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This is where I share my personal thoughts. Please feel free to add your comments.

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Saturday
Aug102013

Leave no one behind...

We all say things that we don't really think about. We've all heard someone say, "Life sucks!" At some point I've probably said the same thing, but not lately.

Life doesn't suck, but life circumstances can. Life is precious. Nothing is more valuable than life. The military has a honored past putting lives at risk and spending millions to save a fellow soldier. "Leave no one behind" is in the soul of every true warrior. Life is holy; it is a gift from God.

We take life for granted, as though life is something we're all entitled to. No one is 'entitled' to life; it is a blessing and a great privilege to be alive. We fight for the weak and helpless, who have no way to protect the life they have, and this is holy work. But, are we fighting hard enough for those in ministry who have fallen, yet still have a strong desire to 'live', to serve, to love, and to bless others with the Good News of Jesus Christ? I don't care who you are, you are flesh and blood and can flat on your face just as countless saints and servants have done before you. Do we leave them behind, or do we risk everything to help and restore?

No one can create life except God. No one can completely restore the fallen except the Lord. Even so, more often than not, He uses people to heal, and restore, people. It is the most arrogant of souls that says, "That could never happen to me." Pride comes before a fall and countless are the fallen that never learned that lesson, but even so, if they are breathing, if they have life, they are restorable. They are worth the effort. God lives for them, both when they were mighty and when they have fallen.

Biological life is simple to define: are you breathing? If you are breathing you have life. If you have life you can 'live'. Doctors make decisions every day that deal with life. Might we be called upon to be the 'doctor' or 'nurse' in someone's life? Might the Lord task us to love the fallen, to put aside our daily comfort to spend time restoring those that He finds worth the effort, even if we don't see it? Life is precious to the Lord; He gave His so that we might find it, both here and there.

Leave no one behind. Ever.

Thursday
Aug082013

Count it all joy...

Forrest Gump said that "Life is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're going to get." I'd agree with the later part, but I would love the first part to be true.

I've found life to be 'chocolate' when I got saved, got married, watched the births of my three girls, etc. Other parts have been onions, lemons, moldy bread and oversalted food. Even so, there's been far more chocolate than anything else. I have lived a blessed life and I'm exceedingly thankful for all of it.

The tough times have built my character and revealed God to me in ways that would have been impossible without them. The Bible teaches us to "count it all joy". It was quite a while, and a lot of pain, before I understood what God meant by that. During one particularly difficult time the Lord taught me that if I could just keep breathing I would live long enough to see how He was going to solve my problem. And He always did, in ways I could never have come up with myself. After scores of these experiences, His faithfulness became burned into my soul and no matter what, I know He will help me get through whatever I happen to been facing. And He'll help you as well.

The Lord does not show favoritism. He will help anyone who calls on Him and patiently waits on Him. And, even if we are 'faithless' He remains faithful. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Something I say all the time is that everyone needs their own stories. I have my stories but you need yours. You can be inspired by mine, but you need the impartation given by God to those who endure with Him through their own difficulties. This is where He imparts a part of Himself to you, a part that you cannot get through study, prayer, meditation, etc. It is only through suffering that one becomes like Him.

Count it all joy, dear child of God. He is faithful. He cannot, not, be faithful.

Tuesday
Aug062013

Some personal thoughts...

A number of people have said they appreciate my posts on Our Adventure with brain cancer because it helps them understand cancer, and cancer patients, better. I hope this helps as well. This is my story; you'll have to talk to others for theirs.

The world of brain cancer is a stark world. Some types of brain cancer are deadly, and quick, where many people who have it die within a few months. The type I have is slow growing and not nearly as aggressive. Even so, they told me up front that most people with my type have an average of five years, but that's an average. They made it clear that I am not 'average', I am an individual. Some die sooner, some die later, and some live to have a normal life expectancy. My life is in the hands of God and I trust Him for the number of years that are written in His book.

