Final Reconstructive Surgery

Hiking Jan 2009-46295:30 will come early tomorrow morning. That’s what time we are scheduled to be back at the hospital for the final surgical step in the cancer recovery process.

This final surgery has been hard to decide to go forward with. It’s hard to decide to inflect Holly’s body with more scars when the last ones are just now healing. It’s hard to choose to have a surgery that’s not technically necessary, that just finishes the reconstructive process.

That said — we have peace this is what God has for us. I would have thought this surgery would have been easier, that this would be routine by now.

The truth is it’s never easy to step into pain. We are hard-wired to avoid it, and yet Jesus says things like,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Mt 5:3-5)

I keep looking for the verse that says, “Blessed are those that push through,” or “Blessed are those that pretend it doesn’t hurt,” but I can’t find it.  Somehow it is blessed to have our spirits be poor, to mourn and be meek.

These last months we’ve been learning that these places of blessing are not things that happen to us, they are things we choose.  We have to choose to step into — feel — the pain of life and let it crush us a little bit.

It’s in that crushed place where Jesus meets us in new and fresh ways.  It’s there He blesses us with healing from pain, current and old pains all the same.

God has been so very good to us in the pain of cancer and recovery.  He has faithfully met us, healed us, and blessed us.  Please pray we will continue to let the pain break us to continue in the blessing.

Holidays 2009

We had a whirlwind of a holiday season in 2009. I’m just getting around to posting photos. Enjoy!

See the photos here if you can’t view them above.

Finding Balance in a Windstorm

Sometimes I feel like life is continual struggle to find balance — all in the midst of the gusts of wind life seems to throw us.  2009 definately brought plenty of gusts our way and we are still trying to find the new normal — what is the right new balance in life?

I watched this TED video recently and was struck at the simple wisdom it contained about finding balance in life.  It’s a (very entertaining) lecture based on a long study called the Blue Zones of certain groups of people who live to be 100 statistically much more often than average.

They isolated 9 factors that seem to make this possible (genetics seems to play a small part).   I encourage you take 20 minutes to watch it and see if you don’t find some part of your life that could be more in balance.

A few challenging questions for me:

  • What does it mean to move naturally throughout my days and weeks?
  • What is my “ikigai” or sense of purpose that gets me up everyday?
  • Am I purposeful in surrounding myself with community in the daily moments?
  • What do I do to maintain the right outlook — one that is relaxed and prayerful?
  • What strategies/tricks/habits could I develop to not overeat?

There’s also a book I plan to read.

Halloween 2009

Halloween is one of the rare occasions where I take pictures of the kids at the same time every year.  As I was looking back at pictures from 2005, 2006, and 2008, I was definitely having one of those, oh-my-gosh-they-grow-up-fast moments.

Grady was the Hulk, Abbey was a Princess, and joining the crew (as always) was my nephew Austin the Spooky Ghost, and newest Nephew Hunter as a very cute bear.  Enjoy:

(Can’t see the slideshow? Watch it here, or see the individual photos here.)

How’s Holly Doing?

Don’t you hate it when people ask you to pray for them and then they never update you on what’s going on?  Me too!

I hope we haven’t been those people too bad, but frankly most times someone asks me, “How’s Holly doing?” I have no idea how to answer.

Well she’s making some significant progress worth sharing, so I would take the almost-four-week-anniversary-of-her-surgery to update you…


  • She’s much less tired (went last few days without naps)
  • She’s almost completely off medication (just occasional over the counter pain medicine or muscle relaxer )
  • She is got her last drain out today! Wahoo!

Still issues:

  • She is still under a doctor-imposed ban of lifting more than 8 pounds. (A challenge when taking care of kids that weigh more than 8 pounds)
  • She is still tired and “runs out of gas” pretty easily.

We’re about to send Holly’s mom home for the first time since the surgery, so we will have a good idea of how well she really is doing pretty quickly.  She has been a tremendous blessing, and I seriously don’t know what we would have done without help from her and my mom.

So, there’s a quick update for you!  Thanks for all the prayers!


Plano Breast Cancer Rockstars

I write this post looking back on what was one of the hardest parts of this cancer journey: finding the right partners to run the race with you. What makes me qualified to pick a cancer doctor? Nothing.  Ultimately, I know God led us to just the right people. If you will permit me, I’d love to brag about the team God gave us, in the hopes that someone where we were a couple of months ago may benefit…

Dr. Canavan, Hollys Breast Surgeon

Dr. Lynn Canavan, Holly’s Breast Surgeon

The Breast Surgeon

We found Dr Canavan by literally Googling for “plano breast surgeon.”  We had been referred to a different breast surgeon by Holly’s OB/GYN, and only went to Dr Canavan for what we thought was a routine second opinion.

What we found was that our first surgeon had really dropped the ball, and grossly misjudged the extent of the cancer.  When we switched to Dr. Canavan we found that trips to the doctor went from being full of fear and uncertainty to being full of peace and confidence in the next steps.

She truly has the heart of a teacher and was always available for every question.  She went to great lengths to educate us and would always show us, not just tell us, what was going on.

The other great thing about Dr. Canavan’s office is Gaynelle, her scheduler.  Gaynelle schedules every appointment with every doctor, every testing center, every hospital — she just makes it happen magically.  You can’t imagine how much easier that makes the whole process.

