Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

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 Good and Perfect Gift
October 24, 2011

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” — James 1:17

From James:

So Young’s brain tumor is shrinking! We had a follow-up MRI today that seems to show a significant reduction in its size, the first ever since the diagnosis almost a year ago. We pressed Dr. Redmond to quantify it, and she said that if she was forced to guess, she would say that it has been reduced in size by 30%. This is amazing to us. They have been telling us all along that it is unlikely that it would shrink because of the type of tumor (an astrocytoma). I asked Dr. Redmond again today, and she said that it is possible for them to shrink but atypical. The doctors have always said that if it stopped growing, we would be happy with that. But to shrink? And this much? We are flabbergasted. We have prayed for it to shrink but never really expected it to, and certainly not by 1/3 in three months! It seemed like too much to ask or expect.

So thank you for your prayers. And continue to pray! Pray audaciously. Ask that it will go away entirely and that So Young will be completely restored.

As a footnote, they are saying that these are preliminary results and that the official radiologist’s report will be released tomorrow. But this is the first time they have really made a big deal about that report. Even the technician was talking about it as soon as So Young got out of the MRI room. It seems as if they noticed something significant right away. Dr. Redmond then also looked at the MRI itself and confirmed what the preliminary report was saying. They said they will tell us if the final report is any different, but that seems unlikely.

So Young and I are overjoyed, as are the girls and all of our family and friends. I overheard and participated in some very joyous telephone calls today. It shows me just how much those who love us don’t just share in our sadness, but in our high points as well.

This miracle comes as a surprise to us, even as we realize that we have nothing to be surprised about. We asked. Our Father gave. So we won’t stop asking.

We won’t be back at Johns Hopkins until the cold month of January. We’ll be having three-month follow-ups for the next two years. At this rate, with the improvements we are seeing to So Young’s eyesight, she might be able to drive herself there!

iUpdate on iSoYoung
September 24, 2011

From James:

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or have talked to us recently already know some of this, but I wanted to post it on the blog.

The biggest news is that So Young is “going public” in saying that her vision has improved. That means she’s convinced that there has been a real, lasting improvement in her eyesight. She still can’t see well enough to drive, has difficulty reading normal-sized letters on a page, etc. She struggles, but the struggle isn’t as great.

We sincerely believe this is an answer to your prayers. Paul Miller writes that the way we expect answers to prayer is analogous to when you describe Disney World to a child. They want to go the next day! We know that our Father might not answer all our prayers immediately, but we keep praying and waiting patiently nevertheless.

The other great news is that So Young has started her own small group. (A small group is a gathering of people committed to learning about God, praying for each other, and becoming more like Jesus.) I’m so proud of her for this. She told me that God was saying, “Why wait?” Why wait to serve until your vision is restored? This is so convicting for me: a person who can barely see is taking on a task that generally requires decent eyesight and that most people are reluctant to do anyway. She says she also wants to “give back” some of what has been given to her. She meets with three of her best friends, Jin, Grace, and Laurie, every other Friday.

Technology, specifically the iPad and Audible.com, have been a big help to So Young in this endeavor. I downloaded the ebook version of the book they are studying (A Praying Life  by Paul Miller) to the iPad. She opens it in the Kindle app, which enables her to zoom into the text. Touch screen devices are much easier to use for visually impaired people than mouse-and-keyboard-based computers. Reading is possible but laborious, however, so she also listens to the audio book on her iPod. She uses so much Apple technology, maybe we should call this an iSmallGroup…

A few days ago So Young fell down the stairs. This was caused by a combination of bad eyesight and wearing socks on polished wooden stairs. I was right behind her but of course couldn’t stop her fall. All the way down maybe four or five steps, her left leg was extended and her right leg was bent back. Her right leg just above the shin hit every step in succession with the full weight of her body — BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. It was shocking to watch. I was sure she had broken her leg and possibly damaged her knee because of the impact with which she hit each step and the way her right leg was contorted behind her. But in a further testament to her toughness, she’s fine. Only bruised. I wonder if those years of running strengthened her bones. We’re grateful that she was upright the whole time and didn’t tumble and hit her head. She went running a couple of days later, of course!

The “new normal” of our lives continues, as the issues of the Irregular Prophet attest. School has started, and So Young walks the younger kids up and back most days, unless the weather is bad, and then Mom helps. Laurie drives Shanny to and from the bus stop. Mom is godlike in her ability to be everywhere when we need her, taking So Young shopping, picking the girls up during thunderstorms, driving Audrey to soccer practice, and granddaughter sitting all the time. We continue to be grateful for our big family, which consists of people far beyond those related to us by blood.

