The Pathology Report

We waited all day for the phone call that came around 5:00 pm and lasted 3 minutes. It began with “Well, the news is not as good as I had hoped.” – this from the surgeon who had already said after surgery, “It looks really bad.”

God’s sense of irony continues: she received that phone call while I was conducting a wedding rehearsal. Surely, the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks truth, “There is a time and a season for every matter under Heaven.” Babies are born, weddings take place … while others fight disease and riot in the streets of Ferguson. “We are not our own; we are God’s,” as John Calvin so eloquently wrote hundreds of years ago.

The pathology report confirmed that the cancer has completely invaded the lymph system on her left side. Cancer was found in a large number of lymph nodes – maybe all of them, we are not sure. I’ll spare you more medical details.

The next step is the PET scan, which will be expedited under the circumstances. She also was told that the schedule for her chemotherapy would be moved up. We don’t think that’s a good sign either. None of this news affects the treatment she will receive, and we have known she was in for chemotherapy and radiation for some time. The challenge before her remains the same.

We are getting a little weary of only getting news that’s “worse than expected.”

We are, however, putting one foot in front of the other.

The laughter now is mixed with the occasional tear, but “Bell joy” will never die.

Margaret wanted me to share her quotation of the day:

          The nicest place to be is in someone’s thoughts.

          The safest place to be is in someone’s prayers.

          And the very best place to be is in the hands of God. – author unknown

She is at peace knowing she is in your thoughts and prayers – and in the hands of God.

FYI I doubt I will post anything for a few days unless there’s a new development.

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How’s Margaret, you ask?

A number of you have contacted me to ask “How’s Margaret?” so …

Physically, she is doing well. She has had no complications from the surgery. She is heavily drugged and sleeping well. She is able to get up and down by herself. Since she is unable to use her arms, she looks like a newly born giraffe when she stands up. We think it’s cute. She also can navigate the stairs.

She did watch the Broncos WIN yesterday and is catching up on Homeland.

We are anxious to receive the pathology report, which will come hopefully in the morning. She goes for a post-op check up on Wednesday and starts with the oncologist on Monday. She heard from a friend that she probably won’t be “staged” until after a PET scan, which reveals whether or not the cancer has left the general vicinity of the breast. We have been told by at least one doctor that she doesn’t “think” it will be found elsewhere, but we won’t know definitively until the PET scan.

She has had a handful of visitors, which has been nice, but has received hundreds of cards, flowers, a couple of meals, and a few assorted care packages. If you want to come visit, contact and I’ll try to give you a window of time (303-917-5383 or jhbelljr@gmail.com).

How’s Margaret … really? Emotionally, psychological, spiritually, it’s an anxious time. As anybody would be, her feelings, thoughts and emotions are a roller coaster. But she wanted me to stress in this post that she is fundamentally GRATEFUL for all of you for your kindness, love, support and prayers.

This Thanksgiving presents a challenge, but we have much for which to be thankful!

She wanted to me share quotation, with which I shall end this post:

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength;

While loving someone deeply gives your courage.Lao Tzu

Home from the Hospital!

A quick note to say that we are out of the hospital and back home!

It is truly unbelievable how quickly they kick you out of hospitals these days. However, the feeling is mutual. Margaret is happy to be home and in her own bed – and without risk of ebola. (We have a thermometer right by the bed just in case!)

They released her because there are no signs of trauma – besides the pain, and the pain can be managed at home. She is thoroughly enjoying popping magic pills every four hours.

Next steps … We (probably) get the definitive pathology report and staging on Tuesday, but the doctor was already talking about a PET scan to determine other things. She must recover from surgery before she can start chemotherapy.

Spirits are high! God is good. We are doing well.

Our family manta is “Bells don’t quit.” We are competitive, and we are good to go.

Thanks again for all you are doing to support us. We do love all of you! Thank you!

Margaret’s Surgery: A Long Day

First, thank you for all your love, support, kindnesses and prayers. You have touched us deeply.

Margaret’s surgery went as planned with no glitches or hitches. Margaret herself did fine. She got a little sick in the recovery room and had to remain there for quite a long time, but she was in her room by 7:00 pm or so. She is alert and talkative.

Unfortunately, the cancer was pretty much what Margaret and I were braced for. “Quite a bit” (doctor’s phrase) of cancer had invaded the lymph nodes on the affected (left) side. Honestly, we had hoped for slightly better news, but knew this was probably the case. The cancer has not been “staged,” but at this point we do know that she is definitely going to receive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

In other news – unimaginably, Katie Robb Davis (one of our associate pastors at Wellshire) went into early labor today and is in the same hospital! I won’t spoil her fun by sharing their news, but it was a very happy day for Bill and Katie!

God has a sense of humor!

