Ann's "Saga of the Sunflower"

Ann snapped this photo of a sunflower like thing growing across the street from our house.  She loves sunflowers.  Even the ones that are just big beautiful weeds. Ann snapped this photo of a sunflower like thing growing across the street from our house. She loves sunflowers. Even the ones that are just big beautiful weeds.

This is Ann?s blog-page entitled, ?The Saga of the Sunflower?.  Anyone who walks into our house would get the connection I guess.  She loves sunflowers.  If you've been following her surgery journey on this website you?ve probably noticed that her promised blogging never made it to this page.  But, if you?re family, you probably noticed she did a lot of ?blogging? by way of emails to her family.  This ?blog? has been compiled from those emails.


Ann contributed a new story to the "Blog-A-Dot" section of this website in the midst of all this, entitled, Blog-A-Dot Chronicles.


Many of you have been walking through this journey with Ann by way of your prayers, with an occasional update from the website or for some an email or phone call.  But for those who might want to retrace Ann?s steps through this journey from the office of the Russian OB/GYN to the Dallas operating room a mere three weeks later, this blog is for you.  Thanks for being part of the journey.


Saga of the Sunflower:   Sunday, August 26th


Sorry, couldn?t think of anything appropriate that would go with ?saga? so I went with ?sunflower?, my favorite flower. (Can you tell it?s been a long day?)


Well, I have some urgent medical news I will share for prayer and then I need to get off and get ready for church.  I had some vaginal bleeding last week that I really thought was due to a cortisone shot I got in my elbow the week before for an injury I got from too much cleaning and painting while in the states.  (No fun getting old!)  I had put up with 2 months of chronic pain and couldn?t pick up a cup of coffee without it hurting so I finally went to the clinic in Moscow and got at injection.  Praise God, the pain is gone!


However, a week later I start bleeding.  Now I haven?t had a period in probably 7 years so I know it?s not good.  I did some research on the internet and it seemed to indicate that the cortisone (a steroid) could have caused the cycle to begin again.  But, as a precaution I went to the OB/GYN here who immediately sent me to have a sonogram which showed that I have some kind of ?growth? on my right ovary.  They won?t call it a cyst or tumor; it?s just a different kind of tissue than what it is suppose to be.  


The MRI lab, attached to the trauma hospital in Voronezh. The MRI lab, attached to the trauma hospital in Voronezh.

So . . . yesterday I had an MRI done, only that?s not what they call it here.  They referred to it a ?magnetic diagnostic therapy? but sure enough, I walk into the room and it?s the long tube.  I didn?t really have much time to prepare myself mentally for being in a long, hot, noisy tube for 30 minutes but maybe that was for the best.  The hospital I went to looked awful from the outside but the diagnostic clinic was in a trailer attached and was really quite nice, with air-conditioning even!  (but not in the tube!)  And the equipment looked pretty state of the art. 


The technicians came out and through the help of an excellent translator who we have worked with in the past, a real God-send, we were able to concur that there is something there on my ovary that shouldn?t be and needs to come out.  I go back Monday to the OB/GYN for her recommendation.  Since she was already pushing for a hysterectomy last week I imagine she will be saying that all the more.  Of course she thinks we can do it here with no problems.


However after talking to our translator who has traveled to the States many times and has several doctors in her own family she point blank said if it were her she would go to the U.S. to have it done.  Dealing with all the paperwork alone would be huge for a foreigner to have to have that kind of surgery here and that our different countries deal with things so much differently.  She added that, since we?re foreigners, we would likely have to go into surgery basically undocumented which dramatically increases the risk level.


So . . . we?ve got some decisions to make and quickly.  So please pray for wisdom and clarity.  We are getting all the diagnosis translated and I will be sending them to my doctor in Dallas on Monday.  But where to go to have the surgery, where to recover, how long, how much.  Who will take care of the transition house here while we are gone?  Do I go by myself so Robert can stay here? 


There are so many other things we need to be dealing with right now which I think is the hardest thing for me to deal with.  Just the hassle of being faced with this is what is upsetting me, not so much the surgery.  That will probably come later.  But this is what God has put before us and I know He has His reasons.  We just don?t want to miss what He wants to teach us through all of this.


Ann and her medical translator, Julia, getting the recommendations from the Russian OB/Gyn. Ann and her medical translator, Julia, getting the recommendations from the Russian OB/Gyn.

