Dad’s Journey – Part 3

From The Mountaintop To The Valley and Back Again

I will lift up my eyes Psalm 121-1-2 (NKJV)

Dad had his second chemo treatment on Wednesday, May 3rd while in the hospital.  He returned home from his 3rd stay in the hospital on Saturday, May 6th.  Sunday morning he was weak and a little nauseated.  But Monday morning he was feeling some better.  The therapist came and worked with him.  The week was full of doctor appointments.  He went every day to receive the shots that would help keep his white blood cells up.

His 76th birthday was on May 9th.  As he walked into the cancer center on that day, his age was already changed on his paperwork and the nurses wished him a happy birthday.  Everyone there has been so good to him and the nurses have made over him every time he has gone.

Dad asked for my daughter Christy to bring her three kids to come see him that week.  Visitors have been limited because of the risk of him catching something.  But he felt stronger and thought it would be a good time to see them since he was over the second treatment and was a week away from the third.  Hudson, the 5 year old, and Hadley, the 3 year old, had picked out gifts (toys) they wanted their Papa to have, including some bubbles.  Christy got him a Superman t-shirt, telling him that he was her Superman.

The kids really enjoyed their visit as much as Dad enjoyed seeing them.

Going into the week of his 3rd treatment, he had a mixture of days when he felt pretty good and others when he was weak.  He was eating well and was able to move around outside a little.  The treatment was given at the Levine Cancer Center on Wednesday, May 17th.  His appointment was at 8:30.  They began with a bag of fluids and nausea medication before administering the chemo.  The treatment was over at noon.

The day after chemo, he went to get a Neulasta shot.  This shot would take the place of the shots he had been having to go take daily.  But it also would cause more weakness and aches and pains.

Dad has always been a man that couldn’t stay inside for long.  He would go outside and piddle around all the time.  Being confined to the house, having to rely on others and feeling so bad gets him very discouraged.

One day when he was feeling especially weak and tired, his cousin Jerry Harrison came to visit. Jerry’s wife has been through cancer treatments and Jerry had an understanding of what Dad was going through.  He talked with Dad, prayed with him and was just what Dad needed that day.  A short time after Jerry’s visit, Preacher Toney Parsons came to visit.  He also encouraged Dad.  We firmly believe that little things like that which have been happening all along is God assuring Dad of His love and control over everything Dad is going through.

My sister-in-law had posted on her Facebook page several weeks back asking her friends to send him cards.  He has received cards from all over.  The posts I have written have been read by many people, who have responded that they are praying for him.  All of the cards and prayers have meant a lot to him.  We keep trying to encourage him by telling him that he is affecting a lot of people’s lives.  There’s no answer to why he is having to endure this sickness, but hopefully it will help someone to draw closer to God.

He continued to feel weak the following days.  My daughter Martha had a problem with the pump on her septic tank on Thursday night, May 18th.  She called Dad Friday morning to see if he knew who she might could call to come look at it.  Dad made several phone calls that morning, seeming to enjoy feeling needed.

One day he heard a commercial on TV and “Happy Hour” was mentioned.  He asked mom what Happy Hour was.  She told him it was a period of time when drinking was encouraged.  He said he was having Happy Hour all the time because Mom was pushing him to drink a lot of fluids.

He began to feel better the weekend before his 4th treatment.  He felt well enough to walk around outside.  Being able to get out encouraged him.  He was released from the physical therapist on May 29th.  Mom took him to the drive-thru at Wendy’s to get a frosty to celebrate.

The fourth treatment was Wednesday, May 31st.  Dad wore his superman shirt that Christy had given him.  When he put the shirt on, my Mom told him he looked cute.  He wondered that maybe he shouldn’t wear it to the cancer center since the nurses already made over him enough.

Superman 2

While he was sitting taking the treatment, in walks Preacher Joe Smith.  Joe had been at the hospital visiting and said he felt God impress on him that he needed to go to the cancer center, even though he would not normally go there.  He walked straight over to Dad and talked a few minutes.  He prayed together with Mom and Dad and then left.  One more instance of God putting people in Dad’s path to offer him encouragement had occurred.

