Feed your Faith

Feed your Faith, and your Fears will starve to Death! I am Lifted with Love, Healed by Grace and Saved by the Cross...

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Domain - New Site

Beloved,
I am no longer using http://www.LeDan09.Com, or http://ledan09.blogspot.com. Please do not visit these sites anymore.

PLEASE GO TO http://www.DanielHaddad.Org


Thank you, and God bless you all! 


Daniel Haddad


___________________________


1 Peter  1:3
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 

Friday, November 5, 2010

2 Surgeons, 1 Day...

Although I was officially done with my treatments, our vacation wasn't quite here. I still had 2 meetings: one with my Orthopedic Surgeon and one with my plastic surgeon, and both in the same day, on September 15th. We were surprised to see that MD Anderson had set me up with a plastic surgeon as my Orthopedic Surgeon had told us that I would not need a Reconstruction of the Pelvis for the surgery, thus no need for a plastic surgeon.

The plastic surgeon's role would be to take my Fibula bone out of my leg, and use it to reconstruct the pelvis, as the Ring of the Pelvis was going to get cut into. Apparently a very complicated surgery, which altogether would last about 15 hours.

We were waiting for the surgeon to walk in:
Oh, and my dear friend and brother visited me from Lebanon...Such good and blessed times together!



If you ever wanted to see how I looked in a skirt/dress, your wish just came true :)


The plastic surgeon was a very sweet and kind person. Although he had a sense of humor amidst what we were going through, he spoke with genuineness and with compassion. One felt he cared for his patient's care and wellbeing. Any physician, doctor, nurse, surgeon etc...who has no compassion or love for others, or who is unable to extend an arm while putting themselves in their shoes ought to consider another field.

Similarly, any individual who is unable to practice love, compassion, gentleness, forgiveness and patience with others, ought to re-evaluate one's heart and ponder about who/what is reigning in their life.

I really love the following verse, and want to put it in practice more and more each day, so that I can live a more selfless life, putting others before me, as Christ did for us:

Galatians 6:2
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ"

video

My dad was super funny in this video as he tells the surgeon "I hope we will not see you again!" :)

video


After spending over 45 minutes with the plastic surgeon and his team, we had lunch and visited with my surgeon before taking the 4 weeks off.

The meeting with the surgeon didn't go as we had expected. The surgeon was, all of a sudden, more adamant about a reconstruction of the pelvis. She told us that unless the tumor shrinks considerably by the next time we do scans (usually a week before the Surgery), that she was planning on going forward with the reconstruction. What seemed to be a possibility, became a confirmation (a worldly one, that is).

The hope I had in my mind quickly faded away as I realized how sports, running and athleticism would probably no longer be part of my life. It hammered me down; I was getting ready for the realities that lied ahead, it wasn't easy to accept. But then I remembered how every breath I have taken so far is solely from Him, through Him and thanks to Him; so my brokenness lasted only for a few minutes, as I was doing my best to take IMMEDIATE joy and hope in the Lord as He is able to change any circumstance!

Psalms 39:7
"But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You." 

"Enjoy your Europe trip", they say...I shall, I shall, for He lives in me, and that satisfies my deepest thirst, my deepest hunger for anything worldly. Thank you Jesus, for everything!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No mas Radiation! - September 14, 2010

As I laid on my back to do my very last session of radiation, I was intensely praying to God that even though the first 34 days may not have worked and that we are down to one last day, please take control of this and heal me if it is your will. It was a spiritual moment I'll never forget. I was doing my best to "believe" God was going to heal me that second, if it was His perfect timing.


Every radiation session includes 7 beams/sections and as the machine goes around my body and reached the very last one, my prayers intensified and I was doing my best not to lose focus. It was down to 10 seconds left of radiation. Radiation, after all, is a major treatment plan for my Sarcoma...And having it not work is problematic...So the last 10 seconds were so cumbersome that I barely got to say anything to the Lord, but He knew my heart and when I heard the radiation buzz stop, I knew my Radiation treatment was over. I heard my heart say deep down "Come what may; the Lord is in control."

When I went outside, my mom shared with me how she was praying the same prayer I was, regarding the very last day of Radiation being more powerful than all previous ones combined, and that should the Radiation not have worked previously, that it would work today! It was a beautiful confirmation.

The bell behind us is a bell that every graduate of Radiation Therapy is entitled to ring. It felt a bit awkward, but I still rang it ;)
I remember seeing many people throughout my sessions ring it, and I always asked myself "I wonder how that felt"...and to my non-surprise, it didn't feel THAT great. lol. It's all mental, really. The fact is that Radiation was over! 



Towards the end of my 5 weeks of daily visits to the hospital for Radiation sessions, I got somewhat attached to the process and to the group of people I got to see everyday. Unlike any other process out there, which either takes place sporadically, or with a different medical team -- the same Radiation team who welcomed me the first day was there to say good-bye on September 14.


They were so nice to me; so helpful, so caring and so loving. They usually played their favorite music in the background while radiation was in process....I looked forward to everyday, wondering what type of music would be playing. I was excited to be done with Radiation, but sad that I would be leaving this team behind and that I wouldn't be seeing them anymore. It was another chapter closed. 

I wish everyone was like these 2 women: happy, laughing, smiling and positive. Who wouldn't want to be around them? Aside from a single mother nurse in the PET Scan department, they were my favorites too. And I'm sure they felt it was mutual, as I tried my best to show them God's Love, as well as God's promises. We had a few conversations and I always told them that "Our Lord is my only Healer, but that I'm hoping their Radiation machines were the means to my healing."

I even got attached to my 2 Ethiopian friends who ran the Valet service at the Radiation center. They would take my car everyday and we'd have a few seconds to exchange small conversations. They were such nice people, and I was so happy to take a picture with them before leaving on my last day.  


I would sometimes have Christian music playing in my car and wouldn't bother shutting it off so that my friends could listen to the music that I liked. 

