Sometimes when a month goes by and nothing is written, it's because life is just busy around here, and even though there may be lots of things to write about, it just doesn't happen. In our last month, there could have been a trivial post about how many hours of shopping it takes for a mom of four to get her kids ready for spring and summer, especially when it includes a senior girl who needs to prepare for a trip with her friends, senior pictures, and prom! A story of heroism could have been shared about our dear friend who lost "everything" when he walked out of his burning apartment building with just his keys, his wallet, his cell phone, and the clothes on his back but not until he made sure he knocked on everyone's doors to alert them of the fire. A bittersweet entry could have been written about how exciting it is for me to welcome a new niece at the same time that my heart is aching for others who are losing their loved ones prematurely. Or I could have written about what it's like to face potential flooding in our office building and then praised God that that's no longer a worry and that the row of 3'x3' concrete cubes can now be removed from the property.
Sometimes when a month goes by and nothing is written, it's because the blog entries going on in my head are just way too personal and private to share, and out of respect for my family, they need to just stay in my head. My mind has been writing and rewriting one of these in particular lately, but it wasn't until yesterday that the "go-ahead" was given to me to share it publicly. Anytime I share so much about our family with so many via this blog, we open ourselves up to being the thing that keeps the rumor mill going, and since we know how frustrating it can be to be in that spot, it can be enough to keep me from sharing. However, there comes a time when we have to let the Lord deal with the few who read this whose propensity is towards gossip and just realize that the prayer support from many genuine, caring, loving people far outweighs any negative repercussions. There has been a new twist in our lives, and it's time to let our guard down and let you know how much we would appreciate your prayers. It's time to use this blog again for its original intended purposes: one, to keep many people informed at once; two, to give me a place to journal my thoughts; and three, to give God all the glory for what He's going to do through us with this new challenge.
It was just one month ago, March 9, in fact, that Harris woke up and experienced something he'd never experienced before: rectal bleeding of a disturbing amount. Yep, that's a very open and honest and vulnerable fact that I could omit from the story, but if just one person's life can be saved by sharing that warning sign, it's worth divulging it. I'll save you all the visuals and other details here, but feel free to talk with us privately if you are concerned for your own health and have questions.
After a few hours of debate in my head, I followed my intuition and made an appointment for him with our regular doctor, even though I knew my husband wouldn't be so appreciative. Our doctor knows Harris well enough to let him have the choice of either waiting it out or else making an appointment for a colonoscopy, and not surprisingly, he chose the first option. But then after a week of just not quite feeling right and a few more issues, Harris came to me and said he thought we should probably take the next step, so an appointment with a gastroenterologist was made. The dreaded prep day was last Sunday, and by Monday noon he was recovering from an upper endoscopy and a colonoscopy.
While Harris was still a little bit in la-la land, the doctor sat down with me and explained all his findings. We knew beforehand that Harris probably was dealing with a hiatal hernia and acid reflux, which the upper endoscopy confirmed, but the doctor also removed a small polyp from his stomach, and he discovered some esophageal ulcers that need to be treated with medicine for the next eight weeks, and then another endoscopy can be done so we can test the tissue underneath and make sure it's not cancerous. Finally, the colonoscopy revealed some internal hemorrhoids, which supposedly everyone has, and a 4cm mass in his colon on the left side of his body that must be removed ASAP. The doctor flew through everything way faster than my mind could absorb, but one thing kept going through my head:
"My son has a tumor in his brain, and now my husband has a
mass in his colon. Really, Lord? Really???"
It was the thing we had been fearing all month long, and now it was a brutal reality. Oddly enough, though, despite all the information to absorb, there was an inner sense of peace most of the day. I'm not sure if I was just numb or if I'm just getting used to troubling medical news or if God was just answering the prayers of the few who were praying and was giving me peace that passes all understanding. I'm quite sure that all three factors played into my state of being, but let's just say that God's peace is a pretty amazing thing.
We realized quickly that we have started another new chapter in our lives. We were suddenly thrust on a new journey of waiting for lab results, surgery, waiting on lab results, recovery, another endoscopy, and waiting on more lab results. That's only as far as the eye can see right now, and once again, as we've been doing with Heath's situation, we'll just be taking one day at a time. We had a great big "Thank you, Jesus!" moment on Wednesday already when all the pathology reports of the initial biopsies came back BENIGN!!! Such music to our ears!
However, the ulcers must still heal for eight weeks, and the mass must still come out ASAP. We met with the surgeon yesterday and found out that not only will they be removing the mass but also removing 10 to 12 inches of Harris's colon so the whole area can be checked for cancer. Even though the little sample came back benign, there is still a 30% chance of finding cancer in the mass or in the lymph nodes in the area. The mass is considered precancerous and is called a tubular adenoma. The doctor is confident that we detected it early enough, but we just have to take all precautions, which is why they have to take out so much. My markings on this little diagram probably aren't entirely proportional, but it shows how the doctor explained it to us:
The one thing we really didn't see coming is just what a major deal this surgery is. So many surgeries are done on an outpatient basis these days, or even people having inpatient procedures seem to be sent home after a day or two. We learned that the surgery itself will take 2 to 3 hours, and then the doctor advised us to plan on having Harris in the hospital 4 to 6 days. Depending on how his body reacts, he could maybe go home after 3 days, but that is unlikely. Then he said Harris shouldn't plan on working for a month after that, and he can't lift more than 10 pounds for the next six weeks. (Do you have any idea what that does to our yardwork plans?!?) (Okay, so that's really the least of our concerns right now, but hopefully that gave you a little chuckle!)
The surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday, April 12, at 2 p.m. at Genesis East in Davenport. Up until that time, we'll be purchasing some additional medications and supplies, maybe doing some yard cleanup if it's not raining, celebrating Heath's 21st birthday, and then going through the whole liquid diet and cleansing-out process all over again on Monday. Let me tell you that he is not excited at all about that last part.
The bottom line is this: We need your prayers. This puts a whole new spin on our family's lives once again, and you'd better believe that the kids and I will be rallying around this man we love so much. He just does not deserve to have to go through this! He's the most magnificent husband and father that we could ever ask for, and to watch him go through this ordeal is painful enough for us, let alone all the restless and agonizing hours he will spend awaiting this operation and recovering from it. We pray for complete healing, for no cancer to be detected, and that God's goodness and presence will be so evident in all of this.
As I've said many times before, only by the grace of God will we get through this new chapter of our lives.