Saturday, April 26, 2008
I have been overwhelmed with the love and support we have received through this journey. I know I've said it before but THANK YOU all for all you have done. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for me next. Maybe we will write a book!!! There is so much I want to share and am still processing myself. I hope that in the next few months I can share with others just how awesome God has been - as I know you know that. I keep looking in the mirror and thinking here I am "God's modern day miracle" - When I get discouraged I just remember that "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" -the healing process is a miracle in itself. In that sense we really ALL are His miracles - He has made us so incredibly. To think I have a big ole hole in my head and my brains aren't leaking out :) Some of you may question that but it's the truth.
It's funny how the little things have come to mean so much. A quiet dinner, a ride to town, a friend's phone call, reading the Bible, journaling, visiting with family and friends - things I have taken for granted or crammed into a busy schedule. I hope and pray God will never let me forget the things I've gained from this experience. Maybe my scar will serve to remind me. (His nail scarred hands remind us of all we gained at His expense) Well, I feel like I am babbling so.... just remember how much you mean to me. We have copied the whole blog and I've saved every card and email and will enjoy going back through them all. Thanks again, precious ones. I love you. I'll be seeing you around. Love, Tracy Ann ;>)
I'm sure Jeff will have a farewell blog too so hang tight
Monday, April 21, 2008
And besides, Tracy's great Mom was taking care of things. But, mothers, you know it doesn't matter how much someone can show you that things are taken care of (oops, another misplaced preposition. I think the rules need to change.) you still feel what you feel. Oh my gosh, I'm turning into a woman! Aaaaggghhh. If you were in my Sunday School class Sunday, you would have heard me talk about mothers who say, "I'm a mother" to justify their worrying. Ok, now look, I wasn't really worrying. I just wanted to be there to take care of her. When I called about 1:00 p.m. and she hadn't eaten lunch and wasn't sure what she would do, (She can make it well enough, but there are potentials for problems there, you know.) I wished I was there to just take care of it. That's not worrying, it's just love. There, that ought to get me back in line a little ... yeah right!
She really did fine. She wrote a few of thank you notes and slept. We have learned from our experiences, and from some of you, that she's gotta sleep a lot right now. That's ok. She is really doing great. She walked on the treadmill again tonight and she went a least a mile if not longer.
She takes naps during the day, but call her if you can or want to. She will be home alone mostly. That may not be all bad, but she still can't do a whole lot for very long without wearing out. It makes for a long day.
Man, I forgot something I wanted to say to you. Oh well. In the immortal words of my mother, "Well, it must not have been very important." Goodness a mercy!
Friday, April 18, 2008
My dad: back and neck problems so severe, he is never out of pain and he can't work; came from that pull-yourselves-up-by-your-own-bootstraps-take-care-of-yourself-make-your-own-way generation; proud man who lost the opportunity to engage that which his generation said is what gives you pride. Then he gets throat cancer and loses his vocal cords. Then, essentially home bound, he is one of less than a hundred in Texas to get West Nile Virus. What in the world? Now, he requires assistance for basic tasks.
You know this page could be chock full of more examples.
"There but for the grace of God...".
"I complained about having no shoes until I saw a man with no feet".
I'm sure there are more maxims, but you get the point. Tracy and I have been blessed by God and man for the extreme circumstances we have been through. Admittedly, they are extreme in the sense that it is a relatively rare occurence. It is life changing, dramatic, traumatic, time and energy stealing, debilitatingly expensive, emotionally and spiritually challanging and so much more.
Our experiences, however, have been easy. They have been easy, because God allowed it to be easy and you have supported us in every way. We have been complimented on how well we have dealt with this event. We are not heroes of faith. We have been carried through this whole deal by God through your prayers. We have ridden on a wave of God's love expressed in and through His people. What if God gave us the harder path? What would we do, what would you do, if this went on for 10 years? What would I do, what would you do, if for the next many years, Tracy required constant attention? And what if she had a bad attitude about it, because that was just part of it? How long before it got old? How long before the help and assistance offered got to be a burden? What about those people whose challanges are not physical but emotional? What about those who have weak characters - they drink too much or gossip or are stupidly arrogant because they are so ego needy - because somewhere in their lives, they were hurt, and they have not accepted the strength to overcome it, yet. What about those who live in fear and those who love their things?
Are we blessed because we believe? What about those who believe, but do not receive the blessings? It is the Daniel vs. Jeremiah condition? One, an exalted prince, the other a prophet in a dungeon. Which servant of God would you choose to be?
Forgive me, please. You can see I am rambling some. But we are not special. We are just one of the many who have needs...and our needs are not so pertinent as some...and we have been incredibly provided for by this family of God in ways that make this easy, not desireable, but manageable. Tracy said the other day that she was concerned that she was forgetting to consider God, not in an eternal or angry sense, but because of the difficulty of the constant irritations of her eye, not being able to bend, being tired all the time, spinal fluid leaking, and all the stuff with which she must attend to with this condition. It must be a literal, active effort to "keep your eyes on Jesus" when it hurts, or it's hard, or you keep losing ground or get beat down by life, health, work, parents, whatever anyone's particular struggles are.