There are some days where I get so tired of the monotony of it: pills, then different pills, medicine, more medicine. I've changed my diet pretty dramatically. My energy level has a mind of its own so it's hard to plan much. My medicines have a strong effect on me, making me pretty sleepy most of the time. I'm used to doing a lot and on some days it's tough to just lay around.

Before this sounds like a 'whine' I'm extraordinarily thank full for the care I receive and the kindness from everyone who cares for me. I can't imagine it could get any better.

One thing about brain cancer is the awareness of headaches. Headaches happen to everyone but people with brain cancer especially don't like headaches. They can signal swelling which causes headaches. If the headaches get bad then it's more procedures.

They don't have a cure for brain cancer so if you have it there is always the niggling thought about what it's doing up there... what is it up to. You can't see it or feel it... it just is. The only way to 'see' it is with a MRI and they don't do those just because people want an 'update'. Normally they're on a regular series of MRI's anyway. Add that to the list of things: medical appointments and procedures.

There are days of anxiety, confusion, slight fear, wondering, and on and on. God really helps me during these times. And, the love of my wife, my kids, my parents, and my friends is a huge help. God knew what He was doing when He invented family and friends (I include the body of Christ here as well, of course).

There are days of great optimism as well.

As you read my comments I pray it helps you to help others who deal with similar issues, and it doesn't have to be brain cancer. Any type of cancer or serious disease carries similar feelings and situations.

I'll end with this. It gets a bit lonely as well because even if people want to call they aren't sure if they are 'bothering' me. I'll tell you if there's a better time to talk.  :)

I use Facebook and my blog to communicate so that everyone has the same info, at the same time, straight from me. If I ever post something that is confusing or you'd like more info please email me and I'll make sure to answer you.

Tuesday
Jul302013

My CyberKnife Treatment 07-30-2013

Today was my CyberKnife Treatment at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. (To learn more about the treatment please click here).

The bottom line with CyberKnife (CK) radiation is it's accuracy. One of my doctors described it as 'spot welding for the brain". (He has a way with words.) What he means it that the previous radiation treatment I had hit a larger area with a larger beam. The CK was programmed to hit my tumor that is 3/8" x 3/16". When I can scan and post the actual treatment plan you'll be amazed.

I wasn't certain how many treatments I would need but they told me on the table that it would only be one! That was a pleasant surprise. Today was the only CK treatment they thought I would need. Good news! Many times the protocol requires 5-10 individual treatments.

As you look at the pictures you'll notice the 'head' of the CK machine. It is attached to the end of a robotic arm that the radiologist programs to circle around my head and radiate the tumor from dozens of angles: under, over, both sides, and angles in between. I never felt anything except my neck got sore from laying there. :)

As you can also see in the pictures I have a plastic mesh mask that is custom made for my face, just like the one I had made when I had my previous radiation treatment in Gig Harbor almost three years ago. The make it from a flat piece of mesh that they heat and soften in hot water. As you're laying on the table they put the fairly hot mesh on your face and press it all the way to the table where they lock it in until it cools to form a mask of your face. A few adjustments and it's ready to hold your head stable, and in the same place, every time they need to do a treatment. This way they hit the right spot, which is quite helpful.

They only have a few 'concerns'. One is swelling of the tumor area which could give me headaches, nausea and maybe some vomiting. So far I haven't had any. They gave me a tiny prescription of steroids to minimize the swelling as a precaution.

After the treatment my doctor came in to explain to Sandy, Tammi, Dana and I, what happened, what might happen know and what might happen in the future. He answered all our questions and, as usual, we felt very comforted in his capable hands.

And, we had the priviledge of meeting the doctor hand-picked by Dr. Foltz to take his place after he passed away. What a humble man. We can see why he was picked; he's very much like Dr. Foltz... very skilled and wonderful bedside manner.

That's it for now. If I forgot something please ask your question in the comments are and I'll include it in the post.

God bless you all for your concern and for your prayers. We thank God for all of you.  :)

Thursday
Jul252013

Quick Update

Good news... I spoke with one of my doctors last evening and he said that the preliminary radiology report states that the spot on my brain stem is NOT getting bigger! Again, this is the preliminary report but obviously they can read, and compare, the images better than I can. I'll share the final report with you when we get it, but this is very encouraging. Thank you for your continued prayers for my family and me.

