Carol's Cancer Updates

 


 

July 2, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Some of you havenít heard from us for awhile, but we often think of you and the encouragement and prayer support you gave us during Carolís cancer treatments.  You have a special place in our hearts for having shared that experience with us in such a personal and beneficial way.

 

Carol has been doing remarkably well since that time, but now we are facing another challenge that we want to make you aware of.  She has developed a sizable tumor on the right side of her brain, and her medical team has determined that it is cancerous and will require surgical removal.  The surgery date has not been set yet, but it will likely be mid-week (about July 5).  We will know more tomorrow when we hear from the surgeonís office.

 

This situation arose rather quickly, following a few weeks of minor symptoms (i.e., mild headaches and low grade temperature).  She has also had some visual disturbances and occasional disorientation while in familiar surroundings.  Her most recent blood and cancer marker tests revealed nothing abnormal, but her symptoms, coupled with her need for an updated contact lens prescription, prompted us to visit our optometrist, who discovered an abnormal visual pattern and encouraged us to see an ophthalmologist.  The ophthalmologist determined that her problem was neurological and consistent with stroke activity rather than with the eyes themselves.  A subsequent MRI revealed a 4cm x 6cm tumor in the area of the brain most closely related to sight and memory. 

 

The tumor is most likely linked to her previous breast cancer episode, although it does not have some of the typical characteristics of metastatic cancer, so it may be a new cancer unrelated to the breast cancer.  In any event, it must be removed very soon. 

 

Currently she is on anti-seizure medication as well as a medication to help shrink the tumor.  From what we understand, radiation therapy is beneficial in shrinking a tumor in many situations, but in Carolís case the tumor is too large to qualify for pre-surgical radiation therapy.

 

The surgery and potential side effects are deeply concerning to us, but the surgical team is optimistic and we know that ultimately Carol is in the hands of her Lord.  Even at that, we are experiencing a great deal of fear and grief.  Please pray that we will bring honor to the Lord through this situation, and that His grace and peace will govern our hearts, minds and actions.  Pray also for the medical team as they do their amazing work.  Ask the Lord to bless them not only with great skill, but more importantly with His divine favor and grace upon their souls. 

 

I should add that Carol was hospitalized Friday night and was given a full-body CAT scan that detected no other cancer in her body.  That is a great praise.  She is now home and feeling well.  The strong medications she is on have her a little more loopy than usual (sheíll forgive me for that comment, Iím sure), but otherwise she is doing well.

 

With deep appreciation for your prayers and concern,

 

Dennis

 

PS  Some of you may receive duplicates of this message because I am using multiple mailing lists and it will take awhile to update them.  Please let me know if that is the case and I will make the correction.  Thank you.

 


 

July 3, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Thank you so much for your gracious responses to our last email.  We appreciate your thoughtfulness so much!

 

We received word today that Carolís surgery is scheduled for next Monday, July 10 at 1:30pm.  The additional week will give her medications more time to work on the tumor and hopefully to shrink it a bit. It will also give us more time to pray and to address the various issues and implications of the situation.  We are thankful for that time.

 

We will keep you posted on developments.

 

With sincere thanks,

 

Dennis & Carol

 


 

July 4, 2006

 

Hello all,

 

Just a real quick note to let you know that Carol had a difficult day today and her medical team decided to perform the surgery tonight (July 4th) rather than waiting.  She is being transported by ambulance to Cottage Hospital, Santa Barbara right now, and I am on my way there too.  Wanted to let you know so you can pray.  I'll update you when I can.

 

Will deep appreciation.

 

Dennis

 


 

July 6, 2006

Dear Family & Friends, 
 
I'm sorry for the delay in getting a surgery update to you. Things have been a little busy here and I don't have direct access to the Internet. The hospital medical library has kindly let me use their computer for this update. 
 
Carol's surgery went well in that they were able to remove most of the tumor without any noticeable damage to sight or memory functions. Actually, the ICU nurse told me Carol is the most talkative patient on morphine that she has ever had (why am I not surprised?). Her recall of events, names, places, dates, etc. is normal, with the exception of last Tuesday, which is a blank to her because of her weakened condition on that day. 
 
The deficits Carol was experiencing when she went into surgery (weakness in her left arm and leg, and left side vision loss) are still present and may be temporary. They could, however, be long-term. They will be addressed through therapy at the appropriate time. 
 
