We Will Not Waiver In Our Faith

Quote:  “Faith believes in spite of the circumstances and acts in spite of the consequences.”  Adrian Rogers

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I ended the last post saying that I needed to buy 2 pairs of reading glasses. That was out of the ordinary for me as I did not require glasses to read. I was starting to struggle reading the paper. Something was happening, but I did not quite know or understand. At that point my distance vision was still working 100 percent. On January 11, 2021 I had a follow up appointment with Dr. S-2, the oncologist. He advised us to keep a close eye on the vision as the possibility existed that the vision loss could be due to one of the rarest side effects of the Immunotherapy.

In the last post I also advised that they put me on “Dex”. Thinking back now, that was an interesting 4 weeks while on that drug. I am a talker, but on that drug I never stopped talking. I slept on average 2 hours a night and I had lots of energy. In early January I spent my waking hours taking down the Christmas decorations, I watched many great movies during that time as well, and was on the treadmill at 3 or 4 in the morning. On one occasion Roxanne woke up and had to come and tell me to turn the volume down on the TV it was blasting through the house. The final equation, I was eating at all times, I could not get enough food. Dexamethasone is a powerful drug that helped to reduce the swelling on my brain, but it did make for an interesting month. I have since talked to others and they all say the same thing about the drug.

January 13, 2021 I had my third treatment of the immunotherapy drugs. Three hours , a great visit with the nurses, but when I wanted to read I needed to put on the reading glasses. As the month progressed I noticed that my distance vision was starting to be impacted as well. We remembered what Dr. S-2 said to keep an eye on the vision and it it continued to get worse to go to The Eye Clinic at the hospital. On January 23, 2021 Roxanne and I went for a drive in the country, and for the first time in my life I did not feel comfortable driving.

The next day after Church we ended up at the eye clinic. Once again due to COVID Roxanne had to leave me alone. During that visit they took a CT of my brain and found that the lesion had continued to shrink in size. That was a positive. Back to the eye-clinic on the Monday, and a follow up appointment on the Friday. They put me on three different types of eye drops to see if that would help. The eyes continued to get worse, and I was no longer driving.

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I sure missed getting behind the wheel of the car, driving around the city or even going on day trips out of the city. I learned that during this time that I did not make a good “side seat driver” while Roxanne was taking us to all the appointments and other places. I could not see properly but I was always giving instructions. It is funny to think about it now.

On February 2nd 2021 we saw the Oncologist Dr. S-2. We discussed the situation and he decided to stop treatments as he believed my vision loss was indeed a side effect of the Immunotherapy. At that time he put me on Prednisone in hopes that it would help and bring down any inflammation.

The next day I met Dr. S-3 for the first time. He is an ophthalmologist that specializes on the retina and other areas concerning the rear of the eye. It was interesting that all my doctors last name started with “S”. He advised me that I was his first vision loss associated with Immunotherapy. Seven colleagues in his office and none of them had ever encountered the situation. I had weekly appointments for most of February and he called other colleagues across Canada. He decided to give me steroid injections behind the eyes to see if it would help the retinas. At that time mine looked like a roller coaster.

Dr. S-3 and others started to marvel that I learned to “stack” reading glasses on top of each other to be able to watch TV and even shovel snow. I had to put aside any pride I might of had left to even wear 3 pairs to try and look at a menu in a restaurant. This is Daytona 500 weekend, last year on the same weekend, I remember wearing 3 pairs stacked (approx plus 10) to watch my favorite driver Michael McDowell win the race.

Throughout all the appointments, and all the questions, and all the unknowns our faith remained strong. Roxanne and I were trusting The Lord and seeking The Lord in greater ways. It was showing more and more that our trust was based on not only medicine but also God. The medical workers could see that there was something different about us. Even little things like never complaining. They say so many people complain at each and every appointment, we don’t do that. Because we know that the Lord wants us to share His love with others. He also wants us to grow out faith and not waiver.

I have taken way too much of your time today, thank you so much for all your support and comments. I appreciate you taking time to read about this journey, and please remember I am writing to encourage people. I want people to know that the creator of the universe loves them very much. Have a great week everyone, and remember God loves you.

James 1:6-8Tree of Life Version

But let him ask in faith, without any doubting—for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord— he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

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Be Still And Know

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December 26, 2020, I ended the last Post indicating that I ended up in the Emergency Ward. Covid sure made a trip to Emergency interesting. Roxanne was not able to come in with me and had to leave me at the door. I know that was hard on her, actually really hard on both of us. It was the first time since my diagnosis that we were not able to be together while at an appointment or getting medical attention.

She went home and I waited. The wait that late Saturday afternoon actually wasn’t that long. Would it have been better if my stay was longer? Probably, but that is alright, it just allowed me to meet more people. They ruled out a stroke which I didn’t even think about and the doctor sent me home that night with some medication, believing I had Bell’s Palsy.

