Update

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a month. That’s probably good, as my last two posts, as far as positive responses, were about the best I’ve ever written, apparently. Keep your eyes on Jesus and your mind on spiritual things, it works.

I have been very sick since the last two posts. As you may know, I’m being treated for lymphoma. I am supposed to receive six rounds of chemotherapy, five days each round, with a two-week break in between to recover. Each chemo round was scheduled exactly three weeks after the previous one.

Round Four

I got good news during round four, which started January 28. The radiologist who reads the PET scans said that the remnant of lymphoma that the cancer doctors thought they saw wasn’t lymphoma. It’s “reactive tissue.” I don’t know what that is, but I do know it means the PET scan found no cancer.

That was the good news. February 2 I went home from round four, and I felt remarkably well compared to previous rounds for two or three days. On February 5, I had my blood counts checked, and the next day the lab called to say my white blood cell count was zero. I needed to take “neutropenic precautions.”

I was surprised, as that hadn’t happened any other rounds. It wasn’t alarming, though, as neutropenia is always a possibility with chemo. Usually, we avoid it because the doctors give me medicine (“neulasta”) so that my blood counts recover quickly.

“Neutropenic” means that I’m low on neutrophils, the part of the immune system that fights bacteria. When a patient is neutropenic, he must wear a surgical mask every time he goes out, stay away from everything uncooked, even fruits and vegetables, and even keep fresh flowers out of the house.

Fever

On Saturday, Feb. 6 (I think) my temperature went up to 101, even though I felt pretty good. Doctor’s orders are, go to the emergency room for any fever over 100.3.

We went.

It took a week to find the right antibiotic to get my fever down. Maybe it was five days, maybe it was twelve. All I remember for sure was that they released me on a Thursday, then I was right back at the emergency room on a Saturday, throwing up and dizzy.

They told me I was dehydrated, gave me a liter of saline solution by IV and sent me home.

Funny story here. That Saturday night that I was dehydrated, the doctor came in my room. She was a very lovely lady in a sleeveless evening dress and pumps. She had a badge and stethoscope, and she clearly knew what she was doing, but no lab coat at all. I wondered if I was in a movie.

The nurse told me that doctor always comes to work dressed like that. After she left, the nurse said, “Of course, I might dress like that, too, if I had her figure.”

Round 5 Postponed

They sent me home, and the date I do remember is Feb. 25. I went back to Nashville, to Vanderbilt, to get round 5 of chemo.

I really didn’t feel much better than I had way back on Feb. 6 when I went in for the fever. Standing up made me somewhat breathless, and sometimes my arms would feel numb and tingly. It would carry into my shoulders, too.

Surprisingly, I could walk it off. I didn’t like it, as I felt short of breath for two or three minutes, but if I kept walking, I would feel pretty normal, even though it made me breathe like I had sprinted a hundred-yard dash.

When I got to Vanderbilt on Feb. 25, I was able to walk the length of the hospital and back, a good half mile, but I still felt out of breath whenever I stood up.

When I got to the doctor’s office, expecting to be admitted for chemo, the nurse walked in and said, “How are you doing?”

Out of sheer habit, I said, “Doing good. How about you?”

Meg, the nurse, stared at me like I was being a snot. Then I realized I’m supposed to be giving a real assessment.

I tried, but she gave a better one. “You look terrible. You don’t have the pep you always have when you come in. Worse, your counts have dropped back to zero. You’re neutropenic. What happened?”

Somehow, I felt like it was all my fault. I started pleading a case about how I was trying to walk every day, and I was making sure to drink more than a half gallon of fluid even though I wasn’t thirsty or hungry.

She stopped me to tell me they would figure out what was wrong. My dropping blood counts really puzzled them, and they felt terrible that I was feeling so bad. “I promise,” the doctor said when she came in, “We are going to help you feel better.”

Flu

They stuck me in the hospital, not for chemo, and within two days had diagnosed me with flu-A. They prescribed me Tamiflu and sent me home on Saturday, Feb. 28, to rest and recover. They told me they would give me round five of chemo when my counts recovered as long as I felt better.

Finally! Recovery!

Yesterday, two days after they sent me home, I felt (more) normal for the first time. Today, I felt so good I drove my kids to their corporate classes (part of a home-school co-op). Now I’m at Starbucks, actually typing on my blog!

