Tuesday, April 1, 2014

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil (March 31, 2014)

The old adage of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” refers to the idea of ignoring the things around you and pretending that you never saw, heard or spoke of it.  Imagine the little monkey emoticons with their hands covering their eyes and ears and mouth.  I wish that life was that simple…that you could just pretend things away.  But ignoring the truth doesn’t change it.  I have seen the effects of treatment, and heard a cancer diagnosis or have not been able to speak properly.  This is my reality.  For me, it isn’t about a theoretical blind eye, or deaf ear or closed mouth.  It is about the trials and tribulations of the possibility of a real blind eye, an actual deaf ear, and a mouth that has trouble speaking.   But because of this,  I now choose not to see the evil but the good in people.  I choose to never stop speaking the truth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  And I will not listen to the evil one, but will open my ears to hearing God's Word.  Romans 10:17  “So faith comes from hearing , and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put on rose colored glasses and peer into a place where we couldn’t see hurt or anger or violence?  Then imagine not being able to see anything at all.  I can’t imagine living in a world of complete darkness.  But there are people who are physically blind and can’t see their child or read the Bible or gaze at God’s amazing creation.  Then there are others who are spiritually blind and don’t see the truth that is so blatantly surrounding them.  Luckily for me, I’ve come to know and accept the truth, and proudly proclaim it.  I can see it without a doubt.  Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  My cancer diagnosis and treatment, along with the roller coaster ride that is now my life, has made God’s presence in my life even more visibly evident.  When I was told early on in my treatment that I would absolutely lose the sight in my right eye, I am guessing I reacted a little differently than most.   And I may have already told you this, but I think it bears repeating.  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t freak out.  I think I just said “OK.”  I’m not sure why I reacted that way.  Actually, I am…it was the calm given to me by the Holy Spirit.  I suppose I knew that it didn’t matter if I could see out of my right eye.  I felt like if anything, it would help me to see things even more clearly…to see the bigger pictures and set my sights on Christ and not the things of this world.  Romans 12:2  “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  I have had people all over the world praying for me, and I’m here to tell you that prayer works.  The absolute certainty of my doctor that I would lose my sight has been mitigated by the prayers of a powerful people.  I have perfect vision in both of my eyes!  There is some damage to the optic nerve, so there is a chance that things could change.  But for now we just praise Him.   I must admit that I have aged over the last year apparently (and not just the new wrinkles).  I hate to say that I now find myself holding the phone farther away from my face or increasing the text size so I can see it better.  I used to tease my dear friend Gina by holding the menu across the table or holding her phone outstretched (all in fun, by the way).  But now it’s my turn. Doctors tell me it’s now time to bite the bullet and get some reading glasses. Store bought readers or prescription? Prayer works.  Miracles happen.  See no evil…but see the truth.

Did you ever play that telephone game with two soup cans and a string?  I imagine putting it up to my right ear and listening as my friend’s voice permeates the string (or so it’s supposed to go) and we chatted like we were on the telephone. For those younger people reading this blog, there was a time when there were no cell phones…when even talking on the regular phone (attached to a coil, attached to a wall) to friends was a privilege because you had to pay per call.  And forget about calling your friends long distance!  Anyways, I digress.  The thought of putting that can up to my ear, without the string attached, and without the sound of my friend’s voice, is one that has come to mind a lot lately. 

You see, I was told once again, early on, that there was a possibility of hearing loss in my right ear due to the radiation treatments and location.  I never thought much of this warning, as it was piled in with the million other ‘cover your booty’ warnings…the worst case scenarios.  As I went to my weekly clinics with Dr. Frank (already 9 months ago) he would ask about my hearing and I would assure him that I had no issues.  Two months, even four months after treatment there was no sign of hearing loss.  I was certain I had dodged that bullet (somehow living in Texas seems to make that picture appropriate).  But sometimes God has other things in store for us.  You see, in December I began to notice a feeling like I had water in my ear (like I had been swimming…and trust me, I had not!).  I did all the usual things like trying to pop it or putting drops in my ears.  Nothing seemed to work.  I went to my ENT here in Austin, Dr. Scholl, and had him take a look.  He said there was fluid in my ear and we were going to try to dry it out with Nasonex and Mucinex…none of which worked.  A month passed and I was referred to the ENT at MD Anderson, Dr. Gidley (who was a hoot, by the way).  A hearing test showed normal nerve function, but decreased mechanical function.  The fluid behind my ear drum was filling my entire middle ear.  There was no room for it to get any worse.  To add to this, my eustacion tube was closed.  My hearing was greatly impaired in that ear.  That part of it was no big surprise…for months I have felt like my father in law (and have felt FOR my father in law) who has to ask, “What?” when someone asks a question to the bad ear.  I am someone who couldn’t hear the alarm going off if the good ear is on the pillow; someone who had to ask their daughter to turn up the TV to a volume that normally would have been just ‘way too loud’.   Hear ye, Hear ye…or not!  Yes, there is no doubt that I have been impaired.  But I took it all with a grain of salt…which ironically is supposed to help with clogged ears J 

