Pastor Tim Health Updates
In May of 2019 Pastor Tim Cowen was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (MM) and began a year long treatment regiment. When there are major milestones in Tim's health, or when he has thoughts he wishes to share, we will post an update to this site. If there are no recent updates you can assume things are continuing as described in the last update. Also note that some test and treatment results may take time for the doctors and/or the family to process and evaluate next steps, so there may well be a delay between any upcoming date listed for a procedure and the report of the results. Tim and his family very much appreciate your ongoing prayer and support!
If you have questions about this page or need additional information please contact Pastor Mark.
November 25, 2019
"So things are coming clearer as Tim progresses through treatments. Until there is a cure, and as of yet there is not, he probably will not reach full remission. MM patients just don't usually get there. (Unless God sees fit to bring such complete healing!)
However, MM has a half a dozen options to offer in treatment which many other incurable cancers do not. So the doctors remain confident that they can extend his years in this particular battle for quite a while- perhaps rotating to other treatments which seem to be improving all the time. All of this they see as valuable to buy time for a cure they believe is on the near horizon.
Along these lines, my doctor was at an MM luncheon last week and learned that there is a relatively new and more effective "pill" Tim could take that would replace the stomach shots he now receives 3 times a month. However, insurance must still approve the change which the doctor thinks they will have to since Tim is now getting increased neuropathy (numbness) in his feet and most recently his fingertips. He drops stuff a lot now--which means our dog Brook is all over him when he eats, sometimes scoring big at the dinner table! This new development plays in his favor for the approval of the newer more expensive drug. Please pray for that approval as the new drug doesn't list neuropathy as a side-affect.
God has graciously removed fear from us for the most part, though this past week was a bit of a struggle for Karen as she reflected on the realities a bit. A battle like this always seems to have its challenges as we face some ups and downs along the way. Your prayers for her and the family are always welcome.
It is shaping up that while the blood counts are reaching near normal levels at the half-way mark of treatment, the changes are slow and there is little to report from week to week. So this will be the final report for a while and we will bring updates only if things move significantly in one direction or the other. We remain grateful for your prayers offered to the Lord on our behalf and your concerns expressed to us along the way. You have been very faithful to us and this has not gone unnoticed. Thank you!
So we take one day at a time and are confident that while doctors are doing what they can to deal with Tim’s MM, we are constantly pinning our hope on the One who made us and inhabits us by His Spirit. God has sovereignly led us on this journey and we are never alone. So in this we can say, all is well!
Tim and Karen
September 6, 2019
Grace Church and friends…
It has been a while since you heard from us concerning Tim’s health. Part of the "quiet" is due to fact that things have been moving slowly—but steady in terms of how it all is unfolding. The Multiple Myeloma (MM) continues to be treated with an oral chemo pill (2 week cycles with a week off between cycles), a shot once a week that Tim goes to the doctor in Radnor to receive(3 week cycle with a week off between cycles), a steroid regimen taken two times weekly and then a another bone strengthening shot he receives once a month. All of these drugs have been well tolerated and there has been little to no side-affects—other than Tim’s apparent sleeplessness which is associated with the steroids. Karen could only wish it would mean less snoring—but apparently that has not been the case…
We have sensed your prayers and so appreciate your encouragement which is expressed regularly to us face to face, by text or email and by cards. Your faithfulness to us has been overwhelming. And as great as it has been for us—it still pales in comparison to the grace which God has poured out into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. Some of what He has been teaching us is patience under trial, the fine art of being thankful for the little things, and of course our constant need to keep on walking forward—eyes focused on Jesus—Who set the perfect example for us as we follow in His footsteps.
By God’s grace, through His great power and His use of the treatments He has made available to doctors, the effects of MM in Tim’s body are on the decline as near as we can tell. His red blood cell count continues to grow to just below normal and the hemoglobin has risen from 9.9 at the start of treatment to around 12.1 presently (13.5 -17ish is considered normal). The white blood cell count remains solidly in the normal range for this kind of treatment. And the energy level is near normal. We are truly blessed and extremely thankful for all of this. Yet are reminded that the journey will be long and there will no doubt be some challenges yet to face. We trust that we will continue to rely on and trust Him fully whether or not we come to the place of full healing is this life—but are grateful that full healing awaits us in glory.
We will send out another update in about a month—or sooner if his condition warrants such a report. For now, no news is good news!
All is well,
Tim and Karen
July 19, 2019
Grace Church and friends,
Yesterday we had another visit to the doctor which now has come to be a routine Thursday event. It includes blood work, appointment with the doctor for evaluation, followed by a chemo treatment. All of this indicates to them that Tim is progressing well and little by little his red blood cell count is increasing. He is feeling stronger and, aside from some swelling which affects various parts of his body even his voice, the side affects seem minimal and tolerable to us.
