Quote for October

A Prayer for the Ephesians Eph. 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Philosophy about my Cancer

This is a tough idea to make clear. If I talk about loving Jesus so much that I am perfectly alright with going to heaven to be with Him and my children, then I sound like I want to die. If I complain about delays in getting tests or surgeries done, then I sound like I don't have faith in God's perfect timing.

However, I know that I know that God has worked this all out to be a part of His perfect will. He led me to go to in for a facial at exactly the right time for Sylvia to see I had jaundice. I got to see a doctor the soonest anyone had ever shown up with a diagnosis of carcinoid cancer. God led me to be at the right place at the right time so many times, I thought He was going to cure my cancer when the first tumor was removed. I expected Him to prove he was God by stopping the cancer right there. Why else had He brought me so quickly to a diagnosis?

I don't know why my cancer has gone on. Today, January 25, 2009, we don't even know what stage of cancer I'm in. I'm in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th stage cancer depending on where the third tumor is located. It is not in the same spot as the primary tumor, so I am definitely past first stage. If it is in my liver, then I am in fourth stage cancer.

There was a nuclear medicine scan that showed cancer in my liver: November 20, 2008. One 4-hour Octreoscan showed abnormal absorption of Indium-111 Octreotide in the dome of the liver . It did not show up in the scan after 24 hours, so my surgeon, Dr. I, thinks I may have had a false positive on the 4-hour scan. So we are going to run the scans again.

[Translation: I had a nuclear medicine scan where a radioactive compound was injected into my veins. It's called Indium-111 Octreotide. At 4 hours and 24 hours the technician scanned my body. The radiologist read the scans and said the first one showed that I had an area in the top of my liver that absorbed an abnormal amount of the radioactive stuff. The radioactive stuff is only absorbed by carcinoid tumors, so that means I had tumor(s) there. However, the scan at 24 hours did NOT show any abnormal absorption, so that means I did not have tumor(s) there. The radiologist wrote that it was possible the 24-hour scan didn't show the same area as was seen on the 4-hour scan. So we have to run them again.]

When I first found out that I had cancer, I had been sick for a couple months. The doctors searched to find out what was wrong, and I had more problems besides the tumor in my small intestine. My body began to hurt, and I began having pain in my chest when I would exercise. I remember being so scared on Thursday, January 3,2008. On Monday I had found out that I had a carcinoid tumor. I had a nuclear medicine test done Wednesday, Thursday afternoon I had several tubes of blood taken to see if I could get a definitive diagnosis of Sjogren's Syndrome, and the next day I had a stress test scheduled. I was really stressing over the stress test. I remember emailing friends to ask for prayer for my nerves and for healing. So I certainly have been frightened about my health.

However, my overriding philosophy has been that the health problems I have are God's will for me. In 2007 I wanted to be so close to God that I said I would give up my health (and other things) to be completely in His will. So when the cancer diagnosis came, I never blamed God. However,I pray for healing and so do my friends.

Although, being a biology major, I have to consider all the data. From the beginning I have considered that I might die of this. That is certainly a possibility. In fact, during the first months of having cancer, I learned more and more about heaven and felt more comfortable about going there. If you want to be with God, where else are you going to go? I will see my children there that I have never seen here on earth.

The idea that I am getting more comfortable with my death is hard for some people to understand. They say I should think positive thoughts, and when I talk about dying, I get shushed. I am being positive: I consider heaven to be the most positive place there is. People just have platitudes and attitudes toward death that they have grown up with, and it's hard for them to hear someone talk about her own death. Since I'm the one who is dying, shouldn't I get to talk about it?

Also, some people don't give me time to explain how God is going through this with me. They don't understand the benefits I'm getting by being close to God. I'm going to write some things in my journal that some people won't understand. All I know is that now I can say, "Jesus, comfort me!" and He comforts me. From my hospital bed all I could say was "Help me! Help me!", and He showed me an aerial perspective of how how close my guardian angel was to me as I lay in my bed. He was three inches away from me. I would rather be in love with Jesus than with anyone else I know.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And Then God 2007

Going Back a Few Years

This is a journey that moved into high gear in 2004. God began to speak obviously to me about His plan for my life. To my amazement, God has a plan for my life. I had certainly heard that God has a plan for our lives; I had learned that at church while I was in high school. I just never thought there was any big plan for me, since I’m quite an ordinary person with no particularly obvious talent. I do well in school, and that’s about it.

