First, I apologize for not keeping this blog updated. We’ve been dealing with cancer, first on my tongue then more recently in the lymph nodes on the left side of my neck.
For those of you who may be interested, I’d like to summarize in my own words what is going on, what is coming and some of what we are learning. We also have a Caring Bridge site that Sheryl set up and is updating periodically.
- Go to https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/daveshealthupdates
- or just caringbridge.org then use the "Search" tab and enter "Dave Gehrls"
- Once on my site you can click on "Follow Site" box to the upper right to get notices of Sheryl's new posts.
We’re very thankful that several friends made donations to Caring Bridge to support that ministry, which is a blessing to so many.
In the future we will share more on what the Lord is teaching us about faith and changing our lives duplicated both here and our personal ministry website at gehrls.net.
I’m not a professional writer, so I’ll simply write what I would say in a conversation, which may not always flow logically or systematically. I also won’t be overly concerned with grammar and sentence construction, neither of which I understood well in school...but thank the Lord for spellcheck on my computer!
The cancer in the lymph node on the left side of my neck is about 2 inches, and aggressive. It’s intertwined with the muscle and has already compromised my left jugular vein and some critical nerves. A worst case scenario would involve removing the muscle and jugular vein, then detaching part of my chest pectoral muscle, and reattaching it to the mastoid bone to replace muscle that was removed. They will also be cutting my neck from ear to ear and removing all suspect lymph nodes and one 6mm cancer on the right side.
I have had four surgeries on the right side of my tongue since last October and was cancer free last January. Unfortunately, it has recurred and now includes the neck cancer. This next surgery could involve removing up to 30% more of my tongue and require a graft of skin, tissue and blood vessels from my arm for reconstructive surgery. Obviously, that will mean extensive rehab to learn how to swallow and talk again.
While both of these cancers are labeled Stage 4, so far they do not believe it has spread throughout my body. While the surgery is about as complicated as it can get, the surgeons are optimistic about its success. The CT's, pathologies and other scans are not perfect so what will actually happen will ultimately depend on what they find in the surgery.
The surgical team at UNMC is one of the best in the country and they are scheduling 14 hours this surgery. Then 6-10 days in the hospital with a feeding tube and a temporary tracheotomy until I can swallow, and am past the high risk for infection.
After I have healed for about a month, the team proposes 6 weeks of Radiation followed by Chemotherapy. At this point, we don’t know those specifics.
How we are Sharing our Faith with the Doctors:
I have shared with the Doctors that I trust them as the best I could have and that while they can cut me open, remove bad stuff and rearrange muscles and blood vessels then sew me back up, only God can make those cells join back together and become whole. I then said, "You are my Doctors, but God is my Healer."
I shared that I believe when God created the cosmos He designed certain atoms to combine into molecules, creating chemicals that would have specific effects on living tissues. Thus God designed medicine into creation as part of His provision for healing. God also created and designed electrons to move through different metals thus preparing the way for lights, computers, scopes, electronics to test my blood and monitor my heart, and much more.
Last Fall, Dr Dobleman, my ENT Surgeon in the early surgeries responded to me: "You are absolutely correct. In fact God was the first thoracic surgeon when he took a rib from Adam to create Eve." We then talked about how he prays for his patients and asks God for wisdom and help.
I talked about how God desires a partnership between medicine and faith and that we would do our part on the faith side such that we were ready and that hundreds would be praying not only for us but for them all day Thursday. Every doctor has encountered limits to what they know and can can do...and all our doctors have acknowledged it and thanked us.
Thus medicine needs God, but God is not limited to medicine! Doctors are not all knowing, but our God is! Doctors are not all powerful, but our God is! Christians are not immune from the realities of human life. The Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. We are different in how we go through these things and what we become as we go through them. We either get more beautiful or more bitter...more Christlike or less like Jesus.
How we are praying: While facing straight on the full realities of cancer, we are standing on God's promises...praying and believing for total healing.
If you ask us, you need to be ready for an honest answer. We will not put on some artificial "faith face" and the words some expect from leaders. Some days God feels distant and Satan tries in various ways, again, to distract our eyes from Jesus. Some days we are full of faith and joy, but we have also had our bad days and at times in tears we then choose to turn our eyes back on Jesus and trust Him for the "Greater Grace" we need for that day which He has promised.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. -James 4:5-8 NASB
My commitment is that "It is better to die in faith than live in doubt." "Lord, I believe. Help me to overcome my unbelief." is a valid Biblical Prayer. Jesus has experienced everything we are feeling and going through.
How you can pray:
- I do not want to go through the painful days just ahead and neither does Sheryl...unless the Lord decides that is the best way for Him to accomplish His purposes in allowing this. God did not send this, but He has allowed it and will use it for our good and His Glory.
- My greatest fear is leaving Sheryl. Many years ago, I promised her I would live longer than her so she would never be alone...I am asking God to help me keep that promise.
- I know God doesn't need me, but I would like to finish my assignments. As with my triple bypass, my goal is not just survival but rather completing the destiny I feel He put in my heart.
- Pray and agree with us as we are asking and believing that the big lump of cancer on my neck will just disappear before surgery...or that when they open me up they see that God had gone in first.
- Pray with us for the "Greater Grace" we need.
- Pray that we have wisdom in making various decisions so our witness is clear and Jesus is lifted up in all our words and actions.
- Like with my bypass, Sheryl is already going into "Command Mode" when needed, but will also face moments of fear and confusion in spiritual attacks. We are not super-spiritual people with great faith...just committed to trusting and obeying our Super, ALL powerful, Great God.
- This morning I woke up in extreme pain as I have the last few days from the growing tumors and reduced medications prior to surgery. But I was hearing a hymn in my head that was almost audible. I have been awakened over a dozen times to various hymns in my head with words and music that felt like I had a headset on. This morning as I was crying out to God about extreme pain the tears started uncontrollably flowing as I clearly heard the music and words from a great hymn flowing so clearly:
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
My God is Holy! My God is Almighty!
My God is MERCIFUL and MIGHTY!
and God in Mercy again poured out "Greater Grace".
Out of time and I need to finish getting ready to be at UNMC at 5:30 AM.
Sheryl will be handling all communications for the next week or more through Caring Bridge and Sheryl@gehrls.net
Blessings and thank you if you actually read all the way down to this.