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.

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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…

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!

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.

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.