Everyone has something. And everyone's something is as bad for them as someone else's something is for them. That may sound kind of weird, but the point is our tragedies are relative to our ability to handle them and what we are given to handle them with. For instance, Tracy and I have been held gently in your praying arms and thus our struggles are lighter. But, you know that not everyone gets that. Jesus said, "the poor will always be with you." I think Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and goats, shows us that this is true about the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, etc. also. There will always be those with needs, of some kind. And Scripture also shows that not every believer lives as an exalted prince during their time on earth.
So, what is this all about, Jeff? I'm not exactly sure, except that for the last 3 weeks I have had all my focus on handling our issues. And as we begin to surface, I see everyone else... Oh, wait, a weird image popped up: The Titanic is sinking. I put all my effort into saving my family and other people help me. That is my whole world until I have them essentially safe. Then I look around at all the other people bobbing in the water and know they are struggling, too. Imagine the scene: some are just floating in the water; some on wrecks of wood, or whatever; some in lifeboats; some to afraid to jump from the sinking ship, and on and on in your own imagination. Remember Francis Schaffer's question: How shall we then live?
Maybe I am feeling a little guilty, because we got it so good. We don't deserve it this way. We didn't do anything to merit this abundance. Once again, it sounds a lot like salvation. But there are others who don't get to have it this way. I don't know why. It just is.
Here is what I know. Tracy and I have been extremely blessed; by God and by His people, we have been given the light burden (Matthew 11:28-30). We have believed His word and lived in the promises of His peace and strength. We lose sight sometimes, but God has never lost sight of us. So what do we do? Love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. This sums up the Law and the Prophets.
I could go on and on, but it's afer midnight and sometimes you just gotta stop.
See you guys Sunday, I hope.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
So, Dr. Horton has Tracy putting a lot more of the Lacrilube in at night and during the day if she needs it. That can't be overdone. Also, she wants a much tighter and bigger patch at night. She also said she had no concerns for Tracy to get a lazy eye and not to worry about it.
If these procedures don't work well enough, some more extreme measures can be taken. They might include a contact that would hold the moisture in once the eye drops were put in the eye; suturing the corner of the bottom eyelid to the top eyelid, which would help it close; and a water chamber, which is some kind of instrument that would actually keep the eye hydrated.
Tracy says her eye all ready feels one hundred percent better.
So, Tracy had a big day today. She'll be pretty tired tonight. Her mom took wonderful care of her while they were out and about today. She had to be out a lot and it was comforting to know her mom was there.
Kinda short today, but got to get to bed to get up early for work. However, I am coming back home early tomorrow.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
He didn't take the stitches in the ear out. They are made out of gut, so they will eventually dissolve. (I wonder how many other people thought, "Whose gut did they come from?" or Maybe it was cat gut and that's why Tracy wants to be petted all the time. heehee)
One of the questions was whether or not Tracy could go swimming. It's funny because I can't remember the last time Tracy even wanted to swim, but we asked it anyway. Not for another 3 weeks is the answer. And actually, that is the time frame for about anything else like bending down, or any strenuous activity. The numbness in her head and ear (which she says feels like rubber) will go away when the cutaneous nerves grow back or are revitalized. We asked about doing something to stimulate function on the right side of her face. He said there has to be motion before exercise of the muscles can do anything. But we could try massages, lymphatic massage. Some people think it helps, but there is no medical support for it. The facial muscles will return slowly. It is gonna be like watching for your child to take their first steps. I can imagine that some time in the future we will write a blog like, "She moved her right cheek 3 times" announcing it like a proud parent. There is a scale used to rate movement in facial paralysis from 1 to 6; 6 being none. Tracy has been a 6, but today, Dr. Oghalai said he would consider her a 5. He didn't see movement, but he felt that her face looked more toned or taut. It could be just that the swelling is down and we are seeing more of her natural face, but he still put her at a 5.
Now for the fun stuff. We asked about the hole made in her head for the surgery. Does she have a soft spot? Where is it? How big is it? The hole is essentially under or behind her ear. Uhmmm, like if you stuck a pencil in your ear (don't do that!!) going towards the center of your skull. That is what I mean by behind or under, not in back of or below, but towards the epicenter of her head. The hole is a little bigger around than a jumbo egg from the supermarket. So, there is no bone on that part of her head. That is where they put the fat they took out of her belly. They just shoved it into the void left by the tumor. Eventually, the fat will harden up a little, a dural layer will cover it and some scar tissue, which will give it some rigidity, but there will be no bone. Dr. Oghalai pointed out that it is not really important for there to be bone there unless (this is kind of weird, but funny) she got shot by an arrow at that point. There would be nothing to stop it. Well, we're sure gonna be looking out for that! Now, the void is really deep. It goes all the way to the middle of her head, essentially.
