Monday, December 09, 2013

What we did for Thanksgiving...

I have so neglected this blog...but life has been busy.

This post is not just about Thanksgiving but an update on my dad.  This time last year, my dad was very sick.  In fact he was so ill we thought we would not have him with us much longer.

Thankfully, shortly after Christmas, he agreed to go to the Cleveland Clinic to see if there was anything that could be done above what his local doctors were already doing.  It didn't take long to realize that the care was worlds apart. 
(And this is where I deviate from the story to jump on my soapbox to tell you that if you have a life-threatening illness, go to the best doctors you can.  We are blessed to live within driving distance to Boston doctors and I can tell you that the cutting edge things they do there are not available at other hospitals.  There is a night and day difference!!!  So do your research and find out who is rated highly for the illness that you have.)

Back to the story...

The doctors in Cleveland put him on a new drug which over the course of a few months, shrunk his tumor enough that a surgery looked possible.  Years ago he had radiation seed implants when his prostate cancer started and had always been told that he would never be able to have surgery.  The radiation causes scarring and conventional treatment dictates 'no surgery possible.'

But God had a plan....and a surgeon.

There was one surgeon at Cleveland Clinic who was willing to try the surgery.  (And we have been told he is the only surgeon in the country who is doing these surgeries.)  He tried to talk my dad out of it though, saying it was high risk, dad would be in ICU for awhile and would most certainly need a colostomy because of the location of the tumor.  However, dad had been going though so much with blood backing up into his bladder with no warning and sending him to ER in intense pain, that he was willing to take the risk.  His quality of life had deteriorated to the point of being almost completely home bound due to the possibility of a bladder blockage.  My mom was also home bound with him.  It was a very trying year for both of them.  They were told that the bladder situation would only get worse and worse.  Not much to look forward to with that diagnosis!

So in August, he had the surgery.  I was driving to Ohio to be there (couldn't get there the day before due to scheduling difficulties) when my cell phone rang.  It was my brother with the news that dad was out of surgery...NOT in ICU and he had NOT needed a colostomy!  WOW! 

To say we were all excited was an understatement! 

Since then he has had a remarkable recovery.  The doctors are amazed.  His surgeon told dad that he really didn't want to do the surgery.  He thought it was going to be horribly difficult on my dad but none of those fears were realized!  Dad is now walking a mile a day and trying to get his stamina built back up.  He looks great!  He still probably has cancer because they couldn't get all the lymph nodes, but his PSA has plummeted from 350 to 25 (another shock to his doctors).

One of his goals was to be well enough to come to our house for Thanksgiving.  My mom and I used to have a Black Friday shopping tradition and my girls were hoping to go with Grandma this year.  So fun! 

My parents arrived on Wednesday night and we had a really nice Thanksgiving on Thursday.  Friday, my mom and four oldest girls headed to a huge mall about 45 minutes away.  We had a ball...picking out presents, getting great deals, and having lunch.

The next day, we wanted to visit Sturbridge Village.  We chose it for several reasons, the biggest being that there is a large gift shop there with tons of books.  My dad loves to read so we figured he could hang out there and be warm and content.  However, when we got there, he said he was coming with us to walk around the Village.  It's not a small place, so we figured he would maybe spend an hour with us and then go back to the book store. 


He walked around with us all afternoon--about four hours!  We were all bundled up and the buildings were heated and we had such a great time!  I didn't want to lug my big camera around all day so you'll have to be happy with some phone photos.
Cool sleigh--and there were cloaks available to wear for fun.  I tried a red one.  No one else wanted to.  :)

A nice lady offered to take our picture but um....oops..cut off some heads.

Afterwards, we went out to eat to celebrate Chloe's birthday.  She was so happy to have Grandma and Grandpa there on her ACTUAL birthday.  We stopped at Target on the way home to pick up some cupcakes for an impromptu birthday 'cake.'  Jillian made her a proper cake later--but the cupcakes worked that night.

All too soon it was time for them to go home.  Wah!  We had a wonderful visit!  So thankful that Dad is doing well.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Update on our friends in the Philippines

I am relieved and happy to report that our friends in the Philippines are fine and were unaffected by the recent super typhoon.  They do know pastors in the devastated area and are currently there helping to care for those who need help.