I went home after having finished Radiation and took a picture of my Cross-hair: 


It looked like the map of Texas, lol. But I was glad that I could now clean and shower that part of my body, without worrying about taking the traces off! 

I was now officially done with all my Pre-Surgery treatments! I was given 4 weeks off to regain strength and to get ready for my surgery. My family's trip to East Europe was a few days away. God is good, always!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Colonoscopy - September 8, 2010

After letting my Doctor know that I had some bleeding, he opted me out of Chemo Cycle 6, and decided that I should do a Colonoscopy.

I didn't really know what a Colonoscopy was, but I remember seeing my father go through it a few months prior. He was drinking liquids the night before his test and complaining about how bad the solution tasted. My dad is the type of person who is able to eat or drink anything without any questions asked. Whether snails or any other delicatessen out there; he's in for the fun. So when I saw him making faces while drinking his one and a half gallon liquid mix (which seemed to me like water), I thought he was acting; but as I followed his footsteps, I understood what it was about...The tables have turned and it was his turn to laugh at me while drinking...lol.

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The next morning, I woke up very hungry, and that's maybe why the day seemed awfully long, as I was waiting for my appointment (3pm). Minutes were ticking by slowly, and I was, for once, more than ready to go to the hospital. I knew a big meal awaited me after the process.

 The time came, and I was admitted to Room #2, where I was asked to change to a hospital gown.


The assistant to the Doctor who was going to perform the Colonoscopy dropped by and explained to us what the process was about. He also allowed time for us to ask questions. He was a nice and sharp guy in his late thirties. I knew by his accent that he was FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) Jewish, but when I told him I'm his Lebanese neighbor, he didn't really take the invitation to joking too well...Oh well, as long as he didn't rip my intestines apart, I was OK with him being a bit unfriendly. Politics always has its way anyways. Wow, that's quite a wordplay.

When he left, my parents and I had about fifteen minutes to chat before I was taken away. I wasn't nervous, but I wasn't totally comfortable either. Just imagining a long metallic wired camera going through my body from inside made me indifferent about going in, although knowing I would be knocked out. The nurse assured me I would be sleeping....

As I am called to go into the room, the Doctor welcomes me. I had a big smile on my face. For the first time in my life, I was going into (let's call it an Operating Room) a mini OR and a Doctor with a suit welcomed me! I was shocked to see him not dressed in a white suit, rather a regular suit men would wear to work or church. I made a comment about that, and he laughed back saying that's how he does things. I liked the originality and I was now a fan of Colonoscopies, lol. Our relationship was off to a good start while the FOB Jewish guy was standing right next to him. I can't remember if he found any of this amusing. 

A minute before starting, the nurse injects me with Anesthesia. They were all looking at me, probably waiting for me to sleep or pass out. I didn't. They said it was OK to stay awake as long as there is no pain...So they went about their thing, and a minute later I really started feeling the pain of the camera inside of me, moving about freely, so the Doctor asked the nurse to inject me with more Anesthesia. Similarly to the Biopsy, even after 3 injections (3x more Anesthesia than your average Joe), I managed to stay awake the whole time and watched them do the whole process -- there was a nice 24" LCD screen right next to me and I was watching the camera go through my body. 

For a minute, I forgot that what I was looking at was happening inside of me. I was drowsy and watching what seemed to be an unfathomable speed of camera movement.  It was like watching a screen that takes you through a tunnel at high speeds, not knowing what to expect next. It was kind of fun for a few moments. And with some thought, I was able to link the mild pain or uncomfortable sensation inside of me to the screen. It wasn't that exciting watching the organs, considering the blood, fluids and other liquids roaming about the body. Overall, I was ready for it to be over...

I was relieved to know it was finished so fast. It wasn't a very difficult process, but it can be somewhat uncomfortable at times. The Doctor immediately shared with me that my Colon was clear and that there was no sign of tumor anywhere in that area! Praise God! 

Hebrews 13:15
"Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name"

I am training my mind to thank Him for every little detail in my life, the seen and the unseen, as every good thing is from Him, literally every single thing. When there is mutual respect between 2 people, the bond grows stronger, and that's how it is with God when He sees that we are thankful and acknowledging that He is the source of all good things! It also feels good to thank Him! 

Although He sometimes allows for not so good things to happen in our lives, He has a bigger plan for us which we might not see or understand. Ultimately it still boils down to something good, through bad or tough experiences. We just need to stay the course, and faithfully....and then...watch out...Be amazed at what He has in store for us!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some Randomness for a change...

On August 24, one day before meeting with my doctor for the end of Cycle 5, I decided to build a chair I had bought for my desk in my room. It was a completely random day and I started working on putting it together around 5pm. Halfway through this and about 30 minutes later, my sister enters my room and tells me that my cousin in Wilmington, NC was doing the exact same thing at the same second!! So ironic and so funny!! Here are our pictures! 





I give props to her for even trying to put the chair together. It's not the easiest of things, specially for a girl who might have other things to do ;)

In case any of you ever pictured me on my computer writing this blog, wonder no more. Here is where it's all happening, with the new chair of course:


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Post-Cycle 5: Facts, Remarks and Things to be Joyful for....

I was expecting pretty dramatical physical performance having combined Chemo with Radiation. It really hit me on Day 5 of Radiation which was also Day 10 in my Chemo Cycle (lowest blood counts) -- on August 11, my fatigue was one to remember. I got home from radiation, and was planning to do some reading, only to find out that my eyes were so heavy to the point of me struggling to keep them open in midday; I was more than ready to pass out. I rushed my mom in preparing lunch so that I can hibernate upstairs.
As planned, immediately after lunch, I took a 3 hour afternoon nap and woke up only to prevent my body from getting into jet-lag mode so that I can sleep at a decent hour at night. Had that not been my worry, I could have probably slept through the morning -- a myth and a reality I highly doubt since I'm not a sleeper type and usually cannot get more than 7 hours at a time....I guess it'll make us all wonder.