Saga of the Sunflower:  Monday, September 27th


We just got back from the Russian OB/GYN who recommends that I get surgery immediately, probably a complete hysterectomy and have a biopsy on this tissue. (She never used the word ?tumor? or ?cyst? but that was understood.) There is some concern that it might be growing into other organs.


We have had a chance to process this a bit and certainly have our moments of scare.  The biggest stressor right now is deciding what to do, when and where.  We are investigating different options and are waiting to hear back from my OB/GYN in Dallas.  We are investigating the European Medical Clinic in Moscow as a possible place to have the surgery.  Our main hesitation with that is if there is cancer and we are looking at an extended treatment I would want to be in Dallas for that, around a support base that speaks my language!  I can handle the idea of having a hysterectomy in Russia but, once they get in there, if they discover a malignant tumor then I am kind of stuck in Russia separated from family and loved ones.


There is never a good time for something like this and yet we know this has not taken God by surprise and He will guide us in our decisions.  We are just getting the transition ministry kicked off with 5 guys living with us.  Our other staff members, Sasha and Ludmilla Kotova just left for their vacation and will be gone until September 10th.  Right now, if we were both to leave, we don?t have anyone to fill our shoes and move into our apartment.  Thus we are thinking maybe Robert can stay back, at least for a little while until we can get something better lined up, if need be.


We do know that Russian doctors are pretty trigger happy when it comes to recommending surgery but this lady was pretty insistent.  They seem to be pretty convinced by what they see on the sonogram and MRI.  Robert has gone to the hospital right now to get the MRI photos on a disc that we possibly will be able to send to my doctor electronically for another set of eyes to look at.  The price tag on just getting to U.S. and staying there is so expensive.  We are still trying to recover from the wedding!  But we also know that we have a Heavenly Father who owns it all and if we are to come home, He will provide.  We just want to be wise and do what He wants.  


Saga of the Sunflower:   Monday, August 27th


God?s Great Provision has already started falling in place without anybody asking, as far as I know.  A family member has offered to pay for our plane tickets home!  My friend, Becky Pruessner (who just went through breast surgery last year) offered her house as a re-cooperation station if necessary.  She and her husband David live right between Aaron and Ben and blocks from the East-West office in Addison ? 25 minutes from Presbyterian which is where I would probably have the surgery.


Of course I would rather have my own furnished little apartment, easily assessable to friends to come by with love, cheer and good food while I stay there but as the famous theologian once said, ?You can?t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.?  (Mick Jagger)


You know what my biggest concern is right now?  What if we go through all this hullabaloo, make all these arrangements, pay all this $ to get me home and I get to the doctor and it?s nothing?  Maybe I don?t need any kind of surgery and the ?growth? that everybody is seeing on the tests is ?a Russian fly in the ointment??  :) Yet, with all these provisions coming together so quickly I also think, maybe this is God just pushing this along and to trust Him with whatever the news is ? good or bad.   It?s not a time to second guess ourselves.


Dr. Freeman (my Dallas OB/GYN) and her nurse have been incredible making arrangements, getting back to us and going the extra mile.  I saw this doctor one time in 2005 and at that point she had suggested, because I was not having any female problems that (at my age) it would be smart to just find a good Internal Medicine doctor, that I really didn?t need an OB/GYN but that she was willing to continue to have me as a patient.  I liked her then and I like her even more now!  We started with the Internal Medicine doctor with this and her office referred me back to my OB/GYN ? that they couldn?t handle the situation.


At this point I think I will go alone, get in with the doctor and get a plan and then we will make the decision based on that whether Robert should come.  I don?t think it is a coincidence that after months and months of hassle and frustration and agony of this ding-dong dial up speed computer and no SKYPE and the ability to call out that we get DSL and SKYPE up and running 2 days ago!  As a result we have been able to consult with the doctor?s office and Robert and Aaron together figured out on the phone last night how to get the MRI information sent.  God is good.  He is good all the time.


We will probably be sending out a broadcast email to our whole directory sometime today asking them to pray and sharing the needs.  Our families, East-West and just a few people have been notified.  We are definitely going to need help (financially) but don?t anybody go hock the family jewels just yet.  Our Heavenly Father owns it all and He has a plan to meet these needs as He does all  needs.  It will be interesting to see how that unfolds.  I try not to let my mind go there ? figure out who or what He is going to use.  He usually surprises us anyway.


I know you all are praying for us both but beef them up for Robert.  I am getting little hints that he?s a lot more worried than he even admits to himself.  Before we went to bed last night he read Philippians 4 outloud.  But the details of what/when to do it is rubbing him pretty raw.  Do we kick the 5 boys out on the street while we attend to our needs?  Of course not.  Do we leave them here without any staff in town?  I don?t? think so.  Does God have this part of the equation figured out?  Yeah, if He knows the number of hairs on our heads, He?s got this covered as well.


