Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Update on the Update

Friends, Dr. Kritz was not too alarmed or concerned by the levels of fever/symptoms I am experiencing, so he sent me home - that's a praise - and counseled finishing the antibiotics and coming back to see him Friday.  No word yet from MD Anderson on the pathology report from the biopsy.  I will post when I hear something on that.  Last Thursday, Dr. Chang came into my hospital room and said "Rex pathology was wrong about the lung cancer".  We rejoiced to see God move and answer prayer.  We rejoiced that they now thought it was lymphoma.  It may yet be lymphoma, and we need to be submissive to God's will as always.  But - we do ask with full confidence in His healing power and His power over the entirety of the physical universe - to make it something other than cancer - and either way we will give Him praise and glory.  Please continue to pray with us.....thanks so much.....Dan

Quick Update

Folks, I've been home now since Friday noon and unfortunately my symptoms are not improving, so Dr. Kritz has asked me to come in to the clinic to see him in about an hour.  He may put me on outpatient IV antibiotics (given at the cancer center) or he may put me back in the hospital.  He may also have info from MD Anderson on my biopsy, not sure about that.  This is difficult - please pray for me that I would have courage and patience as we wait on the Lord - pray that I would trust Him completely and that He would heal me.  Thanks - Dan

Friday, September 23, 2011

No Place Like Home

Self-portrait of me and my two brothers-from-another-Mother, Keith and Scott McElrath

Friends, I'm writing this from the back porch at home.  I've been away from home on many a business trip but the homecomings were never this sweet.  I have to say that the nurses at Rex Hospital and especially on "5 East" are a wonderful group of people.  What a profession, certainly one of the most noble I can think of.  Many of them combined prayer and encouragement with their medical duties - one in particular, Deborah, took my and Renee's hands and prayed earnestly with us on our darkest day.  My hat is off to these angels.

As you saw in my last post, we received remarkable news on Friday, while my pastor was with us (I want to have him at all my doctor meetings now), that they no longer think I have lung cancer, but rather lymphoma.  Honestly I am reserving any conclusions until I hear from the MD Anderson pathology lab, which should be early to mid-next week.  Another interesting data point came in today - My nurse at MD Anderson told me that the slides from the first bronchoscopy, the ones originally diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma by the Rex Path Lab, were deemed 'no definitive evidence on malignancy' by the MD Anderson lab.  So the plot continues to thicken and God continues to be at work in this situation.  The slides from my operation, both lymph nodes and a 'tumor' biopsy, are enroute to MDA now.

Well I just wanted to let you all know that I'm out of the hospital, still working on the pneumonia symptoms, and praying that I will continue to improve while taking it easy here.  My parents will be here through tomorrow, then Renee's sister will come for a few days, and then Renee's parents will be back.  Of course with me back home, the burdens are mostly lifted.  I also want to thank the many people who came to visit me in the hospital.  Yesterday was particularly busy with visitors, up until 9 pm. 

Please pray for my pneumonia to clear up, my immune system to start firing on all cylinders, and for MD Anderson to say, early next week, "no malignancy".  With God, all things are possible.  Keep the faith!  Dan

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Miraculous Turn of Events

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from? 

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121, v1-2

Friends, a short while ago Renee and I were sitting here in my room with our pastor, Dr. Mike Garrett.  Dr. Chang came in and asked if we had heard the news from pathology - we said no, and Renee said "it's good news, isn't it?"  She could read his face.  We were waiting to hear whether I had stage 3a or stage 3b lung cancer, the difference being whether the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the tumor had been infected.  Dr. Chang said that the lab, based on the surgical lymph node biopsy and the 2nd bronchoscopy, was now of the opinion that the cancer is a lymphoma, not lung cancer.  Dr. Chang said that lymphoma is a lot better than lung cancer, but it will be a few days before Dr. Krtiz gets back from his vacation and we can discuss how to treat it.

Medically, it is yet to be determined how good this news is - the more important aspect is the spiritual.  So many of you prayed for the lung cancer diagnosis to be wrong, and with little medical reason - but God, being rich in mercy and loving kindness, has heard our prayer and shown us that as He promises, He is here, He is powerful, He is real, and He loves us.  Good news, difficult news - in all things and on all days, no matter how dark, He is here, He cares for us.  Rachel and Kenyon are here so I need to go - more soon.  Praise Him!  And thanks to all the praying saints!!  Dan

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[c]

Friends, the outcome of the surgery was not what we were hoping and praying for.  One of the lymph nodes in the center of my chest showed cancer despite the negative PET scan.  The doc estimated this as a 5% possibility before surgery.  Having found this, they stopped the surgery and I will be treated for this cancer by radiation and chemotherapy.  Given the very unlikely odds of everything that has happened this week, I am more convinced than ever that this is a custom-made trial authored by my Father in heaven.  I believe this with all my heart - there are people who will be touched, reached, and yes, saved because of this trial, provided I submit, honor and praise the Lord no matter what.  

I know He can heal me with a thought, and yet I know that is not always His plan.  I submit to His will for my life, as does Renee, while we pray for healing and mercy.  And really - what do I have to be bitter about?  There are hospitals throughout the world built for children with cancer.  Child or adult, we all need to understand that God will redeem ALL of the suffering of His people, as He said He would - His plan is an eternal plan, not a plan of years on this fallen earth.  If I may modify the great hymn, "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun - it won't matter whether we lived 30, 50, 70, or 100 years on earth.  We might not even remember.