I’ve gone to school with other students who were much more impressive. I went to high school with students in national debate competitions, candidates for America’s Junior Miss, basketball stars, and brilliant students who became scientists, lawyers, and more. At Cal Baptist College I was surrounded by future pastors and talented musicians and actors; God was certainly going to use them in their field. I majored in biology and taught science in middle school and high school. I can remember not even being sure that teaching was the best job for me. When I got discouraged, I would tell myself, “I can do this; other people can’t.”

In 2004, a few months after my mother had died, my perception of God changed. God had become much more approachable. I wanted to talk to Him more, and He wasn’t offended by anything I would say. Then I realized, as my relationship with my Dad became closer, I was drawing closer to God. There really is a connection. A person’s perception of her own father colors her perception of her heavenly father. As I spent much more time with my Dad,he accepted me and showed his love for me. So when I turned to God, I saw Him as loving and accepting me, rather than rejecting me for being imperfect.

Several changes have happened in my life since 2004; the current one is the change in my health. I have carcinoid cancer, which is a cancer in neuroendocrine cells. These cells are scattered throughout our chests and abdomens. They usually give of small amounts of serotonin and hormones that regulate many of the functions in our bodies. Unfortunately, when someone has a carcinoid tumor, the amount of the secretions from the neuroendocrine cells soars. The huge amounts of hormones and serotonin make the patient very ill.

I have a rare form of carcinoid cancer where the tumors are approximately the size of a salt crystal, yet they give off secretions and metastasize. Most carcinoid tumors are a minimum of two centimeters before they metastasize and make people ill. Also, they are large enough at 2 or 3 centimeters that doctor can find the tumors and treat them. The tiny size of my tumors keeps them from being visible on CT scans. It makes finding my tumors most difficult.

This is how it started.

April 28, 2007 I was praying in my bedroom. There is a concept in the Christian life that a Christian should be willing to give up her plans for her life in order to follow God’s will for her life. Over the years I had struggled with the concept of being willing to give up everything I wanted in order to do whatever God wanted. I had been willing to give up some things to God, but not all. That day I surrendered everything to God. The last treasures I had held back, I finally let go. The three things were: my father, my daughter, and my health. I would give them up to be in God’s perfect will. I felt a longing to be always in communion with God. I didn’t want anything to come between us.I asked Him, “When I’m lying there facing the wall, waiting for my attendant to rotate me in my bed, will I still have You, Jesus?” He answered me with lines from a familiar song by Jeremy Camp and reminded me of the rich, young ruler who would not give up everything he had to follow Jesus. The wealthy young man walked away from Jesus in sorrow. He was not able to give up all he had.

In September 2007 I began to have a small change in my digestion. Nothing that hadn’t happened before. It usually blew over in a week. I didn’t think anything of it when it continued.

On October 28, 2007 I was sitting in the front pew during a Sunday morning service. After a few songs, I was impressed to pray for healing for myself, and I continued praying for four or five minutes—the entire length of one song.(That's a long time for me.) I sensed that an organ in my abdomen was malfunctioning even though I did not have any obvious symptoms. So I sat there with tears running down my face praying for healing, and claiming promises from Jeremiah. In particular, I claim Jeremiah 32:27,"I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?”

I did not know what was wrong, but I thought perhaps an old condition, called Sjogren’s syndrome, was beginning to attack my internal organs. It’s an autoimmune condition that I have had for possibly 20 years with mild symptoms. That Sunday I thought it had turned inward.

The following Saturday I had a facial, something I do every couple months. At the end of the facial, the esthetician showed me that I was jaundiced around my eyes. On Monday, 48 hours later, I called my doctor’s office for an appointment and got one that afternoon at 3:45. God provided so that I could see the doctor right away.

My Good Doctor in Riverside

My internist, Dr. B, ran liver function tests, an abdominal CT, and an ultrasound. I developed more symptoms on Monday, so it seemed possible that I had a stone blocking the duct that connects the liver to the small intestine. I still had jaundice around my eyes. The tests all came back negative. No stone was found, but the duct was 8.4mm wide, which suggested that a stone might have been there and passed through.

