Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Life After Amputation

Hello again. Six months ago I had my leg amputated (high above the knee) and stopped blogging. I'm sorry for the silence. A lot has happened in these past months. In this post, I'm going to bring you up to speed with my life's detour.

Amputation is a life-changing surgery. It often imposes drastic physical limitations accompanied by psychological trauma and emotional discomfort. A large number of amputees experience the phenomenon of phantom limb sensation and phantom pains. Unfortunately, I was no exception. The phantom limb sensation was there as soon as I opened my eyes after the amputation. The feeling that my leg was still there was almost unbearable. I remember praying to God, begging for endurance and for His mercies. Fortunately, the limb sensation has subsided substantially over time. The phantom pains are also a major challenge. It's not unusual to feel my amputated foot or knee tingling, burning and/or itching - more tingling and burning than itching. I'm on two strong medications for nerve pain. It's working well and the pain is more sporadic these days. It's a trade-off. The side effects are very strong. There is a variety of them but I'm mostly feeling these: fatigue, dry mouth, occasional drowsiness, and some cognitive challenges. 

I'll state the obvious; it's not easy to live a normal life without a leg. The adjustment is quite challenging yet not impossible. Over the last six months, I've done things using crutches that convinced me the human body is a marvelous machine with the ability to adjust and overcome any obstacle. I'm putting here a few pictures of some of my exciting accomplishments (Sand Soccer, Cycling, Ping-pong, Bowling, Weight Lifting, Preaching, Baptizing, etc.)

What's next? Thanks for asking :-) I've been patiently waiting for my next surgery, an Osseointegration, which will set me up for a prosthesis. In simple terms, an OI is an implant which will go on my femur to allow for a simple, safe and quick connection between my stump and the lower prosthesis. The approvals have been granted. Now the process moves into manufacturing the implant, then testing it before scheduling the surgery. I'm hoping to go into surgery sometime before the end of the year. 

All in all the Lord has been good to me. The road sometimes looks very bumpy and the detour hard to endure. But I'm a living testimony that in those difficult days and times Jesus' gentle and comforting presence makes all the difference. He is our "El Roi", the God who sees.

If you've been searching for answers, for peace, trying to make sense of your life's detour, I invite you to put your trust in Jesus. Remember, you are never alone, ever.

The Bible text for you this time is Psalm 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

I love a song by Kari Jobe called I Am Not Alone. I hope it blesses you as it has blessed me.

Last family picture before my amputation.

Always Together

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thank you!

I am writing this post exactly 12 hours before my arrival time at the hospital. I am in peace at the moment but it is beginning to sink in. I hope to have a peaceful night of sleep and be well rested in the morning.

The main reason I am taking time to write this post is to thank each one of you for amazing words of encouragement and for your intercessory ministry on my behalf. I have read each message on the comments below, Facebook page, WhatsApp, emails, etc., that came literally from all over the world. I have been overwhelmed by so much love and care. I know God will honor your faith and requests for me and my family. Thank you!

Today my boys stayed home with me. The weather was great and we spent a lot of time outside playing ball. We went to two parks near our home and played for approximately four hours (2hrs of basketball and 2hrs of Soccer). I know there will be significant physical limitations from now on but I am not planning to quit. This is just a detour, not retirement. 

Playing with my boys this morning and enjoying their company was so special. It made me think of how little attention we pay to the things that matter most in life. Why do we get so busy with our own stuff and all kinds of temporary matters and neglect time with those we love more than anything on this planet... My boys just left. They are spending the night at a friend's home. I'll see them again on Sabbath afternoon. They said goodbye to me and my leg. They seem to be okay. I hope they are. I hope my detour teaches them that God is good, all the time, and can be trusted, no matter what.

My bible text for today is a bit long but it conveys the thoughts of my heart as I embrace the challenging days ahead with confidence in a God who is "too wise to err and too good to be unkind" (Spurgeon).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 37-39.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Major Detour

It is time to blog again. Yes, I am facing another detour. Since my first diagnosis in 2011 the roads of life have not been straight any more. Many curves, several detours and one more, a MAJOR one, is just around the corner.

