Dear Family and Friends,
A week ago at this time I was having my head opened up. Can you believe it? I’ve been home since Wednesday and it has been very nice. Apologies for not sending out an update sooner. I had good intentions, but just couldn’t get to it. I warn you that it is long. I’m sorry about that, but did not know how to shorten it. Please feel free to just read the parts you are interested in.
I’m sending this out like the other email updates, but I think I’m also going to post these on my blog so that if you know where the blog is you can go get other information.
I’ve written most of this note about a hundred times while resting. Now that I’m actually doing it I’ll probably forget 80% of what I wanted to say 🙂 Try to remember that in my mind I was incredibly eloquent and articulate. My goal is to update you on three things:
1. My perspective
2. Hospital Stories
3. Next Steps
Wow. I have life threatening brain cancer. Didn’t quite expect that. Maybe I should have tried to keep my job 🙂 How do you deal with it? Well, let me tell you and those who saw me shortly after I got out of surgery may be able to concur, at first I did not do well. The doctor actually told me how serious it was while I was still a bit out of it. However, I got enough of what he was saying that it put me into a bit of a tailspin emotionally. My heart was racing and my blood pressure was extremely high (for me) at 156/92. Fortunately with all of you praying God was able to restore a proper perspective. I have a very strong belief in God and have since becoming a Christian in 1979. You may not have known that, but I can assure it wasn’t because I was embarrassed about it or didn’t want my friends to join me. It was more because, right or wrong, I know how much of a turn off a pushy Christian can be. The fact that my actions or words may not have always been the best example of Christ is all my fault. Unfortunately that continues, even post surgery. I mention all this because it is why I’m so confident in what God can and hopefully will do to heal me. I appreciate kind thoughts, but I need supernatural power to restore my health and only Jesus has this power. One of the passages that I’m using as a foundation for my prayers and am asking you to use as a foundation for yours is Luke 18:1-8, which says:
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
So, keep praying. Justice doesn’t mean healing, I know that, but there is no reason to think he won’t. He definitely can. Let’s wear Him out with our asking. 🙂
I was created to bring glory to God with my life. I’m praying that through this ordeal I will be used to do just that. I am praying with you that He will be glorified by healing me on this side of heaven and allowing me to be a testimony of his incredible power. But you should know right now that if it doesn’t work out that way, I won’t be upset. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to check out and most days Eileen is good with me sticking around too 🙂 It’s just that God is good and that goodness, for me, has nothing to do with how I feel. I said this earlier, but it is really true. I’m living life at a level I never dreamed possible. I feel like Mel Gibson from Braveheart when he said, “All men die, but not all men truly live”.
Do I get scared? Except for initially, no. I know my doctors and possibly others will want to focus on the stats related to this illness. I’m not going to do that. I’m focusing on the one stat I care about. God is still in heaven and he still has all the power needed to heal me any time he wants. I could focus on my problem, but I’m choosing instead to focus on God and that makes my problem seem smaller. Not trying to bury my head in the sand, but it helps me keep my spirits up and that helps my wife and family too.
Another passage God has used to really encourage me is the one in Judges 7 about Gideon. If you’ve never read it you should. You may be familiar with Gideon and the fleece, but it’s the part after that which I’m hoping God is repeating in my life. I’ll just paraphrase for you. Gideon was asked to go fight the enemies of God and had about 32,000 troops. God thought that was too many so he told Gideon that anyone who was afraid could go home. 22,000 troops left leaving only 10,000! Then God said there were still too many. He wanted there to be no doubt how the battle was won and that it was by his power. So, he used how the men drank water from a pond to whittle the number down to an incredible 300. Now it would be clear and it was. Maybe God is doing that with me. “Let’s see, it isn’t enough that I give Bowen cancer. Let’s make it life-threatening. Let’s take away his job too.” 🙂 God has a sense of humor. I’ve witnessed it many times. We wants the glory and deserves it. I’m good with that.
I’ll tell you what I told my family last night (nightly family meetings have been just one of the many blessings we’ve already enjoyed). We’ve barely begun to deal with this issue. That isn’t a lack of faith speaking, I’m just being pragmatic. Happy to be wrong 🙂 Also, being positive right now is easy. I know that.
If you’ve dealt with anything like this in your lives you know what the support you’ve already offered to me has meant. I worry about how this is impacting you guys. I don’t know how you help a friend through something like this and don’t get dirty. Selfishly I want you to get dirty, but my deep love for you wants to keep you far from it. As with the rest, I have to just trust God. Do what you can and what you are comfortable with, but never feel bad if you need to step back or break away. It seems presumptuous of me to even say it, but it’s what I’m thinking and it’s my update 🙂
Answers to Previous Prayers
When I got home on Wednesday night my friend Todd asked if I had taken a peek at all the things I requested you pray before the surgery. Well, I finally did. Amazing.
– Complete healing – ok, we’re still waiting on this one
– That my doctor will be classified as in-network – Got a note from United Healthcare that though neither OSF or my doctor are in-network – They are going to classify them that way – amazing
– That my surgery would be 1/4 or 1/7 – I really wanted it to be on 1/7 – there are no coincidences
– That my headaches would go away before surgery – I don’t think they did before the surgery, but they have definitely been MUCH better since. In fact, I’m in very little pain and am using pain killers pretty judiciously
– That my confidence and trust would be in God and I would have no fear – other than the very short period after surgery this has been answered in a huge way and truly makes all the difference
– Strength and a sense of peace for the girls – totally answered – see part of my hospital stories below for more
– That we would get good at letting people help us – you may think this is a softball for God, but let me assure you it isn’t. Yet, he has answered and you guys have just blown us away. Thank you!
Here are the things for after surgery:
– Incredibly successful and smooth surgery and complete tumor removal – I don’t think it could have gone more smoothly and my neurosurgeon said the MRI afterwards showed they got everything they wanted to get
– That the tumor would be benign – ok, God just wants to show off his power 🙂
– Quick recovery and that I could go home in 3 days – I WENT HOME IN 2 DAYS! Can you believe it. Only God can do that
– Minimal pain – answered completely
I’m betting most of you have spent more time in the hospital than I have, but this was my first overnight stay. I’m a member of many great hotel frequent stay programs and love them, but I’m not signing up for this one. Not all of these stories are funny, but I’ll try to give you enough of the details so you can see that most did have a funny side to them. A couple are touching and never to be forgotten.
First ICU room
In my first room I had a roommate. An 87 year old woman who had a stroke and had fallen and hurt herself pretty badly. After recovering emotionally and getting acquainted with my nurse Lisa it was time to eat something. They had this pink ice cream like stuff that was excellent, especially given I wasn’t very hungry. Unfortunately when they gave me the steroid to keep swelling down I got nauseous. I could tell I was going to get sick and tried to carefully ask Lisa to bring me one of these very small throw up bags. Well, she got it to me just in time for me to use it as a reflection device. It covered me with the pink stuff. It wasn’t even bad the second time 😉
My 87 year old roommate’s husband came in at some point. Totally deaf. When Lisa tried to talk with him he yelled back his response. She got him calmed a bit, but then he started kissing his wife all over. Lisa said, “Look at you kissing your wife all over”. To which he replies at the top of his lungs, “YEAH, AND I’LL KISS YOU ALL OVER TOO IF YOU DON’T WATCH YOURSELF!” Even in pain I had to laugh.
I got drugs every two hours and was ready and waiting. I remember telling Lisa I couldn’t believe it was only 10pm. She said, ‘The nights around here are incredibly long’. Got my meds and went to sleep. When I woke up I thought it was 5am and was thrilled that I had slept 7 hours. She gave me more meds and I went back to sleep. Then I woke up at 2pm, or so I thought. My excitement at yet another 7 hour stretch (though I did wonder why no one had come to visit me) was dashed when she said, “It’s not 2pm, it’s 2am”. Long nights is such an understatement.
Sometime between 3-4am my roommate was woken and told that they needed to insert a catheter. Not a pretty thing to listen to. Have you got the right images or would you like more help? 🙂
Shortly after this I decided to try turning onto my left side. At first it felt wonderful. A bit later I unthinkingly decided to sleep like I usually do – right knee bent up and out. Unfortunately I forgot about the catheter – though not for long. OH MY GOSH!
