Thursday, February 10, 2005

My Lenten Journey

Lent began yesterday. I've done lots of different things for Lent in my life. When I was a kid, I usually gave up dessert & sweets. In college one year I gave up alcohol. For several recent lents I've given up caffeine. One year, our bedroom ceiling collapsed on Ash Wednesday, and Judy and I were obliged to give up our bedroom until it was repaired just before Easter. That was an interesting Lent.

This year I'm giving up my esophagus.

Judy and I met with Dr. Parker today to get the lowdown on how it is going to go. We'd been hoping for two things: 1. that I'd get the less intrusive "blunt removal" (sort of like laproscopic surgery) rather than the full thoracic surgery with the deflated lung and cracked rib cage, and 2. that he'd be able to pull my stomach up to the remainder of my esophagus, rather than inserting a piece of colon.

Dr. Parker is very good at making one feel better about disappointing news.

On the first point, it turns out that because of problem I had in November with the mass pressing on my trachea, blunt removal is, as the medical people say, "contraindicated." Evidently, the trachea is pretty fragile at the point where it abuts the esophagus, and if there's any chance of them sticking together, it is necessary to be able to see everything with the naked eye.

As talking is a huge part of my vocation, and singing is a big part of my avocation, I've gotta prefer the method that poses the least risk to my trachea.

Plus, I've grown rather attached to breathing.

On the second point, it looks like it might, probably, possibly, not be necessary to splice in a piece of colon, though we are assured this works fine if it is necessary.

Best case scenario is one week in the hospital after surgery. Most common case is 10-12 days. Of course, if there are any complications - who knows. I'll come out of surgery with a tube in my nose, drainage tubes in my chest, and a feeding tube in my small intestine. 50% chance of being on a respirator.

While I'm disappointed, I'm not as upset as I expected to be. I'm glad to have a good surgeon who has a variety of tools at his exposure, and can choose the right one based on my needs, rather than his preferences. Also, knowing is always better than wondering.

So in the old Catholic tradition, I'll "offer it up" for Lent, and give thanks for the miracle of medical science.

I might also try a drop of whiskey at the pub tonight.


Blogger vkenny said...

Hi Jimmy, Boy has this been a roller coaster ride. We will be praying for you, Judy and your surgeon that he may be blessed with the healing power of God. Keep fighting the good fight!

4:06 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Jim, I thought I'd be very disappointed at the elimination of the laproscopic option, but I'm surprisingly not. Dr. Parker's approach of doing what gives us the best chance seems to trump it for me. I like the idea of laying an eye on that puppy and the added flexibility I would imagine available from that approach.

Also even after three aggressive rounds of treatment; you're in pretty good shape. I think your recovery will be swift.

We got a plan; lets work it hard!

4:15 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...


Surgeons who chose tools based on the patient, not the surgeon, are those surgeons who are truly gifted with a high standard of care. Dr. Parker is very highly regarded for his high standards. I think that this is a good plan, and hopefully your recovery will be speedy. John and I are available to help out any way we can!

7:04 PM  
Blogger marian said...

Wow, that sounds like a really intimidating sort of thing to face. I'm so happy for you, though. Just everything - how you've handled this whole process, that the cancer is gone, that you refuse to let this impede on your joy for life - is just wonderful. You and Judy are amazing people, just for being yourselves.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Tom Wolf said...

Jeez. I don’t get to your blogspot for a couple of days, and all hell breaks loose. That bit with the catheter barging into your heart was a doozy. And how calmly you watched them perform that emergency procedure! Very mindful you are; good zen jedi would you make. We are still praying for you every day (even the days when I don’t read your blog).

Here's a Lenten message from Thomas Merton, in "Seasons of Celebration":

"The purpose of Lent is not only expiation, to satisfy the divine justice, but above all a preparation to rejoice in God's love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of God's mercy - a gift which we receive in so far as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy.

"Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear. Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as an inexorable judge, we would not confidently await God's mercy, or approach God trustfully in prayer. Our peace, our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace."

As we say at Quaker Meeting, this Friend speaks my mind. Let go of fear, to make room for mercy and love. A tough challenge, but, as my Mom used to tell me when I was little, “there’s no point in giving up peas for Lent.”

In the Quaker tradition, I would prefer the term "Divine Spirit" to "God," because the latter has taken on too much baggage, become too concrete, too defined by the culture. That's one reason Jews don't pronounce the Holy Name, the Tetragrammaton (transliterated YHWH) translated "Jehovah" in the King James Bible, but instead say "Hashem," meaning "the Name." The miracle, mystery and majesty of the Divine Spirit cannot be encompassed, and to put “a” name on it runs the risk of leading us to think that it can be contained in words or thoughts. But while it cannot be contained, it can be reflected; and you and your family do a beautiful job of reflecting it.

Bless you, Jim Guy. And, from Dale, “you’re awesome!”

Love, Tom

11:07 AM  
Blogger UisceBaGirl said...

It was daunting for me to contemplate minor surgery, just a couple of times during my life. I can't imagine facing the challenge you have ahead in the next week. I imagine you'll get through it one moment at a time, one step at a time, relying on the prayers and support of your friends. I'll be thinking of you and your family this week, and praying with everyone next week. It was wonderful to see you play again with UB last week!

10:57 PM  
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5:08 AM  

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