You won't be surprised to hear that I am very anxious to get out of CLL docs will decide when they are satisfied with the progress of my pneumonia and hopefully let me go in a day or two.  Please pray for us in this regard as well as for special closeness to God, comfort, peace, and blessed assurance.  Thank you all.....Dan and Renee


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Surgery Day

Hello friends, in about an hour they will come to start prepping me for surgery.  My last surgery was in 1967 when, as a 6 year old, I had my appendix removed.  The goal of the surgery today is to remove the upper-right lobe of my lung, which contains the mass that looks suspiciously like lung cancer.  The diagnostic process continues as the first step of the operation, with a biopsy of the lymph nodes in the center of my chest.  If they are clear of cancer, they will proceed to remove the lobe.  They tell me that this is the lobe that I can most easily do without and in fact, I should be back to full lung function within a few months after surgery.  If they remove the lobe, they will send it to pathology and a confirmation of the diagnosis will be made , and if it is confirmed, they will determine stage 1 vs. stage 2 (stage 2 is when cancer has infected some non-central lymph nodes).

Today, once again, I meditate on Romans 8;  please read carefully with me:

More Than Conquerors
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,j whok have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”l
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,m neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

All of us can be counted among this family of God if we believe and answer His knock at our door.  Again, I am blessed by your support and prayers.  Back soon.  Dan

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Calling all Prayer Warriors

Friday, September 9, North Park, Colorado

Hello Friends.....apparently between work and recreation travel over the past two months, I've overdone it - or maybe it's just a random weakness in my immune system - but I have contracted pneumonia and I am in Rex hospital.  The short story is that I was feeling feverish and having some discomfort with deep breaths before I left for a long-anticipated fishing trip over Labor Day weekend.  After consulting with my medical team in both Houston and Raleigh, I was given the green light to go on the fishing trip after receiving a Neulasta shot on Sunday night, Sept 4.  The trip went well (see above!) and I felt good....however after returning home, seeing my doctor on Monday, and getting a chest x-ray, I began to feel badly Monday evening - and worse Tuesday morning.  The x-ray revealed an infection in my lung and Dr. Kritz checked me into the hospital Tuesday afternoon at about 5 pm.  I'm getting powerful IV antibiotics now that will hopefully knock out the infection.  There is another concern that was revealed by a CT scan that I received here at the hospital - a smaller, tighter concentration of opacity (spot) that is near my upper bronchial tube - this could anything from a related but different infection, to a tumor....I had a bronchoscopy yesterday and we are awaiting the results sometime in the next 24 hours. 

I am feeling better than I did Tuesday morning so we are thankful that the antibiotics appear to be working and we're praying that they will not only knock out the general infection but (please God) the spot near my bronchus.  If you would please pray that this entire event would be dealt with by these antibiotics, Renee and I and my entire family will be very grateful.  I had a beloved friend visit me just a while ago and during the course of our conversation he mentioned the story of Jesus and His disciples walking by a man blind from birth - the disciples asked Jesus, "tell us Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?  Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but that this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."  This verse and many others have shaped my thinking and renewed my mind and allowed me to see this trial for what it really is - a mission, an assignment.  Whatever comes, I know the Lord will give me the strength and grace to overcome.  Thanks for all your care and concern.  Dan

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Renee's Birthday and Visit with Dr. Keating

Hello friends and family, it has been an extremely busy time these last 3 weeks or so.  I've been on a business trip to New York, threw a surprise party for Renee (August 13th), spent a week in Europe and the UK, and this past week spent 2 days in Houston.  Tomorrow I leave on a week-long fishing trip with my Dad, father-in-law, brother-in-law Scott McElrath, and his brother Keith.  Today I want to show you some pictures and a video from Renee's 50th birthday party - it was a very special evening - we had about 40 guests, some of whom traveled from Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and New York to celebrate with Renee.  Here's the key video clip and a few pics:

Renee and college BFF Heather Holley

Renee's sister Karen with husband Scott, and Keith McElrath with the Birthday Girl

With sis Karen and childhood BFF Cindy

Renee with Sandra, high school BFF and dear friend of the family
 It was a really wonderful evening - Renee said she was taken completely by surprise, which I think the video bears out.  It was also an occasion worth celebrating - Renee has been a blessing to many, most of all me, for many years - as I said in my toast, she is by far the greatest blessing in my life :-)

So, the news from Houston and Doc Keating was that I had a partial response to the FCR, so I am in a partial remission - meaning that I have some residual cancer in my bone marrow.  This is actually the result that we were expecting based on the results that we had at the midway point.  So there's good news and not as good news in there.  The upshot of that is that Dr. Keating wants me back in Houston in January, at which time we will make a decision on the next course of action.  There are several possibilities, some that are standard treatments, some that are in clinical trials, and of course the stem cell transplant is also an option.  Dr. Keating and Dr. Hosing - the transplant specialist - say that I am an excellent candidate for a transplant given my minimal evidence of disease, age, overall health, and having a related matching donor (sister Laure).  Based on my conversation with Dr. Keating, he expects that we will need to take further action early next year, though it is hard to know what the residual cancer will do and when.  Based on my cancer type, I don't think they are inclined to wait around to see what it will do, but rather, treat it aggressively.

As ever, my faith is in the God of heaven and earth, and in His Son Jesus Christ, who loves me more than I can ever understand.  I trust him with every hour of my life, and with my eternal future.  He has asked many of us to trust Him through unimaginable difficulty, and it gives me great comfort to know that He is able to redeem  all our suffering for our good and His glory.  I fully believe the truth of Romans 8:28, even in difficult circumstances - "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose".

If anyone you know is struggling with illness or other difficulty, and you think I might be able to encourage them, please have them reach out - or reach out yourself.  It is a great blessing to me when I can encourage a fellow traveler to find hope in the Lord.

I'll leave you with this - the last thing Dr. Keating said to me was "come on back in January and we'll decide how we're going to cure you.  He's optimistic, so I am optimistic :-)

Much love - Dan and Family