Before Lisa left the next day she let me know what was going to happen that day. Much of Tuesday would be CT scan, MRI and disconnecting tubes. I had been asleep when they inserted both catheters. The thought of removing them was almost too much. I think I actually annoyed Lisa by constantly trying to align a batch of pain medicine with the removal of the front catheter. The CT scan, other than me being tired and it taking forever to get there and back, was pretty uneventful. Afterward I had a new nurse, Andrea, who was also very nice, though much younger and less experienced. It was funny to me to have my friend Mike come in that morning and be so helpful to her, including pointing out that my catheter bag was leaking. I did get Andrea to give me meds before removing the front catheter. I can be pretty persistent and often get what I want 🙂 The pain wasn’t as bad as I had thought.
<a name=lightning bolts”>I wasn’t worried about going off for my 4th MRI. I knew that 45 minutes would be long and uncomfortable, but I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. No matter how they positioned my head it really hurt. 45 minutes was seeming like forever. I had to go to the bathroom bad. After they packed my head in, the tech folded my hands on top of each other and we started. Immediately I felt like lightning bolts were shooting all over my midsection and arms. My head was killing me, but I had to start yelling for fear I was going to be killed 🙂 I’m not kidding. A minute or so later the tech says, “Are you ok”. “NO I’M NOT!!!!”. They come in and I ask if they got all the metal off my body. They assured me they had used a metal detector, but to be sure they pull my robe off. Now I know a little of how my wife and other women who have given birth feel. At some point people seeing you naked just doesn’t matter. I’m sure they’ve seen worse. I thought of my 87-year old roommate 😉 Anyway, they don’t find anything, but the tech casually mentions as she goes back to start the test – “don’t put your hands on top of each other” – ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!? These guys should have been in marketing. After a little more than half of forever the tech says, “Ok, almost done. Only 3 short tests left”. I prayed it was 1 minute each, but it was at least 15. Now I really have to use the bathroom. They wheel me out into the hallway. Of course I can’t see a thing. Silence. Finally I say, “Hey, anybody out there?” No answer. Finally I hear somebody and when I ask again a guy says, “Hey, dude, what’s up?” Longer story short, I get him to help me use the bathroom and move me to my new room.
Second ICU Room
It seemed like this was more of an “I see you” room than an “Intensive care unit” room. 🙂 I had a younger roommate, an older guy in his mid to late 70’s. I was dead tired, but his nephew wanted to relate every detail – and I mean every detail – of a two week trip vacation. Asking them to keep it down didn’t help. I felt bad later when I heard “Bud” say what a hard and lonely night it had been. Nights are long for every one.
When my kids finally got there it was so great to see them. They could only come 2 at a time, but I got to see each of them. Megan offered to read the bible to me, which was great. While she was reading, my surgeon came into the room. I let her read for a few minutes and he stood there patiently. I told him I was a Christian at our first meeting and found he was as well. However, he is a man of few words and is very direct. I finally acknowledged him and apologized for my initial reaction to both him and the radiologist and oncologist he sent to my room ( I dismissed them both pretty quickly). I told him that I understood the seriousness of what I had and knew we were fighting a very uphill battle. I just wanted him to know I was choosing to focus on God and his ability to heal rather than the worldly statistics. True to form he pointed to my bible then looked at me and Megan and said, “Get your armor on” (Ephesians 6:10-12) and walked out of the room. Exactly.
I was due to have my spinal catheter taken out and was every bit as worried about that as the other one. Does spinal tap conjure up pleasant thoughts for any one? The resident that had put candies on my head (see flickr pictures) for my stealth MRI came in and said he was going to remove the catheter and sew me up. First thought. Get my nurse. I need pain medication. Oh, I almost forgot. The fentanyl had stopped working that well for me. I talked them into giving me morphine, but that did nothing. Then I took a couple vicodin and still I couldn’t get the kind of relief I expected. I was worried that pulling out the catheter would put me over the edge. Megan had come back in while I was waiting for the resident to find my nurse. She may have read a bit more, but then asked if she should just pray for us. I can tell you that without question it is the single most memorable moment of my entire stay. She prayed the most mature, grown-up, godly prayer I have ever heard. I couldn’t have been more proud. I could tell that she understood and would be ok. I wondered where this faith had come from. I asked God, “When did you do this God?” I wept and I felt incredible joy. David the resident was ready.
