Friday, January 16, 2009

Skin Cancer Surgery - A Week Later

Yesterday morning I returned to the scene of the crime, er, surgery center, to have the stitches removed from my right cheek. The friendly surgery team was there to greet me – happily smiling as if they knew something that I didn’t. The head nurse in scrubs led me down the hall and around the corner and down another hall to the very last room in the place and asked me to take a seat.

The room was filled with all sorts of instruments and medical equipment that I had never seen before. As I took a seat on the table, I discovered that it was extremely cushioned and quite comfortable. I asked the nurse why I didn’t get to have my surgery in this room last week as it was quite relaxing compared to the room that they sliced and diced me in. She replied that this room was a “special” room. I was about to ask what she meant by that when the door opened and in came Doctor Lee.

Doctor Lee shook my hand and asked how I was doing. I said; “you tell me, you’re the doctor!” (He doesn’t know me well enough to appreciate my humor) By this time my wife had somehow found the room and joined the party. She had dropped me off and went to park the car – which is an adventure story of it’s own at this hospital – amazingly, she showed up and took a seat ringside in time for the main event.

The team had me lie back on the table and they turned on the gazillion megawatt sun lamp above my face and went to work. Doctor Lee began removing the stitches when he suddenly said; “hmm.” Now there are several words that you do not want to hear when a doctor is examining you. “Uh-Oh” and “Oops” may well be the big ones, but “hmm” is definitely on the list. So the good doctor turned to his nurse and said “hand me a swab, I want to check something.” He then proceeded to forcibly push an 8-inch wooden swab into my still tender face along the sides of the incision.

“Doctor,” I said with increasing volume, “I can FEEL that and it doesn’t feel good!” Karlene told me later, “I knew it was painful, because every time he pushed that swab into your face, your feet would go up in the air!” The worst part is that she laughed when she said it. “Thanks, Babe, for the moral support. I know that for those who reject God, he will laugh at their calamity – but, YOU don’t have to laugh at MINE!” She still giggled as she went into the kitchen.

Suddenly, I began to gush a stream of verbal confession to the doctor. “I didn’t take it as easy as I should’ve! I preached on Sunday and I also did a leadership meeting! (Then the coup de grace) Then my wife made me take her to Disneyland for her Birthday!” Doctor Lee looked at me with an almost blank expression – He really doesn’t get my humor.

“I don’t like the looks of this,” Doctor Lee stated, without giving me time to take another run at the “humor” card. (Oh, great, here we go, I thought to myself) “Well, we have removed the stitches, but we are going to have to apply some special adhesive strips to help keep the incision straight while it is healing to minimize scarring. I also want you to start taking antibiotics – we don’t want any infection in the incision.” I replied, “No, WE don’t.”

So they quickly set about doing what he said they would do. Then they finished it off with another “Phantom of the Opera” bandaging job (as you can see by the photo) and sent me off with a parting shot; “This time take it easy!”

As you know, Karlene was there to hear it all -- so I’m taking their advice. No preaching for me this weekend at Cornerstone. (I am sure that some are thinking; “Wow, that Awakening Prayer is really working!”) Actually, we will have a guest speaking this Sunday; Pastor Paul Endrei from Cleveland, Ohio.

Well folk’s, I’m ready to turn the page. I’m already tired of having to deal with my face. (It’s bad enough that everyone else has to deal with it) I’m ready to be over this and onto something better – much better. Fortunately, the "Phantom Patch" was only for 24 hours. Now I get to show-off this more "socially acceptable" version of me! Gruesome, isn't it people?!

I do want to say a special “thank-you” to all of you who have been praying for my speedy recovery (and, as you can see, I still need it!). Seriously though, I really do appreciate all of the thoughts, prayers and concerns. God bless you, abundantly!

Well, gotta go.
It’s Cephalexin time!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wake Up and Smell the Jesus!

O.K. Before you bust my chops for the above title -- I saw it on a t-shirt, somebody's blog or somewhere else (actually a young man's myspace page) and thought I would share my "find" here on my blog from the 'burbs.