She is still in ICU but will be transferred to a hospital room later today. If all goes well, she should be released from the hospital on Monday, either to go home or to a temporary therapy facility, depending on how she progresses between now and then. 
 
As I mentioned, her surgical team was able to remove most of the tumor, but it had some feelers extending into areas that could not be addressed surgically. Pathology confirmed that it is cancerous but unrelated to her breast cancer. From what I understand, it is unusual for a second type of cancer to appear in a person so quickly after the first, but that is what has occurred here. 
 
They will treat what remains of the tumor with radiation therapy and then an oral type of chemotherapy. I don't remember the medical name for this type of cancer, but it is not one for which they have a cure. Typically it will recur within a year, sometimes sooner. At that time a second surgery may be appropriate, depending on the precise location of the recurrence, but given the fact that the remaining feelers are located in such sensitive areas of the brain, a second surgery does not seem to be an option. 
 
My prayer is that the radiation and chemo follow-ups to this surgery will be very effective, or that our Lord will, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, heal her for His own glory. In any event, I praise Him for the unspeakable gift of 38 years together, and will treasure every moment He gives us in the future. 
 
I will get another update to you when I can. I have not had a chance to read all the emails we've received since Carol's surgery, or to respond to them, but eventually I will, and I will read them to her. I deeply appreciate your thoughts, prayers and good wishes. 
 
Many of you have asked how I am doing. Thank you for your concern. Emotionally I'm a mess much of the time, but I have times of great encouragement and strength. We have many dear friends who are making sure I am taken care of and that I'm taking care of myself. You've all gone through trials and griefs of your own, so you understand the blessings of family and friends at a time like this. 
 
Above all, I have the comfort and encouragement of the Lord in my heart. In His wisdom he doesn't always shelter His children from pain, but He always uses the pain to refine character and to produce deeper faith and a greater longing for heaven. Frankly, I don't like what is happening, but I take great comfort in its eternal significance. Maybe the Lord will even use Carol's condition to turn some hearts toward His great love and salvation. We talked about that before she was hospitalized, so I know that's Carol's prayer too. 
 
I know that not all of you share the trust in the Lord that Carol and I have spoken to you about over the years, but I want all of you to know that the Lord is utterly faithful toward His children, and His promises are absolutely true. I know that He has the power to heal my precious wife, but the option is for her to be in His glorious presence. I am thankful that I do not have to make a choice between the two; that's His choice to make. But in either case, she wins. I will pray for her healing but ultimately I will defer to the Lord's will for her. That's how it should be. 
 
One final thought: Carol is still pretty heavily medicated, so I have not shared with her the precise nature of her medical condition. I will do that at the appropriate time. But for those of you who call or visit, please be guarded in what you say about her condition. I have shared that information with you because you love her and I want you to know for the purpose of prayer. Thank you. 
 
As always, I write with great affection for you all, 
 
Dennis 

 


 

July 13, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Much has happened since my July 6 update.  Carol spent three days in ICU and was then transferred to a section of the hospital that specializes in physical and occupational therapy.  On July 10 she was transferred from Cottage Hospital to The Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara, which is a wonderful 25-bed hospital that provides specialized rehab. services (www.risb.org).

 

Things have been a little rough for her at the Institute because they are still trying to find the proper balance of pain control and functionality.  She still has considerable pain from the surgery, but the more pain medication she has, the more loopy she becomes, which diminishes her ability to participate in therapy.  At the same time, if her pain level is too high, she is unable to concentrate on therapy.  Itís a delicate and difficult balance to maintain at this stage of her treatment.

 

I was encouraged this evening because for the first time she showed signs of having an appetite and was alert enough to feed herself.  Perhaps she has reached something of a breakthrough.  Time will tell.

 

Her left hand, arm and leg mobility is improving daily, but her left side vision is still gone.  Her therapists are focusing primarily on life skill activities, with the primary goal of increasing left side involvement in each activity.  They are anticipating her being at the Institute for two or three more weeks.

 

Carolís sister Gloria and our daughter-in-law Kelly were here for a few days and have now returned home.  It was wonderful having them here, and we are so thankful for their ministry to us.  We have also had visits, calls and emails from many dear friends like you.  Your compassion and concern are overwhelming and deeply appreciated. 

