Thursday, April 14, 2011

Painful Steps

It's Nice to Be Carried
April 12, 2011

One of my best friends here in Uganda is Robert Sityo.  If you are in the habit of reading my updates and blog you already know this.  I've spent quite a bit of time with him lately.  Actually we left for Kampala this morning at 7am and have been together all day.  Robert shared with me that he came across a poem twice in three days.  You may be familiar with it, but it was new to him.  He figured it was not a coincidence.  Instead he felt like it was an encouragement from the Lord.

Robert has had problem with his left foot since 2008.  In 2009 some sores began to erupt on it and it was sometimes too painful to walk on.  With little financial resource, many Uganda diagnose themselves and treat themselves.  He never imagine that what he had was cancer.

Recently, after the foot had swelled on half of the sole of his foot and up the right side of it and he had several wounds on it, he decided to have a doctor look at it.  The physician prescribed a biopsy and the lab results determined that he had cancerous tumors on his foot.  This cancer goes by the label of  Kaposi Sarcoma.

Peace in the eye of the storm
The next step moved Robert to a cancer doctor referred to him to my his local physician.  This is why we were in Kampala today at Nsambya (pronounced nnsam-bee-ah) Hospital, a Catholic medical facility in Kampala.  It was the first time that either of us had been on the campus of this hospital.  Our initial impression was that it was so quiet!  It was hard to imagine thousands of taxi and thousands of boda bodas all honking their horns and the noise of the city at work while we sat quietly in such peace without any sense that any of that was going on below us.  We were there to have the cancer specialist examine the lab results and give his professional opinion.

Quite impressive
Robert and I arrive 15 minutes before his scheduled appointment, but the team of cancer doctors were making their rounds in the cancer ward named St. Gonzaga Ward.  We waited for more than an hour and a half before seeing the physicians.  We talked about life and our lives.  I especially enjoyed hearting about Robert and Sarah's trip and ministry last year in Canada.  It was her first time our of Africa.

The foot & leg in question
An additional doctor gave Robert a pretty thorough exam and wrote lots of information in Robert's new file.  After my discouraging exposure to medical resources in Jinja I was surprised to find such a fine facility in Kampala.  Being a private hospital must give it an advantage.  The second doctor asked a lot of medical history and relevant questions as he examined Robert's body.  The specialist confirmed that Robert has what the lab results revealed ... Kaposi Sarcoma.  Upon seeing Robert's foot, he asked him how does such a young man like him got an old man's disease.  He says that the virus that causes this cancer is common in Central Africa and is virtually in all older men, but that it is the HIV virus that weakens the immune system so that it manifests itself in younger men.

A closer look ... mean and ugly!
Robert has been tested multiple times for HIV and the results have always been negative.  The cancer specialist prescribed a battery of test to make sure that the cancer is not in other parts of the body.  One treatment, freezing, is not an option because of the size of the cancer.  Radiation is not an option either.  The doctor wants to use a form of chemotherapy that uses a drug that is being tested in Gulu, in the northern part of Uganda.  The drug is not available for using in Uganda, but is common in the United States.

We made our way to the lab for blood work.  It is nearly a full screening of his blood.  He also gave blood to be tested, again, for HIV.  He will give a 24 hour urine sample tomorrow and return on Thursday for a scan.  He had an Xray taken after we left the lab and this work, minus the scan and urine sample, will have results by Thursday for the doctor's evaluation.

Common African pastime - waiting
I was VERY impressed by the efficiency and professionalism of the hospital. The lab work was expensive by Ugandan standards.  We paid 252,000 shillings or over $200 for all of it.  But, Robert only waited 3 or 4 minutes to get his blood drawn.  At the Xray lab it only took about 5 minutes.  There were several dozen pregnant women waiting for scans or results and so he will be at the lab at 8am on Thursday.

I think Robert's encounter with the Footprints in the Sand poem and our sense of peace in the midst of a city of 7 million crowded people and crazy boda and taxi drivers was a picture of God's intent for Robert during this time.  God never promised we would never go through the fire or through the water, but He did promise that we would not be burned or drown.  I have no indication of how this cancer story is going to turn out, but even if it leads to a young death for Robert, I believe Jesus will always be with him, especially when Robert is unable to walk alongside Him, but needs to be carried.

Thanks for joining us in prayer.

ADDENDUM:  Tuesday evening, as I was editing the above post and inserting photos, we had a brown out and our Internet service was terminated.  For the past two and days I've been reminded of how many things I take for granted and how an absence of those things can be frustrating here.  I assumed that I would get this update out on my schedule, but ... here it is Thursday night, not Tuesday.  Robert just left after leaving me a copy of his results from the Xrays, scans, blood and urine samples.  The rest of his body appears normal and his blood is again HIV negative.  Grace and Abdu were here and Grace prayed for Robert, mostly in Lugandan.  I only heard her tell the Lord, "this is sad news, but our faith is in You.  We have the report of the doctors, but whose report will we believe?  We will believe the report of the Lord."

Abdu told me that Robert is going to going to preach on faith this coming Sunday.  And, he reminded me that the name of the Lord is above every name.  Cancer is a name that a disease has been given and the name of the Lord is above it, so our hope is in Him.

I left Robert with Psalm 27:14 ...

      Wait patiently for the Lord.
      Be brave and courageous.
      Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

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