Friday, September 30, 2011

Distractions

Distractions
Friday, September 30, 2011
from Bob

1 Peter 4:11 - "... by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified in Jesus Christ."

It's been a good week!

I think we've made some progress with respect to my dialysis treatments. They have raised my "dry" weight (the weight they try to get me down to by removing fluids). Because they are removing less fluid, I have not passed out this week from dehydration. Unfortunately, I continue to have intense muscle spasms in my low back, but I'm praying that is going to resolve itself soon. I have had to take some heavy duty pain meds this week to keep the pain manageable.

Since contracting this nasty little disease, some people have responded to me as if I had done something noble or honorable in contracting this disease. It is my belief that because we live in a fallen world, there are illness and diseases which people contract for no apparent reason. This week as I read my Bible, the thought came to me that while there is nothing noble about being diagnosed with this disease, my response to this illness is extremely important. I must find God's peace and God's provision for every day. My belief is that in the midst of my suffering, if I hold firm to my faith, then THAT will bring honor and glory to God. All I desire is to be faithful to Him and obedient to His will.

We had a good weekend. Emily came home for a visit, so we had all our kids and grandchildren here. Below is a photo of Patra and I with the 6 grandchildren. Please note that it was harder to get that picture than it would be to nail Jello to a tree. As we tried to take the picture, one baby needed to be fed, another child didn't want to take pictures, another had a meltdown and grandpa wasn't feeling very well either. For our friends who have more than 6 grandchildren, I wish you the best if you try to get a picture of them all at the same time.



We have also apparently entered the stage where the little girls are going to start performing for us. Below is a 30 second excerpt from their dance performance for us on Saturday night.



Truly, our grandchildren are a blessing and have been a great distraction from this disease. They make me laugh all the time.


Dear God,
Thank you for a good week and for our family. Thank you for the times we are able to share with each other. I pray that the memories of these happy times will stay in our hearts forever. I also continue to pray for so many of our friends who are walking through the tall weeds. I specifically pray for their comfort though your presence.
In Jesus name
Amen


Until next Friday,
God willing
Bob

Friday, September 23, 2011

UP and DOWN

Friday, September 23, 2011
from Bob

"UP" and "DOWN"

"Through it all,
Through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all,
I learned to depend on His Word."


We knew when we started this journey against this nasty little disease that it would be a roller coaster ride. Some days we're going UP and some days we're going DOWN.

"UP"... I woke up Saturday morning and felt the best I have in almost 2 years. Patra and I decided to drive over to Clearwater Beach and she pushed me in my wheelchair on the beachwalk. I even felt well enough to walk a little while holding onto the handles of my wheelchair.

Beach, sand, surf... beautiful. It was great medicine.

I was still feeling pretty strong, so we went to one of our favorite beach restaurants and sat next to a window overlooking the water. Watching sailboats, powerboats and jet skis while we ate lunch was an uplifting experience. I told Patra that this meal had to make up for all the birthdays and anniversaries we've missed these past 2 years.

After a long afternoon nap, I wanted to go to the mall. It had been such a long time since we had been there, it felt like a vacation. What a GREAT day!

Sunday, I still felt energized and we went to church and lunch with friends. It was a rare and unbelievable weekend.

"DOWN"... Monday was dialysis day. Because I had had such a great weekend, my liquid weight was probably higher than it should have been. It was necessary for the nurses to take off a LOT of fluid. Unfortunately when they were finished, I became very dizzy and my blood pressure dropped significantly. It took awhile before I was released from dialysis. It's hard enough to sit there for 4 hours while I receive treatment, but to have to sit another hour or so in that chair becomes almost impossible emotionally.

When we got home, I passed out when I tried to stand up. Patra couldn't hold me very long and told me she gently lowered me to the floor. I take issue with that since I think she broke one of my ribs. Because I was dehydrated from dialysis, one of the unfortunate side effects is muscle spasms. While I was on the floor, any time I moved or anytime Patra tried to lift me, it felt as if I was grabbing hold of a high voltage power line. My back has never hurt so much. She eventually got me half on the bed but the effort caused me to again pass out again, so she slid me back to the floor. Jenny and the kids came over and she and Patra tried every conceivable way to get me up. I refused to let them call 9-1-1 or any neighbors because I knew they would try to pick me up, and my pain was just TOO intense. Even when my arm or foot was touched, it caused me to flinch and my back felt like a bolt of lightning had just hit me.

Eventually, my grandson Andrew (age 6) had an idea. He suggested that we just put a mattress on the floor so I could go to sleep there. We got the mattress that we use in the van for our trips to Gainesville, and I was eventually able to be rolled onto it. After I was able to gain some level of comfort, Patra and I had dinner on the floor and we commented on how it felt like we were camping out again like we used to do when we first got married.

