Archive for March, 2012

Probably a Migraine
March 19, 2012

From James:

As I saw it, there were two-worst case possible causes of So Young’s extreme headache on Thursday that resulted in a trip to the ER: intracranial pressure (ICP) or bleeding in the brain. Today’s MRI and the subsequent consultation confirmed that it was neither. Dr. Redmond, our radiation oncologist at Johns Hopkins, said that So Young’s tumor looks “terrific” (as tumors go) and essentially unchanged since our last visit six weeks ago. This is a relief, because a year ago, So Young had two similar headaches, and at that time our neurosurgeon was considering installing a shunt to relieve the pressure in her brain. Dr. Redmond suggested that we talk to our family practice doctor about the possibility that it is a migraine and approaches for preventing a recurrence.

My main concern is to have a plan for differentiating between harmless and harmful headaches in So Young in the future. Dr. Redmond said that she immediately became concerned about bleeding in the brain when she heard about So Young’s headache and nausea on Thursday. She said that a trip to the ER was the right thing to do. However, she agreed that the trip doesn’t need to be repeated every time such a headache occurs. I simply need to be able to tell the difference between it and something more serious.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support over the past few days. Mom and Dad really stepped in today. Mom cared for the girls after school and fed us all a feast for dinner. Dad took over when she had to go to her Bible study, while So Young and I were still driving home, doing the Tour of DC Traffic from Baltimore to Woodbridge.

Mom and Dad, we’re so grateful for you. We aspire daily to be the kind of great parents you are, and we hope to be the same kind of grandparents as well someday.


A Trip to the ER
March 15, 2012

From James (with parts excerpted from an email I wrote to my Dads’ Group, great guys who have been a tremendous encouragement to me over the past nine years):

So Young woke up today with a dull headache that eventually became a huge one, accompanied with nausea, that resulted in her calling me at work in tears, asking for help. On a scale of 1-10, this was a 10 in terms of pain, she said. Our family doctor said to go to the ER, so I took her. The ER doctor ordered a CT scan, which showed no bleeding or anything like that, but only the tumor and a slight possibility that it might have encroached into an area it hadn’t been before. (The “encroachment” bit isn’t something we’re really worried about, because CT scans aren’t detailed enough to definitively indicate such things, or so the doctor said.) Anyway, her headache subsided by the afternoon, and she is asleep now, exhausted. Johns Hopkins wants us to have our follow-up MRI six weeks early now because of this, so it will probably be next week-ish instead of April 30.

I’d appreciate if you would pray for this particular aspect of So Young’s health. She has only had three major headache events like this in the past year that have left her crying, and she has a high tolerance for pain. As you might imagine, intense headaches are a common symptom of brain tumors and have you thinking that something very bad is happening.

Much thanks to Laurie for stepping in at the last minute to watch the little ones while we were at the hospital today. Amazing friend. She even gave us a present when we came to pick up the girls! They left her house in very good spirits, more so than at the end of an average school day. Thanks also for everyone’s responses to yesterday’s post. These encourage us more than you know.

Old Friends
March 14, 2012

From James:

So Young’s condition has remained largely the same over the past few months. She is generally in good health (under the circumstances) and most definitely in good spirits. She is often tired and weak. Originally, we thought that this was just hypothyroidism brought on by the tumor and radiation, but having met with an endocrinologist, we discovered that it is most likely hypopituitarism, which in turn causes hypothyroidism and other issues.

This is how it works. So Young’s tumor is in her thalamus. The thalamus affects the hypothalamus, which in turn affects the pituitary, which in turn affects the thyroid and various other things. The pituitary is compromised indirectly, so it doesn’t do its job of commanding the thyroid properly, causing lethargy, muscle weakness and pain, etc. And oh by the way a lack of desire to run (the infamous “exercise intolerance”).

Hence the marathon is entirely metaphorical at the moment. Sadly, neither of us is running the Historic Half this year either, although a dear friend is training to run it in So Young’s name.

Even though not much has changed recently, So Young is “energized,” she says, by all of the people who still come up to her and say that they are praying for her or ask how she is doing. There’s nothing we want more than your prayers right now.

So Young feels that her close-up vision is improving. When she brings something like that up, you know it is significant. Evidently your prayers are working.

This past weekend was remarkable in that God brought several old friends to us for encouragement, one a church friend from perhaps seven or more years ago, and others college friends from 15+ years ago. I have been puzzling over why God did this all at once. What message is He trying to send us? I think that I see one message there about suffering and what it means to the Christian. Christianity has a very rich and complete perspective on suffering. After all, our God suffered on earth as a man. What more is there to say?

So among the old friends we saw this weekend some have suffered greatly over these past years, with emotionally devastating circumstances and even facing death itself. Of course, you look at old friends and ask yourself, “How has he changed? For the better? For the worse?” Everybody looks at the externals at first. “He lost weight.” Or “Ah, he really does look his age.” But what about the insides? How often do we look at that? Well, I can say that looking at our Christian friends who have suffered, one word comes to mind about their insides: Complete. That is, they have been made more complete, more mature, and undoubtedly with greater faith than before. They seem to be fulfilling James 1:2-4, which one of my suffering friends says makes him “cringe,” although it’s true: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

This is strange, because it isn’t what you would expect from loss. You would expect disillusionment, depression. And indeed my friends have tasted those as well, but that’s not the end of it. At the end of their suffering they find a Christ who is “there” in their suffering, who will not leave them as orphans, and who has in fact “been there” in similar circumstances. Knowing that our suffering is doled out for our benefit and that it is short compared to eternity is a comfort to us.

Pray for our next MRI. It is on April 30. We love you all and thank you for running the race with us!