We got to look at the post-op MRI and here is what we saw. A lot of you have probably seen some kind of x-ray picture of a skull. There is it's familiar skull shape. You can make out where the eye sockets are and see some bone, and see the two lobes of the brain in the middle surrounding the brain stem, etc. Well, in Tracy's head the left side has a brain lobe in it. The right side has a bunch of fat. It is a large dark spot that takes up the majority of the area on that side of her head. Did they cut out her brain? No, the brain is still in there, but it was compressed, or squished, and it is mostly going to stay that way. For all practical purposes, Tracy really does have a big hole in her head...with fat in it. Does that make her a ... she said it first ... I didn't even think of it ... a ... fat head? Now, the hole is sort of in the shape of an egg, so she could be an egg-head. I didn't come up with that one either.
The pathology report is complete and her tumor is classified as a benign grade 1 meningioma. Benign means it's not cancer. Grade 1 means it is the most benign kind. That is a great thing.
So, speaking of the tumor and its growth, we also saw on the MRI the bits of tumor left in there. Dr. Oghalai pointed out that one part was left in because it was crowded around a major blood vessel. The other chunk was around nerves 9, 10, and 11. Of the most significant was the swallowing ability, which is covered by those nerves. Part of the reason we did not have such intensive rehab (and you know, Tracy has not required any) is because they did not mess with the tumor around those nerves. BUT it can still grow there. If it does and it destroys those nerves or they have to go in there and destroy those nerves to stop the tumor, will she have to have a feeding tube installed and live that way forever? No (this is really cool), they will let the tumor slowly destroy that nerve. WHAT??!!! Yeah, and as it does it, the brain will kind of match it step for step and compensate for what is being lost so that by the time the tumor has done its dirty work and it is time to take it out, Tracy's brain will have all ready shifted responsibility for the swallowing function away from the nerve that is being attacked and established it somewhere else (I assume just on the other side of the symmetrical brain). It's like a chess game or some kind of tactical warfare in a science fiction story. Pretty neato.
Though we don't go back to Dr. Oghalai until July 23rd for another MRI and evaluation, we are not done yet with working on the effects of the operation, or tumor, or whatever. (By the way, of the tumor that was left in there, Dr. Oghalai believes that it will be smaller when we see it in July, because it has lost so much of its mass and nutrition supply.) Tomorrow, Thursday the 17th, Tracy will see an ophthalmologist to see if there is anything that can be done for her right eye. Her vision is blurry and, of course, we have mentioned too many times how much trouble she has with it as it does not produce tears. Dr. Oghalai mentioned putting a gold weight under the eyelid to help it close all the way. Pretty weird. Anyway, I hope the ophthalmologist can help. Dr. Oghalai did say he doesn't want any procedures done on Tracy, however, because he does not want to impede the healing of her brain.
We decided that she can't be at the revival, being that it is outside. Someone smarter than me also mentioned Tracy's vulnerable condition to contagions from crowds of people, like a cold or something. That's something I didn't consider. More than anything though, it would not be good for Tracy to be outside for any period of time.
Ok, lots of words here. Tomorrow, I hope I can take some time to deal with a little more of our heart and daily struggle stuff; to provide some direction for praying.
Gotta go to bed. Everybody keep looking ahead. It's the only way to go.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
But you gotta hear.
We have talked about how God has blessed Tracy physically and us spiritually, how He has answered prayer, and how He has shown Himself to us. We have alluded to the struggles ahead and our intentions, (and requests for prayerful support) to meet them with faith that God is in control and we can submit to Him in confidence.
But here’s another part of this grace adventure you gotta hear. What about the financial!? As you may have guessed, this has been and continues to be a very expensive process. By the time we are done, the bills will top $200,000. We don’t have insurance. We are not independently wealthy. How in the world will it get paid for?
These are questions we had in the beginning and our conversation with God went something like this, “God, you allowed that tumor to be in there. You gotta give us a way to get it out. We can’t do it ourselves.” He said, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And I am faithful. I will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. And if you are tempted, I will provide you a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13 written in first person from God’s point of view). If you want to know how this is about temptation, come to Sunday School this Sunday.
So, since we obviously have had the surgery (and the hospital and surgeons were telling us we could not proceed until we had the money), how did God do it?
Well, it started last year when we refinanced our house to have money to make some kind of investment. We did lots of looking and researching and each time we were about ready to sign our name on the proverbial dotted line, neither Tracy nor I believed it was God’s leading and we stopped. Of course, we owe a lot more on the house, but we had some money to take care of several medical and dental needs that were pressing for attention. And of course, that money became instrumental in proving to the necessary parties that we would pay for our services. We borrowed some money to make some down payments in order that we could maintain some operating capital from the money that we got from the refinance deal. See, we thought we were getting some money to make more money. But God was providing for the future that we could not see.
We don’t have insurance, but we are involved in a group called Samaritan Ministries. It is a group of I-don’t-know-how-many- thousands of Christians who pay each other’s medical bills. It has standards and limits, and rules about what is covered and what is not and it is a strong and viable system of taking care of our medical needs. We have been provided for through this organization several times all ready. Instead of us sending a check to an insurance company, we send a check to a person who has bills to pay for their medical care. The process is efficiently organized and directed by an administration and it is incredible how well it works. It is very personal and it provides for, and encourages, each member to be involved spiritually. As a matter-of-fact, the fella who handles our account from the Samaritan Ministries business office has called more than once to pray with us as we have gone through this process. How cool is that? However, it still means that we are paying cash for our medical needs.