Wednesday
Jul242013

Some personal thoughts...

Our adventure with brain cancer began about three years ago and it's been an amazing, yet difficult journey. It's been amazing walking with God and experiencing Him in the day to day, and walking with my family and experiencing them in the day to day as well, as we all deal with this ugly thing called cancer.

I doubt any husband could be prouder of his wife, any son could be prouder of his parents, and any father could be prouder of his kids than I am. I am blessed beyond blessed.

Someone asked me if I've been scared. Yes, I've been scared at times, but not often. But, yes, I've been scared. Have I been disappointed? Yes, but only when we still see cancer on the scans. We all want it to just 'go away'. Have I been tired? Yes, that goes without saying. Have I wanted to give up? No. Do I get sad? Of course, but mostly for my family who has to endure this.

One person encouraged me to write about my experiences so others could know what to do, or who to be, when someone they care about is dealing with cancer. To be honest, just be you and love them as you would want to be loved.

Many months ago the Lord told me that there would be another difficult time that I'd have to go through but that my wife would pray me through it. This is that time. I didn't tell her at the time, but I told her about it this morning. She is my best friend and I thank God many times a day for her.

The One that hurts the most, though, is my Savior. He feels everything I'm feeling, but so much deeper. Yes, He could say 'the word' and I would be instantly healed, but in His infinite love and wisdom He has chosen to love me in a different way. Ultimately, I count it all joy to go through this because in every single thing I've suffered I've always come out of it more in love with Him, my wife, my kids, my parents and those around me. I am a better person because of suffering. Suffering, trials, tribulations all bring me joy in a way I would never know without it.

Walking with God, and praising Him in the midst of suffering, looks really dumb to some people; I can't do anything about that. Not only does the Bible instruct us about it, but I have learned through living it... many times on a daily basis. But I am certainly not unique... suffering is universal, and the faster we all get 'it' the better off we'll be.

Suffering works compassion in us and compassion is the hidden weapon of mass destruction against the schemes of the enemy. He is incapable of compassion but we, the children of God, have a Father who is defined by compassion: He IS compassion. It is through compassion that people are healed, delivered, and set free from their own personal 'prison'. Suffering, if allowed to, brings forth compassion in is His children and through that the Gospel will truly be preached.

Without compassion there is no Gospel at all.

Tuesday
Jul232013

Latest Update on our Adventure

This afternoon, Sandy and I met Tammi, Dana and Mathai at Swedish Hospital in Seattle . I was so glad they could be there to be with Sandy while I had my latest scans.

These two scans were 'mapping' scans for my upcoming Cyberknife treatment. They use these scans to tell the Cyberknife where to aim the pin point radiation on my brain stem. The MRI was only 30 minutes and the CT was very short; less than 20 minutes once they got my 'mask' molded. (The mask will hold my head perfectly still during the treatment, similar to my first round of radiation.)

(Video and information on Cyberknife)

I asked for the images from the two scans so I could 'read' them when we got home. After lunch at Galanga's we finally got home and looked at the images. Here's what I'm confident in telling you.

I am not an expert in reading the images, but we've seen enough of them over the past three years where I can say this without hesitation: the spot is still on my brain stem. In my opinion it is getting slightly bigger, but I don't know how to accurately measure it compared to my last scan, so I'll leave it at that. (I was hoping to share an image similar to the one I posted earlier but I'll have to wait to make certain I'm giving you an accurate image.) (See Quick Update above for the latest.)

The Cyberknife staff will call us either on Friday on Monday to tell us what the recommendation is for the treatment. It could be one treatment or a series of treatments, it all depends on how much they think they can do without harming me. Stay tuned...

In the mean time we really appreciate your continued prayers! God is in charge of my life and He's my Great Physician. He directs the course of my treatment and I completely trust Him.

I'll post more information as I receive it. Thank you for caring. :)