On Monday we called The Cross and they said go back to the hospital and ask for imaging to be done. So Roxanne dropped me off at the hospital. I was there Monday the 28th for 9 hours, as my entire face was essentially not working and I could not eat. I met the greatest doctor, Dr. C. who spent lots of time with me, asked questions and listened. The room I was in was also amazing. The best room I have ever seen at Emergency. He ordered a CT scan of my brain… The CT tech, Dianne, was also very kind, and made me laugh. It was 9:30 at night and she had been working all day, but kept me laughing the entire time. An hour or so later Dr. C. came back and showed me the picture of my brain……One lesion appeared. He apologized, I told him it was ok that it would be alright. So in addition to the organs that were impacted they now found a lesion on my brain. He spent time talking to the Cancer Center, and they discussed the possibilities of surgery. They wanted me to come back on Tuesday for an MRI as an MRI is always much better and the concern they had was that in fact there was more than just one lesion on my brain. It was the lesion on my brain that was affecting my facial muscles.

7 hours Tuesday (29th) back to the hospital. I had the MRI and waited. Another doctor, Dr. G. found me just before 4, we ended up speaking in a hallway as there were no vacant rooms….”she said there is only one”. My response “praise the Lord there is only one”. I am not making light of the situation or cancer, but I know that my attitude and faith and the many prayers that we are getting are paramount for beating this thing….Right off the bat she said it is so good to see that I had a positive attitude. She had apologized as well for the wait, as she spent several hours discussing my case. It was determined that surgery was not the best option, but they wanted to move forward with “Gamma Knife” treatment. She said I would receive a call the next day. Before I left the hospital Dr. C. from Monday came back, and said it was great that I was a candidate for “Gamma Knife” and then actually shook my hand. It was my first handshake since the start of COVID. The doctor also sent me home with a prescription for Dexamethasone. More about that in later posts.

As promised we did receive a call the next day from the neurologist, Dr. O. and one of his team. They wanted to get me in as soon as possible. We settled on Wednesday the 6th. Christmas Eve in the Julian Calendar, we celebrate twice because of my Ukrainian Heritage. Roxanne also knew Dr O. from work and she was glad that he was looking at our case.

The Wednesday morning (January 6, 2021) we had to be awake at 4:30. It reminded me of early morning wake up to catch a flight somewhere. No flight, just a 15 minute drive to the hospital We had no idea what to expect, but as I like to learn I can tell you I learned lots about the wonders of modern medicine and technology.. There were 4 people scheduled to get “Gamma Ray Knife” treatment that day. The process involved getting another MRI, and much to both Roxanne’s pleasure and mine they confirmed that it was just the one lesion on the brain. She clapped and I said Praise the Lord… They also found no “seedlings” which was another blessing. They had to then prepare a mask which I had to wear, and it was formed for me specifically. I was able to take it home for a “souvenir” or as they called it for “show and tell”. I have kept it as a reminder of God’s grace and power. They had to design a plan based on the MRI, and after it was approved by a number of doctors and physicists, into the machine I went. I asked for a few minutes for pray with Roxanne, they respected that and stepped back from us. When we finished praying, everyone left the room and the process started.

My Souvenir

It was approximately 30 minutes in length. I could sense God’s presence reminding me to “Trust Him” and also I could feel the prayers that people were sending up to Heaven on our behalf Not only could I feel their prayers, I could see many faces, The power of prayer is so important, never stop praying and never stop trusting and believing about that situation in your on in your life or the lives of others…..Nothing going on in your life is too big for God!

Out of the machine I came, the technician said I did a great job, A couple of times he said he was almost ready to call me on the speaker to get me breathing deeper. He decided not to. I believe it was during the times when my breathing slowed that I was hearing the prayers and hearing God’s gentle voice. I will never forget those 30 minutes. It was so great to see Roxanne when I was done. What a smile she had on her face as she visited with other nurses. It was another amazing team we met and we are so blessed to have such wonderful health care. About an hour later we were on our way home.

Early Morning At The Hospital

I have no idea who reads this BLOG but, I don’t mind sharing that they did show me pictures of my brain, both from my the hospital visit on the 28th and from January 6th. On the 28th I had the lesion plus a large amount of swelling on my brain. Because they put me on “DEX” a steroid the swelling had gone down substantially, which is also helped with my speech and everything else. A great positive as well, in spite of what had been going on they said I had a “good looking brain”. That was good to know. I was eating again, talking again, and God remains and always will be AMAZING.

