Friday, December 30, 2011

Walls

"Walls"
December 30, 2011
From Bob

We had a great Christmas. Below is a picture of each of our kid's families. I find myself looking at this picture several times a day. It always makes me smile.



Happy New Year!
It is hard to believe that it is almost 2012. I haven't made any New Year's resolutions. For at least 20 years one of my resolutions was to try and lose weight. I wanted to lose about 10 pounds. Try as I might, I could not do it. When Patra and I came home from the Mayo Clinic last December, I began to lose weight without even trying. Be careful what you wish for. Within a short period of time, I lost about 75 pounds!

The other night I went to take a shower and took my shirt off. I don't normally look at myself in the mirror but this night I did. The only word that can describe what I saw is "hideous." I looked like that guy in the comic book ads who got sand kicked in his face. I realize that I am substantially below my normal weight but I should just look skinny, not misshapen.

Fortunately, looking good right now is not high on my priority list. There are however things that I need to block out of my mind. I believe that I have been mostly successful. Faith, family and friends continue to be my first line of defense.

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

When you have a life-threatening and incurable disease, it is very important to guard your mind. If you are not careful, you can go to "dark places" and easily get depressed. It is not just those walking through the "tall weeds" who need to guard their minds.

When I was first diagnosed with this "nasty little disease, I made a decision to construct "walls" in my mind. There are just things that I don't allow myself to think about because it would only make me feel worse. For example, I do not like to think about the plans I had for Patra and I for our retirement years. Once, I asked her if she wanted me to tell her those dreams. She responded by asking me if I needed to talk about those things, and I said no. She said that after 39 years of marriage, she knew my dreams... our dreams. Fortunately, for the most part, the walls have stood and I try not to think about tomorrow. We walk day by day and God has now given us two years.

It is important to focus on the positive and not the negative. I work hard to keep negative thoughts out of my mind.

Philippians 4:8 (quoted above) has always been a favorite verse of mine, even before I became sick. It tells us the things we should be thinking about. Things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. Use your mind to think about those things.

Next week I will get my second epidural steroid injection (ESI). This time the doctor will inject my low back where the lumbar fractures are. I am excited about the possibility of some relief.

I had been doing well until Wednesday at dialysis. I had not retained much fluid and so they were going to take off a small amount. I thought it would be a breeze. With about an hour to go, I suddenly became dizzy, my blood pressure dropped and I thought I was going to pass out. As always, the nurses were great - they gave me fluid and I was back to normal by the time I went off the machine.

Dear God, Thank you for my family and for our joyous time together this Christmas. I pray that I can continue to focus my mind only on the things are honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. Please help me to keep the walls up in my mind that protect me from my negative thoughts. Thank you for friends who continue to encourage and pray for us.

Until next Friday, God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011
From Bob

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

We really do wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas. With all the different schedules, our family will be getting together tonight (Friday) for dinner and then we will exchange gifts. I love Christmas.

During dialysis this week, I spent a lot of time listening to Christmas hymns and carols. The story of Christmas is one of those amazing, mysterious, miraculous acts of God. God became flesh and dwelt among us. As I have "pondered all these things" in my own heart this week, I have thought of friends and acquaintances who have left Jesus in the manger. This beautiful story of the baby born in the manger has not ended. We do know that He grew up in favor with God and man. His message of peace and hope was met with a brutal death by crucifixion and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus overcame death and was resurrected. He is presently in heaven but will someday come to earth again, not as a baby, but as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

On Tuesday, I had an MRI of my spine. I was instructed to lay on my back on a
table that couldn't have been more than 6 inches wide made out of solid rock. Even with my significant loss of weight, it seemed like there was more of me off the table than on the table. Who thought it would be a good idea to have someone with a broken back lay on a skinny table, hard as a rock, and not move for 45 minutes?

As we were going into the room, Patra was told to keep my wheelchair outside the door for fear that the powerful magnets might suck the wheelchair into the machine. Am I the only person that thinks it's wrong that they won't let my wheelchair anywhere near this machine and yet they slide me INTO the middle of the powerful magnets.

This was by far the loudest MRI machine I have ever been in. When it was done, I told the nurses I felt like I had front row seats at a rock concert with a very bad drummer. To keep my mind occupied, I tried to keep beat with the MRI machine by singing Christmas carols. Only thing I could come up with was " Grandpa got run over by a " nasty little disease."

As they were about to slide the table into the machine, I was handed a "panic button." "PANIC BUTTON - REALLY? How many people panic that we need to have a "PANIC BUTTON?" Couldn't you come up with a better name, like "call button."

Received the results from the MRI. It showed compression fractures at T-10 and T-12. It also showed that I have fractured every one of my lumbar vertebrae. Yep, it showed fractures to L-1, L-2, L-3, L-4 and L-5. For " good" measure, it also showed a disc bulge at L-5- S-1.

