Post-Op, Day Two and Three

I walked into her room on Saturday, and she was sound asleep. We let her hang out in La La Land a bit longer and went running errands. Just couldn’t wake her, knowing she was not resting well in the hospital and she looked beautifully out of it.

Ansa said, “Mommy looks so peaceful.”

(It reminded me of what folks say when they look into a casket. I didn’t say to Ansa what I was thinking; it would ruin the moment, and her memory.)

We left.

Plus, Trader Joes was having their 50th, and I didn’t want to miss out on the free hot dogs, chips, and fix’ins. Haydn was down with that too. He likes it when I’m in charge of the meals.

We came back about two hours later, and she was awake but not in a hurry to leave. We sat with her for a few hours. I then took the kids home, which was five minutes next door. She was ready to go when I came back.

I brought her home around 4 PM. She promptly went to sleep after making the challenging walk upstairs. This surgery is harder on her than the mastectomy, as far as sapping her strength. Lucia was whooped and disoriented on day one after the operation.

She awoke at 8 PM (Saturday), took a pill, drained her two tubes, and went back to bed. She slept through the night.

She awoke at 9 AM on Sunday morning, drained her two tubes, took three pills, ate a banana, and went back to her happy place. I’m writing this while sitting beside her. I took the kids to the church meeting and will pick them up when it’s over, deliver our Panera Bread (a Sunday ritual), and come back home.

Lucia is okay, for the most part. She could walk to the bathroom without assistance this morning, but could not do that last night. And she can take care of her tubes without help. The primary thing is rest.

She’s an excellent patient, BTW. She never complains, loves her kisses, and wants me to lay with her. It’s fun play’in doctor, I must add.

In the Future

I won’t give any more frequent updates unless something changes. Lucia has a checkup on Tuesday. She will go to follow up appointments after that. The main thing is rest and healing for her, and prayers from you. Those three things are indispensable.

That’s pretty much it.

I need to get back to my doctoring.

It (surgery) Is Finished

We were up and at it about ten minutes late this morning. That’s about right for us. We arrived at the hospital–next door–about 7:50 AM. Lucia was in her pre-op bed by 8:30.

A few friends came to pray. I sat with her until they rolled her away at 9:50 AM. There were no glitches except a slight kerfuffle between the transport attendant and the pre-op nurse about Lucia not having a green cap. Hers was red. Red means, STOP. Green means, GO.

He was adamant about not moving her until she gets a green cap. And he was a bit miffed that he was not in the “know” about why she did not have a green cap.

The kerfuffle was a bit unnerving since it was just before they rolled her away to get cut. The nurse and attendant were arguing just outside our blanketed wall, like parents arguing in the other room. Then they put on their “southern smiles” as they stepped into our area to continue the prep process.

And just like fussing parents, they acted as though we could not hear what was going on between them.

Lucia did get her green cap, praise God.

Let’s just say this is a “rural hospital,” which has many perks like all the incredible attention you receive. But they are a bit weak in certain areas. E.g., the check-in attendant at the front desk stepped away for a bit. I told her I’d take over, which seemed to be fine with her.

After the attendant left for an errand, a couple came around the corner in need of surgery. I welcomed the man and his wife in and chatted them up for a bit. They were grateful and even thought I was part of the staff. I mean, since I was standing there with a Yeti full of coffee, my special Colorado hoodie, and flip-flops. I guess I blended. (Please don’t share this with anyone ’cause I don’t want to have to deny it. It’s a great hospital.)

Lucia went into surgery just before 10 AM and came out at 1:10. I talked to the doc at 1:20. (He was not too keen on me recording him. He seemed a bit paranoid, but the problem is that I forget stuff, so recording seemed prudent.)

She went into room 424 to recover. I went to pick up Tristen and then came back home to get Haydn and Ansa. We saw Lucia at 3 PM, and she looked wasted. We talked briefly, and she said she was in a lot of pain. I did not want to speak too much with her so she could rest.

They are going to increase her meds.

The good news is that they are not alarmed about anything. The doc also said things went well. What she is experiencing is normal, though you never like to see a person go through pain, especially family. With that said, she’s doing well.

She needs to sleep primarily. More medication will help. We’ll stay a few hours, but our primary objective is for her to sleep. I will bring her home tomorrow around noon after the doc comes by to release her, which he said that should happen.

Lucia will sleep for most of the next two weeks. This amount of rest will give her the best chance to recover well.