I also found this great quote... I'm not asleep... but that doesn't mean I'm awake. ~Author Unknown

This past Sunday we kicked-off "AWAKENING" at Cornerstone -- featuring 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. The Message that I shared was "Awakening to Destiny." When Jesus died and was buried, the disciples went their own way. However, 3 days later, when Jesus arose -- the disciples "awakened." They awakened to what they were called and chosen to do. They awakened to their purpose. They awakened to their destiny and, as a result, changed the world.

As followers of Christ, it is easy to fall into the rut that Jesus' disciples found themselves in post-Calvary and pre-resurrection. It is not difficult to lose focus, excitement and commitment concerning our Christianity. We can be lulled to sleep. With that in mind, we are beginning 2009 with a commitment to a spiritual awakening.

What Needs Awakened?

1) Awakening the Purpose.
The Disciples awakened to the fact that their lives would never be the same again. They had been given PURPOSE – A Reason for Living – A Vision of what they were here for and that they were called by Christ to do! We are here for a reason. We need to wake-up to God's purpose for our lives.

2) Awakening the Passion.

Old-Hat and status quo were immediately replaced by an awakened passion that propelled their calling and purpose! As Paul told his son in the faith, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” (2 Timothy 1:6) -- we need to stir-up or awaken the passion for God and his work within us.

3) Awakening the Power.
Jesus told his disciples, “I give you authority... over all the power of the enemy!”
(Luke 10:19) Jesus also promised them; “You shall receive power…” (Acts 1:8). They had to awaken to the Power of God that fuels the Passion for God that drives the Purpose of God. The kingdom of God is not about words, but about power!

Through the end of January, this is the focus and theme of Cornerstone Christian Center. Fortunately, we are not going it alone -- we are joining with churches across America and around the world that are also spending these 21 days praying and fasting for a global "God-Awakening." Fasting, Praying & Believing... Let’s have an Awakening in 2009!

The Alarm Clock is Ringing!

Dale Carnegie said; “Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake!” Now is the time. Today is the day. Shake yourself awake!
Wake up and smell the Jesus!

“…when they awoke fully, they saw the glory of Jesus”
–Luke 9:32

Friday, January 9, 2009

Surgery - The Day After

After blogging yesterday morning, Karlene and I drove down to the Medical Center and checked-in for the 9:00am surgery. They actually took me in almost immediately after I arrived. The surgical pre-op nurse had previously told me that the procedure could take a few hours and that waiting around was part of the process while they test the removed tissue in the Lab, so I should bring a book, ipod or something to do. So I did – I came prepared. Neatly packed into my new Diesel “Man Bag” (a Christmas present from my wife) was my son’s Sony PSP with a couple of movies for my viewing pleasure.

I was very happy with the surgery team. Two friendly nurses prepped me and then Doctor Lee came in to “jack-o-lantern” my face. Lovely thought, eh? They covered my face with a sheet that had a small hole cut in the middle of it for the surgery area. They then apprised me that there would be a little stinging sensation as they applied the local anesthetic. Needles in the face – another lovely thought. Next, the doctor said he was removing the affected tissue, which actually seemed to take very little time at all. He communicated exactly what he was doing throughout the operation, which I appreciated. Then he said that they were cauterizing the wound and that I might smell something like burning – Uh, yeah, I smelled something like burning flesh and it was mine! Then they patched up my face and said that they were off to test the flesh that they had just excised from my right cheek. This is where the waiting came in. Movie Time!

