Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Update from Rochester

John and I, the girls, and my mom and dad have all been here in Rochester, MN since Monday afternoon.  We are working on day four of appointments this week, after Mom and Dad spent about three days in appointments two weeks ago.  Here's what we know so far about Dad's condition:

The problems that Dad is experiencing--difficulty with processes or sequences, flat emotions, no energy for social interactions, weight loss of more than 60 pounds in the last 6 months, and other bowel and bladder issues, are NOT a result of the heart attacks that he had.  Various tests have been done and we have now finished up with the cardiologist.  There is scarring and some damage that was done to the heart, but the cardiologist felt that those issues were separate from the other, more pressing problems that Dad is experiencing.  His heart is not functioning well, but it does not seem to be a cause of the other problems--the cardiologist felt that the problems had an underlying neurological root.

As well, the endocrinologist found several "worrisome" lumps on Dad's thyroid and biopsied them on Tuesday.  He found that one lump was not a problem and the other did contain "abnormal" cells but they will wait to look at that again for 2-3 months.  So, we have essentially finished up with the endocrinologist. 

Dad did see a gastroenterologist on Tuesday and they have ordered a colonoscopy as well as an endoscopy, those (yucky, no-fun but necessary) tests will be performed next week.  However the gastroenterologist also felt that there was something neurological behind the weight loss, especially--they will do those tests just to make sure that there isn't anything physically obstructing his body from absorbing his food.

Another area Dad was seen in was psychiatry.  This doctor also felt that Dad's problems were NOT depression, but had a neurological basis.  Depression had been a previous diagnosis in the past months, Dad was even on some medication at one point, but this psychiatrist did not feel that was accurate.  However, he left a caveat in his report saying that if neurology couldn't find anything, he would take a closer look at Dad's condition again. 

We were thankful to at least have several areas ruled out, and all seemed to be leading up to the important meeting with the neurologist yesterday afternoon.  Mom went with Dad into the appointment, which was about an hour and a half long.  The doctor put Dad through quite the "tests"--draw a clock for me, it's twenty after 11, touch your right ear with your left hand, do this math problem, remember these four things (then asked him about the 4 things 10 minutes later), take off your shoes, stand on one foot, etc.  Dad actually performed very well in all of those things and cooperated well.

The conclusions at the end of the appointment were that this neurologist felt that Dad clearly does NOT have Alzheimer's disease.  He said that even patients with early-onset Alzheimer's could not have done the tests that Dad could do.  So, there must be something else going on.  This morning we are waiting for Dad to finish a two hour test of thinking and memory skills, and a PET scan has been scheduled for this afternoon.  This is a heavy-duty radiation test where they will add glucose to the radiation and watch how every cell in his body responds to the glucose.  There has been a mention of potential frontal lobe deterioration or damage in his brain, though likely it is not related to his heart attacks.  Hopefully the next few tests will tell a bit more.

So, though we may not be finding anything treatable, it is very good to know that this is not Alzheimer's, and that they are getting closer and closer to finding out what is wrong.  As well,  I think it is a matter of peace of mind for my mom and our whole family to know that we are doing all we can for Dad. 

After today's appointments, John and I will drive to visit his mom in Winthrop, MN, and Mom and Dad will head home.  Next week they will have to return for appointments on Thursday and Friday, but we don't know if that will be the last trip.  The internist who is overseeing Dad's entire case will eventually compile everything together that has been amassed from all of the various doctors and tests.  That appointment has not been scheduled yet so there is certainly more to come.

Thank you all so much for your prayers.  I am very thankful that we are here, in the States.  These issues with my dad were not even on our radar screen when we were feeling led to come back to the States but I am so very glad that we are here.  The Lord knew! And, I have really enjoyed my time with Mom and Dad at Mayo as well.  Mom booked a hotel with a fun pool and has been taking us out to eat all the time, so we're trying to enjoy the time together as best we can under the circumstances!  Mom had great fun buying (too many) Christmas gifts for the girls and last night we found a fun scrapbook store where she could browse for her favorite hobby.  I'm so thankful we can be together! 

We're trusting the Lord for whatever the future holds.  His path for each of us is unique but we can be assured that He is walking with us and loves us dearly, so much so that His only precious Son humbled Himself to be born into this world, lived, died and rose again to purchase our redemption.  Praise Him for His glorious grace!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Milk and Cookies's Christmas.  I should be packing.  Or washing dishes.  Or cleaning up the disaster-that-was-formerly-known-as-the-girls'-room.  Or finishing some holiday baking.  Or cleaning out the refrigerator.  (you get the idea).

