We have so much

We have so much. We’re rich by world standards but, by American standards, we’re middle class. That boggles my mind.

My little girl, Damaris, has a family income of $187 a month. My little girl Tanya’s family lives on just a little bit more.

Last December, I spent a day playing with children in a Yalu neighborhood. Half of the children there do not own a single pair of shoes. Walking down a dusty, dirt street with a shoeless child smiling at you and holding your hand, changes you. It just does.

Third-world poverty is crushing. I’ve rebuilt homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I’ve worked with families in the Appalachian region of Tennessee and I’ve served in inner city programs in Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. Poverty is alive and well here in America too, but it is nothing at all like third-world poverty.

I’m compelled to help in any way I can here at home too, so I volunteer for food distribution programs, donate socks for cold feet, buy Toys for Tots, sell Christmas trees and serve meals. But, it’s different here and I’m thankful that it is.

I have so very much. Opening my refrigerator this morning and seeing it overflowing gives me pause. There are two, fresh-baked pies nearby on the counter and a carrot cake on the island. We can’t possibly eat it all.

A few days ago I sent each of my Guatemala girls $25 and designated it “for family needs.” My friends at our school will probably buy each family a bag of corn for tortillas, cooking oil, flour, pasta, cereals and a variety of other staples. I know their moms will thank God. They know it’s from Him first and me as someone he has invited to join in His mission.

I’m thankful for my life-changing events. I’m thankful that my transplant experience taught me that nothing is more important than relationships and that stuff is just stuff. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to serve in third-world poverty to have my eyes opened to how most of our planet lives.

I’m thankful that my faith is so much more than a weekly pew-sitting, performance-watching, pep talk. I’m thankful that it compels me to live differently and rewards me more than I can even explain.

Today, I will rough-house with my precious grandbabies and zerbert their bellies while they laugh hilariously. I’ll watch Shara and Kristen be incredible moms and I’ll take note of Josh and Jake loving their wives and kids. I’ll goose my amazing wife of 33 years while she leans over to baste the turkey and she’ll scold me and swat me. I’ll miss my restaurant son and his wife but be thankful for their love for one another.

And, at some point, my eyes will fill with tears of thanksgiving remembering this is all a gift that almost didn’t happen. In March of 2012 I came within days of being released to hospice care. But that didn’t happen and I am so very, very thankful.

“God must have plans for you,” more than a few people told me. I have no doubt that is true.

New friends & new neighbors, an awesome church family unafraid to get involved, new family members, new experiences and a new sense of purpose were part of God’s plans. My personality profile shifted from the “field marshall” ENTJ to “the campaigner” ENSP after transplant. I shifted from product to process: from results to relationship. I’m thankful for that change.

And now this is more me: “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for – and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool – for love – for your dreams – for the adventure of being alive.’ Oriah Mountain Dreamer.

I want to invest myself in this mission of following Christ beyond empty religion and ritual. I want to invest myself in loving God and loving others. I want to remember to be thankful, no matter what.

No matter where I’ve been, third-world poverty or crushing crisis, natural disasters or beautiful beaches, plenty or little, I’ve met true Jesus lovers who are genuinely happy no matter what. I’ve met people who can truly say, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Neh 8:10) It’s not about stuff at all.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

I’m thankful for you. No, really … I mean it.

Posted in Liver disease | Leave a comment

CLEAN WATER: I’m still setting goals, big goals.

It’s been almost 5 and a half years since my liver transplant. When I look at my packed calendar and all we are doing today, I can’t believe how very blessed I have been. My life today is certainly full. January will bring the birth of our fourth grandchild: granddaughter number two!

_LIN1396

Tanya

Damaris

Damaris

Robin and I will also travel to Israel in January for the experience of a lifetime. And then, in April we will spend a week in Guatemala once again working with children trapped in crushing poverty. We now sponsor two little girls, Tanya (10) and Damaris (5), through AMG Guatemala and will be able to see each of them again.

