Archive for July, 2011

Six Months After Treatment
July 31, 2011

From James:

Almost six months ago, So Young completed radiation treatment for her brain tumor. The doctors have told us that the radiation does its work for six months or so after treatment ends. That is to say, if it is going to destroy tumor cells, it will do so not only during treatment but up to six months afterward. Of course, it has longer lasting effects as well, such as possibly stopping or slowing the growth of the tumor. Radiation can add years to a person’s life, so it’s a big deal.

Here is how So Young is doing six months out:

  • Vision — The same or perhaps slightly better. Certainly, her light sensitivity has decreased. The black spot in the middle of one eye has dissipated, although in both eyes everything is still obscured with “static.” No driving. Reading only with great effort. (But she has become a big GodTube nerd. Go figure.)
  • Seizures — So Young used to experience some auditory and visual hallucinations that possibly indicate focal seizures. These have decreased significantly, and she is going to be entirely off Keppra, the anti-seizure medication, in about a week. Then she will be completely drug free, also a big milestone.
  • Memory loss — So Young thinks she still has trouble with short-term memory, but it doesn’t seem to be anything life-affecting. It could just be confusion caused by a loss of eyesight and MOTB (Mommy on the Brain) Syndrome.
  • Balance — She did better on her balance test the last time she saw the doctor. She couldn’t walk in a straight line foot-to-foot very well before. That could also be a vision thing.
  • Hair loss — All the hair she lost from the radiation is growing back quite well — same color, same texture.

I can’t immediately think of much else. Basically, it’s all about vision, vision, vision.

Psychologically, So Young is handling everything remarkably well. Several people (including me) have observed that she doesn’t complain much. She also isn’t often depressed, although I wouldn’t say she is never sad.  If anything, she has a lot of joy and renewed purpose in her life. She jokes and laughs a lot. She has these amazing divine encounters with other people. Strange coincidences that can only be explained by God happen to her. She has so many wise things to say right now. She is living life with a keen understanding of its fragility and therefore what matters is in the forefront for her now more than ever. I married well.

So Young and I are asking that everyone who believes would continue to pray that her vision will come back and that the brain tumor will shrink. So Young wants nothing short of a miracle. The end of radiation gives God a chance to do a miracle without people crediting it to medicine.

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So many prayer requests for others:

  • I mentioned Pannie’s mom on the blog before, how she was suffering from cancer. She has passed away.
  • Our dear friend Elaine, very recently married to KT, is recovering from surgery and awaiting the results of a biopsy for a tumor that was removed.
  • My cousin Elizabeth’s unborn baby has been diagnosed with Edwards syndrome.
  • My grandfather has been having some health issues recently. He is in his 80’s.
  • A church member’s daughter is back in the hospital.
  • Thomas’s dad died last week.
  • ABC’s Haiti missions team is serving in earnest starting this week.

There are many needs unmentioned above. We’re praying for them, and if you think of it, please pray too!

Gifts Beyond Measure
July 25, 2011

From James:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12:12

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

Today we received tremendous news from Johns Hopkins. So Young’s brain tumor is no longer “lit up” on the MRI. This means that it does not have evidence of fast-growing cells anymore. Dr. Kristen Redmond, our radiation oncologist, described the MRI as “perfect” and said that the white area on the tumor is “diminished significantly, if not gone.” It turns out that the previous MRI showed a short-term side effect of the radiation that was more an indication of tumor cells being destroyed than new tumor cells growing. The tumor has not gotten smaller and is not expected to, at least from the perspective of the doctors. Also, we continue to pray that So Young’s eyesight will be restored.

So Young has a Grade 2 astrocytoma, and that type of tumor can become fast-growing (Grade 3 or 4), but hers has not. We got a taste of what it might feel like if such a thing were to happen. But more than anything, today we also got a taste of God’s goodness.

Early on, many people dropped everything to drive So Young to Baltimore. Still more people provided meals for us, for almost 8 months straight. Now they have given up food and sleep to pray for us. That is the most tangible and significant gift they could have given: faithfulness, trust in God, self-sacrifice, prayer, and hope. You really bore a great burden with us. We would be lying if we said we were never afraid, but we felt protected and confident all along because of you, our family.

So many good things happened this week. Over fifty people fasted and prayed. Wednesday was So Young’s birthday, and her friends lavished her with love and honor. A couple who has already been so kind to us offered (unsolicited, a surprise to us) to let us use their beach house later in the summer, free of charge. Those are just a few examples from this week among many. And I don’t know why, but I honestly felt like all the good things meant that something bad was going to happen, like God was cushioning the blow for bad news. He was not. He was preparing us for more blessings.

