Thursday, November 27, 2008

What Happened Before

I have been very thankful to God for my 72 years of good health and also for my wife Ann now 71. So to be faced with prostate cancer is the first major health challenge we have faced in nearly 54 years of marriage. But this was not totally unexpected—why should we not share in the ravages of this life that so many others experience. Or as Job said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Job 2:10.

It all started with an acute bladder infection on October 8th 2008 which took me to the local hospital for an aggressive antibiotic cure, but which left me less than jovial for a few days. There had been no indication of disease before that, but a high PSA (prostate specific antigen) count prompted a trip to the urologist. His examination found a lump on my prostate and he felt that a biopsy would be advisable. As the diary will show, the biopsy was positive for cancer.

What were my feelings during this period? Up to the biopsy, life continued much the same as before, Ann attending university nearing the end of her Political Science degree, and I continued writing. I felt quite healthy and had no qualms about the future. Even the two weeks awaiting the biopsy results raised no worries, only an occasional wondering about the outcome. Our plans for a short term mission trip to England in January and February 2009 were still a go unless some urgent response was necessary.

I had generally believed that we live in a polluted and hostile environment, and at the same time lacked sufficient nutrients in our food to combat its assault. I had generally taken steps to alleviate this risk, but obviously had been too general about it! Fortunately I have women around me with sufficient savvy about this process to ensure I correct my general attitudes and get more serious about combating this disease.

This diary, related our latest concerns is also an answer to prayer. With two books complete and the first at the editing stage prior to production, I was wondering where to go next. So I am planning to put this diary on a blogsite for those interested in keeping up to date with our antics over the next few weeks (months?). Some will be able to join us in this journey and maybe find some help from it. Of course, blogs do not have to be a finished “work of art”—just let it all hang out!

Whatever the outcome, our years of trusting God for his overshadowing through earlier trials of life had prepared us for an assurance of security in his hands. As our friends from England, Meg and Dave quoted to us: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, Deut. 33:27.

Tuesday November 25, 2008-11-26.

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Ps 103:1

Today I had an appointment with Dr. Levans the urologist for results of my biopsy. He told Ann and me that the test was positive for prostate cancer, and my PSA level was high enough that in his experience the cancer may have spread outside the prostate. If so it would be found in the lymph glands at the base of the abdomen and/or in the bones. If this was the case, he would recommend a hormone treatment that suppressed testosterone in the body. I’ll leave you to guess the effect on our sex life! Apparently testosterone is prostate cancer’s favourite food.

This treatment would require injections every three months. Of course, this all depends on the scan results, and my concern is our plans to leave for Montreal and England on December 15, less than three weeks away. Dr. Levans is a younger man—I think he shaves his head and grew a beard to look older—but well respected, and is most straightforward and helpful. He even phoned the hospital this afternoon to try to advance the dates for the scans so if necessary I could receive the first injection before we left. Thanks a lot!

Although I felt it was all a false alarm, I was prepared for either answer. I had no emotional reaction, more concerned with treatment and our immediate plans. Ann wept a little—I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and compassionate wife, even if she thinks I’m a cold fish because of my unemotional reactions! But whatever the outcome we will walk through this together a day at a time, after all life continues much as before; all that has changed is how we handle it. We know that God has us in his hands, what more could we ask?

Arriving home, our first task was to inform family and friends—thank heaven for email! A circular letter to our many friends, and individual letters to our family—three daughters and husbands, seven grandchildren, two married, and a great granddaughter. By day’s end we had many messages returned with sympathy and support—almost all committed to pray for us.Our daughter Karen who lives locally, came to visit us this afternoon, bearing gifts—cottage cheese, pomegranate juice and flax oil to name a few! A tangy reminder that my diet needed to change.

She holds that our immune system can be reinforced and respond to cancer if four things happen. First, we need to ensure a fully nutritious diet—no more wandering the aisles of the supermarket, stick to the outer circumference! Secondly clean up our local environment. Fortunately none of us smoke and Ann ensures the dirt I can’t see no one else will see either. Next, it is important to maintain a positive attitude; to fight these audacious intruders not resign ourselves to their advance. Lastly, plenty of exercise, for me usually a distraction from vegging in front of my computer. Both Ann and Karen are solidly behind my transformation to this new regime and if I’m honest I’m glad of it.