"UP"... The next morning the intense pain had subsided some, and although I was very stiff and sore Patra was finally able to help me off the floor. I spent the rest of the day in bed on a heating pad.

"DOWN"... On Wednesday after dialysis I seemed to repeat Monday's pattern, and had to remain an extra hour until my blood pressure was stable enough for me to leave.

"UP"... When we finally got home Wednesday, Patra refused to let me stand, so I didn't pass out. Fortunately, I was able to sleep in my bed that night instead of the floor.

"DOWN"... I have realized that I will never be able to return to the practice of mediation...

"UP"... so we have finally put my law office for sale. I always thought I'd not be able to emotionally let go of my office. Patra and I designed it and did much of the finishing work inside. I believe God has given me a peace about letting it go, and it was not as hard as I had imagined it would be. It has been a wonderful family business with Jenny and Patra working by my side, but it is time to let it go.

"Through it all", whether UP or DOWN, God has been faithful.

Dear God,
I thank you for your presence in my life. I thank you for friends who pray for me. Thank you for allowing me to feel well enough to have such a great weekend. It is my prayer that they can resolve this blood pressure issue during dialysis. Thank you for my children and grandchildren and the blessing that they are in my life. I pray that I would remain faithful to you. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home

"Home"
Friday, September 16, 2011
from Bob


"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16

Throughout this journey through the "tall weeds", I have been learning a great deal about prayer. I will often lay in bed when I can't sleep and just talk to God. Many times while in dialysis, I will close my eyes and just pray.

You will never know how much the prayers of our friends mean to us. You really exceeded my expectations last week with your prayers. In last Friday's blog, I asked for you to pray that I would be released from the hospital quickly. On Friday I had dialysis at the hospital and when I was done, they took me down for a chest x-ray. About an hour later, my pulmonary doctor came in and told me that even though I still had pneumonia, it was improving and he was going to release me from the hospital THAT AFTERNOON. Earlier that day another doctor had told us we would probably stay until Wednesday (of this week). There is no place like HOME. I guess I dodged another bullet.

Although I don't understand everything about prayer, being able to pray to our Heavenly Father and knowing that my friends are also lifting us up has been an incredible blessing. Thank you.

I am on heavy doses of antibiotics and the major problem that I'm having is that my antidepressant medication has a strong interaction with one of my antibiotics. The doctor wanted me to discontinue taking the antidepressant but I talked him into just lowering the dosage. I have 10 more days until I can go back to my regular dosage. At the reduced dosage I do get some relief, however there are times when things seem to become overwhelming. For example, I have struggled this week with dialysis even more than usual and I find myself questioning whether or not I have told my children everything that I want them to know before I pass away. In reality my kids are probably tired of me telling them how much I love them. Patra has encouraged me to try to remain positive and think of my dialysis as my new job.

I'd like to quit this job.

I sure liked my old job better.

Again, prayer is such an important aspect with dealing with the depression.

I have been able to enjoy the grandchildren so much since we have gotten home. I missed them immensely while I was in the hospital. Patra and Jenny babysit 4 children every day during the week so I have an opportunity to see them often. Andrew (6 years old) loves to play in my hospital bed. Last night he asked if he could lay with me in the bed so he could raise and lower the head and legs of the bed. Wish I had a picture of us in a "V" position. Avery (almost 2 ) has become my buddy, she is not afraid to crawl on me while I am laying on the couch. Sometimes she does this when I least expect it or when I'm almost asleep, but she seems to get so much delight that I wouldn't change that for anything in the world. Her giggles are good medicine. Megan (almost 2) likes to pretend to "scare" me. She will say something like"boo" and I pretend to jump out of fear, and she squeals with laughter. She can "scare" me much longer than I can jump.

Dear God, Thank you that I got out of the hospital and that my pneumonia seems to have been resolved. Thank you for friends that pray for me. I am so grateful that I can pray to YOU. Thank you for the blessing of my children and grandchildren.

Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pneumonia

"Pneumonia"
September 9, 2011
(From Bob)

Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be such a good week. I am in the hospital AGAIN getting treated for pneumonia.

I felt well enough to go to church on Sunday but by Monday (while I was at dialysis) I started feeling miserable and was having difficulty breathing. I was put on oxygen and the nurses recommended that I go to the emergency room. When we arrived, my oxygen saturation level was 77% (should be at least 92% apparently.)

When my doctor came in, he told me I had pneumonia and said, "theoretically, we should be able to reverse this process." What do you mean "theoretically"? What do you mean "should" be able?