 

Our friends Al & CC Doctolero live just a few miles from the Rehab. Institute and have made a room in their home available to me for as long as Carol is in rehab., so I donít have to make the long trip home each day.  May the Lord bless them for their kindness.  I have my work with me, so being away from my home office is not a significant problem.  Finding time and concentration to do the work is the greater challenge.

 

I do have some prayer requests to share with you:

 

That the Lord will be honored in our lives each day as we progress through this trial.

That the people whom Carol has talked to about the Lord will be receptive.

That Carol will continue to improve so she can return home as soon as possible.

That she will get well enough to travel to Virginia to see our beloved grandchildren.

That the Lord will prepare our hearts, and those of our loved ones, for whatever He has in mind for Carol in the future.

 

There are many more requests, but the hour is late and I must close for now.

 

With deep appreciation for your prayers,

 

Dennis

 

Carol McBride

The Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara

2415 De la Vina Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Room 405A

Phone 805-687-7444  Ex. 2607

 


 

July 18, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

I send greetings from Carol.  I have been sharing your email notes and cards with her as we have had time between therapy sessions (about 200 notes).  We are so grateful for your prayers and encouragement.  You have blessed us immeasurably.

 

Today was Carolís best day yet in therapy.  She has been working hard to regain balance and to sit and stand without assistance.  She has also been working on regaining coordination in her left hand and arm.  We have seen considerable improvement in those areas over the past two days. 

 

Until today she was able to take only a few steps with a walker and with heavy assistance from her therapist, but today she walked about 20 feet with her walker and with only moderate assistance.  That was a significant breakthrough.  Also, her pain level seems to have decreased a little so she isnít requiring as much pain medication.  Thatís significant not only because it indicates healing at the surgery site, but also because she is able to participate more fully in her therapy sessions when she isnít as groggy from pain meds.

 

Some of you have asked for more specific information about her tumor.  It was diagnosed as a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), also called grade 4 astrocytoma, which is the most malignant form of glioma or astrocytoma.  If you would like to read more about it, you can do so at http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk/Cancertype/Brain/Typesofbraintumour/Astrocytoma. 

 

The data is not at all encouraging, so rather than reading it, you may prefer simply to pray that the Lord will show special mercy and grant a healing miracle.  As I shared with you in my last update, I know He has the power to do that, but He may choose otherwise for His own purposes, so please also pray that our wills will be perfectly in tune with His, whatever the outcome may be.  We donít have to understand His will, but we do need to be in the center of it with thankful hearts and prayerful spirits.  That is our greatest desire.

 

Having said that, I want you to know that the Lord is sustaining us each day, just as He promised to do.  However, despite the special strength and hope He gives us in our weakest moments, the fear and uncertainty can seem overwhelming at times, so please pray that we will remain focused on His grace and love instead of on the circumstances.  This is the greatest spiritual test we have ever faced, and we donít want to fail it or to squeak by with a ďC+.Ē  We want high marks, but we know we have no capacity in ourselves to achieve them.  Your prayers and the ministry of the Spirit of God will have to accomplish what would otherwise be impossible.  Thank you for such a profound ministry on our behalf.

 

I will update you again soon.  In the meantime, I pray that the Lord will bless and encourage you each day.

 

Dennis

 

 


 

July 24, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

I join with Carol in sending our love and greetings.  She is making good progress with her therapy tasks and will probably be going home in another week.  Our insurance company wanted her released today, but her medical and therapy team went to bat for her and got an extension.  The extra week will be very beneficial in helping her progress further in some key areas.

 

Here left side mobility has improved greatly and today she walked 160 feet with a walker.  Her doctor would like to see her walk 250 feet before she leaves the Institute.

 

Her Neuropsychologist has given her a battery of tests over the past two weeks, and on Friday gave us her summary evaluation of Carolís reasoning capabilities.  She scored superior in most areas (e.g., deductive reasoning, retention, word association, concept evaluation), so the surgery may have actually helped a little in that regard (if you tell her I said that, Iíll blame it on HBVFS [Husbandís Bedside Vigilance Fatigue Syndrome]). 

 

Truth be known, when I consider the great concern we had going into the surgery, I marvel at Godís mercy and the surgeonís skill in removing the tumor without damaging critical brain functions.  Despite all jokes Iíve made to the contrary, her brain is very much intact and we rejoice in that fact.

