Monday, May 30, 2011


So last week I was sidelined by the stomach flu.  I woke up during the night on Monday night (early Tuesday morning) terribly, horribly sick.  I thought I would feel better after my digestive tract got emptied out--ugh--but instead I just kept throwing up until finally late in the day on Tuesday I was absolutely dehydrated, weak, had strained my abdominal muscles from so much violent action, feverish, and was desperate for some sort of relief.  I had tried to take some Tylenol, which was a huge mistake since my stomach wasn't even accepting sips of water, and between 7 and 8 pm I was reduced to tossing and turning on the bed, moaning and praying over and over, "Lord, please help me.  Help me, Lord.  Help me!"

Yikes.  John was understandably concerned, especially since I wasn't even able to keep water down, and we almost went to a little clinic outside our apartment complex gate to get an IV (this country's answer to any sickness).  I've never done it here, but I was just about ready to take the plunge.  I even tried to call a friend to go with me, but couldn't get through to her and so gave up and just prayed. 

Finally about 9pm I was so terribly thirsty, so started to try small sips of water again.  John set up the ipod on the bed so that I could listen to worship music, and I made it my goal to get a tablespoon of water into me every half hour.  In that way I passed a fitful night, sipping and listening to music and drifting in and out of sleep.  But, God, in His mercy and kindness, answered my prayer!  I was able to hold the water down and so was relieved by thankful to be able to drink water!  By the morning I had gotten down almost a whole cup of water and NOT thrown up, huge progress!

I'm still recovering a bit...after that first crucial night when the Lord answered my prayers (and those of my family and friends here in the city that knew I was sick), it's been better and better each day.  I'm eating pretty much normally now and feeling about 75% energy level.  Whew, it wiped me out!

After his scare with cancer a few years ago, John Piper came out with an article, "Don't Waste Your Cancer," which was a bit of a take-off from his book, "Don't Waste Your Life."  The essential idea is that a cancer diagnosis, terrible as it is, can be an excellent opportunity to trust the Lord, to put yourself again in His hands, to be fully submitted to His will and His plans.  So in that same spirit, I thought I'd offer a few reflections: "Don't waste your stomach flu," if you will.

1.  Don't underestimate the power of prayer in such a situation.  I had the prayer support of my husband and children and several friends here in our city.  And though it seems I've had lots of drama in life lately and have been continually calling on my friends to pray for me, there is NO shame in that and in fact it brings glory to the Lord when we call out to Him!  I felt so clearly that He showed his mercy and compassion to me when I was able to take that first sip of water that stayed down.  My soul praised Him for that answered prayer!  Call to the Lord in prayer, even for the stomach flu!

2.  Music is a truly healing balm in a situation like that.  I couldn't take any medicine, I was throwing up so regularly that I could almost predict it on the clock, and my whole body was tense and hurting.  I thought I didn't want the distraction of music, but when John set up the ipod and that first worship music flowed over me, I felt myself relax in a way that I didn't think was possible without medicine.  I slept more deeply and my heart was led to a meditative and thankful place even as I had no energy to do that myself.  SO thankful for the peaceful, worshipful music that led me into the Lord's presence!

3. Our bodies are amazingly complex, and we are amazingly weak.  It was so humbling--it was only my stomach that wasn't working and it laid me flat on my back.  The Lord understands the inner workings of our bodies and how it all holds together, but one little stomach bug and I am completely humbled and helpless.  A good reminder to depend on Him!

4.  What a blessing it is to be able to drink water and eat food!  It is truly a blessing to have nourishing food to eat and clean water to drink that sustains our physical bodies.  God designed it that way; we are fragile creatures, dependent on food and drink to have energy and feel well.  I was so thankful for those first few sips of water to quench my deep thirst!

5.  Health is a true gift from God.  I am not well acquainted with health problems.  I do not have a chronic disease.  My children have been basically healthy.  But a little thing like this and I could be tempted to complain!  Oh, Lord, forgive me!  Instead, how I want to have a thankful heart that usually, I am healthy.  What a gift it is to usually feel well, to have energy and strength for the tasks of the day and to live for Him.   It is not something I deserve, but truly a daily gift from Him.  Sickness comes sometimes and has the effect of making me more grateful for good health!