He did really well with the treatment.  He went to get the Neulasta shot the next day.  On Friday he began to feel weak.  He has felt a little weaker each day but is hoping the cycle will continue so that he can feel stronger again before the next treatment.

He was released from the home health nurse on June 7th.  Since that was one of his weak days, instead of going to Wendy’s for a frosty, he and mom settled for a bowl of ice cream at home.

Dad has had his good days and bad days.  On the good, it’s almost like a victory has been won.  The days are enjoyed as much as possible.  But the bad days are long.  They are discouraging and hard.  It’s like going from mountaintop to the valley and back again, and again.  He’ll feel good for the week before and during a treatment and then bad for a week afterwards.

In our lives, we all have mountaintop moments.  And we all have valleys to go through.  Watching Dad going through the last couple months, it’s like seeing a condensed version of what our whole lives are like.  The ups and downs.

I have always enjoyed the stories in the Old Testament of the Bible.  One story in particular I have always liked is in Exodus 17.

“Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.  And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.”  So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”   Exodus 17:8-13 (NKJV)

There’s a couple of things that I find encouraging in this passage.  Notice in verse 9.  Moses tells Joshua to choose some men to fight.  Now these men would have been strong men, men who could fight well.  It’s in our nature, at least in mine, to question why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  But why shouldn’t He.  God sometimes chooses strong people that are capable of obeying and honoring God to fight the battles of life.  Through the humbling of themselves, through showing that their strength is not in themselves but in God alone, then God can receive all the glory when the battle has been won.

In the following verses, Moses stands on the hill with the rod of God.  When the rod is raised, they were winning.  When the rod was lowered, they were being beaten back.  As the men were fighting, they could look up to the hill and see Moses.  When they saw the rod, the same rod that had been used in all of the miracles that God had performed, the men could be reminded that the presence and power of God was with them, even in the midst of the battle.  When we are in the middle of our battle, even when we are in the valley, we can look back to the times we were on our mountaintops and know, that the same God that was blessing us so much in the good times, is still the all-powerful God that is with us in our valleys.

Now consider Aaron and Hur.  They were there to help Moses, who was the intercessor between the people and God.  When we know of people who are going through their valleys, we ought to intercede for them in prayer to our Father.  We need to be there to give them assistance.  So many people are praying for and encouraging my Dad.  People have brought food and visited.  Phone calls have been received.  All of that is so appreciated and is something we all can do for anyone who is going through hard times.

One day as I was visiting my Dad, he asked Mom to hand him his Bible that was close by.  He wanted to show me what he had come across as he had been reading.  He told us to open it to 1 Peter 5.  Verses 8 and 9 are familiar verses, speaking about the fact that the devil is seeking out those whom he can devour.  But we are to resist him and stay strong.  It says “knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  Then verse 10 is the verse that spoke to my Dad.

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  1 Peter 5:10

You may be in the valley now.  But keep looking up to the top of the hill.  God will soon take us out of the valley and back to the mountaintop again.

Look up to the hill top, Dad.

Daddy’s Girl

Copy of “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1-12 (NIV)

I think a lot of women who have been blessed to grow up with a loving, caring, strong, Godly father, will consider themselves a daddy’s girl.  I’m no different.  I love my Daddy.  It’s not that I love my Mom any less.  I love her dearly.  She’s the encourager and comforter I know that I can count on at any moment.  But it is the dad that most children will turn to for help and guidance in life’s situations outside of the home.  And it’s a daddy that most girls will look to for qualities they hope to have in their husband.

When my Dad got sick, it was hard.  Still is.  To watch the man that was very active and always on the go come to the point where he needed help doing the simplest of things broke my heart.  While the doctors were running tests after tests trying to determine what was wrong with him, he just kept getting weaker and weaker.