About 45 minutes later, they returned with the good news: “No more cancer!” Even though I was suddenly and rudely interrupted in the middle of my movie time, I was still both relieved and elated by the encouraging sound of “we got it all.” I was thankful to God and the Doctor (NOT one and the same) and I really didn’t want them to cut into me again, anyway – which is what they would’ve done if the lab results from my piece of face weren’t clean and cancer-free. Then came the fun part – the closing.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, anesthetic that is administered into my person tends to wear off more quickly than the normal allotted time for the normal average person. Something about the fact that I’m not normal is the kind of thinking that my family reinforces -- often. So, as they are beginning to cauterize – again -- and suture the wound, they notice that I am squirming. “Can you feel that Mr. Smith?” Doctor Lee asked. How could you tell, doc? Was it the tears flowing profusely from my eyes, the fingernails deeply embedded into the vinyl of the operating chair, or was it just the screaming that gave it away? He then said; “Would you like more anesthetic?” I replied that I LIVE for anesthetic! Okay, so that may be a bit of a writer’s embellishment. I actually told Doctor Lee that the pain was uncomfortable, but not unbearable and that I would rather not get another needle stuck into my face (especially after the infamous fish-hook surgery with Doctor Pain that I am still dealing with on a daily basis -- see my blog from September 2008; "The Big Catch") so I chose to “tough it out.”

So, they cut ‘n pasted, sewed-me up, burned me again (just ‘cause they liked it) and then duct taped a huge patch on my face and said; “You should be able to go out and have a normal rest-of-your-day.” Are you kidding me?! In what universe can I walk around with a bandage on my face that could impress a makeup artist from “Phantom of the Opera?” But, I gave it a shot, anyway. Karlene drove me to the Credit Union so I could cash a check and I went in and frightened the Tellers. They asked me if I got mugged. (They really did ask me that -- I am not making that up! The "mean streets" of Torrance...) I replied “Yes, by my DOCTOR!” They said; "Oh, thats OK then!"

The entire operation actually took less than 2 hours. It was probably more like 90 minutes. In spite of myself, I think they did a pretty good job. Then again, what do I know about what is or isn't a good job at this juncture? I'm not a doctor, nor have I played one on TV (Actually, come to think of it, I DID play a Doctor in a Soap Opera Spoof Video a few years back). But I digress -- let's get back to my surgery.

Maybe, I should re-think that "good job" statement. I just removed my bandage, slowly and quite painfully, from yesterday’s surgery. It’s not pretty. Yikes! Looking at myself in the mirror, the first thing I said was my favorite line from the classic Frankenstein movie; “I’ve created a monster!” Hopefully, I won’t become known as Scarface, but there you go. See for yourself. Yes – it hurts. Enjoy the view – it will be covered-up when you see me.

Well, I’ve gotta run – er, walk – well, maybe lie down. Talk to you later.
I’m counting-down: 7 days and the stitches come out!

“Karlene – Where’s the Advil?!”

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Surgery, Anyone?

I am sitting in the "home office" this foggy Thursday morning, sipping a cup of hot Tetley tea and preparing for the day. It's surgery day for me. Yippee. In a little over an hour from now, I will be heading to the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center in Harbor City to have the procedure performed on my face (insert joke of choice here).

A couple of months ago, I was seeing my Dermatologist for my annual checkup and, during the examination, she found a spot on my face that she didn't like (I didn't like it , either) -- so she decided to do a biopsy on it. The results of that biopsy came back a couple of days later -- as she suspected, it was cancerous. So I was then put on the surgery schedule and now today is my day! (The picture shows the little spot on my face that is to be removed.)

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon and evening up in Los Angeles with Zachary for his annual checkup with the Cranio-Facial Team for Kaiser-Permanente. The end result of yesterday's examination was the decision to do surgery on him. He will be having surgery that harvests bone from his hip and grafts it into his face, takes cartiledge from his ear and puts it in his nose and a few other fun-filled procedures. Oh, I forgot to mention, he is already on the waiting list for another surgery that has been in the works since last month!

So it seems to be surgery season for the Smith's. Fortunately, we have a large family that loves and cares about us. I have been blessed by the many text messages and emails from my immediate family, my local church family (Cornerstone) and my global family -- the family of God. Lots of kind thoughts and prayers -- from all around the world -- which are greatly appreciated.

I'll be back to "update" you later.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Global Grace via Cornerstone

Happy 2009!

