If my health records were still on paper, the stack would look like one of those in the corner of an absent-minded professor’s office. I won’t begin to list all the stuff ‘this old body’s’ been through. Of course the big deal was the lung transplant in November of 2015 which restored my vitality and extended by life.
But the downside of organ transplant is the way one’s immune system has to be suppressed. It has to be ‘faked out’ so as not to reject the foreign ‘item’ that’s been placed in it . . . in my case, a left lung. The drugs turn down your defenses against diseases, including cancer. Your body’s on-board self-healing system gets one hand tied behind it but still has to do its whole job. In the three and a half years since my transplant, I’ve had more than 30 skin cancers. Thankfully, my son Ross is a skin cancer surgeon. He’s removed these rascals, sometimes on the very day they’ve been identified.
In December of 2017, a small place appeared on my forehead. A very tiny spot with a purple hue. It was biopsied immediately and much to everyone’s surprise and chagrin, turned out to be a very rare but virulent cancer called merkel cell carcinoma. The spot was removed, radioactive scans were done, and lymph nodes from the area were removed and found to be benign. Still, the folks at Emory Winshape Cancer Center decided it would be wise to radiate the area around the spot. 5½ weeks of daily radiation and we were done.
Or so we thought . . .
About 2 months ago, I began to notice a little pain shooting down the left side of my neck. It was inconsistent and very subtle. After a few days, I detected a little-bitty knot under my left ear. Long story short, the biopsy from Emory showed the merkel cell carcinoma to be back and far bigger than the first time. Merkel is 3 times more virulent than melanoma and very rare . . . only about 3000 cases in the U.S. each year. On June 14th, Dr. Lowe, a surgical oncologist at Emory, removed the tumor and all the lymph nodes in the surrounding area. The disease was evident in only one lymph node and isn’t believed to have spread anywhere else.
So . . . I’ll begin 30 daily radiation therapy treatments on Thursday, July 18th and complete them on Wednesday, August 28th. I’ve been told to expect dysfunction in my jaw, mouth ulcers and difficulty in swallowing. Once this is done, I’ll go on a 3 month PET scan routine to monitor for recurrence (which we’re told almost always happens with merkel).
We are in our Father’s hands. He is always good and He loves us immeasurably. We are asking (not demanding) that the side effects from the radiation treatments be minimal or at least manageable. We’re asking that the disease to be eradicated and not return, at least for a long time. Most importantly we’re asking for the courage and faith to bend what we want to align with what He wants.
So if you would, please pray for Miriam and all my family; . . . that they would experience God's presence in this season. Please pray that I would have the 'peace of Christ'; a 'peace that surpasses all understanding' as I go through this.
(and pray that all 270 churches and 1400 mentors would keep leading RMG groups!)