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Lessons Thru Cancer: There is Power in Prayer

Many of you have been asking when I am going to have surgery. We actually don’t know yet. We are going to see the surgeon in Indy on Friday and should know after that. We have been told to expect a wait of 4-6 weeks. We found out last week that the doctor doing the surgery is the best in the world at this specific surgery. That was a huge encouragement. At the doctor last week we were told a bit more about the upcoming operation. It will be a fairly intrusive and complicated surgery but one this surgeon has done many times. They will cut my stomach from below my belly button to right below my sternum to remove the remaining tumor. Recovery will take 4-6 weeks as it will take a long time for my abdomen muscles to heal. Please begin praying now for this surgery, for my surgeon Richard Foster and for my recovery.

Over the last few weeks I have felt better and have been able to experience more of a normal life rhythm. One of the things I have wanted to do is to think back on my experiences thus far and write about what I am learning. As you might imagine, I have been shaped and reshaped through this process and have much to share. This is the first in a series I am calling “Lessons Thru Cancer” where I will share a few thoughts on what God is teaching me.

James 5:16 is a verse I have read and heard preached numerous times. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” I believe this passage to be true and have even seen God work through the prayers of his righteous people. However, it was not until I saw God’s people respond in the midst of my battle with cancer that I began to more fully understand the depths of this passage.

At the beginning of our cancer battle, people asked what they could do for us and how they could help. I was broken and knew what I needed most were the prayers of God’s people. So, what I asked people for was prayer. I asked people to pray and to ask their churches to pray. I had a vision of seeing churches from all around the world, in multiple languages, praying for this struggle that Sarah and I were going through. What I began to experience over the next 3 months was a movement of God’s people to pray. They rallied around a suffering pastor and responded by praying faithfully. I saw this most vividly through my own church here in Louisville. We are a large church in four locations and each of these locations has had a movement of prayer on my behalf. Dear friends, fellow pastors, small groups, members, non-members and complete strangers took up the task of praying. This Sunday, while I was on stage during a service, the congregation began to applaud  for what seemed like a few minutes. They had given their hearts and souls to prayer on our behalf and were now celebrating the healing work of God in our lives.

The crazy thing is that the movement of prayer did not stop with our local church. Dozens of churches from around the country have contacted us through this blog, through letters or in person, letting us know they have been praying. Some of these churches we know well and others we have never been to. Many of them follow our story on this blog and pray weekly for my healing. The most amazing part of this story is that churches from around the world have been fasting and praying for my healing and for my family. Churches in England, France, North Africa, Ghana, Nepal, India, the Dominican Republic and other nations I am unaware of. At several points in this whole process I have been overwhelmed by God’s goodness in moving his people to pray for me from all over the globe. Why would both people who know me and don’t know me take the time to pray on my behalf? So many days I have not even prayed for myself, yet these faithful men and women of God have prayed. I am learning that the church of God, both universal and local, is a powerful force. To see the bride of Christ come together through prayer has deepened my understanding and love for the Church.

If you are reading this and you are a part of one of these churches-thank you. Thank you for giving of yourself and your time to love me so well. Because of my sickness and the craziness of treatment, I have not been able to keep up with all of the churches praying for me. If you are a part of a church that has been praying; please take a moment and let me know in the comments section. Thank you again and I challenge you personally to think deeply on the Church- the bride for which Christ died. She is a powerful force both to see the kingdom expand and to love those who are broken and hurting. If we will embrace the church and play the vital role God has given us in it (1 Corinthians 12), I really believe we will see the power of God working through the prayers of his people to grow our churches and change our hearts.

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Not There Yet But So Close

I just got back from the doctor and thought I would take a moment and update you on our fight with cancer. The CT scan showed that I had one small tumor remaining in my abdomen. This tumor was the size of my fist just two months ago and was the one that caused all the blot clots. After chemo it’s only one 1 inch by half an inch.We were hoping the scan would show no cancer but my doctor assured us that was a very small possibility. She was encouraged and thus so are we.

We will have to have surgery in Indianapolis, but assuming that goes well, I will be in full remission after the surgery. Rejoice with us that we are one step closer to this crazy hard battle being over and done with.I am not sure when the surgery will be. The doctor in Indy will call on Monday and set up an appointment with us. From there they will schedule the surgery. I assume it will be at least a few weeks before the surgery happens. They will want me to gain more strength before they cut me open.

Thank you for praying and please continue to pray. We are choosing to celebrate life to its fullest now and look forward to a day very soon when we can call life “normal!”