That brings me to the options Dr. Gidley presented to me.  The first option was to do nothing and pray…not just pray, but to “pray for a miracle”.  Hmmm, OK, that doesn’t sound too good.  He told me it was extremely unlikely that it could heal on its own.  The second option, a more medically sound option, was to get a tube to drain it.  Well there’s my answer!  Not so fast, turbo (who says this anymore??).  With the tube would come ramifications that I wasn’t willing to accept.  He said that it would be in for about a year and it would come out on its own.  However, the hole from the tube would never close because of the radiation.  So, essentially I would always have a drain hole and I wouldn’t be allowed to swim in the lake water for fear of bacterial infections.  The tube option was quickly eliminated, as the dreams of a summer once again on the lake with my family came back to life.  I wasn’t willing to give up the only real thing that my family does together (and has fun together doing) over the summer.  I was deprived of it all of last summer because of treatment.  My kids were deprived of their mother for months.  The lake, no matter how low it is, is not something I am willing to give up.  To some that may sound foolish, but I would rather hear out of only one ear for the rest of my life, than not be able to hear Meghan or Molly giddy with excitement, just one more time, as they wakeboard or tube across the lake.  So, I quickly told him that the tube was not an option for me at this time, and that we believe in the power of prayers and that’s what we would do.  We would pray for yet another miracle, because the Lord has already proven with my eyes that prayers work.

 Several months passed since that appointment in January with Dr. Gidley and my hearing hadn’t improved.  The loss of hearing and what felt like a balloon wedged in my ear was annoying, but was more of a nuisance than anything else.  But something happened on the way to Rockport (that sounds like it should be a song title) this past Spring Break as we traveled the Texas country roads.  Something in my ear seemed to pop and instantly I knew that something was different.  Sounds were suddenly louder and clearer, but I was hesitant to believe it.  As I sat there, I told Will and the girls that something weird happened.  I kept covering my right ear, then my left ear to compare them.  I knew that I couldn’t hear much before, but now the discrepancy between the hearing abilities didn’t seem as drastic.  All of a sudden I became annoyed by the constant rattle that seemed to be permeating from the passenger door (to the right of me).  I was hearing things out of my right ear again (even if it was still not normal).  I asked Will if he heard that sound and he replied that it had been rattling for the past hour and a half.  I hadn’t heard it until then.  The rattle must have been some remnant of what was left behind when I had my car repaired (stupid story, don’t ask why).  This reminded me that even when we seem to be ‘fixed’, we are still broken without Jesus.
After that moment on the quiet country road, where Jesus once again began to heal me, I started to hear the truth once more.  Jesus meets you where you are at.  Just like Saul on the road to Damascus.  Just like He will meet millions more who are open to hear the word.  Ephesians 1:13   And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

Yes, my hearing was improved, only slightly, but enough to notice a difference.  I could see the prayers working as Jesus heard the prayers of his saints on my behalf.  And last week, it popped once again, and as I woke up to go to Houston once more, I had my left ear nestled in the pillow.  Only my right ear was open to hear the alarm go off and what sounded like church bells singing praises for yet another miracle bestowed on me.  As I sit here writing this,  I can hear the second hand ticking away on the clock sitting to the right of me on my desk.  Prayer works.  Miracles happen.  Hear no evil...but hear the truth.

