**I wrote this as an update letter in my most proper, and official voice. I quietly thought all my sarcasm and weirdness instead of typing out every single ridiculous thing that pops into my head. For you, though, I have added those thoughts in blue.**
It has now been three months since we unexpectedly left PNG to bring John Michael’s mother home and to get some of our medical needs taken care of. (I have finally stopped getting the lump in my throat when I see the parents of friends and co-workers in PNG come and go without almost dying. Also, is it just me or was 2016 The Year of the Parental Visits in PNG? Seriously, there were a lot of parents. Guess how many had traumatic events? Yeah. Just one.) It has been quite a whirlwind of medical appointments, tests, and procedures, but we definitely feel like we are headed in the right direction and will all be well enough to go back to PNG in February 2017. (Probably. Maybe. Knock on Wood and any other animistic thing I can say that won't jinx us or our plans)
(Aaron Jex, please skip the next paragraph)
We were met with some surprises and kinks in our plans after doctor’s visits. After a routine check-up for me, my doctor founds lumps in both breasts that sent me immediately to a mammogram and bilateral ultrasounds. (Why am I even telling you this? I don't really know. It's probably TMI, but at the time it kinda freaked me out, so I just put it in here for dramatic effect.) Thankfully, everything turned out benign, so other than just a really long day, no harm done and I was able to move on with the medical issues that I actually came home for!
Most of you know that I have had strange symptoms for about a year now, including fatigue, low-grade fevers, joint pain, and joint deformities in my hands. (I have a large protrusion on my right thumb. A fellow missionary said it looked like a bunion on my thumb, so obviously we started calling it a "thumbion". I have a thumbion, and some other fat knuckles.) I saw a rheumatologist in September who said I had an autoimmune disease, but at this point the tests are not helping us identify which one. He did start me on some medicine that should help the pain and progression of the disease, but I have unfortunately had some pretty difficult side effects to the medicine. (The medicine drops my blood sugar even though I am eating all the time, so I am now hangry* all the time and fat. It is also giving me very vivid nightmares, which mostly involve planes and cliffs and terrorists. My thumbion doesn't really look that bad to me now.) Right now, there are not really any other options for medications for me, so we are praying through whether or not to just not treat the disease at this time or try to find a way to take the medicine and deal with the side-effects as they come. Please pray with us over this decision, as it has been a little stressful to think about. Right now, most of my symptoms are mild to moderate, and while they keep me from doing a lot of “extra” things, my daily life and function are not really affected too much. I can generally get all I need to do done in a day, just with a little extra pain. The problem is that an autoimmune disease can progress if not treated properly and I don’t know if my future health will be affected by the decision not to treat at this time. (Basically, I would like to keep using my hands and other joints for as long as I possibly can.)
John Michael has been having trouble with sinus infections and headaches for years now, and last furlough was told that he needed sinus surgery to correct this problem. Our busy schedules kept that from happening (he spoke in over 30 different churches last time), but he was really having a hard time with more frequent infections and headaches when we returned to PNG. His sinus surgery became a priority for us this trip, but when he went in to schedule it, the doctor found a mass under his left eye that made him concerned, so he referred him to another doctor for a second opinion. The second doctor looked over his scans and said that the mass was just a cyst, and sent him back to have the original doctor remove the cyst and complete the sinus surgery. During the surgery the doctor discovered a large bone spur on the underside of his nose, so he removed that as well as what turned out to be a very large cyst in his sinus cavity (the doctor said the size of a large grape) (The doctor actually said a large MUCUS filled cyst the size of a grape. EW). The doctors also advised him to have a suspicious looking mole on his nose removed, so he met with a dermatologist who said it looked fine, but he removed it anyway just to be safe. (He also had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they put him on and he woke up the day we were supposed to leave for some speaking engagements with a bad rash in a bad place* but benedryl took care of most of, thankfully)
In the midst of all this, my mother discovered that she had to have two major surgeries on her spine (one on her neck and one on her lower back). (Due to the autoimmune disease that I have apparently inherited from her. This is why we are worried about not treating it) She is single, and my only sister is also a single working mother, so my mom really needed some extra help for these surgeries and their recovery. We are thankful that the Lord allowed us to be here to help meet this need for my mom. The surgeries have to be 6 weeks apart, so the last (and most difficult surgery) will be at the end of December. This will delay our return to PNG by a couple of weeks, but we feel that this is what we really need to do to minister to my mom- without whom I probably would not even be a missionary, much less a Christian (Seriously!)
This will also give us more time to figure out what to do/how to treat my issues as well. (Yes, I have "issues". That is no surprise to anyone. But really, I hope the extra time helps us find some medicine that does not make me feel worse than my actual disease does. Is that too much to ask???)
Thanks so much to all of you who have loved and supported us during this time. They have certainly been needed and felt. We continue to covet your prayers over the rest of our time in the U.S. that things will go smoothly (which would be an actual miracle for us) and we will be able to return to PNG in early February. As always, we couldn’t do any of this without you and are so thankful that you are part of the Hewa team!
*hangry= hungry + angry
*his butt. the rash was on his butt.