Looking back and seeing how I was already midway in my 5th month was consoling...I remember meeting a gentleman while waiting to get admitted on my 3rd Day of Chemo Cycle 1. I was still in the beginning of the race and my body was so weak since it wasn't used to Chemo. I wore blankets while waiting in the hospital, carried my mask with me diligently, was fully aware of everyone around me and was always curious in knowing what the next step was. It was too eventful, and too new for me. It was a new world that I became apart of, whether I liked it or not. I had become one with hospitals, doctors and medicines.

This gentleman was sitting across from me and my mother. He was in his early thirties and I struck conversation with him. He was a big guy, with biceps nearly as big as half my thigh. He also had an army necklace hanging down his white t-shirt. I would have never guessed he had cancer had it not been for his shaved head and eyebrows. He still looked very strong and in shape.
He was reading a newspaper, but immediately put it down when he saw that I was so interested in chatting with him. He was also a Sarcoma patient, and was diagnosed back in 2007. He fought it and was in remission by mid-2008. In early 2010, the Sarcoma came back and new spots were found in his lungs. He is still fighting this as we speak.

I remember vividly how he shared his story with my mother and I. He was a very athletic person who ran over 150 miles per month, consistently. He passionately enlightened us about the first couple cycles and how being sick in bed is nothing out of the norm, even for a big guy like him. He told me that by the first Cycle, he was already on blood transfusions and got 1-2 every cycle up until surgery. That really scared me. It's one thing to give blood, but it's another thing to sit in bed and get other people's blood...I just don't like this thought. I told myself that I'd do whatever it takes to prevent this, if it is in my control.

Now that I am only a few weeks away from surgery and that all Chemo is done, I can tap myself on the back knowing that I made it through the toughest Chemo cycles for 5 months without one blood transfusion! I never had to spend a night in the hospital either! It was a miracle and an answered prayer from God! He is truly with me at all times! This is a greater miracle than any of you can imagine, and I am in awe for how the Lord is taking care of me. There is no strength and no healing hand like His.

My delicate, weak and thin body sustained the damage better than the army-like person that I discussed above. It's no surprise though, as He was with me, giving me the strength and the endurance needed:

Colossians 1:11
"...being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father."

While the verse above is pertaining to spiritual endurance, it can be compared to our physical endurance through trials. You might not think that God had anything to do with me not getting blood transfusions, which is fair, but I personally believe He relieved me of this headache.

As the Cycles were cumulative, my Hemoglobin would drop lower every time. My parents were aware of the problem we were facing, and they really helped feed me nutritious foods to prevent it. Any Hemoglobin level below 7.0 means automatic admission to the hospital. I reached 7.2 during Cycle 4. I was really close...For some reason, my levels were higher during Cycle 5.
I called a friend right before my blood draw on my lowest blood count day (Cycle 5) and shared with him how I was very worried my Hemoglobin would be lower than 7.0. I wasn't ready to be admitted to the hospital. I really hate being there...But God worked a miracle and I was spared. My levels were 8.2! It was a miracle! This is one thing I am very joyful for!

Psalm 6:9
"The Lord has heard my supplication, the Lord receives my prayer."

On the flipside, the VinCristine Chemo mix is known to really affect the veins. My veins used to be pronounced on my arms, very visible and very strong. As of today, they are not noticeable and well hidden underneath my arms. A few posts ago, I mentioned how I was proud of myself for getting used to blood draws. The fear and the pain they imposed was something I started paying little attention to, considering I had bigger problems ahead.

Unfortunately, the last couple blood draws have been beyond painful....I finally asked one nurse why they were hurting so much more than before....She told me that my veins were 'collapsing' and that due to Chemo, the nurses are having to dig deeper with the needle to draw the blood. I wasn't too surprised the journey was going to get tougher, even when it comes to something I thought I overcame...It's pretty sad.

The other observation regarding those blood draws are their duration. While they used to take a few seconds, they are now taking around 30 seconds, if not longer. I think the blood flow out of my weaker veins is now slower. I am not sure if this has to do with lower Hemoglobin levels or not. I try my best not to distract or talk to the nurses anymore so that they can rush the blood draw. It bothers me when they start talking to others around me while drawing my blood, therefore extending the duration of the needle in my arm...It's discomforting, and I get very anxious very fast.

I used to allow anyone to prick me. Not anymore. If the nurse is a student in training, I usually request another nurse. I hate to break it to them by telling them that I'd rather have a more experienced nurse, but all I have to do is show them my bruised up arm and they understand. It's not a crime to switch to a more confident nurse since I am no longer like before.

Finally, it was my goal to reach surgery having used my RIGHT ARM alone for all blood draws and IV's. Halfway through Cycle 5, I decided to give my right arm some rest, and started using my left arm. My right arm had it pretty bad. As soon as it recovers though, I plan to use it again.

Towards the end of August, my eyebrows starting growing back a bit. I was super excited for a few days...only to find out that a week later, this progress had diminished and my eyebrows were close to non-existent again....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chemo CYCLE 5 - August 2, 2010 - August 25, 2010

On July 30th, 2 days after meeting with my doctor, Dr. Patel, I was to get 'marked' for Radiation. I initially thought they would use a Sharpie Marker while putting an X on the exact location they plan to radiate, but it turns out the process was more detailed, more specific...and of course included some pain, although mild. In the beginning, they had me go through a machine similar to the CT Scan. Notice my eyebrows were totally gone! This day marked the climax of my ghost-looking days....I had reached this point before even beginning Cycle 5 of Chemo.



 After laying flat on the air suction platform, the Tech guy sucked the air out so that the shape of my body would get molded on the blue cushion cradles.