Saga of the Sunflower:  Wednesday, August 29th


The nurse from Dr. Freeman?s office (my OB/GYN) told me Monday that she would call me Tuesday to let us know if the radiologist was able to read the MRI from Russia and what the doctor was recommending.  The doctor has already said that I should come on to Dallas but we are trying to decide how fast.  The nurse knew that we are waiting to book tickets after we hear from her.  If I am not going to have surgery for 2 weeks I don?t want to get their tomorrow!  Plus, the more lead time we have in purchasing tickets the cheaper they are.


Tuesday came and went and they didn?t call.  We tried calling about 5:30 Dallas time and they had already left for the day.  Also the radiologist was not available.  We were trying to find out if they were able to successfully open the disc of the MRI that Aaron burned.  So we still don?t have that answer.


I called Dr. Freeman?s office today (Wednesday) only to be told that she and her nurse (who has been jumping through all the hoops for me) don?t work on Wednesdays.  Guess what?  The radiologist doesn?t either.  What?s the deal with Wednesdays?  :)


So, we don?t know any more than we did Monday.  So we wait.  And we continue hustling trying to get things in better order here so we can leave when the Lord gives the signal.  At this point we are still leaning toward Robert going with me on the train to Moscow (even though I know I could handle that by myself) and putting me on the plane to get to the States.  Then he heads back to Voronezh until we feel like he needs to come.  Of course that plan can change.


Photo here


Robert has been down in the garage workshop all day making beds for the guys on the 2nd floor.  Right now they are in ?semi-beds? and a few couches.  Actually he is cutting out all the pieces for the design and assembling one complete bed for a model and then the young lads are going to put their own beds together!  Thus, working toward our objective of teaching them how to take care of themselves and live on their own.


Photo here


We?ve got Kostia, our one kid that doesn?t have a real job (yet) and not in school out in the backyard doing bricklaying and building a shaslik (bar-b-que) pit.  He supposedly has some masonry training but it?s hard to see it.  Robert has to pretty closely supervise him but he is learning how to stroke him and at the same time correct him.  Not an easy task but one that is so crucial, especially with a kid like Kostia.


On a side note . . . Kostia trusted Christ at camp this summer and then was invited to go to several more camps after that where he got some great teaching and wonderful fellowship.  Even though he is our biggest challenge (he is from a very, very poor orphanage in a small village and has had little chance of Christian fellowship or healthy relationships.  The difference between him and the other 4 guys is huge.)  But it has been a delight to see him grow in his faith and begin to change from the inside out.  There?s nothing like seeing a new believer who?s so on fire and eager to know the Lord better.  It fans the flame in you!  Oh how we wish that we had the language skills to take him through a basic Bible study but God is using Kostia to keep us motivated on our goals to learn this language! 


Photo here


It?s also been neat to watch the other guys give back to Kostia and encourage him in his new found faith and just be regular guys around him (instead of the boozers & dopers he is use to), even though he can get on anybody?s nerves.  These guys have had more privileges (even though they were raised in orphanages) but they?ve had lots of Christian input in their lives and it shows.


I am doing okay, really.  And Robert is doing better.  I know when he has a short fuse that that is really his worry coming out.  His fuse seems to be growing.  Neither one of us like this ?waiting? and we are disappointed that the doctor has left us hanging.  But what can you do??


Today I was doing some research online on various health things, one of which being endometrial cancer when I got an email from my cousin passing on her love and prayer support and a devotional from Max Lucado based on Hebrews 12:1-2.  It was a pretty clear message to me from God to fix my eyes on Jesus and get it off the Internet until I know more what I need to be researching.   Thank you Lord. 


Saga of the Sunflower:  Thursday, August 30th


Finally today talked to the OB/GYN doctor directly this time.  She was worth the wait!


Radiologist in Dallas was able to read the MRI from Russia (amazing!) and they are ?pretty sure? that the growth is a fibroid something or other on the uterus.  


Dr. Freeman thinks the thickening of my uterus could be from the cortisone shot I got but when I told her about (my sister) Sally?s recent adventure under the knife that helped her see a little bigger picture and said we ought to take that into consideration.  So thanks Sally for going first! 