For some people, today is just another day -- and if that is your attitude, then it probably will be "just another day." However, you can choose to view today as the first day of a year of incredible opportunity – believing that the best is yet to be. God's people, people of purpose and destiny, should dare to believe that this New Year holds many great and, perhaps, even miraculous possibilities. I encourage you to "Carpe Diem" -- "Seize the Day!" Make the most of the days, hours and minutes that God allocates to you in 2009. I am expecting a year filled with God's greatest blessings for those who put their trust in Him. Oh yeah, that's a promise; "…surely you have a future ahead of you; your hope will not be disappointed." -Proverbs 23:18

I have a cool story to share with you.
It is a true story of two young people, Sarah and Khalison, from Cornerstone, (the Church that I Pastor). It is a new story, for it is but a couple of weeks old. This truly is a story of the incredible and amazing, just like our great God. It is an encouraging story that I pray will help you start this new year off with increased faith -- believing in the power of God’s global grace.

Sarah was an excited nineteen year-old. She had just completed Culinary School and a short-term apprenticeship with the Food Network in New York City. She was looking forward to a relaxing and much-needed break from the demanding schedule of school and working at the Food Network. So when some friends invited her to accompany them on a 3-week vacation in Asia, she jumped at the opportunity. This would be her first big international trip.

Sarah is the youngest daughter of a couple of key leaders at Cornerstone Christian Center. She basically grew-up in our church. Like her parents, she has been very involved in the life of the church, via such ministries as singing on the Worship Team, a spokes-person for the Media Team, served on Drama and Dance Teams, etc. She loves God and is a committed Christian.

The excursion to the Orient was exciting for Sarah. Visiting places she had never been and seeing things she had never seen was exhilarating! It was all so much fun and things were going so well – it was a trip of a lifetime. Then suddenly, toward the end of the itinerary, things just fell apart. Seemingly out-of-nowhere, issues arose, stuff happened, words were said, promises were broken and the trip-of-a-lifetime turned into a trip of another kind. Sarah found herself very much alone, very suddenly. To compound matters, she found herself very alone and very far away from home.

Anxiously, Sarah made her way through the airport in Seoul, Korea for the long flight home. She felt very much a stranger in a strange land. Upon finding the gate, she got in line to board the plane -- her mind numb and spinning from the recent events that had turned on her so viciously and quickly. The joy and excitement of a few days earlier seemed already like a distant memory. There she stood in line at the gate, disappointed, disillusioned and feeling very much alone.

While standing in line, Sarah looked about the crowd of a few hundred people who were also waiting at the gate for the flight to Los Angeles. Several feet away, a young man was sitting comfortably. His face looked so familiar. Sarah gazed at him for seemingly several minutes. Could it actually be someone she knew? Surely not in Seoul, Korea! But there he was, just the same. It was Khalison!

Khalison is also a member of Cornerstone Christian Center. Like, Sarah, he pretty much “grew-up” in the church. Though a few years older than Sarah, they were involved in the Youth Ministry and also served together on the Media Team. They have been friends for years.

Unbeknownst to Sarah, Khalison had been visiting relatives in China and was on a stopover in Seoul for his flight back to L.A. It “just happened” to be the very same flight that Sarah was on! What are the odds that two young people from the same church would be in the same place at the same time on the same flight on the other side of the world?! Those odds must be astronomical!

In the middle of Sarah’s trouble, God sent her help. On the other side of the world, on the wrong side of circumstance, through her many tears and prayers, suddenly there was Khalison. Not only did God provide a friend while she was in need, but also provided an upgrade – an open seat right next to Khalison for the long flight home. Does God’s grace go Global? You’d better believe it! The Bible is proven once again; "...I've never seen the righteous forsaken" -Psalm 37:25.

Sarah’s flight home was filled with happiness, not bitterness. Hurts were shared and hearts repaired. Weeping may have endured for a night, but joy did come in the morning. It is a testimony to the incredible grace of God that Sarah and Khalison can replay, retell and relive over and over again.