Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Year-Long Wait

     It was a year and two months ago today that Heath had his first seizure totally out of nowhere.  At that time a lot of testing was done, and we were completely shocked one week later when we were told that he had a 1cm tumor on the left occipital lobe of his brain.  It rocked our world in a season of already being unusually rocked, but at that time we were told to wait and see what would transpire over the next couple of months.  On December 7, 2010, we were thankful that the second MRI revealed that the tumor had not changed, but we were then told to wait a year for the next MRI.  A year!  Two days after that he had his second grand mal seizure, so his seizure medication was increased, but he's been seizure free since then.  Other than being told he couldn't drive for six months after each of the seizures, he's really been able to live a very normal life.  Every once in a while, he'll have a headache or some other little thing that makes us wonder what's going on inside his head, but there has never been enough of a concern to warrant taking him in sooner than scheduled.  Thankfully his doctors are only a phone call or even an email away, and they have been very good at responding to any little questions we've had along the way. 

     A year has been a long time.  There has not been a day that's gone by that I haven't looked at my son and wondered what we would learn at the end of the year.  My prayers have been somewhat bold in that I would even pray that the tumor would be shrinking and gone by the time we would go back.  Sometimes I would pray that there would at least be no growth at all.  My curious mind would always be tempted to play out the "what-if" scenarios in my head.  What if it had grown by a millimeter?  Would they suggest surgery for something little like that?  Would it be better to have that happen and have it be gone than to always wonder if it was growing?  What if it had grown slightly but not doubled?  Would he face chemo, radiation, surgery?  What if it had doubled in size?  What if it had spread or more tumors showed up when we went back?  Would Heath be facing challenging doctor appointments or a hospitalization in the very same month that we’re sending Harris back to the hospital for his repeat colon surgery?  How would we handle having two men in the hospital in different locations for very different things?  Would Harris have to postpone his surgery?  It’s set up for next Wednesday, November 30, by the way, and the dread factor is very high.  Every time my mind was tempted to entertain all those questions, I'd have to remind myself to hold those thoughts captive and not borrow trouble and just wait it out.  That is way easier said than done. 

     Finally sometime late summer or early fall, the appointments were actually set up for today, November 22, two days before Thanksgiving.  We knew that if some kind of treatment were to be needed, we wanted to have a little time to plan and prepare so that once his semester is over in early December, he could get started.  We knew that our holiday plans could end up in total upheaval, and we certainly couldn't let ourselves even contemplate the thought of trying to get away for the holidays on a family vacation like we'd all really like to do.  Everything has been hinging on today's appointment for a while now.  I sensed in my spirit a few days ago that everything would be okay, but even so, yesterday was particularly hard.  Prayers for my anxious heart were answered when I finally just entrusted our son back to the Father who gave him to us and leaned on the understanding that God loves him even more than we do and that we had to trust in God’s plan for his life, no matter what the outcome. 

     So we started out the day at 10 a.m. by seeing a physician's assistant who was filling in for Heath's regular seizure doctor.  Since he's been seizure free for a year, we anticipated this appointment to be pretty noneventful, but it turned into quite a discussion regarding his medication and the long-term effects and plotting out what it would look like to make the switch to a different one down the road.  We have instructions on what to change when, and we’ll be going back in May for further consultation.  We still have no way of knowing whether the seizures and the tumor have anything to do with each other, which is frustrating, but it is what it is. 

     The next two hours were spent leisurely having lunch together, Heath, Jenny, Harris, and I, and thankfully the time went by pretty quickly.  We arrived back at the hospital at 1:20 for his MRI check-in time of 1:30, and by his 2 p.m. actual appointment time, they already had it done.  We moved to the third department of the day and proceeded to fill out more paperwork and waited for our 2:50 appointment with the neurosurgeon to find out the results of the MRI.  We were told he was running behind schedule, and we found this to be the longest wait of our day.  We were all anxious but very tired too, and an iced coffee would have definitely been a welcome treat by this time.  The nurse practitioner finally gave us a hint of good news about 10 minutes before the doctor came in the room around 4 p.m. for his typical very quick appearance.  The tumor had not grown at all, so we were all very relieved.  He said that it could either be a very slow-growing kind of tumor or a developmental anomaly, which is something he was maybe born with and that we would have never even known was there if he hadn’t had the original seizure and tests.  His recommendation is to just come back in another year to check it again, but if there are any major challenges between now and then to make sure and call. 

