Just a few minutes a day … April 16’ 2014 …
Walter Turner turned 85 years old today. Don’t know who he is? Neither did I one month ago. I know him now and count him as a friend. The two of us brought together by God’s mercy and impeccable timing. I’m not to sure he fully realized it was his birthday as I sat across from him in the Nursing home today. He sits in his recliner in the corner of the room nodding in and out of wakefulness as I speak a few words of encouragement to him. His wife, Martha, is there by his side as well, ever present regardless of when I visit. She says he hasn’t been doing to good lately and she thinks he has suffered several mini stokes this past week. She says they don’t call the doctor any more or rush him to the hospital when they occur. There is nothing else more that they can do for him she says. There is a sad quiet dignity in her voice and a resignation that is backed up by her softly spoken words to me that she is ready to let him go. She is suffering greatly and I can feel the anguish in her voice crying out. I move my chair closer to hers and we embrace and we both tear up as we pray that God’s timing will be merciful. She tells me in their quite talks together he talks of going home soon and wanting to leave. She knows the end is near but doesn’t understand the end game or why it lingers with such unknown purpose and pain. Neither do I but our view of life is so limited. God’s view is perfect and so far beyond our comprehension. All we can do is to keep loving and living but we do tire of life’s persistence when no purpose but suffering appears to be served. We do what we have always done our entire life. It’s all we know how to do so we continue to do it until the very end … loving and living with each other through the joy and the pain of life … even when it least resembles life. Walter is waken gently by the nurse and she reminds him that he should go to the bathroom and pee. He forgets to do that sometimes and he can’t often find the bathroom by himself when he remembers he has to pee. He manages to fend her off for now saying he is ok and doesn’t need the bathroom or want to be moved at the moment. She pulls up his blanket and gives him a loving pat on the shoulder as she departs. His eyes close again and his breathing returns to mostly sighing in and out. I place the Car Magazine I brought him next to all the Birthday cards on the table next to his bed. Martha thanks me for the gesture and smiles through the tears as she hugs me tightly as I say goodbye. I walk out of the room and over to another one just down the hall where Miss Lisa resides.
Miss Lisa has Alzheimer’s and is also around 80 years old. Last time I visited her she told me she likes to read romance novels so I had brought her a new one to read. As I entered the room she is not in her bed but her room mate is so I introduce myself to her and ask if she knew where Lisa was. She is a very small woman and very frail but dressed nicely and laying back on her bed pretty much staring off into space until my direct question to her about Lisa’s whereabouts sunk in. She is quick to respond that Lisa had family visit her today and they took her out of the Nursing home for the day. I asked her if she didn’t mind if I could instead visit with her for a little while. She said sure and I sat down on the bed beside her. Her name is Myrtle she said, she even spelled it for me, and I told her my name. Words are extremely hard to come by during these visits and I always pray in my car in the parking lot before going inside asking God to please give me the right words of encouragement to say and he always delivers. We start off talking about family. She says she has no one any more. Parents are dead and she is the last of 12 children. I disguise my tears as best I can but they well up in my eyes as I begin to tell her about my family. I succeed in fending off the tears and we begin to share a little about each other. Turns out we are both the youngest of all the kids in our respective family so we have something in common right away. She tells me she likes Women magazines and I promise to bring her one the next time I come. She says she may not be here next week or even tomorrow but I reassured her she will be and that I will be back. We continue our chat for several more minutes before I stand to depart. I’ve known her only for a few minutes but I can’t resist giving her a hug and she readily accepts it. She tells me she will tell Lisa that I came by and she will tell her about the romance book that I left. I said thanks and that I would see her again.
As I walked back out into the hallway on my way out I passed by so many more rooms. Each one filled with a life fully lived yet often forgotten or ignored by family and friends. Oh what joys and stories they have to tell about their lives. So much we could learn if we only took the time to ask and listen. I miss my Mom and Dad and they have been gone so long now. How I wish I would have taken the time to ask them about their lives, what they experienced and how they lived. Selfish I was at that time in my life and selfish no more I hope to be. I wish we all could give a few minutes of our day to someone else. Our time in this life is fleeting and finite … what greater gift is there that can be given to another than the gift of your time? I’m blessed to have the time to do so and I thank God for the courage to do it. It only takes a few minutes on any given day and it can be done anywhere anytime you decide to take the time.