My neutrophils had risen to 460 when they released me this last Saturday. At 500 I am not “neutropenic” anymore. Yesterday, a local lab checked my blood, and I am up over 800, and all my other blood counts rose as well.

It is so nice to have some energy after four weeks of breathlessness and fatigue.

The Immediate Future

I suspect that next week on Wednesday, when I should have been getting round six–that last round–I will go in for round five. Knowing that the last four weeks were the product of infection and flu, not just the rigors of chemo, has lessened my fear of the last two rounds. I am now looking forward to completing this course of treatment and putting lymphoma behind me … Lord willing.

I’m looking forward to sitting in the Doc’s office at Vanderbilt, smiling and with some pep in my step. Both the doc and her nurse seemed horrified at the beat-up, stooped-over, old guy that was sitting in their office on the 25th.

So that’s my February story, and that is why there have been no posts. When I have been able to get on my computer, which was only once or twice, I spent my time clearing my email box.

I will almost certainly avoid posting until I see what round five does to me. Again, I would assume that round five will start a week from today, on March 11. So you won’t hear from me the first half of March, either.

I did answer most of my web site and blog emails yesterday. I’ll try to answer the rest today. There are only four or five left.

Further Updates

I will try to give brief updates on Facebook. My Facebook account has some personal stuff on it because I do have friends and family, but it was primarily opened to talk about Jesus, his authority, and the Gospel. Unless your page is creepy or empty, I generally accept all friend requests because, again, the purpose of my FB page is the Gospel, not personal.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed over the last month. I was honestly wondering if I was going to die, and the effort needed to keep my eyes on Jesus and to pray was not small.

Sickness like that dumps a huge depression on the mind. Jesus can help us with that, but the temptation to just sink into complaints and self-pity is tremendous. I learned to just open my mouth and talk to my loving Father no matter how I felt or what I wanted to do.

I also learned to open my mouth and mention others, not myself. Nothing increases depression like focusing on one’s own problems. Perhaps all the misery of February was worth it just to learn how far I am from real selflessness.

I think my favorite passage in February was: “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” It was very comforting.

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10 Responses to Update

  1. Ben says:

    The main purpose of my comment was to inquire as to whether you’ve read any of the great number of Catholic apologetics books, including perhaps one of the ones I’ve listed. My assumption is that you have not. The way you speak of Catholicism leads me to believe that you have not sought-out thorough explanations of the Catholic faith, which makes it easier for you to disregard it. I’m not talking online articles, or comments made by Catholics, or experiences from your childhood. I’m talking about the REAL faith, explained well, in books. Please don’t dodge this. Face it head-on. I recommend Steve Ray’s “Crossing the Tiber” for starters.

    Regarding the Eucharist, I’m not even talking specifically about what Catholics believe today. I’m talking about what Christians have historically believed, in general, since the beginning… in a “what does this mean for us” sort of way. I don’t think that you’ve really examined the historical subject of the Eucharist (which reading Catholic books would have helped you do). I’m not talking specifically about consecration by a priest, or transubstantiation. All you need to see is that historically, Christians believed that during the Eucharist, bread and wine were changed into the body and blood of Christ. If your Eucharist does not involve this in some way, then how can you claim to be part of the historic faith? If you did not care about the early Church fathers, then I would not be bothering you with this question because many people don’t care about the historic faith (they can come up with anything through “sola scriptura”)… but I know that you do care because you acknowledge history.

    Catholics, in recognizing the historic “this is my body… do this…” aspect of the Eucharist, have a great historical case for their faith. So do the Eastern Orthodox. Perhaps even many Protestant churches can claim history to be on their side in this. What about you? Can you demonstrate that the early Church did NOT believe that the bread and wine of their Eucharistic meal changed into the body and blood of Christ? Or can you explain how your faith is historic without it? THAT is the question of the Eucharist that I think has been curiously avoided here. The early Church fathers that I’ve seen seem to make the question unavoidable.

    I bring up the Eucharist in a sense of “why have you not dealt with this?” because for Catholics, the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian faith” and so if you had really spent the time researching Catholicism (for instance by reading Catholic books) you would have had to face their constant claims that Catholics have the historic, early-Church, scriptural perspective of the Eucharist… while the “potluck perspective” is not historic, although it may be nice in its own way.