Isn’t that just like God? He isn’t only merciful, holding back punishment from us, born his enemies. He is abundantly gracious, lavishing gifts beyond measure on his adopted children.

How do we respond? How are we going to live our lives differently after God has given us so much? These are questions that So Young and I have been asking ourselves since this all started. We don’t have concrete answers yet, but we know that we want to pour out the same love we have received.

I don’t know that we will be able to keep up.

MRI Tomorrow
July 24, 2011

From James:

The MRI tomorrow could turn out one of three ways, as I see it: good, bad, or inconclusive. (Kind of obvious, right?) An inconclusive or bad MRI that is “lit up” about the same as the previous image (or more) would probably result in another needle biopsy to determine whether there are Grade 3 or 4 cells in the tumor, indicating fast-growing cells (“malignancy” — although I’d characterize anything that damages your brain as malignant). A good MRI would be one in which the white area in the image has diminished or no longer exists. This would almost certainly mean that the brain tumor is deteriorating. I can’t say that this is exactly how the professionals at Johns Hopkins would evaluate the situation, but it is my guess.

People skipped meals and prayed for us all week. As I write this entry, people are praying “round the clock” for So Young. Instead of skipping meals, many are skipping sleep to pray at 12 a.m., 1 a.m., 2 a.m., etc. The prayers started at 5 p.m. today and will end around the time we find out the results tomorrow. Over fifty people (55 last I heard) have been involved in fasting and praying for So Young. I’m sure many more are praying that didn’t formally sign up to do so. This is truly a great gift to us.

I won’t post anything on the blog until I get home tomorrow afternoon, but I will likely tweet a status update after the doctor talks to us about the results of the MRI. Click here to view my tweets. So Young will get the MRI at around 9:40 a.m. The appointment with the radiation oncologist to discuss the results will start around 11 a.m. and will probably last less than an hour.

God bless you! Thanks for your prayers. What a great family you are.

Turtle!

The Girls and Their Cousin (Olivia, Left) Show Off a Turtle They Found Behind the House Earlier this Week

 

Happy Birthday, So Young and Mom!
July 20, 2011

From James:

Happy birthday to my two favorite ladies in the world! (For those of you who don’t know, my mom and So Young share the same birthday.)

I hope you enjoy your day. You deserve much honor today and every day.

So Young, you are a gift from God to me, the girls, and so many others. When I read this passage recently, it really resonated with me and how grateful I am for you: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22). You surpass them all. Also, the amazing thing about you is that, no matter how many years go by, you still seem so young! (That joke just never gets old…)

Mom, I “arise and call you blessed.” You continue to be an unsurpassed blessing to all of us. The way you live your life — in service, love, and self-sacrifice, without complaint, just striving to follow Christ — is so worthy of our God. Every day you show so much love for us in so many ways.

 

 

So Young and the Girls on SY's B-day

So Young and the Girls after She Opened Her Presents on Her Birthday

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I hope everybody will join me in praying for our friend Pannie’s mom, who is very, very ill with stomach cancer. She hasn’t eaten in two days and is sleeping constantly. Things seem dire, but we know God can do all things. So Young and I have been heavy-hearted this week with all of the needs we see around us, but we’re praying for many people and lifting them up to God.

At least 30 people have signed up to pray and/or fast for So Young this week as we await a follow-up MRI on Monday. This is an amazing blessing to us. So Young says that she feels a lot of peace, even more so because of the prayers being lifted up for her.

Praying for So Young
July 17, 2011

From James:

Once again, I want to report something amazing that Ambassador Bible Church is doing for So Young: Peter Morris, the Children’s Ministry Director and a longtime friend of ours, has set up a prayer and fasting schedule for So Young in anticipation of the appointment next week to determine whether the tumor has become fast-growing.

From tomorrow (Monday, July 18) through next Sunday (July 24) you can sign up to fast (give up) a meal and pray for So Young, and “round the clock” July 24 – 25 you can sign up for an hour during which you will pray for her. You can sign up for everything online. It’s easier to understand if you see it. Just click here.

To help those who are praying for So Young, I have added a new page to the blog: Prayer Requests. We know that there are many, many needs out there, not just ours, but we are grateful that you are remembering us, too.

