Thursday, March 29, 2007

Update: 29th March

Nasal endoscopy
I've just returned home from having a second nasal endoscopy. Not the most pleasant experience (although there are worse places to stick an endoscope, I assume), but second time round the results were not quite so surprising. It was a similar procedure back towards the end of November that first discovered my paralysed left vocal cord and which led to my first CT scan that found the tumour.

This time, the result was the same: a palsy (paralysis) of the left vocal cord, most likely from nerve damage to the nerve that controls it. I have two options: speech therapy to help my right vocal cord compensate (more than it already is, since the gradual improvement of my voice since October is the result of this tendency); or a surgical procedure to insert a piece of plastic into my larynx in order to turn my left vocal cord permanently 'on'. Non-invasive procedures are nearly always better to try first, so I will give speech therapy a few months and see if there is any improvement before I let them take a knife to my throat.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Update: 22nd March

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."

- Psalm 34.8

God is faithful in times of prosperity and adversity. We continue to be so thankful for all the good things we receive from his hand.

CT scan
Yesterday I had my first post-treatment scan (a CT scan) to begin to determine the effectiveness of all the chemotherapy and radiotherapy I received in January and February. The results were very encouraging. There were no secondary growths (i.e. the cancer has not spread) and the primary tumour had shrunk to about a quarter of the volume it was back at the start of December when I was first diagnosed (the only other time it was measured in a scan). On 1st December, it measured 35 mm by 30 mm by 25 mm but yesterday it was 25 mm by 17 mm by 16 mm - a very impressive reduction. The radiologist who reviewed the CT scan was also impressed at the comparatively minimal damage done to the surrounding area (esp lungs) by the radiotherapy.

However, yesterday's scan does not reveal whether this residual mass is merely scar tissue or active tumour. To find out, we need to wait another month to continue to allow the radiotherapy to have maximum effect and then I will have a second, different scan (a PET scan) to measure cell activity. More waiting - no wonder they call us 'patients'!

After finishing radiotherapy just over a month ago, I have been recovering from the various side-effects and feel as though I am well past half-way (though not yet 100%). I still have less energy than I used to and am still expanding the kinds of food my oesophagus can tolerate. For much of this month, I have been on a liquid diet but have recently been enjoying food with more substance.

My voice, though a little stronger than it was a month or two ago, continues to be quite different to what it once was. It is likely that this will be a permanent issue since the damaged nerve that controls my left vocal cord may never recover. However, with some speech therapy over the next couple of months I might continue to gain a little more volume. I am able to preach and give talks using microphones, but conversation in noisy contexts is very difficult, as is singing - a loss I frequently mourn.

Apart from these factors, Jess and I have been well. We are both enjoying our work, as well as the extra time we've had to rest and recover while both being part-time. We are settling well into our not-quite-so-new church at Leichhardt and have started a couple of small groups for people our age, which have been very encouraging.

We have really appreciated all the generous support from so many: gifts, practical help, people willing to listen, and a constant supply of food and prayers. God has given us all we need and so much more!

For those who pray...
Give thanks:
• for God's generosity towards us all: giving us life and every good thing, especially his son.
• for the love and support we have also received from church, family and friends in a variety of forms.
• for the good result on yesterday's scan, and how far we've come on this little adventure since the start of December.
• that the remaining mass will be all scar tissue and not contain any active tumour cells.
• that while waiting for a more definitive result next month, we will be patient and thankful for each day, without anxiously grasping after an answer or deferring our lives.
• that I might continue to regain strength and would use this to serve the God who loves life.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Update: 19th March

It has now been about a month since I finished treatment. This Wednesday I have my first post-treatment scan. It will be a CT scan to determine the size of the remaining growth (if any). In another month I will have a second scan (a PET scan) which will give the other half of the picture: whether what is left is still active. Thus, while there may be something left, this could just be scar tissue and it will be another month before it is possible to tell. However, Wednesday's scan will also (hopefully) rule out the worst case scenario of there being secondary growths indicating that the cancer has spread. More on Wednesday (or possibly Thursday), when I will send out another group email (and post it here too).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Update: 14th March

Although for the last month or so I have been eating only liquids, over the last three or four days I have started also having some soft solids, which is very exciting, since it means my oesophagus is healing from the radiotherapy burns. Grace before meals is said with particular emphasis these days.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Update: 1st March

Turned the corner?
After getting gradually worse for each of the last eight weeks, it feels like things might have finally turned a corner, since I feel a little better than I did at this stage last week (when I was just coming home from hospital). I am still only consuming liquids, but they are going down a little easier and faster than they were. Similarity, the burn mark on my back is healing well and is no longer itchy or sore. Feels nice to be on this side of the hill.

Here is a picture of my typical breakfast at the moment.