Dr. Joy is working in partnership with the organization my mom and I traveled with--Advancing Native Missions (ANM).  If you are looking for a way to donate to the effort in the Philippines and want to be sure your money will be used wisely, I can vouch for the fact that ANM will do so.

To donate through them...Click here.  And I know they value your prayers even if you cannot give money.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Jordan's Third Surgery

Jordan had his third--and what we hoped was his last--ear construction surgery a week and a half ago.  The surgeon had to retrieve cartilage from Jordan's rib area as well as take skin from there to use as a skin graft on the back of his ear.
He had a hard time after the four hour surgery with nausea and struggling to wake up.  I wish they would have just let him sleep it off!  He probably should have been admitted overnight.  The anesthesiologist thought he would need to be.  But nope....we were heading home a few hours after he was parked in the recovery room.  I felt so bad for him because I knew that if we had just let him lie still and sleep, he most likely would not have thrown up.  UGGGGHHHHHH.

Waiting to be taken back to surgery....
And after...  So tired.

Afterwards, the doctor said he needed one more surgery to finish Jordan's earlobe and also to kill some of the hair follicles that cause hair to grow out of the top of the ear.  

Jordan has had to wear the 'helmet' since surgery but we are hoping that this Friday will be the last day of it.  

We were able to get a peek at his new ear when the bandages were changed last week but his ear was so swollen that it looked nothing like it will look when its healed. 
Which is good because it was a bit unsettling.
The doctor assured us that he was pleased with how it looked for one week post-op.
" head can breathe!"
But not for long.  The helmet had to go back on.
I think he is an incredibly patient child.
Almost done!
Now for the fun part.  Not.
Hahaha...we thought this was so funny!  Thankfully, they taped his 'stem' down.

I am so proud of him!  He doesn't complain, he just deals with it and goes about his day. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Misson Trip Last Days

Sorry it is taking me so long to finish writing about the trip.  I'm trying to catch up on life!

As I mentioned before, we didn't realize we would be staying at a school and be surrounded with adorable kids.  The school is only for Aeta children who used to live in the mountain villages.  Most of them are no orphans, but many have a single parent.  All are very poor and have no way of climbing out of poverty without getting an education.  There are currently 70 children there but they have potential for 100 and are hoping to add more soon.  The children range in age from 4-18.  The kids are amazing singers!  As we would walk around the school compound, we could hear singing all over the place--and it was so beautiful.  Bible verses decorate the walls and there is a feeling of happiness and peace throughout.  There is a clinic and a church on the grounds as well as the dorms, classrooms, cafeteria, and offices.  I just found out that it's possible to sponsor a child for $30 a month through Advancing Native Missions.  (Just in case any of you are interested!)

Pictures tell their story better than words....

From these conditions....

To these:

The last night we were there, the kids put on a musical program that was incredible.  Not only can they SING, they can dance and act.  We enjoyed it so much!  (And all the songs were in English!)  They obviously have excellent teachers and have made good use of their talents.  One of the boys is a talented artist and drew the 'Good bye" sign on the chalkboard.
(these pictures are from another team member as my camera was dead at this point)
He also drew cards for all of us--all different designs.  The children helped add other pages to the cards with Bible verses and decorated by them.  Sooooo cute!  Here is one of the cards....
We are trying to think of ways to market his artwork and the kids' singing to help them raise funds to support themselves.  Ideas anyone?

It was interesting how we went there to help pastor's wives and do medicals but came away carrying those children in our hearts.  Maybe part of it was the reminder that my own kids faced a dismal future had they not been adopted, and those Aeta children face a future of poverty in mud huts without the Children's Home where their lives and futures are transformed. 

Sunday morning, we attended their church and then had to leave for Manila to avoid another incoming typhoon that was predicted.
We spent Monday in Manila doing a bit of sightseeing and shopping.  Dr. Joy took us to a local market where we had to suppress our American need for personal space.  It got a tad overwhelming after awhile.  Not to mention HOT and HUMID.  We were sweating far more than the locals who are acclimated to the heat.  How they wear jeans in that weather is mind-boggling to me (as I was sweating buckets in khaki capri's and a sleeveless cotton shirt--ugh).

The rest of the pictures are from my iphone.  I was quite frustrated seeing all the photo-ops and having a broken camera.  Gah!