Then came the diagnosis of T-cell Lymphoma.  It’s a very rare form of cancer.  During his illness, we have tried to make small jokes from time to time to help lighten the mood.  We told Dad it was just like him to have to be different and rare to get such a disease that stumped the doctors for so long.  Dad suggested to the doctor that since he had never had a patient with that type of cancer before, he should write a book about him so that they both could make some money.

The day that the first chemo treatment was to be administered was very emotional.  They came got Dad from the hospital room and took him downstairs in a wheelchair to have his pic line inserted into his arm.  We were told he would be back to the room in less than an hour.  It was almost 2 hours before he was brought back to the room totally exhausted.

When he had arrived downstairs, there were other patients waiting before him to have various procedures done.  He had to sit in his wheelchair and wait.  He was sitting with his head down and eyes closed.  When he opened his eyes, a ray of light was shining down on a tile on the floor.  In that tile, Dad saw the face of Jesus.  Our Savior was reassuring my Dad that he was not alone.  Christ has been and still is walking closely by my Daddy’s side.

It was 3:00 on April 13, 2017, when the chemo started.

We were all silent.  One thought after another began racing through my mind as the drugs began racing through my Dad’s body.  The negativity of the situation competed against the trusting in the positive outcome.

Mom sat in the chair beside his bed.  I watched Dad lying there as the poison that is needed to heal his body began to be pumped into his veins.  He was looking at the work the nurse was doing, hanging the various drugs on the IV pole.  I looked at Mom as she turned her face away from Dad.  Silent tears began flowing down her face as the man she loves began his battle against the disease in his body.  I wonder if God shed tears when He looked away from His Son who hung dying on the cross, filled with the sin disease of the world.

The brown bags with “Biohazard” clearly marked, reinforced the fact that this is not the nutritious fluids that had hydrated his weak body.  Then I see the clear tube slowly fill with the red drug.  I think about the red blood that flowed from the tortured body of Christ.  I pray the drugs going into Dad’s veins will bring life back to his body, cleansing him of all disease just as Christ’s blood gives life to our souls and cleanses us from sin.

The nurse wears protective gear as she administers the drugs.  Three drugs in all.  Three nails.

Goggles cover her eyes, gloves cover her hands and a plastic gown covers her body.  When facing a battle, we prepare ourselves.  We protect our eyes, staying focused on our Lord.  Looking to Him, we gain our strength.  We use our hands to fight.  As Moses lifted his hands during battle and the Children of Israel won their fight, when we lift hands to praise the Father, that praise turns our battles to victories.  We protect our heart with the Breastplate of Righteousness, knowing that our bodies are the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.

Then the treatment was over.  It is finished.  Christ died once for all.

Dad still has five more treatments to go.  We’re all trusting God for complete restoration of his health.  The doctor has even stated that he could feel better than before.  The unknown disease had been bringing him down for a while, and when it is gone, he will feel like a new man.  In Christ we are a new creation.

I’m a Daddy’s girl.  I’m my Abba, Father’s girl.

Dad’s Journey

Dad in Rehab

March 25, 2017, began a journey for my Dad, Max Walker, which will take him through many months to come.

Dad’s health had been going down for several months.  Normally a very active 75 year old, he began to have to rest frequently between his activities.  One day he started feeling pressure in his chest, was sweating profusely and was weak.  Finally, my Mom and my Uncle Harold told Dad that he was going to the hospital either in their car, or by ambulance.  Dad relented and was driven by car to the local ER.

After several hours in the ER, the results of tests were given.  His blood work looked normal and the EKG showed he was not having a heart attack at the moment, but that he had experienced a heart attack at some point in the past.  He was released from the ER, doing no better, and was told to follow up with a cardiologist.

Although nothing was done for him, this trip to the hospital began a series of events that were hard and discouraging to go through.  Yet through it all, God’s hand and control over everything was exhibited.

On Monday morning, Mom called to get an appointment with the cardiologist.  It’s very hard to get an appointment with that doctor in a timely manner.  She was told the earliest Dad could be seen by the doctor would be weeks later in April.  Hanging up discouraged, Mom walked away from the phone only to have it ring.  The doctor’s office was on the phone saying they had a cancellation.  Dad could be seen on that Friday, March 31st,.