This will be my third trip to Guatemala . It feels so good to be alive and able to invest my life into activities that are improving the lives of others. Between my church family, my community stuff and my relationships in Guatemala, my heart is even more full than my calendar. I am so very thankful for the gift of life I’ve been given!

When I went to Guatemala in December of 2016, I set a goal to raise enough money for 100 “Bundles of Love” at $20 each. Together, we provided the funds for 123 bundles! It was such a blessing to then be part of a team delivering the gifts to AMG centers and see the children receiving them.

Guate water filter goal announcement with buckets
What is my goal for this Christmas giving?
I am setting my sites on raising $3500 to for EcoFiltro units which will providing clean drinking water for 100 families. My personal commitment is to provide 10 of them and then I want to connect with others who want to join me. Each filtration unit will provide clean drinking water for a family for 2 years.

What do you say? Will you help me meet this crazy goal?

If you would like your contribution to be TAX DEDUCTIBLE, you can give through our church online at www.easytithe.com/fbcwestbrook by selecting the CLEAN WATER category

To contribute by Paypal, visit: www.paypal.me/Slinscott/35

I know, $3500 is a crazy big goal but I figure, if I can somehow enlist the help of friends, former students, faith friends, Rotary International friends and neighbors, we can improve the lives and health of hundreds of children in a hundred families for the next 2 years. It’s less than 5 cents a day.

Will you help? Sponsor filtration units as a family, a small group, a school group, Rotary Club, Scout troop?

Thanks so much for considering it. I believe we can do it! I can’t wait to show you pictures of the distribution when we return to Guatemala in April.

Scott Linscott

 

 

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Reminders

At night is when my mind races and my heart pounds when the numbers come back bad. I try to reason, “it’s probably nothing,” but then, the what-ifs come to the surface.

Last night I laid in bed chatting with God thanking him for five awesome years and asking him for a bunch more.

Then came the question of whether I will even seek another transplant if things go south. I want to say yes but I wonder if I have it in me.

The mind goes crazy. I don’t even know anything yet. Lahey has not called to schedule a biopsy to check for rejection.

I wish my mind wouldn’t immediately go to the worst. One of my liver numbers is 3x what it should be. It could be that I am fighting an infection, it could be a reaction to recent drug changes, it could be rejection or it could be that the NASH that destroyed my first liver is back.

I’d like to sleep tonight. My prayer is for peace and faith. I wish I had an anxiety switch I could turn off at least until we have a plan and some answers. I’m pretty sure it’s like this for all of us who have received transplants. It’s part of living on the edge of the woods.

It’s been a great day – 18 miles of pedalling, sitting on the beach of a beautiful lake with good friends, collecting my grandson at the airport …

I want to fall asleep thanking God for all He has given rather than worry about what tomorrow might bring.

Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Posted in Liver disease | 4 Comments

Finding Beauty in the Rain

Some people are the “glass half empty” type. Others are “glass half full.”  Me? I try to be happy that I have a glass at all. Even an empty glass has potential.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives in life.  and all over Facebook. Negatives work to stick to us like burrs in a field. They try to weave into the very fabric of our hearts and minds.

We focus on things we can’t control and we obsess over stuff we cannot change. The only thing we can control is how we react to those things.

Life includes an abundance of hard things. We lose jobs, people we love pass away, accidents happen and sickness hits our frail, human shells. The sun shines on the good and the bad and times of rain come to each.

Sometimes the rain just keeps coming and it feels like it will never end. It can cause us to forget about the sunshine and even think it will never shine again. But, even in the rain there is beauty if we will look for it.

We went through a very, very rainy 18 months in our lives. I lost my health, I lost my income, we lost our house, our savings and our retirement fund. I lost my energy, needed a mobility chair and came to the point of wearing adult diapers. I even lost the hope of having the liver transplant I needed to survive when docs took me off the transplant list in March of 2012 saying I was “too weak to survive” the surgery.

