Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yet Another Update!

Here's the latest update on Chris! Thank you for your prayers, I know he can feel them as well as his family!! (As a side note his dad is an OBGYN and is involved in mission work as you'll see noted in the email!)

Friends, I actually intended to give your email inbox a rest but we've had so many requests for an update that I have chosen to err on the side of an update over email exhaustion. I must admit that I have a small sense of guilt in involving so many of you in our challenge because so many of you have dealt or are currently dealing with issues and challenges of your own. For example, one dear set of friends on our list are dealing with a new melanoma issue and yet their letters and prayers have been more faithful and frequent than you can imagine.A second thing that's personal to me is a combination of both appreciation and remorse that we are being cared for at MD Anderson. The appreciation is for the facility, doctors, and incredible care of the nursing staff. For example, there are 2 wards that care only for head and neck cancers that have needed combination cancer surgery and plastic surgery. Yesterday, Chris had 2 RNs that cared only for him and only one other paient, and both nurses daily experience is only for patients with similar needs. This is in distinct contrast to most hospitals where their economies demand that one nurse care for upwards of 6 very different kinds of patients. The word remorse was used because I know how fortunate we are to be here. My recent experiences in Kenya and northern Nigeria are in such ineffable contrast with the riches we have here versus the poverty of care that most of the world receives.As I write this, Chris is doing great. Post op days one and two were challenging as relates to his tracheotomy, and yesterday was a miserable day of nausea which finally passed last night. This morning he is walking with a walker and progressively being relieved of a variety of drains and tubes. He is now tolerating his tracheotomy well, with the good news that it will probably be removed by the weekend. We think he will be discharged on either Friday or Saturday. This letter goes out to so many, but specifically now for our prayer partners, the next moment of significance is the final tissue report. Our prayer is that it will be a tumor type different than reported in Chicago, that the margins are clear, and nodal involvement is minimal. If you really want to be bold, appeal that we can avoid the need for radiation therapy altogether.To close, I intend to send next a forwarded email I received from the fistula hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Some of you know that this obstetric complication has become a passion for me. My goal is to become fully trained and then serve on a regular basis in a place that meets the needs of these women. If you have a spare moment, you should visit the web site and you will appreciate the value and incredibilty of the email even more. Finally, if you have 9 more minutes, view the trailer that's linked from the home page. It will make you appreciate everything you have.As always, thanks for caring.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Update on Chris

Chris went into surgery this morning at 7 am. The entire procedure is expected to take 12 hours. Perhaps even longer now that I just received the first update from his dad. The removal of the tumor was expected to take 4 hours but the email says it lasted 5 1/2. Please continue to pray for God's mercy on him as he goes through such a monumental operation. I will post updates as I receive. Please also pray for the doctors and for Chris' family and his girlfriend, Katie, who is also in Houston with them.

First of all, thank you for all the words of encouragement and your sincere prayers. after 5 1/2 hours of waiting, Dr Weber just met with us. He said the pathologist was sure that Chris has some kind of reasonably high grade malignancy, and probably one positive lymph node, but the deeper lymph nodes appeared negative and the initial reports were that the tumor margins were clear. He cautioned us that it would be a week before a final report about tumor type, nodes, and margins would be available. The harvest of his right fibula is complete and the reconstruction team has now taken over. He explained that his part had lasted longer than expected, but also felt like he had spared most of the nerves that are not usually spared in a cancer case. He also said that it was almost a certainty that he would need post operative radiation. The tumor type (adenoid cystic) that the Chicago biospy sugggested is notorious for climbing up nerves and Dr Weber specifically said that he found no evidence of any nerve involvement with tumor. All in all, it could have been a much worse report, and we have a general sense of relief.

We hope to be able to see him tonight in the ICU and hope to get a good report from the reconstruction team. Prayers now are for free margins, a good pathology report, and progressive healing. He entered this with a great attitude and has been supported by his many dear friends. His anesthesiologist that we met this morning is here after escaping from post war Vietnam. He somehow knew that Chris's job was investing in Asian equities. They were talking about the Vietnamese stock market as he was rolling away from us to his surgery. We are so proud of him and his demeanor through all of this.

Olivia and I have never been more acutely aware of the blessing of so many friends.

With deepest appreciation,

Louis and Olivia

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm Back!

Erika at one of our many stops along the way!