 

Tomorrow morning (Tuesday) we meet with the radiologist, and then we will know the plan for her radiation regimen.  After we return home, we will meet with her oncologist, and will then know more about her chemo regimen.

 

Carol has struggled this week with anxiety.  Sometimes fatigue triggers severe shaking, which often leads to increased physical weakness and anxiety.  Her doctor is addressing it medically, but we would appreciate your prayers for peace of heart and mind during those episodes.

 

With thankfulness for your prayers and encouragement,

 

Dennis

 

PS  Today is my sister's birthday.  Happy birthday Connie, and thank you for the loving sacrifices and TLC you have given us during this trial.  We love you.

 


 

July 26, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Just a quick follow-up to my last email: we met with Carolís Radiologist yesterday and he explained the radiation regimen.  Here is what we learned:

 

On Friday (July 28) he will do the preliminary mapping that will serve as the guides for the radiation treatments.  Radiation treatments will begin in about 1Ĺ weeks and will continue for seven weeks (five days per week).

 

The treatments will be administered at The Cancer Center of Santa Barbara (at Cottage Hospital) and will consist of three or more radiation beams fired from different directions.  The beams will target the tumor bed and surrounding tissue.

 

Dr. Cheng, the Radiologist, came to Santa Barbara from Harvard a few years ago and assured us that his department here has the highest level of technology available and that it is comparable to Harvardís.

 

He discussed in detail the potential side effects of brain radiation.  The most common long-term effect is slowing of mental processes (specifically short-term memory). The potential short-term effects include fatigue, skin reaction (burn) at the radiation beam sites, hair loss at treatment points (the hair may not grow back), nausea and headaches.  He mentioned a few others, but those are the most common.  Every patient responds a little differently to the treatments, so we will see how things develop over the course of Carolís treatments.

 

The doctor also told us the oral chemo will be administered concurrently with the radiation treatments.  That surprised us because we assumed that chemo would follow radiation, as it did with Carolís breast cancer treatments.  Apparently patients who receive concurrent treatments have better outcomes overall.  We will be meeting with Carolís oncologist soon to discuss the chemo treatments.

 

Today we learned that Carol will be leaving the Rehab. Institute next Wednesday, August 2.  We are eager to get home, but we are also very thankful for the additional time here for her to develop her skills more fully and for me to improve my assisting skills.   This is definitely a team effort.

 

Carol sends her love to you all, and we pray that the Lord will bless you richly.

 

With thanks,

 

Dennis

 


 

August 5, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Iím writing from our home in beautiful downtown Buellton (actually, Buellton doesnít have a downtown, but it is beautiful, and it does have a post office and city hall, and it wants to be a downtown when it grows up, so at least itís headed in the right direction). 

 

I brought Carol home from the Santa Barbara Rehab. Institute on Wednesday, and she is already making significant progress with her balance, walking, grooming and general household skills (car washing and lawn mowing to come later).  Thereís something about being home that has sparked her desire to work even harder than she did at the Institute. 

 

Speaking of the Institute, I have to say that the people who worked with us there did a wonderful job of preparing us to function safely and productively in our home environment (I say ďusĒ because in addition to helping Carol, they also taught me how to assist her effectively).  They are remarkable people; not only in their professional skills, but also in the personal dedication, care and compassion they demonstrated toward us.  It was a joy working with them and getting to know them personally.  We offered to bring all of them home with us, but for some reason they respectfully declined.

 

Shortly after arriving home on Wednesday, we received a call from The Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, informing us that Carolís radiation treatments would begin the next day.  We thought they would probably begin on Monday of next week, so we were a little surprised at the Thursday start, but Carol is comforted by knowing that the remaining cancer is already being proactively attacked by the radiation. 

 

Her treatments are at 11:00 am each weekday in Santa Barbara, so we will be spending our mornings there for the next seven weeks.  Thatís a lot of driving, but we have some friends who will be helping, and most of you are familiar with the Central Coast of California, so you know how beautiful the drive is.  We are able to praise the Lord for the beauty of His creation even while traveling too and from radiation.  Itís just another reminder of His goodness.

 

We have a Tuesday afternoon appointment with Carolís oncologist, and we expect the chemotherapy treatments to begin soon afterward.  We will keep you posted on any new developments. 