It rained pain, it rained financial hardship, it rained embarrassment, it rained questions and it rained discomfort day after day after day.

But, one thing remained unchanged. We sing these words at our church,

“Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me …
On and on and on and on it goes 
Yes it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
‘Cause this one thing remains… Your love never fails…”
~Jesus Culture, 2015

It was my faith that got me through those rainy times. I’m not talking about meaningless religious ritual. I’m talking about living, breathing faith that grew stronger the harder things got.

There was beauty in life even during those brutal times. I found beauty in my family, beauty in my awesome wife and beauty in so many of the people I met.

We’ve had a lot of real rain this Spring. The ground is saturated and rivers are running high. Gray skies have been the dominant theme and most people get into somewhat of a lethargic funk when that happens.

I decided I needed to find the beauty in the rain yesterday so I grabbed my camera and crawled around in the puddles a bit to photograph the flowers in our front garden. I was drawn to rain droplets that somehow made the flowers even more vibrant and beautiful. The rain that I was so tired of brought the incredible beauty in front of my lens.

Photographing droplets on flowers made me think of another favorite song we’ve heard in our church:

“All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”

(listen: https://youtu.be/kWooIrU5OwI)

 

I would not wish the storm we lived through on anyone. But now, I see so many beautiful things that came up from that ground. I’m thankful for changes in me and the depth of my faith. I’m thankful for all the people now in my life as a result.

I know more rain will fall. I know more hard times will come as part of life. I pray they are not as hard but, even if they are, I am confident that beauty will still be found whatever is ahead.

The old book I like to read says,

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” Luke 12:27-28

My life has taught me that that is Truth.

Look for the beauty today. It’s out there.

Posted in chronic illness, depression, discouragement, facing death, Liver disease, transplant recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Approaching 5 years of surviving and thriving

Loving life!

May 7 will mark 5 years since my life-saving liver transplant. I am amazed at all the life I’ve squeezed into five quick years. My grandchildren have to be my greatest blessing, by far.

As far as my health is concerned, I’ve got very little to whine about. I’ve had a couple little rejection scares that were nothing. I’ve stayed out of the hospital and I’ve been very active. Side effects of medications have been no more than annoying.

But, this past year has probably been the most difficult in terms of colds, stomach bugs and non-liver stuff. 

Last Spring I had a “simple” procedure to treat some blown out veins in my legs. It was called “laser ablation” or something like that. I was told I’d be back to normal quickly. But, we imuno-supressed​ folks  heal more slowly so it cost me my cycling season and now I have deep, dark black, permanent bruises where the veins used to be. The good news is that the stinging pain is finally gone when I ride. I’m back in the saddle.

I think I’ve caught every bug going around since last fall. I’m pretty sure that’s mostly my own fault because I’ve been so much less diligent in hand sanitizing and steering clear of sick people. I think we transplant recipients who have few issues start to think of ourselves as just like everyone else the further out we get from surgery. 

In February a cardiologist told me I now have a thickened heart and enlarged aorta. He didn’t seem concerned at all and said we’ll check on it again in a year. That seemed odd to me.

But the weirdest thing going on has been that I’m super exhausted all the time. I push through it but it stinks. I go to bed early and am now getting a solid 8 hours most nights but I wake up feeling like I haven’t slept at all. Yeah, I’m up by 5 am but normally in bed around 9.

I asked my doc about it and he said, “well, you’re getting older; it’s normal.” I’m 54 but I don’t feel like that is old!

I’ve also been trying to stay on top of my weight because I know that fatty liver & NASH can return. But, despite diet and exercise, my weight has been gradually climbing.

The weight management doc was puzzled so ordered a few more viles of blood be drawn at my lab visit. 

It turns out that my thyroid is misbehaving. When I read the symptoms I was surprised that I didn’t see my picture next to them. Holy cow, 8 of the 10 top symptoms were dead on!