A few moments later, he tells me that we need to 'Tattoo' 3 dots on my hips: 1 on the left side and 2 on the right side. He used thin and long needles to prick me. I now have 3 little dot Tattoos which will never go away, a sign of remembrance of my radiation days. I don't mind them at all. They're barely visible considering I'll have a scar through half my body. And yes, I know!! I put on lots of weight ;) Thanks for the reminder...lol



You might question what I'm about to share with you and maybe immediately react by thinking that "because he is sick and is going through tough times, he is saying what he is saying." This is not true. I always believed in this, but was a silent Lukewarm Christian. This is no longer the case. I will share my faith and share my true beliefs with anyone who is willing to lend an ear. There is no time to waste, and I hope, that you too, through whatever circumstances life puts you in are able to draw closer to God and recognize that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Please keep in mind that I love you all, despite your background or your religious beliefs. I am not trying to offend anyone. I'm only sharing my take on this most important topic.

In my situation, because I was stubborn, selfish and unable to detach from this world and what it had to offer, I was sinking slowly but surely, and found myself wasting years and eventually forgetting God to some extent. God, religion and church didn't trigger much in my heart. I tried to find the joy in it, but I just didn't feel it for a long time... This is why I thank God day and night for my life today and where I stand as I write this. My cancer has been my biggest blessing. 

Don't forget that I had the choice to turn my back and keep looking away from God. It's easier, and living the life that the world imposes on you is just what makes sense. It's also more fun, more tempting and can seem more world-rewarding. But that's as far as it goes. You're living for the moment only.
Not because I was born in a Christian home does it make me bias or blindly following my family's spiritual and religious footsteps. I found this truth throughout the years through personal experiences, but now more than ever. And it's real. Very real. I also feel the joy it grants. It's abundant.

You might also debate with me about Jesus Christ being the only way to salvation. If you believe in the Bible, it must be a no-brainer as the Scriptures address this confirmation non-stop. It's time that we put those verses to work. If you're not a Christian, I urge you to do your homework before setting foot on another religious or atheistic path. But before exploring the truth, please pray to God to touch you and reveal Himself to you in one way or the other (not necessarily physically or through a dream, but rather a confirmation or an inner feeling of some sort). He is alive and will listen to your plea. He will tickle your heart. And at that point, don't relieve that sensation, but instead, feed it. Keep exploring it, and pray again and again, even if your prayer is of the shortest form. However, it must be sincere. Oh, and if you are at this point, please contact me. I would love to talk to you about it, as I will be very joyful too!

Luke 15:7
Jesus said "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

On August 2nd, I was to start my 6 day Chemo cycle. I was afraid and more nervous about this cycle as the chemo dosage was going to be stronger and more cumulative, and I had to 'last' an extra day. I usually couldn't wait to get disconnected on my 5th day, and I begin getting antsy on Day 3. Days 3 and  4 were the hardest because they are 'full fledged' Chemo days, whereas Day 5 has a different feel to it as I am waking up knowing that by the time I sleep at night, I would no longer be dealing with chemo infusions.
However, this time, I would have to extend this antsy feeling by a day...The thought made me dread the cycle that's to come. I was uncomfortable, simply uncomfortable, but not really stressed.

While driving to the hospital, I immediately remembered Christ, and how right before His Crucifixion He was praying in the Garden of Gesthemane and sweating blood due to great stress and anguish.

Luke 22:44
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Although my Chemo dosage was proven to be the highest and toughest one MD Anderson gives to any patient, I didn't feel a fraction of the anguish and stress that Christ felt. I can't really call it stress because I wasn't stressed out....I was simply not looking forward to some tough times knowing I wouldn't be 'at ease.' I realized how my experience was nothing close to Christs' because I wasn't even sweating, let alone sweating blood. How much tougher and stronger, and more painful was the cross?? Wow!!! It's something we cannot comprehend. All these thoughts rushed through my mind as I was heading to the hospital...It gave me strength to face what Im about to face without giving myself much credit for doing it because God is with me, always!

I then imagined going through this 6 Day Cycle for a friend, a family member, a person who has persecuted or hurt me, anyone....I don't know if I could, and I don't know if I have the humility to want to do it. Im just putting things in perspective so we can all see what a great sacrifice Jesus Christ did for all of us, and yet the world is blind in seeing how majestic His love is for us. We turn the other cheek and go about our lives selfishly. We need to stop living selfish lives, forgetful of our God. I cannot stress this enough.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

We always want to do what we want, and not what God designed us to do. We wake up every morning forgetting that without His grace, none of us would be breathing or reading this blog right now...

Revelation 4:11
"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

Most of us bear the Christianity label, and perhaps wear a cross around our necks, only to accept obeying small parts of the Bible -- just as long as it doesn't mess with our daily lives and doesn't cross into our comfort zones. We may distort and deny the rest. Why have generations lost the true meaning of 'bearing the cross'?

I look back and am ashamed at myself for how I've lived part of my life...but I'm still young and I still have time to prove myself and prove that God is ultimately the prize I want to attain. Anything worldly is worthless. We're only living a milli-second flash when comparing our earthly time with eternity...What foolish person cannot understand this concept?

I can totally relate to how Radical Muslims do what they do. They are so convinced that their martyrdom will grant them access to heaven; something totally worth it for them. They'd rather sacrifice their time on earth for eternal joy in heaven. I feel with them, and understand their mindset. (Whether the Qur'an requires this or not is out of the scope of this topic). The same applies to Christianity though, but in a different way. Jesus Christ is Love and He simply wants us to love Him and live a harmonious, relationship-centered Godly life. We don't have to do too much to earn grace and salvation. He already died for us.

If you don't question your salvation, there's something wrong -- we are all blinded by our pride. I pray this does not hinder your faith. If there's one thing I learned so far throughout my cancer is that human beings are so frail, so weak, so fragile...We're simply nothing. Everything can seem to be going for us, but in one instant, one second, it can all be taken away -- whether through a severe health disease, a deadly car accident etc...

James 4:14
"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

Francis Chan said in his book "Crazy Love" "Throughout time, somewhere between forty-five billion and one hundred twenty-five billion people have lived on this earth. That's 125,000,000,000. In about fifty years (give or take a couple decades), no one will remember you. Everyone you know will be dead. Certainly no one will care what job you had, what car you drove, what school you attended, or what clothes you wore."

