November in the Northwest often brings rain for days on end. The skies are grey and much of the glory of the fall leaves has passed. Though this weather pattern has often affected my mood, my goal this month is to focus on thankfulness…truly giving thanks.
You may have noticed that it’s been pretty quiet on my blog. This year brought a very unexpected health challenge for my husband and we are just now coming out from what has felt at times like a dark cloud hovering overhead.
The year began with a routine physical for Brooks in January. When the blood lab results came back, his PSA count was slightly elevated above normal parameters. The Clinic called and said his doctor suggested he come back for another blood test in a month. Apparently the PSA count can be elevated for a number of reasons so we weren’t alarmed or even very concerned. The PSA count was elevated a little more in February but the doctor said he should come back in a month for another test.
When the lab work in March showed the PSA had climbed even higher, his doctor referred him to an urologist in April. The urologist explained the PSA levels can vary for each man and questioned him to see if there were any other concerning symptoms…there were none. He suggested waiting another month to test once again before taking biopsies. When the PSA was still up, the urologist scheduled biopsies to be taken in June. Although we both had some mild concern at this point, we still thought the chance of cancer was fairly remote, due to Brooks’s age and no history of cancer in his family.
So, when the biopsies revealed that Brooks had what the urologist termed “high risk” prostate cancer due to high Gleason scores, we were taken aback. Though we have had a number of challenges and trials in the past, somehow I never thought cancer would be part of our story. In the scope of types of cancer, prostate cancer is one of the most treatable, and we were certainly thankful for that. However, as the surgeon we consulted said, “Prostate cancer is rarely “life threatening, but it can be life altering.” Since Brooks works as a construction contractor, often doing physical work himself, we had some very real concerns. Scans were done of his bones and organs, and several lymph nodes appeared to be enlarged, which was concerning because this could indicate the cancer had moved outside of the prostate glands.
Through the recommendation of a friend whose husband had also had prostate cancer, we contacted a highly esteemed surgeon in Seattle, who was in much demand. His reputation was stellar and Brooks elected to wait until this surgeon could do the surgery. Brooks had ruled out radiation as an option for a number of reasons. Because the first opening the surgeon had was in October and due to the enlarged lymph nodes, Brooks was advised to have an injection of Lupron, a testosterone blocking type of chemotherapy, to slow the advance of the cancer. The resulting “manopause” hot flashes were no fun!
The date arrived for surgery in mid October. The surgery was done by the DaVinci method, using a robotic machine with five arms being inserted in five incisions in the midsection stomach area and directed by the surgeon across the room. Brooks was able to see the DaVinci machine before he was put under and said it was quite impressive…like something out of science fiction movie. The surgeon deemed the almost six hour surgery a success, and Brooks had a very uncomfortable night in the hospital, followed by ten days at home with a catheter and drainage tube…again, no fun! A rush to ER one Saturday night due “knife stabbing” like pains at the site of the drainage tube was no fun either.
Finally, the day came to see the surgeon for the post op appointment, to hear the pathology results from the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. The surgeon came in and said, “I have good news! Though the cancer had left the prostate glands, I was able to remove the affected tissue and find clean margins. No further treatment is required at this point.” (A blood test in 6 weeks will hopefully confirm this for sure). Brooks and I were both somewhat stunned. The sense of relief is hard to describe. After months of having this cancer diagnosis hanging over us, the burden was lifted.
Perhaps now you have a greater sense of why thankfulness is at the forefront of my thoughts. We are so thankful for the support of our family, friends, and church family upholding us in prayer and bringing meals during recovery. Our life still has its challenges, and recovery is still a work in progress for Brooks, yet our faith has been bolstered in a very real way. We experienced an almost tangible sense of God’s presence and peace that only He can give. A verse that I clung to was Malachi 4:2, “For those who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”
I know that healing does not always come. God often moves in mysterious ways.
Several months ago I came across a video of Katherine and Jay Wolf, telling their story. Katherine suffered a life altering brain stem stroke at the age of 26 and is impaired in a number of ways. One thing she shared was that believers in America almost always immediately pray for healing when sickness or injury comes. Yet, in other parts of the world, perhaps where life is not so easy, believers pray first that they would “steward their trial well.” Katherine went on to say that what we need to celebrate is not the outcome, but God’s presence with us. Her words challenged me to pray in a new way. I encourage you to read and listen to their story at Hope Heals.
You probably know by now I am always drawn to music, to songs that resonate with whatever I’m going through. In The Valley by Sovereign Grace spoke to me and became a prayer.
How thankful I am! His grace found us in the valley and He is always near. Warmly, Gracia