Friday, December 3, 2010

On The Table

In surgery I was directed to lay on the table – which seems to me was a cloth-covered, flat space designated just for me. Two spaces extended from the table for my arms to rest upon – thus a distinctly cruciform shape – no irony intended. I remember noticing the lights in particular, two round fixtures with a vast array of bright bulbs waiting to guide the process. Dr. V. , the anesthetist whom I had met earlier was there. The nurse directing me in the preparations was very nice. Dr. Miller came into the room and introduced me to the surgical team – I don’t remember them.

Then things got under way. The nurse held a blue oxygen mask over, but not on, my face. Dr. V. gave some instructions about falling asleep. Here is my most distinct memory of the preparations for surgery. I was breathing the fresh oxygen when, coinciding with the anesthesia, the fresh oxygen turned to a distinctly sour smell. I have thought about that a lot. Either the gas coming from the oxygen mask changed or the overtaking anesthesia altered my sense of smell. The sense of smell establishes the strongest of memories, and this is one I continue to carry with me.

The next thing I knew was waking-up in post-op. I noted the sensation of waking there is quite distinct from waking from the fainting spell. There was less confusion, less fear. Comforting voices reassured me that all was well. My greatest need was for water, but that would come in due time. After a time, I was brought back to 217, resettled in my bed, and greeted by Barb and Beth.

I recorded these events of surgery day while recovering in the hospital because I did not want to lose the memory of this multi-sensory experience. We are created to take in the world around us; to live and learn through each experience God brings our way. I am thankful for being able to ‘sense’ my way through surgery day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Up to the 5th Floor

Coming out of that fainting spell is difficult describe. The memory is distinct, but the mix of sensations is a challenge – from dark to fuzzy to foggy. The first point of re-entry is the voices – Barb’s I believe – asking if I am okay. The voices are disconnected from my experience. Then my wide eyes begin to catch hold of the room. Since I am lying back, I am looking at the ceiling of the room – which adds to the disorientation. I cannot explain where I am or what has happened, but the fog is beginning to lift. By this time the nursing staff are there helping me out, much to the relief of Barb and Beth, I believe.

Soon I was back to normal and back into the waiting process. We waited for a while longer in the room – all the nursing attention had subsided and now it is looking to surgery. The next step was transport to the 5th floor – surgery. No, first I was taken to room 217 prior to going to surgery. I remember being in the room because of the procedure – the side-rails of the bed being put up. Pastor Jon came by after seeing Arturo and Elizabeth to the airport. I am thinking there was a round of taking vitals, perhaps taking some blood. This happened enough after the surgery that prior to surgery seems likely.

Then transport to surgery – the surgical nurse came with a wheel chair – I remember the blanket across my lap and being taken to the elevator – Barb, Beth, and Pastor Jon waving good bye. I rode up with a woman who was to have cataract surgery; we visited in the waiting area. I was moved from the wheel chair to a table/gurney to wait my turn. I was covered with the most wonderful heated blanket – the best thing ever. I met my anesthetist, which added to the reality of the setting. Several times I was asked the questions – any medications? No. Any Jewelry? No. Any piercings? No. Diabetic? No. These questions, or rather the frequency of asking them, show how thorough the process is and how seriously the professionals take their responsibility. I lay there for some time watching the traffic in and out of surgery – a busy place.

Finally it was my turn. I walked into surgery – not very medical drama – but at the same time it illustrates what I am dealing with – a manageable yet important health issue – thyroid cancer.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Next Stop, Surgery

On October 28, 2010, I was told I had thyroid cancer.

On November 24, 2010,I went for surgery to remove my thyroid.

The weeks between were filled with waiting, emotions, communicating, preparing, appointments, and more waiting. Finally, surgery day arrived.