In recognition of the fact that we would never be able to pay what all this costs, we applied for financial aid at Methodist Hospital and got…are you ready…are you sure…ok, here goes… about an 85% discount on hospital services. You do the math and you will find that we have been blessed with well over a hundred thousand dollars of assistance. Folks, that’s a miracle! Seriously, that is not just a good thing or a, “Wow, that’s incredible” thing. No, that is a "God thing" as He provides for us in our time of need. Additionally, we were instructed to inform other professional service providers of the hospital’s provision and they would provide significant discounts as well. Based on the fact that we are cash paying customers, we have been blessed to see discounts with other service providers also.
With the financial aid, the discounts, the money from our refinance and Samaritan Ministries, we should be able to cover all the bills. (Did you catch that; “all the bills”?) The money we borrowed, we can pay back quickly. You know what that means? God provided; through all kinds of different avenues and ways. He was never concerned about it. He had already said, “Do not worry…” You just have to stop a moment and read Matthew 6:25-34. It’ll just sit you down and pull tears out of your eyes to know that He keeps His promises and His word is true. You can see it is true in the descriptions of His interaction in our lives.
And here’s a way He has provided that may be the most humbling: YOU. We have received money, gifts, time, resources, advice, wisdom, love, patience, kindness; things material, spiritual, emotional and beneficial in all kinds of ways…and a lot of it. It would take a whole ‘nuther (and longer) essay to describe what you have given, how much and how valuable it has been. The material is obviously a financial blessing. It also is a spiritual and emotional blessing as it provides us with less stress and greater peace and an experiential assurance of the family to which we belong. But I want you to know that the non-material, though a blessing in itself in so many ways, is also a financial blessing, because it allows us to be at peace and to make good decisions and to use our resources wisely.
Guys, God is at work in Tracy physically. And through that He has been at work in so many other ways. He has answered your prayers to our benefit. We, (you also who have shared) have grown so much in so many ways because of this experience we get to have (and it ain’t over). God has provided for us in this time: not me, not insurance, not any of our ways, but His. We can’t claim any brilliance or work ethic or effort for what He has done and what you have given. We have merely received. Sounds kinda like salvation, doesn’t it? All we can do is receive. And when it is all said and done, we owe everything to Him who gave. And so we live in honor of that gift and the gifts that keep on comin’.
Last thing; in spite of how much I have written here tonight (oh for crying out loud, it’s morning now…oh well) there is more. I’ll have to tell you about it later, but God has provided in even more ways. Amazing, isn’t it? I think so. And I’m glad, because God is amazing.
Thanks for listening.
Monday, April 14, 2008
She was tired a lot today. She was surprised this morning when she woke up that she still felt really tired. So, after breakfast, she took a nap. She looked tired and I think she really just needed more sleep. Remember, she went to church yesterday and had a visitor and some phone calls. Don't let this stop you from calling to talk or schedule a visit. She'll tell you what she can and can't do. We like you guys.
Today she called a couple of doctor's offices to get bills straightened out while I was picking up Bethany from school. Yes, the bills have started coming in. Just for grins, the OR (operating room) alone was $30,000+. Isn't that nuts? (Hey, I've got an idea! I'm gonna rent out my house as an operating room. That could pay some bills.) Ah well, that doesn't even touch the value of Tracy. So, as I see it, we still got the better deal getting to keep her around.
Tomorrow, Tuesday the 15th, I'm going to go in to work. I'll take Bethany to school, stop back by the house and then go on in. Ann, Tracy's mom, will come in and be with Tracy. I'm going to be able to take off in time to pick up Bethany. Then, Wednesday we go to the doctor in Houston, which will turn into an all day affair. Starting Thursday, I should be back at work on a regular basis, though I will be close to home. Normally, I am at work by 5 or 5:30 a.m. and home any time from 4 to 7:00 p.m. or so. Kind of depends on where I have to be. My work can routinely be up to 200 miles away. For the next couple of weeks, I believe I will be allowed to be close. But Tracy is doing so well and we have a humongus support network, so we'll see.
So, we will be doing something new; at least in light of the last 3 weeks or so. It will be interesting to see how we do things with me back at work. I don't want Tracy thinking she needs to start taking responsibility for doing the clothes, dishes, recycling or whatever we all have to do everyday to keep our houses in order. I think she pretty well knows her limits and respects them. She is pretty bright that way. She teased me about how I would be if our roles were reversed, basically saying I would not respect my limits very well. I'm afraid she's probably right and it is something for me to think about. In the meantime, however, I want to make sure she is comfortable with just taking care of what she needs to do to stay healthy and healing. If you would make this aspect of our journey a matter of your prayers, we will be stronger for it; that we would handle these new roles and situations with wisdom, patience and love.
Did you know that washing clothes is like pulling weeds? They just keep coming back!