I remember Dr. B saying, “Your pancreas looks good”, which was my first clue that he had been concerned about it. When I did some research, I learned my symptoms were the same as those for pancreatic cancer.

Going on to See a Specialist

Again God paved the way, and Dr. B sent me on to Dr. H, a gastroenterologist, for more testing. I have known Dr. B since I was in graduate school at UC Riverside, although he has not always been my doctor. I appreciated that he respected my account of my symptoms well enough to send me on to another doctor. Also, I realize he knew more about what could have been wrong than I had imagined. I was not thinking about cancer.

It is now 13 months later and I still remember sitting in Dr. H’s office in November while he suggested a few more tests we could do. One test was an endoscopy to look at my stomach, and I objected because we knew from earlier testing that I didn’t have an ulcer. That’s the only thing I thought an endoscope would help diagnose. I didn’t know that an endoscope could go past the stomach and into the small intestine.

Dr. H said, “Well, if you don’t want to, we don’t have to do an endoscopy” and continued talking about another test. Then he said decisively, “We are going to do an endoscopy.” Thank you, Lord, for making sure I had the endoscopy done.

The endoscopy was done in Dr. H’s surgical center on December 26, 2007, exactly one year before this writing. A small nodule was found just past the stomach in the beginning of the small intestine. Dr. H took five biopsies of the nodule.

I returned home on the evening of December 30, 2007 and found a message from Dr. H on my answering machine. It had been left at 4pm and said the doctor wanted to share the results of my biopsy with me. I thought that it can’t be good when a doctor calls on a Sunday afternoon. But, then again, he sounded so cheerful. Maybe he just wanted to set my mind at ease so I wouldn’t worry over the New Year’s holiday. I called him back the next morning.

The biopsy had revealed that I had a carcinoid tumor at the beginning of the small intestine, the proximal duodenum. Dr. H reassured me, and said he would send me on to be cared for at UCI Medical Center in Orange, California. They would be able to remove the tumor. That was all I expected to happen.

My father is 84 years old. When dad was in his sixties he was symptomatic of colon cancer, so his doctor removed a few polyps during a colonoscopy. It turned out that there was cancer in the head of one polyp, but it had not spread down the stalk. That was my father’s bout with cancer. He has followed his diet carefully and gets all of his endoscopic exams done on schedule. That’s what I expected to have happen for me. I expected the doctor to go in, take out the tumor, and I would be done.

The second of January 2008 I was waiting to have a nuclear medicine test run on my liver. The technician would inject me with a radioactive compound that would give the doctors an image of how things were flowing through my liver. My doctors were still checking to see if there was anything impeding the normal function of my liver. It was a week when I would undergo a few tests. I was even going to have a stress test of my heart, because I had begun having chest pains that increased with exertion. I was frightened about all the things that could be wrong.

It seemed like I would suddenly be faced with serious health problems, just when I had begun to have faith in God’s vision for my life. For several years, maybe five, I had sometimes pictured myself speaking to groups in churches about what God had done in my life. However, as I sat in the basement of a hospital that day waiting my turn to be injected, I started to question if I would ever see that vision happen. It seemed like I was going to be disabled.

I had just prayed about my future and was still listening to God as I began to read a book that I had brought from home. The book is entitled, Bible Nobodies Who Became Somebodies. I had not read the book for 6 months and began reading where I stopped in the middle of a chapter. The page was about the boy who had five loaves and two fishes to help feed a vast multitude who had followed Jesus out of a town. Jesus took the boy’s food and used it to feed thousands of people.

God had sent me my answer. Even though I might not be well, God would use me for His purpose at the right time, just as the boy had been there at exactly the right time. It amazes me how God knows exactly where I’m going to be at a certain time and leads me to read exactly what I need at read at that moment. It also happened with The Purpose-Driven Life, books by Joyce Meyer, and many passages of scripture.

The following Sunday was January 6th and I was in church, as usual. I was very distressed about my health because I had passed the stress test, but a pain exploded in my chest when my heart rate went up and my blood pressure hit 200. The pain had started at the sternum and moved over the left lung. The doctor said nothing abnormal was showing on his machine, but I felt plenty abnormal. So I was concerned about the carcinoid tumor, my heart, and all the unknowns as I sang during the service.