When we took Dad to that appointment, he was so weak we asked to have a place for him to lay down instead of waiting in the waiting room.  He was still experiencing all the symptoms that he had experienced when he had gone to the ER.  They immediately took him to a room and hooked him up to run another EKG.

When the doctor came in to talk to Dad, he was told again that the EKG showed he was not having a heart attack.  The doctor listened to his chest and abdomen.  Although I could not see the doctor’s face, both Mom and Dad could.  They noticed that when the doctor listened to his abdomen, his facial expression suggested he heard an abnormal sound.

The doctor then said he thought that Dad should go back to the hospital to have further tests run.  He tried to get Dad directly admitted to the hospital in order to bypass the ER, but the hospital would not allow that.  So back to the ER we went.

I don’t know how it is at other hospitals, but at our local hospital, going to the ER meant hours of waiting.  The thought of going back through the process they had gone through the previous Saturday was not pleasant.  However, since the doctor had called ahead, they put Dad in an examination room and tests began immediately.  We were later told that if he had been directly admitted, the tests the doctor ordered would have become less of priority since any orders from the ER took precedence over the orders of patients in the rooms.

Blood work, another EKG, x-rays, ultrasounds of his organs, were all done.  Nothing was standing out in any of the tests, but he was admitted so that additional tests could be run.  Room 307 became his home for the next nine days.

On Saturday, an echocardiogram and a CT scan of his abdomen were done.  We learned that the sound the doctor had heard when he listened to Dad’s abdomen could possibly have been an aneurysm or blockage.  The tests on his heart were good and no sign of a blockage or aneurysm was found.  Although the scan did show that some lymph nodes in his abdomen and around his kidneys were swollen.

The next day, on Sunday, they did a CT scan of his chest to check for blood clots in his lung.  No clots were found, but additional swollen lymph nodes were seen.

An ocologist was consulted.  He wanted to do a needle biopsy of a lymph node in Dad’s neck.  They did the biopsy on Monday.  Results of the needle biopsy were not received until Wednesday.  The results of the tests just showed some atypical cells but nothing conclusive.  He was scheduled to have a lymph node removed on Thursday.

Two different surgeons came in Wednesday to talk to Dad.  The general surgeon said he could remove a lymph node from under Dad’s arm but because of his full schedule, it would be late on Thursday afternoon before he could do it.  He said he had a partner who possibly could do it a little earlier.  Then an ear, nose, throat specialist came in to say he could take a lymph node from Dad’s neck around noon on Thursday.  Dad chose to have that specialist to do the surgery.

On Thursday morning, the general surgeon’s partner came in at 9:00.  He had a cancellation in his schedule and could perform the surgery at 11:00.  The decision was made to have that surgery.  We later learned that the ear, nose, throat specialist had a surgery that took longer than expected and it would have been later in the afternoon before he could have performed Dad’s surgery.  It was also told that the lymph node in his neck would have been a riskier surgery due to the size and location near his jugular vein.  By having the earlier surgery, testing on the tissue began on that day.  The oncologist told us Friday evening that the initial results showed no signs of cancer so far, but further testing was ongoing.

All of that time, Dad had grown weaker and weaker.  Nothing could be given to him since they did not know what was wrong.  If they had given him steroids or anything else, the root problem could have been masked in any tests that were run.

However, while the week had progressed, his blood pressure medication was adjusted time after time.  Dad had been on two different blood pressure medications for years but his BP had never been stable.  His doctor had even told him to leave it off and if his BP went up, then take a pill.  In the hospital, the hospitalist fussed at dad for refusing to take the prescribed medication.  Dad had been refusing to take the medication because he knew regular use of it caused his BP to fall too low.  The doctor agreed to reduce the amount if Dad would take the medicine.  The following days proved Dad right.  The dosage was increasingly lowered until he left the hospital with one pill instead of two and the dosage a quarter of the amount originally prescribed.  The new amount was prescribed to be used after he left the hospital and has worked well.

