Bad News

From James:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

When we got home from Johns Hopkins today, Audrey ran to the door and grinned expectantly: “What’s the good news?!” We’ve become so used to good news recently. Unfortunately, today we were surprised by bad news.

The tumor has grown again, and significantly. That is the cause of So Young’s new symptoms over the past few weeks. Now it is especially affecting her brain stem, which explains the balance and coordination problems she is experiencing. We knew from the beginning that the tumor had infiltrated the brain stem, but most of the tumor is in the thalamus, so the brain stem seemed like an afterthought early on.

Dr. Redmond said that we lost most of the ground we gained from radiation. The tumor shrank 30% before. It has regained most of that and is close to its pre-radiation size.

The tumor board at Johns Hopkins will discuss So Young’s case on Monday. Dr. Redmond said that they will most likely recommend chemotherapy, which So Young has not received yet. We were waiting until it became fast-growing. The hope was that it would not.

The news brings up new questions and fears. Is the tumor really slow growing? Now there is significant doubt about that. It doesn’t “light up” on the MRI, but they didn’t get a good sample during the biopsy, and for it to increase in size so quickly seems strange. They have her on big doses of the steroid dexamethasone to see if her symptoms abate if the swelling in her brain goes down.

So Young’s symptoms seemed so vague before, but now everything seems to have an explanation. She complained of weakness on her right side, a loss of coordination in her right hand, trouble swallowing, slurred speech, etc. My reasoning was that the tumor shouldn’t affect the right side of her body, because the tumor is in her right thalamus. But the brain stem controls motor function, so now her symptoms make sense to me.

So Young took the news quite hard — understandably so. She is shaken. I think that this is almost as hard for us emotionally as the initial diagnosis in November 2010.

The perspective that we are trying to take is that this is only round two of the fight. Or perhaps a more apt analogy is mile 20 of a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles long, but runners say that the race doesn’t start until mile 20 or so. I have seen So Young several times at mile 20, and it isn’t pretty. She can be completely bereft of energy and the will to go on. But you have to stick through it, or you won’t finish the race, even though you are so close!

I really appreciate the encouragement we are already receiving from our loving community of family and friends. You are so dear to us to pray, call or write, offer and provide help, or to even just listen. Some of you have taken some pretty raw, tearful phone calls from So Young today. All I can say is that you are amazing for handling it so well and being there for her.

In the end, as my friend told me today, it isn’t the medicine we’re going to trust in this situation, but God.  He alone has the power to restore So Young, and whether or not He does, we trust his love for us. We won’t lose heart.

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24 Responses

  1. Hang in there! I haven’t seen you guys in many years, I wish we could plan some sort of reunion. My heart aches to hear about this after all the positive moves. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you guys. Thank you for the updates.

    • Thanks for your encouraging words, Will. We miss you all.

      So Me

  2. Gage family, this is a new chapter in this thing we call life. Your strength and prayers will carry you through. Lean on family, friends and your faith like you never have before. My heart is heavy but my mind is positive. I am here for you, please reach out if there is anything I can do, no matter how mundane it may seem. I am only a co worker but I can be so much more for you and So Young and your kids. You have so much amazing support in your lives, and love for God; I am confident that this disease will buckle given the love and strength surrounding your family. Much Love and heartfelt words to carry you through, Jennifer

  3. All I can do when I read this is cry and swear. Trying to be of better faith for you, so that I can be part of what you lean on.

    I wish this had been better news.

  4. We love you. We pray for you. We will be there with you through every step.

  5. Prayers, healing vibes and lots of thoughs coming your way.

  6. We love you all and pray continually for each one of you! We are here, day or night…James, you have such a beautiful way with words and your perspective is inspiring. Please, let others help you too.
    HUGS

    • Not sure why that came up “anonymous”?!
      Laurie

  7. Not sure why that came up “anonymous”?!
    Laurie

  8. James and So Young and family: my prayers as well as those in my church family continue for all of you!

  9. So Young, James and family. We continue to pray for you can find releife
    in the next phase of the race.

  10. From Aunt Liz and Uncle Danny

  11. Love you friends…you may have hit the “wall”, but So Young has always pushed through. Will continue to send prayers and postive thoughts your way. Debby

  12. After talking to So Young Thursday, I was rather disheartened. That night I wanted to shut down and go to sleep but God “gently” sent me to my Bible study for this week where I found this:

    “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.” James 1:2-4

    My first thought was: “Seriously? Life has been so hard lately. I’m exhausted from all of the ups and downs. Can’t we just settle for less than perfect and somewhat immature so we can have a break from all of this hardship?” Of course He again “gently” made me keep reading, so Beth Moore shared this insight:

    “Swap ‘consider’ for ‘feel’ [and] describe how the meaning would change if the exhortation said ‘Feel pure joy’ rather than ‘consider it…’

    “The word ‘consider’ calls us to a mental exercise. Not an emotion. James isn’t telling us to have a knee slapper over all we’re going through. He’s telling us to think, to reflect, and to esteem the unalloyed joys available to us ‘whenever [we] experience various trials.'”