But, I'm taking a moment to sit this afternoon and thought I'd seize the moment and post some pictures!

Yay for pictures!

This is a flashback to our fall music class, titled "Milk and Cookies" that I taught to my girls, my two nieces, and our friends' two girls.  We had a class of seven and the girls LOVED having Music Time each Friday morning.  I enjoyed it too!  (Though they may have enjoyed seeing their friends as much as the music!)

We used some Kindermusik curriculum and instruments that my mom passed on to me.  Such fun!  Here's a glimpse:

 Dancing to some music--the girls loved to dance around the big table!

 Doing some fun activities with jingle bells.  "Bells are ringing, listen to them ringing..."

 "I'm a little Teapot" was part of this particular week's line-up of activities!

 There was always a story time--here we are reading "Zin, zin, zin, a Violin!"  Fun!

We finished our last day by having some lunch together--corn chowder in bread bowls, and of course some milk and cookies! 

I'm so thankful that we could have such a fun experience with music this fall!  The girls (all coming from musical family) already did so well the the basics like keeping a steady beat, matching pitch, and things like that.  My only challenge was keeping them on task--it was so fun to be together with friends that sometimes they forgot they were also in class!  But the overall time together was very good.  We enjoyed it!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Contemplating Christmas

I just have to say it:  It's very strange being in the States for Christmas.  I feel a little displaced.  Shouldn't I be hosting about 10 outreach parties, baking up a storm, and planning our family Christmas and Clara Anne's birthday celebration?

Instead I am being bombarded with advertisements, feeling the pressure to do a bunch of Christmas shopping, and not sure how Christmas is going to play out for us this year.

Now, don't get me wrong, Christmas in Asia wasn't always easy.  The first year we lived overseas, we were in the hospital preparing for the birth of this little sweetie:

It was wonderful and precious to become parents on Christmas Day, 2004, but not exactly a tradition we wanted to keep up every year thereafter!  :)

Our second year we hosted so many outreach parties, including two on Christmas day, that by the time the 26th rolled around we were dead tired and John got almost deathly sick.  He was about as bad as I've ever seen him with the flu.  All of my plans for starting new Christmas traditions were scrapped in favor of tea and toast. 

By our third year overseas, we had talked a bit more about what we hoped Christmas would be for our family and come up with the start of some traditions.  We also had teammates by that point and so started some traditions with them, like this one, gathering together for a special Christmas worship service and carol sing:

As time went on, we did develop some of our own traditions that our girls love.  A special joy this year was unpacking all of the Christmas items and the girls squealing in delight as they remembered our Jesse tree, the cross-stitched Advent calendar, the wooden nativity set, etc.  We loved celebrating Christmas as a family on Christmas Eve and then reserving the 25th as Clara Anne's special birthday celebration. 

So, why does it feel so different this year?  One reason relates to my dad's health and my parents' situation.  We just are not sure what will be happening in the next weeks.  We are eagerly anticipating the appointment at Mayo Clinic on the 14th but what will happen after that is almost impossible to predict.  Also, we will not be in our own home.  We will be at my parents' home, which is even better than being at home!--but it will feel different.  The girls have already asked if we can take along our Jesse tree and some other special items; we'll plan to do that and continue some of our traditions that way.

I also feel, though, that there is more rush-rush-bustle-hurry in the States at Christmas than I had experienced overseas.  There's more pressure to buy, buy, BUY and even though we don't want Christmas to be just about buying things, it's hard to know how to deal with all of it exactly.  I trust this will be something we learn better how to manage when we've been here longer.  For now, our plan is to give the girls each one (nicer) gift which we will shop for together, plus a few small things in their stockings.  We'll see how it all turns out!

For the moment, I am trying to savor special Advent readings and Christmas stories, enjoy the lights and music of the season, and spend extra time in the Word as we contemplate the miracle of Immanuel.  Though I'm not doing lots of baking, and I only had one outreach party, I am thankful to be here this Christmas.  It will be a gift beyond price to be with my parents in this difficult time, and it is a joy to see my girls continuing to grow in their love for Jesus and their desire to know Him more as we read our Jesse tree Scriptures, learn Christmas carols, and remind ourselves of the truth that Love came down at Christmas. 

How about you?  What Christmas traditions are you looking forward to celebrating?