Dad was released to go home on Saturday, April 8th, with a follow-up appointment scheduled with the oncologist on Tuesday.  He was very weak.  Mom had been home sick most of the week while Dad was in the hospital.  Having Dad home was good, but both were weak and needed help.   I had been able to spend the week with Dad at the hospital and was with Mom and Dad at home on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday night, the oncologist called to say the results looked like Dad had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  The diagnosis had changed from thinking there was no cancer on Friday to now being told there was.

On Tuesday, Uncle Harold, Mom and I, took Dad to the Levine Cancer Institute.  He had been throwing up and unable to eat.  Uncle Harold helped us get Dad in the car and in a wheelchair as soon as we arrived at the cancer center.  Again, as soon as we arrived at the doctor’s office, he was taken to a room and laid down.  He was running a high temperature and the nurses immediately hooked him up to an IV, giving him fluids and medicine for nausea.  Blood was also drawn.

When the doctor came in, he told us he had just heard from the pathologist an hour before.  The diagnosis had changed once again and now we learned Dad had T-cell lymphoma.  We were told this was a very rare cancer which was why the diagnosis had been so hard to reach.  The doctor said he had never had a case of that particular type of cancer before.  He seemed to think the fever and deteriorating health was due to the lymphoma and immediately wanted Dad to be admitted once again to the hospital.  Because of the rarity of the cancer, the doctor said many times patients did not know they had the disease and would die because of an infection rather than from the cancer.

So back to the ER.  This time, the Levine Cancer Institute was located across the parking lot to the hospital so Dad was taken by a wheelchair and rolled straight into the ER.  Had he not been so sick, being wheeled across the parking lot in a wheelchair could have been a fun story to tell.  Within a short time he was taken directly to an examination room.  Again, since blood work had been taken at the doctor’s office and because the doctor had ordered ahead the tests to be done, everything was carried out more quickly than would have normally been done.

They began giving him meds to bring down his fever.  Fluids and nausea medications were administered.  A broad spectrum antibiotic was given by IV.  The doctor had ordered an MRI to be done of Dad’s brain to rule out a stroke because of how lethargic he had been at the doctor’s office.  Another x-ray of his chest was taken.  A lot was done in a short amount of time.

It was discovered Dad had a urinary tract infection and the flu.   His stay in Room 325 would last for 8 days.

Wednesday was a day of continual tests to determine the strength of his heart and it’s ability to withstand chemotherapy.  They started him on steroids to help build him up along with the nausea medication, Tamiflu and an antibiotic.  Bone marrow was taken from his hip.  On Thursday, April  13th, a pic line was put in and chemo began.  Because of his ongoing weakness and nausea, he remained in the hospital.  The days were very emotional.  A combination of the medication and the reality of his circumstances took a toll on the normally strong man.

On Tuesday, April 18th, he was transported to a rehabilitation facility.  On Wednesday, it was like night and day.  He was up and moving around.   Although still lacking endurance, he began to quickly gain strength.  Food began to taste better, having real clothes on instead of the “petticoat” of a gown, the ability to care for himself, all contributed to his remaining in rehab only until Friday, the 21st.

Dad has a long road ahead of him.  Trips to the doctor’s offices to get medications and shots to build his white blood counts will occur daily.  Home health care to check his status and to clean the pic line, therapists to come in to keep him growing stronger, will take place.  Five more chemo treatments, three weeks apart, are scheduled.  He will need to take a lot of precautions to avoid getting sick.  Visits will be restricted and places he can go to are limited.  Even short walks outside will require him to wear a mask because of the pollen in the air.

It’s been hard for him to go through all he’s experienced; it’s hard for his loved ones to watch.  But God has had His hand in every event.