This will be a rather long and drawn out therapy, so progress is expected to be steady—but not fast. So as a result, it seems prudent to send updates if, 1) something rather significant occurs along the way or, (2 on more of a monthly (less frequent) basis. So going forward, we will be following these guidelines for news concerning Tim’s health.
We want to assure you that your prayers, cards and concerns expressed are not received casually by us. They are richly appreciated and they are a constant reminder that the battle with MM truly belongs to the Lord. We continue to rest in Him. One specific prayer request from the beginning was concerning Tim’s white blood cell count—which can be negatively affected by the chemo treatments. Doctor’s expected them to drop at least initially making him more vulnerable to infection. However, God has seen fit from day one of treatment to send those white blood cells into the normal range and they continue to be solid. We are praising the Lord for this and see this as His hand at work.
Thanks you for your willingness to journey with us and may God bless you. We plan to update next in early to mid-August.
All is well,
Tim & Karen
July 12, 2019
Dear family of Grace and friends,
We are in our 5th week of Tim’s therapy for treatment of Multiple Myeloma (MM). A recent PET scan was encouraging in that it showed no significant bone erosion anywhere throughout his body. Two small locations were identified as being affected but termed "insignificant" by the doctors. No other organs show any signs of trouble. The doctors also indicate that the result of Tim’s blood work demonstrate that progress is being made in the battle with MM. Additionally, a recent kidney X-ray indicates that no more stones are present. For all of this we are indeed grateful to the Lord and are profoundly impacted by His graciousness to us!
One of the things we have been reflecting on as we consider this journey with MM is that God has this wonderful way of using trials to shape us into the image of His Son. God knows that left to our own tidy lives unaffected by difficulties and uncertainties we would become quite focused on ourselves, our agendas and seek to accomplish stuff that makes us happy and ultimately selfish. But enter struggles that are bigger than us and we are left to either question God and pull back from Him or lean into Him and rely on His grace to carry us through. We have chosen to lean on Him through our struggle. And He has shown Himself faithful throughout.
On the paperwork from the doctor’s office we find these words relating to Tim’s diagnosis: "Multiple Myeloma not having achieved remission". Sort of catches your attention when one reads those words. But those are the words which remind us just how much we are needing to rely on Christ—who ultimately has done more than brought death into remission—He has conquered it and will one day bring us safely and lovingly into His awesome presence.
We are confident in this sure hope and we are able to say with genuineness that…all is well.
Blessings to you all,
Tim and Karen
June 28, 2019
This update on Tim’s health is being written by Karen this week.
This has been an off week for Tim. No meds or shots this week except for taking the steroid twice a week. The weird side effect from the steroids is 24 hours later he gets a bad case of hiccups. But, guess what, there’s a pill for that! We are finding out there’s a pill for everything! It takes an hour for the hiccups to stop. It gets kind of annoying listening to him hiccup but then I think, it must be 20 times worse for Tim to have them so that puts it into perspective for me and I stop being so selfish. He continues to have mostly good days. Feeling very normal and having energy. Every now and then an "off day" occurs and he’s more tired than usual. He just rests and takes it easy then the next day he’s back to his energetic self. So all in all very minimal side effects.
This is something we and others have been praying about and the Lord answered. The Lord has answered prayer after prayer. Including needs we didn’t even know we needed but he still provided for us. He has been so faithful to us. I know it sounds trite and we hear it all the time but it’s never been truer for us and we never understood it like we do right now but God is so good! Sometimes fear grips my heart and I read the cards you all have sent (I save them) and look up the verses in those cards and read the kind, loving words written and the Lord uses that to calm my fears and get my mind and heart back to relying and trusting him. So thank you for those cards and your kind words and warm hugs reminding us you are praying for us. It means the world to us and we know prayer is powerful!
So far Tim’s blood counts are slowly going up which is what we want. He will get a Pet Scan soon to show the Dr. how bad the cancer is and where it is. That will be a helpful tool. Again, getting the Pet Scan approved by insurance wasn’t easy but the Lord provided the answer he knew we needed.
Thank you for being such a caring church. We don’t know how we’d get through this without your continued love and support and prayers.
June 14, 2019
Tim completed his first week of MM treatments yesterday. So far, so good! His white blood cell counts remain in the decent range while his red blood cells took a dip as expected. A drop in red blood cells is inevitable as the chemo drugs will take out some of those along with the plasma cells they are especially targeting in this treatment. This means that some fatigue was present these past couple of days—a very common side-affect. Other than that, the most interesting side-affect included a 10-hour continuous bout of hiccups, which made for sore ribs and probably caused more irritation to Karen as she had to endure them along with Tim! A med was prescribed that put an end to them pretty fast. (Who knew there was a drug that accomplishes that??) Pastor Aaron resorted to jumping out from behind a door to try and scare them out of him—which accomplished little less that startling him half to death… Some adjustments in his dosing will be made in the coming weeks, but the doctors seem pleased with things for the moment.