 

Once again we thank you for your prayers, cards, emails and other expressions of love and support.  You have blessed us beyond what we could ever express, and we continue to pray that the Lord will bless you for your kindness toward us.

 

With love and prayers,

 

Dennis

 


 

August 19, 2006

 

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

It seems like quite some time since my last update.  I almost feel like Iíve been neglecting you, but that certainly isnít the case.  Itís just that these days are filled with timetables, travel, tests, treatments, tablets, trials and (sometimes) tears and trepidations.  This week was especially eventful and challenging in the tears and trepidations departments.

 

Iíll give you a brief report, but before I do, I want to again express our deep gratitude for all that so many of you have done to ensure that we are bathed in prayer and encouragement, and that our practical needs are met.  Itís an amazing thing to experience the Lord working through you, and we are asking Him to bless you super abundantly for your kindness and generosity.

 

Carol was making great progress until Tuesday of last week when she experienced some swelling from the radiation.  The swelling increased her pain level and caused her balance, left side mobility and overall alertness to decrease significantly.  Her oncologist addressed the issue by increasing her intake of Decadron, an anti-swelling medication.  Since then she has been steadily improving but has not yet returned to where she was prior to the setback.  We are hopeful she will continue to improve, but I have to admit it was a very frightening situation.  The Decadron can have its own negative side effects, but for now it is literally a life saver.

 

Our son and his family were scheduled to fly here from Virginia in early September, but in light of this weekís events they decided to come earlier.  They arrived Friday afternoon and will be here until next Saturday.  Carol is alert and delighting in the grandchildren and is in mega-hug mode for them all.  Itís wonderful to see her so happy (grandpa isnít doing too badly himself).

 

I will continue to keep you updated. 

 

With sincere thanks and great affection,

 

Dennis

 

PS - Here are recent pictures of Carol with Amber, our oldest granddaughter, and with our dear friends Evans & Mary Jones.

 

    

 


 

September 3, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Carol joins me in sending love and greetings to you all.  She is asleep right now, but she knew I would be writing and wanted me to be sure to tell you how much she appreciates the cards and emails we have received since our Aug. 20 update.  They have been a great source of encouragement and we are deeply grateful.

 

Carol is steadily improving from her setback of a few weeks ago.  The fatigue from her ongoing radiation and chemo treatments is on the rise, but her overall balance is improving and her left side is slowly gaining strength.  As far as her medical team can tell, she has had no further swelling from radiation.

 

For those of you who have asked, her left side deficit is not paralysis.  It is what her physical therapist calls neglect.  For example, although her left arm is weak, she can move it.  But she tends to forget itís there and needs to be reminded to get it involved in whatever activity she is doing.  In laymanís terms, itís more of a neurological condition than a physical one.

 

She is also manifesting a slight but noticeable decrease in short-term memory and an increase in confusion and anxiety.  Those may be related to her medications and/or radiation treatments and may eventually clear up.  If they are related to the tumor or stroke, they may not clear up.  Time will tell.

 

Her left side vision loss continues.  We met with her neuro-othmologist last week and he confirmed that her vision loss has not diminished since her pre-surgery tests.

 

She has 12 more radiation treatments (Sept. 19 is the final treatment).  Two-to-four weeks after her final treatment they will scan her brain to determine the status of the remaining tumor fragments.  That will be a very significant moment and what they find will determine where we go from there in fighting this condition.

 

In our last update I mentioned that Jamie, Kelly and the grandchildren were here from Virginia.  We had a wonderful visit with them, took tons of pictures and made many memories that will last a lifetime.  It was very difficult to see them leave, but while they were here their love and compassion toward us were evident in the countless profound and practical ways they ministered to us.  Jamie and Kelly were exceptional in their attentiveness, tenderness and generosity; Amber (13) was mature, thoughtful and delightful in the way she conducted herself; Jamie Jr. (9) has a tender heart and provided hugs and encouragement in his own special way; Dana (8) couldnít do enough to help around the house and to see that our practical needs were met to the extent that she was able to help meet them; and the two youngest grandchildren provided comic relief and loving fingerprints on the walls.  All-in-all it was an unforgettable time for which we thank the Lord.

 

Because so many of you are praying for the Lord to strengthen and encourage us, I want you to know that our familyís visit was a tremendous blessing.  It was also a priceless and timely gift that was arranged and financed by a group of dear friends who took it upon themselves to minister to us in that way.  Some of you were among that group, and although we could never adequately thank you, we are asking the Lord to bless you according to His riches in glory.