Did you know that God is a techie??  He even butt dials on our behalf!  I speak the truth J  Read on, as I tell you why.  On December 31st, otherwise known as New Years Eve, I woke up with the most unbearable pain.  Well, actually I woke up fine.  It wasn’t until I brushed my teeth and rinsed that I was brought to my knees in the most unimaginable pain in my face I could experience.  It lasted probably a minute or so, but was worse than anything I had experienced up to this point during my entire ‘ordeal’.   It reminded me of the excruciating pain I felt on that night of April 18th, 2013 when it felt like someone was stabbing me (that led to my diagnosis).  I was sobbing and not sure what was going on.  As the pain eventually subsided, I went on with my morning not knowing why that had happened.  I made my morning coffee and then had some water with my medication.  I was once again laid to the ground, sprawled on the kitchen floor covering my mouth with both hands thinking that would somehow mask the agony that I was experiencing.  That if I covered my mouth (just like the little monkey emoticon) it would somehow not be as painful or true.  I picked myself up off the kitchen floor once the pain subsided, and I began to help Molly with her science fair project.  She was using different types of water to see how sedimentary limestone would absorb them.  For some reason, which now is unimportant, I took a sip of the tonic water.  Almost immediately the tears began to stream out of my eyes like a faucet and the piercing pain began to radiate through my mouth and face once more,  bringing me once again to the floor.  I think I had finally figured out the cause.  Anytime I drank anything that wasn’t warm I was affected.  It was New Years Eve.  No doctors were available.  I couldn’t drink anything.  I couldn’t even rinse my teeth.  I was getting fearful of a couple days without water and severe dehydration (no one would see me on New Years Day either).  I was contemplating a trip to the emergency room.  But, just like always, God was walking beside me.

 I’ve already told you about Charlie Snow, my guardian angel on earth (also my dentist), who made me a prosthetic mouth roof even when my doctors at MDA couldn’t because of my mouth opening.  Charlie called me that morning which was odd. I hadn’t talked to him in a month or so.  He said that my dad (who also knows Charlie) had butt dialed him and hung up. The Lord even uses technology for our sake! If you know my dad, this wouldn’t seem unusual…he and technology don’t mix all that well.  Anyways, Charlie saw his # and called him back because he had been worried that maybe something was going on with me.  My dad apologized for butt dialing him and did mention that I was experiencing these weird pains.  When Charlie and I spoke, he asked me to test a few things and he determined that most likely it was a dental issue. He told me he was coming over to my house and was going to take me to his office downtown so he could try to figure what the source of pain was and try to block the pain at least temporarily.  He gave me a shot at the house, which led to complete numbing of the area so I could at least try to get down some fluids.  Once at the office, he was able to figure out the exact area that was affected, and he gave me a shot or two to completely numb it.  What I didn’t tell you is that he had a friend in town for New Years that he dragged along for my sake.  It turns out that I would most likely need a root canal…he would refer me to a specialist.  He then told me that he would come over at any time to give me additional shots at home if necessary until that time.  And, of course, he wouldn’t accept a dime from me.  Whoever said there aren’t angels here on earth, never met Charlie Snow. Hebrews 6:10  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  It turns out that the shots he gave me that day would amazingly get me through a couple weeks without pain!  I couldn’t believe it…neither could he.  The shots should not last in my system more than 6 hours or so.  But God is good.  After a few weeks, I once again experienced the pain.  I called Charlie and he came over to give me another shot.  This time it wasn’t New Years Eve, but his wife’s birthday.  But he came for me anyways.  He managed to get me into the root canal specialist the next day.  I have been pain free ever since.  Well, with that pain anyways!

Then there is the pain associated with my jaw.  You see, jaw pain is nothing new to me.  Ten or more years of limited mouth opening and pain have made me almost numb to it.  But this pain was more than just the usual aches.  I had a terrible infection for the course of about 4 months, due to necrosis of the tumor and dead exposed bone in the palate, both of which were constant sources of contamination and pain in my jaw.  My problem with reactions to pain meds didn’t help my situation any, but I managed with a regimen of ibuprofen…lots and lots of ibuprofen.  Not to mention the multitude of ‘big gun’ antibiotics to try to clear the infection.  It took time and patience, but I have been taken off all antibiotics and am feeling great again.  I lost a large chunk of the dead bone (which I thought was a pretzel that was stuck in the hole that I wedged out…I know you’re cringing right now!).  This is a sign the infection is clear and my system is working itself out again.  I still have some bone that needs to come off, but it’s no longer causing any pain, and having it covered most of the day should speed up that process.
But the root (pardon the pun) of evil with regards to my mouth, continued to be the gaping hole in the roof of my mouth and the very small mouth opening that was preventing me from getting a more permanent prosthetic.  The hole in the roof of my mouth was the one side effect that I never expected or remember being warned about.  It’s not just a hole, but really a complete loss of the right side of my palate due to the dying tumor receding from that area.  I don’t think many of you fully understand what that means.  It means food getting stuck every time you eat and not being able to get it out without going through multiple tubs of water in the Water Pik.  It means water (or even food) coming out of your nose every time you take a sip (or water pik) because the hole goes all the way into your sinus cavity.  It means not being able to speak properly without my device… most people have a hard time understanding me (especially on the phone).  My tongue doesn’t have a roof to hit properly to make the correct sounds for proper speech. Lucky for me, as I’ve already mentioned, Charlie was able to sculpt out of almost nothing a prosthetic device to cover that hole.  Because we couldn’t get a mold of my mouth (due to limited opening) he made something out of nothing…something pieced together and molded and shaped along the way, that was eventually almost perfect.  Just like the Lord takes us, nothing, and turns us into something beautiful that He has shaped along the way until one day we are made perfect. Isaiah 64:8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 