For the Cowen’s, the highlight of the week was Tuesday evening when the elders from Grace (representing the congregation at Grace) along with a few others came to our home at our request to pray for us (James 5:13-20). The evening, led by Pastor Aaron, was really a time of worship—where sins were confessed to one another by many of those present, communion was celebrated with awesome unity, and prayers were offered to the Sovereign Lord as Tim and Karen committed themselves afresh into the safe, all-wise and loving hands of the Savior who animates them. We also sang several hymns together, culminating with the rich hymn whose words reminds us that "Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. When darkness veils His lovely face, we rest on His unchanging grace; In ev’ry high and stormy gale Our anchor holds within the veil. On Christ, the solid Rock, we stand—All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand."
These are not hollow words for us. They are truth—truth that we know and rely upon. It is God’s truth and it will not—CANNOT fail. In that hope we rest and in that hope lies our faith. And our faith is growing with each new day on our voyage with MM. This is a journey we would not exchange for another. For it has been used of God to cause us to see His hand of grace in some incredible ways. We will keep on moving forward looking to accomplish the mission God has planted us here to do—and we will endeavor to be on His mission in faithfulness regardless of the length of time He grants.
Thanks so much for your prayers and support in so many ways. You have been a source of rich blessing to us and our family.
All is well…
Tim & Karen
May 31, 2019
So the kidney procedure went without a hitch. The stones are now all gone as near as we can tell and all stents have been removed. Back to life as normal in regard to this end of things.
So we have had some good news concerning the main therapy drug that will be used to combat the myeloma. First of all, it is completely covered by our insurance! Additionally, I have spoken with the specialty pharmacist where we are getting the drug dispensed and she reported that this drug has been highly successful in not only keeping the cancer from growing, but has actually been active in killing the cancer cells creating the havoc in bone marrow. I will begin taking the drug this coming Thursday. We praise the Lord for all of this!
The side affects might include fatigue and possible upset stomach but we are looking forward to proceeding with treatment ASAP.
We are again appreciative of the positive potentials that we have been hearing in regard to all of this but are certain that God will accomplish all that He deems best and good. Our hope remains on Him and trust His wise decisions in our lives. We have been buoyed continually by the Spirit Who has accompanied us at every step and given power and comfort throughout this trial.
Thanks for your faithful prayers and encouraging notes! The Scriptures especially have been alive to us these days!
Yes, all is well.
Tim and Karen
May 26, 2019
Dear Grace Church,
Karen and I received the news this past week that I have been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (MM).
MM is a cancer that resides within the bone marrow in which plasma cells grow at an abnormal rate and crowd out the red and white blood cells. A normal body maintains a plasma cell level of around 2% , while the red and white blood cells make up the other 98%. (at least this was what was explained to us in a general kind of way—and don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz at the end…) Currently, 90% of my bone marrow cells are plasma cells—which of course is not good. So my red blood cells especially have been decreasing for the past 4 years (something my primary care physician caught and now I have been monitored by a hematologist/oncologist for the past two years…)
Let’s jump to the bottom line. Currently there is not a cure for MM. Average life expectancy hovers around the 5 ½ year mark. Having said this, we were surprised to hear my doctor tell us that great strides are currently taking place in this field and more and more of the specialists are believing that "control" of MM is very near if not here and cure is not far away. This is not what you will read on the internet concerning the disease.
While this is heartening in one sense to us, we actually are pinning our hopes not on medical innovation but on the Sovereign Lord who has already numbered our days. He is our Rock and our Salvation. We will not be moved; We will cling to Him. If He chooses to heal—let Him be glorified. If He chooses not to allow such healing—let His name be lifted high!
I still have a pretty good size stone in one of my kidneys which will hopefully be dealt with this coming Wednesday with laser lithotripsy. The following week we hope to begin a specialized therapy treatment plan aimed at eradicating these rogue plasma cells and allowing for normal red and white cell growth to take place. This is a therapy that will last for one year which involves a pill a day, a shot a week, and another pill several times a month. There are plenty of side effects with these drugs so life will be quite interesting and a bit unpredictable.
So we covet your prayers for us. Fatigue will definitely play a role in all of this and is already taking a toll on my body as I am anemic. So please pray for strength and patience in our lives. Pray to that we will rest in the Lord throughout this journey. And there will be many opportunities for the Gospel to be spoken and lived out among those we meet on this journey. Pray that we will be confident in sharing our faith with others. (By the way, my oncologist introduced me to his staff as "The Reverend"!)
Aaron shared these verses with us recently to which we clung as we received the diagnosis: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-3
Indeed, God has been very present with us through all of this! Your prayers for us are being answered and peace has accompanied us at every step. So yes, we can say that it is well with my soul!
Love you all deeply!