 

As we continue to take this situation one day at a time, we also continue to lean heavily on the Lord and on your prayer support.  We also pray for you and ask the Lord to encourage your hearts and grant you His peace as you experience your own joys and challenges.  In that regard, if there is anything specific we can pray for on your behalf, please let us know.  We would like to share in your lives as you have shared in ours.

 

With affection and gratitude,

 

Dennis & Carol

 


 

Sept. 17, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Carol and I send our love and greetings to you, and we pray you are doing well.

 

I wanted to get this brief update to you as we anticipate a very significant week in Carolís medical care.  It will be significant because on Tuesday she will have her final radiation treatment.  She will also conclude her first phase of chemotherapy on that day.  She will then have some time (perhaps weeks) to recover before any further treatments begin.  At this point her oncologist is anticipating placing her on a five-day-per-month cycle of oral chemotherapy for as long as necessary.

 

In a prior email I said that typically the radiologist waits six-to-eight weeks after the final radiation treatment before taking an MRI of the tumor bed.  However, in light of some of Carolís recent symptoms (e.g., increased confusion, slight increase in pain), her oncologist (Dr. Donna Walker) has ordered an MRI for this Tuesday.  She wants to get a look at the tumor bed right away to see if there is any condition that might be contributing to the symptoms.  The symptoms may be side effects of the radiation treatments themselves, but Dr. Walker wants to be as thorough and conclusive as possible in her diagnosis and treatment.  We have great confidence in her.  She and her entire staff have been tremendous throughout this trial.  What a blessing to be in the hands of such skilled and caring people.

 

We have an appointment with Dr. Walker on Thursday, and she should have some information for us by then.

 

Thanks again for your continued prayers.  And for those of you who have given us such loving and practical assistance, a special thank you.  May our Lord bless you richly for your kindness and generosity.

 

With love and prayers,

 

Dennis (& Carol)

 


 

(Note: the following letter was sent to our church family and copied to our email family and friends.)

 

September 23, 2006

 

 

Dear Church Family:

 

It has been three months since Carol and I shared Sunday fellowship with you.  We miss you dearly and pray for you often. 

 

Iím writing to you today to share an update on Carolís condition and to express our deep appreciation for your ongoing ministries to us. Your compassion, prayers, provisions and practical assistance have been exemplary.  Members of our own family as well as medical personnel and others have commented on the loving and sacrificial care you have extended to us.  There simply is no way to adequately express our gratitude, but we do thank you and we pray that our Lord will bless each of you just as He has blessed us through you.

 

Iím sure most of you have already heard about Carolís present condition, but just in case you havenít, I want to explain it as best I can.  On Tuesday Carol completed seven weeks of radiation treatments that targeted the fragments of tumor remaining after her July 4 brain tumor surgery.  Concurrently she had oral chemotherapy.  She also had an MRI on Tuesday to determine how the tumor fragments had responded to the treatments. 

 

On Thursday we met with her oncologist to review the results of the MRI.  The news was difficult to hear, and Iíve tried to think of subtle and gentle ways to convey it to you, but I think that simply giving you the facts is probably the best approach.  In short, the remaining tumor fragments have not responded to radiation and chemotherapy.  On the contrary, they have grown at a surprising and uncommon rate to where the present mass is about three times larger than the original tumor and involves a considerable portion of the right side of her brain as well as part of the left.  It also extends into a portion of the frontal lobes.

 

Her doctor has taken her off chemotherapy because the current dose has been ineffective and larger doses would simply increase unpleasant side effects.  Also, the doctor recommended immediate hospice care, which we have agreed to and which Carol began yesterday (Saturday).  The goal of hospice is to keep her as comfortable as possible throughout the remainder of this trial.

 

Carol is relatively alert and aware of what is happening.  Her pain is under control and we will continue to monitor that very closely.  Her spirit is strong and we are having blessed times together in Godís Word, prayer and just talking.  Each day is a special gift from the Lord.