It was about a week later that I had to buy a pair of reading glasses as I couldn’t quite read the paper. That was interesting because I had never worn corrective lenses in my life.. A few days later it was a stronger pair. Well I think that is enough for today. Thanks to everyone that stops by to visit this BLOG. It is the story of a journey but more importantly a story of God’s goodness.

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalms 46:10

11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

Greater Is He

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Psalms 27:1  The Lord is my Light and my Salvation—whom shall I fear or dread? The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Friday November 27, 2020, Well this was the day, the first visit to the Cross Cancer Institute, and my first treatment. I have learned to appreciate the name of the Center. I just call it The Cross, Everytime I say The Cross I am reminded that Jesus is with us, as we go through the journey. I should say it was really our second visit, because the day before we took an informational session about Immunotherapy, and discussed some of the common side effects. It was interesting and jammed lots of information into our brains. I started to understand how Immunotherapy boosts the body’s immune system and it is your own body killing the cancer.. Throughout the session I asked myself why I had too many sunburns in my teens and early 20’s. But there was no turning back, and we would trust the Lord completely each and every moment.

I am sure some of you may find this amusing, but one of my biggest regrets about getting cancer is that I can no longer donate blood. I had over 150 whole blood donations and fully understand the power of my O- and CMV negative blood. If you are reading this and have never donated blood, can I please ask you to investigate donating. I guess that is my Public Service Announcement for today’s Blog Post.

My first treatment November 27, 2020

I had a newer nurse to The Cross and she was great to work with. She had a trainer as well, they were both amazing people and really put Roxanne and I at ease throughout the appointment. Ipilimumab and Nivolumab were the drugs used with the first treatment. They told us to watch for side effects during the coming days. Roxanne is a nurse and she said that she would. The treatment went well, we were there for about 3 hours and then we were on our way.

Three weeks later we were back for another treatment. The care and attention from all the staff continued to be nothing short of exceptional. The treatment was going great, Roxanne stepped out for a quick walk While she was gone things changed. I started to feel really cold, and started to shake. I was shaking so hard that the chair was even vibrating. I was having a reaction to the medication. I would learn that many people have a reaction during their second treatment. The body’s way of saying what is going on, what are you putting into me?

Roxanne returned about the same time the nurses noticed I was having a reaction. They stopped the treatment and put me on oxygen and a number of medications. I don’t recall how long it took for my body to return to normal, but it did and they restarted the treatment. That was quite the day and a real eye opener. It again showed me how wonderful the care and attention is at The Cross, and how wonderful the care and attention is from Roxanne. They phoned the next day to see how I was, and I said just fine.

We had presume that the drugs and my body were starting to work on the affected organs, as they had also found 2 small nodules under my skin, one on my neck, the other on my back. They were both gone by this point in time. We thanked God that He was working in conjunction with medicine, and that I would be healed. Our trust in the Lord was growing day by day, and 99% of the time I was my usual joyful, energetic, positive self.

Christmas was getting closer, it would be an unusual Christmas due to the COVID restrictions. Roxanne and I prepared to have Christmas by ourselves. Still no signs of side effects, For those of you who don’t know us, we really love Christmas, and love to decorate.

Christmas Is The Best Time Of Year

There was still no evidence of serious side effects but a few days before Christmas I noticed that I was starting to slur a few words. Not a lot, but noticeable to myself and others. The day after Christmas Roxanne and I were at the mall, while in the bathroom I noticed that one side of my face was drooping.. I had not noticed that before. Well later that day with more slurred words and the drooping face we were off the The Emergency Ward at the hospital close to us.

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Well I think that is enough for today, I will end today with arriving at The Emergency department. I want to thank everyone so much for stopping by and reading My Blog. I am not a writer, but I am learning, and I thank you so much for taking time to read The Story of The Journey.

I want to close with another Bible Verse and remind each and every one of you how much God loves you.

The Battle Belongs To The Lord

I trust that everyone is having a fantastic day. I know it is a beautiful day in Edmonton this morning after 3 weeks of abnormally cold weather. It is nice to be able to go outside for a walk and not be dressed in 3 or 4 layers of clothes.

Some of you have asked me to write the next edition of The Journey going on in our lives. Thank You to those who read the post from last week and as promised here is the next edition.

November 18, 2020, it was time to go visit with Dr. S-1 and the Oncologist Dr. S-2. As I said last week I am very comfortable with Dr. S-1 but this was our first meeting with Dr. S-2. It was a busy room, Roxanne and I, the 2 doctors and 2 residents. We had no idea what the conversation would entail.

It did not take long for Dr S.2 to say, “Gord, you have stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma.” He explained my time line for survival if we did nothing. Nothing like getting to the point and giving us the news all at once and in a quick manner. He explained Immunotherapy Treatment, which is a newer form of fighting cancer. It is intended to boost the immune system so your own body is fighting and killing the cancer. He shared all the potential side effects caused by treatments. Roxanne listened and wrote them down, I was thinking about the first comments that I would make.

