A lighter heart

Praising our Father tonight- Clay is out of surgery, and everything went as smoothly as Dr. Foster had hoped. In fact, he was finished in 2 1/2 hours! He removed the occluded section of vena cava and Clay tolerated it without significant blood loss, change in blood pressure, or other stress on his body. Dr. Foster said the tumor was easily separated off the aorta, and no other organs were involved. He said that all Clay’s other organs looked healthy. So thankful to God! We won’t know anything about the cell type in the tumor until Clay’s pathology report comes back in a few days.

Clay is in a regular room now, and the doctors placed a pain block in his back to help with the pain for the next 18 hours or so. He has had some discomfort, but no significant pain or nausea. He isn’t allowed to eat yet, which he isn’t happy about! 😉 My hubby loves to eat. He also has a drain in his abdomen to keep fluid from building up in his abdomen. Dr. Foster said that he will likely travel home with the drain, and we can just remove it ourselves; it’s just a small incision. Crazy what modern medicine can do!

I’m so incredibly thankful to our gracious Father for watching over Clay, and we are once again completely overwhelmed by the fellowship of believers. I know that I could feel your prayers today as I waited. We really can’t ever thank you enough for the encouragement that you are to us.

Praying that this surgery and recovery are the end of our journey with cancer, and that maybe somehow God will use this story! Please continue to pray for a smooth recovery for Clay. We will keep you posted, and I will try to get Clay to write a blog when he is more awake.

“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation; O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation…”

Much love,

Clay and Lauren

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“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

I read this passage last week during my quiet time and was struck by it, and since then, the Lord has impressed it on my mind through various people all week long. You ever feel like maybe God is trying to tell you something?? Just like the Israelites in the desert, are we so afraid of what lies before us that we would rather go back to known territory (Egypt and slavery) than trust that God has a plan for our sanctification and growth (even when we don’t want to go there)? That is what we are struggling with. As believers, we are promised that God will never leave us or forsake us. Unfortunately, we are also promised (and even supposed to desire) to share in Christ’s sufferings. Paul actually asked to share in Christ’s sufferings; some days I wonder if I will ever feel that way! Right now, I feel like we would both quite happily go back to Egypt and slavery. But that is our fear talking, and God does not call us to be fearful; He calls us to come boldly before the throne of grace.

We arrived in Indiana safely yesterday, and today Clay had his appointments with Dr. Einhorn and Dr. Foster, the surgeon. Dr. Einhorn spoke with us briefly about the tumor; he feels that it is likely either a slow-growing seminoma or a teratoma. Either way, he expects that the surgery will likely remove most or all of the tumor, and he does not think that Clay will need chemo again. Praise for that!

Dr. Foster was intense but patient with our questions. We felt that he was very knowledgeable. Clay’s surgery is the only surgery scheduled for tomorrow, so that he can take as much time as he needs. That is definitely a blessing. He said it would be a three to six hour procedure.

Dr. Foster is going to actually remove the occluded section of Clay’s vena cava, since he has all the collaterals taking blood back to his heart anyway. He does not expect Clay to have any long term effects from the removal, especially since he has not really had any symptoms up until now. There are some potential complications regarding reproduction, which was not really surprising, but still sad.

Dr. Foster does not expect that there will be significant involvement with Clay’s aorta or with his other organs, such as his kidneys. There is a small chance that there will be some involvement, and if so, of course the procedure becomes more complicated. If there is aorta involvement, he will call in a vascular surgeon to replace Clay’s aorta, and if there is kidney involvement, he might have to remove the kidney. He doesn’t expect those things to happen, though.

Please pray that there would be no significant involvement with Clay’s other organs, and pray for little blood loss during surgery. Pray for all the people involved in the surgery; Dr. Foster, scrubs techs and nurses. Pray for me, my family and Clay’s family as we wait during the surgery. Pray for us as we are missing our son this week. Pray that we would be used as a conduit of grace and our hearts would be open to God’s will in all of this.

Clay wanted to include these last two verses: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them [the Egyptians], for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 3:6

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 3:8

We are so incredibly thankful for your prayers. We will keep you posted.

Much love,

Clay and Lauren

Surgery date…

Is set for Tuesday, February 8 at 7:30 AM. We will check into the hospital at 5:30 AM. Clay has appointments with Dr. Einhorn and Dr. Foster the day before, so we will have our questions about the surgery and prognosis answered then. We do know that the surgery is a six hour procedure, though. Trying to meditate on all the passages where God commands us not to fear, not to be anxious. Trying to remember that we are not orphans; we have a Father who loves us. We’ll keep you posted.

Test results… but still waiting

Hi everyone,

Happy 2011! I wish this year was getting off to a better start, but we definitely feel encouraged by the prayers and concern that you guys have expressed. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3

Clay had his arteriogram last Tuesday. The radiologist placed the catheter in his femoral vein and injected the dye to check the patency of his vena cava. Clay had a little discomfort when they placed the catheter and for a few hours afterwards, but he felt pretty good by the next day. The results weren’t unexpected, but we were hoping for better news. The radiologist showed us the film, and very little of the dye could be seen travelling through Clay’s vena cava. That means that the tumor is occluding and preventing blood flow to his heart through his vena cava. His body has recruited other veins to take blood back up to his heart, though, and those were clearly visible on the film. It’s pretty amazing how God makes our bodies to be so resilient! It was scary to hear that his vena cava is occluded, but we reminded ourselves that it has probably been slowly happening for a while and Clay hasn’t really had any symptoms.

So now we are waiting… again. We feel pretty sure that Dr. Foster will recommend surgery, especially in light of this new data, but we still don’t have a date. We are both ready to just have a plan and move forward, so we hope that we hear from the doctor’s office soon.