Enjoy the adventure,
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Later in the afternoon, she had a visitor and it was a great time. (I went to another room, but could hear them and it was wonderful to hear them just talking like good ol' friends.) Thank you gals for coming over and calling. Have you ever been tired, but it was a good kind of tired; the kind of tired that when you get to rest, you sigh and slink comfortably into your couch, or recliner and as you close your eyes you are thankful for the work that got you that tired? That is what I see in Tracy after getting to be with kind people.
I said I should have taken a picture, because at church, Tracy's eye started bothering her, so she put on her sunglasses. She has these big ol' sunglasses and she was wearing her little soft cap that covers her cut. She looked like a movie star who was trying to be disguised in public. It did help her eye well enough, so we didn't care about the look, but it was a fun moment.
BUT never fear, we got a picture at home. What a gal!!!
Bethany takes the pictures and I told her that there was a star in Tracy's glasses and wondered if there was a way to get it out. She said, "No, it belongs there. Mom's a star." What a cool kid.
Still no leak from the cut. That's a good thing. We go Wednesday to the doctor to get the stitches out and ask lots of questions. Still sleeping in the chair and on the couch. Will probably stay that way until we see the doctor so he can belay any fears or issues we have.
Oh, I meant to tell you that when you call, a lot of times we have the phone on the speaker. Sometimes, it is just easier for now. That may not really matter to anybody, but it seems like you ought to know.
I'm trying to get Tracy to speak to the adult Sunday School class on Sunday morning of the revival. She hasn't said no, but she did say, "I better start resting up." She's a little apprehensive right now and understandably so. Right now, it's a we'll see.
Thank you for writing us back in the comments. We are so encouraged after we read them.
Because you guys are great,
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Tracy did a bunch of stuff around the house today. Those mundane chores that have to be done. She is always going forward.
She hopes to make it to church tomorrow.
Just kind of wanted to give you the little latest.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
When I go to town to take Bethany to school, or pick her up, or run errands or whatever, I see people who know what is going on with us. Inevitably, they smile, hug me and say how amazed they are that Tracy is doing so well. They say they have been praying and they read the blog all the time to see what is happening. Today, someone told me that they happened to see a friend of their's from the past who said their whole Bible study group was praying for a girl in Chappell Hill who had a brain tumor and what was her name? Isn't that crazy? These are people who we don't know from anywhere or any time and they have been beseeching God on our behalf. How did they find out? What investment do they have in us? Now, I am going to be rather specific here, but she didn't say they prayed. She said they were praying. That is a present condition, having begun in the past, which continues into the future. People are praying all the time! Who is praying? The family is praying. What family? The family of God is praying.
I enjoy an image in my head of God listening to the prayers of His children. As He listens, He keeps hearing Tracy's name. The more He hears it, a little grin wrinkles his cheeks. He hears it again and again, and from so many different places, and the grin stretches uncontrollably into a smile. Her name keeps coming and coming from all over the earth and a chuckle that crescendos to a hearty laugh of absolute, thrilling happiness that His Tracy is being loved and cared for spills out of his heart. His eyes gleam and sparkle and He can't wait to send Tracy the blessings and love that have been lifted up just for her. WHOOHOO!!! Man, just writing it gets me all kinds of happy.
I gotta kinda come down off that mountain a minute. Whoooooo. Ok, ahem, ahem, cough, cough. Ok. Ok.
A wonderful fella of experienced faith through tragedy shared something with me on the day of Tracy's surgery. He was preparing to teach on prayer and he found Daniel's experience with the angel who was delayed from coming to Daniel's aid for twenty-one days. Listen to chapter 10, verse 12 of Daniel: "Then he said to me, 'Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words'...." Consider "from the first day", and "because of your words". God hears us the first time and He answers because we call on Him. You know, you have His attention the very moment you call on His name. What beauty! I can't leave this without appreciating that the angel recognized Daniel's condition as he sought God: He set his "heart to understand" and "humbled[d] himself before God". We have to be sincere. God is real and so must we be also.
It's getting late and Tracy is waiting for me to turn out the light. I should be more diligent in getting this done. She walked on the treadmill again today. Another 1/2 mile in 15 minutes. She's great. She was kind of cranky (in a fun kind of way, but still cranky) today; kind of funny and encouraging, because it means she wants more than she's got...and she's gonna get it.
One of you asked what could be done since you can't get over here, books on tape etc. She has been given a couple of tapes and actually plans to start one tomorrow. We did the bills today. It took a couple of different sit down times, because she got really tired. (Tracy has been our house and home administrator for years and years. Since she is able, it is better for her to direct these chores than for me to try and take them over...and mess them up.) She's not really ready to go out to eat. We did stop at a restaurant on the way back from the doctor the other day (using a gift card provided by one of you). She was freshly bandaged in the princess-one-bun-aunt-Jemima style and it took a little gumption to be that public, but she had to eat (we had been in the doctors office through lunch and breakfast was hours earlier). She's got gumption, though.