     Relief?  Yes.  Definitely.  Of course, we know that we now have another year of “wait and see,” but at least I think we all feel a lot better now that we know it hasn’t grown in 14 months’ time, and we are very, very thankful for that.  It was a rather silent, tired, and contemplative ride home in the rain today, but we are all feeling a little less stressed.  We’re ready to enjoy the holiday weekend with our family and give thanks to God for His goodness to us.  We are also very thankful for you, our friends and family, who have been praying with us through some very rough times.  We want to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  Very, very good. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Go Play On The Swings???

     It's been awhile.  A long while. 

     These last three and a half months have been the most grueling, exhausting, and frustrating months I've ever personally known, and believe me, I've had some challenging moments in my lifetime before this one!  If I could share my life story in this public setting, I would, but in order to maintain the privacy of others who are also involved, it's just not something that can be shared here.  In this particular season of my life, it's been a matter of facing a 43-year ongoing battle and trying to find some kind of healing.  There have been so many obstacles and hurts and tears along the way, and at one point my biggest struggle was why God doesn't seem to hear our prayers or seem to care to do anything about them.  No matter what was happening, it felt as though there was very little hope for our situation. 

     After finally allowing myself to verbalize that to a friend, she was able to share her own pained heart with me, and we were able to pray together.  What a sweet time of fellowship!  Later on that very afternoon, God did something that is just so like Him.  He put in front of me the most perfect devotional that was all about being tired of waiting on God, and in it was the verse I have at the top of this blog as well as this verse:  “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."  Psalm 27:14.  It was such a beautiful answer to prayer at the most perfect time, and I was so thankful. 

     But then He did something else that was really awesome.  After weeks and weeks of diligently searching for the right person to help walk us through this valley, God led us in a very roundabout way to a man who seemed to be the most perfect fit.  A ten-minute phone conversation with this man was all it took for me to end up on the floor in a thankful mess of tears.  God had provided just enough hope to keep me moving forward just when I so desperately needed it the most.

     A short time ago, there was a meeting held with this man and a few other main participants.  There were people huddled in prayer in another location, and lots of other people were praying for us as well.  Even though the stress level was high, there was a sense of peace and assuredness within me that God was in this thing.  Only He could have brought us to this place like He did. 

     After a couple hours' worth of discussion, some of us were given the directive that we desperately needed:  "Go play on the swings!"  In other words, "Take a breather.  You've done what you need to do.  Let it go.  Take time to heal." 

     Those words of wisdom have been ringing loudly in my head, and I'm doing all I can do to keep on letting go and put it back in the hands of God and the help He has provided for us.  That's so much easier said than done.  An issue of this longevity is not quickly undone, and even though we're supposed to be "playing on the swings," the reality is that the long-term effects still have a way of infiltrating our lives on a daily basis.  There is so much healing that needs to take place, but I'm just thankful for a God who understands our hearts and knows everything.  I'm clinging to that promise right now. 

     It's time to turn my focus back on my own family.  Next Tuesday we will be heading to Iowa City with Heath to check on the tumor that was discovered on his brain in September 2010.  When it was checked last December, it had not grown, so we were told to wait a year and see what happens, so the time has come for us to see whether it has grown or not and assessing what, if anything, needs to be done with it.  My prayer is that it will be gone!!  What a great thing that would be to give thanks for this Thanksgiving!  The very next week Harris will be heading to the hospital for his repeat colon surgery, and he'll be healing from that right on through the Christmas season.  My prayer there is that this time there will be no complications and that his body will heal properly. 

     If we could all just go "play on the swings" for the next couple of months, we would!  The thought of putting our family on a jet plane and flying away to some island far, far away and coming back in 2012 has crossed my mind many times, but that doesn't seem to be a realistic option.  It's sure fun to dream about though!  I'd even settle for a week away if I could figure out how to make that happen!  Nevertheless, we are approaching a holiday season that will be vastly different from the norm, but we're just going to have to trust in God's perfect provision and plan for our family's lives.  When we are weak, He is strong, right?  If I'm supposed to be playing on the swings, I just as well start pumping my heart out and bellowing out the words of "Jesus Loves Me!"