    “Protestantism is wrong” was a start that led me on a search for truth “outside the box”. God, by His grace, led me to the Catholic Church. But, if I had refused to read Catholic books to really get their perspective (along with the Eastern Orthodox books I was willing to read), I probably would have never really understood Catholicism, and therefore never would have accepted it.

    For me, the Eucharist is a test. It’s a big deal. I would get it figured out among your fellow believers sooner rather than later my friend. May God bless you, and I hope you are feeling better!

    -Ben

    By the way, I’m talking about the opposite of “tokens” here…

    “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” 1 Cor. 10:16,17

    Are you part of the body of Christ?

    • paulfpavao says:

      Thank you for your concern, Ben. I have not read those books you listed. I did read Becoming Orthodox by Peter Gilquist. I’m not going to read the books you listed. As for the bread and wine, we’ve been through all this before.

  2. paulfpavao says:

    Ironically enough, your trip to the RCC probably finalized, thoroughly, my decision to avoid that trip. After you became Catholic, I read some of the reasons for your decision over a few weeks, and I spent some time both on FB and in person with an Orthodox convert. I have to say, I was really looking more at Orthodoxy than Catholicism because there is no way I can accept what the catechism says about the pope with any intellectual honesty.

    The time spent with this friend, several weeks of meetings with an Orthodox priest and a friend of his who had converted as an adult, and reading a book and some blogs by a “halfway in” guy here in the states left me impressed with some of the things the Orthodox have preserved, but extremely disappointed with their emphases.

    Something important to me is, hmm, let’s call it voice and subject matter. What do you talk about? What do you emphasize? What is important to you?

    You can pick it up from friends, and you can also pick it up from the Scriptures and the early Christian writings. The “voice and subject matter” of the Catholics and Orthodox just aren’t the same as the early Chistians, neither in the apostolic writings nor afterward.

    Now before you go saying that the Protestants “voice and subject matter” is even worse, I fought that battle way back in the 80’s. They have wandered very far afield from early Christianity. I knew that just from the Scriptures without knowing I could access the early church fathers so easily.

    I suspect I spent most of 2014 looking carefully at Orthodoxy and looking for “that still, small voice” about what to do. I’m afraid there’s just no still, small voice urging me to return to any form of Catholicism.

    • Ben says:

      Paul,

      I’m curious,
      Have you ever read any of the following books to help ensure that your perspective of the Catholic Church is adequately informed?:

      “Surprised by Truth” by Patrick Madrid
      “Rome Sweet Home” by Scott Hahn
      “Crossing the Tiber” by Steve Ray
      “Upon This Rock” by Steve Ray
      “Europe and the Faith” by Hilaire Belloc
      “The Catholic Church and Conversion” by G.K. Chesterton
      “Four Witnesses: the Early Church in Her Own Words” by Rod Bennett
      “Theology and Sanity” by Frank Sheed
      “Radio Replies” by Leslie Rumble
      “Reasons to Believe” by Scott Hahn
      “The Protestant’s Dilemma” by Devin Rose
      “The Catholic Controversy: A Defense of the Faith” by St. Francis de Sales
      “The Fathers Know Best” by Jimmy Akin

      Surely you haven’t managed to avoid all of the good Catholic apologetics books in your honest search for Truth…? But I wonder if maybe you have. Of course there are many that I did not list here that you might be familiar with. Reading the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church would also give a complete-enough picture of the faith to make an informed decision, but these other books I’ve listed are much more concise if time is a concern.

      But my concern is in regard to your spiritual perspective, because no book can force someone to believe. I will continue to pray for you my friend.

      I considered just ending my comment there… as I had no desire to get into a discussion here. But there’s something that I think really should be said…

      Scripture, the early Church writings, the Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox all have a strong view of the Eucharist as a Sacrament. Setting aside the important question of doctrinal authority (a.k.a. “Who’s the pope… or is God fine with divisions and schisms?”), I cannot get past the deafening silence from this blog on the subject of the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ, especially considering it was a huge part of the “voice and subject matter” of all Christendom for the first 1,500 years of the faith (and to this day in the Catholic and EO churches). Seeing Scripture and history as I do now, I could not participate in a symbolic or potluck perspective of Communion with intellectual honesty.