This is just one of the gifts we received this weekend. Mom and Dad watched the girls while we went on a local getaway for So Young’s birthday, which will actually be this Wednesday. So Young received a beautiful, embroidered jacket from my Aunt Cynthia, along with an inspirational book. We received several days of food from our friend Caroline. Mom also presented So Young with a delicious birthday cake that she commissioned from our friend Stephanie, the proprietor of Sweet Jubilee Cakes.

Also, earlier in the week, So Young heard from Sara that someone wanted to donate their bib number to So Young so that she can run the Marine Corps Marathon in October. So Young had to decline because she is taking a break from full marathons this year, but that’s a very thoughtful and generous thing to do.

I wanted to share something from a book I’m reading called The Overcoming Life by D.L. Moody: “…We walk by faith. Second Corinthians 5:7, ‘For we walk by faith, not by sight.’ The most faulty Christians I know are those who want to walk by sight. They want to see the end — how a thing is going to come out. This isn’t walking by faith at all — that is walking by sight.”

I found this convicting because honestly, I am often one of those who wants to “see the end.” That will drive you crazy in this life, because there is no end to the ends you’ll be anxious to know. It is better to “let tomorrow worry about itself,” as Jesus said. We may as well acknowledge our blindness to the future anyway rather than worrying about it, praying and hoping for the best, which is what God wants for us anyway, even if we don’t agree with him about what that means.

Here are a few photographs from the weekend.

Mom, the Girls, and One of the Kitties

Mom, the Girls, and Cheddar

Purple Shirt

Guys Can Wear Purple Shirts, Too, Right?

Birthday Cake

So Young with the Awesome Cake!

Can’t Touch This!
July 12, 2011

From So Young:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

I have been spending these days and months pondering the sweet truth of the Word. I don’t know where I’d be without the hope and joy found in it, but lately the mystery of his love for me.  Why me? Why should He love me? Why would He send his one and only Son to take on a penalty that I/we fully deserve?  It seems that when we need him most, in our darkest hour, He meets us where we are, providing what the world cannot give. He comes to save us, to rescue us from destruction. What a  merciful God! What a loving Father!

The enormity of love He has for me, for us, is like I’m hearing for the first time something I’ve known all my life. Sometimes I think this time of affliction has been a blessing in disguise. God has the best sense of humor, for in my blindness I see him most clearly.  He’s revealing so powerfully that Jesus is the true treasure that I seek. Moth and rust… Ha! Can’t touch this!

Chasing glory!

So Young

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:22-23

P.S.

This is a really inspiring video (Chris Tomlin’s I Lift My Hands) that you should check out:

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FJ0J9CNU

A Hopeful Sign
July 7, 2011

From James:

On Monday morning, So Young realized that her left eye has regained some of its sight. Previously, it was her worst eye, which makes sense, because the brain tumor is mostly on the right side of her brain. In that eye, the vision was very blurry (as it continues to be in both eyes), but there was something like a black spot in the middle of her field of vision. The black spot appears to be dissipating. Her vision has by no means been restored, but this is a hopeful sign.

A severe loss of vision — near-blindness — continues to be the primary symptom of So Young’s brain tumor. It affects everything she does. I remember being heartbroken early on when she said, “I just want my vision back. I want to see my babies again” (referring to our three girls). It would mean so much for her to get it back. We are thanking God and continue to pray for complete healing. Thank you for many of you who are continuing to pray.

Five Months After Treatment
July 2, 2011

From James:

We are one month away from that “magical” six-month point after radiation, the time at which Johns Hopkins said that the work of radiation will be finished. (Radiation actually ended on February 2, but its effect lasts longer.) Dr. Redmond has been very clear that this might stop tumor growth rather than shrinking it, saying “we would be perfectly happy” with that outcome. We are also 25 days away from the next MRI, which So Young and I are eagerly anticipating, because it might provide more insight regarding the recent lit up MRI.

A new sort of normal life continues for us. So Young is on a mission to keep the kids active this summer, walking or riding bikes with the kids when she would have previously driven. Mom and I are driving the kids when necessary.

The kids are now planning to do a “triathlon” with So Young by the end of the summer, which will entail biking to the pool, swimming a few laps, and then running around the pond several times. (And then I guess they’ll have to ride their bikes home!)  So Young has been a good influence on all of us.

Here’s one of the triathletes now…

Audrey Biking

Audrey Riding with Her Backpack Named “Fat Cat”