We have a good friend Sue who is an OR nurse. She came to visit us that evening, offering us any advice or even to contact specialists that she worked with over the years to answer any questions we may have. She prayed fervently for us before leaving. With support from people like Karen and Sue the future looks better already!

Wednesday November 26, 2008

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Eph 1:15-17

These Scriptures at the head of each day’s ramblings are from a daily devotional, and often translate into meaningful comments on the day’s activities. We are so thankful for the family that God has given us, and so many friends and acquaintances that have indicated they would pray for us during this uncertain time.

Today started a 2.00 a.m. I sometimes do my best thinking in the middle of the night when my mind has done its filing from the day before, and is not cluttered from the day ahead. Some people worry when they wake in the night and can’t return to sleep. For me it’s a great time to enjoy a cosy lay-in without pressure to get up! Thinking on what Karen and Ann had said the day before, I am now ready to fight these pesky parasites, and some changes in lifestyle are inevitable. But I also got excited—a relative term for me—at the thought of keeping this diary.

Firstly, it will give me an opportunity to express myself about my own feelings and responses to the options that lie ahead. Then, others who may be interested can keep abreast either by email or blogs—have to find out how to do that! But above all, others who may go through this process can have some idea of the journey.

I received an appointment this morning for a bone scan next Tuesday—that doc must have some pull! I also today I read Alex’s blog on her website where she wrote:

My father has been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. From what I understand, it seems to me, to be one of the 'best' cancers to have to deal with. One that is slow moving. One that has a treatment to slow it down even more, although there is no cure. Dad mentioned that many men die with prostate cancer, but not of prostate cancer. With my father’s biopsy outcome, it looks as if the cancer has spread and so he now is waiting for the date and time of the next hospital visit for a CAT and bone scan. Depending on the outcome of that, will depend on the treatment choices. None the less, I have concluded that Cancer is spelt S-C-A-R-E.

My father is a strong man. He always has been. He is a very even-keeled, not 'reactive', but very responsive in situations. I remember as a child only one or two times that he 'lost' it, so to speak. My dad has responded very 'Bryan-like' to this whole process. We wouldn't expect anything different. It is exactly what I have come to love about my father, and in him being so, has really helped those around him worry less. He waits for each moment to come, not running ahead to the what if's. "So, we'll see what the results say and address it then". That was his typical response. And now. More of the same. "Not the best results, but one that has good options once the next step is taken." That would be my dad. *yup ... that would be a tear on the end of my nose.

Finally, Dr. Lavens my urologist called at 6 this evening to say my PSA count was down considerably. In his words, “You don’t know how extraordinarily good news this is for you.” I will see him again next Thursday after results from the scans are available and he will outline some new options. Can’t wait!

Thursday November 27, 2008

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:58.

Today is the third day. Apart from the original news, it has been an encouraging time, especially with Dr. Levans’ news yesterday. I still feel fine, no symptoms of any sort—that must count for something. Some encounters have been interesting. During his call, Dr. Levans compared me to his grandfather: “if you were my grandfather I would suggest . . . but you’re not my grandfather!” To think of me as possible family certainly encourages my confidence in his concern for me—even if it emphasises his youth and my age!

A second encounter was even more interesting. You would think that bankers were pretty unemotional types wouldn’t you? We have a very friendly, well-informed and sensible younger lady advisor at the Royal Bank, and in passing we told her of our latest news. She told us her father had the same disease but was not doing at all well. As we were leaving, she said “look after yourself” and gave me an impulsive hug. Then almost as a second thought hugged Ann—I guess she felt she should add an air of appropriateness!

Well, this afternoon I received an appointment for the CT scan next Tuesday, immediately before the bone scan. This means Dr. Levans will have both results at our appointment next Thursday afternoon. This should produce some specific steps to skewer these unwanted pests, and, a concern at present, still enable us leave December 15 for Montreal and England. Nothing like uncertainty until the last minute to keep life interesting! Planning for it regardless.

I’ve not been able to respond to everyone who has written us, especially assuring us of their prayers. If you are reading this, our deepest thanks for your thoughts and intercession on our behalf. I’m sure it is the reason for our confidence in the future.

4:43:00 PM
by Norfords
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