Unfortunately, the doctor we consulted with Thursday afternoon did not feel that I was a candidate for kyphoplasty (where cement is inserted to stabilize the bone). We will continue with the epidural steroid injections.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.
This Christmas may we all give praise to God for the greatest gift ever given!



Dear God: Thank you for giving us Jesus. May we celebrate His birth by bringing you our sacrifice of praise. Please be with all of our friends who are walking through the "tall weeds." May they feel your presence in a special way. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lots to Report

Lots To Report

Friday, December 16, 2011
From Bob

Our son-in-law's eye removal surgery on Monday went well. However, he is still in a great deal of pain. The surgeon explained to Jenny that David would have more pain because of all the scar tissue he had from previous eye surgeries. He is also having problems with adverse side effects from the pain medication. We continue to pray that his pain will go away.

Our grandson Andrew had his follow up MRI at All Children's Hospital yesterday. He did better this time although he was still anxious. He received a good report from his surgeon and has been cleared for another year. We are very thankful for this good news and answered prayer.

I had an epidural steroid injection yesterday. The doctor used a monitor to help him guide the needle as he did the procedure. When he finished he said no wonder you are having such low back pain. In addition to the T-12 compression fracture, I also have several new fractures in my lower lumbar spine. I will return in 3 weeks for an injection into that area. While I was disappointed to learn about the new fractures, it does go a long way to explaining the intense pain I have had. I am so glad that scripture teaches that even as my physical body continues to deteriorate, someday I will receive a glorified body!

I have an MRI scheduled next Tuesday so hopefully the doctors will get more definitive information regarding my back. Next Thursday I have my first appointment with a neuroradiologist to discuss a surgical procedure (that many of you have suggested to me) where bone cement is injected into the spine to build up the vertebra and get the pressure off the nerves. I'm not sure if I could even be a candidate for such a surgery with my medical history, but it's certainly worth discussing.

Every Christmas season we ask our children to give us a list of what gifts the grandchildren would like. As I get older, I find that there fewer and fewer items on their lists that I recognize. When I was a boy, one of the best things about Christmas was getting the Sears "Wish Book." I would pore over that book every night and pretend that I could have any of the toys. I memorized pages of toys. My imagination ran wild. In many ways, the anticipation was better than the actual receipt of presents.

My list this Christmas is no longer about things...

1. I want to gain enough strength that I could go to a Bible study class and give my testimony of the goodness of God. (Patra thinks it would be a good idea to be strong enough that I don't pass out. I think it would make my testimony more dramatic and memorable.) Through "the tall weeds" He has never left me. His words in scripture have sustained me, comforted me, encouraged me and challenged me. It is amazing how He has "managed" my care. He has placed doctors right where they need to be. During the most difficult times He has sent Christian nurses to pray with me and to care for me. ( I need to be clear - not all of my nurses and doctors have been Christians yet almost without exception they have been very caring and competent in my care. I am so thankful to ALL of them.)
I want to be an encouragement to others. If my testimony could touch even one person and inspire or encourage them, it would be worth everything I have been through. Please pray I'll get this wish.
2. I wish that I could walk again. I am so unsteady and weak that I can only take a few steps with my walker and Patra holding me up. Even that has become more difficult lately. Not being able to walk really limits my freedom.
3. I wish that I could gain more independence to ease the burden on Patra. The role of the "caregiver" is much more than a full time job. The grandchildren are such a wonderful distraction for her. (They are wonderful for me too. Every time that Avery comes over, she runs through the house and into my room and yells "Grandpa." Makes my day!)

This week Patra and I will "celebrate" our 39th anniversary. My days of "celebrating" are not what they use to be. (I sure do wish it was my 39th birthday.) I always thought we would be one of those couples recognized at church on their 50th anniversary. As Patra and I talked the other night we agreed that life had thrown me a curve ball. So while we may not make it to 50, I will cherish every day God allows me to spend with her.


(Patra and Bob 39 years ago)


Dear God: You are so good. Even in the "tall weeds" You walk right beside us. Your Holy Spirit ministers to my needs. Our family prayer list is long this week. I pray that David will recover quickly. Thank you for the good report on Andrew. I pray that the doctors will figure out a plan to alleviate my back pain. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9

Friday, December 9, 2011

From Bob

We would ask that you join our family as we pray for our son-in-law David (married to Jenny). He will undergo surgery on Monday, December 12, to remove his eye. David injured his eye as a young boy and has been unable to see out of it for many years. For a long time, David has had severe pain in the eye and so a decision was made by his doctors to remove the eye. We are praying for the procedure to go well and that it will eliminate his pain. He should receive his "new eye" the beginning of next year.

On Thursday, December 15, our grandson Andrew (age 6 - Jenny and David's son) will have a follow-up MRI to keep track of the progress from the brain surgery that he had a year ago. We appreciate your continued prayers for him - he's doing great. Pray that God will calm his anxiety, he doesn't like going to the hospital. (Neither do I!)