Time is wasting … punctuated by the time honored tradition of reflecting on things passed while denying that there’s more fat around your midsection than last year at this time. What to make of 2014 …
Head straight, look forward not back. Look up for strength not down to your fall. Keep both eyes on what is good and avoid the dark. Read the Bible … then read it some more. Choose to be healthy. Keep your heart true. Be grateful in all things. Strive to be humble. Love much. Then love some more. Especially those closes to you. Respect everyone. Enjoy creation and imagination. Be adventurous. Give your time and your money where there is a need. Listen. Think. Then Speak. Enjoy life … but keep it simple. You are … so be happy where you are. Rejoice in that you have been given all this and more … Thanks be to God. Give praise. Keep hope. Smile
Re reading some of my earlier journal entries and writings appears to be about as useless as writing about my thoughts and feelings in a journal in the first place. I learn nothing and change even less in my life. I actually go into the negative if that is possible. I literally owe myself. I’ve borrowed against myself and I can’t repay the precious time I’ve wasted. I change nothing and then do the same again … and of course the results are the same. Rocket Science no doubt but I crave an understanding. No … take that back … I do understand. What I crave is an “action” and the “will” to carry it out. Where is my will anyway? Have I no control over my own mind? How can a fully developed thought be left to perish, or even worse, thrive only in the mind as if it’s already been done in reality. Yet this stage of life sits quietly empty with no actors performing. The audience waits for the next scene to unfold not knowing of the struggle backstage to burst forth in change. Why is it so hard to age your life in a way that makes you feel content with who and where you are before going home for good? Be at rest and do your best to change … God determines the rest.
Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living” I think I examine too much.
Having just passed my 6 month anniversary of my Prostate Surgery from earlier in the year thought it best to share where I’m at. My next PSA blood check is schedule for next month – Jan 2014 to make sure the cancer is still gone.
WARNING: Straight talk below so read on at your own risk of being offended.
Two areas of concern for me and I’m sure for any man after having their prostate removed via surgery (Davinci) was regaining total bladder control and full sexual function. All I can say is almost one out of two so far is far from ideal but beats being put 6 feet under by Cancer.
First the bladder. No one likes to pee on themselves or leak/spot pee at various times of the day in their pants but that’s a reality for men recovering from this type of surgery. I hated it but was reassured by the Doctor after surgery that I was well ahead of most men at the time and that it would eventually stop. Well that was six months ago and now 6 months later I still leak occasionally. Absolutely hate it but have to admit I have improved significantly over that timeframe but it has been extremely slow going. Kegel exercises are the key to strengthening those muscles down there but even with those I still have a ways to go before I hope all the spotting and leaking is totally dried up and gone forever. In the meantime it is a constant daily annoyance and can become very debilitating psychologically in addition to being every present on my mind.
Now, as far as sexual function for me at this stage it’s a no go. Sad to think but I truly feel and know my penis and all the pleasures it has brought me and my wife over the years will likely never recover. Of course, even without the cancer I wasn’t rewriting any of the sex record books anyway but it would have been nice to have had another go at them, even though prior to going into surgery performance was already declining. Yes, I’m aware of all the pills/devices available but I’m not going to jump through the hoops just yet to get an erection by any means available. I am on the Viagra but it only allows just the hint of an erection but nothing strong enough for penetration. Orgasms occur but only briefly in my mind … not near lasting enough to satisfy a partner. It’s not a body and mind experience any more the way it used to be. The fact a man can’t ejaculate semen after this surgery is another big negative and something that I strangely miss dearly. To top it off I am currently experiencing a little spoken of side affect called “Climacturia”. Disgusting topic so not going into any details here but you can click on the link for info. It doesn’t exactly encourage you to have sex. Doctor did discuss the dry ejaculations but not the possibility of Climacturia and I didn’t dig that deep in my pre surgery research. Wouldn’t have changed my mind I don’t think but something I would have liked to have known about prior and the surgeon never brought it up.
