Thursday, November 25, 2021

Back to the States

Hello again! We are writing from, compared to Kalukembe, the chilly city of Philadelphia! Since our last post, a concern led to an early departure then a diagnosis and now opening a new chapter in our lives. In October, Priscila felt a mass in her axilla. So with the concern that trying to get a biopsy in Angola would take us too long, we decided to move our timetables up and leave early back to the States to see what it might be, all the while hoping we could still celebrate the end of the year as planned with Pri's family in Brazil. We tried our best in two weeks to wrap up what we could and day good-bye to our colleagues and friends: some things were what we had planned to do anyway--giving Bibles, oil and mosquito nets to all hospital workers; purchasing TB and other medicines; setting up a hypochlorous acid generator for wound care; arranging distribution for kids' pets. Other things were sped up--packing up the house; arranging support for a few friends and their families; arranging care for fistula ladies in another center. Other things were left unfinished but ongoing, like the construction of the new doctors' homes and other chronic patients' care plans. And some things were stopped, such as a Hepatitis B screening study, and follow up for patients we had no way to communicate with our premature departure. Considering the circumstances we were leaving under, we are overall thankful. i am sad to leave our friends and patients, but we are so thankful that our departure was already a conversation begun beforehand with everyone including our kids. And what an opportunity to thank 250+ hospital workers with practical gifts before we left! 

 It's been a fast process here, too! Less than 12 hours from arriving in country, Priscila had seen the surgeon and scheduled for biopsy on November 1. Since then, we learned that Priscila has metastatic breast cancer that does not look like it's spread to far-away organs, that Zeke loves playing basketball, that our kids are growing out of their old clothes rapidly, that my parents are very patient and playful in helping the kids with home school, that Naomi has taken to a bicycle like a fish to water, that Eliel is a brilliant cardboard castle builder, that our friends and supporters are even more incredibly supportive and kinder than we knew, that God has been steadfast and present with us every moment, every day. If we couldn't see the future well before, our sights down the road are even more unclear now. . . . 

For now, we are with Daniel's parents until the end of the year. Then we will transition to Wilmington, DE, where Daniel will begin work and the kids will go to school. Priscila had her first chemotherapy session this week and will continue every 3 weeks for five more cycles before her breast surgery. Then it sounds like radiation and more chemotherapy. 

Thank you for all your care and support! The kids have appreciated warm winter clothes, we've eaten yummy meals provided to us, and Priscila's parents and Daniel's sister's family will join us in Philly for almost a month together! The list of kindness is much more than that, too! It's only what i can remember in the moment. . . . 

 i am told that the William Bradford celebrated with the Pilgrims their first harvest (with the generous help of the Wampanoag) and Psalm 107 was what he reflected on. It begins, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble, and gathered in from the lands. . . " and it ends with "But he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth. Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD." So much to think about here, but suffice it for now to wish you all opportunity to consider God's steadfast love in both our lives and in the world. Happy American Thanksgiving/Feliz Dia de Graça!
On our way from Kalukembe to Lubango to Luanda to Lisbon to Newark to Philadelphia! Not bad! And the kids were still smiling when we arrived. . . well, not fully. We did cry about leaving our dog, Chibi-ko
Pri preparing Naomi's birthday on the 6th. Naomi's response to a day full of fun with cousins, grandparents, and presents was to say, "Thank you! This day was full of love!"
The boys enjoying legos and soldiers with their cousin, Søren
One last construction project for Zeke in Kalukembe: a cardboard house with lots of lights!
I'm gonna miss common sights like this. . . 
Wrestling with Tio Jim in Philly
Priscila's care is at the same hospital where she did her residency. It was fun to find her placard on the wall after one of her appointments.
Reading Bible stories with "Jiichan"
And of course, cozy reading times as family
In the beginning of October, we were able to offer one more week of free prenatal consults as part of seeking to encourage women to have healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries. To date, this year had been the worst year for maternal mortality that we had experienced (22 up to the beginning of October). Which made it all the more poignant to us to connect with pregnant women and talk about healthy pregnancies and delivery plans. Ultrasound is such a great tool to open up such conversations with women. We continue to pray for these women and our colleagues, who continue to provide good obstetric care to the women of the community. 

Our amazing friend, Dr. Bible, came and visited in September and left just days before we did in October. He's here doing one of his many injections for a patient with back and hip pain. He was an incredible help on the wards (who knew? an adult rheumatologist helping see pediatric patients!) and in the clinic. He even helped at home, building desperately needed shelves in the kitchen. Thank you soooo much, Dr. Bible! 

The treatment journey has begun! First chemotherapy session down, five to go!  So much else to say about this! I will keep it brief: we love you SO much, Priscila! May your body and spirit know healing and peace