What you can do is call her. Talk to her. The sweet calls break up the day. If you're long distance, call us and we'll call you back. When we figured out that we would be going to surgery and expected to be in the hospital for 6 to 8 weeks, we got a land-line phone plan where all the long distance calls are covered by the established monthly fee. We may not be in the hospital, but the phone plan can't change, so let's use it. Also, if you use cingular wireless for your cell phone service, your wireless call to our land-line number will not count against your minutes. That's just part of the package. (sounds like an ad for Cingular doens't it?) Look forward to hearing from you.
Livin' in the family and lovin' it.
I don't know if you guys have noticed, but the time on this thing is way off, about three hours. It's after 10:30 p.m. now. Oh well, probably doesn't matter.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Now, that sounds pretty depressing, and it is, but she's pushing on. She's antsy for more out of her life. She doesn't give up or give in. She is feisty. That's why she feels the way she does. She lives life.
Oh, you want proof. Ok, you know how I've been saying that she can't really walk around outside because of her eye? So, I picked up a treadmill and set it up in the living room. Now, she didn't feel well today, because of the new medicine she is taking (we think), not drinking enough water (bad, bad girl - I was gone a little today [when the cat's away...]) and the ever aggravating eye. So, after a meal literally laid out as if for royalty (and extremely tasty), provided for us and delivered by three ladies with smiles I will not soon forget, Tracy wanted to "get out of the house". We took a little road trip to her parents house (a couple of miles away) and stayed for about 15 or so minutes before her eye started itching like nuts. We came home and took some allergy medicine and put some allergy drops in her eyes and she rested. THEN she got on the treadmill and walked about 1/2 a mile at 1.6 mph for about 15 minutes.
WHAT?? Jeff, let that girl rest! She is...now. I guarantee it. Hey, Dr. Oghalai said she could sweat. Now we're not sweatin', but she did say she was getting hot on her walk. We turned on the fans and she finished what she wanted to do. I'm telling you, this girl is an inspiration. Listen, I guess I'm saying this because I see her feelin' icky and just dealin' with it. I love her, you know?
A little technical stuff. The medicine she is taking is like a diuretic, so it works to get water out of her body. That is what will help reduce the production of spinal fluid and allow the incision to heal. Well, since that is what the medicine does, she needs to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. You know that when you don't get enough water in your system, you get fatigued and you just feel icky. Water is important to the body; 70% of our physical self is water, so....
We're back in the chair and couch for a while. It's just more comfortable and less intimidating than the bed.
I've talked to some of you on the phone who have said you have been waiting to visit because you don't want to overwhelm her and tire her out. Go ahead and call, so you can set a time to come. Her days get long and boring. I should be back at work next week and there will be people here or "on call", but call and see what you can do, if you want to.
Ok, I'm gonna sign off. You guys have a good evening or day or whatever when you're reading this.
Never say die! As day closed into evening and Tracy was getting ready for her bath, she was complaining of her vision being blurry and just an overall odd feeling. I looked in her eyes and noticed that her pupils were different sizes. I got a flashlight and checked dialation reaction, which was fine. But I couldn't explain what was going on, so I did like any red-blooded, American male would do...I called my mom.
Now, to be fair to me, my mom was an intensive care nurse for something like 13 years and worked for the Texas Board of Medical Examiners as an investigator after that. She was a coroner and worked with dialysis and breathing machines later. So, she is a resource we have always used before we jumped into any serious medical situations. I imagine she has saved us a bunch of money and a lot of aggravation.
We talked about what was going on and she gave us some advice about Tracy's odd sensations, but said we should call Dr. Oghalai for the pupil problem. We did and after exchanging some information he figured out that the allergy eyedrops we had put in Tracy's eye caused it to dialate. Mom, later pointed out that we would never have noticed had we put the eyedrops in both eyes. Dr. Oghalai also told Tracy to stop taking the Acetazomid (Diamox) as he felt as if the compression bandage was doing the job it was supposed to do, because the incision was not leaking so far as we could tell. The Diamox has some uncomfortable affects on some people and he said as long as the bandage is working, she didn't need the Diamox. Tracy was glad for that. She did not like the way that medicine made her feel.
So if the incision is still leaking after Saturday, we will go back in on Monday and have another compression bandage put on. I asked him if he would consider stitching it up tighter and he said he didn't want to, because what needs to happen is for the fat to fill the hole and stay there. That is the goal of the repairative procedure; that the fat would act as a plug. So, the compression will keep it in there tight enough until it stabilizes and stays on its own.
So, the nights always end up late, 'cuz we just don't have enough fun during the day. Different sized pupils is a bad deal, but in this case, it was, again, not a big deal. It did require some attention, however.
Ah well, it's what makes life interesting and keeps the adventure alive. Sorry this is so long. Hope you don't get bored.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
So, he put another compression bandage around her head (like the one she had on after surgery) and told her to keep it on for four days. Tracy said her head felt better even before we left his office. He made the bandage wider so it would not dig into her skin like the first one did. On a lighter side, she looks like princes Leia having lost one of her hair buns serving pancakes with Aunt Jemima.
He also gave her some medicine that will help to dry up the excess fluid. She'll take that for the next two weeks. If this doesn't work, he will put her on Prednisone and he may want to put in a couple more stitches to tighten up that incision. We are now supposed to get the stitches out next week on Wednesday instead of this week on Thursday.
