Day 50 – Day 56 Tuesday, 4 July – Sunday, 9 July, 2006

Monday, July 10th, 2006 [The posting author included this date which is when they wrote the update.]

July 4th is celebrated with a wheelchair trip across the street to Best Buy, and later after a nap to recover a 20 minute ride with Dad to Fry’s, which closed early, thereby requiring a second trip on Wednesday with Rose. There is in the material world little of interest to the geek-at-heart that cannot be found in these two establishments.

Fireworks at dusk are heard in the distance, but no pyrotechnic displays light the night sky outside the Tiverton.

Aaron continues to gain mobility, assisted by a round of physical therapy. His gait progresses from carefully tentative to oddly stiff to nearly normal by Sunday.

The staples and stitches come out on Thursday, and the last oozing from the incision finally ceases. The trachea hole is all but closed.

Aaron doesn’t have much appetite; eating is more an obligation that he dutifully performs. He has lost nearly 40 pounds over the last 8 weeks. Few will be jealous of the means that led to this end. It is unlikely that we will see cytotoxins sold as diet aids, or a new diet bestseller touting chemotherapy (but then again, if rat poison can be used to eliminate blood clots, what isn’t possible?)

Michaela wonders when her daddy’s hair will grow back.

An appointment is set for next Wednesday with Dr. Paquette to review the progress thus far and to map out the strategy for the coming weeks.

For everyone who is still checking in…

we would appreciate prayers as Aaron will have his BIG doctor’s appointment tomorrow (Wednesday). At this appointment we should find out a lot more information about what will be done next in regards to Aaron’s treatment. Please, pray for wisdom for the doctors, that all concerns will be addressed and for Aaron’s continued healing. As we have done every step of the way, we continue to have faith in God. We wait patiently on Him knowing that all who put their hope in the Lord will not be disappointed. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers and support. We’ll let you know what plans the doctors come up with!

Just a Quick Update

Thanks for your continued prayers! We just wanted to update you on Aaron’s appointment this morning. After some discussion, it was decided that Aaron will return to the hospital on July 24th. He will then undergo his second round of chemo which should be less severe, according to the doctor. With the particular medication Aaron will be receiving, he will most likely not lose any more hair or feel really nauseous! I am thankful that the doctor said he would like Aaron’s chemo done in the hospital instead of at home. Having chemo done as an inpatient is a lot better because the duration will be shorter and more people will be around to monitor how Aaron is handling it. Right now, Aaron is working on getting stronger. He has periods where he feels crummy for a few hours at a time but there is nothing going on that concerns the doctors at this point. We are so thankful for God’s lovingkindness and care. We see His goodness everyday. He is truly an awesome and amazing God who works in marvelous ways–ways that we don’t always understand but that we know are the best ways.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him…Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Psalm 105:1-3

Day 57 – Day 63 Monday, 10 July through Saturday, 15 July, 2006

Dr. Ronald Paquette’s stature as a research oncologist, professor, and physician looms much larger than his slight, hurried presence in the stairways and hallways of the UCLA medical center, where he is usually little more than a smiling blur as he runs through his domain, making hurried contact with patients whose futures, together with his decisions, are profoundly entwined. His previous meetings with Aaron were quick, intermittent, and pretty much observational, as Aaron’s awareness was mostly absent and his immediate needs were being met by those whose goal was to restore that which the enemy destroyed. Dr. Paquette’s goal is to destroy the enemy.

At his first scheduled meeting with Aaron on Wednesday morning, he looks at Aaron and decides he needs more time to robustify before starting the next round of poisons, “consolidation”. For 4 days (unlike the previous 7), beginning on July 24th, poisons will again flood his body in relentless pursuit of the hidden enemy.

Aaron continues to improve unabated. He has gained a couple pounds and does not have quite the Auschwitz look. Exhaustion is continuous, nausea comes in intermittent waves. He has his first burger on Wednesday. The resulting nausea tempers enjoyment.

A fundraiser for Aaron (even good medical insurance leaves much undone) is scheduled for next Saturday at Lake Casitas in the beautiful and of late rather toasty Ojai Valley. It is sponsored in part by Aaron’s employer, New Leads, by the Ojai Valley Wesleyan Chuch where Aaron moonlights as youth pastor, and by the Ojai Valley Baptist church.

A troubled world would do well to peek in on Ojai, where community is more than a concept. A unity that flows from diversity among Ojai’s “competing” churches testifies that at least some things in this world are as they ought to be.

Day 64 – Day 69 Sunday, 16 July through Friday, 21 July, 2006

The weather this week in Ojai was served hot, with a generous side of swelter. The normal caveat to Ojai’s hot summer days “…it’s a dry heat” was absent from this week’s temperature menu. But triple digit days and Mississippi nights did not deter Aaron from visiting Ojai. This is summer camp week, a big week for the youth at OVWC. Last year, Aaron, Natalie, Michaela, and Christopher accompanied the gang to camp and returned hoarse, muddy, exhausted and looking forward to doing it again this year. But that was when the world was different, when plans were made, when the future maintained the illusion of predictability.

