hot, sticky, sandy, and the wind blows all the time. (I don’t care for the 4D experience.) The only pleasure I find at the ocean is watching my wife enjoying the ocean. And there are few things sweeter than enjoying my wife enjoying things. That makes me love the idea of the ocean. So I can’t wait to get her there so she can layout in a beach chair, eyes closed, and the sound of the ocean rushing to her ears. I can see her smiling now.

You can pray we will need minimal recovery. Preferentially, we hope it’s only a pill. Lucia does not want radiation or chemo. We’ll do what we have to do, but those are our preferences. Either way, we’ll rejoice in the Lord because He is good

Thank you to many friends who have brought food for our family and unique things for Lucia. Your love has brightened my wife.

Ansa, our 11-year old, is glad Lucia is better but was a little sad thinking she’d have to give up the washing and drying of the clothes. Good news: Lucia told me that she would gladly let her have that job until Jesus returns.

You’re welcome to contact Lucia. Her phone is still on call-forwarding to my phone, but if she’s awake and able, she can take a few calls or texts. Thank you for understanding.

Gospel-Centered Food Deliveries

One of the most common (and welcomed) questions asked us is, “What can we bring you to eat?” How lovely. People care. People want to bless. People want to do something.

Taking food to someone who is hurting is as Christian as American used to be apple pie. It is what believers do. Are you hurting? We bring food, one of the most practical ways Christians love Christians. Truly, it is a huge blessing especially when the “cook in the kitchen” is laid up in bed and the breadwinner does not make bread.

As for the question, “what would you like for us to bring,” I honestly prefer not to make suggestions–unless there are restrictions on things we can’t (or shouldn’t) eat. Our true preference is for individuals to bring the things they enjoy eating. When they get to bring the things they like to eat, that is the thing we want to eat.

Gospel Implications

The “gospel implications for bringing food” are just as important to us as the other zillion gospel implications for doing life in a community, like the previous post about the necessity of our children entering into their mother’s suffering.

One of our primary parenting strategies is helping our children to connect the gospel to all of life. When folks bring what they like to eat, we get to learn them better, know them more, enjoy what they enjoy while entering into an aspect of their lives. If we only eat what we like, we don’t learn them, grow outside our preferences, or mature in other-centered Bible imperatives.

The “other-centered aspects of the gospel” are important to us. For example, our friends, Rick and Becky, brought dumplings made with Spelt. Who eats dumplings made with Spelt? We don’t. That is something we would never eat in a million years, but we got to eat what they eat, and it was fabulous. Our affinity for Rick and Becky grew by eating their food preferences.

Our friends, Tom and Missy, made some odd chocolate chip cookies and some muffins with interesting ingredients. Plus, they wrote out the recipes, perchance we wanted to make them. Guess what? I want my daughter, who is currently fascinated with cooking, to make what they made for us.

Those odd cookies and interesting muffins were amazing. I may (or may not) have had too many of them the past two days. They were perfect with my one cup of coffee that I get each morning. I want more!

The other food option that folks could bring would be what we always eat. Where’s the gospel adventure in that? How restrictive. We don’t want to grow more inward, always absorbing what we like. We want to be a “gospelized” family that is always leaving our comfort zone so we can enter into the lives of others (Philippians 2:5-6).

If you give us what you like, you will allow us to enter into your story. You will help us to become more like Jesus.

Please Allow Suffering

The most common (and expected) question that caring people are asking us during our cancer journey is what can we do? That is what Christians should ask Christians when a person is going through suffering. It’s a comforting question. It’s a practical matter. It’s also a contoured inquiry.

Two essential aspects of suffering are the needs to participate in and learn from it. After many opportunities to go through hard things in my life, I have learned there is a need to experience and learn from the suffering entirely. There are lessons in pain, and though the temptation is to get out of it as fast as you can–a reasonable prayer request–there is another element that is necessary: stop, wait, and learn.

There is a purpose in suffering, and if the only response is to resist the trial, you will miss the God-centered goals. Though nobody prays for pain, no biblical thinking Christian should waste it. Thus, the question is, how are you stewarding the Lord’s most feared gift: suffering (Philippians 1:29)?

Teach the Children

An important aspect of this discussion about a theology of suffering is the importance of allowing our children to enter into it with us, specifically with Lucia. There is a significant gospel implication here. Jesus took on the form of a servant to be like us (Philippians 2:6-11). Becoming like us was not just for our salvation (Hebrews 2:14-15), but also to help the human Jesus relate well to us (Hebrews 4:15). Detachment from our lives is not who Jesus is. He is in tune with us, especially our sufferings and temptations.