Well, as I'm feeling better this week and easing back into "normal life" again I want to remember what the Lord taught me last week.  I don't want to waste the opportunity!  There are lots of lessons to be learned and certainly I don't want to go through that again!  :)  Thanks for joining me along this journey!

Monday, May 23, 2011

My favorite Three Year Old!

Our sweet Christin is three years old!  April 28, 2011 was a wonderful day for her.  After whooping her way up and down the hallway, shouting about the fact that it was her birthday, Christin got one of her favorite Asian treats for breakfast: you tiao which literally translates as "oil stick."  It's basically the far east version of a doughnut...a strip of dough is fried in hot oil and puffs up dramatically, getting crispy on the outside and just slightly chewy on the inside.  The locals dip theirs in hot soy milk, we take ours home and dip them in sweetened condensed milk.  Yummy!  Christin loves it!
The weather was beautiful and so we took the whole family to the zoo to ride some of the (chintzy and slightly dangerous) rides.  This particular train ride on a rusty, dirty train took us around some weedy, reedy, swamp water and through a very narrow tunnel where my knee got bonked as we entered.  The girls thought it was fun though!  I'm just glad no one got hurt!
"Yes, I am the birthday girl and I'm too cool for this train!"
Our next ride was a favorite...we rented a little electric boat that could be driven around a small pond.  The boat included a laser gun to shoot at targets throughout the pond and if you hit them, they would spray water.  The girls all had fun driving the boat and shooting the gun, and I sat in the back seat and enjoyed watching them!  Fun times!
Christin was delighted at her turn to do some shooting.  I never thought I'd see the day!
Ok, the girly girls are still around.  Whew, just had to get that gun business out of the way, I guess!  The above picture is what you get when you ask the girls to pose for a picture. 
Love this girl.  Three years old!
Christin had been deliberating for weeks over what kind of cake she wanted.  Every time I asked her, it was something different: a pink heart cake, a princess cake, a rainbow cake, an oreo cake, or even cookies!  I settled on the pink heart cake and kept it simple this time.   Isn't that the sweetest smile?
Everyone wanted to help blow out those candles!
When we sat down to lunch on the day of Christin's birthday, Clara Anne asked me, "When will Christin open her presents?"  I had to admit that we had not prepared anything for Christin to open, but had taken her on the outing to the zoo instead.  Clara Anne said, "It's kind of sad not to have presents to open on your birthday, Mommy.  I will wrap some things up for Christin."  So she did!  She found a few items and wrapped them, and John and I made a trip to a local market to find something small to give to Christin as well.  We chose the pretty pink sandals you see above!  Christin LOVED them and has been very attached to them since. 

We're so thankful for our Christin Arielle!  She's such a funny girl and often makes us laugh with her "grown-up" ways of speaking and the funny things she says.  She is my sweet cuddly girl who loves for me to "tickle" her back.  She's also really tall for her age and is already wearing some 4T clothes!  Her hair is wispy and so white-blonde, just like mine when I was a little girl.  She loves fruit, yogurt, and always asks for sips of my black coffee.  Gum is another favorite, and lip gloss is probably the item besides her "wa-wa" (the bunny blanket) that she loves the most; she frequently can be found with several lip glosses in her pockets.  (You know, those Bonne Bell ones that taste like fruit or coke or root beer or whatever?  LOVES those.)  She usually still says "y" for "l", i.e. "yip gloss" instead of "lip gloss" but her stuttering is much improved.  She's proud to be three and is growing so fast!  She can ride a bike (with training wheels) very well now and even does fine getting the bike in and out of the elevator and out of our building.  She's gaining independance and is often stubborn about doing things herself.  She frequently tells me that she loves me and gives me smooches and big hugs. 