My mom and I at Pizza Hut the night before we flew home.  We ate Filipino food every day, every meal--and it was yummy--but we wanted some pizza!
The next day we got up at 3AM and headed for the airport and 24+ hours later, we were HOME.  When I got to JFK around 3:00PM, they told me my connection was too tight to get my luggage on the plane.  I could either wait until 9:30PM to catch another flight or take a taxi to La Guardia to catch a 5:30PM flight.  Siiigh.   I just wanna be home already!  I knew the kids were waiting and I didn't want to disappoint them, so I opted for the taxi to LaGuardia (even though I was slightly terrified to do that by myself--ugh).  I told the girl behind the counter that I had never been in NYC by myself and was a bit nervous about catching a taxi.  Thankfully, she sent an employee upstairs with me to help me hail one--which was a good thing because the one they called was NOWHERE to be seen.  She had to get on her radio and make some more calls to get it there.  If I had been standing there with all my luggage and no taxi, I would have been fit to be tied.  But...all was well...and I got a short tour of NYC from the back of a taxi.  I saw nothing but highway.  Drat.
And so my little travel saga ends...I'm very glad I was able to go to the Philippines and I was so glad to get home to my family!  I am so grateful to live in America but so mindful that many around the world live in dire conditions and God wants us to do what we can to help.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our Trip to the Villages

Friday night in the Philippines was the beginning of a typhoon.  It poured and howled all night long.  Some time during the night the power went out.  We were on the third (and top) floor with a metal roof over our heads.  I wondered if it would hold and what would happen if it didn't.  Later, at breakfast, the man who runs the school said he and his wife were up much of the night praying that there would be no mudslides and that the roofs would hold.

It continued to rain heavily all day Saturday, which required us to change our plans about going up into the mountain villages.  It was just too dangerous (mostly the threat of mudslides).
Friday night, we scooped rice into bags to take to the villagers who we had been told were hungry and sick.

                This was the way the mountain across from us looked when there was a lull in the typhoon.
                                     And how it looked when the rain was coming down.
Usually when I photograph rain, you can't see it.  

It was finally decided that we would go to two villages that were at the base of the mountains and were safe to get to.  

Although I had seen pictures on Go*gle about the living conditions in the Aeta villages, I was not emotionally prepared to see where the women I had just spent two days with, lived their lives.
Our first glimpse of village number one.
This was their church.
At this point, my camera totally died.
The following pictures are from another team member, used with permission.
We crossed this bridge to get to the village (the van did not cross--but still got stuck trying to turn around in the mud).
And we climbed this hill...  
Our feet became covered in mud and I was glad I was wearing flip flops so I could just wash everything later.
The homes in the village.
Precious kids coming to the church to sing, get rice, and see the doctor.  And boy...can they SING!
This is where they sit in church.
Precious, beautiful kids!
This is the other side of the tiny church.
The church kitchen.
Despite their living conditions, these kids pray and sing with all their hearts.
 Their outhouse.
The pastor's wife (who was a sweetheart and had attended the conference) made beans for the whole village and served the whole pot to them.  They all came with their bowls.  Some did not even have spoons and ate by dipping their fingers into their bowls.
I struggle to wrap my mind around this precious woman living in a hut with a mud floor. We found out that day that she was one of the cooks at the school and had helped make our food while we were there.  The food was beautifully and artfully prepared every day--almost too pretty to eat.  She is so talented.

The doctor straddles a bench to see patients.  My mom and I counted pills for him as he prescribed meds.
This sweet Mama had four beautiful kids.
The ever-present flies that come to feed on the empty bowls.
Each of the team was asked to say something to the crowd and I had asked the kids for a hug but they were all too shy.  However, as we were leaving the village, these little girls came running up and threw their arms around me.  wah!  So precious!
You may recognize the little girl in red.  She is "Princess" who lives most of the time at the school.
Slogging back through the mud to get to the van.

The next village was quite different.  It was near a river with far fewer trees.
The homes also seemed more make-shift.  We were told that this particular village was growing quickly as families were being displaced from the mountains (I believe due to the mudslides--but I'm not sure).
It was getting dark, so we weren't able to stay long.

The Chief and his wife.  The Chief is very concerned about the fast growth of the village because they need some type of bathroom facility (outhouses), and a good well.
We gave them rice and then passed out candy to the children.  I'm thinking maybe it would have been better to pass out fruit but we didn't think of that at the time.
This pic shows about half of the kids who came to see us.

I will tell you more about the significance of the school where we stayed in another post.  This post is already too long!