Lymphoma Update

I am going to copy this post to my Yippee! I Have Leukemia! blog. It is no longer up to date because I don’t have leukemia anymore. I’m cured. The immunosuppression that I endure to keep my transplanted immune system under control, however, has probably led to a new blood cancer: lymphoma.

We don’t know much about it yet except that it’s definitely aggressive.

Here’s the whirlwind story.

About 3 weeks ago, I went to the emergency with a blocked bowel. Lots of stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. If that happens to you, don’t wait. Go early. It took me about 16 hours to get from “Hmm, stomach-ache” to needing help to get to the car in my driveway.

The problem turned out to be a lymphoma tumor right at the connection of my large and small intestines (called the “secum,” I think). They found that at St. Francis hospital in Memphis by doing a colonoscopy and taking a biopsy.

Due to my history, leukemia and a bone-marrow transplant, the local hematologist-oncologist (blood cancer doctor) in Memphis consulted my hem-oncs at Vanderbilt. They agreed Vanderbilt would decide on the treatment, and my Memphis hem-onc would administer it.

Oops, the lymphoma turned out to be more advanced than suspected. It’s riddled my liver, and it may be in my tonsils, too. I don’t seem to have any swollen lymph glands, however. Treatment was now going to be 5-6 days of chemo in Nashville, followed by two weeks rest in Memphis, repeated 6 times.

I was supposed to get a day off yesterday (Tuesday), then several tests on Wednesday in preparation for chemotherapy starting on Monday, Dec. 1. Yay! I couldn’t eat Thanksgiving dinner due to the tumor in my intestine, but I could see family and celebrate.

Nope. I woke up Tuesday with lots of adbominal pain. It was an internal pain, which just isn’t like external pains. It’s not sharp or dull, just breathtaking. For the guys out there, imagine your testicles in a clamp with light pressure. It was that kind of pain on the right side of my abdomen, not terrible, but the thought of it getting worse was frightening.

Thanks be to God who surely moved me through the Holy Spirit to boldly walk into the cancer center without an appointment and beg to see Nurse Practitionar Megan. They let me see her!

A couple hours later, and I was in a hospital room. Apparently they thought it was urgent because I skipped past a couple people coming to the same floor I’m on. They’d been there for hours. I was in “Admitting” for five minutes, including the wait for transport.

Nice, but it does make one wonder what the rush is!

They want information as fast as possible, so they put me right on a regimen to clean me out for another colonoscopy and more biopsies on the mass. The colonoscopy happened about four hours ago.

In a frightening development, they took bone marrow this morning just an hour ofter drinking “GoLytely,” a laxative that makes one “go heavily.” The nurse told me she always chuckles at the name and tells patients not to be fooled by it.

Nonetheless I made it through the biopsy, taken from the top of the hip with my pants halfway pulled down, without spraying the nurse doing the biopsy. She’s already done several biopsies for me in the past, so an accident would have embarrassed me for the rest of my life.

So they’ll spend Thanksgiving deciding on the exact type and extent of my lymphoma, and the chemo starts on Friday.

Well, actually, the chemo started today. My wife is telling me that the doctor said the 100mg of Prednisone they gave me today would start shrinking that tumor. I think I get that dose for a week. That’s 14 times the dose I have been taking on a daily basis to prevent GVH (Graft-vs-Host) from the marrow transplant.

The doctor made a joke about it, saying, “I have good news. I’m giving you so much Prednisone that any GVH you’ve been having is going away. The bad news is that I’m giving you that much Prednisone.”

100mg of Prednisone qualifies as chemotherapy, not as a prescription drug. They’ll add one of two possible chemotherapy regimens to the Prednisone in Friday once the marrow biopsy and tumor biopsy have gone through the pathology lab.

“OUR” Reaction

I have readers that are Protestant, ex-Protestant, Catholic, ex-Catholic, and Orthodox. I have loners and standard church people reading this blog.

Nonetheless, I plead for one reaction among this “family” of readers.

Those who have given themselves to Jesus, bowing their knee to him as King, are his chosen. God takes over their lives, monitoring everything that comes their way, and moving them by the Holy Spirit to respond as they should. He leads, he guides, he disciplines, he protects.

He works all things together for good for people like us. We do not reject his word, we love and long for it. When trials come, even if they are leukemia and lymphoma, we consider it joy. We do a little dance, and we rejoice that we are being molded by God into someone patient. Patience works in a person, producing character and resulting in a maturing work that produces a completed saint, lacking nothing (Rom. 5:2-4; Jam. 1:2-4).