So, four weeks of pre-labor and then finally giving birth in this country were worth it for our Christin!  Thank you, Lord, for her.  We pray that the Lord will give her many more years of life!  Happy Birthday!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flashback: Wedding Festivities, April 2, 2011

 We have a friend whom we've known for about six years; her English name is Lynn.  And, she got married recently!  Enjoy these pictures of the wedding festivities!  There was some confusion about her wedding date due to the fact that they had scheduled the wedding and booked the restaurant BEFORE the government announced that the next weekend was going to be a 3 day national holiday for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival.  That wouldn't have been a problem, except in this country when there is a weekend off, it means the next weekend is a working weekend.  So the Saturday of her wedding was supposed to be a working day for most people.  There was no way to change the venue at that late notice, and I think she was worried that many people wouldn't come, but since the hall was quite crowded I think most people were able to make it!  :)  In the above picture Clara Anne and Chloe are enjoying the pre-ceremony snacks provided at all the tables.
 The bride and groom had a ceremony of sorts, led by an MC who continually cracked jokes and tried to get laughs.  But, probably the most serious moment of the ceremony was when the bride promised the husband's parents that she would take care of her husband and take care of the husband's parents when they were old.  There were tears from the bride and groom at that important moment!  It's an interesting contrast: in a western wedding, the bride and groom make promises to each other.  In a wedding in this culture, the bride and groom make promises to each other's parents. 
 The lovely bride.
 Here's that MC, enjoying his work, that's for sure!
 Afterwards it is traditional for the friends of the bride and groom to take group pictures with them; we obliged (with our friends Kevin and Becky) but my girls didn't exactly cooperate, as you can see!
 Then we took a few pictures of our own in the private room we were given for the reception.  There was tons of food and it was very enjoyable to have lunch with a few of our close friends (Asian and American!) and relish the relative quiet and non-smoking atmosphere.  At the ceremony, cigarettes are a traditional free gift (on the tables with the snacks) so everyone lights up.  It became a bit hard to breathe after awhile!  So we were glad to be given this private room to relax and enjoy lunch.
April 2, 2011--family picture!  Clara Anne, 6, Chloe, 4, and Christin, almost 3.  Congratulations, Lynn and Zhang!  We hope the Lord will give you many years together!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Have you seen this one?

From our Easter Egg Hunt, April 22, 2011.  Lots more pictures to post soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Answered Prayers

It's Tuesday evening here in Asia and I'm finally getting around to updating my blog!  I did arrive back in the country on time last Thursday night, then made my way to a friend's house where I stayed overnight before taking a train home on Friday morning.  John was waiting for me at the train station and it was a day of joyful reunions!  This is the longest I've ever been away from him and/or the girls, so it was truly a blessing to be together again.  In the words of Mr. Darcy, "I wish never to be parted from [them] again."  :)

The last few days have been wonderful--we've had some great times together as a family, with friends, we attended a wedding, the girls had a sleepover at some friends' home, we celebrated John's birthday (on the 14th), and enjoyed a perfect family day yesterday out in the gorgeous weather with a boat ride on the lake in the center of our city.  And today, I'm happy to say, we had a "normal" day filled with normal activities like prayer, exercise, reading aloud, doing math and working on handwriting, making supper and enjoying it together, and finishing the day with devotions and actually getting the girls to bed on time.  Wow!  It feels like it's been a LONG time since we had a normal day, so I truly appreciated a bit of routine today.  Thankful!

But before I get too far away from my trip to the States and my mom and dad's health situations, I wanted to share a few things that I journaled about on my way back to this country.  The overwhelming sense in my heart on my way back was PEACE.  I felt peace flooding my soul even as I thought of many future questions, transitions, and unknowns.  I felt peaceful that the Lord had led me to take the trip, and that He used me to serve my family, even though I had to leave them again.  As I was feeling HIS peace settle deeply in my heart, I felt compelled to write down some of the specific ways God answered our prayers regarding my Mom and the trip that I took.  So tonight, to encourage us all and to give glory to His name, let me share some specific prayers and the answers that God gave. 

**I prayed for good times together as a family, no matter what happened with Mom's surgery, and the Lord graciously granted us precious times of fellowship as an immediate and extended family, with some of Mom and Dad's church family, and with dear friends.

**God answered our prayers for safe surgery--He guided Dr. Rojas' hands so that Mom's life was preserved, despite the tumor's attachment to the vena cava which we had no idea about but which was actually quite dangerous.

**God answered our prayers for a successful surgery; the whole tumor able to be removed, with no damage to the stomach or colon.

**Amazingly, God answered our prayers for the tumor to be benign--NO cancer anywhere was a miraculous answer to prayer!  Thank you Lord!