So, I’m kinda bummed that it’s another thing added but also relieved and hopeful that answers are coming. It means another doc gets added to my list, another regular appointment, another daily pill and another vile of blood drawn at each lab visit but that’s all fine with me if I stop feeling like I haven’t slept in a year!

I’m going to keep PUSHing until they figure this newest challenge out. I’m thankful, hopeful, positive and ready to PUSH through whatever is next.

If you’re a praying person, shoot up a prayer for wisdom for the docs, good results and that I respond well and quickly to treatment.

I’m pretty pumped that we finally have an answer and it isn’t just that I’m an old fart.

Posted in Liver disease | 1 Comment

Transplant: oils, supplements, drinks

After two messages and three emails this week asking me about cleanses, herbal remedies and oils, I need to be clear about some things.

Yes, I had a liver transplant nearly 5 years ago and, yes, I am living healthier and doing things I haven’t been able to do for 15 years before transplant. That’s fantastic!

No, I am not a doctor, nurse, or chemist and have no formal education about transplants and how livers work.

My advice? ASK YOUR TRANSPLANT TEAM before ingesting things or absorbing them through your skin.

My team told me to steer clear of all cleanses, oils and herbal supplements saying that they can mask your true condition by affecting the accuracy of blood labs.

I love grapefruit but have had none in five years. Why not? It’s natural and delicious. But, something in it messes with our anti-rejection drug and makes it less effective.

“Natural” is not a synonym for “safe.” “Chemical” is not the antonym of “safe.”

So … do your research. Don’t just accept the claims of sites, articles or blogs that hope to sell you something.

You and I, as transplant survivors, walk a precarious line. We have to take a chemical compound every 12 hours to suppress our immune systems to keep from reject our new organs. If we take too much it’s toxic. If we take too little, we go into rejection.

If you are waiting for a transplant I know how much you just want to feel better. I remember feeling desperate enough that the super antioxidant, $120/month drink, with all the promises of the multi level marketing distributor pitch, were tempting.

I remember the person who offered to press on my feet with their special elixer for the “discounted rate” of $75.

There are a lot of people out there who will gladly take your money. Please be careful and ALWAYS ASK YOUR TEAM OF DOCTORS before swallowing or applying anything.

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

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Dang it! I keep forgetting I’m not normal.

This stuff kills everything!

This stuff kills everything!

Transplant recipients have no doubt they are different the first year after surgery. Doctors appointments are frequent and blood lab visits are so often that most of us start to think we could draw our own blood at home if they would let us.

In the second year, things ease up for most of us. We see docs every 3 months or 6 months and get stuck with a needle once a month. We talk about our transplants less and don’t lead every conversation with it.

It gets a little better each year. At least it did for me … and now it’s a problem. I’m coming up on my five year liverversary and some days I think, other than my prescription meds alarm every 12 hours, I’m just an average Joe. Sometimes I actually forget I had my liver yanked out and a new one put in.

Why is that a problem?

Well, I get stupid and lazy, don’t wash my hands and I leave my hand sanitizer at home. So, because my pills knock down my immune system so my body doesn’t reject my new organ, I catch every bug going around.

I forget that it takes me longer to dump a cold and that I probably should not be so huggy. But, I like to be huggy!

I spent yesterday and last night bowing to the porcelain throne with something that’s “going around.” If I’d just have squirted that sanitizer stuff on my hands more regularly, I probably would be fine.

I used to squirt it after every doorknob encounter. I squirted it and rubbed it on my steering wheel and shifter. Handshakes brought it from my pocket almost instantly.

Now, I’m usually not even sure where my travel squirter is. Maybe I left it home in my other coat?

So, last night while bowing to the porcelain throne, I made another resolution. I am going to remember to start carrying that sanitizer with me, pass on the salad bar, wash my hands more frequently and be more careful.

Life is good! But, I’m NOT normal and won’t be normal ever again.

Now where’s my sanitizer?

Posted in Liver disease | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments