Grace Upon Grace

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I have never been a very strong writer… so bear with me here. I will start with some emotions/words that have come to mind over the past month which I have felt sink into my heart. God’s provision, blessing, watchfulness, love, care, grace, steadfastness, mercy, and the body of Christ surrounding my family so closely are some that come to my mind and heart. We are so so thankful for such a great tribe of family, friends, work community(Kent ISD and Chaco/WWW), and neighbors pulling for us with physical, emotional, and prayerful support through this time. We have meals coming regularly, daycare for our daughter, even family mowing our lawn!
As for updates on where I am at physically and emotionally, there are many details below -maybe too many- but if you are interested then please read along.
On July 14th, soon after going to sleep I had a generalized (full body) seizure. My wife Bri noticed something wasn’t right and if she hadn’t had a minor obsession with Grey’s Anatomy she may not have had the knowledge of how to save my life that night. Because of God’s grace, Bri was able to contact 911, which had emergency services to our house in less than 10 minutes.
I woke up confused in the ambulance sometime around 2 a.m. and remember most everything past that. I was asked repeatedly my name, birth date and the current president, to which I answered “George Washington” 3 times. Eventually they told me it was someone you’d never expect, to which I said Donald Trump in less than a second I think!
The first thing I remember after getting to the E.R. was being rolled in and wired up to check if I had a stroke or a heart attack. Once I passed those tests, they brought me into a room for a CAT scan, which is where they noticed I had a brain tumor in my right frontal lobe.
I was then admitted to a room where my Neuro-P.A. showed Bri and I the imaging showing a golf-ball sized brain tumor in my head. This was a lot to process, but there was also good news to go along with it.
Our P.A. was very personable and optimistic for me, and introduced us to my neurosurgeon named Paul Mazaris. He looked like he didn’t just graduate med school, but also like he wasn’t going to retire in a year or two and was very kind. He was also humble in saying that he wasn’t sure what caused this tumor, if it originated somewhere else in my body, or what the outcome of surgery might be. I think it takes humility to not make your best guess to try and sound impressive or “sell yourself” as the best surgeon in the area. After all, I did still have the option to research another neuro-surgeon in the area or country should I feel inclined.
From this point I had 4 MRI scans done to give the doctors/surgeon the most accurate information on my tumor and its location in my head. They realized it was very close to the motor skills area which physically controls the left side of my body. Because of this, my surgeon had to be very diligent and cautious, but did well keeping my family updated in the waiting room. I literally cannot say enough good things about every level of care Bri and I have received here at Spectrum Butterworth.
The next steps were very difficult for Bri and I to hear. We were told I have Cancer, will need to be aggressive with radiation and Chemotherapy, and i will be on high dosages of medication for some time. Research shows that this gives me the longest amount of time before the cancer grows back. I also have epilepsy brought on from surgery which means i will be taking medication for 6 months up to the rest of my life, depending on how my brain responds to each drug.
Since surgery I have felt GREAT physically, pretty good emotionally(every day is different) and very thankful that my strength/feeling/etc.are equal on both my left and right side of my body. I don’t deserve any of these favors from the Lord but I know that He had this plan for my life since I was created in the womb. I know He has chosen me as a vessel or platform to shout God’s glory through this storm. One of the most difficult parts is watching my wife Bri have to take care of me like a nurse (which she is happy to do), but I thought maybe this would happen 50 years from now, not this soon.
I guess it is a good thing, because it is softening my heart and teaching me so much about God, friendship, my marriage, the complexities of the brain and a new appreciation for modern medicine. I keep telling Bri that tomorrow was never a given and I could have died in a car crash last night or next week. The best thing to do is keep hope, spread joy, enjoy life and love well.
Love you all,

Ryan

Sitting in the Mud.

They say it comes in waves. It crashes into you, and you come up sputtering and gasping for air as the next wave bowls you over again. It is relentless and it is hard to breathe. I find myself calling out to the Lord. Why is this happening? Why us? Lord save me from this storm. This is the hardest journey I have ever had to walk, and frankly it sucks.

But it’s been beautiful too. Feeling the body come around us is incredibly humbling. Learning to accept help and set aside my pride. Seeing the way that God is already using this to grow our capacity to know Him and each other, seeing that He is already furthering His kingdom.

And then it’s hard again. I am crying, screaming, and begging God to choose someone else. And I feel my husbands arms encircle me, and his gentle voice telling me that it’s going to be okay. That I am going to be okay. He tells me that we are “sitting in the mud” of our grief and sorrow. And it’s exactly where we need to be because Jesus meets us here.

He sits with us as we mourn the loss of our ignorance. As we come to terms with our mortality. He is sitting with us as we envision our future now filled with appointments and treatments; so different from the dreams we were making on our anniversary just days before this all began. Jesus is mourning with us, because this is not what He wanted for us; this is not what he intended for His children.

So we sit in the mud, tear-stained and broken but in the arms of our Savior.

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We. Are. Home. (Again).

We are home!! By the grace of God, we were discharged today and sent home to heal and recover in our own space. Miracle of all miracles is that Ryan only had 1 sub-clinical (under the hood) seizure overnight (compared to 1 every hour the previous nights) and this is what pushed us over the threshhold they held to send us home!

We are overjoyed to be in our own space, to get a full night’s sleep without being woken up every 3 hours and to be able to heal together. For me at least, the most difficult thing about the hospital was not being able to snuggle and hold each other in our suffering. There is something about a spouse’s embrace that fixes every hurt.

I am confident that we will heal more quickly when we have the comforts of home, our daughter and our dogs by our sides. We praise Jesus for this small (huge) victory today!

Where we’re at.

First, we want to say thank you to everyone who has been walking beside us since this crazy journey began 2 weeks ago. We cannot say thank you enough for all of the prayers, love and light that we have been showered in. We are continuously wrapped in the comfort of the Lord, so we can feel all of the prayers you’re sending up on our behalf. We want to thank you for your patience as we continue to learn more. As we continue to process. And as we continue to move towards acceptance.

Along with saying thank you, we also want to update you.

We were sent home last Thursday, just 2 days after surgery. And we landed right back on our beloved 4 South (Neuroscience floor at Butterworth) on Sunday afternoon; and continue to wait patiently to return home. Ryan has been having seizures since Sunday. Thankfully they are small, and modern medicine is AMAZING and is helping to control them but we are in a waiting game as they dial in the exact concoction to get his brain waves back to normal.

Since we’ve been here we have met with the Neuro-oncology team who looked at the pathology of the tumor. They told us that Ryan’s tumor is what they call a Grade II Glioma. Specifically a Diffuse Astrocytoma. This means cancer. Which is a really hard word to hear. But there is some light in the darkness. Grade II is best case. And some testing revealed that Ryan is IDH Mutant (I cannot tell you what this means specifically) but research has shown that those with this mutation respond better to treatment. So we keep the faith and have hope for the future.

We daily experience a rollercoaster of emotions as we slowly come to terms with this diagnosis. But we take comfort in the knowledge that we serve a Big God, and that He has known about this since the beginning. We take comfort in the amazing team who is fighting for us. and we take comfort in our weakness; that in our weakness He is strong. While we grieve at this diagnosis we find hope and joy knowing that our life has new purpose, that God has a plan and that He has chosen us as His vessels.

We haven’t had a formal sit-down with our Oncology team yet, but the outline that they presented us with is intense. We are wanting to be aggressive up front with treatment in order to give Ryan the most time before the tumor grows back. Because it will grow back. So after he recovers from surgery (4 weeks) we are planning to do a 6 week course of treatment that includes chemo and radiation. Which would be followed by a 4 week break. After that we will be doing another 6 months of chemo.

We take it day by day, and know that our God is here. That He suffers with us. We are in the valley right now, but the Lord is here, beauty is here.

Even here, grace abounds and life can still be beautiful. — Morgan Harper Nichols

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