Leave of Absence: On the Mend

Saturday, February 11, 2017

By the Grace of God

Been a difficult and emotional month but by the grace of God, I am doing well.  While my fellow classmates are digging into their semester, I've taken a short leave of absence to focus on addressing a health issue that arose during my first semester at DTS.  I'm bummed to be stepping away right now, but I'm looking forward to healing up and getting back into the program soon.  God is good, in control, and this is the path that He's put me on.

It All Started When ...

After battling a seemingly stubborn flu virus, I had some diagnostic testing performed that revealed a large tumor in my abdomen near my left kidney.  This was highly unexpected and quite frankly unnerving.  After months of further diagnostic and image testing, there were lots of possible theories, but no conclusive diagnosis.  There was only one thing left that we could do; remove and test the tumor.

The lack of a clear diagnosis can be frustrating and disheartening at times, especially when trying to cope with very unpleasant physical symptoms.  Coupled with all the what-ifs, it can at times seem like a pretty hopeless situation.  But my hope is not in myself.  My hope is in Christ, and I know my trials only serve to build my faith through patience and endurance.  Regardless of where this trial ends, I have confidence that God is in control and He is working this for my own good.  That is the awesome reality that starts with the sovereignty of God.  Sure, there are moments of doubt and weakness, but even when my faith falters, God's faithfulness is absolute.


Fast Forward To ... 

In mid-January, I checked into the oncology hospital to prepare to have the tumor removed.  While this was going to be a pretty straightforward surgery (laparotomy), it was rather invasive and the potential for complications was significant.  I didn't fear the surgery nearly as much as I feared the recovery.  It's going to take about 3-6 months for me to fully recover from this procedure, even without any additional treatment I may need depending on the histopathology results.
I went into surgery in the morning and the procedure took about 2 hours to perform.  Several hours later when I became a little more lucid, I was told that the surgery went better than expected and they successfully removed a 5cm diameter 'ball' from my abdomen without incident.  Now we just needed to wait for the histopathology report.
I spent a very uncomfortable week in the hospital recovering from the surgery.  I thought I was prepared to deal with this, but it was a pretty gruesome scene (although to be fair - my surgeons did an excellent job).  I had many weak-kneed moments during my stay and subsequent release back home.  But by God's grace, there were no serious complications and I've been getting better every day since.  I'm still in a terrible amount of discomfort, but three weeks out now, I'm starting to feel a lot better.

Moment of Truth ...


After almost three weeks, we received the histopathology report.  The tumor was a benign nerve sheath tumor (schwannoma).  Praise God!  I'll need to have regular imaging follow-ups, but the prognosis is excellent and I won't need any additional treatments.  Now I just need to continue to work on healing up and then hopefully I'll be over the physical symptoms that prompted the discovery. 

Looks like I'll be back to school before I know it!

Takeaways ...

I've got a long way to go until I'm fully recovered, but I've learned a lot over past half year since I took ill.  I've learned a lot about patience and humility.  It's hard to appreciate what you have until it's gone.  And the prospect of losing one's health has to be one of the most trying and difficult challenges one can endure.  I simply can not imagine how anyone can cope with the uncertainty of failing health without resting in the peace and comfort of Christ.  I spent many uncomfortable nights in the hospital pondering the hope I have in Christ versus the experience of the hopelessness the world has in itself.  A dichotomy I witnessed on display in my ward in terrifyingly vivid detail.

The Journey Thus Far ...

One CT scan, one MRI, one PET scan, one endoscopy, eight ultrasounds, two EKGs, dozens of blood tests, one failed biopsy, two sick buckets, dozens of drugs, one laparotomy, seventeen staples, and a whole lot of unpleasantness - one benign tumor.

God never promised us health, wealth, and happiness in the Bible.  In fact, quite the opposite.  The only thing I absolutely deserve in this life is His wrath and judgment.  But by His grace, I have a great hope through faith in Christ.  Not because of any choice or decision I've ever made, but because of what Christ accomplished through his perfect life and substitutionary death.  I have the hope of eternal life - which is far more precious than the life I am granted now.  In sickness or in health, I can glorify and praise God for His grace and mercy every day He preordained to give to me.   

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