  • Having the sensation of pressure in his chest along with the sweating and weakness, led to his first visit to the ER and the recommendation of him seeing a cardiologist. The pressure in his chest ceased after being hospitalized.
  • The cancellation of an appointment at the cardiologist office allowed dad to be seen quicker.
  • Being so weak, although it was not a good thing, led the nurses to put him immediately into an examination room, where tests were started instead of him waiting in a waiting room that would have delayed him getting help.
  • Although there was no sign of him having a heart attack at the moment, the cardiologist hearing an abnormal sound in this abdomen led to him requesting further testing.
  • Having to go through the ER instead of receiving the direct admittance the doctor requested, led to the ordered tests being done with top priority over patients in a room
  • Because the doctor had ordered a CT scan of his abdomen looking for a blockage or aneurysm, the scan revealed the extent of swollen lymph nodes in his torso.
  • Another CT scan ordered to look for blood clots in his lung led to the further discovery of swollen glands in this chest and neck.
  • Since he was a patient in the hospital, the oncologist consulted saw him quickly without having to wait at home for an appointment.
  • The needle biopsy not showing conclusive results led to the extended stay in the hospital where his blood pressure issue was addressed and hopefully corrected with the proper medicine and dosage set.
  • The surgeon who just happened to have a cancellation in his schedule allowed the removal and testing of the lymph node to begin earlier.
  • Although getting the flu was not a good thing (which he either contracted from his previous stay in the hospital or from going home on Saturday) led to the fever and weakness that caused the oncologist to send him immediately back to the hospital when he went to the Tuesday appointment.
  • Another visit to the ER allowed them to immediately begin fluids and an antibiotic along with other tests performed quickly
  • Another stay in the hospital allowed the pic line and the first treatment of the chemo to occur quickly.

I’m not saying that it is a good thing that Dad has been so sick.  But God is working in the details.

Before he was sick, he had joked with Mom about getting his hair buzz cut.  Mom was not excited about that.  But with him being so sick, his hair was cut very short while he was in rehab so that he could wash his head easily since he cannot get in a shower due to the pic line.

Dad has never liked coffee.  Mom would brew coffee while he was out of the house so he would not be bothered by the aroma and then she would just warm up a cup at a time as she wanted it.  When Mom was sick and unable to come to the hospital, coffee did not set well with her.  But while he was in the hospital and feeling so nauseous, coffee was one of only a couple things Dad could stomach.  Dad told me that if Mom were there, she would know he was really sick since he was drinking coffee.

Thinking about those small details lightened the seriousness of the circumstances.

During the first stay in the hospital, Mom was sick; my brother was sick; both my aunt and uncle were sick.  I have a job that allows me to build up time that I can take off and my supervisors are wonderful to work with.  All of those things allowed me to spend time alone with Dad.  Most of the time he did not feel like having a lot of conversations, but just being with him meant so much to me.

And I saw something else.  Though Mom and Dad were apart, I saw a picture of their great love for each other.  The doctor my Mom went to had told her to stay away from Dad because of the risk of giving him what she had.  Thinking of his well-being over her own is the only thing that would have kept her away from him.  She eagerly awaited my phone calls to get updates on him.

And my Dad.  A nurse came in at one point to check on him.  In his weak voice, he told the nurse that his wife was at home sick.  Then with tears in his eyes, he said, “I just want my wife to be ok.”  He was worried about Mom and Mom was worried about him.

We often have no choice in the journey we find ourselves on.  There’s the age old question of, “why do bad things happen to good people?”  If ever that question applied to any situation, it applies to my Daddy.  But just as Dad had always been the best example of how to live a Christian life, he also is being a great example of humility dealing with this unplanned journey.

The first full day of rehab, when he was feeling so much better, I shared another moment alone with him.  His pastor, Toney, had visited Dad in the hospital and told him about the Easter Sunday sermon he was preparing.  In the course of his studies, Toney came across something he had not really noticed before and he asked Dad if he could explain it.  So sitting beside Dad on the edge of his borrowed bed, I got to look in his Bible with him and discuss the scripture.  Another moment I shall never forget.

We have people all over praying for Dad.  And I ask for the prayers of everyone reading this.  We are trusting that God is going to bring this journey’s end to a full restoration of Dad’s health.  And all along its way, we know we will continue to see God’s hand in every detail.