So I’m asking you, my readers, to pray for me to honor God by my obedience to his promises and by joy, which proves my belief in his words to us. You can pray for healing if you want. A miraculous healing would glorify God as well.

However, I’m not among those convinced that God always wants physical healing. Sometimes the healing of our characters and self-will is more important than the healing of our bodies. Pain and suffering are routes to eternal joy, opportunities to clear our souls of self so that the glory of God can be revealed through us.

Please, my dear readers and those who know me in person, join me in rejecting the cares of this world, casting those on Jesus, who cares for us, and praying for one another that our lives would glorify God in the midst of everything. Let’s be the overcomers, testifying to the world and to the devil himself that “though he slay us, yet will we praise him with joyful shouts and singing.”

One Last Note: Earth-Shaking Power

I was a charismatic once upon a time. We loved the idea of praising God and praying and having God shake the building we were in like he did with the primitive saints in Acts (4:31).

The problem was that as charismatics we were missing a key ingredient: suffering. We didn’t want suffering. We believed God didn’t want us to suffer.

In other words, we ignored a rather large percentage of the New Testament.

There is one key ingredient to earth-shaking praise and prayer. There needs to be people with stripes on their back, bleeding. That’s what happened in Acts 4, and that is what happened in Acts 16, when the praises of Paul and Silas, bleeding from a beating, were offered to God with singing.

Apparently the combination of suffering with unabashed, unhindered praise and prayer can cause earthquakes.

Let’s be those that are on that path.

Thank you, King Jesus, for letting us share in your sufferings and know you. Thank you for empowering us through prayer. Thank you for letting us reach further and deeper into you on the path of pain.

I count all things loss for the excellency of knowing King Jesus my Lord and being found in him not having my own righteousness … that I may know him, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. (Php. 3:8-11)

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13 Responses to Lymphoma Update

  1. Jim says:

    Brother, I will keep you in my prayers!

  2. Pingback: Last Minute Post #2: Please pray for Paul | Restless Pilgrim

  3. allisonrcv says:

    Praying for you. Thought you might like this –

    It’s my favorite, right now. I’m in nashville these days, so if you or yours need anything, call or text me. I work FT M-F but I’m off on weekends. And of course, evenings. I don’t know if it would happen – not sure how departments do or don’t overlap – but look for my friend Amanda Wilcox. She’s 30, recently diagnosed with late stage colon cancer first, then thyroid cancer. She’s getting treatment at Vanderbilt and lives nearby. She is also an inspiration, as is her fam.

    • paulfpavao says:

      There’s a possibility I could visit someone like your friend tomorrow. Starting Friday, it is out of the question. Probably, she is in the same boat if she is being treated already. You’re always welcome, and I am almost certain I will be here over the weekend. Maybe you can liaison between the two of us.

      • allisonrcv says:

        can you let me know where to go, to see you? I’ve been to Vandy recently but it’s big. 😉 And when might be a good time. You can txt if you want. If I can bring you anything, plz dont be shy about asking.

        • paulfpavao says:

          Critical Care tower, in between main hospital and cancer center on floor 10T3, rm 21. 1211 Medical Center garage. Use East garage and ask anyone for critical care tower.

  4. David Noah says:

    You remain my hero. Your faith is as always inspiring … and I will always love you. All we Kenyans will labor in prayer for you praising the One who will always lead you beside the still waters, make you lie down in green pastures and prepare you a (Thanksgiving) meal in the presence of all your enemies. Surely goodness and mercy will follow you as will all your friends. Much love … your other dad in Kenya

    • paulfpavao says:

      One of the reasons I don’t worry is because between the RCV prayer workers, the prayers from Kenya, I’m already overcovered, and then over a hundred others have told me they’re praying. If the devil is after me, he’s fighting his way up an avalanche. Many of those prayers are the product of your work. Thank you.

  5. Tara says:

    For you and your family, but also selfishly for me, I will be praying for complete healing for you. I keep trying to figure out what to say, but nothing sounds quite right. I am not very eloquent. So I guess I’ll just say thank you for everything that you do. It really has a huge impact on some of us out here who have never even met you. I truly hope that you will be healed again and able to continue your work.

  6. Ruth says:

    Ok Paul I will thank god that he is giving you an opportunity to let Him display his glory. I will pray His Holy Spirit will lift you up in His power and give you his own strength so that you can rest in Him alone.

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