He also said that the headaches were probably from the spinal fluid and not from sinus. He had her do some facial movements and commented that he was surprised that there was no movement on the right side. But, it may take weeks, months or... to get function back in that area.
We were gone all day today, so if you tried to call for a visit, I am sorry.
I asked about the void left in her skull from the tumor. Will the brain expand to fill it? He said the brain will expand some, but the void will also be filled in by the fat they took from her tummy and the spinal fluid will fill up the rest.
There is still more to do tonight and Tracy is really tired. Long day for her. A couple of nice visits and a wonderful meal, which was great since we were in Houston for the day.
Always in appreciation,
Monday, April 7, 2008
Please pray for Tracy's eye. Her right eye is probably the thing that bothers her the most right now. I'm sure I've said it to many times, but that eye doesn't produce tears. It doesn't really close all the way. At night, we still put some Lacrilube in it and tape it shut. She puts artificial tears in it all day long to keep it moistened. But it is still aggravating. She once said it was like having your eyeball scratched. (I've done that and it is constantly irritating.) She is also pretty sensitive to the light. So, the flashing images on TV, the strain of reading and the intensity of light outside are hard on her. Unfortunately, that leaves her sitting in the living room not doing anything. She will do a little of each, but not for too long.
We walked around outside today twice. Each time we walked around the house and down the driveway a little ways. The second time, we got her sun glasses out of the car and hopefully that helped a little. As soon as we got inside, we put drops in her eye. In the evening, I drove her to her mom and dad's house, just for a get out of the house trip and it was nice. Ann got to nurture her baby a bit and Ken was blessed to see Tracy out and about. It was good, but the rocky, dirt road was bothersome and, of course, that eye needed attention.
She slept in the bed last night. She got up several times and didn't sleep well, but she did go back to bed after breakfast this morning and probably slept for 3 or so hours. I may have said that we think sinus has been some of the pressure in her head when she lays flat.
She is kind of sore all over, you know like when you have been sick in bed for several days and your body just aches from that bed or chair or whatever even though you're getting better from whatever illness put you there in the first place. Problem is, Tracy can't really do a whole lot of movin' around to get that soreness out. She is working on it, though. A little movin' around for us is a lot for Tracy for now. I know it's frustrating for her. Today, she sat on different chairs and in different positions to try and counteract some of this soreness.
Hey! By the way, she has been off the codeine for today and yesterday. She is taking regular Tylenol to keep the pain and discomfort at bay. It certainly is not as strong, but she doesn't have that "codeine" feeling.
We are on the upside of this tumor resection, but please continue to pray for us to maintain our faith and appreciation of God's perfect will. Oftentimes the more traumatic and dramatic events are easier to handle than the many little pains necessary to accomplish an ultimate goal.
This experience has been challenging and tiring, but it has also reaped some rewards that are not worth trading out. Bless the Lord for He is good!
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Visitors today allowed me to do a little yard and house maintenance work. Thank you, thank you. It was good to get outside. It was beautiful today. I had a little time to exercise this morning as well - needed that, too.
Tracy is moving around really well. Not so many episodes where she feels a little dizzy while standing or walking. Still, she needs to rest and nap. What looks like a little effort for her is actually quite strenuous. Not the kind of strenuous where she is sweating and out of breath, but just out of energy. The visitors today were great for her. Short and sweet seems to be what she handles best.
She actually thought about going to church, but the positive stimulation today revealed to her that she needs to wait a little longer. We watched a movie last night, but it is not as enjoyable for her, because all those images flashing on the screen are hard on her eye and it takes a lot of energy to process it all. May sound a little extreme to talk about the energy required to do a passive activity, but it is real.
Great meal tonight, and the provider was so kind and sweet. I don't know how to communicate that sentiment without it reading or sounding like a dutiful acknowledgment, but I mean what I say in the sincerest terms. Sure, I'll say the thanks necessary, but we are seeing the best you guys are. I don't think anyone ministering to us is having to work real hard at being beautiful, because it is what they all ready are. I've known this about this fellowship in my heart. I really never expected to have to know it in my experience, but here it is and it is the family of God as He means for it to be. Way cool!
Friday, April 4, 2008
Tracy made her own breakfast this morning and then took a nap. I left to run errands while she slept and she did well for that time. I think she even got up while I was gone. She is up and walking, but a little activity wears her out a lot.
After another little nap, a little lunch and a bath, she rode into town with me to pick up Bethany. We knew it would be hard, but she wanted to try. Just as we were about to leave, it started to rain again and pretty hard. But we got a big umbrella and continued on our way. She did well, but was ready to rest when we got home. At the school, a whole bunch of kids whom she had taught years before came running to the car to say hi. It was sweet.
The dinner brought to us tonight was wonderful. Some magnificent flavor, mmmhhmmm. I think if I ever played and won the lottery, I would hire a chef.
