Chronic Pain & Deeper Healing

I dealt with considerable pain from my tongue cancer and its treatment back in 2005. But it doesn’t compare with my experience these days enduring a pathological fracture of the jaw. Pain which never lets up brings a whole new series of challenges to redeeming suffering as a follower of Jesus.

Knowing I would have hours of windshield time to and from Miami last week for the consult with the surgeon there, I did a search online the day before I left. I wanted to download some resources/messages on the subject of pain. The Lord reminded me of Joni Eareckson Tada along the way. If anyone would have words of wisdom about dealing with chronic pain, she most certainly would. I had no idea just how right that impression from the Lord would prove to be.

Of the half-a-dozen or so talks to which I listened on the road last Monday and Tuesday, this one struck home with the most Holy Spirit force. Nancy and I just finished watching it together prior to my writing this post. Whether your story involves protracted suffering or not, I cannot commend more strongly this teaching from a woman who testifies authentically with the poet, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71, NLT).

Please, I plead with you, do your soul a mega-good. As soon as you possibly can, invest the mere thirty minutes it will take to view Joni’s message. My prayer is that every one of our covenant members at Orlando Grace would do so. Beyond that, of course, all the better.

Mandible Misery My Mentor

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I know. I don’t look very miserable in this picture. That was a good day coming forth from hyperbaric O2 therapy number whatever for deep wound treatment to my radiation-decimated jaw. I managed to prevail on the nurses’ good graces that day to get some pics from the bowels of the compression chamber so others could have some idea of what my new normal looks like these days.

Here’s another.

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I’m not hooked up here, of course. There is no O2 flowing. But this gives an idea of the rig I have to wear as a delivery system of 100% O2 for three thirty-minute periods, five times a day at Florida Hospital South. All sorts of fun.

So far I’ve navigated twenty-one of these. Nineteen to go. The adjustment hasn’t gone all that rough. I read a good bit of the time now. Apart from the occasional nausea bout, things go pretty smoothly.

Unfortunately I don’t have much progress to report. Hence my word “misery.” This past weekend my pain spiked. I cut church. If you know me, I never want to give up a preaching opportunity and chance to worship with God’s people (Heb. 10:24-25). Oops. I probably should have put them in the opposite order. Oh well. Sunday is the best day of the week, by far. I am thankful for an extraordinary pastoral intern who stepped in for me at the last minute. You can listen to his message here.

With the pain spike came a fever on Sunday night. OK, now I’m getting nervous. Long story short, after consulting my dentist, infectious disease doctor, and oral surgeon since then, we have a unanimous verdict. Off to the hospital I go. It’s time to circle the wagons and call in some big gun consultants to play what-do-we-do-with-what’s-left-of-this-preacher’s jaw. The idea is to get my pain under control. I’m all for that. Then to get me hydrated and built up nutritionally. Not only can’t I eat; I am also having difficulty swallowing. It hurts that much. Then, Lord willing, next week they will operate again to remove more dead bone and hopefully save the jaw. I’m not kidding on that one. If my mandible gets a pathological fracture, I’m looking at some sort of radical replacement surgery I DON’T EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT! Has my sense of urgency come across the page? Please pray for mercy for me in this regard. I have read about this procedure. I would really rather avoid it, if at all possible.

But if I do, my mandible mentoring, miserable as it might be, will continue with sovereign efficacy. God wastes nothing in our suffering, whatever its nature. In hard providences like these, I remember verses like Psalm 119:71.

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

This slow learner apparently needs an extra dose of afflictions that he might learn all the more the treasure of treasures, the law of the Lord. Mentor me, oh my Master (and I don’t mean my mandible, but my mandible-maker), but please, I beg of you, go easy on what’s left of this poor man’s miserable jaw. Amen.

Jaw Wars

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The Star Wars saga has nothing on me. I’ve got more episodes in my journey than the popular movie series will ever produce.

This just in. My oral surgeon today said he’s done all he can do surgically. The problem with my escalating pain must be medical. What to do? Two things. One, hyperbaric oxygen therapy. I report for the first of these tomorrow morning, Lord willing, at Florida Hospital. Can’t wait to climb into one of those rigs (see image above).

Two, infectious disease consult. The surgeon removed all the dead bone debris he could find. My pain can no longer stem from that cause. The only thing he can surmise on that score is osteomyelitis–chronic infection of the bone. My oral surgeon referred me back to my medical oncologist/hematologist for this consult, especially because I had multiple infections of the blood during my chemo treatments back in 2005. I am still waiting to hear back from his office about an appointment. My understanding at this point is that treatment protocol for this involves inserting a central line for six weeks of IV antibiotics. Something to look forward to. But I am trying not to get ahead of myself.

Pain remains high. Still pushing the drugs to cope. Lots of rest required. The saga goes on.

I’ve hauled out a familiar friend from ’05, the promise of God in 2 Cor. 12:9, to sustain me along the way.

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 the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Oswald Chambers says this about one of my all time favorite verses of the Bible:

God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for to-morrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a common-sense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.

 Not sure about the hilarious part, but definitely striving for strength in the strain of each minute. Appreciate all the prayers of the faithful on FB.
More importantly, regarding Nancy, there is not much to report. She continues to work her therapy program therapy. Thank you for your faithful prayers on her behalf as well.