I'm not sure if this is ok to say or not but... I'm back from the funeral and had a wonderful time! It wasn't so much the funeral that was good but the time that I was away. You know you're in desperate need of time away when you come home refreshed from a funeral! Erika came to Dothan Thursday evening, spent the night, and we got on the road early Friday! We had to make a few stops along the way. There are just a couple places to shop between Dothan and Illinois! Our first stop was Sikes and Kohn where we ran into a sorority sister and I managed to find stuff for the girls and Justin but nothing for myself. We then headed up to Birmingham where we got trapped at Mazer's (thanks JM!)! What a find! We shopped appliances and furniture and didn't know the flooring warehouse was around back... don't worry we hit it on our way home! We did, however, after many laughs, honking truckers, crazy drivers, and a few junk food stops, manage to make it to the farm by midnight.

What a treat it was to be out of the humidity for a few days and to have 4 consecutive nights of uninterrupted sleep! But the best was waking up in the carriage house to mom bringing us coffee in bed, opening the french doors and feeling the cool breeze off the corn fields... sounds like a story book doesn't it!? Just wait, after we had coffee in bed and enjoyed cool breezes we made our way down to the patio where we watched hummingbirds up close and personal for over an hour! What fun!

Howard's burial service was very touching and I hope not to soon forget it. The veteran's were there and did a 21 gun salute while the bagpiper played Amazing Grace... if you didn't get goosebumps or tears I'd have to guess you were either deaf or blind or perhaps both. Mimi is getting along ok and is probably catching up on much needed sleep after 4 long months of caring for Howard around the clock. It's always so good to see her and I hope once we get settled here that she will come and stay with us for a couple weeks!

Erika and I managed to make our way back to Dothan late Tuesday night. After many stops along the way to pick up a few necessities, like an antique mail sorter from a Franklin antique mall and under counter refrigerator drawers from Mazer's, we decided that since Chance bought a motorcycle while Erika was gone that we are going to buy a 15 passenger van to haul all our stuff for our next road trip. Which if it isn't to Houston to see Chris will be to Scott's and Lakewood! Can't wait... we'll fill up our van so fast that Chance will have that motorcycle sold before we get back.

Justin managed to survive while I was gone. Of course he did have the help of his mother and father... in fact I'm not sure he even stayed here at the ole rental house! What a stinker! He was very glad to see me return and I was refreshed and ready to see him and my girls. Little Raiger came down with a nasty case of pink eye while I was gone and Justin got her to the doctor and meds.... yay! The bad news is that this morning she woke up with it in her other eye! Thankfully we already have the medicine!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Update on Chris

I just received an email from Chris' dad. I will post some of it here so you will know exactly what to pray for! Again, I ask you to please pray and thank you in advance for your prayers! This is some serious stuff!

Howard (my step-grandfather) who we just got to visit with a couple weeks ago, passed away this morning. Erika is here and the two of us are headed to IL in the morning. Please pray for travel mercies for us. The girls will stay here with daddy, pray for him too! :) I'm pretty certain we got the house. The woman we are buying it from is 94 and has family in town and doesn't want to look at the contract until her guests leave next Tuesday... OK??? Anyway, I'll fill you in soon... it is so not important to me right now... this is...

We just returned home from the hospital after a long day. Chris showed up early for a chest CT and a new CT of his head and neck. Answered prayer for today was grace and strength in the face of less than the best news.

Our doctor told us that today’s x-rays eliminated any hope of saving the left mandible. He will lose a good portion beginning at the angle of the jaw and going forward three or four inches towards the chin. Some good news is that the surgical team has come together to permit scheduling for next Friday, the 24th. Dr. Weber said his part will take approximately four hours and the facial reconstruction part approximately eight hours. He predicted a hospitalization of seven to ten days and the need for a tracheotomy, which could be removed at about the time of his hospital discharge. He also thinks having a gastric feeding tube will be helpful to his recovery, as post-operative radiation will also be required, but not started, until he is mostly surgically healed. Chris has three or four challenging months ahead of him, as radiation also has its own list of frustrating annoyances.

Chris remains unbelievable to all of us. He retains his great wit and humor, which is so encouraging. He already has a repertoire of jokes about what it will be like to gum your food with your leg bone (the fibula will be transplanted to make the new portion of mandible).

I will not write again until after his surgery, but please don’t forget to crank up your prayers for next Friday. We remain grateful for your appeals to God and your many notes of encouragement.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prayers Please

As I mentioned before, my friend Chris is in Houston this week at MD Anderson Cancer Center being seen for a tumor on his jaw. He has met with the Head and Neck Specialist and has undergone many test this week. He will meet with the specialist again tomorrow morning. The doctor is being very straightforward with them and thus far has suggested removing his mandible. As you can imagine this would be a very involved procedure. They are also scanning his lungs tomorrow morning to insure no distant spread. Sometimes people ask for prayer and it just goes in one ear and out the other. When you're in your car, or changing a diaper, or walking the dog, or maybe when you get done reading this, would you please say a prayer for Chris? Pray for healing, for strength, for peace, for wisdom, and pray that he will take comfort in his Heavenly Father. Pray for his family and girlfriend as they too are walking through this with him.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Olympic Hopeful!