(David and Jenny with Andrew and Megan on Thanksgiving)

This past Tuesday, I felt so good that Patra and I went out to lunch. It was wonderful! We went to one of our favorite beach restaurants for grouper sandwiches. It was such a beautiful drive across the bridge to Clearwater Beach. I can't even remember the last time we were able to eat out. I must have overdone it because the next day my back went into spasms and I passed out from the intense pain. Patra kept me from falling out of the shower chair. Later that day, I went to dialysis. I did very well through dialysis but when I was getting into my wheelchair, my back again began to spasm - intense pain so severe I passed out again. I remember the nurses asking me if I was " still with them." They put me back in my dialysis chair and started an I.V. of fluid and gave me oxygen. They brought Patra back from the waiting room to sit with me. Just having her there was very comforting. I am always appreciative of how caring and compassionate the nurses and techs are at dialysis. As I write this, I am feeling a little better, but haven't been out of bed. I pray that my pain management doctor can help me get some relief when I meet with him on Monday.

I have often turned this week to a comforting verse in scripture. Romans 8:18 "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.". I know that someday all my pain will be gone. It truly will be glorious. The pain is temporary but the Glory will be eternal!

I met with my cardiologist this week. That went very well. My blood pressure was good and he didn't detect any fluid in my lungs. When he listened to my heart he didn't hear any arrhythmias. He is concerned about my heart function so I will have an echo cardiogram in February. He also wants to do blood work to check on my thyroid. Some of my medications have been known to have adverse effects on the thyroid.

The sale of my office fell through, and although we were disappointed we know that God will send the right buyer just when we need it.

Dear God: Thank you for the promises of scripture. Help me when I begin to get discouraged to think of the glory to come. We pray that David's surgery will go well and that his pain will be alleviated. We pray that Andrew will stay calm for the MRI and get a good report. Thank you for friends who have so faithfully supported us and prayed for us.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 2, 2011

Family, Friends and Mentors

"Family, Friends and Mentors"
Friday, December 2, 2011

From Bob

It is hard to believe it is already December. I am always grateful to see a new day, so it is really exciting to turn the calendar for a new month. Everything seems to speed up in December. I may enjoy Christmas more this year because I physically can't speed up. I told Patra earlier that I was exhausted after such a busy day. After all, I had eaten three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)and with the walker AND I walked probably 20 feet to my recliner and back. In between all that activity, I took a morning nap and an afternoon nap. I should sleep good tonight!

I have an appointment this week with my cardiologist and next week I meet with my pain management doctor again. In addition to the pain in my back, I now have severe pain in my rib cage. I hope he can offer some type of relief. It is very difficult to get in and out of the car to get to dialysis 3 times a week.

I received some sad news this week, my cousin died unexpectedly from a heart attack. How I wish I could be at his memorial service today instead of at dialysis. I have so many wonderful memories as a boy growing up and going on vacation to visit his family. I am praying especially for his two children, his sister, and his dad. I would have never thought I would live longer than Jim. Every day I am reminded that we do not control our destiny. I do not know why God has allowed me to live as long as He has. I am convinced that as debilitated as I am, God has given me these "extra days" because He has a purpose for me.

I have been so blessed over the years by friends and family who have taught me, encouraged me, stood by me, and loved me. I have been especially blessed by a number of pastors who have taught me so much. One of those is my current pastor, Jerry Lancaster. He has been so faithful in teaching God's Word. But today I would especially like to thank my former pastor, Bob Adams. Bob was our pastor when our children were very young (Bob's wife Janice kept our son Adam in the church nursery. I think he was quite a hand full). I was just learning how to be a lawyer. Patra and I were learning how to raise a family.

Bob Adams was a mentor in so many ways. I remember going with him on a hospital visitation. There were several occasions when we met at my office or in his office to discuss different matters. Whenever I was with Bob, I always walked away feeling better. He was certainly one of those men who was the same in the pulpit and out of the pulpit. He was a man of integrity and honesty -character traits that I have tried to develop in my own life. Bob taught me to love the Bible as the Word of God and to study it. He would handle every situation by looking to Scripture. With Bob Adams, "What Would Jesus Do" was not a slogan, but a way of life.

When he was my pastor, he and Janice had two young daughters -older than our children, but still young. When I was diagnosed with this "nasty little disease" Bob wrote me the most encouraging letter. Little did we know then that their family would soon be walking through the "tall weeds" too. This year their daughter, Lisa was diagnosed with cancer. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy. This is a "club" where it is not welcome news when someone else joins. I was so discouraged when I heard this news. I had to remind myself that God is good and He is in control. Patra and I pray every night for Lisa and Steve and their children. I know that many others are also praying for them and I know personally that you can feel that prayer support.

It seems that our prayer list gets longer every day. There are so many people facing serious problems. I am convinced that the only hope we have is to turn the situation over to God and seek His will for each step we take.

Dear God: You are the Creator of the universe. You love each one of us. Thank you for putting men in my life who have inspired me and encouraged me in my walk of faith. I pray that where it is your will, that you would heal my friends. I pray that in every situation they would feel your presence.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob
 

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