More to come…

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a small city park in Colorado Springs. And it’s free. The man at the tourist center said that so many folks visit, they are going to have to do some expansion work, i.e., parking, rules, hiking, etc. These new travel apps give it high ratings, mostly because it’s free, so a lot of folks are visiting. We went there a couple of times, and it was busy both times, but not unbearable.

It’s a collection of red, flat rocks jutting out of the ground, which gives it character and uncommon beauty. You can drive, walk, run, or bike. There are a few roads and a lot of hiking trails. There was a climbing instructor there too. You could pay at his store, wherever that is, and he would belay you as you climb one of the long, tower rocks.

That was cool.

They had a trading post with a lot of stuff in it. I bought my Colorado hoodie souvenir there. And that was cool too. It was in that store where I met the young dude from the UK. He said he liked America better than his homeland because things are big here, you can go anywhere, and we can have guns.


He plays Polocrosse, which is something I have never heard of; it’s a blend of polo and lacrosse. Interestingly, we saw him and his team two weeks later at the Denver airport. They were leaving the same time as us.

I spoke.

He remembered.

Back to the Garden

We chatted up the Forest Ranger. Her name was Stephanie, and the horse she rode in on was called Cody. I love Forest Rangers. Most of them are too “tree-huggy” for me, but I love their passion. I appreciate folks who know what they want and make sacrifices to get it.

I’ve talked to a lot of Forest Rangers in my adult life, and all of them are about the same. They love what they do, are kind to strangers, and will chat you up about God’s creation (my words, not usually theirs).

There is also a “balanced rock” at the Garden. It looks–sorta, kinda–like a big spinning top that is upside down. Everybody wants to sit on it and get their picture made.

So we did.

Then there are the “kissing camels.” Near the top of one of the outcroppings of red, flat rocks were two rocks touching at one point, and just underneath where they touched was a hole. It looked like two “rocks kissing,” I suppose. Or it did to someone, so they called it Kissing Camels.

We stayed in Kissing Camels Subdivision, and there are shirts and hats and things that have “kissing camels” on them. God bless America; we know how to market stuff.

I did not see the two touching rocks as camels, but not to be an aggravationist, I went with it. They did have lights shining on it at night, which was cool.

The main thing about the park is that it’s a place to hike around a bit. The rocks are full of character, and, of course, with a “general revelation” presupposition, it’s another opportunity to appreciate God.

So I did.

The Trifecta: Our Third Surgery This Year

It’s kind of interesting that Lucia and I have never had surgery before, and we have our third one coming this Friday. It’s reconstruction day for Lucia.

She had a mastectomy on April 10th. I had back surgery on July 11th, and she will complete the trifecta this Friday, August 25th. We figured it would be a great way to cap off her birthday week. She turned 48 on Wednesday, August 23rd.

She has been doing great. It appears the cancer is gone. For now. We will be vigilant, doing all the things we’re supposed to do while trusting our heavenly Father to provide sovereign care, praying the cancer will not return.

Lucia is not worried about the upcoming surgery. We both want to get it behind us, fully recover from this year, and get on with serving folks.

There was no timeline on this surgery; it was not imperative to do it at any particular time. Lucia could postpone it forever if she wanted to. The urgency was about the cancer surgery, not this one. The reconstruction is at her discretion. She wanted to put it off to (1) recover from the mastectomy, (2) allow me to have my surgery, and (3) wait until after our Colorado conferences.

I will take her next door at 7:40 AM this Friday. The hospital is about 500 yards from our home. (She has walked to some of her appointments. We’re a one-car family, so having the hospital next door is a plus when there were schedule conflicts.)

The surgery is planned for 9 AM and should be over by 11 AM. She will stay overnight, and hopefully, she will be back home on Saturday morning. The recovery time will be five to six weeks.

Her faith in God has not wavered. It has been an amazing year as we’ve seen the grace of God in so many ways. God is good during the trying times too.

The prayer request is for rest and healing. The children are ready to serve. Thank you for caring, praying, and inquiring about our lives. We love the Lord’s body!

Hillrose Community Church

What made Colorado ideal for me is the people that I met. I loved the sites. Yes, I did. I always enjoy being in different places around America. There are many wonderful things to see and do, and we did that in Colorado. But the thing I love more than anything else when traveling is talking to the people.

I’m addicted to the story, an individual’s story. When we were at Focus on the Family, I found a worker that I could talk to for an hour, accumulative. That was more memorable than Focus (and Focus was great). While at a tourist shop, I ran into a boy from the UK. It was his first trip to the US. He came with his polo/lacrosse team. He was super-interesting. When we were at the Garden of the Gods, I talked with a Ranger on a horse. At the Air Force Academy, I found a tourist guide and chatted him up for thirty minutes. When we took the Celestial Tea tour, I found a Yankee from New York, who now works for the tea company, and got up in her story. All of these people were uniquely interesting.