Probably going with a hysterectomy so we can really deal with the thing on the ovary, even though she?s ?pretty sure? it?s no big deal.  The other choice would be a DNC and then repeat sonograms every 3 months to watch the thing on the ovary.  No thanks.  I?d rather just get it over with and stop this ?what if? game.


Robert and I leave on the overnight train to Moscow on Saturday night (this Sat night YIKES!) and arrive at 8:00am Sunday.  Take a taxi to the airport (thank goodness it?s Sunday and won?t be quite as much traffic!) and I fly out at 1:10 with a 2 hour layover in Atlanta which gives me time to go through customs.  


Robert goes back on the train Sunday night to Voronezh arriving Monday morning where he continues to scramble to get things done.  Our Russian staff members get home from their vacation on the 7th so hopefully they can come and stay in our place while we are gone.  They just thought they were going to ease back into work!


As soon as Robert knows when my surgery date is set he will book his tickets and join me for the ?coming out party?.  If he has to leave before the Kotov?s get home, then we ask God to send in more reinforcements for the Transition Center.


I arrive in Dallas this Sunday night, 2 Sept at 8:15pm.  A family member is buying our tickets!  What a gift.  I will be initially staying at Becky and David Pruessner?s.  They just thought they were getting an empty nest!  They live a mile from the East-West office and almost directly in the middle of Aaron and Ben & Danielle.  Still need a car to use.  We?ve had some offers come in, sort of, but nothing firm yet.


We?ve had some wonderful, encouraging, uplifting emails arrive in response to the prayer request that was sent out today.  Wow! It is so overwhelming to see how the Body of Christ works at a time like this.  We are incredibly tired emotionally and physically but incredibly blessed at the same time.  I think it could be referred to a roller coaster ride.


Thank you to each of you for being on this journey with us.  Coming back to Russia after our time in the States it?s always a harder adjustment for some reason.  We just feel extra lonely and forgotten.  We don?t always feel that way, I promise.  And we know in our heads it?s not true.  And then something like this happens and we get this outpouring of love and connection.  We know God works all things together for good and it?s been very special to have this come on the heels of some of our down times.  Thank you Lord.  Thank you family and friends.


We sent out what we call our broadcast email today to all our supporters and I had to close it with this quote from Robert J. Morgan?s little book, The Red Sea Rules.


?No sea is deeper than the ocean of His love.  There is no army stronger than His hosts, no force greater than His throne of grace, no enemy who can overcome His direct and indirect work in our lives.?


?The reality of the Red Sea, in a word, is this:  God will always make a way for His tired, yet trusting, children even if He must split the sea to do it.?


Trusting that God is making a way in our lives and yours!


Saga of the Sunflower:  Wednesday, September 5th


Sorry not to be so prolific with the updates lately.  This sunflower is drooping a bit, mainly from jet lag and all the hustle and bustle of the last 2-3 weeks.  God has been so gracious in providing me great place to crash for awhile ? Becky and David Pruessner?s.  They?ve got busy lives and are coming and going and I am free to do the same or just hang and chill, which I am trying to do some of today.  I still am hoping to get by the East-West office today to check in and deal with some insurance stuff.  (Oh joy!  I think I?ll take a nap instead!)


I want to work on the web story that Robert set up for me ? ?The Saga of the Sunflower? but just don?t have the brain power to be creative right now.  So we are just trying to keep brief updates on the website section ?Updates on Prayer Requests? and fill in the gaps when we can.  We feel so loved and supported and know that most of you want more details and it?s not that we don?t want to give them it?s just kind of hard to figure out the easiest way to do that, especially when you are still in a jet lag fog.


Bottom line physically ? I am doing okay.  Yesterday was the big day at Dr. Freeman?s office where she examined me and then had a long consult.  My buddy, Becky who is a former nurse and just a good consumer researcher and not afraid to ask questions went with me and Freeman seemed to really like that there was another set of ears there to hear the information and help me make decisions, especially since Robert?s not here right now.  It has certainly given him peace of mind knowing Becky is walking through this with me.


Dr. Freeman wants to do an endometrial biopsy in her office, under local anesthesia Thursday morning at 9:00am.  She just seems to be very thorough and calls it ?doing her homework? before going into surgery next week (still scheduled for Thursday, Sept 13).  This sounds like a lovely procedure, perhaps a form of D&C where they scrape some tissue from the uterine lining and test it.  The Dr feels pretty confident that when she opens me up next week she?s just going to find a benign process going on but just in case she has some surprises, she has 2 pathologists on call at the hospital and they can be down quickly when/if called. 