Relating to the suffering of Jesus is why my response to the question, how can I help you is, don’t help us, as far as cutting our grass, washing our clothes, buying our groceries, or cleaning our home. Lucia and I have a fabulous parenting opportunity right in front of us: to lead our children in stepping up–in a limited way–so they can participate in the suffering of their mother. They get to do some of the things she has historically done for them.

You can think of it in the opposite: if the Christian community did everything for us (and our children), our kids would not benefit from what the Lord has written into our family narrative. I humorously told a friend that they may even want me to have surgery next so they can continue to have “round the clock” maids, butlers, and grounds crews pampering them.

Feed Me

But can’t we do something? What I’m not saying is we don’t want your help. (Whatever God “tells” you to do.) We have no desire to shut out the Christian community. That’s weird. That’s wrong. They would not be able to “enter into our suffering” with us. They would not be able to experience–in a limited way–what God is doing in and through us. A healthy body is 100% engaged with the body when part of the body is hurting. We want and expect the external body to do something.

The need for others to help is where meals, cards, and individual gifts are excellent. Our Christian friends give, I give, and our children give. Everybody gets to play. And since my kids’ culinary inclinations have not matured to where they will be in twenty years, it’s a huge blessing when someone randomly shows up at our door with food.

Children, Suffering, and the Gospel

Lucia and I are always in search of ways to teach our children about the practical gospel. And, boy, do we have an enormous privilege that the Lord put in our laps that can lift up the amazing-ness of Christ.

Though we intentionally govern down and mask some of the details of what’s going on with Lucia because it’s not appropriate for our children to know those things, we must place before them opportunities to serve so they can mature in Christlike character qualities and attitudes.

The home is a parental laboratory where children can experience in bite-size ways what they will experience in super-sized ways all their lives. Suffering is one of those things. It’s waiting out there, somewhere, in their future. We hope they will learn a few things about suffering and Christ before they leave the lab.

Our primary hope is that it will increase their appreciation for Christ as they think about His willingness to serve us in our fallenness. Christ entered into our suffering, and we want our kids to imitate Him that way.

A secondary hope is that this cancer journey will increase their appreciation for the work that Lucia does day in and day out. They see some of what Lucia does, but they do not do what Lucia does. Now they get to do what she does, which takes all three of them to do what their mom does. How awesome is that for them to carry Lucia’s load.

Thanking the Body

We are thankful for how the external body of Christ has pitched in with prayers, notes, gifts, food, and conversations. We are also grateful for the internal body of Christ–Rick, Tristen, Haydn, Ansa–that gets to pitch in to serve a weakened member of the body–dearest Lucia.

Home Again – A Post-Surgery Life

The surgery went well. In and out, a time in recovery, and one night in the hospital. We’re both glad it’s over. After the Lord “had flipped the switch” in Lucia’s heart to go forward with the surgery, we were ready to get it done.

Haydn and Ansa spent the day with us at the hospital (Tuesday). Tristen was in school all day. It was good for them to be with her so they could “enter into” their mom’s experience, as much as children can. They know she had surgery, but are not aware of the “what” or the extent of the surgery. This “cancer process” created new categories for them. We have not talked to them about the “extent” of the surgery yet. Not sure about that; it’s not a primary concern at this point, in light of so many other details that need our attention. (The primary thing is they need our love and mom needs theirs.)

Lucia and I were glad to get her home. A hospital is not a place to rest. She was “cared for” two to four times per hour, all day long. The night was similar. She was exhausted after a day of so much quality care. She slept well Tuesday night (at home), and will sleep most of today (Wednesday). The first ten days will be lots of limitations.

She said the surgery felt like she did too many push-ups on her left side, and the internal/external stitches are tight, but that is normal from what we were told. This morning (Wednesday) she was able to move her left arm more. We took her for a walk around the cul-de-sac last night. She moves at my pace now, which is nice.

Amazing Faith

She was “in faith” to move forward with the surgery (Romans 14:23), and no matter how many times I talked to her about it, she was fully confident this is the path the Lord wanted her to walk. It reminded me of the “most important question” I ask during pre-marriage counseling: Are you “in faith” to move forward? What I know is they are in love and have a “happy ever after” worldview. However, after a few months (or years) of marriage, the disappointments come. Knowing it’s God’s will before you step off the boat is huge because there is a good chance you’re going to sink afterward (Matthew 14:30-31).

…and immediately Jesus reached out His hand.

I love that part.