While we were waiting at the hospital on Tuesday, I happened across a blog that a Christian couple wrote to recount their journey of faith concerning their profoundly disabled son. The website is http://www.sweetbabyjames.info. Reading their honest account of their struggle to reconcile God’s goodness with the brokenness in this world was very encouraging to us. We were reminded that God has a sovereign plan for us. We want to pray that Clay’s surgery will go smoothly, that recovery will be quick; but while those are good prayers, our ultimate desire should be for God to glorify Himself through this situation. I am praying that I will have an open and willing heart to whatever God should do with us, even though that is a difficult prayer for me! Clay is praying with expectant hope that this will be the end of his journey with cancer. Please pray for us in these areas, and we will let you know when we hear something definite about surgery.

Love,

Clay and Lauren

 

Quick note

Dear friends,

Just wanted to write a brief note to let you all know that Clay is scheduled for an arteriogram of his inferior vena cava on Tuesday at Trinity Medical Center. It is convenient because it is where I work, so we are glad of that! The surgeon in IN, Dr. Foster, wants to check the patency of Clay’s veins and arteries in the area where the tumor is located. We assume that this test will show how much involvement the tumor has with his vena cava and aorta. The radiologist told me that Clay will be under conscious sedation and they will insert a little catheter into his femoral vein and inject a dye. That way they can see the arteries and veins in the region of the tumor. The procedure doesn’t take long, but he will go to same day surgery and have to lie flat for several hours to prevent bleeding. We will go home that afternoon.

The surgery is not scheduled yet, but we feel that Dr. Foster will probably schedule it when he gets the results of this test. We will let you know what they find. Thank you for your continued prayers!

Clay and Lauren

Joy and grief

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas! It is high time that we updated the blog, because we have had a very eventful year. Hope that you all are doing well.

I guess the biggest news of the year for Clay and me, as many of you know, is the adoption of our son! He officially became a member of our family in the eyes of the law on December 2, 2010. God did an amazing work to bring this little boy into our lives, and we have been so blessed because of it. We found out about him a week before his due date,  through my parents’ neighbors, and God worked in the heart of his birth mother to assure her that we were the parents that He had chosen for her son. It was an incredible act of selflessness on her part to trust His leading, especially since she has never met us! Her cousin took him home from the hospital and took care of him for two weeks, and then brought him home to us on September 17. We had custody of him while we finished the adoption process. His name means “gift of God”, and he truly is such a gift to us. God provided most of the baby essentials and ALL of the lawyer’s fees, etc. through our amazing church family, friends, coworkers and family. We are continually amazed to see how He provides for His children and does not leave us as orphans!

Finalizing the adoption- feeding stops for no man, not even while being sworn in!

Christmas joy 🙂

On a more somber note, we are finding that our journey with cancer is not quite over. Clay had a PET scan two weeks ago, and his doctor was concerned that there was a slight size increase (1-2 mm) of the tumor in his back and some slight area of uptake on the scan. That indicates that there might be some cancerous cells still growing in his tumor. Dr. Yeilding, Clay’s doctor at Brookwood, has always suspected that there was some teratoma in the tumor. Teratoma cells are very slow growing and don’t respond to chemo, which would explain why the mass never decreased much in size after chemo. Dr. Yeilding is strongly recommending surgical removal of the mass. He mailed the CT scan results to Dr. Einhorn, who wants Clay to follow up with him and also to have a consultation with a surgeon in Indiana. It is looking very likely that Clay might be having surgery in Indiana in the new year to remove the mass.

We are grieved to be back in this place of fear (for me, at least) and of doctors’ visits and treatment and dealing with the reality of cancer. The good news about removal of the tumor would be that we would not have to deal with uncertainty every time Clay goes in for a doctor’s visit. The bad news is that the abdominal area is not an easy place to access and operate on, and the aorta and vena cava are very closely involved.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we have the illusion of control with our lives and our families, but really, it is Christ who numbers our days. My husband’s life and my life are already His, so there is no reason for me to hold on so tightly. Still, I find myself afraid to think about this surgery. I was listening to Handel’s Messiah this morning and thinking about how the only story that matters is Christ’s story. As Clay always said during chemo, “This is not about me- it is about what God is doing.” God has made that clear to us again and again, and yet I keep forgetting.

We ask for your prayers yet again, for peace, for wisdom for the doctors and for a smooth surgery, should that be the path they choose. So thankful for you all.

Love,

Clay and Lauren

Celebration

Today is a day for celebration.  Not the kind of celebration you would expect. Two years ago on this day I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.  June 20th 2008 is probably the most traumatic day I have experienced in my 29 years of life on this planet.  It seems strange to most people who I choose to celebrate the anniversary of my diagnosis. Let me explain. I don’t celebrate the cancer or the discomfort of the required treatment. I rejoice in the fact that my Lord and Redeemer saw fit to spare my life and preserve me for the remnant of the days He has ordained for me. I find that I am more appreciative of a sunrise or sunset, a hug from a brother, or a loving glance from my wife. I mourn the brokenness that is a result of the fall and the introduction of sin into our world; however, I find that the small things that I took for granted before my diagnosis are the things that I now see God’s glory revealed in. The majesty of a sunset painted by the hand of God each evening is more than enough for me.  Really what I suppose I am celebrating today is God’s choice to reveal His goodness and mercy to me through one of the worst situations I have ever experienced.

I have had my 2 year appointment with Dr. Yielding and my PET/CT report shows no abnormal activity and no change in size. Praise be to the Father! Dr. Y also changed me to every 6 months for follow up appointments and scans. We are so thankful for your prayers throughout this journey.

Love,

Clay & Lauren