So You’re A Calvinist? How Do You React to Cancer?

[Today is national cancer day and my wife wondered if I plan to blog about it seeing I once had a bout with cancer. I thought the better thing to do is to repost my original article from 2005 I wrote the first time – Fred, Feb.,2014]

Guess what? I have cancer. I just found out this week. I was sort of surprised by that news seeing that Butler men fall victim to strokes and heart attacks.

I have had this small lump in my neck for years and years and years. I would imagine maybe 20 years or more; since being a pre-teen. We would routinely ask doctors about it when I was getting my check ups. Everyone of them would ask the regular questions: Has it changed? No. Has it gotten bigger? No. Does it hurt? No. Everyone of them would always conclude that it was a cyst of some sorts. If it doesn’t change or hurt, don’t worry about it.

When I got married, my wife was obviously concerned about a lump in my neck. I would repeat to her what every doctor had told me since being a child. She was skeptical and pestered me to have it looked at. Again, I asked my doctor what he thought and he again asked the same, regular questions all my previous doctors asked. His conclusion: Its a cyst. If it doesn’t hurt or change size, don’t worry about it.

This year I switched to a doctor that was nearer to where I lived. A few months ago I go in for a chest cold and a terrible cough. He pokes and prods and writes up a prescription for some medicine and then asks, “Is there any thing else you have a question about?” I just blurted out, “Well, I have this lump in my neck, what are your thoughts?” I gave him the background and he concluded… You guessed it, a cyst. However, this time I told him that recently, when I am sick with head colds or a sore throat, the lump is tender. “That’s typical,” he stated, “because it’s probably next to a gland that is fighting your infection.” “But, if it is bothering you, there is no harm in having it removed,” and he writes up an order for me to see a specialist.

The Ears, Nose and Throat guy basically told me that it could be one of two things: either a cyst (what everyone had been telling me) or a tumor in my parotid gland (what makes your spit). He sets me up for my first ever MRI and my first ever biopsy.

This past Tuesday, his assistant nurse calls to tell me to come to his office immediately. “Did he say exactly what is up?” “No, just to have you come down today or tomorrow.” So, the wife and I go to his office, he comes in, closes the door and tells me, “You have an acinic cell carcinoma. (mine is not nearly as bad as the one in the picture)

me: an acidic cell what?
: an acinic cell carcinoma.

: a what cell carcinoma?

: an acinic cell carcinoma.

: is that a bad thing?

Well, yes and no. Yes, if it is my lymph glands, but no in that it is quickly treatable by removing it. The one draw back is that there is a facial nerve near it and if the tumor is around the nerve, there is a slight chance they may have to cut the nerve, which means half my face will have a Droopy Dog appearance. I am not too excited about that bit of news.

My wife and I are taking this all in stride and are not the least bit worried. What we have found disconcerting, however, is how our friends react upon hearing the news. Everyone we tell becomes somber, straight-faced, and dour, and with a hushed tone asks, “So… How are you doing?”

My wife has told several of her girlfriends about my plight and they respond by saying “he is so young; and you have a baby on the way.” People, its a little, treatable bump in my neck. I am not lingering in the final stages of leukemia here.

Because my wife and I are optimistic, it is as though our friends are annoyed with us for not being more worried or something. I am deeply appreciative of everyone’s concern, but as a Christian, how am I suppose to react? Am I not to have a spirit filled, biblical reaction to all this? Are people expecting me to become weepy when I tell my story and ask for prayer?

These last couple of days have sharpened my thinking to reflect upon how Christians should react to bad news. What we typically know as trials. It is these trials God uses to verify your theology. Sadly, I believe a good many Christians these days react poorly. It breaks my heart to see Christians fall under a trial only to react by curling up in a fetal ball and rocking gently back and forth on a bed in a darkened room.