 

Because you have prayed so faithfully, I want you to understand that even if the Lord ultimately says ďnoĒ to divine healing, He has said ďyesĒ to many other very important prayer requests.  For example:

 

  • He is providing sustaining grace each day.
  • Carol is still able to praise and worship Him in her spirit.
  • She still recognizes and cherishes loved ones.
  • She can think and communicate relatively clearly.
  • She still has a sense of humor.
  • She is at home rather than in an institution.
  • I am home fulltime and able to care for her.
  • She is receiving good medical care.
  • Our needs are being met (many by you, our beloved church family).

 

There are so many more, but those illustrate the sufficiency of Godís grace despite the severity of the trial.  Please pray that those graces continue and that I will be capable of ministering effectively to my precious wife as the hour of her glorification draws nearer.  I will continue to pray for you and to anticipate being with you again after the Lordís perfect will for Carol has been fulfilled.  If it should please Him to heal her, we both will see you soon.

 

With love and gratitude,

 

Dennis

 


 

October 12, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends:

 

Just a brief note to update you on Carolís condition.  She is still alert, communicating and taking nourishment.  The hospice staff is making sure she is as comfortable as possible. 

 

She is definitely getting weaker as the days go by, but her sweet personality and depth of caring for others is still very much evident.  I have to admit that even after more than 40 years of studying her and attempting to emulate her character, Iím still discovering new traits and am amazed at what Iím seeing as this trial unfolds.  What a remarkable human being, and what an honor to be her husband and caregiver!  The Lord is good.

 

 We are taking one day at a time and are thankful to the Lord for whatever time He gives us.  This is an unspeakably difficult trial but it is also a precious time of sharing, reminiscing, praying, singing, weeping and smiling together.  Were it up to me I never would have chosen this path, but now that we are on it, I wouldnít miss it for the world.

 

Our son, daughter-in-law and oldest granddaughter were here for two weeks but had to return to Virginia Wednesday morning.  I canít even begin to describe the blessing they were to us.  Carolís sister and niece are also here and have been a great comfort to her.  My sister and other relatives and friends have also visited and brought special comfort.

 

I thank you once again for your prayers and encouragement.  We cherish them just as we cherish you.

 

With love & prayers,

 

Dennis

 


 

October 30, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends:

 

I praise the Lord for His sustaining grace and for the outpouring of love and care we are receiving from so many dear folks.  I have been meaning to get an update to you for more than a week, but believe it or not, Iíve been somewhat at a loss for words until now. 

 

Let me just say that Carol continues to defy medical expectations by remaining fairly stable (she is now three and a half weeks beyond the initial two-week life expectancy estimate we received), and we have been profoundly blessed by the time we have had together during those weeks.  However, the progression of the cancer is clearly taking its toll on her in ways I wonít describe but which are deeply troubling to me. 

 

Please continue to pray that the peace of God will guard her heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7) as she goes through what she is about to experience, and that her hospice nurses and I will be able to keep her pain under control and to comfort her when she is confused and distressed.

 

Please pray for me, tooóthat I will be able to endure the next phase of this trial and focus on ministering to my dear wife rather than getting caught up in the emotions of the circumstances and the profound sense of loss that threatens so often to overwhelm me.  The Lord has been faithful to grant me special strength and encouragement at critical times, and I know He will continue to do so.  But I am also keenly aware of my human frailties and my increasing sense of fear and grief over Carolís declining condition.  I need to trust more fully in the Lordís spiritual provisions.

 

At the times when Carol is more lucid and able to talk, we often talk about her going to be with the Lord.  And I can see that He is turning her heart more and more toward heaven as the days progress.  She is expressing an increasing desire to be in His presence.  That may seem like a natural desire for a Christian, but she has such an enormous capacity to love and share herself with her family and friends that the thought of leaving has been grievous to her.  It still is, but she is beginning to reorder her affections and to hold less tightly to her temporal relationships.  Humanly speaking, that breaks my heart, but it also brings me joy at the same time. 

 

Since Carolís diagnosis, I have prayed that if the Lord should choose not to heal her, He would prepare her heart for heaven and give her peace about leaving her loved ones.  That is precisely what He is doing and I am so thankful, yet at the same time I am experiencing deep sorrow tempered by divine hope. 

 

I am learning in a profound and intimate way the truth that Christians grieve, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:7).  Ours is a gracious grief based on a living hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).  The Lord isnít sheltering me from the pain of impending loss, but He is tempering it with the promise and hope of heaven.  I can ask for no greater gift or comfort than that.

