Learning to Live in the Moment

It has been a while since I posted here. The reason for that is that so much has happened in my life in the last few months. Literally my life was going one direction and from one moment to the next it went another direction.

What happened was that I found out that the cancer I thought I had beat had come back. Finding out that news caused my wife and I to make some pretty big decisions in a pretty short time. One of those decisions was to have surgery to remove the parts of my stomach and esophagus that had been cancerous.

I ended up having the surgery two weeks later. The surgery went well and the doctor got all the known cancer out. During the weeks following the surgery I would have my good days and not so good days. I learned to understand that this was apart of recovery. Overall though the first few weeks of my recovery went well.

Unfortunately in the 4th and 5th weeks of recovery I ended up in the emergency room 3 times for various things related to the surgery. None of the items ended up being to serious and I thank God for that. Unfortunately during that time it was hard for me to deal with these medical conditions from day to day.

It was during this time that I began to realize that I needed to learn how to live moment to moment as opposed to day to day.

The reason for this is that I would have good things and not so good things all happen in the same day. It would seem at one moment I was on top of the world and the next I was in the lowest pit. As I started having more and more of these days I realized that I needed to cherish the good moments and not dwell on the bad when they came. By doing this it made the not so good moments more bearable.

Paul said it like this:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:11-12 NIV

I think that is what I am learning through all of this. I am learning to not let the bad out-shadow the good. Everyday we have on this earth is going to be filled with good and bad. It is up to us what we choose to look at and dwell on. We cannot control the bad news that comes our way but we can control how we react to it.

Counseling and the Question of Surgery

Previous Post in this Series: Treatment – Lots of Radiation
Or Start at the beginning: Having Cancer as a Christian

Around the second week after receiving chemo I started to go to one-on-one counseling at my church. The reason for going to counseling was to deal with the fear and emotions that I was experiencing while going through treatment. I had looked into some other secular counseling options but I felt I really need my counselor to have a Christian perspective. The reason for this was that I was really believing that it was God ultimately that was going to get me through this. Unfortunately some of the websites that I had visited out there were too accepting of the negative outcomes of battling cancer. I needed someone who would ask me the hard questions about my beliefs and help me deal with my weaknesses.

I got that person.

The interesting part (to me anyway) was that while we did talk about the cancer we talked about a lot of non-cancer things as well. We talked about my life growing up and my interactions with my parents, other family members, and friends. My counselor challenged me on a spiritual level but also on a relational level as well. My counselor had a good balance of psychology and spirituality.

It was during our sessions that I explained that I had interacted with the Lord about my healing and that I had questioned Him about why he did not heal my right then and there. I told them that I had felt God had told me that he was going to heal not only my body but my mind and spirit as well. My counselor was very happy that I had this interaction with God and that I should keep seeking Him which I did. Continue reading Counseling and the Question of Surgery

When Your Faith is Shaken, Turn Your Eyes to God

In life it is hard to not be swayed by circumstances. Sometimes in life you are on top of the faith mountain one moment and find yourself at the bottom of it the next.

I recently found myself in this situation.

In my previous post a talked about visiting my friend in the hospital who had been diagnosed with cancer a month after I had been. He and I talked about faith and God’s ability to heal him. We also talked about how life and death were in the power of the tongue and how through that power we have the power to stay or leave this life.

He chose to leave.

It was barely a week after I wrote that last post. I can’t say that I blame him. I guess in that week from when I had seen him to when he passed away he had not eaten and was extremely weak. I believe that he got the point where being with God looked like a better alternative then being here on earth. I don’t hold it against him but my heart hurts for him and his family. In my opinion his life was cut short.

His passing shook my faith. Continue reading When Your Faith is Shaken, Turn Your Eyes to God

When Tragedy Hits, Turn to the Next Chapter

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a very good friend of mine. This friend was diagnosed with cancer a month after I was. He went through treatment similar to me – chemotherapy but no radiation. The unfortunate part is that the cancer did not respond to the chemo he received, it got worse.

