Hope, In the Midst of Pain

Posted in hope, Illness, Personal on July 30th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

It’s been a difficult summer at our house.  I really haven’t written about it, but I’ll share a few things now.

Eloise, my sweet wife of 42 1/2 years, hurt her knee in late spring (from playing with the grandchildren of course).  It was so painful for a few weeks that she could barely walk, and actually it hurt too much to drive.  Difficult stuff for a very independent woman!  It certainly changed her day to day life, and naturally mine too.

She had begun experiencing wrist and arm pain even before she hurt her knee.  Because she works on the computer so much, we naturally assumed it was carpel tunnel.  But not working on the computer brought no relief.

Her first stop was her internist.  He wasn’t quite sure what the knee injury was, but he recognized the wrists and hands as Rheumatoid Arthritis, and recommended she see both an othorpedist and a rheumatologist.

While waiting to get in to see the orthopedic guy, the knee began to improve.  He diagnosed it as a torn meniscus and prescribed exercise.

While waiting to get in to see the rheumatologist (8 week wait — underserved specialty you know), the pain from the arthritis continued to get worse, and began showing up in more joints.  Almost you name the joint, it was painful.

Eloise is a professor of education, and thankfully had the first part of the summer off.  She had regained her ability to walk and drive by the beginning of July when she began teaching two graduate classes.  While it’s been quite painful, she has taught like a trooper.

Yesterday was a big day.  We got to go see the rheumatologist, praying that she would offer us hope of relief and improvement.  And thankfully, she did exactly that.

From across the room, she told us that there was no doubt that Eloise had rheumatoid arthritis.  Her physical exam revealed that it is affecting most joints — not a surprise to us.  But it was great to receive a definitive diagnosis, to know that treatment could begin, that relief was on its way.

The most encouraging thing to hear was the doctor saying, “My goal is to help you get back to 100%, and I have every confidence that we’ll be able to do just that.”  She talked to us about treatment plans, what the starting point would be, and how we could expect things to progress.  The plan included some things that would help in the short term while the meds that will control the RA begin to work.

Eloise asked for and received a handicapped tag.  Those of you who have watched her trying to get around have no questions about her need for one.  But the doctor told her that it would only be a temporary tag because she was going to get better and not need it.

Hope.  It’s a huge thing.  Eloise doesn’t feel better today physically, but she certainly does emotionally because of hope.  We’re thankful beyond words.

Perspective Is a Big Deal When Dealing With Fear

Posted in cancer, Caregiving, Illness, Self Care on July 20th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

Perspective is a big deal, no matter what we’re dealing with in our lives.

Tweet About WSJ Article

Tweet About WSJ Article

For example, we can have cancer, and our perspective may be, “I’m dying of cancer.”

Or, we can choose to have a different perspective:  “I’m living with cancer until I pass.”

This example is from an article in today’s Wall Street Journal discussing a program for helping cancer patients deal with their illness.  While it’s dealing with cancer patients being able to find meaning for their lives in the face of their illness, it has a lot of value for those of us facing other challenges.  I highly recommend that you read it.

With cancer, nearly everyone’s biggest fear is dying.  But it’s usually unspoken, unsurfaced even.  Once it’s surfaced, the fear can be dealt with.  One can choose to adopt a perspective that gives life meaning and purpose, that takes control away from the fear.

But this principle is much more widely applicable.

Any chronic illness — heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and any of so many others — generates fears.  What if I have another heart attack?  What if I have to live in a wheel chair?  What if I …?

Your fear may not be from a medical condition, but from a situational condition.  What if I lose my lose the ability to live at the standard of living I’ve become used to?  What if I lose my job?  What if I …?

So what fears are you, or those you love, living with that haven’t been dealt with?

How could you, or could they, benefit from a change of perspective?

Worth some thought!

Tomorrow’s an Early Morning

Posted in cancer, hospital visits, Illness, Personal on June 16th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

Tomorrow’s going to be an early morning.  I’m supposed to have Dad at the hospital by 6:00 a.m. for his procedure.

I’ve never been a fan of early mornings.  Even for fishing, although that’s about the best reason I can think of for getting up early.  Eloise and I enjoy late evenings and slow starts to the morning.

Tomorrow morning’s difficult for another reason.  Dad’s procedure is to remove a tumor from his bladder.  The doctor seems confident it’s cancer.

Fortunately, the procedure itself is quick, although performed under anesthesia.  It only takes about 30 minutes to perform, and then after a couple of hours to let the anesthesia effects dissipate, he will be able to go back to his apartment.

We’ll appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we take this step which will help us learn what’s next.

“An Individual Could Hear Me Crying”

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Illness, Suffering on May 30th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

I received this the other day from my friend Allen Thyssen.  Normally I wouldn’t just cut and paste, but this article is so good I want you to get to read it, and it’s not possible for me to just link to it.  I’ve done a little editing to make sure the folks involved can’t be identified.

The following posting was made by the daughter of a cancer patient who is currently in ICU.  It is a touching testimony to the value of a ‘ministry of presence.’  Please pass it on as you see fit. (Allen)

Update…well we are about the same.  We are just waiting to see if the liver will decide to get to work.  As we sit here with broken hearts we see just how merciful God is.  Even with all of this going on we received a good word from an unsuspecting source.  We were going through a difficult time and I guess this individual could hear me crying.  He comes up and says “I know I am a total stranger but I just wanted you to know I am here for you”.  Then his first question was “does your father know the Lord?”  We then began talking and he said “if we spent as much time praying for lost people as we did to keep the saved here with us…what a different world it would be”.  This fact has been evidenced by dad and his life.  If you remember, just a few days ago dad was witnessing to his nurse.

We then learned his grand-daughter has been fighting cancer,  and in the last 7 years she has had 11 surgeries.

While his grand-daughter is in ICU facing additional surgeries he took the time to reach out and comfort me.   I want to take the time to thank this man.  I don’t even know his name but God sent him to comfort me at just the right time.

Final Words Are Words to Live By

Posted in Illness, Suffering on May 28th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

Deathbed confessions carry more weight in law than normal confessions.

That’s because we believe that a dying person has nothing to gain by telling a lie, and everything to gain by telling the truth.

The same logic also makes us pay special attention to words spoken to us from a dying person.

Lots of people became acquainted with Debutaunt (Deborah Greer-Costello) during her battle with cancer through the internet.  She blogged extensively about life and her illness.  Through her suffering, she attracted legions of followers, many becoming true friends who never met face-to-face in this life.  Deb often requested prayer, and her requests were quickly relayed through Twitter.

Here’s a handwritten note relaying one of those requests on Flickr.

Deb passed from this life on May 18, 2009.  But she had her final say — posted today by her sister Steph on her blog.  She knew she was dying, and she had a lot to say.

Give yourself a blessing today, and read Deb’s final post.