Aaron shared at Sunday morning service a bit of his hospital sojourn from his [highly altered] perspective. Beginning the third day after the ambulance trip to UCLA, the events lodged in Aaron’s memory bear no semblance to those in the records kept by the staff at UCLA and which might generally be confirmed by any even marginally sane witness. Aaron’s remembered events do not begin to intersect with reality until several days after leaving the ICU.

But while the events of Aaron’s alternate reality involve such bizarre thrills as being chopped in two, turned into a mosquito, and living in the cafeteria, recalled events do not constitute our most important memories. For the important ones, Aaron’s memory severed him well (perhaps the hallucinations actually did serve him well, if not accurately).

The copious and powerful narcotics could blunt his pain and alter his reality, but there was no alternate reality that was not painful, filled with suffering, and relentlessly miserable. Aaron remembers suffering; the memory of continuous misery is clear and doubtless.

Yet for all the affliction, there is also a memory of that which the enemy’s most miserable and twisted nightmare could not extinguish; there is the memory of hope. Never was there a moment when Aaron was not hopeful. That the light of hope should burst from the dark of misery and triumph over the darkness is the stuff of legend, fable, and Divine grace.

Monday morning, Tommy and lovely bride Vanessa, on staff at “competitor” church CLC and filling in for Aaron and Natalie as OVWC youth pastor (While the title is singular, it is only singular in the context of two becoming one.) pro tem pile into the caravan with the kids and head for camp. Aaron tried to make it to the staging area at OVWC to bid adieu, but his body wouldn’t cooperate.

His body being more cooperative later in the week, he did make it on Friday evening to greet them on their 4 hour late return, they having crawled from San Diego through Los Angeles in the Friday afternoon “Getaway”.

Day 70 – Day 71 Saturday, 22 July through Sunday, 23 July, 2006

The breeze off Lake Casitas transformed Saturday’s swelter from unbearable to just plain hot and at times almost pleasant. Hundreds braved the heat for lemonade, tri-tip, lemonade, raffles, lemonade, music, lemonade, auction, lemonade, body art, lemonade, jewelry making, lemonade, sharing, lemonade, lemonade, lemonade, ice tea, water and sno-cones.

Events are curious affairs. They are ephemeral societies that form, evolve, engage, and evaporate. Whether the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg in 1863, the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom a hundred years later, Christopher’s butterfly party last year, or the fundraiser for Aaron on Saturday, the event is a fleeting moment birthed of protracted preparation.

The effortless ease with the temporary encampment of awnings, amplifiers, stage, firepits, galley, jolly jump, chairs, tables, booths, latrines, activities, and ice chests, grew on the grassy shores of Lake Casitas testified to the considerable planning and preparation that grew Pastor Lyn’s germ of an idea into the event for Aaron that it became. Churches, businesses, organizations and individuals in Ojai (and beyond…word leaked out) contributed time, materials, and money to make this event one that will live in memory well beyond its fleeting moment in history.

The music and speaking on the stage had difficulty competing with the food and fellowship being consumed by company in the shade. There were two exceptions, which hushed all present: The announcement of raffle winners, and Aaron, as he without assistance took the stage and stood to give thanks and to testify…..”For me, to live is Christ…”

Requesting Prayer for our Friend, Eric

We just spoke with Eric’s mom in the hall and she said that the doctors tell her Eric may not make it through the week. Some of you may remember that Eric spent a few weeks in ICU with Aaron. Eric has AML (like Aaron) but also has aplastic anemia. It seems to be the aplastic anemia that is the big problem for Eric. Anyways, we would greatly appreciate it if you would join us in praying for this family that we have been through so much with. It is awesome to see how Eric’s mom is trusting God. She has a faith in God that is absolutely amazing. Her most common phrase is “God has the last word on everything.”

Aaron will be finishing his last dose of chemo tomorrow morning. We hear that we will then be discharged to the Tiverton for about 3 days and then sent back to the hospital while Aaron is neutropinic (no white cells) for a couple of weeks. Please, also pray for protection for Aaron while he has no immune system. He had a pretty crummy day today–he felt nauseous and restless.

Many thanks to all of you who demonstrated so much love toward us through the fundraiser. Many of you put so much effort and work into making such a beautiful thing possible. It was such a blessing to be able to attend. We have been so blessed by God! Words fail to express how much gratitude we have in our hearts.

This trial that we are going through certainly has not been fun but it is so amazing to see how much good has resulted from it. It is certainly true that God can turn a curse into a blessing! Aaron and I know very well that we are serving God right now, just in a different way and in a different place.

Thank you for continuing to keep us in your prayers. We know that the joy, peace, hope and strength that we have is from God in answer to your prayers. God’s richest blessings to all of you!