The difficulty in finding folks to talk to in Colorado Springs was what made it less appealing to me. Besides being claustrophobic, everybody seemed to be going somewhere and “striking up a conversation” was a challenge. Hillrose Community Church turned the tide. They did not provide sites to see but people to enjoy, and that made all the difference.

Hillrose, as far as I could tell, did not have a paved road in the town. All dirt. Every road was dirt. It would not take a lot to up-fit the community for a circa 1870 western. It was that throwback. If a person goes to Colorado, they will see Denver, Vail, Colorado Springs, and the Rocky Mountain National Park. And they should. There are many beautiful sites and adventures in those venues.

But if you want to have transformative memories, go to Hillrose Community Church. You’ll find people who love God, struggle with life issues, hunger for solutions in God’s Word, and they are appreciative of anyone who’d come and share the practical gospel with them. That is why Hillrose was so much better than the “touristy things” in Colorado.

Though I had stimulating conversations with “tourist people,” which was a notch better than the sites we saw, the folks at Hillrose went beyond “tourist talk.” They hungered and thirsted for righteousness. I taught six times in three days. It was painfully hard with my back revolting many times but the joy of the engagement compensated nicely.

We stayed with Matt and Brandi Huerta. Brandi is a graduate of our mastermind program and is doing an excellent work at their church, under the leadership of her pastor. She has been teaching my material to the ladies of the church for about a year before our visit. That was a huge help. The pastor also had been digging into our content, which made what I did that much better. It was not like me coming in “cold” and then leaving. In fact, after we left, Brandi had several folks contact her for follow-up discipleship care.

In one sense, I had been there months prior, and the residual of our visit will carry on for months afterward. That is the way to do a conference. The “old-time evangelist” blows in, blows up, and blows out. It’s nice at the moment, but the long-term effect is minimal. When you (1) teach a year in advance, (2) bring in the teacher for dedicated intensive training, and (3) plan follow-up discipleship, with more teaching in the future, you have your best shot at changed lives.

I will remember the beauty of God’s creation in Colorado, but the thing that I will carry in my heart are the people of Hillrose Community Church.

Thank you for allowing us to serve you.

Colorado Springs

We spent most of our time in Colorado Springs. It was about 2 hours from the airport, heading diagonally southwest. And about 2.5 from Hillrose Community Church, and 1 hour from Westminister. Those are short drives in our world, so it worked out well.

Dave and Lorra Beth Forbes–members of our site–put us up at their place. Their home was large enough to where Lucia and I stayed at one end of the home, and the children had a comfortable spot in the basement. I set up my podcasting equipment and workstation in the TV room. It was super quiet, much like a recording studio. Perfect.

They live, literally, across the road from the Navigators, Glen Eyrie, and the Garden of the Gods. They were a few minutes from Focus on the Family and the Air Force Academy. Pikes Peak was the view from their deck. It was 13 miles away, though the 14,115 feet summit was so imposing that the distance looked much closer. It was right there, man!

Colorado Springs is butted up next to the Rockies. There were a lot of roads. A bit claustrophobic. It did not appear to be a “socially inviting” town. I could not get into the social vibe. It felt detached relationally. There were plenty of “tourist things” to do, but there was something about the town that made it mostly unappealing to me. I’m speaking on the relational side of things.

Maybe it was just me, but we’ve been in hundreds of towns, and this one was different. From a tourist perspective, it was awesome and gorgeous but “things to see” is not at the top of my list. Connecting with the culture is.

The elevation was 6K+. The oxygen was about eighty percent. We had chapped lips without balm, and we had to drink a lot of water. I did not sleep well, probably due to the altitude. The first few days I had headaches.

On the upside, the weather was super. We wore hoodies, which is standard for us when we go out west. After we leave the humidity of the Carolinas, things feel cold to us. But it was great. There were no bugs, especially mosquitos, which is a pleasant summertime relief. And I’m not sure you could improve on the scenery.

The mountain range changed every few minutes depending on the sun, clouds, time of day, and rain. It was superb, always revealing the mighty power and majesty of God.

Springs used to be a “religious town” with over 60 ministries in the area, many of them well known. Today, it’s a post-modern city where marijuana is legal, and God is in the rearview mirror.

A nice place to visit.