**We saw the Lord answer prayer in regards to timing--I was able to get there a few days before the surgery, stay through the surgery and the initial recovery, and by the time I left I felt Mom was really doing quite well.

**Prayers for this experience to draw Mom and Dad closer to the Lord were also answered.  Especially encouraging was the fact that Mom now feels she's been given another opportunity to begin life again, serving the Lord.  She feels passionate about living for Him!  How encouraging!

**I was also encouraged by the fact that so MANY people were praying for Mom and for our family.  Some of our Asian friends who were praying for her expressed to me on Saturday that they felt so encouraged by the amazing result of their prayers in Mom's good news.  They felt (and they were right!) that God directly answered their prayers, which was so faith-building for them.  Even that is an answer to prayer!

**The Lord also answered prayers for my safety and health--I stayed well, was able to navigate through taxis, train stations, 5 different airports, 7 flights, a hotel, an unexpected layover in a country where I've never stayed, and all went well, I didn't lose a single thing!  My luggage arrived safely and I was given strength and help to be there for my parents.

Those are the things I wrote down on Friday morning, but I am sure I have only touched the surface of all that the Lord has done in the past weeks!  I am so thankful for His leadership, guidance, and protection of my mom and dad and our whole family.  Rejoice with us as we savor His faithfulness in answering prayer!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So quickly...

Well, my time here has just about wrapped up.  I'd appreciate your prayers for my safe return home to John and the girls.  In about 5 hours I'll be on the road again. The time has gone so quickly and yet SO much has happened I think we're all still reeling a bit. 
Here's a brief "thankful" list though, before I try to get some sleep tonight:
1.  I'm thankful for Jesus.  He has sustained, loved, kept and guided us.  Praise his name!

2. SO thankful for the successful outcome of the surgery.  We found out today some more details--because of where the tumor was attached, to the vena cava, it literally could have pulled free at any time.  That would have ruptured that major blood vessel, and Mom would have died almost instantly.  So thankful that not only was the tumor removed without incident but also was shown to be NO cancer!  Amazing!

3.  Thankful for a great talk with my mom and dad last night about some important future things; trusting the Lord's guidance as my dad desires to keep working but is concerned about his health and mom's care. 

4.  Thankful for US beef!  Yes!  We had pot roast tonight that I made in the crockpot and it was melt-in-your-mouth yummy. 

5.  Thankful for my wonderful husband who held down the fort at home.  He and the girls will be eagerly awaiting my arrival on Friday morning, Asia time.

6. And finally, I'm thankful for the outpouring of love and support for my parents from our extended family, our church families, our Asian brothers and sisters, and those of you who read this blog.  You have all  played a key role in supporting my parents through this tough time.  Don't stop praying!  The Lord knows what is still needed in terms of recovery.  But we are so thankful for you all.  May the Lord bless you and keep you!

And now, back to Asia I go. . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back in Rock Valley!

Just a quick update tonight--Mom is now in our hometown hospital.  She is doing remarkably well, I'm sure in no small part thanks to your prayers!  She's feeling quite well, has been more and more smooth in getting up and down, has a bit more stamina, and has even eaten better today.  The doctor did switch her pain medication and it seems to be managing it better.  We also had a visit from her endocrinologist (diabetes doctor) who outlined a clearer plan for the future management of her blood sugars.  She's still sore and stiff, and somewhat weak, but all in all, very good progress.  We were able to check out of the hospital in Sioux Falls about 1pm and then we just took her in the car to the Rock Valley hospital.  It is GOOD to be here.

I will sleep at my parent's house tonight since Mom is doing so much better and I am in need of one good night of sleep before I travel again!  Tomorrow night will be more like a nap--I leave for the airport at 3:30 on Wednesday morning.  That quickly, my time here is wrapping up.  I'm so thankful for the Lord's timing in bringing me (even giving me a mini-retreat on the way here) before the surgery, allowing me to be here through the surgery and most of mom's recovery, and now I will have a day to visit Mom, stock her frig, do some cleaning at the house, and finish some other errands before I leave.  So thankful that He planned it all perfectly!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for praying for Mom.  Obviously, she isn't fully healed yet, but she feels like the Lord has given her another opportunity to live her life for Him.  She was prepared to die on Tuesday night, and now instead she has recovery ahead and NO chemo treatments to face.  Thank you for honoring the Lord by asking Him for this excellent answer to prayer, and all praise and glory to Him for preventing the cancer.  He is the author of Life and obviously has things He still wants her to do; it is beautiful to see her want to even more fully give herself to Him for whatever years she has remaining.