Unfortunately I'm out of remission; my sarcoma is growing, multiplying fast and the only feasible treatment this time around is a drastic one. Therefore, it is with sadness that I share with you that I am going into surgery on Friday, April 27, to have my left leg amputated (above the knee).

I knew this day could come. I am thankful for skilled surgeons who performed several limb-sparing surgeries for these past seven years. I am grateful to God for having allowed me to have my leg and live a normal life in spite of the cancer being persistent and destructive, and, most importantly, for not allowing the cancer to spread.

It is a life changing surgery and I can only imagine what life is going to be like in a few days. Yet I am confident in the strength and determination that comes from God to be able to conquer another mountain and go through yet another detour.

Doctors are planning for two surgeries, the first to get rid of the cancer and a second one, in the summer, to set me up for a prosthetic leg.

I debated a lot whether I should be blogging again about my detour. It won’t be easy this time. But God helped me to realize that I should not keep this journey to myself. Maybe there is someone reading this and going through a detour in their life as well and they can be a blessing to me. Or, maybe, I could encourage someone. I don't know. But I am looking forward to what God will accomplish in my life and in the life of many others as I share my personal experience with sorrow, pain, faith and hope.

Thank you for keeping me in your prayers.

“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27

**Each post will have a bible verse that has encouraged me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I'm alive and well

I'm deeply moved by the concern of many friends and appreciate greatly the many prayers offered on my behalf. A lot has happened since my last post. A number of friends are asking for updates. Sorry for taking me this long to write again. I'm going to divide this post into three parts - surgery, recovery, and future treatment. 

Surgery - surgery is the most common treatment for sarcomas. Other treatments such as radiation and chemo might be recommended depending on a number of factors. I had surgery on October 21. The surgery lasted about five hours, more than expected, but with good results. The tumor was located on the same site as the first one. This time, however, it was attached to one of the main veins and also resting on a major artery. While the artery was spared, the vain had to be taken out. Unfortunately this aggravates the swelling I've been fighting against for four years. 
 Overall, the procedure was a success. I woke up from the anesthesia with the good feeling that the cancer was gone - the visible part at least :) I stayed in the hospital for three days being cared for by an amazing team of doctors, nurses, and my beautiful and lovely wife. 

Recovery - one of the major concerns of Dr. M, my surgeon, was the wound and how it would heal. Because of my radiation therapy four years ago, and recurrence on the same site, there was a high risk of wound healing issues and infection. Yet none of this happened - Hamedullellah! God in His marvelous grace and goodness took care of everything and the wound healed nicely, to everyone's surprise. Another major blessing was to be able to stand on my feet and walk without the help of a walker or a cane within the first week of recovery. In fact my surgeon was amazed to see me walking nicely into her office room two weeks after the surgery. I thanked her for the good work and God for really making it possible. I finally got the stitches (38) out today. Now I should wear the compressing stockings again to help control the swelling. Also, PT is going well. I go 2-3 times a week and it has helped me a lot. PT this time has been so much better and it has made a big difference in my speedy recovery.

Future treatment(s) - on my first post-op appointment I was given the pathology report. The biopsy reported a tumor of about 6cm of Grade 2. The significance of that is that sarcoma patients don't want a tumor that is bigger than 5cm and higher than Grade 1. A big tumor (>5cm) of high grade puts the patient at a much higher risk of recurrence and metastasis - and, unfortunately, I'm in that group. Today I went back to Hopkins for the most important appointment post surgery. I was scheduled to see Dr. C, a leading medical oncologist, to discuss radiation and chemo therapy. We had a long conversation. Thanks to google, I read a number of scholarly articles/papers about similar cases and had a number of questions ready for him. Radiation is discarded completely. I had a high dose of it four years ago and more radiation this time would not be beneficial. Chemo, however, is on the table to be considered. This is a difficult decision, however, because liposarcomas aren't high sensitive to chemotherapy anyway, but if and when it works, it could reduce the risk of recurrence and metastasis... Friends, I humbly ask that you continue to pray for me as I earnestly seek God these days pleading for divine wisdom and a direct word from Him. I understand that many of you reading this paragraph may feel tempted to share your own convictions about these therapies. I appreciate your concern, and I'd ask that instead of trying to persuade me one way or the other that you lift me up in prayer. 