If you're not interested in giving more than 0-1% of your time to God, then that's your decision, but He deserves so much more. Whatever we're distracted with is immaterial in the big scope of things. We go about our daily lives, day after day, neglecting the reason we are, and neglecting the God who created us! What are you busy with tomorrow? Studying for an exam? Headed to work to make a measly few $$? Going to the hairdresser to look better for the night? All of this worthless!
When I think about these things, I realize just how empty and self-driven we are. We think happiness is measured with earthly achievements or materialistic things, perhaps even sexual success or sexual pleasure, but the yield remains "overall emptiness". We should want and desire a loving God to lean on and to feel at peace, to get the blessings He wants to give His children; most of these blessings unseen to the eye. We should be passionate about a God who wants the best for us, and who promises an eternity of joy for His children!

Going back to the topic of the Crucifixion...As powerful as Jesus is, he could easily have avoided the Crucifixion. He could have brought down a legion of angels to protect him. He could have made his skin impenetrable. He could have anesthetized his pain so that he felt nothing. But he chose to do none of these things. Rather, he willingly chose to genuinely be “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” so that he could truly pay for our sins and suffer human death. Are you comprehending this vast love? For as much as your mind can fathom, it's just not enough, it's more than that. It makes me want to try and live an obedient life, an all-encompassing Biblical life, a Christ-centered life, not simply a "I don't steal, I don't kill, I go to church on Sundays" type of Christian life, because as blinding as it may seem, it's worthless too.

Francis Chan puts it in a more compelling style: "Most of our thoughts are centered on the money we want to make, the school we want to attend, the body we aspire to have, the spouse we want to marry, the kind of person we want to become...But the fact is that nothing should concern us more than our relationship with God; it's about eternity and nothing compares with that." 

Reach out and join me on this journey. You'll definitely look back and jump from joy when you realize this was the best decision you've ever made.

Daniel Webster once said "The greatest thought that has ever entered my mind is that one day I will have to stand before a holy God and give an account of my life."

A few guys and I started a weekly small group meeting, which includes accountability to remain accountable to each other. Our first topic is Humility...We're reading an awesome book titled Humility by Andrew Murray -- a must read for everyone. We all have pride in its various shapes and forms. It's something we need to fight with God's help, to rid ourselves from it in order to draw closer to God.
In the first chapter I learned about how much humility it took Christ to do what He did for us on the cross.

Isaiah 53:7
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter...so He did not open His mouth.”

Philippians 2:8-9
"And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!"


If you really think about this, you can't but respect and love such a man, a man who lived to the fullest the concept of Love and selflessness.
If you're still unable to feel me on this, think about it this way:
Imagine you're the son of a diplomat, the son of a president or the son of a CEO. Would you spend your teenage years as well as your twenties with a low-key, humble personality? You probably wouldn't. Every person who comes in contact with you would know who your father was. I am sure you would have pride when it comes to your family's status. You wouldn't tolerate anyone persecuting you or hating on you. Your bad, temper-filled side would shortly thereafter be shown to all because you do possess a certain power through your father...

But Christ wasn't like this. Although some people knew who He was, it wasn't until His last 3 years that He was proclaiming who He was and who His Father was -- but only to save you and me! His message of Hope which shakes the world to this day never ceases to draw many for a reason...If you too, are shaken today or have been recently moved by His spirit, don't hold back, instead acknowledge that you're a sinner and that He died on the cross for your sins and pray that He enters into your heart as you proclaim Him Lord and Saviour over your life...It's simple, yet the world has a hard time taking this free gift -- a costly grace through His death and His Love for us.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life."

Quoting Andrew Murray "His humility became our salvation. His salvation became our humility." It takes humility to accept the word of God and to accept the fact that we are NOT in control of our lives. Humility is the most important trait in growing towards Christ's likeness and bearing fruit. From within humility flows love, forgiveness, gentleness, goodness and most importantly faith.

One of my best friends, whom I mentioned in the previous post, made me the most memorable surprise ever. He was to leave Houston for good a few days later. He walked into my room on my 2nd Day of Chemo wearing a hat. On his average day, he'll wear a hat, so it wasn't uncommon for me to see him wearing a hat. A few seconds later, I notice his sideburns are gone and his hair is all shaved off! I looked at him and smiled and pointed it out; he then took off the hat, and I was thankful he was there for me, standing in solidarity even through his shaved head. It meant a lot to me. But I felt there was something more to his shaved head...I could tell he was hiding something from me. Before I could even make a comment about anything, he turned around and alas, he had a professional hairdresser carve the "I LOVE DH" on the back of his head: 










Even Joanne got a kick out of it too! :) 


The thought was ingenious, thoughtful and very memorable. It's one of those things that I'll never forget; I'll imagine the drawing in my head years from now, specifically when I see or remember this friend. 

Towards the end of Cycle 5, I bled a few times when using the restroom. It happened at random instances over the past couple of months due to Chemo which causes some serious constipation...But I managed to get it behind me. This time however, it came more intensely and scared me at first. I wanted to share this with my doctor to make sure it was safe to continue into Cycle 6. The Chemo is known to destroy organs, mostly the Kidneys...I was troubled knowing it could imply some interior organ damage.  

On August 25, my family and I met with my doctor and I shared the news with him. He got a bit confused because the bleeding caused by Chemo usually takes place during the first 10 days of the cycle, if at all...Mine started on Day 17. It was unusual.

Since surgery time was nearing and that the doctor didn't want to delay surgery any longer, he decided to set me up with the Gastrointestinal (GI) department to do a Colonoscopy. He also decided to cancel Cycle 6, as surgery cannot take place until 4 weeks after Radiation and the last cycle of Chemo are done. It gives the needed time for the effect of those treatments to take place. If we were to wait for the Colonoscopy and then do Cycle 6, it could have skewed things by about a week roughly. 