These are the issues I’ve had to live with and deal with daily for the last 6 months after prostate surgery. Hope by sharing these very personal details someone else might benefit from my experience. Life is good and I’m still going strong and I’m here to attest to that so it not all bad news. I do think sometimes and wonder if I should have done the radiation treatment instead of prostate surgery and kept my prostate intact but I think that’s human nature to think what if. We always wonder if we make the right decisions but the truth is we live with what ever decision we make.
Hoping my blood work next month will continue to show the cancer is still gone. I’ll give another update on my recovery issues above in another 6 months.
Confused and despondent to the point of panic. Able to admit but not able to confess sin. There is nothing to be gained here. Admitting will never be enough to allow me to live in harmony with God the way confessing will. Its what separates me from God and where I want to be. Where I am and where I need to be spiritually are so far apart there seems to be no way to span the gap. It’s depressing. Oswald Chamber’s touches on this in one of his devotionals … the contrast between admitting our sins to God or confessing our sins to God. Big difference.
Unfortunately, I’m an Admitter … although there is no such word. When I admit my sins to God … it’s like yeah … I did it again … what are you going to do about it I can’t stop it? attitude. You got to know God is tired of hearing the same thing from me night after night of prayer filled only with remorse. For some incredible reason that I can not understand God listens and waits on me anyway allowing me my way. It all seems to be ok with God. God gives me that choice. He does nothing about it but the Holy Spirit that is deep with in me convicts me deeply more and more each day I sin. I make my choices everyday to sin but it’s becoming increasing more difficult each day to bear the shame and that is a glimmer of hope that one day I’ll be a Confessor of my sins.
This is what I think the Confessor is like …. The person that confesses their sins are truly sincere, contrite, humbled and are ready to receive the forgiveness and freedom that come from truly confessing sins to God. They are ready to act now and be free of their desires because they know once they give up their will to fight it it will become God’s fight and they will succeed. Jesus provides the only freedom from sin.
What the Admitter doesn’t have much of that the Confessor has enough of is FAITH. One must see and accept the truth and once that is done you have to step out in faith to confirm it.
Father … Please increase my faith so I will take that step
Just got the call from Vanderbilt hospital …. My PSA level was UNDETECTABLE …. which means I’m good to go – no sign of cancer any more … next check up is in 6 months. I can’t begin to express how relieved and happy I am … it’s been a long difficult 5+ months and now the best possible news. Now its checkups every 6 months to make sure it stays gone. Praise God and thanks to everyone that have been keeping me in their thoughts and prayers all these months. This is truly the sweetest of all days.
6 weeks since surgery tomorrow but today was a trip to Vanderbilt Hospital for my long anticipated follow-up and blood work. Doctor said the usual positive things. From all accounts my bladder recovery is ahead of the norm and time will address other issues and concerns he said. He was confident they got all the cancer but held out the possibility there could still be some left behind as there was cancer cells found growing on one of the edges of my prostate. My PSA blood work will answer that question. They drew blood today and I should get a call tomorrow with the results. My two new friends that had the same surgery on the same day as me have both had there blood test completed and both had great results as their PSA levels were undetectable. This is what you want it to be. We are hoping when my results come in we will be 3 for 3 that are cancer free. It has been a long journey since my diagnosis back in February.
Today was sweet but tomorrow will be even sweeter.
