Archive for September, 2010

Behold the Turtle

Behold the Turtle … he only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.   ~ James Bryant Conant

Over time, 8 – 12 months, I was experiencing increasing moodiness (anger and discouragement) as well as exhaustion that defied rest and good habits like walking more and eating well.  Further, I was starting to get a bit hypertensive which for me is a BIG change.  So at the suggestion of a sister in the community of the People of Praise, to which we belong, I went to a nutritionally aware psychiatrist, also a sister in the Lord, that agreed to consult with me about my complaints.  She then ordered blood work to test for possible vitamin deficiencies and thyroid function which she said sometimes can cause these sorts of problems.  To my extreme amazement, she was right – I was exceptionally low in Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.

But the big surprise was the diagnosis of “hypothyroid”!  (Ah, that explains exhaustion, aching muscles as I climbed stairs, lack of concentration, and the feeling that life itself was ebbing away.  Unfortunately, I’m not joking.)  This led me to an endocrinologist who examined me, palpated my throat in the thyroid area, and asked for more blood work and an ultrasound of my thyroid – because she had felt nodules.  Slowly things began to improve when the endocrinologist put me on synthroid three weeks ago.  But also, as a matter of routine, she wanted me to have a thyroid biopsy to look into the meaning of the nodules.  This took place last Tuesday.

The FNA biopsy was unpleasant.  In Fine Needle Aspiration, they insert a needle into the area, one for each nodule (I had two), then aspirate out the product of the biopsy.   They told me, “This won’t be any worse than having your blood drawn.”  Technically, they were right, but unfortunately, blood drawing always leaves me tender and/or bruised.  Bad enough in the arm or hand, now “pain in the neck” has new meaning for me.
[Note:  I was very blessed during the procedure to have a radiologist who was a believer in God.  She didn’t offer anything about that until I said that I should have prayed that the nodules would have gone away.  Then she said, “We can both offer up our silent prayers.  Don’t you think He knows you are here and is going to take care of you?” ]

To make things even more jolly, a pathologist was standing by to collect the product of biopsy and go analyze it in the next room to give me prompt feedback.  After he sorted things out (about 10 min. as I hummed to myself and asked the Good Lord for peace and guidance), he returned and said, “Basically I recommend you have your thyroid taken out due to suspicious-looking cells.” “How suspicious?”  I asked.  “Well, they appear to be a rare form of cancer called Medullary Thyroid Cancer.”  “Of course,” he said, “it might not be that…”, but still recommended near-total thyroidectomy and was going to call my endocrinologist immediately.

Hmm.  Not to be funny or anything, but I have been feeling a “lump in my throat” for the first time, this week, ever since the test.  But I would like NOT to have the thyroid taken.  I have discovered my birth family has a history of thyroid issues including nodules on enlarged, not-functioning thyroids.  But no cancer, glory to God!

I have already been to see the endocrinologist on followup, had the blood drawn to confirm the diagnosis – or not, and seen my first surgeon with a second opinion TBA in the near future.  However, since the cells looked “funny”, everyone I talk to says, “You HAVE to have the thyroid out. Whether the test is positive or negative.”  So, obedient as ever (ha), I expect I will have my thyroid removed.  But I am open and hopeful for a different outcome.  God-willing, I will not need this surgery if the doctors will change their tune.  (Speaking of tune, did you know the larynx shares the blood supply of the thyroid?  Not a soothing thought for a singer…)

In the meantime, I shall stick my neck out and ask you readers to pray with faith and with me for my next appointment with the endocrinologist to discuss the subsequent blood test to search for the marker of the cancer, elevated Calcitonin levels:

  • Pray that the test is negative.
  • Pray against cancer and for wisdom for the doctors and sensibility and openness for me and John as we discern what to do.
  • Finally, please pray for the as-yet unscheduled second opinion with a endocrinologist who specializes in removing thyroids (does about 20 a week – an unbelievable figure to my way of thinking.)

The one thing I hope you do not do is worry about me.  As Dr. Griffith, the radiologist said, “Don’t you think He knows you’re here and is going to take care of you?”  I do think that.  So I will undergo “these light and momentary troubles that are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” ~2 Corinthians 4:17


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After the CT scan, complete with Barium smoothie and dye injection, I fared not too badly for about 12 hours then was weak, dizzy, and nauseous for another 36 or so hours.  Then I thought maybe I had recovered.

But today, six days later, it’s back to the same old side-effects.  John and I both think it couldn’t be related to the CT scan, which I finally heard yesterday showed everything as “normal” – the good news!  Bad news is, don’t know what caused the pain, which is very slowly diminishing, and what in the world all this feeling sick is about.

Yesterday was September 14, Catholic feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. I’ve been thinking, praying, and reading about this, and realize that every time we get sick, or hurt, or suffer a problem, there is a true opportunity to connect with Jesus Christ, the suffering savior.   The following are some excerpts from In CONVERSATION with God – Vol. 7 Special Feasts, by Francis Fernandez, and the Holy Bible:

“Today in our prayer, we can examine our habitual disposition on coming face to face with the Cross,  Though hard to bear at times, the encournter with it can become a source of purification…Embracing the Cross should lead us never to complain when confronting difficuties, and even to thank God for the failures, suffering, and setbacks…. Such adversities should be additional  occasions for drawing us closer to God.”