On my visit to Houston last month, the dental oncologist was finally able to get a mold of my mouth.  Finally, after all this time, I was able to open enough for them to get a perfect mold of my palate to make a more permanent opterator (the technical term for the prosthetic…I just call it my ‘mouth’). That visit to MD Anderson with my dear friend Torri, alone warrants its own entry (for another day!).  Anyways, it seems like when things go up they must come down…as did my excitement about my wider mouth opening. And when Dr. Afshari (whom I had just met on that last visit) asked if Torri was my daughter I nearly fell out of the dental chair in anguish...that pain I talked about earlier with the pain and root canal, was nothing compared to this knife!  Ouch…now I do have to admit that Torri has a very youthful face and glow, but still!  On a side note, that wasn’t the first time Torri’s youthful glow tormented her friends.  We all went to the Spazmatics (awesome 80’s cover band), and she was the only one who wasn’t carded.  ANYWAYS!! After that visit to dental oncology, which apparently stressed my jaw and me just a tad too much, I was unable to open enough to even get in my other ‘mouth’ for over a week.  It seemed I was almost back to square one again.  I was scheduled to go back on March 4th (also my 45th birthday) to get my new one.  Boy, I’m feeling old enough.  However, there was no way I would be able to open enough to even get it in at that point, so I rescheduled for later in the month.  Plus who wants to spend their birthday at MD Anderson anyways?!? Just last week I was able to get my new ‘mouth’ which fits quite nicely, but there are still adjustments to be made.  But I am on my way to this being a permanent device.  I now have to wear it 24/7 (which I should’ve done before but I just wasn’t comfortable doing it).  I take it out at night and in the morning to clean it, to rinse out the ‘hole’ with the Water Pik, and brush, floss and rinse with mouthwash. Then place it right back in.  It takes me longer to get ready to go to bed than it takes me to get ready in the morning! But this opterator, or prosthetic, or ‘mouth’ (regardless of what you call it) is yet another answered prayer.  Without it, I wouldn’t be able to speak in a way that I would be comfortable with…and I’m not a candidate for surgery due to the constantly changing status of my tumor.  Prayer works.  Miracles happen.  Speak no evil…but speak the truth.

When I was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma on May 2nd of 2013, I didn’t understand how greatly my entire head and all its senses would be affected.  I haven’t even told you about the pretty severe loss of smell (which sometimes works to my advantage) and just as noticeable loss of taste (I feel like everything needs salt!).  We don’t realize how mutually dependent each part is on the next.  1 Corinthians 12:26  “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” So it is with my body, and so it is with fellow believers and the body of Christ.  It was the prayers of my friends and family for my eyes, ears and mouth that allows me to proclaim with all praise and glory to God that prayer works!!  Miracles happen…See no evil (I am not blinded physically like they expected); Hear no evil (I can hear out of the ear that would have required a miracle to heal on its own); Speak no evil (I have been given the opportunity to speak through angels on earth and their prayers lifted to heaven).  So I will not waste the beautiful gift of sight and hearing and speech, but use it to proclaim the word.  Romans 10:15  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

1 comment:

  1. So, SO very moved by your honest, open, painful, and often times humorous writing. It brought me to tears. Am feeling so very honored by your friendship and just wish I'd have gotten to know you better when you were at our church here. But thank the good Lord you are alive so I can enjoy reading this!!! You amaze me! I will continue to pray for you. Love, Randa