Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from Illinois. Yes, we are back in Illinois, continuing the saga of my prostate cancer.
But before we start on that, I need to tell you about my Mom. As you may recall from our previous newsletters we rushed home on March 13, thinking she didn’t have long to live. We spent a lot of time at her bedside during the time we were in the States, but when we left on April 25 to return to Ethiopia she was still alive. By God’s grace, she continued to hang on even until late May. Since we were scheduled to return to the U.S. on June 7 for my prostate surgery we thought maybe she would continue to live and we would see her alive again upon our return. But God had other plans and took her to be with Him on May 26.
As I wrote in our April newsletter, “Many sons (especially missionary sons in faraway countries) do not enjoy the privilege I had of spending many hours at the side of my mom in what undoubtedly are her final days.” We take a lot of comfort in that. I have attached a copy of her obituary to this email.
You may also recall that I found out (from my biopsy) on April 25—the date we returned to Ethiopia—that I had prostate cancer. For those of you who have been through this yourselves or a loved one, my PSA was 4.4, Gleason Score was 6, and cancer was found in 2 of 12 biopsy specimens.
Immediately I started to research all the treatment options for prostate cancer, and there are many. There are several different kinds of surgery (open, laparoscopic, and robotic), many types of radiation, including the insertion of radioactive metal “seeds” in the prostate, watchful waiting, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, diet and lifestyle change, etc. As a result of having discussed it in our newsletters, many people (that I both knew and didn’t know) wrote me their stories and their recommendations. I really found them very valuable and they helped me with my decision.
I was introduced to many different doctors and treatment centers around the country. For those who had been successfully treated, I was impressed by how vigorously those people recommended their particular type of treatment, doctor, treatment facility, and so on.
To shorten the story, after all my research I decided upon the daVinci robotic prostatectomy at Urology of Indiana (St. Vincent’s Hospital) in Indianapolis. With this procedure, five small incisions are made in the abdomen and a variety tools are inserted at different times to carry out the prostatectomy. The surgeon sits at a console away from the patient and guides the instruments from that vantage point. (If your son is spending too much time on computer games, maybe he is in training to become a robotic surgeon!?) If you think you have the stomach for it, you can watch a 5 minute clip of a robotic prostatectomy here. Even if you don’t make it through the entire clip, stay with it the first minute or so and you will get an idea of what the robot machine looks like.
I went to Indianapolis on Tuesday, June 12, for pre-op procedures and the actual surgery was performed Friday, June 15. I was supposed to be in the hospital two days; however, due to a computer being programmed incorrectly I ended up staying a third day. The doctor had prescribed pain medicine every four hours; however, unfortunately, someone entered it as every six hours. When my pain became really bad on the second day I asked for pain medication. The nurse went to get it for me, but said my “narcotic” drawer was locked out by the computer. They made me wait an additional hour until the computer allowed access to my medication. In the meantime, the pain skyrocketed, my blood pressure went through the roof, and my temperature went way up. Because of these things, the next time the doctor came in and saw my chart he said I would need to stay another day. I’m sure that if the situation had become truly life-threatening someone would have overridden the “system,” run to the pharmacy, and gotten me my medication. However, the whole thing pointed out clearly that there is still a need for the human touch and our lives cannot be simply left to management by computers.
Now we have returned to Indianapolis for the post-operative evaluation, and that is where I am now as I send out this newsletter. I was disappointed to find out that the final pathology report showed that the Gleason score was actually 7 (more serious than a 6). Also, the removed prostate showed “positive margins,” which means that the cancer was right out to the edge of the prostate gland. Thus there was no buffer between the cancer and the surface of the gland. Further tests and observations will give more information. Above all, we certainly appreciate your prayers.
But at least today I got my catheter removed which is a huge relief in itself. I’m still trying to get used to moving around without having to allow for the catheter. It seems my bladder control is as good as the doctor expected it could be, but we’re still in the earliest stage.
Things appear to be running well back in Ethiopia. The four-classroom building in Adami Tulu is nearing completion. There is a picture attached below.
The large 14-room (12 classroom) two-story building in Ziway continues also to make good progress. It is in trying times like these that we appreciate the quality of Ethiopian staff we have on the ground in Ziway and Adami Tulu to handle everything in our absence. Shown below is a picture of the Ziway two-story building going up in the background as the students have their flagpole ceremony in the morning. The first floor is not visible behind the corrugated metal fence, but you can see the second story above that fence.
The schools in Ziway and Adami Tulu are nearing the end of the school year. All final examinations have been given and the school closing day (a big celebration involving students, parents, church, and community leaders) is scheduled for Friday
Please continue to pray for us, my medical situation, and for all the work and decisions that must be executed back in Ethiopia. We don’t know what God has in mind through all of this, but there is no doubt He has a plan and a purpose.
May He richly bless you and your family,
Gary & Peggy Ifft
Velma Jean Ifft
October 16, 1925 - May 26, 2012
Velma Jean Ifft, 86, of Fairbury passed away peacefully at 1:00 a.m. Saturday, May 26, 2012, at Fairview Haven Nursing Home, Fairbury.
Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 30, at the Apostolic Christian Church, Forrest. The ministers of the church will officiate. Burial will be at the South Apostolic Christian Cemetery, Fairbury.
Visitation will be from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, at Duffy-Pils Memorial Home, Fairbury, and from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. Wednesday at the church.
The family suggests memorials to Fairview Haven Nursing Home, Fairbury, or Misgana Ministries, P. O. Box 1331, Bloomington, IL 61702-1331, for mission projects in Ethiopia.
Velma Jean was born October 16, 1925, in Fairbury, the daughter of Edward and Lydia Fehr Huber. She married Harvey S. Ifft on June 16, 1946. He passed away March 7, 2011. Surviving are their children, Gary (Peggy), Ziway, Ethiopia; Nancy (Marvin) Dotterer, Forrest; Sherri Schlatter, Fairbury; and Keith, Peoria; 12 grandchildren, Angie (Walter) Reedy, Becky Ifft, Sam Ifft, Lori (Ben) Leman, Jason (Lynn) Dotterer, Clint (Rebecca) Dotterer, Heidi (Nathan) Bachman, Erika (Emery) Gal, Rachel (Scott) Hartzler, Amy (Grant) Hartman, Alyssa Ifft, and Alex Ifft; 23 great-grandchildren; and two sisters, Virginia Blunier, Eureka; and Joyce Gasser, Wadsworth, Ohio. She was preceded in death by a son-in-law Mark Schlatter, a sister Katharine Fehr, and a brother Melvin Huber.
Velma Jean was a faithful member of the Apostolic Christian Church of Forrest for 65 years.
She had been a legal secretary and also helped her husband on the farm. She enjoyed church activities, Sewing Circle, traveling, and sharing hospitality with many people in her home. Her family, friends, and church were very special to her.
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