What measure of time is really needed to be still so that we may become whole or holier? Is the division and planning of our time that essential to our existence that we can’t enjoy its passing unless we can measure it in some productive way? To simply “be” in a world moving as fast as this one seems counterproductive in worldly thinking. Spiritually thinking it’s essential to just “be” with God no matter how brief the encounter. That’s real productivity. However, there seems to be no time for that, no matter how small the slice of time we cut, we resist being still in his presence even briefly as we give our time freely and plentifully to less loftier pursuits. Why must we always be about our business of self … not our Father’s business as Jesus was while growing up as a child when his parents lost track of him while visiting Jerusalem and they found him at the temple. (Luke 2:49) It is a tough business model and lowly standard that we employ today but we relish the fast pace and our own constant thoughts of planning for self-fulfillment . If we should break away from it’s grip it’s only temporary and the time spent with our heavenly Father seems woefully inadequate when compared to the time spent pleasuring ourselves and planning our next steps.
I have only brief flashes of unselfish time in my life that I dedicate to others and to pursuits other than myself. I also have what can only be described as slivers of quite time spent with God but until those become the norm and the dominate theme of how I spend the time in my life I’m afraid I still leading a life in search of and struggling for permanent change to take hold and switch those priorities in my life around. If left to my own devices will that ever happen?
Tomorrow will mark 5 weeks since Prostate Surgery. My surgery scars are almost gone … just a few small scabs left where they punched 6 holes in me to attach the Da Vinci Robotic machine in order to perform the surgery. This is a vast improvement over the open type surgery of the past and I actually feel like I didn’t even have surgery it has healed so quickly. Inside there’s much more going on as things continue to heal where it counts the most. I continue to do the Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles that directly affect the control of my bladder but total bladder control has not returned yet. This could be a long journey of months maybe even a year before I’ll know if I’ll ever have full control again. This is one of the most frustrating, humiliating and worrisome aspects of having prostate surgery. Leaking some urine occasionally throughout the day is not a fun thing at all and plays on your mind and can wreck havoc on your daily activities and choice of undergarments that must be adjusted to cope. The other area of concern is of course sex. This is another area that takes a heck of a hit to your manhood and will require much adjustment as well to get use to and make allowance for continuing to even enjoy sex any more without some type of aid of which there are many to choose from. Nevertheless suffice to say life will never be the same in this department ever again. With these two issues to deal with it is easy to see now just how different life will be without a prostate as part of my body.
I’m still waiting for some good news regarding all this but my follow-up appointment and PSA blood work won’t be done until the middle of July. I sure hope the news is positive and that they got all the cancer out. Hopefully I’ll find that out soon. One of my other friends that had the same surgery the same day as mine is having his follow-up appointment today. I am anxious to see what the doctor tells him and what his PSA blood work shows.
Is it possible to have spiritual growth in your life without experiencing spiritual deficiencies and setbacks along the way? Realistically, I know better as we all fail at many of life’s endeavors no matter how sincere the effort. I know it’s not always going to be smooth sailing but I was at least hoping for a level playing field. Sin has stacked the deck against me and I continually succumb . A malaise pours over me and I fail to nurture my desire to be close to God. It seems if I’m not traveling in the one true direction I suddenly turn and start to travel even run faster in the wrong direction. Spiritual growth always seems to feel like I’m going up a big hill and spiritual droughts always seem to go easy and even picks up speed going downhill the wrong way. I wish it were the other way around … perhaps if I persevere some day it will be the other way around. Unfortunately, changing one’s attitude and direction is not as easy as applying brakes to a car to slow down enough to turn back in the other direction. Instead, it requires almost continual brake pressure on life’s distractions to ensure we don’t turn down the wrong street or go the wrong way because there are just so many opportunities to do so. Things of this world seem so bright and shiny and I often times feel like an insect flying towards the light, fascinated by it’s brillance, but instead of it being the light of God it’s a bug zapper instead and I’m often shocked when I hit it and find out there was nothing there after all but my destruction.
