Follow-up MRI and Appointment: Hopeful and Afraid

From James:

We received inconclusive news from the doctor about So Young’s brain tumor today. Part of the tumor might have become fast growing. Then again, that same part of the tumor might be succumbing to the radiation treatment. Dr. Redmond believes it is probably the latter, but there is enough uncertainty that she is presenting So Young’s case before Johns Hopkins’s tumor board again next Monday. If they believe it might be fast-growing, they will probably recommend another needle biopsy to verify, but Dr. Redmond believes that they will agree with her assessment that it probably isn’t fast-growing.

(If you aren’t interested in the medical details, skip the next paragraph.)

Brain tumor MRIs are usually performed “with contrast,” meaning with an injected agent that can cause part or all of a tumor to appear more white in the image. My understanding is that the whiter all or part of a brain tumor looks in the image, the more likely that part of the tumor is suffused with many blood vessels and therefore faster growing. However, radiation itself can also cause parts of an otherwise slow-growing tumor to appear whiter, even though the cells themselves are still slow-growing. Three months ago, Dr. Redmond saw a small spot like this on So Young’s tumor and said it was not a cause for concern. But now the spot is perhaps twice as big and much whiter. She said this could mean that something is going on within the tumor vascularly as it deteriorates, but it could also indicate faster-growing cells. She said it was rare for tumors to become fast-growing “this soon.” Still, she wants a larger panel of experts (the tumor board) to offer their opinion as well.

So Young was very upset when she heard this news. She despaired that she might lose her life, and understandably so. I prayed for her and encouraged her not to assume the worst, since the worst probably isn’t true anyway, and we can’t know the future. Her point of view has improved considerably throughout the day, largely because of the prayers and encouragement of friends and family. She feels confident now that we will see a good outcome.

We have many earthly reasons to be hopeful. Her fatigue has improved. Her appetite is better. Her eyesight hasn’t deteriorated more. All of that is true. But as Kenji has said, these are ordinary hopes. We have a more extraordinary hope, no matter what happens, and that is our hope in Christ. He is very familiar with what So Young is going through. He shared our sufferings on this earth, even unto death. Because of Christ, So Young is confident of a very long life as well, here or with him — it doesn’t matter to her.

Remember early on, when I wrote that driving to and from Johns Hopkins was like going to church? We would sing hymns all along the way. Today it was something different. Maybe a different kind of church? Lacrae was blasting in the car, the bass pumping. Imagine a nerdy white guy like me and a Korean lady “bustin’ rhymes” as they say (or do they say that?) the length of 95. At first So Young cried on the way back, but pretty soon her demeanor changed. She was ready to fight.


7 Responses

  1. Hi Guys.
    I could not help thinking of your ordeal & praying for you all day. Human wisdom can only take us so far. .. Even if individuals were to make you promises, that ought to make you very uneasy: it ought to make you question: “How the heck can they be SO sure.”

    Thanks for your sweet & encouraging comment back to the last “When things are looking bad, Look up” homily.

    Maybe you are aware of this one, but again, in the stinking hot last Friday, I ended up staring @ the Gettysburg battlefields for half an hour, re-routed due to a crash on Rt 15 North. All that dysentary, gore & sorrow, and for what? A nation torn apart.

    Any, nobody knows who penned this, but I am grateful that he did. I think your marathon running & cooperatively putting your self in God’s hands is starving the rebel cells under seige. You just keep loving God with all your heart, with all your soul & w/ all your might.


    Author Unknown,

    I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
    I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
    I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
    I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
    I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
    I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
    I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
    I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
    I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
    I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
    I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
    Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
    I am among all men most richly blessed.

    • Thank you Ellen. God blesses me and mine through you.

  2. Soo Young,

    Praying for His extraordinary hope lives and fills your heart in all things.


  3. Ruby, you have shown all of us how to carry a heavy burden with grace. I’m thinking of you, James and the girls and sending prayers and positive thoughts your way.

  4. Praying that the tumor to just glowing from all that radiation and there are NO fast growing cells. We want to see a miracle and we are believing in one.

    Sending prayers and good thoughts to you and family. We are a few of your prayer warriors and will ask for healing..

  5. Praying with faith that God will heal you completely. He loves you with an everlasting love. His love endures forever.

  6. Dearest Friends,

    Very few things in my life right now bring me to such a sobering moment as these posts about So Young. I don’t know precisely what your perspective is on how you are handling this health challenge, but I thank God for your strength, courage, and raw honesty as you endure this wilderness experience.

    I do want to encourage you both to remember that God has done some pretty incredible things with His people in a wilderness experience. Job lost everything, Moses went from the Prince of Egypt to running in the desert in a nanosecond, Noah endured a lifetime of ridicule building a gigantic sea fortress before it had ever rained. Jeremiah 31:2 speaks of God’s grace in the midst of our wilderness experiences. Mark 1:4 brings a message of good news in the wilderness. In Mark 1:13, Jesus was given sustenance during His wilderness experience. And Isaiah 35:1 reminds us that we should actually rejoice in the wilderness.

    Not only does the Lord use wilderness experiences to teach us about ourselves; more importantly he allows us to endure them to teach us about His absolute faithfulness. The children of Israel were led into the wilderness, as was Jesus. Remember that God is sovereign and the purpose of our struggle is to teach us, to lead us, and to prepare us for the journey ahead.

    Stay strong my friends. I love you

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