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Things are Different Now

Today was the big day. I had a CT scan at 9:30 this morning that will tell if I am cancer free or if the cancer remains. I want to thank all of you who fasted and prayed with me this morning. If truth be told, I broke my fast a bit early. About 10:30 Sarah and I went to Wild Eggs, a great breakfast place here in Louisville, to celebrate getting one step closer to recovery. We will not find out the results until Friday afternoon when we go see the doctor, but we have chosen to live the next two days like I am in remission.

Since this weekend I have felt more like myself than I have in 3 months. I am running on about 30-40% of my normal energy level but my heart and mind are more like 90%. I feel life in a new and fresh way. I suppose life looks different when you are so close to losing it. There where days in the hospital that I was closer to death than I like to think. Today, however, is different. Each day this week Sarah and I have left the house on some new adventure. Nothing crazy mind you: a drink from Sonic, a burrito from Moe’s, flowers at Home Depot or going on a drive through the park. Each of those things is a simple task I would have done in the past without thought, but now I cherish each one. As we go on these fun little outings I am taking in new things: the smell of fresh cut grass, little kids playing with their dad or seeing old friends at the store. Each one of these is now a precious moment that feels so life giving.

I am just beginning to think deeply about all that has happened to me. I didn’t have the strength before. I did not have the strength to think deeply or read or at times even pray. But again, today is different. I have started reading a few books, I am diving slowly back into the Word, Sarah and I are praying together more, I feel hope and joy through the day and I am able to engage more with people. What I am trying to say is life feels like life again. Man, have I taken so much for granted.

Pray for Friday and pray that this sweet life gets better with each passing day. I have no doubt that it will.

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Rounding 3rd for home

Here is a quick update for everyone. I finished chemotherapy last Friday and have spent the last week recovering. The first two days were insanely hard- weakness, nausea and vomiting. On Sunday they admitted me to the hospital to get things under control and on Wednesday they released me. I currently do not have any nausea, praise God, and I am feeling better everyday. Next Wednesday I will have a final CT scan to see if all the cancer is gone. If the cancer is gone, then I will be done will all this mess and can get about the business of recovery. If there is cancer still there, then I will need to have surgery to remove what is remaining. If this happens, they will send us to Indiana University for surgery because they are the leading experts in testicular cancer.

Because Wednesday is a big deal I am asking everyone to pray and fast breakfast that morning with me. Pray the cancer is in full remission!

I also know a lot of you would like to know how we have been outside of this cancer mess. When I am not super sick we try and have normal parts to our life. Here are a few examples.

 

Sarah and I enjoying an outstanding sushi lunch at Osaka here in Louisville. I haven’t been able to eat a variety of foods but for some reason I love sushi

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A few Saturdays ago Sarah and I baked an apple pie from scratch. She made the crust and I prepared the inside.

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Here is a recent picture of me. A lean 175lbs.

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Mt. Everest Base Camp- Nepal

Perseverance, Patience, Endurance

Perseverance, patience, endurance. These words feel like our theme song this week. Nathan finished his third round of chemo on Friday. The doctors are still planning for that to be his last round and we are so thankful. There will be CT scans and other tests done in a few weeks to see how the tumors have reacted to the chemo. At that point there will be a decision about whether we are completely done or whether a surgery might be needed to remove parts of the tumor that are unresponsive to the chemo. This surgery would need to be done at Indiana University where the testicular cancer specialists are. But we are praying hard that this is it. No more chemo. No more surgeries. Please pray with us to that end.

The fact that we have potentially finished chemo therapy treatments should be encouraging. And ultimately it is. There is a clear end to all this and that is exciting. But this week as Nathan fights to keep anything down and feels nauseous constantly, the light at the end of the tunnel still feels very dim. He had been feeling much better the week before this last round of chemo. That was encouraging for both of us. We were able to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary on March 29 and celebrate Easter with our Sojourn church family on March 31. Both of those things were huge answers to prayer. Our absence on the blog has been an indicator that life has been a little more normal and we have been trying to enjoy that. But alas, he had to be knocked down one more time. It is a weird feeling to sit and let someone fill your veins with something you know is going to make you feel so bad. Nathan has a love/hate relationship with the chemo drugs. He is so grateful they are killing the cancer but so frustrated at how bad they make him feel.

The other thing that has been a big concern is the blood clots. In the past few weeks the blood clots have been much better. We have not had any scans done recently to know exactly what is happening with them but Nathan has had very little swelling since we have been home. Please continue to pray that the blood clots will not cause long-term problems. We will see better what they are doing when the doctors do scans/tests in a few weeks.

Thank you for so faithfully journeying with us. We would like to ask you to continue to pray as we try to finish this battle strong. Even though chemo is done there are many months ahead before Nathan will be back to his normal self. We need lots of patience to endure this week and then move forward slowly as Nathan gains strength back.