It’s easy to think a God-centered decision to move forward is going to end in all the ways you hoped. Not so. It’s good to know “this aspect of decision making,” especially after the first look at the post-surgery results. And just like God, there was “grace for the view.” She’s good. I’m good. In that way, it just ain’t no big deal; it is a big deal in one way, but it’s not, in an important way.

Peter’s Beauty

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. – 1 Peter 3:4

I’ve said for years that my eyes and thoughts are biased toward Lucia’s beauty. When we first met, it was all about lust, love, and hotness. (Yes, there was love in there somewhere.) But after being with her for so long, things transitioned from physicality to spirituality. Her inner beauty dominates what I see. The “Jesus in her” and His character qualities are so strong that physical love is over-shadowed. We like to use “Donne’s language” when we talk about our love:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Valediction Forbidding Mourning

Donne wrote about how it’s a challenge to tell others about this kind of love because “sublunary” language does not reach these heights. He went on to say that this love is so refined that eyes, lips, and hands (and breasts) are secondary considerations. So true.

Present Needs

Present needs are the same as past needs: prayer. We have an inner network of friends and family who have intentionally, with purpose and love, walked with us through this. Your counsel and your questions were always perfect. (Nikki, thanks for this. She had a “good cry” as we lay together last night listening to this video: Not My Will.)

She will see the doc, possibly, next Monday. There will be results from the lab work that will determine the extent of cancer and post-surgery direction. We don’t know about future choices at this point, which is fine as we rest in today’s grace while ignoring future worry (Matthew 6:34).

I have Lucia on “restriction,” which she is happy about, so there is little technology, much sleep, and “soul checks” to make sure she stays in a good place as she processes it all. Her soul is good right now. If you want to chat or ask a question, please let me know; that would be best.

Thank you for your care and prayers.

The Day Is Here

Lucia will have surgery on Monday, April 10 at 3 PM ET. She will arrive at the hospital at 11 AM for pre-op. We are fine and have no needs other than your prayers. (The hospital is 1000 steps next door!)

Going Quiet

Because of the public nature of our lives, we have tried to be open about this part of the Lord’s narrative that He is writing into our lives. Being open through this medium (weblog) has helped in two primary ways: people have prayed much, and it has relieved us from having to “talk about this” so many times to so many caring people. We are blessed.

But for now, we must go into “minimalization mode” so our family can serve Lucia in the most effective ways. She needs space and time to keep her heart guarded against “sin’s thought encroachments” and her soul saturated in the Lord’s love and mercy. It’s not that we don’t want to talk to individuals about it or don’t want to entertain all comments and questions; we simply can’t at this point due to our heading into the epicenter of it all, and whatever the Lord has prepared for us over the next few months.

We have a few close friends who are fully aware of all things, and they are providing all the care we need. Thanks for understanding.

How We Got Here

The “diagnosis” last November was, as I said then, like a “ton of bricks” that lands on the soul. No matter how you think about it, the word “cancer” is a harsh word that does not respect image bearers. Like Satan, it comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

Though Lucia knew what she would “probably” have to do, doing it is not as simple as, “Okay, I have cancer, I’m going next week to get a mastectomy.” Of course, there were some who did just that, but we don’t map our story, preferences, and expectations over them, and we don’t map “their way” over ours. To our own master, we stand or fall, so we talked to our Master and walked down the path we believed He wanted us to walk.

It reminds me of many couples I’ve counseled, specifically a husband who sins grievously against his wife, repents, and asks her to forgive him. In a “technical (theological) sense” she should forgive him. In an “is my soul at the place where I can freely forgive and move on” sense; well, that’s another story.

Technically, Lucia assumed surgery. From a soul perspective, it took more time to get to this place. Though I was more ready for the surgery and probably could have pressed the issue with her, I was more interested in submitting to what Peter talked about when he said husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way.

Through a “thousand conversations,” the Lord brought Lucia to a settled place. She is ready.

Both, And

We are not all conventional medicine without alternative medicine, and we’re not all alternative without conventional. We’re both/and. Lucia did not want to move too quickly down the conventional medical road, have the surgery, and then always wonder, “What if?” This may be the simplest way to explain her “soul angst dilemma.”

Future

We cannot overstate the importance of prayers from so many and the intimate conversations with a few. Both of those things played significant roles in helping my best friend get to where she is now.

I will post here–as I can–how things go with the surgery and what we need. If you want to know what is happening, please read here. That will help so much.

It is nearly impossible to imagine what life would be like without Christ or His body.

Peace!

Rick and Lucia

Tristen, Haydn, and Ansa