The Plastic/Reconstructive Surgeon

Dr Patty Young, Hollys Reconstructive Surgeon

Dr. Patty Young, Holly’s Reconstructive Surgeon

Once we knew Holly needed a mastectomy we started the process of picking a plastic surgeon.  While you might think that Plano, TX has the highest concentration of Plastic Surgeons per square inch, but it turns out very few do reconstruction.  There’s just not much money in it.

That’s why finding Dr. Young was such a God-send.  Like Dr. Canavan, she actually took the time to teach us all the reconstructive options.  The first time we left her office, we knew we had found the right reconstructive surgeon, we just had to pick the right procedure for us.

Once we decided on the DIEP flap, her scheduler worked to clear a whole day for Dr Young to do the procedure.  That morning we got to pray with and for her, and afterward she told us it was prayer that sustained her through the 13.5 hour surgery.  Where she gets the endurance to push through such a long surgery, I have no idea.

She was always sensitive to Holly and us as her family.  She had the nurse call out every hour or two to give us an update, so we didn’t get too worried.  She did a great job helping to control the pain afterward, including inserting a local pain pump to numb the area.

Oh, did I mention she did b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l job with the reconstruction!  She has a gift (and amazing staff like Dr. Canavan).

The Nurses at Baylor Plano

Baylor Plano, our home for five days

Baylor Plano, our home for five days

If you look on US News and World Report or National Cancer Institute there doesn’t seem to be a clear hospital leader for cancer care the Dallas area.  However, I will tell you from our experience, Baylor Plano is the place to be for breast cancer care in Dallas.

First off they have the most advanced diagnostic equipment, and the two rockstar doctors above prefer to do surgery there. That should be enough.  But they never ceased to amaze us at going above and beyond in caring for the patients and their families.

When we showed up for surgery at 5:00 am the most friendly woman named Robin met us at the front door to escort us the surgery floor.  Who does that?

Even the food was pretty good — they call it room service and it’s pretty much whatever you wanted delivered when you wanted it.  They even had free wifi throughout so Holly could make a Skype video call to her brother in Hawaii.

Those are little things, but really nice touches.  The big thing was the staff — specifically the nurses.  We didn’t have one nurse who was not full of compassion, attentive, and just generally great to be around.  They always did there best to control Holly’s pain, teach us to take care of her, and make our stay the best it could be.

Thank you to Dr. Canavan, Dr. Young and all the nurses at Baylor Plano.  God used you to heal my wife and do it better than we ever could have hoped for.

I hope this helps you if you are ever in need of Breast Cancer Care in Dallas.  Of course, feel free to contact us if you have any questions or if we can help in any way.

Small Gifts, Big Change: HopeMongers

Microgiving is one of the the most most exciting new thing I’ve seen in a long time in making a difference in the life of the world’s poor. Not all of you can go on a trip to Uganda like I did a few weeks ago — you can all make a difference, though.

HopeMongers is a new microgiving non-profit started by my super-smart friend Sam Henry. Here’s the idea:

  • Go to HopeMongers.org, and find a project you are passionate about — someplace you want to make a difference.  Find by location (India, Africa, etc) or by project type (Water, Faith in Action, etc)
  • Give $10-$100 — 100% of which goes to the organization doing the work on the ground.
  • Add a blog badge inviting others to join you in the same project.
  • Track the progress of the giving and the way your gift makes a change in the Hopemongers Cooperative.

I invite you to join in the project below.  The kids at Trinity College in Otuboi (actually what we would think of as a high school) were one of the highlights of my trip to Uganda. Their slogan is “Christ is our Hope” but they can’t afford to pay a Biblical Studies teacher.

Do you want some of the future leaders of Uganda to be exposed to the life-changing power of the gospel?  Join me in supporting this project:

(Can’t see the above? Find the project here.)

Uganda Photos

This weekend I finally got all my photos from Uganda processed and uploaded to Flickr. I hope you enjoy some of my 36 favorites in this slideshow:

(Can’t see it? Want it fullscreen? Try here.)

You can see all 219 I uploaded here.

Post-Surgery Update

I realize we’ve fallen off the grid a little since coming home from the hospital. So, here’s a quick update how Holly is doing a week home from the hospital…

Emotionally, she’s doing amazing. She has never stopped being in good spirits, very thankful for all the love and support being poured her way.

Practically, lots of help is helping keep the wheels on the bus. Our moms are still in town, and amazing meals are coming every day.

Physically, she’s doing pretty good. She’s still in some pain, but that is largely controlled by muscle relaxers. She has to take some pain medicine once or twice a day, but muscle relaxers keep it all largely in check. Of the 8 medicines she was taking when she first got home, she’s down to about 3 and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

She still has 2 of the 4 drains installed during surgery to prevent swelling from excess fluids. Those are an annoyance and sometimes uncomfortable, but not too bad. They should be out by the end of this week or beginning of next.

Mostly, she’s just tired — very tired. (She woke up this morning and declared she was ready for her first nap.) She’s made it out of the house a few times, like to church on Sunday, but that is about all she has for the day. Her body is working very hard to heal itself and just doesn’t have much energy for much else.

On the cancer front, we got good news yesterday. The pathology report came back with “clean margins” which means not only did they get all the cancer, but also 1cm around it all.

They also found cancer in the same breast in a previously undetected area. This just confirms that taking it all was the right choice. Neither of us realized how much we were holding our breath so-to-speak waiting to hear the news. There were a few tears of joy shed yesterday.

So, can I hear a collective “Woohoo!” for being officially cancer-free?

Thanks for all the prayers and for stepping into our pain. We are blessed!

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