I may be able to get back to work Monday. We are trying things out these next couple of days. Tracy is doing really well. she tires easily and has spells where she feels kind of faint. She is trying to move around, but it is an effort and about all she can do is walk around the house. We have teased about getting on the Gazelle (exercise machine). There are little nuances that need to be payed attention to; she can't bend down, medicine at certain times, eye drops, being careful walking around, etc. We will see.
I want to clarify something about Tracy's facial paralysis. I said the Drs. were not concerned about it right now and that more than likely, it will come back on its own in time. However, I should add that the Drs. also said that if it didn't, they would be able to do some surgery to facilitate that motor control. So, we don't want that to happen, but the future is yet to be.
We saw the sign at S&S realty that said, "Welcome home Tracy. God is Good." Yes He is. I saw Bobby and Rita Meaux at the store this afternoon and they were both so sweet. She said that Bobby told her that this experience of Tracy's is "in your face" God's doin'. I think so, too.
Thank you for your comments, encouragement, advice, humor and love.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I want to draw attention to my head support. They implanted notebooks in my head in case I lose any brain power. Well.... I am just kidding, but if you stare at this long enough, my head does have some unusual properties, ie. the bar. Suffice it to say it is my photographer, there is no bar there.
Thanks for the continued prayers and support. I had a much better day today and am moving around a lot more. It feels good to be home.
Jeff here. Tracy got tired out. Doesn't take much right now.
Last night when we lost power, Tracy was feeling pretty bad. She voiced that she wished she had some Sprite. Matthew had recently gotten home and made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk, which he had just sat in front of to eat. At his mom's mention of Sprite and my response that we didn't have any, he jumped up, leaving his dinner, and said he would get it. Tracy, of course, started saying check with this person, call that person, but Matthew said, "I got it, Mom" and was out the door. When he got up to the stores on the highway, they were closed due to the power outage and he took off to Brenham. She got her Sprite through the sweetness and love of that boy (whoops, 20 year old young man).
Later, as Bethany and I were saying goodnight, we heard guitar playing in the living room. Matthew had asked Tracy if she wanted to listen to him practice for his class. She said she would. He was quiet and gentle, playing by candlelight while she relaxed in the chair. It was a nice moment to see.
Man, we got sweet kids. Christopher called from Lubbock this a.m. just before his physics class to check on the ol' girl. Feels good to receive such love and attention from these kids.
You see I mentioned those two boys, but what about Bethany? Like she needs anything said about her sweetness. She's the angel-girl all the time.
We just got our first meal, as you saw, and I think we might need to learn to cook, because what we've been doing doesn't taste as good as what we had tonight.
I gotta get. I'm trying to get some things done before dark and it is comin' fast.
Thank you for staying in touch. Your support is strength.
Yesterday was a difficult and strange day. Tracy woke up dizzy and felt bad most of the day. About 3:00 p.m. or so she perked up, seemed to feel better and was more interactive and alert. Then maybe after 6:30 p.m. or so she crashed and felt bad again, saying she hurt all over. The power went off, which meant we had no water, so we were pretty well shut down for the night. We used what water was left in our well to brush teeth, etc and eventually went to bed, though it was late because Tracy did not feel well enough to move around a lot. After some pain medicine at 2:20 a.m. we moved back into the living room about 3:30 a.m. so she could lay in the recliner. She felt like she would be more comfortable there. She slept there seemingly well enough. That may be what we have to do. Her head hurts a lot right now. Our guess is that her body is coming awake, so-to-speak, to all that has been done to it as well as the inactivity, which keeps the rest of us lubed up and functioning.
In answer to the questions about facial paralysis, the doctor said it would take weeks, if not months, for function to return. It is common and expected to occur in surgeries of this nature and they are actually not concerned about it for now. The biggest part of the maintenance, because of this, is her right eye, which does not produce tears. We put eye drops in often during the day. At night a lubricant is put in the eye and we tape it closed. She is swallowing well enough, but cannot yet tolerate crunchy, hard, grainy stuff, like a breakfast bar. She did eat some apple with her chicken salad yesterday and had some rice flour toast with her homemade tomato soup, so she is doing well.
We trudge on. Talk to you again soon.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Now all you house ladies and metro-males. Lord have mercy, I have gotten Bethany to school, made two breakfasts, made three beds, washed and folded 4 loads of clothes, taken care of
Tracy's needs at different times in the morning, cleaned up the kitchen, worked on Bethany's closet, and the whole time I'm thinking, "I'm tired and I want to take a nap"! The afternoon, I think is relegated to bill paying and managing mail and house stuff. Going back to work might just be a vacation. (Kind of teasin', but there is not a lot of sit down time.)
I look forward to your calls. You guys are somethin' else.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Lots of you have offered food and we want it, but call me 'cuz I need help organizing it. Also, here is a kink in the program. Tracy is gluten intolerant. Which means she can't eat anything with wheat in it. Cindy Beckworth knows about it and can help if you need her to. Also, you can check on the internet for things. It's kind of crazy, 'cuz things like Soy Sauce and some salad dressings and soups have wheat in them. Weird, huh?
Man, I'm tired, so I hope you will forgive me if I haven't answered some questions or given some important info. Let me know in the comments and I'll speak to it. Gotta do some stuff.
Indebted in love,