*difficulty swallowing & a sore throat
*back pain that's worse at night, when lying down.
He had been on prilosec, a drug for acid reflux. He doesn't normally have acid reflux, but between large doses of prednisone and radiating a tumor that's close to his esophagus, the doctors thought it a good idea. So while in China, he ran out and his symptoms - which sound a lot like a really bad case of acid reflux - returned.
His symptoms could also be related to radiation - like if, say, we radiated a tumor adjacent to your esophagus and then (no one is saying it quite this way) burned a hole in your esophagus.
Back pain could be related to sleeping on really terrible Chinese beds.
Or you know what else this all sounds like? Lung cancer.
But there is no way to know for sure what is causing any of these symptoms, which may or may not be related, without some thorough diagnostics. So James is scheduled for a CT on Tuesday (less than 12 hours after he gets back in country) and then a follow up with the oncologist on Thursday. The oncologist will be able to prescribe next steps, whether that is chemo or a scope of the esophagus, or some different meds. Or something else entirely that only people who have actually been to medical school would know to do.
The good news is that this bumps up James's scan by a couple of weeks. (Originally we were waiting until the end of March for a PET/CT.) If it's a tumor, we will know, and can quickly get started doing whatever we need to do to get rid of that. If it's not a tumor, we can do whatever tests need done now to start getting James well. Yeah!
For the record, no one is saying it is definitely a tumor. In fact, the oncologist said we could follow up the CT with any of James's doctors, which doesn't make much sense if you're thinking it's a tumor. (Would YOU go see a pulmonologist to deal with a tumor?)
Since scheduling those appointments, James has started back on prilosec, and has seen a reduction in some of his symptoms. Except his back is in fairly constant pain, I think, and eating has become extremely difficult. (He ate a banana yesterday which turned out to be horribly painful.)
So just in case you thought that was an exit ramp coming into view on the horizon...you were probably wrong.
Needless to say, getting James well from all this, even if it is not new tumors, seems like a long haul.
James, otherwise, is doing great, buoyed by a great visit at home - being loved on by dear family while fed the food you most enjoy is a powerful mental/emotional health boost. Beating all his brothers at cards - like he always does - brings a lot of joy. And, because it was the holidays and people have time, he was blessed with wonderful interactions...hours and hours and hours of conversations in his native tongue...with his family, friends, and ministry partners. As he said yesterday, "It's just physical pain, so I'm okay."
While we wait for next Thursday, please pray
*James will start his journey home on Sunday, arriving late Monday night. Ask for God's lovingkindness to be on display through the kindness of strangers. Based on his flight history since diagnosis, American flight attendants don't deal kindly to coughing passengers, even when they say "I have lung cancer." May God be gracious and allow him a great journey back.
*God's miraculous healing - may James experience a decrease in symptoms (a sudden decrease would be great, IMHO).
*Our continued faith in God's goodness, no matter the CT results. Together with that, pray for our willing, joyful submission to His will. Life as we want it is great, but life lived as He plans it out is best, and our greatest joy. I don't want to go kicking and screaming and dragged down this path. But sometimes I am. Because God is gracious and ever-patient.
Thank you, friends! You're the best & we love you! We'll let you know something when we know something.