Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Doctor Visits

Most of us men do not enjoy going to the doctor - and we put it off as long as possible. With my ongoing asthma issues, I have learned that this is not a good plan. However, I often still drag my feet when it comes to other health issues. Fortunately, we have found a good clinic in Kiev, Ukraine that even works with our insurance company. Not living in Kiev means that it is easier to put off that visit. For several different reasons, I have been to the clinic more times than I care to recount in the last 5 months.

One of those reasons is why I am writing this post. The latest news from the doctor is that I likely have a form of Parkinson's Disease. Right now we have more questions than answers. It is a degenerative disease with no known cure. We know that age 52 is pretty young for such a diagnosis. The doctor is confident that we can manage symptoms with medication. And we KNOW that we serve a good God. He is not surprised by this news and is not scrambling to come up with a plan. He has always had a plan. And His plans are for good and not for evil, to bring a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

When I preach out of Luke 17 about the 10 lepers who were healed, I share how my Mother raised me to be thankful, like the one lone leper who returned to thank Jesus for His healing. I am thankful, that I learned to be thankful at a young age - and have decided that it is best to do what the Bible says, "in everything give thanks." Not "for" everything, but "in" everything. Big difference.

Serving as a missionary in Ukraine, we recognize that God is using us to deliver people out of their bondage to sin. This means that we are on the front line of the spiritual battle - and is why we (and other missionaries you know) desperately NEED your prayers on our behalf!! We are sharing this because we want you to know how to pray for us! We are not looking for sympathy. We have not lost any sleep or shed any tears over this diagnosis, nor do we plan to at this point. There are worse diseases than PD. And NOTHING has changed - our plans, our hopes, our dreams, our relationship with God, or our calling. We will continue SERVING as missionaries in Ukraine.

I am thankful that I have been able to lose weight since we returned to Ukraine. As I look back, at the end of July 2014, my weight was 254 pounds (about 115 kilograms). My last weight was just under 190 pounds (about 86 kilograms). I am grateful that I am healthier and stronger than I was two and a half years ago.

I thank God that my issues with asthma this year have been minimal, though I have had a lot of other allergy related issues, that one has been pretty quiet. Early spring was the last time I treated myself for my asthma problems (though I use medicines every day to keep them under control, they have not always worked). That is nothing short of a miracle to me. I remember when we were stateside and it was every 6-8 weeks that I was treating my asthma issues. My hope is that this continues for a long time to come!

Let me back up and share some of my medical experiences this year...

Bleeding Ulcer
In early July, I had distinct signs of blood in my stool. Because my Grandpa Reed died of colon cancer, I did not want to take any chances. And everything I read online said "go see your doctor immediately." So I made my first trip to Kiev to the doctor. They did an upper GI and colonoscopy at the same time (so I only had to flush my system once) and put me under for the procedure (that is the ONLY way to have do that!). The good news was that I had no polyps in my colon, just a bleeding ulcer. I had already lost a lot of blood. After my prep for two procedures, I had no more issues with the ulcer, but we treated it for a month anyway, just in case.

I thank God that I did not have colon cancer or some other serious condition. No more follow-ups needed on this problem.

While I was there about my ulcer, the doctor did a pretty complete workup on me. Found that my prostate was enlarged, so ran a PSA. Given that my Dad had prostate cancer (and God healed him when he was dying in early part of 2011), I need to watch that closely. Well, the test result came back at over 17 (normal is close to 0). Again, I am young for that kind of result. They suggested doing a biopsy to check for cancer. Denise and I decided to not share that with anyone else, but just to pray and trust God until we knew for sure. I was blessed that a Ukrainian friend traveled to Kiev with me when I was going through this. After the results returned from the biopsy - there was no cancer. For that we were grateful, but not surprised. God had given us a great peace.

I thank God for His peace! And I am thankful that I did not have prostate cancer. The plan moving forward is to check my PSA every 6 months to watch for any changes.