Of course we said that I would start the treatments, but I went one step further.. I recounted the story of David killing a bear, a lion and finally Goliath with God’s help, I said to the crowd in the room, that the first Melanoma surgery was the bear, hip surgery the lion, and now the metastatic melanoma being the giant.

I think back on it now, I did not have any health issues until I hit my 50’s. I was rarely ever at a doctor prior to that, so the things that have occured have caused much learning.

Roxanne and I knew that there would be a battle in front of us, but we also knew that The Battle Belongs to the Lord. We knew that we needed to draw on Him like never before as we moved forward in the journey.

I did say as WE moved forward in the journey. One thing I have learned and will talk about it more in future writings is that both spouses are on the journey when one is diagnosed with cancer. Both have to be in unity, and in our case trusting our faith to be able to move forward with confidence day by day.

Roxanne, I and the doctors were all on the same page we would start the Immunotherapy Treatments. The first would be scheduled for the following week. I had no idea what to anticipate, but we were comfortable with the 2 doctors and fully trusting in The Lord.

A few days later we went to Elk Island National Park, which is the picture at he start of today’s post. It was a great day of just walking around, relaxing and seeing all the amazing sights.

Well that is it for today’s post, I have no idea who is going to read this but part of the reason I am writing is to remind people how much God loves you, and He is never too busy for you.

Deuteronomy  31:8 It is the Lord Who goes before you; He will [march] with you; He will not fail you or let you go or forsake you; [let there be no cowardice or flinching, but] fear not, neither become broken [in spirit—depressed, dismayed, and unnerved with alarm].

Have an amazing day everyone.

The Journey Begins

Roxanne and I woke up in Jasper National Park on a beautiful morning in October of 2020. To be accurate it was October 12th, Thanksgiving Day in Canada. But it wasn’t just Thanksgiving Day, it was also our 18th anniversary. What an amazing 18 years. Even as I type this I realize how blessed I am to be married to an excpetional woman that loves me unconditionally. The autumn weather in Jasper was amazing. We had spent 3 days in Jasper over the long weekend but all great vacations must end and then it was time to head back to Edmonton.

The weather for the drive home was beautiful and memories of a wonderful weekend were played out in my mind. It was on the way home that I started to feel a pain in my right side. I had never had a pain like that before, but I thought maybe I ate way too much and and had too many desserts during the weekend. All the pumpkin pie was amazing!

Move forward another week and I still was not feeling good. Roxanne and I decided it was time I went to see our doctor. Our family doctor, Dr Deb is wonderful and appointments never last only a couple of minutes they are at least half an hour, and many times even longer. I have never liked doctors appoinments but she is a doctor that I don’t mind going to see.

She ordered some blood work and sent me for an ultrasound.

That is when the bells started going off.

Some of you are thinking Gord why are you telling us a story from 2020 in January of 2022? Well at this time I am ready and comfortable to share the story of the journey publically. Am I a good writer, no I am not. But I have decided that if I can encourage even just one person by sharing this story then this is what I have to do.

I have learned and fully understand that I am not on this journey alone, Roxanne is with me and so is God. It is my faith and trust in Him that keeps me smiling each and every day. There are people everywhere that need to hear that God cares and I want to share that through this story.

Some may stop reading because I am talking about God, but I trust and I believe that that will hear about God’s goodness throught the story and our journey.

As I said the bells started going off, and then it was a CT scan ordered.

Before I share further I need to go back in time to 2014, when much to my suprise Melanoma was cut out of my right shoulder. Sadly too many sun burns in my teens and early 20’s led to the finding of the Melanoma. The surgery was very succesful and regular visits to see Dr. S-1 (There are many doctors I now see with their last name starting with an S, so I will number them) revealed no concerns whatsoever.

Six years of no concerns and the only time I even thought about the Melanoma was when I went for a follow up appointment. Visits with Dr S-1 were great as we talked about many different things and always had wonderful conversations. He is just one of many remarkable health care professionals I now work with.

Back to the CT Scan…It revealed a number of different concerns. We told Dr. Deb not investigate further and that it was best to reach out to Dr. S-1.

Within a day we heard from Dr. S-1 and he set up an appointment with himself and an onocologist. He knew Roxanne and I well enough that he could share the news over the phone.

As for the time line we were now in the middle of November 2020.

I think that is probably enough writing for today, as I get to go out and shovel some snow. I will try to write at least once per week and I trust that someone will find benefit from what they read. To those reading this, no matter who you are or where you are I want to remind you that God loves you so very much and He is never too busy for you!

Have an amazing day everyone, and thanks for taking time to read my blog.