My doctor looked at me and smiled and told me: "Daniel, this is my birthday present to you, I am cancelling Cycle 6!" I was so relieved, and only then did I realize how annoying and cumbersome those cycles were. I'm always ready to put on a fight and sustain the damage if I can, but I will not be opposed to the thought of any single day of Chemo that is taken off my shoulders.  

I had also asked him about taking a few days off, without any hospital visits or ANYTHING of that sort. I took permission from him and my surgeon, and we worked it out so that I can take 3 weeks off before surgery! 
September 28, my birthday, happens to fall right in the middle! God is always good, and never ceases to lift my spirits up and remind me that He is there with me. All glory to Him! 

A few pictures from this Cycle: 



This picture was actually taken at the end of Cycle 4 and one day before Cycle 5 began




Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chemo CYCLE 4 - July 5, 2010 - August 2, 2010

On the last day of Cycle 3, friends came over for 2 games of Risk. It was 12:30am, and I was scheduled for Chemo at 6am! Fun times followed by not so fun times... My friend (the die roller) is known to never give up a game until each and every army soldier is wiped off the map. This pushes the game an extra 30 minutes...lol, he's a funny guy, because even if I quit the game early although winning, he'd consider himself victorious....so I have to keep on going to prove him wrong ;)
However, playing this game with him changes the whole dynamic of the game. He's the most fun person to play a board game with. I truly love our memorable times together!
Here is a picture before we started, followed by a video towards the end of the game...


video

Cycle 4 wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. I was a bit afraid of starting it, knowing how terrible it was during Cycle 3 with respect to the smells, but my body somehow denied those smells and I was more 'confident' about this whole chemo thing. The mask helped me a bit, but I didn't use it much.

Before I really get into details about this cycle, let me include the song that lifted me up during this cycle's tough times. I had heard this song many, many a times before, but it wasn't until I was in the midst of it all that I discovered its beauty. A friend had also sent it to me a few months ago, but it didn't mean to me as much as it does now.


video

Here are the links if the video isn't working for whatever reason:


An acoustic version of the song:



The words that really touched me were:
"I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, 
And I realise just how beautiful You are, 
And how great Your affections are for me."

I try to stay reminded that through my suffering, my bond with Christ grows stronger, as does my comfort and peace. They all grow simultaneously and go hand in hand. It's His promise after all:

2 Corinthians 1:5
"For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."


What keeps me going is also the fact that this race or journey isn't mine, but God's. It brings me great joy to hope to see that His glory be revealed through my suffering. Although nothing close to what the disciples and martyrs suffered, it gives me a glimpse of the truth behind these powerful verses. Nothing else would have consoled me. I can only imagine what reaction I would have had hearing my diagnosis without Christ steering my ship.

1 Peter 4:13
"But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

Without these promises, this journey would be personal, meaningless and a total waste. I would be walking a dark alley all alone -- Even though family and friends are here to help, I would still be the only one who would really feel the pinch. But through Him, I have hope that something better -- beyond my understanding and beyond my now secured salvation -- will come out of this. Why am I so into this? I am happy to live for him: If we are worth dying for, then Jesus must be worth living for! 

The words in the David Crowder Band hymn that also totally stole my heart are very simple, yet hard to grasp: "If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking". I had put this up as my status on Facebook and 12 people quickly Liked it. My God, my faith, and my salvation cannot be without His unending Grace. A friend then asked me why we would sink, versus swimming and floating as God would help His children from sinking...I told the friend that if one floats or swims, then the picture painted of God's Grace is weak. It wouldn't have an impact at all. The point of the metaphor is to simply show how big, huge, vast, deep etc... is God's Grace towards mankind. I wish we all understood this, but unfortunately we don't, and we will never be able to.
Sometimes people ask me to ask God why this happened to me and I deny the thought because I am not interested in knowing. It's pointless. He has a purpose and His will will be done. As for me, I'll try to do my job along the way...the latter thought falls in the subset of understanding God, of understanding His Love, His Grace, His Faithfulness...If you think you will ever grasp the depth and abundance of these amazing attributes, you're wrong.
And as Francis Chan said in his book "Crazy Love", it's ridiculous for us to think that we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending...God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives.

Shifting gears..Ok, so this cycle totally did it for me! Im looking more and more like a cancer patient. Earlier, one would have to look at me closely to figure out if I was one or not. No one really knew for sure. But this is as far as my pokerface takes me. My skin is much more yellow, my eyebrows are close to gone (this sucks, lol), my eyes are so much lighter in color and my head is shining more than ever! For those of you who might remember, my strong eyebrows were one of my facial characteristics. Almost gone now! I won't complain though...because this is temporary.
The picture below was taken a few days before my eyebrows totally disappeared.


It could however put me in someone else's shoes for a short period of time to experience what others go through: from lower self-esteem to handicaps that might affect different areas in one's life (love life, social life, overall joy and hope, career etc..). When a person loses self-esteem or has a relatively low one, it can be very damaging. I see people with low morale all over the hospital, and it's really depressing. Fortunately, the people who saw me during Cycle 4 got to see how my spirit is still very uplifted and happy....and always hopeful in the Lord.

Verses such as this one are just so soothing to the soul:

Romans 15:13"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Looks matter to everyone, it's a fact. Losing my eyebrows was tougher than losing my hair, or looking yellow at times. And this is why I've been wearing hats lately whenever in public...Looking normal again seems like a dream....Until that day...

Here's a quick video of this Cycle on Day 2 of Chemo. It happened to be the Semifinal between Netherlands and Uruguay. Also notice how I joke with the nurse about adding him on Facebook, haha ;)

video


On Day 4, the smells issue came to fruition again and I wore the mask for a while.