    Well, James & So Young, I have no idea how to do this, and it doesn’t really work for me in my natural mind, but I believe it to be true because our God is faithful — perfectly faithful — and I am totally not. I pray that He would reveal this mystery to all of us as we accompany you on this journey.

    So Young, I’ll have the tea and lemonade ready for our next day on my porch. Please bring the brownies. 🙂

    Love always,
    Kim

    • Thank you Kim. This was a great encouragement to me.

    • Thanks Kim. You are such a great friend to So Young. I am so grateful for you.

  13. Once again I am so encouraged by your faith and of so many people around you. God will once again show His love, mercy, and power through your process of healing, I am certain! I have put the prayer request through our prayer chain once again. There are people at our church still pray for SoYoung ever since I quested on our e-prayer chain more than a year ago. And our children, Kiyoun and Chris, and my mother-in-law, also. Your uncle Grant and I have planned to visit Maryland on October 6 for 3 days. We are staying in Tysons Corner on those days. We will give you a call close to that date to see how you are doing, and to see if SoYoung is up to our visit. Do you mind emailing me your phone number? God bless you, all!
    Love, Aunt Grace

  14. My dear friends, I don’t have adequate words to comfort you through such difficult news. But our Lord is faithful and I apologize for not praying more earnestly the last few months as things were seemingly progressing so well. My heart sank when I read the news and I can only pause and weep when I am reminded that we inhabit broken vessels that betray us. But don’t lose hope my friend.

    I Peter 1:3-5 reads “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuiness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.

    What is striking is that Peter addressed his letter to the “temporary residents” or refugees – denoting the new state of hopelessness in which his readers were engulfed. They had lost their homes and any inheritance that they once had. Worse yet, they had no guarantee that they would never return to their places of origin. But verse 3 says that they have a new birth through a living hope. These refugees clearly were not shielded from their difficulties, but Peter reminded them of their GUARANTEE so that they could face their hardships with steadfast faith. So Young, as James so eloquently pointed out, this may be the toughest “mile” that you’ve ever run. But you praise God through it anyway. Verse 4 says “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There are so many deep theological truth in those few words. Let’s unpack them together – Praise THE God – the one truth God; and Father – our progenitor, our one Source – of our Lord – Deity, speaks to His equality with God; Jesus – specifies the object of our faith and praise – the man who was crucified unjustly who is our Savior; and finally Christ – our soon coming King who was resurrected from the dead by His Father God as a result of His obedience to redeem His elect via unmerited grace, which is why we give Him ALL HONOR AND PRAISE!

    Peter spoke of a living hope to a group of refugees, so he was not focused on their temporal situations, but on their eternal destination. So he reminded them to rejoice in their guarantee though for a short time they (as do we) would struggle with various trials. You are facing an incredibly difficult trial right now. But just as you have come through marathons before, the Lord will see you through this test. I will not insult you by insinuating that our Lord promises to remove our most difficult burdens. We know better. But He has promised to be your Comforter and He has ultimately given us the most important assurance of all – of our eternal security in Him. Continue to fight the great fight assured that He cares for you as much today as the day you initially put your trust in Him.

    As difficult as it was to read this news, I thank you for sharing it with us, and I applaud your transparency through your entire journey. You are a reminder of what is truly important, and I look forward to visiting you, James, and the girls very soon.

    We love you Sygie!

    Mikael

  15. My prayers, my thoughts, my love are with So Young, you James, your daughters, your extended family who live nearby, your church, and all others who form your community of faith and hope. May each of you find peace in your hearts at the same time as you plunge into the battle you face together and alone. James, everyone who writes here is walking together with you, shoulder to shoulder.

  16. oh james & so young…what to say…what not to say…i don’t know…but i DO pray that our God will continue to equip & empower you both especially & your girls, as well as all your family & friends to run through this race with the grace & perserverance you have already shown! we would LOVE to start meals/rides, whatever that would help a bit when you need! will be calling you soon…
    oxooooo, hayong = )

  17. James & So Young, we are deeply sorry to hear the news. We will be praying for you and trust in a merciful and loving God to carry you through is dark time. We are here for you and will help carry you through this also. Your family in Christ. Pannie

  18. Elaine and I are grieved with the news. We have been so encouraged by your family and look forward to the continued fellowship with your family—-despite all odds, you guys have been shining lights to so many.
    We love you!
    ~KT and Elaine~

  19. So Young, my dear sister, you are stronger than you know. This is just another step in your journey and we will get through this together. Do no lose hope. God is with you no matter what and you have an abundance of love from family and friends to carry you through this difficult time. I love you!

  20. 1 Corinthians 13

    New International Version (NIV)

    13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    ——————–

    You are loved by so many people and especially by our Lord and Savior. May you feel embraced by His infinite love and peace.

    I can’t think of anything more powerful than God’s love. So I send you God’s love as well as mine.

    Susie Yu

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