Related to my allergies and asthma, I have had problems with plugged ears off and on for more than 8 years. Doctors said it was a hearing problem, and I never agreed. After I had my last sinus surgery a few years ago, I had very little problem with that. But in the last year, one or both ears have been partially or mostly plugged more than half the time. I saw an ENT in Kiev this fall, but he was not much help either. A fellow missionary, who also suffers with plugged ears, had me try something that worked for her. It actually helped me as well and, although it was temporary, at least it was something. After having both ears plugged again for more than two weeks, I was back at the clinic to see my family doctor before Thanksgiving. He suggested seeing the other ENT.

This ENT doctor said what I have been trying to say all along - there was fluid inside my ear affecting the ear drum and preventing it from responding properly (it was not responding at all). He ran two hearing tests. One was the "standard" one, with the beeps sounding through the ear. Of course, that showed hearing loss. The other one, where the beeps were transmitted through the bone, showed almost perfect hearing. His next words thrilled me to the core. He said, "You need tubes in your ears." I was ecstatic! A couple of days later, we did the procedure. While I did not have enough lidocaine (local anesthetic) and the procedure was very painful, I was glad when it was done. My left ear immediately started hearing normally again. The right ear continues to drain off and on, but I can hear better because it is not staying clogged up behind the drum. It is taking time to adjusting to hearing "normally" again - and not hearing myself so loudly inside my head.

I thank God that I have tubes in my ears and my hearing is returning to normal. I plan to see the ENT again in January so he can check how he thinks it is going. I also had a CT scan of my sinuses to determine what they look like. This may or may not indicate a need for sinus surgery again. Only God knows for sure.

When I was at the clinic in November, my family doctor thought he heard a heart murmur. We did an EKG, and he suggested that I visit a cardiologist. When I did, he did not hear a murmur, but instead we talked about my elevated blood pressure. (Where did that come from? Have not had trouble with that since I was in my very early 30's) Anyway, he wanted to try to eliminate a couple of possible causes by running some other tests. When those all came back negative, he decided to start me on some blood pressure medication. He also recommended that I exercise more (even though I exercise some, it is not aerobic enough) and include more vegetables in my diet. If cookies were a vegetable, I would have no trouble with that, but they are not, so I am trying to eat more vegetables. (However, I am a lot like Thumper from Bambi!)

I thank God that I have nothing more serious than high blood pressure, which can be easily treated with medication. I will continue monitoring my BP to make sure that it is being managed well.

Parkinson's Disease
In November, I also mentioned to my doctor that I was having some hand tremors. I had noticed them off and on for quite a while, but lately they were getting worse and I found myself trying to "hide" them. My family had not noticed, until recently, when I was trying to do something with a camera. The doctor suggested seeing a neurologist. When I saw him, he asked a lot of questions, had me do a few things, and suggested that we do an MRI of my brain. (Mind you, he was not looking to verify if I have a brain, just to see if there were any problems with it) We did the MRI last week and the results showed that, while there were no brain tumors (great news), the MRI showed signs of neuro-degeneration in the areas responsible for my tremor (not so great news).

I have just started taking some medication to help treat these symptoms. When I see him in January, I will have a list of questions, which hopefully will mostly be answered.

Bottom line, I thank God that I do not have a brain tumor that requires surgery. As long as we are alive, we have hope (at least that is what my young Ukrainian friends tell me that I have taught them). And I know that God still can and does heal. While the doctors help me treat the disease, we will trust God for healing! Everything in His time and His way! More to come on this, I am sure.

My Mom shared this poem with me a long time ago, and the words give voice to the thoughts in my heart. It is called “The Future” and was written by Cora Baker Hall.
There's an unknown path before me
And yet I fear it not;
I know through all the years gone by,
Whate'er has been my lot,
That a kind and Heavenly Father
Planned out the way for me
And I know that in the future,
Watched over, I shall be.
Yes, I know God's care and kindness
Will ever with me stay
To assist me on life's journey,
and brighten up my way
So then Welcome! Unknown future,
Bring me whate'er you will ---
With God's loving hand to guide me,
I shall be cared for still!

Thanks for joining with us in praying and believing God for my healing! We serve a great God who is worthy of all adoration and praise! And nothing is too difficult for our God! (Jeremiah 32:17)