I couldn't resist this picture. Morgan requested being thrown in the air over and over last night at Azaela. She was having so much fun! I was so thankful that I had my camera to capture it. Paiger was an innocent bystander. She and her friend Caroline ate crackers poolside. We are making an offer on a house this weekend. As to not get too excited, I'll tell all about it once it's official! But I'm secretly thrilled about it! Hopefully all will go smoothly!

Monday, August 6, 2007


When it comes to mothering a 2 year old and a 1 year old, there are days when I'd like to pull my hair out. There are moments like this morning when it was time to leave the pool and Morgan screamed bloody murder because she didn't want to leave, that I want to scream bloody murder myself. Sometimes when the fit pitchin' starts I want to pitch one right with them. But there are also those moments that fill me up with such a love and tenderness towards these two. This afternoon after their naps they were playing in Morgan's room when I walked in to find two "pirates". I didn't quite recognize them as pirates but I was quickly informed that they were both dressed up like pirates. Paiger Raiger was very patient and wore her costume long enough for me to snap a few pictures. I sat on the floor, took pictures, and soaked it all in... oh, and laughed really hard. Last night when we were in the car we asked Morgan if she wanted to stop by GiGi and PopPop's house and she said, "I don't see why not"... it's those precious little words that she puts together that I hope I can remember and if I can't... well, thank goodness for the blog. I know they're my kids but I hope they make you smile.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fun on the Family Farm

After 5 days of rest and relaxation on the family farm (with 15% humidity) it was hard to head back to the rental house and 100% humidity! But we're here and I'm very refreshed and restored after having a fantastic visit with my family in Illinois! We left Friday and only made it to Nashville, we spent the night, and made the rest of the trip on Saturday! We got back last night... after a 12 hour drive we were exhausted. Thankfully my husband is the driver in the family and all I have to do is tell him every move to make! :) Actually, I did pretty good this time and only made suggestions when I thought our life was potentially in danger!

Morgan absolutely loves her "Mom" and "Daddy Boy" and especially loves their farm. It's so exciting to see her explore and run free. Our favorite time of the day up there is early morning. We took advantage of great weather and NO mosquitoes to take the girls out early. Morgan loved walking through the garden, the fruit trees, the corn fields, and especially going across the street to see the roosters. Mom and Daddy Boy's neighbor has the BIGGEST baby pool we have ever seen. Graciously, Miss Debbie, let Morgan swim until her heart was content.... and don't think Justin and I didn't enjoy it too! We're thinking about getting one here at the rental house! :) Along with our walking explorations, we thoroughly enjoyed our driving explorations! The "Gator" and 4 wheelers were a big hit too!

One of most cherished moments this weekend was to see Howard. Howard is Mimi's (my grandmother-- dad's mom) husband of almost 20 years and is very sick. We went to see him in the hospital but were surprised to find out that they had sent him home. It was sad to see him so sick but yet we were so thankful that we got to see him. Morgan gave him a big hug and told him that she loved him. It was a tearful moment and I couldn't help but think that we will probably not have an opportunity to see him again. Thank you, Mimi, for your hospitality in the middle of all that you are going through right now. We loved being with you!!

Before we left on Wednesday morning, Mom and Daddy Boy's neighbor pulled up to the front porch on his bicycle. Morgan exclaimed, "Look!!! There's a real farmer here!" We couldn't resist a picture. She has always read books about farmers and she knew exactly what he was when she saw him. If you look at the pictures you will know how there was no mistaking Dale for a farmer!

While we were at the farm this weekend we received news that a friend who has been very close to me since my childhood is facing a preliminary diagnoses with cancer. Some of you may know Chris Kirtley, for those of you who don't, he was as close as Erika and I would ever come to having a brother. He lives in Chicago and is still in the process of getting all the reports back from pathologists, but early reports show that he has a cancerous tumor in his jaw. We are praying for a miracle, one that we know our Great Physician can heal. Please lift Chris and his family up while they face many doctor's appointments. Pray also for his healing as he had a rather invasive biopsy done last Friday. I will do my best to keep you posted! For now, on his behalf, I just ask you for your prayers. I know that he covets them! Here is a picture of Chris from Erika's wedding in October.

Here's the link to our pictures from the farm! Pull up and chair and get yourself a drink... there are a lot of them!