He patiently described what he was going to do. Shoot me with lydacane (sp?), pull out the catheter, sew up the hole. Would it hurt. Well, the lydacane probably will, but only the first couple sticks. How about when you pull out the catheter? Shouldn’t be too bad. Immediately I’m thinking to myself, “Did you ever give MRIs?” 🙂 OK, time to stop being a wimp and get it over with. Just as he had said, the numbing shots were quite painful, but the removal and stitches were not that bad. Other than my two IVs just for meds I am now completely untethered. Praise God! 🙂 Just because you have brain surgery doesn’t mean you can’t still be a wimp.
Relieved, I try to rest, but I hear what sounds very much like someone urinating on my floor – my floor – like right near my bed. A few minutes later I hear Bud call the nurse. “What do you want, Bud?” “I need someone to come help me use the bathroom”. I’m almost laughing out loud as I think to myself, “You mean come help you clean up what you already did.” 🙂 Turns out that it was probably just the chair he was sitting on (not sure why he wasn’t in his bed) and the squeak it made. Still funny.
First private room, Third room
Around 5pm they finally decided to move me to another room. My friends Todd and Dan wheel me down past the “bridge”, which I guess is where people had waited the entire day before when I had my surgery. There were still many sitting in that area and when I was wheeled by it was pretty funny. Pretty soon my room was full. (It was a small room). I had wanted drugs to take away the pain all day, but now that I had friends all around me with my family my pain wasn’t near as bad. God is incredibly good.
I did need pain meds though and I was asking if I could mix my own 🙂 “Could I have fentanyl and vicodin?” “Sure” Nice. I was sure I would be sleepy soon, but comfortable as I was in my new private room I could tell I wasn’t going to fall asleep. If I could only take an ambien 🙂 I call the nurse and she is only too willing to help. I slept until my friend Mike came to see me in the morning. After I ate breakfast I decided to get up and walk around. I had walked the previous night, but only between my bed and the bathroom. It felt great. It’s less than 48 hours since I had my surgery and I’m walking. I got to talk with all the nurses and even many of them were amazed. Yes, God is amazing. My prayers and your prayers were answered.
This is way longer than even I wanted to make it, so I’m pitying you who are on the reading end, but this last section is important.
I was to have my stitches removed today, but that changed to Thursday. Both Eileen and I were pleased about that. Tomorrow I have my first meeting with my radiologist, or at least someone who wants to be my radiologist 🙂 I hear he is very good. I need the best I can get. A week from Friday I have my first meeting with the guy who wants to be my oncologist. Not sure why it is that far out. Maybe this will get changed. Maybe there has been a run on brain tumors here in Peoria 🙂
I will know more in a few days and I will send out another update, but much shorter, I promise.
I hate to be a broken record, but I need prayer. Many of you have probably seen that my daughter Megan set up a prayer vigil for me. If you want to sign up and can I would love that, but I understand that even a 5 minute commitment a day is a lot. I also know that you don’t have to sign up for something just to do it. As I said before surgery, it is always helpful for me to know what to pray, so let me tell you a few things you can pray now for me.
– Complete healing – that every cancerous cell would get beat up by the good cells and die permanently
– Rest – I slept well last night, but it is no guarantee and I need it to battle this properly
Restored sight – at first both me and my doctor thought my sight was no worse, and I think that was actually the case. However, since then it has gotten worse and I struggle to see a lot, especially on the computer, which is very frustrating. I may try to take a longer break from the computer, but if you know me, you know how hard that will be
– Emotional strength for me, Eileen and my daughters and continued absence of fear – like I said, this has barely begun. It is easy to be emotionally strong in the beginning. Pray that our strength would be in the Lord in not in ourselves. For some of you that may seem weird, but let me tell you from experience, it is quite different in significant ways.
Pain – that it would be very minimal
What else could you do? You could send me one or two things that I could pray for you. Yes, it would be very helpful for me. It will let me focus on something else and it will remind me that though my problems seem big to me there are other problems. The cool thing is that God has an unlimited multi-tasking capability and his answering prayer for you will in no way limit his ability to take care of me 🙂
I am actually out of energy to write any more.
I love and appreciate you all in ways you can’t possibly understand.
God bless each of you,