I feel like I have learned so much through this experience, and have lots of "deeper" thoughts percolating in my head, but they will have to wait for another day and another post--I'm ready for bed!  But for tonight, let's praise God for His wonderful works and trust Him for the future.  Amen?  Amen!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Four Beautiful Words

I have some very good news to share today.  Mom and I were just waking up this morning, the nurse had been in around 6 to check her blood sugar and vitals, and Dr. Rojas came in, making his rounds.  He talked with Mom for a moment and examined her incision (more than 40 staples!) and also shared with her the pictures that they took during surgery.  I had a few more questions about the tumor itself and asked those, and then finally he said, "I have some great news from the lab.  There is no cancer."  Four beautiful words!  He then showed us the pathology report and first we stared in disbelief before shedding tears of joy!  Praise the Lord!
I'm not sure the full reality of the report has sunk in, but later I looked through it and saw that yes, each small part that they tested came back negative with fancy medical words like "no metastatic abnormality" and "benign tissue."  This is such wonderful news, we are so very, very thankful. 
Now the task ahead is to recover from this surgery and try to manage her diabetes.  Mom's IV was taken away today, and she was encouraged to get up and walk more, but she is not able to eat a lot--after a huge trauma to her system she is not very hungry as well as simply not being used to eating; her last meal was Monday night.  So it has been hard for her to take in enough calories today to keep her blood sugars up, and has had two fairly low ones in the last 20 hours, which are so very dangerous for her system.  As well, they want her up and walking more but she was already fairly weak and unsteady before the surgery, now that is compounded much more by the pain and then the low blood sugars just add to the problems.  So we had a bit of a rough day trying to manage all of this, I think she feels fairly tired out and a bit discouraged this evening, even despite the great news of the early morning.
Previously the doctors had been ready to release her to our hometown hospital tomorrow for a few more days of care there, but Mom doesn't feel comfortable with that until they work out a better plan for dealing with her diabetes.  We'll see what happens.
So today, please pray that she will have stable blood sugars, especially overnight when she tends to drop into dangerous zones, and also they are starting a new pain medication since it seems like the other one wasn't cutting it.  I think if we have a better handle on the pain and the diabetes, we will feel more comfortable with her transferring.  But for now we are eager to get some resolution on those issues.
However, we want to give all the glory and praise to God for His gracious and merciful answer about the fact that there is no cancer!  So many of you were praying that we would hear that answer and God graciously gave it!  We certainly know that this is not always the case; even as today is the day of Chip Stam's memorial service.  The Lord always does good, and He would have still been good even if the result had been cancer.  But we are so thankful that He chose to answer in this way.  Rejoice with us!  "All I have needed your hand has provided, Great is your Faithfulness, Lord, Unto me!"

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Progress Report

Hello everybody!  It's Friday afternoon and I am about to lose my internet access as Mark will be heading home today, and taking his laptop.  So I thought I'd post a quick update on my mom, who is doing pretty well, all things considered. 

Praises at this point:  Mom seems to have more strength and energy today.  Her color is better, she has sat in a chair for about 30 minutes, has walked a few steps, and is now able to use the bathroom with help.  Those are all good things and show progress.  We are still so thankful for good care for her and the ability for me to stay with her overnight.  We've also had some great times of fellowship as a family that have been precious.

Please pray: that the incision would continue to heal.  We're taking baby steps at this point, trying to get her up on her feet and helping to just make her comfortable despite the 30-40 staples that are holding together her abdomen.  Pray for quick healing as well as no infection.  It's still quite the process to get her out of bed, to even get her turned in bed can take some time.  Dr. Rojas is pleased with her progress and assured her that he won't "kick her out" of the hospital too soon, so that's good.  Pray also for us to all continue to seek the Lord and keep a cheerful attitude.  I've been so glad to "play nurse" and try to make Mom more comfortable.  As well, we are still hopeful that the tumor did not have any cancer in it.  Pray for this too!