We arrived at the hospital at 9:15AM – checking in at the admin/admissions desk (I believe I was number 15). Being a surgical patient gives you a sense of priority – your name/file/papers are all arranged and sorted. After the processing of the paperwork we were sent up to the second floor – the surgical nit. I had been given a private room, not by my request, which we look back on as a gracious provision. The room – 217 – was not ready (a patient was being discharged) so we were sent to the TV room, also known as the Quiet Room – though it was not necessarily very quiet. (The TV room became an important place during my stay – because we could watch The Food Network – a favorite of Beth and me.) The process began. Nurse Lea Ann gave instructions for me to change into gauze underwear and a gown and robe (the gauze underwear may have been cut off me at some point – I am not sure). As well, I was to preserve a urine sample (the questions concerning pee and other bodily functions are a regular part of the hospital experience). Paper booties proved useless as my toes tore through the ends right away. So there I sat in gown and robe and gauze and booties, waiting for the next step - the IV. Dr. Miller wanted me on an antibiotic prior to surgery, so an IV was needed. Lea Ann carefully prepped me for the procedure and when all was in place inserted the needle into the back of my left hand. This was painful – far more so than the average injection or drawing of blood. The IV was hooked up and I began to feel it. Barb noticed me becoming pale and I was becoming that dizzy-before-fainting feeling – not your standard dizzy. Apparently I passed out with some type of seizure reaction – a twitching, jerking, I don’t know action – Barb says for about 15 seconds. This proved to be the most traumatic moment of the day. More to follow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Getting Started Again

It has been a while since I posted to this blog, for any number of reasons. Often it is because I forget about it. At other times I would say to myself, “I should blog this” but then get distracted and not get around to it. Once in a while I would get the urge to write, but then feel as though I had nothing to say, thus, no blog post. Now it is time to revive the blog.

I am inspired by my daughter, Hannah, whose blog is a work of art and a model of consistent development. I am not sure I will be able to attain such lofty heights, but I do want to stretch my creative energies.

So in many ways, this is starting over, or more accurately starting afresh, in Standing in Grace.

I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gutter Goop

When small plants are growing in the eaves troughs on your house, you know it is time for a cleaning. So there I was, up on the ladder scooping remnants of leaves, needles, and small plants into a garbage bag. Then the hose cleared the downspouts and the gutters (the term I grew up using) were running again. Everything was proceeding along nicely until I came to the gutter which runs along the roof edge over the deck and then takes a 90º turn to run along the side of the house. Here I found standing water, but not just any standing water – a biology lab of standing water – all manner of slime and sediment and plant life could be found in that gutter, particularly on the deck side. To my disappointment, no tadpoles were growing in the scum.

Two circumstances were responsible for this collection of nature – one was the wire plug used to prevent leaves from gathering and clogging the down spout. This plug had become so filled with gutter stuff it would not allow any water to run. Water that does not run is standing water and standing water becomes a biology lab. The second circumstance is found at the 90º bend. There is a slight rise in the middle preventing all the water on the deck side from running to the downspout – so the water in this portion of the gutter sits and becomes ‘gutter goop’. Pulling the plug is the easy repair (what a delight to see the water freely flowing into the downspout). The 90º corner will at some point have to be replaced.

Any number of analogies to our spiritual life can be found in this encounter with the gutters. For me, Jesus’ teaching on the impact of the Holy Spirit came to mind – the one who believes in Jesus “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). My experience in Christ through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit should be one of water flowing free along the gutter – fresh, cleansing, pure, energetic, and vital for life. Too often it is not, but I am thankful for the removal of clogged plugs and the washing away of the gutter goop.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Been There Before

In 1620, as the Pilgrims were making preparations for their journey to the new world aboard the Mayflower, the task before them was daunting. North America had been frequently visited by fishing fleets and whalers, but establishing a permanent colony was something else altogether.

While these Separatists from the church of England (they came to be called Pilgrims) were experienced at resettlement, having moved from England to Holland, a journey to America posed greater challenges. It was a new adventure for each one.

