Archive for the ‘Worry’ Category

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.


A Comedy
January 6, 2011

“‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?'” — Luke 12:25

From James:

I have had a cough for two weeks now, so I went to the doctor yesterday after an evening of feeling very bad and having a fever. I insisted on getting a chest x-ray, because I suspected pneumonia. The doctor reluctantly wrote up an order for the x-ray, saying that I probably just had allergies. I got the x-ray yesterday afternoon.

As soon as I arrived at work this morning, I got a call from the doctor’s office. The receptionist said they needed me to come in to “discuss the results” of the chest x-ray.  They were mysterious about it. I asked if it was pneumonia. She wouldn’t answer.

When I finally met with the doctor, he was somber. He rolled his chair up close to me.

“I’m glad you convinced me to get that chest x-ray. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you do have something in your lungs, and it’s not pneumonia. It’s a 5 cm mass of some kind, which is pretty big.”

That measurement — 5 cm — has a bad history with me. It’s roughly the size of So Young’s brain tumor.

“Couldn’t it just be pneumonia or bronchitis?” I asked. I felt as if I was pleading with him for hope. I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation.

“No, definitely not.”

We discussed what it might be. If it is lung cancer, it is most likely primary (that is, not resulting from cancer in another part of the body). It could also be secondary, which would mean that it is indicative of late-stage cancer of another kind, such as melanoma (skin cancer), kidney cancer, bladder cancer, or a handful of other kinds of cancer. My family has a strong history of melanoma. It could also be some kind of fungus, but that is rare. He said that the mass wasn’t there when I’d had a chest x-ray two years ago.

“I have seen miracles both ways,” he said. “I have seen cases like this turn out remarkably bad and deteriorate quickly, and I have seem them turn out remarkably good.”

He prescribed a CT scan to get a closer look at the mass. I think his last words to me were “good luck.”

I called my mom first. I was crying within about a minute. She asked what she could do. We couldn’t think of anything right away but to pray. She had a lot of people praying for me throughout the day. I called Kenji next. He is lucky because he’s way up there on my list of people I call when I have bad news. He prayed for me, too.

My parents and I agreed I shouldn’t tell So Young until the CT results were in.

I spend a lot of the day waiting. Waiting is the worst part of almost everything in life. It tells you a lot about your heart, because when you wait, you think.

So Young always says she doesn’t worry for herself dying, but mostly for me and the kids. I understood what she meant. For a Christian, dying is a comedy, because life ends with a wedding, but I thought about the tragedy it would be for the kids to lose both parents. I thought about whether I had lived my life right. The verdict was inconclusive. I felt that I could have done a lot more for others.

I talked to Dad briefly while I waited for the CT scan. He is laid out with pneumonia. He said he thought I just had what he had and not to worry about it. That’s the other thing I learned: I worry about it. I immediately jump to the worst case.

For the rest of the day after the CT scan — picking up the kids from school, shopping for Shannon’s party supplies — I walked around with death-shaded glasses on. Everything took on a philosophical hue: all my bad habits in relief as a “bad way to live your life,” every interaction taking on new importance.

I wondered if I had some new perspective on So Young’s everyday life. I realized that in thinking about my own death, I was thinking too much about myself and not about her. How could two people face death together and not be completely self-absorbed? I resolved to live for her and others, even if I was dying.

And all that before I knew the results of the CT scan.

So Young, of all people, called to tell me the results while I was out with Shannon at Party City.

“The results of your CT scan are in. You have pneumonia.”

So Young didn’t know about any of it. She had no idea how it felt to hear that news.