Thanks so much for praying!  I could say more but it's time for me to wrap it up.  So thankful for you all...the body of Christ. We'll continue to call out to the throne of grace together!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Afternoon Update

It's Thursday afternoon, about four o'clock, and I thought it was time for a little update on Mom.  Lots has happened in the past 24 hours! 

Mom did well in recovery and was moved to her room yesterday by early afternoon--thank you for praying, she did not have ANY nausea and that is just so helpful.  She was pretty groggy all afternoon and evening, coming out from under the anesthetic as well as trying to get ahead of the pain.  When I first saw her after she came out of recovery and was moved back to her room, her lips were dry, her throat was raspy, but her first word was "cancer?"  I was so glad to tell her that they don't think so.  She spent a pretty uncomfortable afternoon and evening but did sleep a lot, she was in a lot of pain but they provided her with a pump that she could self administer the pain medicine.  The dosages were controlled so that she could not overdose, it would only allow her to receive the medicine every 15 minutes. 

I got a much-needed nap yesterday afternoon as well as a hot shower while Mark and my dad stayed with Mom.  Though we didn't plan this time as a family reunion, it certainly has been so nice to be together and eat meals together, talking and enjoying the time together!  Last night I also stayed with Mom here at the hospital; our sweet nurse Emily was on duty again, what a blessing she was!  Most of all, around 11:30 when I was ready to get some rest I went out to ask for some pillows and blankets, and she said, wait!  I think I have a chair for you that turns into a bed!  Sure enough, it looked like a regular armchair but actually folded out to a cot.  Hallelujah!  It was just fine to sleep on, SO much better than trying to sleep sitting up in a chair.  Emily knew I had just come from Asia and so I joked with her that the first night it was like I was in business class (though I was on a chair at least I could put my feet up on a second chair!) and the second night I bought the first class tickets!  That was a huge praise, I was able to sleep on and off during the night and feel more rested today.

Mom did fine overnight...we are watching her blood sugar carefully as well as I am making sure she sips water occasionally, has some lotion on her skin, lip gloss on her lips to comat dryness, and enough pillows tucked around her to make her comfortable.  I am learning some nursing tricks about how to help an immobile patient turn over, and am even gaining some skills at pillow tucking and fluffing!

However that immobility is coming to an end.  Dr. Rojas was in this morning and said, "I'm going to be a little mean to you today."  It's time for Mom to get up a bit out of bed, get her legs moving a bit, and stretch out her legs and ribcage too.  She now will have to get up to use the bathroom and they want her marching in place and maybe taking a few steps as often as possible.  She already showed great improvement from her first attempt this morning until just now where she was able to get herself up off the bed (using her walker) and march in place just a bit.  It's so hard for her right now (VERY painful) but it's really what she needs to do for purposes of circulation, prevention of blood clots, stimulating her bowels to work again, etc.

Today Mark and my dad are driving back to Rock Valley to pick up a few needed items, we have decided now that we'll all stay in Sioux Falls until she is released from here.  It just makes me feel better to be with her overnight. 

So, that's the news for today.  Keep praying for her recovery!  Dr. Rojas said this morning that since we don't know about the tumor yet, we have to focus on recovery and healing.  Pray that the Lord would quickly heal this large incision and that she would be feeling stronger and stronger.  Pray that her appetite would return and her pain would be managed well with the nurse.  It might sound silly, but anyone who's had surgery also knows, pray that she would be able to use the bathroom soon!  And pray for the doctors and nurses we are seeing, that we would be a witness to them--there's been a steady stream of people in all day, it seems.

And today, we're thankful for how we've seen so much progress in the last 24 hours!  Thankful for caring nurses and comfortable beds, for an excellent doctor and for pain meds that work.  We are most of all thankful for our Father's great and precious promises, that are true no matter our situation.  HIS word cannot fail, He is always faithful, He will carry us, and His grace is sufficient for us.  Last night I spent a long time reading in the Psalms to Mom--she just wanted to hear Scripture, so I read Ps. 34, 40, and then 90-100.  How encouraging to just let the Word flow over us, encourage and strengthen us.  Praise the Lord for his gracious love and care!

