January update

Happy New Year, everyone! May you find many reasons for joy and hope this year.

After about a month off, John is back on chemo again. His first treatment was on Friday, January 8. He lost his appetite (and 10 lbs.) over the weekend, but so far the other side effects haven’t kicked in yet. Basically he just slept a lot.

I gave him his first Grastofil injection today to help keep his white blood cell count up. Six more to go before the next chemo day on the 22nd. Being back on Grastofil means he can probably proceed with treatment uninterrupted until he and the doctor decide it’s time to take a break again. He’ll have another CT scan in about three months to re-evaluate.

Please continue to pray that the chemo will be effective, that God will give the doctors wisdom in their decision making, and that I will have the strength to take care of our family on the days when John is not feeling the best.

Keep praying for the baby too. My last ultrasound the week after Christmas showed she was growing normally, kicking and moving around, and she had a normal heartbeat, so we are very thankful for that. I found out earlier in December that I have gestational diabetes for the first time in my life, so I’ve had to monitor my blood glucose daily and follow a special diet, which so far has helped keep my numbers on target without the need for insulin shots — another thing I’m thankful for.

I’ll close with a little story to brighten your day. Sometimes I use Bible verses for the kids to practice their handwriting, and I stuck a copy of Philippians 4:13 on our fridge back when Harry was memorizing it. It’s been there for months. The other morning, he saw that I was tired and I must have seemed frazzled because he pointed to it and said, “Mom, just remember, whenever you feel weak, read this verse.” I just thought I’d share these words of wisdom from an 8-year-old for anyone else who could use the reminder today.

“I have learned the secret of living in every situation… I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’” Horatio G. Spafford

Uncertainty and Emmanuel

John asked me to write a brief update to let you all know how he’s doing. He feels great and has been able to work lots of hours lately. The reason for that, however, is that his most recent blood test showed he did not have enough neutrophils to go ahead with his last chemo treatment on November 26.

The oncologist decided to give him a short break from chemo to allow his bone marrow time to make more neutrophils (bacteria-attacking white blood cells). This will also give his surgical wound more time to heal. John is going back to show it to the surgeon on Monday, then he sees the oncologist again on Wednesday. He has another chemo treatment scheduled for Thursday, December 10, but that will be dependent on the status of his wound and whether he has enough neutrophils. If not they might postpone treatment till January and he will likely need Grastofil injections again.

Thank you for continuing to pray for our family. I realize that we are all living with some degree of uncertainty right now and facing the prospect of a different kind of Christmas than usual, so I want to share something that encouraged me this week.

Our church had sent us an Advent box with activities to do at home with the kids. Last week the theme was Hope, and one of the activities was to have them draw a picture of themselves in a scary situation (e.g. alone in a dark bedroom with a monster’s eyes peeking under the closet door). Then we talked about how Jesus is always with us and how the name Emmanuel, which we sing in a familiar Christmas carol, actually means “God with us.” Finally, the kids were asked to add one more thing to their drawing: Jesus standing right there beside them. To me, that was such a comforting reminder! Whatever our future holds, Jesus will be right there with us. Emmanuel.

“So do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be terrified. I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands. I always do what is right.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭NIRV‬‬

Magnolia, Harry and Daisy
Magnolia, Harry and Daisy

Home Again

I have more good news to report: John came home from the hospital this afternoon! He has two drainage bags still attached to his abdomen, but they look practically empty. Eventually, his home care nurse will remove them. In the meantime she’ll be checking on him daily.

Thank you again for all your prayers and support!

Great News!

The surgeon who checked in on John this morning was concerned that his abscess had not been drained yet. He said that Monday was way too long to wait and he would definitely push for it today.

Just to give a bit of background, when they insert the tubes through his skin to drain the infected fluid from his abdomen, they use medical imaging for guidance. Apparently the CT scan machine that they normally use was undergoing maintenance, but by using ultrasound instead, they were able to do the procedure this morning. Thank You, Lord! What an answer to prayer. John came back to his room to find lunch waiting for him: jello, broth and orange juice.

It may take a few days for the abscess to be fully drained. By this evening, John said that his pain had already started to subside a little. We still haven’t heard when exactly he will be able to come home, but at least we are one step closer to that happening.

I know our church was lifting us up in prayer last night at the weekly prayer meeting, and many others were praying as well, so thank you! I’m so grateful to the brothers and sisters in Christ who have brought us meals and helped in practical ways (you know who you are). Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Today was Maggie’s birthday, by the way. Daisy’s was last week, and thankfully John was still at home then. Although he didn’t get to be with us in person today, he still joined in watching her open her present and blow out her candles via FaceTime. She was a very happy three-year-old. All in all, it was a very good day.