I think this adverse reaction is due in part to the easy lifestyles we have come to love and expect here in America. Our worldly culture promotes youth, vitality and a carefree life, and if you are not youthful, athletic with toned legs and a six pack tummy, and enjoying a vigorous, fulfilling sex life, then you have a second rate existence as a person.

Couple this secular view of life with the notions promoted in some evangelical Churches of a Christian faith being all hearts and flowers and fun and there is stewing a disastrous mixture of wrong expectations and muddle-headed theology that results in a negative reaction to faith challenging circumstances.

I wish to maintain a high view of God’s goodness during these times. Consider the detrimental cascading effect that will happen if a trial occurs and yet I respond by falling to the ground in a heap.

First, such a reaction impacts my testimony among my Christian friends. I am telling them during the good times that I trust solely in God’s sovereignty and grace. I teach these truths regularly from a pulpit and I even dutifully remind my friends to trust the Lord’s sovereignty when they are struggling through trials. Now, am I only a fair weather Christian? Do I only pay lip service to the Bible where it tells me of God’s goodness? Or, am I to trust His sovereignty in my life through the difficult, uncertain times? How does a negative reaction reflect upon my testimony and the weaker brother’s confidence in the Lord?

Also, what about my evangelistic endeavors. In other words, if I have neighbors or family who are lost, they know I am a Christian. I have mentioned the goodness of God to these folks in the past. They listen quietly in the background of how I trust His sovereignty. I may have even told them at one time or another that they too can trust God. However, if I am having a nervous breakdown over a trial, how can I rightly maintain my platform of evangelism? If I am not trusting the Lord as a believer, how can I with certainty call them to trust God with their salvation?

Have I forgotten what the Bible teaches about dying and death? I hate to have to remind folks of this fact, but every single person on the planet has a terminal illness. Either the doctor will give you 3 months to live, or maybe 40 years, but the stark reality remains, all men will die.

As Hebrews 9:27 states, And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment and Psalm 89:48 is even more emphatic, What man can live and not see death, can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?

Yes, I understand from a human perspective the grief of losing a loved one in the young years of his or her life, but living another 40 years is only prolonging the inevitable. Of course I want to see my kids grow up, get married, and Lord willing, and He hasn’t allowed the Islamic hordes to take over the world, I want to see grandchildren. But I never want the eternal to become out of focus. This life is but a vapor. I want to be mindful of that truth so as to redeem the time I have been granted.

A life of painless, non-suffering is not guaranteed by the Lord
. I find it amazing how there are some Christians who become upset with God if they happen to have tragedy ruin their expectation about life. A catastrophic accident may occur or perhaps a serious debilitating medical condition and God is viewed as a meanie who has abandoned them or doesn’t love them or something of that sort.

But where has God promised this personal utopian lifestyle? He hasn’t. What God has promised is that His grace will be sufficient. I in no way wish to minimize or dismiss a person’s suffering. I recognize that it is very real and wearisome. But that does not mean we put away a biblical perspective and stop walking in the spirit.

Then lastly, I have hope. I don’t think my cancer is serious in that it will spread and claim my life in 9 months. Obviously, there is a far, far remote chance. (I could also be killed in an accident). But even so, my wife and I have hope. Our trust is in the Lord, the second Adam who has conquered death and has granted me eternal life. I could not imagine struggling through any major, life threatening illness as an atheist. What terrible despair. Having to fake happiness and optimism to basically face being absorbed into nothingness or just going out of existence.

In a way, I am even some what embarrassed to mention all this, because my situation is so minor compared to at least two other individuals I know who are really struggling with cancer. One couple in particular, who were once members of my Church, are preparing for the death of the wife who is slowly succumbing to a cancer that has affected her spine. She has been given a short time to live and compounding that bad news, the cancer has taken away her motor skills and she is confined to a wheel chair. I do not know these folks. My only contact is with mutual acquaintances, but I marvel at the up-dates I receive, because I believe they are a family who are reacting in a God-pleasing way. May I have their courage when my theology is forged in trial.

