Greetings to all our dear ones!
Life has been very busy as of late, and I just haven’t had time to sit down and write this update, but, finally, here it is! I wanted to let you all know that Michael is doing great. As I posted previously, the past few weeks have been another part of this amazing journey we have been on and Michael continues to be just that.
Our one piece of great news is that we’re done! So, what does that mean? Well, for the past two years and two months, Michael has been under the care of our local Hematologist/Oncologist, Dr. Dharmen Patel. I write about him in the book. He has been wonderful. Dr. P. is direct and calls things as he sees them. Our family doctor told us once that our small to mid-sized town is very fortunate to have him here. For us, another benefit is that he is close friends with Dr. Savani, Michael’s primary doctor at Vanderbilt, as well as several of the other doctors involved in the Stem Cell Transplant Department. When Michael had his seizures that became a very valuable resource because it was Dr. P. who was able to get in touch with Dr. Savani and arrange for him to be airlifted to Vanderbilt.
Dr. P. was the first one to sense that Michael had MDS (Myleo Dysplastic Syndrome). When he referred Michael to Vanderbilt in August, 2013, he was certain of that diagnosis. And, it turned out he was right. Dr. P. treated Michael prior to and after the transplant. He treated him for the lymphoma and for the infusions Michael needed when his white blood cell count tanked. He has been supportive and helpful, and has become somewhat of a friend.
So, when Michael went in to see him last Tuesday, 10/20, after talking with him and examining him, Dr. P turned and said, “Do you really need to see me anymore? You are doing great. Your counts (blood test CBC results) are doing great and higher than they were even when I first saw you. Your WBC count has come up to normal which means you are no longer at such a risk for infection. Your hair is growing back, your skin is pink again, your energy level is obviously back to normal and you aren’t having any problems. You have fully recovered from the stroke. I can’t think of anything you need me for.” At that point, I had tears in my eyes because I realized what he was saying; Michael is doing so well, that he no longer needs to see Dr. P. for anything. He was releasing him from his care. Michael glibly replied, “Well, that’s fine with me. I hope I never see you again!” Of course, Dr. P. didn’t take that offensively. He understood fully what Michael was saying. The next time we see him, it will be as a friend, not as Michael’s doctor.
So, another milestone has been passed in Michael’s treatment and recovery. Another chapter of the book of the last two years + of our lives has closed. What an incredible blessing!
How is he doing? Well, Dr. P. properly assessed Michael’s current health. He’s doing great. He’s back to work with the blessing of all of his doctors at Vanderbilt and Dr. P. here. We had reason to question whether or not that was the right decision recently and had really good and lengthy discussions with the Vanderbilt medical team including Dr. Savani. There had been some question, at least in my mind, whether or not Michael should be working fulltime. Dr. Savani called us last week in response to a message asking that and we had a great discussion with him. He reviewed where Michael’s health was at right now. He’s off immunosuppression. His WBC count is returning to normal (finally!) which means he has protection from the risk of infection. He recovered from the stroke faster than anyone expected, although Dr. Savani also said he wasn’t surprised by that based on Michael’s history. He is feeling great. He told Michael that if he wanted to work fulltime or at all, he saw no reason that he shouldn’t. That was such confirmation! We also had the same discussion about stress and working with the Neurology team several days prior to that. That conversation was also a blessing. Michael was told about what he needed to do to prevent stress from being a factor; things like eating healthy foods, not working 12-15 hours per day, getting adequate rest, etc. And then, a very interesting thing was said about the fact that for many people, not working is more stressful than working. Boy, does that fit Michael to a ‘t’! Every time the subject of not returning to work comes up his countenance just falls and he gets so bummed out. That in and of itself was a revelation, at least for me, because I have never heard that before. The truth of the matter is that Michael just loves doing dentistry. It gives him great joy because he loves to help people. It’s just the way God created him and dentistry keeps his mind active and allows him to do just that. In many ways, for him, it’s a stress-reliever, not a stress- producer, and, should it ever become the latter, well, he can walk away or retire, but, he sure isn’t ready to do that at this point.
In light of all of this we are so blessed. Actually in every way we are! God has shown us some incredible things lately. We have had some times of turmoil and uncertainty about the future, and yet, God in His infinite grace and mercy has met us right at the throne of grace as we have turned our faces to Him. I love how He tells us in Hebrews 4:16 that He has made that provision for us:
16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Oh, what blessed and comforting words those are! I have found myself going to that throne several times in the past week or so with deep need for God’s grace and direction. And, when I have, He has answered my prayers and filled my heart with gratitude and understanding. He has confirmed for us that we are on the right track and that we need to go forward not in fear but in faith. Of course, it sure helps when you have the blessing and support of your doctors as you do so. It is also apparent that God has allowed us to have such great doctors in order to accomplish His purposes and we know that God is in the business of so doing, now don’t we?
Michael is back to work fulltime and thoroughly enjoying it. It put the spring back in his step and the joy and fun of working back in his life. For me, it has made a pretty significant change because he still isn’t allowed to drive until March 26, so, I have become the primary driver, and I’m the one of the two of us who doesn’t enjoy driving. It was so cute a couple of days ago. Michael kindly asked me if anyone had ever taught me how to drive on the interstate and no one ever really has. So, we are going to begin driving instruction. Perhaps when the six months is up I will be a more confident driver. God can work all things to good, maybe even that, right?
We so appreciate your prayers and encouragement. I have spoken to several dear friends asking for godly counsel in the past couple of weeks and shared our prayer needs and I have been humbled and overwhelmed at the response. It’s such a blessing to be in the family of Christ, especially when we consider what we deserve and how God loves us anyway.
Thanks for sharing this journey with us and for caring enough to keep praying for us. Please pray for me to have courage in driving and for Michael to continue to do well in his recovery. We do have winter weather coming on and I am definitely a ‘weather driving wimp’ when it comes to that. At the same time, this is not a chore or a trial for me. I do it with joy. I have the luxury of being mostly retired, and 5 more months is nothing but a blip on the radar screen of life. It will be over before we know it and I consider it a privilege to do something that is investing in my precious husband’s joy in life.
Dr. P. told us that he calls Michael his ‘Miracle Man Patient’. That is so true, but, it would not have been so without the intervention and protective hand of God on him and we truly know that. I don’t think any of this could have gone as well as it has without God’s healing touch or the way He created Michael to have that determination to overcome this and to return to a normal life. My husband is an amazing man. His way of dealing with all of this has been an incredible witness to me and to many others.
We do so hope you are well today. Please let us know if we can pray for you. As always, you are in our hearts, ever near and ever dear.
Michael and Jan