 

Jesus promised that of all whom the Father gives Him, He will lose none, and will raise them up on the last day (John 6:39-40).  Because he conquered death, I know He has the power and authority to make good on that promise, and that is the blessed hope and guarantee that on the saddest day of my life, the day when I have to say goodbye to my precious wife, it will be for just a brief time, and that at the appointed time Jesus Christ Himself will reunite us in heaven.  

 

I am writing this through tears, but I have assurance and hope in my heart.  And Iím praying that each of you reading this will know the assurance and eternal hope the Lord gives to those who trust in Him. 

 

May the Lord bless you today with His love and grace.

 

Affectionately,

 

Dennis

 


 

November 16, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Just a brief update to let you know that Carolís valiant and grace-filled struggle with brain cancer is about to come to an end.  After many weeks of remarkable responsiveness and awareness, she has entered a state of non-responsiveness and is unable to take in food or fluids.  She appears to be resting comfortably, thanks to excellent hospice care and very effective comfort meds.  I am able to administer those meds in ways that cause her minimal discomfort.

 

My emotions tend to vacillate somewhere between numbness and terror, but usually I'm stable and sensing the Lordís sustaining grace, so I am able to function and to take care of her.  What a precious privilege that has been.

 

Iíve said this to you many times before, but I want to say again how deeply grateful I am for your ongoing prayers and encouragement.  Just knowing you were aware of the situation and were concerned and praying has been a tremendous source of strength for me.  More importantly, because God responds to the prayers of His people, those of you who love the Lord and have been praying for us have played a significant role in what He is accomplishing through this trial.

 

I said early on that I know the Lord has the power to heal my wife, but that He may choose otherwise for His own purposes.  This side of heaven I may catch only a glimpse of what He is accomplishing through her illness, but one day I will know the full story.  Until then, I will continue to praise Him for His sovereign and perfect will for our lives, for the immeasurable grace and mercy He has shown us during this trial, and for the hope of heaven and the glorious reunion that awaits us because Christ conquered death and our trust is fully in Him.

 

May the Lord bless you richly for the kindness you have shown us.  I will write again when there is more news to share.

 

Love and prayers,

 

Dennis

 

PS  I have posted a link to an update page on our website.  If you are interested, the URL is www.yoyomaster.com

 


November 21, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Yesterday at 5:30pm my precious wife entered into the presence of the Lord.  By all outward indications she was out of pain and asleep at the time. 

 

I have no words to express my sorrow, yet my heart is also full of praise to the Lord for His tender mercies.  I am doing well at the moment, and I have good friends near by who are taking care of me.

 

I will write again with memorial service information once things are finalized.

 

I pray the Lord will bless you this special Thanksgiving week, and that His love and grace will flood your souls.

 

Much love,

 

Dennis

 


December 4, 2006

 

Dear Family & Friends,

 

Last Monday (Nov. 27) we had a private burial for Carol, and then on Saturday we had a public memorial service to celebrate her life and to gave praise to the Lord for His immeasurable grace and mercy in her life and mine.

 

It was so good to have so many family and friends at the memorial service.  For those of you who shared that time with us, I thank you again for your kindness and the special gift of your presence. 

 

Many of you who were unable to attend sent your greetings and assured me of your prayers and good wishes.  You continue to be a source of great comfort.  Thank you.

 

Iím doing relatively well as I learn to draw strength from the Lord in ways Iíve never had to before.  Itís a hard time but the Lord has never let me down.  This situation will be no exception.  He is always faithful.  Jamie, Kelly and Amber are here until Wednesday, so I have them and others around me for added strength and comfort.

 

Everyone who attended Carolís service received a copy of a CD Carol recorded some years ago.  On it she sings 12 of her favorite worship songs.  If you were unable to attend and would like a copy, please email me your address and I will send one to you.

 

Also, I put together a Power Point pictorial tribute for the service, and I have posted those photos on our website.  Iíve also posted a pdf file of Carolís memorial brochure.  If you would like to see them, just go to our website and follow the link Ė www.yoyomaster.com

 

My heart is sad, yet at the same time it is filled with confidence in the Lord and with gratitude to Him for His love and grace.  I praise Him continually for Carol, my family, you, and all the other blessings He is poured out in my life during this time of testing and refining.

 

With love and prayers,

 

Dennis