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust'...(the Lord speaking) "Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."  Psalm 91:1-2, 14-16.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Out of Surgery!

Mom is out of surgery! (warning: lots of medical details ahead!  Feel free to skim if you have a queasy stomach!)

It took longer than anticipated.  Dr. Rojas (the surgeon) told us this morning that if the tumor was benign they could be done with the surgery in 45 minutes.  If it looked like cancer, he thought the surgery would take "a couple" of hours.  As it was, when the time started going to an hour, then two, we were pretty concerned.  At times like this it is so good to be together!  I held my dad's hand for a long time, something I haven't done since I was a little girl.  What a blessing to be here.

Finally the text came through the pager saying that Mom was out of surgery and "the doctor will see you now."  We waited in a conference room and prayed and prayed to combat the fear that we were all feeling.  Finally Dr. Rojas came in.  The results of the surgery were fairly good.  Here is the good news: the tumor was contained to one large mass.  It had come from her right ovary and was a whole, round, smooth mass except for a small rupture on one side.  It literally looked like a watermelon (yes, they took pictures during the procedure and we looked at them afterwards).  It had not grown fingers around her internal organs, but was pushing them out of the way, which is why she felt uncomfortable even around to her back.  The mass weighed almost 20 pounds.  (20 pounds!)  Dr. Rojas removed both ovaries as well as a large amount of lymph on the right side. 

The mixed (not quite as good) news concerns the small rupture.  The tumor was full of a lot of mucous and some of that had leaked out.  By their analysis, the tumor was not clearly benign, but it was not clearly cancerous either.  So they will be doing more testing on it in the next week in order to tell what exactly was contained within that huge round mass.  As well, as Dr. Rojas removed the tumor there was some bleeding from the artery that was feeding the tumor, and that was a bit dicey to stitch up, which is also why the surgery took a bit longer than expected. 

But, on the whole, very good news.  Dr. Rojas said there is no need to talk about chemotherapy or anything like that yet.  The news for today is quite good, and we are so thankful.

I am thankful that this whole experience has been saturated with prayer, and it has been so very special for me to be here with my family.  SO very thankful for Dr. Rojas, his thoughtfulness, care and compassion were evident and such a gracious gift for our family. 

I'll post more later, Mom's in recovery now and we are going to try to get a bite to eat before she is moved back to her room.  We are rejoicing in the Lord's provision of grace and mercy to help in our time of need, and trusting Him for the future.  Thank you to you all for praying, don't stop!  Now we want to pray for: ease in recovery, no complications or infections, good management of the pain from the surgery and help from the Lord to keep a cheerful attitude and recover well!  And, praise the Lord for Dr. Rojas and his skilled hands and compassionate manner, the fact that Mom's blood sugars stayed stable during the whole procedure, the good care we are receiving at the hospital, and the blessing of being together as a family.  How good and gracious is our Lord to sustain us!  May we continue to look to Him for strength, help, and a trusting heart for the days ahead.  

Thank you again for praying!  We will keep looking to Him for all that we need!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Surgery Day

Just a quick update this morning:  Mom is now in surgery.  We arrived here at the hospital yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, May 3) and she got all checked in, prepped, and signed the forms necessary for today's procedure.  We were settled into her room last night by about 6pm and after dinner out, I stayed in her room for the night.  This morning very early they were getting Mom ready and she was wheeled into surgery around 7. 

Things to be thankful for today:
*We could not be more impressed with Dr. Rojas, Mom's surgeon.  Last night when he came to check in on her we told him that many, many people were praying for his hands.  Mom followed by saying that we were trusting God to work through him.  He then responded and said, "Yes, absolutely, we are just working together, He is my partner."  Wow!  Praise the Lord!  Trusting Him to guide Dr. Rojas' hands today.

*The care at the hospital is wonderful.  To my Asian eyes the hospital seems so clean, beautiful, even luxurious!  We also had a sweetheart of a nurse last night who was just a joy to have in the room.  Thankful!

*We are all here together.  My brother Mark drove in from Minnesota, my mom's brothers are both here, and even some friends from their home church came in a bit ago.  So good to be together!  We had some precious times of prayer last night and sang "My Jesus, I love Thee" together this morning before they wheeled Mom away.  Precious to be together in a time like this.