About Prayer and Surgery

A good story for the eve of a double mastectomy …

When I was a young pastor in Tennessee, I made visit to the hospital to see a parishioner. Edith Watson was an elderly woman who had never married or had children. (To be fair, she was probably only in her 60’s at the time, which I now know is NOT old; however, she was an “old soul.”) She literally gave her life to the church. She was at the church almost every day helping in some capacity, mostly as the self-appointed historian of First Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, which at the time was 200 years old. Therefore, I was surprised to learn that Edith had entered the hospital and had surgery.

I knocked and entered Edith’s hospital room. There were 3 or 4 of her friends around her bed in chairs. I did not know what was wrong with Edith – or why she had surgery. I was taught to ask open-ended questions, “How’s it going?” or “How is it with your soul?” or “Tell me about it?”

Edith was a bit of a loveable curmudgeon, and she fussed at me for coming. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but the general theme was: “I told them not to tell you I was in the hospital. You shouldn’t have come. Get on back to the church. I am sure you have more important things to do.”

After a few, very long minutes, which contained several awkward moments of silence, I asked all the ladies to stand and hold hands with Edith and me to pray. We formed a circle around her, and I began to pray. Again, I don’t remember my exact words, but I remember the general tone. I used plenty of bountiful words. I asked God to “touch” her, “restore” her, and grant her “fullness” of life, and may God “magnify” her joy, and return her to “wholeness.” Bring her to “completeness,” and so forth and so on.

Half-way through the prayer, I could feel the ladies’ hands shaking. Then came the peep of a repressed giggle. And, when I pronounced, “Amen,” they all burst out laughing and wiped away tears from their eyes. I was lost. This was a fairly conservative, pietistic group, and I knew they were not inclined to be irreverent. I left quickly, a little embarrassed, sensing I had spoken wrongly.

When I got back to the church, the smiling receptionist had already had a phone call from Edith. The receptionist said, “Edith called to tell you that you didn’t seem to know that she had breast reduction surgery, and, if it’s okay with you, she’d just as soon not be restored to fullness or wholeness. And, you’d better hope God doesn’t answer your prayer because she doesn’t want to have her breasts cut off again.”

People, be careful what you pray for!

A Note from Margaret!

This is a note from Margaret:
Dear Friends,
Breast cancer just got personal. I have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. We humbly ask for your prayers. Surgery is scheduled this Friday November 21st. (Future updates will be posted at jhbelljr.net.) It is my firm belief that I have the very best team in place to run this race with me. This will be my ultra marathon. I am ready to run this race because of all of you. Those of you who stand at the start with me and cheer me on with words of encouragement, support,and love. Those of you who are setting up aid stations all along the way. Those of you who will help pace. Those of you who will run with me through the toughest miles. Those of you who will be along the route shouting empowering messages and waving cowbells. Those of you who will be waiting at the finish line cheering and celebrating. When the starter’s gun goes off this Friday at 12 noon please know that John, Megan, Katie, and I are filled with deep gratitude and abundant hope. And we are ready . . . because of all of you.
Love to all,
Margaret B.

Margaret’s Surgery & Meals

SURGERY

Margaret’s surgery is scheduled to take place on Friday, November 21, in the Wolf building at Rose Hospital. It was originally scheduled at a later date, but fortunately there was a cancelation and they are able to work her in early. The sooner, the better! I am not sure what time the actual surgery will take place because she goes in early in the morning and there are a couple of pre-surgical procedures.

She will spend at least one night in the hospital – and more if necessary.

The procedure should last about 4 ½ hours, as I recall. She will be homebound for 2-3 weeks and we have been led to believe that she will start chemotherapy later in December.

Megan is coming home from D.C. for the surgery (and Thanksgiving), and Margaret’s mother, Susie, is coming and Thanksgiving for an extended period of time to help with all that needs to be done.

MEAL ASSISTANCE

Several of you have offered to bring meals to us, and we are very grateful – and humbled. Kendal Mullins and Kirklyn Simonton have set up a schedule for those who kindly wish to do so. (How “orderly” can Presbyterians be?) The link is Meals for Margaret  (http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0b4faca82aa31-meals/) Click on it. It’s all explanatory.

You will see it starts the day after surgery, stops for Thanksgiving, and then resumes for a couple of weeks after the holiday. We certainly don’t expect all the slots to fill up, so the early dates are considered priority.

Also, please note that we moved from Wash Park to a town house in LoDo! We are at 1850 Bassett St., Unit #108, Denver, CO, 80202. (My cell is 303-917-5383 if you need me.) It’s easy to find and we live on the first floor with an exterior door. Parking is usually easy – and it’s free. (The building is The Manhattan, but don’t go in the entryway. We are ONE door to the left of the entry.)

As you know, Margaret is an extreme extrovert, so she would love to see people, assuming she is feeling well. And, I know, you will be respectful of her privacy if she is not feeling well.