I know it might look totally dorky, but so be it. It's helped me, without even using the mask's filter.
Here is a short video taken during Chemo...

video


I don't know about you, but I hate needles. I can't even look at them. Since I started this journey back in April, I averaged one prick every 2 days. Injecting something into my body is usually easier than drawing blood as I am really tired of 'donating' my blood for testing, lol. I find the idea of drawing blood quite disturbing. The good news, however, is that I finally got used to most of these needles! What people have told me is almost true! I'm still working on the IV as that one hurts the most. I don't know if it's stamina or if I am now simply stronger minded, but the pain aspect of it has been reduced, knowing what to expect.

As I was feeling more confident about this process, a nurse calls my name for another blood draw... It was a tuesday morning and I was ready to go home afterwards. She took me to a room that's different from the norm. MD Anderson has a big room with about 12 nurses, bringing in people like cattle, every few minutes, and working on blood draws full-time. The thought is pretty scary; the amount of blood they collect every hour is definitely beyond what our minds can fathom. But for the first time, the shepherd called me to a different room! I didn't know whether to be excited or nervous. She was a nice woman though. I asked her if she was 'easy' on blood draws and if she had a 'soft' hand. She immediately smiled at me and pointed to the wall.
I looked in front of me and saw that she had tons of "Thank you" notes from patients attesting to her excellent work. That gave me some comfort....until I got pricked!! I still remember that prick...It was a super painful blood draw! I couldn't believe what was happening, and couldn't wait till it was over. She immediately covered my arm with a gauze and I couldn't see the carnage until I took it off shortly thereafter. The gauze was totally red due to flowing blood...My arm felt the damage of this 'good' nurse...



Maybe I should censor all these topics and gruesome images, but I doubt a minor would be reading through this blog....lol
The morale of this story is beautifully described in

Psalm 20:7

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."

I don't know why I trusted this nurse. After all, people mess up and are not perfect, unlike my God who is flawless. As long as I don't put hope, trust and faith in people, I know I can't be disappointed, because the perfection of these attributes belong to God.

This last blood draw was a setback in my accomplishment of thinking I had overcome this painful and arduous process. But it's ok...I was still in the category of "Two Steps forward and one step back" versus "One step forward and two steps back"....I'm mentally fine with it as long as I'm getting somewhere; I believe I've had quite a run so far, considering this was my 65th prick? Who knows...I've done plenty...but plenty more to go...

This cycle was super busy...I had an MRI on July 16, a CT Scan and X-Ray on July 21 and a PET Scan on July 27. I also met with 2 Surgeons as well as my Sarcoma doctor for an update on my tumor after test results came back.

I wasn't left alone all throughout the recovery period of this cycle. It was pretty intense and each procedure took hours including waiting time etc...Unfortunately, I know the hospital inside out now, and know my way around pretty well....So I am no longer a tourist or a lost guest wandering around. I'm not sure this is a good thing though.

Although it wasn't my first MRI, I still had trouble with this one...from a different perspective though. The room was freezing cold and I felt the need to ask the Technician for a blanket. He tied my legs (so that I wouldn't move) and snuck my body with the blanket...Then I was inserted into the cylindrical coffin for 35 min....Inside the tube, it was pretty hot despite a small vent opening coming from the top. That helped for just a bit. I had no problem not moving because my tumor and pain were controlled, unlike my first nightmarish MRI experience. However, 20 minutes into this test, I started really sweating and spent a few minutes guessing what minute I was on. I didn't want to stop the testing only for me to have to re-do the 35 min. I tried lasting a few more minutes and I felt my whole body sweating bullets. It was unbearable. So I call out to the Technician and impatiently ask him to take me out, unless we were almost done.
He tells me "Daniel, you have 8 seconds to go!"....I was totally relieved. Removing the blanket over me and getting out of that coffin felt better than eating a Double Whopper at Burger King.  

Waking up at 6am for a CT Scan isn't the most exciting event. July 21st, 2010 deemed to be one of the longest and most humbling days. A day I'll never forget.


The CT Scan requires an IV, similarly to the MRI and to the PET Scan. That's why I hate those processes. Like I said earlier in this post, I still have a small fear of IV's, due to the 5 failed attempts of putting one in my arm in St. Lukes back in April when I was diagnosed. The marks of those failed IV's still linger on my arm, 5 months later. It had to be the most painful experience I've ever had. Memories of the pain dwell in my mind and a small fear kicks in, but I am learning to be strong with IV's as well. Since they're not as frequent as regular blood draws, it might be a while for me to get used to them. I don't mind finishing this journey and not accomplishing this though, lol.

Later on that day (July 21st), my family and I were to meet with Dr. Lewis, my Surgeon. It was a big day for us as we were getting the MRI/CT Scan results through what the surgeon would tell us. After all, they are planning to cut me up...so it better be a much anticipated meeting.

She walked in with her team of 5. I smelled trouble. One of the team members was a younger guy (probably around my age). I looked at him a few times, but I could tell that he felt pity for me and therefore didn't want to mislead me by sharing a smile, until Dr. Lewis broke the news. It was a very uncomfortable setting -- Imagine sitting in class waiting for the teacher to orally give out your grade in front of the class, knowing you had done bad. The anxiety while awaiting that moment is similar to what we felt this day, but multiply that by 10, 20, 50 times. This day marks one of 3 climaxes in my journey.

Initially, I was told I would have a small incision of around 5cm, as they would take out a small piece of the infected bone. I didn't think this was too bad. The fortunate news (and this is where God's grace is also very fulfilling) was that my bone cancer is in the Iliac bone/crest, the only expendable bone in the pelvis! Knowing this made me praise God. I was spared from the ring or other bones where the implications are more severe.

However, it turns out my tumor spread in the bone marrow of the Iliac bone and the whole bone was infected! I am 3mm away from the Ring. If the Ring is touched, chances are I will either limp or will not be able to run....Each individual is different, but overall, these cases are more relentless.