When the results from my arterial blood test came back, the nurse said, "your arterial blood gas is not that horrible". I was immediately concerned about what "not that horrible" meant. I didn't have long to contemplate her statement because she then said we are sending you to the Intensive Care Unit. So I spent Monday night in ICU.

In ICU, the pulmonary specialist ordered that I wear a "BiPap" mask. The "BiPap" is a machine that forces oxygen into your lungs. When the respiratory therapist came to fit the mask, he said that some people were unable to tolerate wearing it but the only alternative if I couldn't stand it would be to put me on "life support." I said, "Give me that mask." There was no way I wasn't going to make that work. Patra said it made my cheeks puff out like I had mumps and flattened my lips like I was riding a motorcycle going 100 MPH. We should have taken a picture to insert here.

Surprisingly, Patra and I both had a peace that everything would turn out OK. Such a peace could only come from God because we were not getting much encouragement from the doctors. Sure enough, Monday was a rough day, but Tuesday morning when they removed the mask, I was feeling so much better. God is good -- all the time.

As I write this blog note (Thursday afternoon) I am still in the hospital and I still have to wear the mask every night. I would like to go home. I don't even have to look at the food menu - I have it memorized again. The doctors are discussing when I can leave, so please pray it will be soon.

I appreciate your prayers more than I can express in words. I know that your prayers help to give us God's peace.

Dear God, thank you for your peace. I know that it could only come from you. What a blessing! I pray that I will be faithful to you every day.


Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, September 2, 2011

Humor in the "Tall Weeds"

Humor in the "Tall Weeds"

Friday, Sept 2, 2011

by Bob (dictated to Jenny)

I was asked recently how I could maintain a sense of humor in light of everything that has happened. The answer of course is God's grace. I am also reminded every day that there are people in much worse shape than I am. I do not want to minimize or trivialize the pain and suffering that so many people are going through. There is nothing funny about a bone marrow transplant. I did not laugh much during chemo-therapy. I am convinced that if we open our eyes in the midst of the circumstances of life, we will find that there are humorous aspects to most of life's situations. Without seeing the humor, I do not believe I would be able to walk through these "tall weeds."

I thought I would relay a story that happened about a year ago when Patra and I went to Moffit Cancer Center for an appointment. When I got out of the car, my world began to spin, and I realized I was about to pass out. Patra “carried” me into the main lobby and found the closest chair for me to sit in while she ran to get a wheelchair. When she returned with the wheelchair, we went up the 4th floor, and I was placed in a private room where I received fluids and protein. Some time later I began to come back to reality, and I asked, “Pat, was I sitting next to a dog downstairs?”

She laughed and then explained to me that the closest chair available in the lobby was a chair at the end of the aisle where the dogs were gathered for “pet therapy”. In just one moment, when I was semi-conscious downstairs, I had felt a presence and opened my eyes. In those brief moments I was staring face to face with a very large golden retriever. Our noses were about 3 inches from each other. I drifted back into la-la-land and only hours later remembered the encounter. "Was there a dog sitting in the chair next to me in the waiting room?"

Golden Retriever

photo credit


I have always enjoyed the imprecision and ambiguity of the English language. One time we had a friend who brought cake over, and as she was leaving, she said to me “Be careful, don’t eat too much you might get sick.” We all laughed as we processed the words. Me? Get sick? Can I get any sicker than I already am?

Almost every morning Patra checks on me by asking, “Are you OK?” I usually respond by saying, “No… about 2 years ago I was diagnosed with a very nasty little disease.” We both laugh and then she says, “You know what I mean. Do you have any new symptoms.”

Again, this has been a very good week and I was able to attend church in my wheelchair last Sunday. I was not hospitalized during the entire month of August and that’s the longest stretch since last November that I haven’t required hospitalization. I have had some problems with my blood pressure at dialysis which causes me to become faint and pass out, but we are working on that and hopefully it has now been resolved.

This week I caught a cold and have a horrible cough. Thursday morning while I was trying to wash my hands at the sink, I coughed and my back went into spasms. As I started to fall, Patra caught me before I hit the floor. I skinned my arms on the counter and because my skin is so thin, both arms began to bleed. It was a bloody mess. It did look funny (or frightening) because after she got me back into bed, we both looked like we'd been attacked by a knife. Patra cleaned me up and now I look pretty pitiful with gauze bandages from wrist to elbows and every time I cough, my back hurts.

Dear God, thank you for all the blessings you give to us. Help me to continue to see the humorous side of what I'm going through. Please be with all of our friends that are sick. We thank you for so many people that are faithful to pray for us. Thank you for answering their prayers for me to stay out of the hospital. In Jesus name, Amen


Until next Friday, God willing
Bob
 

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