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? 

Blessings!

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.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gradutation

It's over!!!!!!!!

I'm so glad I've completed my radiation treatment. The last two weeks have been very challenging for me. The radiation is doing what is supposed to do and it's causing a lot of skin burning and pain. Although it's over, radiation continues to work normally inside the body for 7 to 10 more days, with side effects potentially getting worse. I hope it doesn't get too bad.

After my last treatment yesterday, I received my diploma and rang a bell - a wide spread tradition when cancer patients complete their treatment. Now my focus stays on treating the skin and going back to the gym for physical therapy.

I have a follow up appointment with my Oncologist in two weeks. Last time he saw me was three weeks before radiation treatment began. I hope he can speak the the words I've been looking forward to hearing.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Almost There

Five weeks down, two more to go. Looking forward to the end of my radiation treatment.

Before I started the treatment, I listened to many different people who traveled a similar journey. Based on their experiences, I was ready for a very challenging road ahead, but It's been better than I expected.
 
Here is what I've been feeling:
1. Fatigue - I did not feel any signs for four weeks. This past week, however, it hit hard. It's more noticeable early in the morning and mid afternoon.
2. Skin Reaction - The scar and surrounding areas are irritated. I've used a special cream designed for radiation patients. It's very expensive and very effective. I've also put compress of Chamomile flower every night. These two seem to keep the reaction under control.
3. Muscle Pain - This side effect was not on my list and it's the one bothering me the most. I've been sore to the point of limping a little bit.
4. Swelling - The radiation has also aggravated the swelling. It will be a long fight, even after the radiation treatment.

I hope the radiation is doing its work. I'm doing my part and trusting God is doing His. There is a Bible verse that says: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7). I've seen many who have put their trust in doctors and treatments only. I, however, decided to put my trust in God. If you're facing a detour in your life, be thankful for 'chariots' and 'horses,' but put your trust in God, in God alone.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Radiation Treatment

Today, I started my radiation treatment. It will be 35 sessions, five days a week for seven weeks. It will be a long journey, but I'm optimistic. I've cleared my calendar on the weekends to allow for extra time to recuperate. The doctor said that fatigue is one of the main side effects people experience during radiation treatment. By the way, in case you are wondering, here is a list of possible side effects in my situation: fatigue, skin reaction from mild to severe, fibrosis, and more susceptibility to any illness, including infections. I'm praying that none of these will affect me long term.

The first treatment lasted about 45 minutes. It was long because of x-rays, double checking the leg position and many explanations of how the treatment is going to be. Beginning tomorrow, I should be in and out in no more than 30 minutes. The actual radiation time is less than five minutes. The radiation machine, one just like the picture I posted, shoots beams of radiation for 10-15 seconds from different angles - I think it was six. I did not feel anything and heard only the humming noise produced by the machine radiating the leg. Everything looks the same so far. It was only the first day and I know after a few days, I might start seeing or feeling some of the effects mentioned above.

Before I finish this post, there is one last thing I want to write. Because of the radiation, the treatment room is well sealed by special doors with big signs warning of the risk of exposure. During the procedure, the technicians leave the room, of course, and tell you that you are going to be by yourself, during the entire treatment, as the radiation moves into your body. As they left the room, closed the door and left me there laying down motionless, I could not help but think of the presence of God in that room. He was there. I closed my eyes and prayed to thank Him for being with me, by my side, in a situation and place where no one else could. It was very comforting to realize that my guarding Angel did not have to leave the room and was commanded by God to stay there with me. "Thank you God for your real and constant presence in the lives of those who love you."

If you are going through a detour in your life as well, don't panic, put your trust in God. You will feel His presence. I did.