Have any of you ever asked that question? Or worse, have any of you ever been in the position to need to answer that question?
If so...thanks to our oncologist...we now know the perfect answer:
"Not bigger, just more prominent."
In all seriousness, that's what the oncologist told us about James's one tumor that did not shrink. "No, no, it's not necessarily bigger, it's just more prominent."
Niiiice. May not get you out of hot water if you say that to your inquiring friend or spouse...but apparently in the world of cancer, this is a critical distinction.
Like the radiologist, James's oncologist believes that James's cough is from radiation-induced swelling. (Though he admits that this is really just his best guess.)
Additionally, he believes that it is entirely possible - perhaps likely?! - that the tumor that is "more prominent" appears larger because everything in James's chest is a bit inflamed. He is hopeful that at the end of March when James has his PET scan that we will not see a growing tumor. He was also careful to point out - "Well yes, this one appears bigger, but did you know that the one right next to it is significantly smaller?" He took this as a very positive sign that the one which appears bigger (aka "the growing one") is also actually shrinking.
(We did not delve in to discussing cancer at the cellular level during our time together, but I took everything that he said to mean that the cancer tissue can be inflamed just as James's lung tissue is inflamed. This is not the same as growing/dividing cancer cells. Which is very good news if that is indeed what is happening. Inflammation. Prominence. Not growth. I'll take it.)
For now, though, there is nothing for us to do but wait. As optimistic and positive as the oncologist is, there are still a lot of unknowns. James's cough is markedly better (yeah!), though far from cured. (So keep praying!) And based on their experience, the doctors believe James will be healthy soon, but that assumes that the coughing, the remaining tumors, and the inflammation all go away.
James does not need any other chemo or radiation at this time.
And as for surgery, though in November the oncologist was leaning strongly towards James having surgery, after today's visit he said that things are looking "excellent" and that for now we should not be thinking about surgery. Doesn't mean that it won't ever be needed, but to do it now would be in the realm of overzealous/unwise.
Long story short - we left today feeling encouraged and hopeful. And while we would love to have all this behind us; to see James healthy, well, and cured; to be back in China in our home, with our friends, work, and ministry...for today, for right now, we are at peace knowing that God is at work, that He has us where He wants us, and that He is carrying us through this. His grace to us continues to amaze us, strengthen us, and fill us with great hope. Truly, we serve a good God. For all that God has allowed in our lives over these past months, He has also allowed us to draw near and see Him more clearly than ever before. We are so grateful.
And can I end this post on a shout out to all of you? (Sure I can. It's MY blog!) You have been so faithfully thoughtful and kind to us. I can barely remember my own doctor's appointments, much less someone else's. (Kudos to me for not missing any of James's yet. Seriously. I'm impressed with me.) (Ha!) (Okay, only half joking there, but only because a huge part of the credit obviously goes to James.) Yet there are so many of you who have truly taken on our burden as one of your own - so perhaps it seems only natural that you would remember to ask about how it's all going since we had such-and-such the other day. You have remembered us in our