Audrey's Kicking the Soccer Ball

Audrey Kicks the Ball During Her First Soccer Game Ever

A couple of prayer requests for others:

  • Pray for my cousin Elizabeth. She recently lost her baby. We mourn with her and her family for their loss.
  • Pray for KT and Elaine. They left for Cambodia a couple of days ago to serve as teachers at an orphanage. They are newlyweds and will be there for two years. We asked for your prayers for Elaine recently for a tumor they had found. She is cancer free.

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!

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.

A Prayer
June 7, 2011

From So Young:

Life is hard, but God is good all of the time! Still praying for healing. I come before him every day knowing that what I need is found in him alone. My healing comes from his hand and the healing word spoken over me…

God, I wait patiently with great expectation of what You will do for me. It is not too hard for You to shrink this brain tumor gone and restore my vision. I look to You with the faith You’ve given me, looking forward to boasting the rest of my life of what You have done and continue to offer me.

I have asked You, “I know your love for me Jesus, but how can I show You that I love You, too?” His still gentle voice replies, “Trust me.” So I continue to live day by day, trusting and hoping and thankful that You are increasing my faith through this struggle. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

So with the faith You’ve bestowed on me from the start-line of this journey, my life, I look for signs of your presence and truth. I look to You, my Healer, my Hope, my Everything.

I come to You in the mighty name of Jesus. Just say the Word, and I will be healed.

Yes life is hard, but You are good ALL of the time!

Two Months After Treatment
April 2, 2011

From James:

First of all, the kids are great. Their parents are still learning to be parents, but the children are doing a stellar job. They have a new routine that involves a great deal of Daddy and Nanna time, which the girls don’t seem to notice all that much but Mom and I enjoy. Lindsay had to drop ballet when So Young was first diagnosed almost five months ago because of the crisis of the moment, but otherwise they continue with their activities and are doing well socially and in school.

Sensitive and volatile, Lindsay was the one we were most worried about early on. Much has improved. Mom has taught us a lot about how to respond with the right amount of structure, discipline, and compassion. Although she isn’t doing ballet now, she is the most active of the girls, as part of the running club,  piano, and chorus, and volunteering at the school library three times a week. Here is a picture of Lindsay at last week’s chorus concert, smiling because music is her gift.

Lindsay at Chorus

Shannon continues to be bright and ambitious, constantly reading and laboring on her many writing projects. She will not settle until she is a real “published author” (no vanity press, mind you), and I believe that given her talents and drive, she someday will be. Also, her sense of humor is incredible: She laughs at my jokes!

Audrey is a typical kindergartener, except that she was born with the “Command Gene” and is pretty sure she runs the house. She isn’t afraid to talk to anybody or tell them what to do. This is counter-balanced by her calm, levelheaded constitution and enthusiasm for housework or work of any kind.

All of that is to say that the girls are fine. They don’t ask too many questions about Mommy. They pray for her. Outwardly, they don’t seem worried. They are mostly concerned about her loss of eyesight, which has direct, practical implications for them. Shannon has asked some more penetrating questions. I can only respond by saying we don’t know the outcome and therefore can’t assume the worst about tomorrow. Today has enough worries of its own.

So Young weaned off steroids entirely a few days ago after a previous, failed attempt to do so. Now she is getting headaches again. I called Johns Hopkins yesterday afternoon. They said it could just be a symptom of a sort of withdrawal from the steroids themselves, like when you stop drinking coffee and get a headache. They decided we should wait over the weekend and see if the headaches get better. If they got worse, it could be edema (swelling of the brain), caused by either the radiation, although it seems too far after the treatment for it to be that, or the tumor itself.

Last night, a few hours after I talked to JH, So Young appeared to start developing one of the very severe, throbbing headaches that is a sign of edema. We have been through these before, and they are a nightmare. I didn’t want to mask the headache because I wanted to see if it really was one of the “big ones,” but I also couldn’t stand to see her in so much pain, so I gave her Motrin, and it went away. The bottom line is that she may end up back on steroids or, eventually, with surgery to install a shunt, as I’ve said before. Please pray for So Young, as these headaches are painful and scary for her.

I was talking to my friend KT the other day about how I’m surprised that I’m not more emotional about this situation all the time. Yes, I have my moments, but for the most part, I try to be objective and clear-headed about it. I speculated that it is because I can get highly compartmentalized: strong emotions over here, practical, “get it done” mindset over there, and never the twain shall meet. Hilariously, KT suggested that I get another compartment to mediate between the other two.

So while I would ask that you pray that I get another compartment, I’ll just ask that you pray for wisdom and a lot of strength.