Yesterday I also went to the Southwest Diagnostic Center (these are the folks who read the MRI from Russia) and had another pelvic sonogram done and a mammogram.  Those will be read today and I assume Dr. Freeman will have the reports by Thursday when I go in for the procedure.  Again, just doing her homework and trying not to have any ?surprises?.


Both Dr. Freeman and Becky said it won?t be a ?real comfortable? procedure and I might possibly have some cramping so Becky and I are stocking up on comfort foods and I?m going to buy me some magazines so I can bunker down and pamper myself a bit.  (Any excuse is quite nice!)  When we were kids and had to go to the doctor I always remember Mom taking us for a coke float or special treat afterwards.  I think Starbuck?s will do quite nicely!  J


But Becky has cleared her schedule to drive me and bring me home. (I think it?s a pretty short procedure.)  So, don?t anybody worry, I am getting pampered by my friend Becky and she knows how to do it well!  And Sadie, their little white dog, is my new best buddy so she and I hang out together and talk to one another.  I got a feeling Sadie will lick my hurts away.


So I am sorry I haven?t connected with all the folks in town but as you can see, things have been quite busy and I am moving on pretty much ?slow speed?.  We appreciate all the prayers and support and even if I am not talking to you directly I know it?s there.  We will try and keep you posted as we can.  We update the website briefly with bullet points and this update is of course, more wordy and going to family and East-West staff.


When you are loved by so many it?s hard to keep everybody posted.  That?s a good problem to have and thanks to all of you who are supporting us in so many ways during this journey.  We are blessed and truly grateful.


Saga of the Sunflower:  Thursday, September 6th


Is it still just Thursday???  My, it?s been a l-o-n-g day.  But a good one.  Thanks for the prayers.  Both Robert and I feel them.


  • My buddy, nurse, therapist, prayer partner and bed & breakfast hostess, Becky, went with me to Dr. Freeman?s this morning at 9:00 for the endometrial biopsy.  It wasn?t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and we should have the results back probably by Monday.


  • Biopsy is a scary word but it?s a normal procedure before a hysterectomy.  The doc just wants a heads up if there are some cancer cells floating around in there.



  • My pap smear and mammogram came back clear.  The pelvic sonogram done here showed that there were two masses instead of just one that the Russians caught.  Really don?t know what to call the little buggers, ?mass?, ?tumor?, ?cyst?.  Whatever . . . they aren?t suppose to be there plus the uterine wall is twice as thick as it is suppose to be which means it?s time to take the plumbing out.  As my sister-in-law, Elaine says, I don?t need it anyway unless Robert and I are planning on being Abraham and Sarah and bearing more children.


  • Had a chest x-ray done which is routine and an EKG which was probably ordered because of the Krause (family) history with heart issues.


  • Got pre-registered for the hospital so next step is to show up on Thursday morning @ 5:30 and I am first in line with surgery scheduled for 7:30.  Doc says it should take about 2 hours max, I go to recovery and then up to my room. 


  • Probably will be released on Saturday afternoon and we will head back to the Pruessner?s for more TLC.


  • Robert gets in on Monday evening.  HOORAY!  While waiting for the doctor to come in and do the procedure this morning this wave of sadness came over me.  I really miss him.  He is my rock.  But he would be the first to say he would rather be a stepping stone to the real Rock.  So we are both clinging to Him during this time and appreciate all of you that have our backs covered!


  • Tomorrow I hope to finally get to the East-West office and deal with some insurance issues and get some hugs from that side of the family.


  • Tom Allen, Robert?s brother-in-law has his prostrate cancer surgery at 10:00 on Tuesday, the 11th.  Too bad we can?t be in the same hospital at the same time and share some visitors.  Please pray for complete healing for him and strength and peace for all, especially Robert?s sister, Jeannie.


  • John Maisel, East-West founder/president, called to check on me today and he sounded awful.  He?s got pneumonia and he leaves for Russia tomorrow!  Please pray for him.


Still hoping to get a story written for the blog that Robert started, ?Saga of the Sunflower?.  It?s bad enough inundating you guys with these many details.  I am hoping to chronicle this journey with a little more editing to post on the website.  Aaron told me tonight when he came over to have a cup of tea with me, ?Mom, I?ve been trying to read the email updates but there are so many words.  Can you just give me the overall stuff verbally??  Bless his heart.  Bless your hearts for wading through all of this.


Bottom line =  God is good.  He is good all the time.  And He is making a way!

Blessings to you all.  I love you.  Robert loves you.  And we are so grateful to have you in our lives.