Food Pharisees

A Hip and Thigh Classic

While I am preparing some longer posts, I thought I would dig back into the archives and bring to the front one of my more interesting posts so as to expose it to a fresher audience. It was brought back to mind after having a handful of conversations with some border line food pharisees.

Just as a note: The context of cancer is from 2006. I wanted everyone to know a head of time that I am fine and cancer free… In spite of my eating habits.

Food Pharisees

Since I announced I have an acinic cell carcinoma sitting in my neck (now officially confirmed), I have been exhorted on occasion as to the substance of my diet by what I like to call food Pharisees.

Food Pharisees are folks who vehemently insist that if I change my base diet from eating pepperoni/pineapple pizza, Noah’s bagel dogs, Costco chocolate dipped ice cream bars rolled in roasted almonds, and an assortment of otherwise unhealthy foods, and switch to only consuming juiced wheat grass, organic carrots, and purified water, my tumor would disappear.

Now I will confess I could eat better and I certainly need to lose a little weight. I would also imagine there is some truth about the impact of a proper diet on my overall health. However, these food Pharisees go way beyond just encouraging folks to eat healthy food, they assign a measure of intrinsic spirituality to eating their prescribed foods. In other words, if you really wish to be a spiritual Christian, as well as a totally healthy Christian with no physical problems, then you will eat the foods God has prescribed in the Bible. The fact that you do not eat them is the reason you have asthma, heart disease, sinus troubles, and cancer.

I had one person tell me once with a straight face and a voice full of authority that any cancer can be reversed and eliminated no matter how serious it is and how far along it has progressed, if only the cancer victim eats the foods ordained of God. This individual went on to inform me God’s foods are not processed by man; things like whole, uncooked vegetables and pure grains. Of course the term processed by man is rather vague. Something tells me Hamburger Helper and Lucky Charms falls into the category of processed by man.

This is not the first time I have encountered food Pharisees. Back in college when I was a fresh, brand new believer in the Lord, I had some close friends who started to imbibe the food Pharisee ideology. They had come across some alleged Christian food guru who insisted the food laws outlined in Leviticus was God’s special diet for all His people in both the OT, as well as the NT. Hence, spiritually minded Christians will have a diet reflective of the clean and unclean animals and other foods regulated upon the theocratic nation of Israel during the OT.

When confronted with the account of Peter’s vision in Acts 10 where he sees a great cloth lowered from heaven with all the unclean animals displayed on it, and then a voice tells Peter to rise, kill and eat, my friends told me that was not God repealing the Levitical food laws, but it was the inclusion of the gentiles to be under the Levitical food laws. (I am still scratching my head over that one).

They further appealed to 1 Timothy 4:3,4 where Paul writes concerning certain apostates forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from food which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. Rather than understanding this passage to be another confirmation of God lifting the food law restrictions, my friends told me it was an affirmation of their continual binding on the life of the Christian believer because Paul writes of food which God created to be received and every creature of God is good -– the food and animals God declared clean in Leviticus.

I was almost persuaded by their arguments as a naive young believer, but then they started telling me how this guru they liked suggested all new clean food converts must under go a colon cleansing in order for this new spiritual lifestyle to have maximum effect. The cleansing basically involved having to drink foul, enzyme-laden juice for a week, and then undergo a high-powered, yet invigorating, enema. I was told I would experience a little discomfort. Experiencing a little discomfort with a high-powered enema? That is like saying you may experience a little moisture in a hurricane. Any ways, that was the stop sign the Lord used to turn me away from embracing this particular food Pharisee model. Invigorating indeed.

As I have reflected on my encounters with food Pharisees, I believe it is rather telling they exist primarily in pseudo-Christian cults and false religions. That is because these groups are work oriented with their perspective on spirituality and they have to provide their personal holiness as outlined by their particular deity. The practitioners assign spiritual value to the maintenance of their rituals, and many of these rituals involve food.

For instance, Islam promotes ridiculous food and purity laws. Everyone knows they reject eating any pork, but some Muslims go so far as to insist that no one who has handled pork can touch any of their non-pork food, even if the chef has washed his hands thoroughly and hasn’t touched the pork in hours or days. I had a college friend who worked at the local Pizza Hut near campus. Every day Muslims would call to order pizza. Their one rule was that no pork could touch it, like pepperoni or sausage. My friend told me the person taking the order would assure the Muslim of no pork contamination, and then proceed to squeeze sausage juice on the dough before the pizza was made. All the Muslims I knew just loved the pizza from Pizza Hut.

Mormons also have their food laws against drinking anything with caffeine and Seventh-Day Adventists are probably the most notorious of all pseudo-Christian cults in that they have their entire line of food products they insist their members eat. Even pagan religionists have their food laws. Vegans not only abstain from eating any animal by-product, the more devoted will even stay away from using animal by-products like leather belts and shoes, or down filled coats.

One of the more curious examples of food Pharisees in recent times comes from the liberal secular world. There is a major push among America leftist elites to make all mothers breast feed their newborns. I say this is a curiosity because most secular liberals seem to disdain motherhood in general and it is a viewpoint cutting entirely against their pro-abortion stance. With this recent case, the public-health authorities in the state of Massachusetts, a cesspool for leftist social experimentation, in a push to promote breastfeeding now bans hospitals from giving formula samples to women who just had a baby.

Now I will admit up front that my wife and I are breastfeeding supporters. In the case of women’s breasts, God did design them to be the best means to feed an infant. However, neither one of us are breastfeeding “only” advocates, certainly not like those creepy lactation groups who breastfeed their preteen children. We definitely would not claim a mother is violating God’s spiritual blessing if she is unable to breastfeed, or even chooses not to altogether.

Colossians 2:20-23 is the one passage in scripture that silences all genuine minded food Phariseeism, particularly those who truly believe there is some inherent godliness with eating “biblical” food. Paul clearly states there is only an appearance of wisdom with eating foods self imposed by one’s religious conviction, but in reality, depriving one’s self of “unbiblical” foods really doesn’t do anything for the indulgences of the flesh (Col. 2:23). In other words, it doesn’t change a persons heart. That is because sinfulness is not caused by eating outward things, but is a condition coming from the heart. People are in need of a heart change, not a diet change, in order to experience true spirituality. As Jesus stated to his disciples, it is what comes out of a man that defiles him, not what he eats (Mark 7:20-23). So for you food Pharisees, may I say a heart felt thank you that you care about my well being both physically and spiritually. I will certainly eat in moderation, however, I will not be giving up my grilled ham steaks and fried chicken and I would likewise encourage you to treat yourself to a Big Mac.

To the Heart of the Beast

I have to drive down to the Beverly Hills-Wilshire district this afternoon for an appointment with my surgeon from last year. There’s nothing major happening, he just wanted to do a follow up on my neck surgery in which he removed a cancerous tumor.

The difficulty in this appointment is the drive down into the heart of LA. It is not one of my favorite things to do. The traffic is unbearable, sometimes taking me an hour to drive the surface streets just 3 miles or so.

The first time I went, I took Wilshire off the 405 freeway. Going to the Cedars-Sinai medical center was about a 45 minute drive on the surface street. Leaving the medical center and returning to the freeway was nearly an hour and 15 minutes. That is just 2 or 3 miles.

When I was in the hospital, I took La Cienega north off the 10 freeway. My drive was much quicker. Maybe just 20 minutes. That drive takes me by the famous Sinkin’ Rose Italian restaurant and the grand, Larry Flynt publishing offices.

There is one funny thing about my drives down into this part of LA. Keep in mind, as you sit in traffic, high end automobiles like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, with mega-rich drivers pass by you on all sides. Once, when I was sitting in traffic, a blonde gal pulls up next to me in sporty Rolls. She had the big diamond, gold rings on every finger wearing Tiffany bought clothes. If I recall correctly, she even had on a fur, which is unusual for the PETA supporting folks who live in this area of the world.

As I was sneaking glances at her car while trying to keep from being noticed, I see her reach up with her finger and go knuckle deep into her nostril. I was so stunned, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at for just a second. Then it dawned on me: Even the super rich have to pick sometimes, just like the rest of us.

The nose pick, the great equalizer of men.

I have a cellphone camera with me this time. If I see something like this again, I’ll take pictures.

The Glorious Mucus Lining

Welp, this marks my last official week of radiation treatments. I have two more days next week and then I am done and it can’t be soon enough.

Let me see, what will I NOT miss the most?:

The thick, syrupy sensation constantly in my mouth?
the feeling of a hard, salt cube lodged in my throat?
the mouth sores?
the inability to taste (every thing tastes like metal)?
the fiery radiation burn on the side of my neck?

But hey, I am not complaining.

One thing I learned through this ordeal: a mucus lining is really important. It is solid evidence against evolution, because its like one of those irreducibly complex things no thinks twice about until it is not properly functioning.

Apparently, running through out a person’s esophagus and down through the digestive track is a lining of mucus. It helps things slide down easily and keeps hard food, like nuts, from being hung up in your throat so you won’t choke. It is also helpful in removing disease and other harmful particles that can do you harm.

High doses of radiation dries that lining out and hence the sore throats begin. The difficulty swallowing is miserable.

Thus, we see another fine example of God’s wisdom in creation. Evolution, with its descent with modification and increased complexity over millions of years by natural selection and mutations cannot have happened in the case of the mucus lining. Highly complex organisms like human beings came intact with a mucus lining, for without it, no one could have been able to survive to the next generation without choking to death on something as soft as noodles.

I always love it when Darwinianism is debunked, but does evidence need to be so painful?


Feeling the Burn

Just to provide you all with something of an update.

I started radiation treatments on September 11th. This is the second stage of destroying a cancer that was removed from my jawline this past January. Just to put people at ease, the radiation is precautionary. There is no recurrence of cancer. In fact, the surgeon told me that if I were a 75 year old guy, he would send me home and tell me I am done. However, because this particular cancer is rare for young guys in their thirties, to be on the wiser and safer side, I may want to pursue radiation treatments.

I wasn’t going to do it, but having three young children and learning that this cancer can come back in different locations where it may be even more difficult to remove than the first time, tends to change one’s perspective on reality.

I have finished 15 treatments. I have about 15 or so left to do. One of the big side effects of radiation is a sore throat. I was expecting a mild sore throat with a bit of discomfort. Boy howdy, was I wrong. This is like an atomic searing sore throat. Making it even worse is the fact that I caught a sinus cold and coupled with the radiation, my soreness is exacerbated even worse. Last weekend, I couldn’t even blow my nose with normal exertion because the pain was so bad. I had to give these worthless little toots. That only caused the mucus to fill up into my nostrils and created a dry, crusty ring around my nose. It was like I was turning into a 3 year old.

In addition to the severe sore throat, my mouth has become dry and sticky. I probably drink 20 bottles of water a day if not more. That’s a good thing on one hand because I am sure my body is appreciating the extra water, but I am in a continual state of thirst that I can never seem to quench.

Of course, all of this takes a toll on my strength, and though I am trying to exercise and eat right, I have had a weird lethargy cover me. I am already a lethargic guy anyways, so you can imagine how I am now. I have the desire to do household chores and engage my regular academic pursuits, including blogging, especially the handful of series I started, but it is difficult to sustain the various activities for any reasonable amount of time with out loosing my focus. I am guessing this is one of the ways clinical depression manifests itself in a person’s life.

At any rate, the Lord willing, this will quickly pass here in the next month and I can return to my regular routine. One bright spot is the fact that I have regained my normal nose blowing ability with minimal pain, but each morning, my mouth is paste like and the throat is sore. It usually takes a couple of hours for all that to subside. I can’t even begin to describe to you the pain I felt last week when it never went away. I have had to pass a kidney stone once, and this pain is up there on that level.

Radioactive Man

I am suppose to start radiation treatments today.

Some of you all may remember my saga from way back in January when I under went an operation to remove an acinic cell carcinoma from my parotid gland (that’s the spit gland for all you who are physiologically challenged). I blogged about finding the cancer here, and then followed up with a post-op entry found here.

When I went back to my surgeon for a post-op check-up and to have my stitches cut loose, he told me he wanted me to see a radiation oncologist. Even though he was convinced he removed all of the tumor and my suspicious looking lymph nodes were clean; yet, because of my young age for having a tumor such as this one (normally it is guys who are 50 plus who get them), he thought it would be wise to see a radiation doctor just to get a second opinion.

My wife and I held off seeing the radiation oncologist for a few months, because my surgeon’s recommendation was more precautionary than insistent. Moreover, when I returned home and began up-dating friends and family about all the details of my surgery and hospital stay, they would ask about me getting chemo or radiation and I would tell them of what my doctor said about seeing a radiation oncologist. Practically everyone to whom we would mentioned radiation launched into a story about some obscure relative or in-law who was really young, had radiation, and then died a slow, lingering, torturous death.

“Yeah, my sister-in-law had a cousin back east somewhere who had radiation. After he puked up the lining of his stomach, that dissolved his esophagus, he died about 7 weeks later. Well, I am sure the Lord will direct you.”


So after listening to all these graphic horror stories about the dangers of radiation, I wasn’t too thrilled about radiation.

On top of that, the food pharisees started pestering me at church and via email.

“Why do you want to subject yourself to such unnatural procedures? You know, if you would just give up eating foods processed by man, you know, stuff like ice cream bars dipped in chocolate and smothered in almonds from Costco, all Italian foods and Southern fried chicken, and hamburger helper; and then start a steady diet drinking wheat grass juice, and only eating the foods God tells you to eat, you would be totally cured of any cancer.”

Oh, I am sure I would.

Needless to say I wasn’t too keen on visiting an radiation oncologist. Seeing that radiation was only recommended as precautionary, My wife and I thought we would take our chances, so I wasn’t going to pursue any radiation treatments. Thankfully, however, good reason won the day. I also had help forming my decision with some research I did on the recurrence of acinic cell carcinomas, and in those patients who had them recur due in part to not getting treated with radiation, the cancer did return, but in other parts of their body. One subject I read about had the cancer spread to his jaw bone and lost his hearing because it got up into the ear canal.

So, I made an appointment with the radiation doctor and began the process of preparing for the procedure. I had to visit a cancer dentist who examined my teeth to see if they were fit to receive radiation. Apparently, if you have cavities, or even gum problems, radiation can cause you to loose your teeth. My teeth were in excellent condition. I even have good spit flow according to this dentist, so all I will need to do is brush with a special toothpaste. I may also loose a patch of sideburn hair, and it may be white when it grows back.

I also had to have a face mask made so they can line me up to the exact location of where I am going to get zapped. That is probably going to be a rather discomforting part of the daily process, because I have to lay my head down on this block shaped head rest, and they screw the mask down tightly against my face. I am not claustrophobic, but it is sort of weird to have your head totally immobilized even for just 5 minutes. And I am suppose to do that everyday for the next six weeks.

However, my oncologist doesn’t think the radiation will activate some mutant X gene that will give me the ability to fly and hurl lightning bolts from my finger tips; or better yet, the ability to synchronize the traffic signals with my mind so the traffic will flow better. It would also be cool to have the ability to levitate the cars of teenage girls talking on their cell phones so I can drive past them at a normal rate of speed.

I can only wish…

Praise Report

My wife and I met with my doctor and he was pleased to report to us that he successfully removed all of the carcinoma from my neck. Even more, the suspicious lymph nodes we thought may have been cancerous came back negative. In fact, the tumor had completely surrounded some lymph nodes and even they were negative.

My wife and I are both praising the Lord for His great providence, not only sparing me from a serious bout with cancer, but also for bringing us to a doctor who is an artist when it comes to surgery on the face. Apart from post surgery numbness, I never lost any mobility in my face or mouth which was a concern for me. All of the feeling should come back in time. The only place where I will experience permanent numbness according to my doctor is on the tip of my ear lobe. I can live with that. Maybe I will get an ear ring?

I am not an animal…

One humorous note. I thought before I was released from the hospital a nurse would wrap my neck in some gauze, but nope. My doctor let me go home with my foot long stitched neck exposed and grinning wide for the world to see.

What I found to be a lot of fun was watching people in public attempt to stare at my neck without appearing as though they are staring. As I walked about in public, I would look up at folks to see them quickly averting their eyes away from my neck. They would give me a head nod and a hello and moved on feeling guilty they were caught staring.

On the day after my release, my wife and I went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Being sensitive to the fact many patrons could possibly be repulsed by my neck as they ate, I did my best to keep it covered. Still, I was amused by how anyone who saw me would become transfixed upon my neck. While my wife and I were eating, we saw some acquaintances we hadn’t seen for a few years. We went over to their table to say “hi” and of course, my neck was like a giant elephant in the room everyone is pretending not to notice. I finally had to break the awkward tension by explaining how I had just had an operation. The conversation picked up after that. If I had been thinking a head, I would have made up a t-shirt that said something like, “Please feel free to stare at my neck,” or something along those lines.

I just would like to thank everyone who called us, or sent cards, or stopped us at church, or made us a meal, and even posted comments on my blog, who wished me well and sent their blessings. Words are difficult to express the gratitude I have felt ever since going into the hospital until this day. It is truly humbling to discover all the folks who genuinely care for me and my family. In a way, such outpouring of love is a purifying experience, because it shows me how many people my life touches. God is truly gracious by placing us the Body of Christ.

I have been unassimulated

While I sit here writing, I am wearing a foot long gash in my neck that runs from the top of my right ear, down to the base of my neck and along the parameter of my jaw stopping under my chin. It is like someone tried to guillotine me and only went half way through.

The gash is the remnants of my operation from this past Thursday to remove a tumor in my parotid gland, along with some suspicious looking lymph glands surrounding the tumor.

My wife, mother and I had to be down at the Cedars-Sinai hospital by 5:15 AM. We arrived 20 minutes early and were the only three folks sitting in the lounge. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, there were at least 30 other people packed into this waiting area. I thought it was amusing how the preparation for my surgery was like meeting a clandestine CIA agent. A guy calls my name and tells me to go up to the third floor, dial a number and then someone would come and get me. I do this, and a monotone female voice tells me to take a seat. We wait around for about 10 minutes in another waiting room lounge area. Except for a couple of other folks, the hospital appeared to be entirely vacant. The monotone female emerges from a non-descript door and she registers me into the hospital. I finish up with her and I am told to go back and wait to be called. When I return to the lounge, it is now getting filled up with people.

After another 30 minutes or so, a lady appears at a door, calls my name, along with about 5 or 6 other people. She takes us down a corridor into the pre-op room. Each of us were assigned our curtained cubicles and told to change into a gown with little booties and a paper hat. I asked the lady coordinating all of us if I needed to take off my underwear. She asks me what area of my body is being operated on. I reply my neck and she tells me I should be OK wearing them. Later on, however, when I got to my room, I was disconcerted to discover they were gone. Anyhow…

The pre-op folks weighed us, took all our stats, and began interviewing everyone as to what procedure they were going to have. For all the emphasis on patient privacy, I could hear everyone sharing his or her medical problem. The guy to my right was there to have his sinuses worked on, another fellow was there to do something with his lungs, and still another guy to my left had something going on with his knee. I really got to know my fellow patients.