They plan to cut me open from underneath my belly button, around my hip to my back. The incision will be about 25cm (if not bigger),  and they plan to take out all the Iliac bone instead of a small piece.
Although dealing with an expendable bone, it was devastating news. The surgeon explained to us how during surgery, they will be taking out samples to test for alive vs. dead cells and keep shaving off as they go, depending on whether the tumor is dead or not. As of now, the whole bone needs to go. I quickly asked her about my ability to run and walk normally post operation. She said she couldn't guarantee anything and that the answer to that will be determined during surgery.

Taking in this news and living with the possibility of not being able to run, or possibly limp for the rest of my life was as tough as knowing I had cancer. I'm a very athletic guy and running means the world to me.
Towards the end of March, I went to a conference and we had a treasure hunt around midnight...we had to run over 5 miles in the middle of the night and it felt great (we won the hunt, by the way)...I already miss running, it's been 4-5 months!

I cried several times knowing my abilities might no longer be the same....I was really knocked down and saddened. One of the lowest points in my life...What a day July 21st turned out to be.







And here is a video that I took right after returning from the hospital...

video


To my delight, one of my closest friends, a dear brother, sent me this passage from work -- he had it memorized by heart. I took strength from it, and God and the Holy Spirit immediately put the smile on my face and the joy in my heart.
It's UNBELIEVABLE how while bad news is rushing to my side, He is able to stir things up from inside. While knocked down, and when I am supposed to be totally miserable and hopeless, His promises are nothing shy from total perfection and beauty.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 says
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships in persecution in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This has to be one of the most beautiful passages. How can one not strive to love Paul and be/think like him? I am weak, very weak, but through Christ, I am surely strong. This strength has allowed me to accept what's to come. A very hard thing to say, but I gave it all to Him. Whatever He wants to do with me and my life, I'll take it, for He knows the plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) -- A hope beyond this worldly realm.

This same friend/brother, along with his family visited me from Canada/Lebanon. It was the farthest anyone had traveled to visit me. They were the first to do it, too. We were so honored to have them over for 2-3 days. We were so thankful to enjoy amazing fellowship and unforgettable moments together. I love them like my own family. Thank you for being there...




Did I mention he's also a super star in FIFA & completely destroyed me? ;)








During their stay, my family and I forgot our problems and just dwelled on fun, positive and good stuff. I wish everyday was that blessed!

On the 27th of July, I was at MD Anderson very early (6:30am) for a pleasant PET Scan that awaited me. I have to admit that this time, fortunately, I was able to fall asleep for half the time (30min) due to me staying up late the night before.



The following day, my family and I had to see my doctor for the monthly post-Cycle meeting. This smiling individual, so confident and so sure of his medical abilities was that day disappointed. We could all notice that he was unhappy with my PET Scan results...During Cycles 1 and 2, the tumor shrunk roughly 60%, a miraculous number. However, during cycles 3 and 4, my tumor grew substantially from 2.5 x 3cm to 3.6 x 3.7cm. It was more tough news for us to bear in such short time. With all the rough and terrible Chemo I was taking, the tumor was still aggressive enough to grow. The doctor looked at us and told us that we are essentially in another phase now...Expanding on this, my survival rate is lower than the initial 65%. But to be perfectly honest with you, these numbers mean nothing to me. Whether my survival rate is 90% or 10%, it's all the same in God's eyes. He's the one in control. I don't forget that, and therefore statistics and facts are not compatible with God's miracles.

My prognosis is around 45% at this time. I don't feel a bit more scared than when it was at 65%.
He then looked at me and told me: "Daniel, we're going to have to push harder now." I asked him what that meant, and he said that he's going to have to strengthen the Chemo dosage while extending its period to 6 days. This is basically the harshest Chemo out there. We thought 5 days was the limit, but my doctor is wanting to break the barrier of light, lol. He wants to take me to the edge of death and back to life, as some have told me. This news I could bear, I guess, because it's temporary suffering, much easier to accept than not being able to run for example...but it's no walk in the park....I know this, because I could barely do the 5 days. You're talking about 144 hours of continuous infusion...It's ridiculous.

He added that I would have to start Radiation simultaneously, every weekday for 45 days. For those of you who might not know, combining intensive Chemotherapy with Radiation is a killer.
My mom was worried about me always going out for dinner with friends and staying 'too' active -- the doctor fired back: "Don't worry, with this new regimen, he's probably going to want to stay in bed and at home."
___________________________
To make matters worse, I heard that one of my best friends and brothers in Christ was leaving Houston for good. He was with me all throughout my journey and was a super great supportive individual. He would make the most depressed people happy and knew how to touch people genuinely. He had this charisma and magnetism that few people possess. I will really miss him!
He also plays the Ge-Orge Character....A personality you don't want to miss out on!.....


....Amongst a myriad of other genius things....







And finally, if some of you are still tracking with me, another close friend and sister in Christ decided to leave Houston as well...Much loved by all, she has a very serving heart. I wish we all loved to serve half as much as she does! We were honored to throw a Farewell Party / Bible study for both deserters ;)











Other Pictures from this cycle:


The family below visited me and spent time with my family. They came from Lebanon for a few days. Our time together was blessed and memorable!


Just another regular lunch...Too much fellowship going on in TX! 


Friends we visited in The Woodlands!



My French-Lebanese sister friends from a lonnng time ago! One sister is missing! ;)


Dear friends from Rice University --
A few Middle Eastern countries represented here ;)


Other Rice University friends who came to visit me
from Dallas, TX and Shreveport, LA




Again, leaving the best for the last! 


My brother does not cease to amaze me with his frequent visits to Houston...God Bless him for always being there...Although living in DC, his presence in this journey is one of daily concern and commitment to the cause. I don't know how I can ever repay him for what he's done. Our love for each other and our bond has definitely grown. Thank you once again for all! I love you brother!

Not to discount the fact that the same applies to my sister. It's as if nothing else mattered to her at this time except me. I often don't know how to respond to such love. Truly blessed! 




As for my parents....What need I say? I guess it's no mistake my siblings are who they are...I have a GOLDEN family!