On Wednesday evenings I lead a small group that studies the Bible and prays together. On January 9th, one of the ladies (Gerry) told what she had seen during the service on January 6th. While the worship team led us in singing, she sensed Jesus appear next to the worship leader. Jesus walked down the steps toward me and stood beside me as I was singing. My friend said Jesus came there to comfort me about my health. I was so overjoyed to hear that! Jesus had not forgotten me; He came to see me.
(What my friend saw that day is a similatude. It is not the same as a vision because there isn't anything to see. I had a similar experience about 2003. A lady (Vickie) from church had come to pray with me before I had a D&C done. Vickie had brought some oil and invited the nurse to join us as she prayed and anointed me with oil. I remember the nurse was so excited to pray with us! Just before the D&C, I was talking to the anesthesiologist, who was on my left, and the nurse, who was on my right. I thought it was odd that the nurse was standing so far away by my hand--about two feet away from me. She was preparing to do the IV. Then I felt Jesus was standing on the right in the empty space by my upper arm. I totally sensed a presence being there. There was exactly the space for Him to fit in there, and I turned and silently said to Him, "Thank you for being here." Then He left, and the D&C went fine.)

Going to UCI Medical Center
There is a prayer chain at my church. I had asked them and several other friends to pray for me as I went to UCI to see about getting the carcinoid tumor removed. The staff at the Medical Center called me and arranged for my appointment.

I was cared for at the CDDC at UCI Medical Center. That’s a facility for digestive diseases. On February 26, 2008 I went in to see Dr. L for an exam to find out if the tumor could be removed endoscopically. That’s what I had been told. I was very pleased when I got there to find out they could probably remove the tumor that day. After I was prepped, the surgeon introduced me to a doctor from Japan who was a leading authority on removing tumors endoscopically. He was visiting UCI Medical Center that week.

When we were introduced, I said, “That’s amazing!” The doctor got a slight smile. I continued, “God sent you to be here for my procedure today.” The doctor nodded.

However, on February 26th, the tumor was not removed. I felt okay when I went in for the exam, but I had been ill with a sinus infection. It was getting better; however I was not well enough. During the endoscopic procedure, I began to cough so hard that my oxygen level went down enough to concern the doctor. When I coughed, I would stop breathing. So the procedure was stopped before the tumor was removed.

The sinus infection turned into pneumonitis, a milder form of pneumonia. I spent most of March 2008 at home, getting strong enough to go through surgery and back to work. I was very disappointed because I got sick right at the time UCI called me to schedule the surgery! So getting pneumonitis delayed my surgery by three weeks. During March God chose to talk to me through books I would read. I would feel drawn to a particular book, even though it wasn’t on my list of what I wanted to read. I was planning to read a new book by Joyce Meyer, called I Dare You, but that wasn’t what God wanted me to read. I put it down after a few pages.

Instead God led me to read again in Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life. I turned to the chapter on "Transformed by Trouble", where I had found comfort before, but the comfort wasn’t there. Instead, I found what I was looking for in an earlier chapter where Rick translates a passage from Job 23: 8-10.
I go east, but He is not there. I go west, but I cannot find Him.
I do not see Him in the north, for He is hidden. I turn
to the south but I cannot find Him. But He knows where I am going and when He has tested me, like gold in a fire, He will pronounce me innocent. 

Over the years, as I have learned to communicate with God, He "talks" with me in various ways. A couple years ago I would hear His answer as if He sent an answer to  my brain in the sound of my own voice. Now I usually have a thought that comes as an answer to my question. Sometimes I am strongly impressed that I must write an encouraging note to someone. However, because I was frightened about my health I couldn’t hear from God in the usual way. That must have been because there was so much stuff going on in my brain. Also, God wanted me to get more information from Him than could be expressed in a sentence or two. He wanted me to hear a whole sermon. So to hear from Him, I would read books or Bible passages that I felt drawn to read. I trusted that if I had a strong desire to read something, that desire had come from Him.

(There is an excellent book How to Hear from God, Learn to Know His Voice and Make Right Decisions that explains the different ways God communicates with us. The author is Joyce Meyer.)