The day before I went to see my friend he was given the news that cancer had spread and now there was nothing that they could do for him. That is a devastating thing to be told. The doctor said that they could make him comfortable for the rest of his time. Tragic.

When I heard this it threw me for a loop. He had been believing for healing and so was everyone else for him. It was not the news that anyone expected to hear.

When I went to see him yesterday I was already determined that I was going to pray for him. The focus of my prayer I felt was for wisdom and not necessarily healing. I didn’t quite understand why this was but that is what I knew I was going to pray for.

In the course of visiting with him he and I talked about several things. One of those things was what I went through in my treatment for cancer. Continue reading When Tragedy Hits, Turn to the Next Chapter

Treatment – Lots of Radiation

Previous Post in this Series: Treatment – The First Week
Or Start at the beginning: Having Cancer as a Christian

After getting my first week of chemo in the hospital they sent me home. The first day I did pretty good. It was the second day and beyond that I didn’t do too well.

The last dose of chemo they gave me while in the hospital was Cisplatin. From what I was told that chemo is pretty intense due to a lot of heavy metals in it. Adding to that was that they infused me for 8 hours straight with it. It was so intense in fact that I had special anti-nausea medication specifically for it. This medication was called Emend and basically turns off the communication between your stomach and your brain so your brain doesn’t tell your stomach to get sick. It worked.

That second day I am happy to say that I didn’t get nauseated. Again, I would like to be able to say that it was because of my great faith and grounding in the Word of God. But it wasn’t. The medication, the fact that I didn’t eat anything for 2 days, and other people’s prayers are what carried me through.

Although I didn’t get sick in my stomach I felt sick, and weak. That was the worst that I had ever felt in my life.

I cannot really explain the physical feeling that I had. I just didn’t feel good at all, and a lot. My energy was sapped and I didn’t want to do anything. In fact for the first week after getting out of the hospital the only time I ventured downstairs was to make the daily trip to radiation down in Austin. I usually slept during the 30 minute ride there and back.

It was during this period of my treatment that yet another battle popped up that had to be addressed – eating. Continue reading Treatment – Lots of Radiation

Treatment – The First Week

Previous Post in this Series: My First Surgery
Or Start at the beginning: Having Cancer as a Christian

The week after my surgery I was scheduled to be admitted to the hospital for a week to start chemotherapy and radiation. The reason for the hospitalization was the daily duration of the chemo. I was to receive 5FU chemo for 16 hours a day for the first five days, have a day off, then on the last day I would get Cisplatin for 8 hours. The infusion center at the cancer center I was going to was only open regular business hours so they could not accommodate me. The other part of it was that they were giving me so much chemo that they wanted to keep their eyes on my.

While that was meant to be comforting, it wasn’t.

Going into the hospital I was scared. Maybe not as much as when I went into surgery, but I was scared. I think we have all heard of the nasty side effects of chemo in which the chief is nausea. I had not been eating very much since my esophagus was now full closed at this time but I still did not relish the idea of being sick.

The night before I went into the hospital my wife was a little scared too. She went on one of the cancer boards and asked for any advise about dealing with chemo and the side effects. Someone came back and told her that if we expected to get sick and have a bad experience then that is what was going to happen. But if we expected the opposite then that is what was going to happen. Continue reading Treatment – The First Week

My First Surgery

Previous Post in this Series: The Treatment Plan
Or Start at the beginning: Having Cancer as a Christian

This is where it all got real. I was wheeled into an operating room, a place I had never been before and hoped that I’d never go.

I was scared.

Surgery meant that this cancer thing was real and when I woke up that I would have things in my body that were not there before. These things were meant to help me but at the time I did not see it that way.

The surgery was to implant a mediport and a feeding tube. The mediport was what they would use to give me chemo. The feeding tube was so that I could eat since the chemo and radiation would probably make it even harder to do.

Did I mention I was scared?

I was terrified. I am not trying to be too dramatic but this was a huge deal to me.

This was absolutely huge.