Waiting…

John wasn’t able to have the drains put in today. Unfortunately, unless there is a cancellation, he won’t be able to get them until Monday. At least his pain is under control and he is able to rest. His fever that he had last night is gone too. They moved him to the inpatient surgery unit this morning and are keeping him on a diet of ice chips so he will be ready just in case there is a spot to fit him in. Thanks for all your messages of encouragement and prayers. They mean a lot. Please pray that God will make a way for him to get the procedure he needs, that Lord-willing he can come home to us sooner rather than later.

Back in the hospital

John seemed to be doing so well last week, but over the past couple days the pain in his belly increased unbearably. Tonight, an emergency CT scan revealed that he has a 12-inch abscess in his abdomen, something that the ER doctor said tends to present itself around this time, two weeks post-surgery. It basically means that a great deal of pus is accumulating in his belly as his immune system mobilizes to fight infection. The pressure from the pus is causing his pain. Tomorrow they will drain it and likely give him antibiotics. He will have to stay in the hospital for four to five days. While I can’t say we’re thrilled about this, it is a relief to know the cause of his sudden severe pain and that they can fix it soon. I’m also thankful that he didn’t have to wait very long in the ER this afternoon. He went in around 2 and had the CT scan around 7:30. In the meantime, he got to be in a private room with his own bathroom and they gave him morphine to cope with the pain. The kids and I got to FaceTime him while we ate our supper (still no visitors allowed obviously). Please keep us in your prayers as we get through the rest of this week!

Post-surgery Update

I know many of you were praying for John today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! His surgery got delayed by over two hours, and when he woke up about two more hours after that, he texted me to say, “I am alive.” What a welcome message that was. He was able to call and say hi to the kids too. Since visitors are still not allowed at the hospital right now, I’m glad we can stay connected through our phones. Tonight he was tired and in a bit of pain, but otherwise “great,” eating jello and drinking clear liquids. Lord willing, he should be discharged in a few days once he is eating a normal diet and his bowels start functioning again. Our daughters both have birthdays coming up in the next couple of weeks (turning 5 and 3) so it would be the best present of all to have Daddy home. Whatever happens, I know we remain in God’s hands, and as always we are immeasurably grateful for your prayers.

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭33:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

January Update

It’s almost time to mix up this drink again! John’s CT scan is happening Monday, January 27. He has a follow-up appointment with the oncologist booked for the following Tuesday, February 4. As you may recall, the doctors are hoping to find out how much cancer is left in his liver, and where, so they can decide what to do about it. After that, the colorectal surgeon will discuss reversing the stoma and reactivating his colon.

Many are asking how John is doing. He is keeping busy as usual with his software development/consulting work. The fact that he is able to work from home has been such a blessing, and it meant that he didn’t have to take much time off after the surgery. He is still slowly gaining back all the weight he lost in the hospital. He says it still hurts a little to cough but other than that he seems to have fully recovered from the surgery. Let’s put it this way: he got the all-clear to lift small children and shovel snow again. (Yay!) He’s getting used to having the ostomy bag, and all that entails (changing and emptying it as needed). At first it was a two-person job but now I don’t even notice when he gets up in the middle of the night to empty it. I guess he would say it’s a minor inconvenience. There are much worse things.

It was almost a year ago when I first sent my desperate prayer request to as many brothers and sisters in Christ as I possibly could and John created this blog to keep everyone updated. Thank you for sticking it out with us for this long!

In summary, John is alive and well right now and we praise God for that. Thank you for continuing to pray for us, as God continues to provide abundantly for all our needs. You can expect another update from us after we talk to the oncologist in February. Until then, may God our Father surround you with His grace and peace.

Life Without A Colon

It’s been three weeks since John’s ileostomy and we are adjusting to his new (hopefully temporary) lifestyle. As the stoma nurse put it, his colon has been put on holiday for awhile (she guessed about six months) until his rectum heals from the two surgeries. That means that for now, all his food is passing through his small intestine then exiting his body through an opening in his right side called a stoma. There is a sealed bag around his stoma that has to be emptied several times a day. He must add extra sodium and potassium to his diet and drink lots of water to make up for what is not being absorbed by his colon. For the time being, he also has to avoid certain foods that might increase the risk of a blockage which could land him back in the hospital.

He doesn’t have a lot of energy these days but he manages to make it up and down the stairs at least once (sometimes twice) a day and he is able to walk to the bathroom and kitchen table for most meals. He has even been able to sit at his desk for short periods of time, allowing him to catch up on some work. He has a post-op appointment with the surgeon next Friday, so hopefully by then he will be ready to be out and about.

He definitely lost weight in the hospital; he’s about 20 lbs. thinner than he was before the surgery. He has not lost his sense of humour though. This morning one of the kids did something that made him laugh so hard it made his incision hurt. He’s glad to be home, glad to be alive. He asked me to write this update just to let you all know that he’s doing ok and to thank you once again for your prayers and support!