      I hope you’ll forgive my somewhat cheeky delivery, but seriously, how can you purport to be discussing the “ancient faith” while consistently avoiding the ancient subject of the Eucharist? I just cannot assume from the evidence of your blog that you’ve given thorough consideration to the Catholic perspective.

      -Ben

      • paulfpavao says:

        Hmm. According to a blog search for “eucharist,” I wrote on the subject on January 5, actually primarily referencing a Roman Catholic Source. I also wrote on the subject from the “potluck perspective,” if that’s what you want to call it, on Thanksgiving Day 2014.

        So I deny the allegation that I avoid the subject of the Eucharist, having written on it twice in the last six months.

        Ironically enough, today is the first day I’ve really felt qualified to write anything on the Lord’s Supper. We had a terrific gathering and a great meal together afterward, and for the first time I believe we’ve found what we’ve been crying out to God for: a real fellowship meal, some insight into the Supper that Jesus commanded to be eaten to remember him.

        I won’t be writing on it tonight. I have other things to do, but I will get to it eventually.

        Don’t be mistaken, though. Thirty years ago I began really wrestling with the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone. It took me six years to find in the Letter to Diognetus the key that allowed me to understand the multitude of seemingly conflicting comments by the apostles and by their churches after them. During those six years, I could not tell you how faith and works were related, nor why Paul said we’re justified apart from works while James said we’re justified by works. I could tell you, however, that salvation by faith alone was not a true doctrine.

        I’ve been waiting for God–with the church here–for some sort of revelation and guidance on the Lord’s Supper that fits what the apostles and their churches said and that satisfied the hearts of those here who make up the pillar and support of the truth, the church. Don’t be mistaken, however. Though it has taken so long to be settled in one understanding, that does not mean we have not rejected others that we are convinced are wrong.

        Roman Catholicism has created a priesthood unknown to the apostles and to their early churches. They have taken the covenant meal of the church and turned it into a sacred wafer. They don’t even give the thimbleful of wine or grape juice that the Protestants do!

        I brought up the priesthood issue on this blog, and two or three Catholics jumped in to show that the RCC acknowledges the universal priesthood of believers, but nothing at all to justify the priesthood that has turned the covenant meal into a token. Tokens are nothing symbols of the real thing, the real Supper of the Lord. I would argue that the RCC “Eucharist,” despite their doctrine of transsubstantiation, is every bit as symbolic as the Protestant “communion.”

        As for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I believe the last time I was in a discussion in which that catechism came up, it was me quoting it to establish exactly what the RCC claims for the pope, which is apparently embarrassing enough that all my Catholic commenters were trying to ameliorate it.

        I can only think that you think that “Protestantism is wrong” means “Catholicism is correct.” That doesn’t work for me.

  3. Ben says:

    Dear Paul,

    I am glad to know that you’ve been hanging in there through your ordeal. You’ve been in my prayers. As your brother in Christ, I feel like I should step out and make what might be a last appeal for you to re-consider your stance on the Catholic Church. As a baptized and confirmed Catholic, you must surely feel drawn back to the Sacraments, even if the experiences of your youth left you unsatisfied with Catholicism and you’ve spent most of your life pursuing God on your own terms. It would take a sacrifice of humility perhaps even in the face of peer pressure, but I hope you might at least talk with a priest. Make things right. Confession, the Eucharist, and real anointing for your sickness are exactly what you need right now. God’s grace is waiting for you in the Sacraments.

    “The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.” -CCC 1445

    “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” -Eph. 1:17-23

    I know I could never convince you with my words, but I’m here to encourage you to listen to that still small voice, gently calling you home to the Catholic Church.

    Your concerned friend,
    Ben

  4. paulfpavao says:

    Thank you to all of you!

  5. Tara says:

    Thank you for letting us know how you’re doing. It’s good to hear you’re improving!

  6. Jim Needler says:

    Still remembering you in prayer…..

  7. Evan says:

    Hi Paul – I’m glad you’re feeling better and I hope that continues. I can’t imagine having the flu coupled with a compromised immune system. I’ve been praying for you as I suspected that your absence might be due to your physical health. Take care brother.

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