Saturday, July 7, 2012

Markers All Around Us

In Bible times, when God did a wonderful thing for His people, often an altar would be built on the site and the place was given a special name to commemorate the event. Even in today's culture there are historic markers along highways and byways throughout our country, marking the sites of famous battles, early settlements, or historic events that have taken place there. There are spiritual markers also in our lives where we can point back to the the place and time that God saved us, or situations when He has proven Himself to be Jehovah-Jireh (The LORD Provides), or Jehova-Rophe (The LORD Heals) in our lives.

The two little boys pictured in this post are special markers in my life. They are Grandsons #3 (Canon, in the Cub Scout Uniform) and #4 (Asher, in the All Star cap). Each time I see them, I am reminded anew of the tremendous miracle that God has done in my life.

These boys were born six months and 1,000 miles apart - one in New Orleans, LA and the other in Ashland, KY during one of the darkest times in my life.

Canon was born on the Monday after Thanksgiving, 2004, the very week, a large malignant mass was found in my colon. Up to that point, I had no idea that I had cancer. The only symptoms I had experienced were general physical weakness and dizziness from time to time. Routine blood work by my family doctor showed that my hemoglobin level was just under 7 (normal range would be 12). So, while Michelle and newborn Canon were still in Oshner Medical Center in New Orleans, I was admitted to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland for tests to determine the cause of my blood loss. A colonoscopy on the second day of testing revealed a large mass in my right ascending colon. Surgery was scheduled for the following Monday.

During the surgery to remove three feet of my intestines, it was obvious to the surgeon that the tumor had escaped the colon. While I was "open" the surgeon also removed my appendix, several lymph nodes, and did a biopsy on my liver. The biopsy revealed that the cancer had metastasized to my lymph nodes and the liver. Consequent CT scans and MRI's showed that the tumors were "spread throughout my liver like someone had sown grass seed". The cancer was also in the lymph nodes that the surgeon had removed.

The diagnosis was simple and shocking. Metastatic Colon Cancer - Stage Four. The prognosis was stark. "incurable, but hopefully manageable with chemotherapy". Average survival time 18-22 months!

The next few weeks and months were a flurry of activity. There was a Christmas week visit to see our family in New Orleans, and a week later, a previously scheduled two week mission trip to the Philippines. Upon return from the Philippines, exhausted, I had surgery to implant a Medi-Port in my chest to enable chemotherapy infusions without the aggravation and complications of having to deal with a "pic-line". A six month course of chemotherapy commenced the next week. Every other week I visited the Ashland Bellefonte Cancer Center for treatments on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The treatments included the standard 5-FU, along with a newer drug called Oxaliplatin and a drug called Avastin (which had some very dangerous side effects in one out of 30 patients). In addition to the in office infusions, which took up to 5 hours on Wednesday, 3 hours on Thursday, and 1 1/2 hours on Friday, I also wore a chemo pump, overnight on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

It was in the 4th month of my chemotherapy regimen that Asher was born at King's Daughters Medical Center here in Ashland. I was on my way to a chemo treatment that very day, and Leigh Anne was kind enough to deliver the little guy early that morning, in time that I could be there for the big event, and still make my treatment on time!

Well, this coming November will be 8 years since my cancer was found and diagnosed. With the prognosis, I felt that it would be unlikely that I would ever really get to know these two new grandsons, nor would they ever have any memories of me. However, a Sovereign God had other plans. My medical doctors and oncologists are astounded that I am still here. Only 15% of cancer patients with my situation ever survive for five years. By God's grace, I will soon reach the 8th anniversary.

It has been a long road these past 8 years or so, but God has been with me all the way. I still see the oncologist on a regular basis, and have my port flushed and blood work done each month. I am scheduled for another series of scans in the next few weeks, and the specter of the cancer returning is always out there. However, when I had opportunity to go to Canon's Cub Scout meeting with him this spring, and have enjoyed watching Asher play his first season of Little League Baseball, I have been reminded anew of how good God has been to this old preacher. Even their names have a special significance to me. "Canon", reminds me of the promises that are mine in God's Holy Word, and "Asher", Hebrew for "Happy", speaks of the joy that God has given me through a very difficult time.

Every time I see their beautiful faces, hear their names, and marvel at how much they have grown, it's another marker along the way to remind me that Jehovah-Rophe is still in business!