There are a lot of thoughts going on in my mind these days. It's amazing how life is so vulnerable. As I write these words the media can't stop reporting on global terror and the horrible and evil events of the last few weeks. There is suffering, pain, anxiety, uncertainty, misery all over the place. How much longer, I ask. How much longer? As I drove back from the hospital today, I turned on the radio and one of my favorite songs was playing. The words were for me. The words are for everyone who may be going through a detour, who may be facing something that doesn't make sense, a situation that can't be explained. I want to leave you with the words of the chorus and a link to the entire song. May it bring peace to your heart as it did for me.

Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise? 


Monday, October 19, 2015

Good News

No metastasis, PRAISE THE LORD!!! No words to express how I feel at the moment. I was really concerned about my CTs. But the Lord is good and has performed another miracle. Thank you Jesus!!!

On Thursday I met with Dr. M to discuss my case and treatment options. She will perform surgery on Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. (EST). She will take more margins this time and is concerned about wound related issues. Because I received a high dose of radiation on my leg during my first cancer treatment, and the margins will be bigger, there is a high risk of wound problem(s). This is the focus of my prayers at moment. My recovery will take longer compared with four years ago. However, no radiation or chemo has been recommended this time, Al-hamdulillah! ('praise the Lord' in Arabic :)

One of my favorite Bible passages is found in Matthew 6:25-34. If you are facing any problems today, going through a detour in your life, I invite you to read this passage of scripture today. There, you learn to take one day at a time, seek God first, rest your cares upon Him, and trust that He will take care of you - what a beautiful and complete picture of God. Is there any better promise for me and for you today? I'm going through my detour with Him. How about you?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The future

(Written on October the 8th)

Everything so far indicates that I'm out of remission, a medical term which means the cancer has returned. It’s been exactly four years since my first diagnose. My children were much younger, but they remember everything. Unlike 2011, this time I live thousands of miles away (Egypt) from my treatment options. No more the convenience of a fifteen-minute ride to the doctor’s office and a couple minutes to the radiation treatment place. I'm writing these words from the plane flying over the Atlantic Ocean. In a few hours I'll be landing in Virginia and then on to Maryland for I journey that only God knows how and when will finish. 

If for whatever reasons you're afraid of the future, uncomfortable about the unknowns of life, meditate on the words found in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, 'declares the Lord,' plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" - What else could I ask for?!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Detour # 2

It’s hard to believe but here I am, taking another detour.  Like before I want to use this blog to accomplish three things: (1) keep family and friends informed. (2) keep a journal of my walk with God through the situation. (3) encourage those who might be going through a difficult time (detour) in their lives.

Honestly, I had no intentions of blogging on this topic again :-) (I actually don't like to blog) yet life is full of detours and I’m going through another one. Detours: sooner or later it happens to all of us. I don't know why it’s happening again. I choose not to ask. I believe there is a purpose for everything under the sun (Eccles 3:1), and it might be that this illness is for the glory of God, just like in the story of Lazarus (John 11:4). 

I'm going through tests and doctor's appointments this week. I'll know more about my situation in a few days. It's hard to describe the feeling of such a moment; a time when your life gets off the ordinary path and moves into unknown and rough terrain. The future is in God's hands. For now my soul gets comfort and hope in the beautiful words of Psalm 91.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.” (v.1-2)

May your trust be in Him and may your detour bring glory to God as well.