Robert Cushman, an important organizer of the voyage, wrote,

“It doth often trouble me to think that in this business we are all to learn and none to teach.”

The teacher Cushman desires is someone who had been to New England and would be able to help the Pilgrims settle into their new home.

Among the many definitions of a teacher, this one is filled with images – a teacher is someone who has been there before and is now leading learners to new territory.

A teacher is someone who has been there before. This suggests a realm of education and experience that is invaluable to the learning process. The biblical picture of a teacher, whether parents as they teach through life in Deuteronomy 6, or Ezra teaching from the inside out (Ezra 7:10), or the Apostles teaching out of their encounter with Christ (1 John 1:1-3), supports the idea that a teacher is someone who has been there before.

The most significant implication of this idea is that teachers must consistently encounter new places. An ever-expanding horizon of spiritual growth, life experience, and intellectual development is the necessary requirement for anyone who seeks to be someone who has been there before.

*For a detailed account of the Pilgrim’s settlement in New England, I recommend Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, Mayflower. Cushman’s quote is on page 20.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Waiting Well

I went to the doctor yesterday for the results of my thyroid biopsy. It had been fourteen days since the procedure – fourteen days of waiting and wondering.

The results – inconclusive. The sample retrieved by the fine needle aspiration was not sufficient for proper testing.

I have been told many times the waiting is the most difficult part of the process. The wondering has proven just as difficult. What constitutes ‘bad news’? What constitutes ‘good news’? How might life change if there is ‘bad news’? What is the conclusion is 'just live with it'?

I was not thinking of “inconclusive” - sounds like a loose end that needs tying up.

The result of this is a return to the waiting process, though I am thankful for Dr. Wigmore’s move toward the next step. That next step is a surgical biopsy. Sounds more interesting and more ominous.

All this is a reminder of the need to ‘wait’ well. Psalm 27:14 has become a point of encouragement in the aftermath of all this: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Yesterday I went to the hospital for a biopsy. Specifically a thyroid biopsy. Even more specifically, a fine-needle aspiration. The procedure was simple enough – a combination of ultrasound images, iodine, freezing, and a fine-needle. It was over quickly with little pain and minimal discomfort. The reason for the biopsy is to discover the nature of a nodule present on my thyroid – whether cystic, cancerous, benign, or otherwise.

The idea of a biopsy suggests cancer and that is the scary part. The thyroid, I have been told, is a finicky gland when it comes to disorders. Nodules can simply be nodules and nothing to be concerned about. Still, the word biopsy stands in the shadow of cancer. The results of the biopsy are two weeks away.

This is not intended to be a follow-my-bout-with-cancer blog. What I want to see in this is the hand of God at work and reflect on His faithfulness. In our almost 27 years of marriage Barb and I have had few serious health issues – a few concerns here and there that have required attention, but nothing life threatening. Our girls too have been healthy – not even any allergies.

On the way to the hospital Barb asked me if I was nervous. My response, which I trust was genuine and not a “man-answer”, was simply, “I have no reason to be.” My desire in all this, no matter what comes, is to not be nervous but confident in the gracious hand of Jesus. I do not intend this to be a simplistic answer to complicated issues. I simply believe Jesus is there to help with the complicated issues.

Welcome to Standing in Grace

I have entered the world of the blog. In these days of communication options a blog is nothing new, but for me it is a beginning. As is evident by my late entry into the land of blog, I am not an early adopter. This is not because I have anything against the concept, it is simply a matter of becoming convinced I have something - a thought, an idea, an experience, a perspective - worth sharing with those willing to check it out. This blog is a means of stretching myself to think beyond myself and become part of a new community.

Standing in Grace is a journey into the daily experience of grace found in the work of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2). As a follower of Jesus, redeemed and reconciled to the Father, I stand in His grace. My life is a reflection of the abundant favor of the Father toward me because of Jesus, and only because of Jesus.

I invite you to join me in this journey. Let us be encouraged together.