Time does pass … although when we are going through difficult ones it appears to stand still. Reached a milestone the other day and I’m now free of my tether (catheter). What a terrible week with that horrible but necessary device, for any Prostate Cancer Surgery patient, to endure. Now that it’s behind me I feel like I have really turned a corner and am hopeful it is all downhill from here. Life being the adventure God planned it to be one never knows. Kind of exciting in a way and scary in the way us humans think. Dr. Smith called and provided my pathology report on my prostate now that it has been extracted and gone over in detail with a microscope by those in the know. He says my cancer was sightly worse than what the biopsy had shown. My Gleason score based on my pre surgery biopsy was 6 (3+3) but this report upgraded that score to a Gleason Score of 7 (3+4). I’ve researched and read until my eyes are bleary what that all really means in the end but I’m no wiser by that analysis. God is in control and where he takes me I will go. From the human perspective he tells me July 15th is when I will get my next blood work done to determine what my PSA levels are. If they are “0” (zero) that the best news and probably means I’m now cancer free … like there is any certainty in such a statement. If it is anything but zero then it’s a sign that there may still be some cancer cells that made there way outside the prostate before they got it out. He did say that they found cancer cells on the edge of part of my prostate which could mean it wasn’t all completely contained within. If that is the case it will mean “salvage” radiation treatment daily for 6-8 weeks and the saga will drag on. Doesn’t sound like fun but I have friends that had similar results, had the post surgery radiation treatment, and has been clean for 10 years or more now. I feel sore down there but good overall and incontinence doesn’t seem to be an issue so far. That was wonderful news in and of itself as that is one of the chief draw back to having surgery that many men experience. The other being sexual disfunction which is a TBD right now for me. More twist and turns to come but I know God is there waiting to catch me around every turn. Not to worry … time for a walk and to just give thanks for this day.
Hard to put into words exactly the experience of having prostate surgery and beginning recovery without delving into some areas most people don’t want to hear about. Not even sure I want to write about them. Suffice to say this is not a fun time at all and still a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. Anytime surgery reconstruction in a man happens below the belly button it’s just not a good thing. Everything is affected in one way or another. This is my 3rd day at home and it’s not a pretty sight. I wonder sometimes how would it be possible for me to feel any less helpless and vulnerable. My angel is my wife, Yong, who’s constant attention and love provides all the loving care a partial invalid could ever ask for. I’m walking gingerly a little each day and taking my meds but the only real game changer is TIME. I’ve never been a patient man and patience is exactly what you need to get through something like this. I only have to remind myself that there are far worst things in life and in relative terms this is a cake walk compared to the trials others must face. Nevertheless … being as self-centered as we are nothing seems more important than what’s happening to us at any given moment. I’d like to say each day is gradually getting better but I’m not sure that would be accurate. There are ups and downs each day and I try not to focus to much on any one thing. The mind can still bring me to my knees sometimes and fears still seem to kick in from time to time. My next milestone will be having the catheter removed on June 6th. Follow-up with my surgeon won’t be until July 15th which right now seems like an eternity from today.
Surgery completed succesfully yesterday and I’m home already after only 1 night in the hospital. Sore but doing pretty good considering what’s taken place in the last 36 hours. Hopefully as the days roll by my body will slowly return back to normal as I regain strength and mobility. Hard for me to take it easy but will have no choice for the next month or so. Thanks to all for thoughts and prayers.
Sitting here now in my hospital bed resting with the surgery over earlier in the day. I’m able to walk gingerly but still on a Full Liquid Diet. Doctor says the surgery went just fine and I should be able to go home tomorrow if progress continues. I’m so relieved and thankful to my Lord in heaven for bringing me through and I’m confident I’m going to have a full recovery. Also, so blessed to have the best family and friends any man could possibly ask for.
My heartfelt thanks to all for your support and continued prayers.
Well … what was at one time very far off and almost out of my mind because it was so far off is now just around the corner and dominates my every thought. Can’t help but feel anxious about surgery this coming Tuesday but taking comfort in hopes that it will soon be over. Strange that at 62 years old this will be the first time in my life I’ve had surgery for anything. Never liked hospitals and thoughts of Doctors cutting off the wrong limb and removing the wrong organs comes to mind. Or perhaps contracting some mysterious illness from the plethora of bacteria that resides there.
Be still my mind and move my thoughts to happier days to come trusting in a God that loves me and waits patiently for me. May I not disappoint him no matter when we meet.