*Mom and I even had some sweet fellowship during the night.  She kept thinking of things to tell me in case she doesn't make it out of surgery.  I think it was helpful for her to tell me even though of course we pray that all those details won't be necessary.

Things to pray for:
*Dr. Rojas as he conducts the surgery.  Pray for wisdom, guidance, and skill as he does this complicated procedure.

*That the tumor would be benign.  Pray for no signs or traces of cancer!

*Pray that she would come out of the anesthesia well, that she wouldn't be sick to her stomach and her blood sugar would stay stable.

*Pray that she would feel remarkably well in recovery and would be able to get up and around soon as they want her to.

Thanks so much to all of you who are praying.  May the Holy Spirit guide us as we lift her up together!  I will update as soon as we know anything else.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Safely arrived

Hi everyone,
Thanks for praying for my safe arrival to the states.  My travel plans got changed slightly as the flight I was on from Tokyo to Chicago got cancelled  (it's never a good thing when you're supposed to be boarding and instead a little motorized tug pulls away the 747.  I don't think there were any extras in the garage!) and I had to stay overnight in Japan.  So I was delayed a day, but am now safely here and wanted to update everyone concerning my mom's situation.

We've gotten some more information from the doctors and yesterday Mom had an excellent meeting with an endocrinologist who will be monitoring her blood sugars throughout the procedure.  She felt encouraged at his determination to help her, not just through the surgery, but to try to determine some of the underlying health problems of her diabetes and muscle weakness.  He seemed to take a very holistic approach and spent a lot of time with her, asking questions about her medical history.  We hope he will be able to work more with her in the future to possibly bring her diabetes under better control.

The surgery is scheduled for 7am Wednesday (CDT) and Mom will be admitted this afternoon in order for them to do some of the preparatory procedures.  My brother Mark, my dad, and my mom's two brothers will all be there during the surgery so we are prepared for whatever may come.  As they operate, they will remove the tumor bit by bit and send it off to pathology even as she is on the operating table; if it comes back cancerous then they will also take some of the surrounding lymph nodes.  Also, there is a chance that the tumor has grown into her stomach or colon and in that case they will also need to surgically remove part of those organs.  So, we're anticipating that it will be a fairly long procedure, though of course there's no way to know for sure.

Please pray for us!  Pray for the surgeon to have skillful hands in removing the entirety of the tumor.  Pray for Mom's blood sugars to remain stable.  Pray for there to be no complications, and pray that the tumor will be found to be benign.  Most of all, though, pray that we will all use this opportunity to love Jesus more, to trust Him and His precious promises through this situation.  May the gospel become more precious and real to us.  May we have patience, wisdom, and perseverance as we face the future, confident in His goodness.  And, may we give glory and praise to our loving Father, may even our demeanor and attitudes in the waiting room and in interacting with hospital staff be glorifying to Him and the truth of the gospel.

All these things are especially poignant to me today as I arrived in the States to the news that our dear friend, Chip Stam, has gone to be with the Lord after a four year battle with cancer.  His joy in the Lord, enthusiasm for serving Him, and love for teaching and leading worship impacted so many.  He will be greatly missed, even as we rejoice that he is now free from cancer, from sin, from pain and sorrow, and truly alive in the presence of our beautiful King Jesus.  The family sent out a letter announcing his home-going in the most amazingly gospel-centered, Christ glorifying way.  I am encouraged, and remember Chip with joy even through my tears today.  Please pray for the Stams as they prepare for Chip's funeral and memorial service this weekend.  Chip was an example of someone who lived, trusting and hoping in Christ, and died in that joyful assurance that Jesus is his--forever.  Chip has truly safely arrived, to his forever home.  Amen!

So as I think about my mom today, I'm inspired to continue fighting the fight of faith, trusting in my precious Savior and loving Father.  The Lord was good to give me so much time on the plane and through that unplanned layover to spend with Him.  I was especially encouraged by Psalm 34, Philippians 1, and some worship music during my retreat-on-the-road.  What a gift to have that time!  I feel refreshed and ready for whatever may come this week.  I do long to serve my parents this week in a tangible way, to pray with them and for them, to be a light for the gospel wherever we go.  Thanks for praying with me.