Colorado, In the Beginning

July 20, 2017 – Nine days after my back surgery, we flew to Colorado for three weeks. My medical team advised that I not make the trip. Our original plan was to drive because that is what we love doing, but that was out of the question. So we flew.

The previous nine days I stayed flat on my back, in bed, with few exceptions. I wanted to give maximum time and limited movement to my back, hoping it would help it to heal.

I was nervous about going and didn’t do myself any favors the morning of the flight as I lifted my rolling computer bag from the floor to put something in it. I felt the pain shoot into my lower back.

That was a mistake. I thought I could make a simple lift.

Lucia and Tristen drove to Atlanta. Tristen did more of the driving. The less expensive ticket was out of the Atlanta airport, which is why we connected there. I lay in the back of the van, which was uncomfortable with or without a back problem.

Lucia let the girls and me out at the airport, and she and Haydn went in search of the long-term parking. It was evident that my back was not going to let me do much. We found a wheelchair and I stayed in it from the front door to boarding. That helped.

The flight was not too bad.

We landed in Denver and met Matt and Brandi Huerta, and Joe, their son. They were kind enough to come down from Fort Morgan with two vehicles. One for them and one that their pastor loaned us for three weeks. Amazing.

Let me repeat that: amazing.

We went to dinner with them, had some serious talks, and a reasonable amount of goofiness. From the restaurant, we drove to Colorado Springs (Southwest, CO) about two hours away to stay with Dave and Lorra Beth Forbes for two weeks.

(Matt and Brandi, and Dave and Lorra Beth are members of our site. Brandi is a graduate of our mastermind program.)

We based our “Colorado operations” out of the Forbes home. We left after a few days to do a conference at Brandi’s church in Hillrose, CO (Northeast, CO). We returned to the Forbes for a few more days, and then drove to Westminster, CO (Northwest, CO) for the IABC conference.

Dave usually goes to bed early but was sacrificially kind to stay up after 10 PM to welcome us to their home. We hugged and chatted briefly before we all went to bed.

My back was okay, but it was “mildly painfully obvious” that I needed to lay down. (It’s important to say here that my family was fantastic. They picked up stuff, pushed me here and there, and stood guard making sure I did nothing to strain my back. They brought satisfying care to me.)

Day One: Done

One Month, Five Days: Walking Upright

My back surgery was July 11, 2017. It’s been a bit over a month. My first response to those who have asked (and thank you for asking) is that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excruciating pain, my pain level was a 17 before the surgery. It’s between a two and three now, depending on the day.

It’s remarkable.

I’m sure my pain is more severe now than what I realize but with more than a decade of extreme pain, what I’m feeling now is a piece of cake. I have my old life back.

My small group leader asked me last night when was the last time I felt a two or three pain level. I said it’s been five or six years. It’s something like that; I’m not sure, but I do know it was a long time ago.

That’s the good news.

Now for the bad news: I have to stop using my handicap parking tag that I hang on my mirror. I’m pretty tore up about that. I fell in love with my handicap card. The only bad thing about using it was “feeling judged” by those who looked me “up and down” when I stepped out of our van. (I know who you are.)

I also felt a pinch of conviction because I’m one of those “haters” who judged people when they got out of their vehicles, as though I’m the expert on what handicap should look like on an individual. I may have pretended to “look more handicapped” when I got out of my van so folks would know that my situation was legit. (Oh, the complexity of it all. It’s hard being human in a fallen world.)

The truth is that if you did not know that I was in pain, you would not know I was in pain because there were few “tells,” as they say in the gambling business. For the most part, I looked healthy.

A New Day

While in Colorado, at the Home Goods store, we gathered ten shopping carts–two per family member–and rolled them into the store. (It’s a thing we do as a family.) It’s been years since I’ve collected shopping carts (strays) in a parking lot. Last week, we parked at the end of the parking lot at Aldi (grocery store) and walked the distance. My point is that I (and our family) are back to old form. Daddy can walk now.

I still wear a back brace, and will for a while. In a month or so, I will start a personal regimen of physical therapy, which will consist of stretching exercises. It will also be imperative to keep extra weight off, so there is less burden on my back.

That’s about it.

Sitting all day is still hard. I try to remember to get up regularly and walk around for a few minutes. (I’m trying not to judge people who complain about walking or standing. What a privilege.) I do miss my handicap card and my electric wheelchair at Walmart, but if this is the trade off, I’ll take walking any day.

My two prayer requests are (1) gratitude to God for healing and (2) that the rest of this pain will leave.