I had one funny experience. My tumor is on the right side of my face. A report in my file said it was on the left side. So, when the first nurse asks me, “Are you here to get a tumor out of your left parotid gland?” I quickly told her no, the right gland. She then goes and changes the paperwork on the computer. While she is doing that, another nurse comes over and asks me about my left parotid gland. I told her no, my right. She immediately went to investigate the paper work. I had even another nurse ask me the same thing, to which I told her no. There was a flurry of activity with nurses buzzing about to find out what the truth was as to the nature of my operation. One nurse even questioned me, “Are you sure it is your right and not your left?” I had to make her feel it so she would be convinced.

When my surgeon arrived, Dr. Osborne (see photo on the left), he says, “Well, I would think the patient would know more about his own body than a piece of paper” and then he looked over all of my other reports, charts and scans and says, “These all confirm it is on the right, so it must be on the right.” I was happy I did not have to become insistent to the point of being belligerent.

I was wheeled into the OR, slid from the gurney to the operation table and introduced to all my nurses. Jennifer is the only name I can remember. I mentioned how I was told that when you go under, the last thing you think of will be the first thing you think of when you wake up. That is a myth. I tried, but it does not work; at least with me. I was thinking of my wife when I went under, when I woke up I was thinking about being thirsty. I first thought of her when the nurse informed me the doctor had spoken to her and my mother. I have to say how much I love and appreciate my wife. It took a long while for my hospital room to be prepared and she and my mother were out in the waiting room hurting to see me. I praise God for her persistence, because one of the nurses let her come back to the post op area – an area forbidden to anyone but staff and patients – to see me. She fed me ice chips and swabbed my mouth with a sponge.

After a long time in the post-op room, I was finally carted off to my hospital room. As I became more aware, I noticed I had a neck brace, but I also had drainage tubes coming out of my head. One from behind my ear and another down near the base of my neck. The one behind my ear was 6 inches into my head, the one near the base of my neck was 8 inches up into my face. The idea of plastic tubes draining my personal juices out from my body into another plastic container does not sound natural. It is almost like a horror movie. Having plastic tubes with little suction bulbs dangling at the end of them is probably the more disturbing aspect of my whole ordeal. Even worse was when the doctor had to remove them. He removed the one behind my ear on Saturday. He cuts the plastic tube and then yanks it out. It hurt. A lot. But removing the second one from my neck, however, is a pain I never want to feel again. I shudder to think about it.

Now I am home. I stayed in three, long and arduous days. I don”t know how many people have ever been in the hospital for an extended stay, but I just marvel at how slow the passage of time is. It was truly the oddest phenomenon. I would go to sleep at 10 PM. I would wake up, believing I slept a good solid 4 hours or more, but it would be 10:45. I would go back to sleep, wake up again think I slept a good 2 hours or more and it would be 11:30. It was like this all night long. The first night was as if the morning would never come. And it was like this on Friday night as well. I wanted to catch up on my reading, but could not concentrate. Plus, trying to prop up my body to read was a chore. So, I went to TV surfing. Did you know that after a certain time, like midnight, channels begin to repeat the same shows? I think I saw the same airplane documentary on the Discovery channel 10 times during the weekend.

On top of the foot long gash, almost the entire right side of my face is numb. It is not paralyzed like we had feared could have happened, just numb. Dr. Osborne did an expert job pulling out the tumor from around all those nerves, so we are praising God for his skill. I guess you can say the nerves are still traumatized from the operation. I cannot express how weird it is to touch my ear and not feel it, or shave over that area of my face and not feel the razor.

As I close this up, I would just like to say how much my wife and I have been overwhelmed with the well wishes, thoughts of prayers and general all around concern from all sorts of people. It is a tremendous testimony of the Body of Christ caring for one another. It is especially cool to know I have readers I may never meet who were thinking of me during this time. You are deeply appreciated from a far.

I hope to post some more this week. I want to return to our critique of Chaz the atheist and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, as well as some other subjects. Until then, God bless you all.