I am sitting in our kitchen, writing my update as Jan plays Solitaire, and the kids distract themselves with television, music or games. We’re all a bit tired, because we just returned from a short trip to Myrtle Beach. After our difficult winter, Jan and I felt that the family needed some distraction. We are a family that travels whenever we can, and a trip was a kind of return to normalcy. Even though it was cold and windy on the coast, we had fun; as we always do when we’re together.

I haven’t written about Jan’s progress for a while. Many of you follow us on Facebook and you know that she’s doing well. In early March, she completed her chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It seemed as if the last dose of chemo was the worst, and the radiation effects grew more hideous over time. Although she was finished by March 8, she was miserable for the next two to three weeks. She was weak, and continued to have terrible oral secretions that impeded sleep. Her PEG (feeding) tube was a help, but became painful two weeks later and was removed. By that time, thankfully, she was taking more nutrition and fluids by mouth.

Still, we weren’t quite out of the valley. We just couldn’t see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ for some reason. We figured out what it was soon enough.

Because she felt so poorly, she spent a lot of time either in bed or in a recliner in our room. As a result, on March 30, she had severe weakness and shortness of breath. She could barely stand. I took her to the emergency department of our hospital where she was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary emboli with a saddle embolus. (That is, she had blood clots in both main pulmonary arteries and in the bifurcation between the two.)

Her oxygen saturation was 77% on 100% oxygen. She was working to breath and her heart-rate was around 140 beats per minute. I had initially thought she was just anemic and dehydrated. My partner, David Heape, wisely pursued (and found) the pulmonary embolus.

In consultation with our oncologist and a specialist in Greenville, we were going to transfer her to have thrombolytics (clot-busters). But even better, we decided to give them in our own facility. As she received the tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), her oxygen saturation rose and her heart rate dropped in a beautiful, rapid and progressive manner. By the time she was in the ICU, her oxygen level was 96 % on 1 liter of nasal canula oxygen. Her echocardiogram was awfully close to normal, and showed no dilation of her right heart.

Needless to say, after all the struggles of cancer and cancer therapy, after all of the anxiety and fear, the pulmonary embolus threw me for a loop. But again, God was with us. Her recovery, mediated through the gift of aggressive, modern medicine, was nothing short of miraculous.

Over the next few days in the hospital and at home, she seemed to turn a corner. While hospitalized she received blood for a hemoglobin of 7.7, and she received two days of IV nutrition. She joked that maybe it took a PE to get her nutrition back to normal! Her skin tone

She has made steady progress. As all oral radiation patients experience, she now has a very dry mouth and very few taste-buds. But she eats, she drinks, she sleeps. She can lie flat and breath easily. She hasn’t been short of breath since her PE. She is still on blood thinner for a little bit of residual clot in her left thigh.

So you can see, a trip to the beach was a true God-send and a kind of mark that we are slowly, steadily climbing out of the terrible, dark valley of the shadow of death.

I’ll admit, the day of the PE, I thought I was losing her. It was all so surreal.   I thought I had been scared the day of her diagnosis.  It was nothing by comparison.  But I prayed and she prayed and so many prayed for her! Psalm 34:19 says, ‘Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.’ I feel that I have seen that promise at work in our lives.

She is thriving and feels well.   She says to me, frequently, ‘I’m fine!’ Of course, I am still anxious. I want her to recover immediately, as unrealistic as I know that to be. I know that cancer, cancer therapy and a pulmonary embolus are major insults to even the strongest…like her.

Still, I focus on every symptom, every complaint (like her current sciatic nerve pain), every bit of discomfort for fear of further malignancy or some other lurking monster.

Fortunately, God is the God who overcomes monsters, and who knows what is around every corner. So I have to learn to give my fears over to Him. I have to stop pestering my wife with ‘are you OK?’ . I have to have faith that, as Julian of Norwich said, ‘All will be well, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.’ Fear cannot by my idol, though Satan would have it be.

What can I say to you? Thank you for your prayers! If you have anything I can pray for, please tell me. Let me know how I can give back to you, who lifted us up for the past few months.

Thank you for your friendship and concern, and for asking others to pray.

Please know that your prayers have been ‘effectual.’ And the protected us from so much; even near tragedy.

I’ll continue to keep you posted. Please continue to pray for Jan and our family as she moves into the monitoring phase of her cancer treatment. And I hopefully move out of the anxiety phase.

Yours in Christ,


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