I was in that hospital bed being wheeled into the operating room but everything in me wanted to get up, rip the IV out of my arm, and run without looking back. I have no idea why the thought of surgery scared my so much but it did.

Thank God for anesthesia because the knocked me out just as I got into the room for the procedure.

Continue reading My First Surgery

The Treatment Plan

Previous Post in this Series: Another Battle – No Health Insurance
Or Start at the beginning: Having Cancer as a Christian

So here I was. Newly diagnosed with cancer, no health insurance, and only 3 weeks into my new job.

The Job

The first thing that needed to happen was that I needed to let my boss know that I had cancer. He was very sympathetic and offered to do anything that was possible through the company. He even looked into health insurance for me but there was just no way to get it enacted to where it would cover the cancer (the cancer was now a preexisting condition). I told him that I would have several doctor’s appointments over the next few weeks and some sort of treatment and he asked that I would just keep him and the rest of our team informed.

The Charity Program

The second item on the list was to go to the cancer center that we had been referred to in order to apply for their charity program since we did not have insurance. Basically we listed all of our assets and they would tell us at what level of charity that we qualified for if any. Thankfully we did qualify for charity even though I was working at the time. I am very thankful that they took us when no one else would.

The PET/CT Scan

The next item was to meet the new doctor and figure out what treatment I needed. The first visit was the worst. I mean I knew I had cancer but being in that little room with him talking about the general procedure just made it all the more real. Basically there would be some sort of chemotherapy and possibly radiation with surgery at the end. Before we could narrow down exactly what I needed he needed to stage the cancer via a PET/CT scan. He must of seen the look of shock and dispare on my face because at the end of his explanation he reached out to me and said “Hey, don’t worry, this is just a bump in the road.” It felt more like a pot hole as opposed to a bump at the time but I appreciated the jesture. Continue reading The Treatment Plan

Not Forgetting Where I Came From

lonely-road This coming Saturday I will be driving up to Gatesville, TX to attend a volunteer training so that I can be a part of our church’s prison ministry. I attended the church’s training a few months back.

That’s a strange and scary ministry to be a part of you may think.

Yes, for most folks it is absolutely terrifying to go inside the walls of a jail or prison. How do you think the inmates feel?

So why would I want to do that?

Well, because I was one of those guys in there. In fact it was 14 years ago that I gave my life to God in a chapel service in jail.

The History

I had a couple of wild years in my teens where breaking the law seemed like the thing to do. I obviously wasn’t very good at it because I got caught, a few times. It was the third time that I realized that if didn’t change that I would be spending a lot of time behind bars.

I didn’t know it at the time but God was setting me up for a divine intervention that would change my life.

Continue reading Not Forgetting Where I Came From

Another Battle – No Health Insurance

Previous Post in this Series: The Diagnoses – Esophageal Cancer
Or Start at the beginning: Having Cancer as a Christian

As if being told that you have cancer is not bad enough there was another battle brewing in the midst. We did not have health insurance. I’d like to say that the reason for this was that we were independently wealthy and we had no need of such insurance. The reason was actually the opposite.

I was diagnosed with cancer in September of 2009. Back in January of that year I was laid off of my job of 3 years due to the recession. I was offered Cobra through as apart of my severance package but at nearly $1000/month that was not an option especially with being out of work. Besides, my wife had recently started working and she would qualify for benefits soon after that.

A month or two after I was laid off my wife did receive her benefits so we were once again covered. Unfortunately about a month after she started receiving benefits she was also laid off. Now we were both unemployed and uninsured. My wife applied for Medicaid for us and the kids. The kids were approved but we were denied. At least the kids had insurance.

Cobra to the Rescue, or Not

Shortly after her lay off we actually got some good news in the mail. The president had signed into law that they would extend the qualification period of Cobra insurance and also pay for 66% of the premiums for families. This brought our out-of-pocket cost down to around $350/month. While this would be tight with both of us being unemployed it would be worth it. We filled out the paperwork and sent it in the mail.

Continue reading Another Battle – No Health Insurance