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  ~Luke 9:23

“… the path of holiness passes through the Cross…. May we joyfully embrace the encounter…Herein lies sanctity.  Let us always bear the cross with love.”

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.  ~Philippians 1:29

“Love for the Cross produces abundant fruit in the soul.  In the first place, it brings us to discover Jesus immediately.  He comes out to meet us…  Our suffering, in union with the Master’s, is no longer an evil that oppresses us.  It becomes a means of union with God…. The world will probably not understand this advice, but do not be disturbed. It is enough that Jesus, … and that the saints know what is going on.”

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  ~2 Corinthians 4:17

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Contrast Agent

I have been having a pain in my side for a week and a half.  It never went away, even at night.  So I went to the doctor yesterday and after several questions and a quick exam, she said, “I want you to have a CT scan.  You will have to use a contrast agent.  Go to the center and pick it up now.”

I asked the obvious question, “What is a contrast agent?”  She said it was like a dye that helped them to see my organs better.

It turns out a I am supposed to drink a portion of barium liquid at three different times prior to the test, one at 2 hours before, one at 1/2 hour before and then just at the test time.  Then, after they insert an IV catheter, they inject the “contrast agent”.  Fun?

hmm…  I am sure lots of  people have done this before.   Something new in life – today at 3:00.

I will sing to the Lord all my life;

as long as I live I will praise Him.

And may He be pleased with my song

for my gladness comes from Him.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

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Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, my soul; do not forget all the gifts of God,
Who pardons all your sins, heals all your ills,
Delivers your life from the pit, surrounds you with love and compassion,
Fills your days with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…
As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful.
As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful…
…the LORD’S kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age. He favors the
children’s children of those who keep his covenant, who take care to fulfill its precepts.
The LORD’S throne is established in heaven; God’s royal power rules over all.
Bless the LORD, all you angels, mighty in strength and attentive, obedient to every
Bless the LORD, all you hosts, ministers who do God’s will.
Bless the LORD, all creatures, everywhere in God’s domain. Bless the LORD, my soul!
~from Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name…

Last night the women of the NoVA Branch gathered to “shower” Julia Fraga in honor of her upcoming marriage to Alex Shek.

Do not forget all the gifts of God…

Julia was the youngest child born to Charlie and Carmen Fraga, the first principal branch coordinator and principal handmaid of the NoVA Branch.  She was a “jewel” amidst the blossoming of community here, and took her place alongside all the other children of community who grew to be very close over time.

Who fills your days with good things…

The women’s groups brought gifts to give the couple as they prepare for their life together.  But more than that, we celebrated the multitude of good things our Father has done for Julia and all of us.

Who surrounds you with love and compassion …

A bridal shower is always a happy time, but in the People of Praise there is another dimension of the love of God being shared freely among those who are present in conversation and sharing of life.

As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful…

Her women’s group had planned all the usual ways of honoring Julia, light snacks, praise and worship, and sharings. Though the décor was simple, the love of God for all His children was greatly evident.  But there was more to come!

Bless the LORD all you hosts, ministers who do God’s will…

The music was exceptionally joyfilled on this occasion – which was very appropriate as Julia is a member of the Music Ministry.  In a true explosion of gratitude and praise, we sang Unto the House of the Lord and Sing for Joy (by Don Moen).

As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us…

When it was time for the honoring, we turned our attention to the large screen on the stage.  A special video honoring had been recorded by Julia’s mother, Carmen, who now lives in the Portland /Vancouver branch.  Several of the women became tear-y as the video-honoring began and we saw the beloved face of our sister who we wished so dearly was present.  Shortly into the honoring, we saw Carmen step out of the camera’s view to “check on something”. The next we knew, she was actually walking out from behind the screen.  She had come after all to surprise Julia!  The applause erupted and many more shed tears of joy with Julia as she rushed up to embrace her mother.

The LORD’s kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age.

The honoring proceeded in real life(!) as Carmen recounted the many ways Jule had served & comforted her and made her proud with her diligent work for the Lord.  Other honorings were given by sister Maria-Elena via sister-in-law Nadia Shek, Theresee McNichol, and Bridget Brophy.  A beautiful prayer was offered by Julia’s pastoral head, Suzanne Lokke.

He favors the children’s children of those who keep his covenant…

Theresee, the leader of Julia’s women’s group with Becca Feeks, had prepared another video “honoring,” a sort of televised skit based on a popular reality show.  This clever and imaginative piece turned out to be a real highlight with special appearances by many of the fine young men and women who grew up with Julia, including Billy Brophy as Alex and of course, Theresee as Julia as they competed in the “Amazing Race”.  Their runs and missions were interspersed with “interviews” of family and friends, played by members of the McNichol, Brophy, Rooney, Brand, and Cedergren families.  The result was hilarious, complex, well-acted, recorded, and edited for our viewing.  The formal part of the evening ended with a spirited rendition of I will Remember the Kindness of the Lord followed by fellowship.  How fitting!

Bless the LORD, all creatures, everywhere in God’s domain.  Bless the LORD, my soul!

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