"It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him." -Daniel 2:22
"Do not fear, for I am with you..." -Isaiah 43:5
"...we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion." -Daniel 9:18
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Blood Pressure

After my last post, Al got to feeling okay. Went to work on Friday, but wasn't back to normal. We were going to go to the Bob Phillips Festival on Saturday, but he wasn't feelin up to it. Then on Sunday he got to feeling pretty bad again. I thought it was just residual effects from the virus.
Later in the day, he told me that he had been out of his blood pressure meds for a couple of days. Yeah, that will cause a few problems! All this after he had called in his meds and gone to CVS to pick them up.
Today he went to work and stayed there all day. Was feeling much better. (Duh! That's what happens when you have the proper medication.) He is still very weak, but after a few days of some food and meds and proper hydration, I think he will be good to go.
Until the next germ decides to attach itself to him. With his immune system compromised because of the chemo & stuff, he will always be subject to picking up germs that would not have bothered him a few years ago. Just another change in our lives that will probably be permanent.
He was really sorry he didn't feel up to talking with Rusty and Billy when they came out to work on painting the trim. You guys are awesome!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stomach Virus

Well, this sounds wrong, but Praise the Lord, it was a stomach virus! Al is feeling much better this morning. His stomach muscles are pretty sore, but he's able to get out of bed.
After talking with his oncologist last night, he said that it was not related to the chemo or the cancer. A nasty bug going around. Thanks to all who were praying and those who sent those sweet emails. (You know who you are, Wade, Emily, Norma, Cheri, Terri...)
Hospitals are such a good place to pick up all kinds of germs. We have gotten lax in our disinfecting of hands and stuff when we are in public places. They disinfect the chemo chairs, but not the elevator buttons, bathroom handles, waiting room chairs... It is so easy for these germs to spread.
Hopefully, this is the last catastrophe we will have to deal with for a few days. At our house, it is never very long between catastrophes of some kind.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Spoke Too Soon

Well, as soon as you give God praise and glory, Satan tries to get you to denounce Him. As soon as I reported that all was well with Al - BAM! He came home this afternoon with severe stomach cramps and nausea. He finally told me that he it had been hurting since yesterday and gotten progressively worse. Especially after eating lunch.
I pray that this is not how he is going to react to this drug, Velcade, each time. Otherwise he will surely be taken off of it. I hope it was just what he ate. After all the contents were removed from his stomach and all the way down to his toes, he is feeling a little better.
We will try to get him back on a liquid diet and then see if I can introduce some solids later this evening. Then he goes back for another shot on Friday morning. I'll let you know how things progress.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From Death Row to General Population

We had a good visit with the oncologist today. After spending the last year and a half on what amounts to death row, we feel good about being released back into general population. While we are still in the cancer prison, we no longer anticipate death on a daily basis.
Al started out with a whole lot of myeloma cells in April '07. After 2 chemo treatments and 2 stem cell transplants, he is down to .5%. A really big reduction. The first chemo treatments nearly killed him. The transplants were not expected to put him in remission, but did greatly reduce the amount of cancer cells.
Then the radiation helped arrest the deterioration in his back and legs. He has finally begun to feel pretty good. He seems to be getting past the side effects from the radiation and the new chemo doesn't seem to have any - yet.
He will be on the new chemo, Velcade for a few more weeks before they do tests to determine whether or not it is decreasing the myeloma even more. If so, they will continue him on his present regimen of 2 weeks on and 1 week off. If they find it has not reduced the cancer at all, they will probably stop this treatment.
There are other treatments becoming available all the time. There is always full body radiation, which is not a desirable treatment, but an option down the line.
His back has been feeling better after the radiation. As long as he can manage the pain with heat and medication, he won't need any other treatment. If it gets too bad, he can have the plasty surgery, but we are hoping the cracked vertebrae will heal on it's own.
The doctor is very optimistic about his prognosis. Instead of the death sentence that accompanied this diagnosis just a few short years ago, there is a lot of hope. Geraldine Ferraro is one famous person who has been living with multiple myeloma for 10 to 12 years. She says that it is more of a chronic disease now which can be managed. Of course, this is not true of every person with this disease. There are a lot of factors involved. But we are thankful that Al was diagnosed early and was in such good health, with no other issues and got started with treatment before the disease did any damage to his kidneys or other vital organs.
Our goal, now, is to decrease the cancer as much as possible and then try to maintain quality of life. We have to be sure that the treatment is not worse than the disease. We also have to keep an eye on his vital organs, to be sure there is no issues that develop there. His kidneys are fine, but many others with this disease have had major problems in this area. So, they will be monitoring all his vital organs and the strength of his bones, which could be another area of great concern.
Al seems to be in such good health if you just take him at face value, but he will always have issues to deal with. Because he was in such good health (meaning no other health issues besides the cancer), he has tolerated all these treatments very well.
One issue that was addressed today was his anemia. He has continued to be easily tired. They gave him a shot of Arenest (not sure of the spelling) for that today. He had not gotten it before because you have to meet certain critria in order to receive it. I guess his numbers were down low enough and long enough to get it.
We give God all the praise and glory for the healing that has taken place, so far. We anticipate many years of extended good days to serve Him in whatever way He puts before us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

House Painting




These wonderful people came to our house today and began scraping and painting the trim. We had painted the house a couple of years ago before Al was diagnosed, but never got to the trim. This spring, my Mom and I had tried to get it done, but didn't make much headway. When I was exchanging emails with our pal Rusty, he asked if we had any projects that needed doing. His softball team wanted to begin doing mission projects. At first, I didn't think we had any until I remembered the trim painting. That was only about a week ago and here they are...I pray God's blessing upon them. They will have to come back next weekend & bring some of the guys who couldn't make it this weekend. We really do appreciate the help.

Al is doing very well, but when he starts feeling better, he thinks he can go right back to doing all the things he used to could do. He can't. He overdoes it and winds up totally exhausted and in great pain. When others come and help get these things done, it takes the burden off him to worry about getting them done. Even though I think it is killing him to sit back and watch other people do things for him. Maybe, next, we can get some help dismantling the paintball coarse, hint, hint. It will make a fantastic bonfire!

We have lots of friends and family that we know who are more than willing to come and help. I am not using all those chips, just yet. I want him to do what he can because it makes him feel better to do something. Right now, he still can, to a point. In the future we will probably have to call on our fantastic son-in-law, Mark, along with his 4 strong boys or his best friend, Steve or his son, Keith, to help out with some things.

Since the whole economy has gone bust, we have decided God wants us to just sit tight where we are until He shows us His plan. In the meantime, Al and our wonderful son, Justin, have begun the big CLEAN UP. Justin works shift work and doesn't have a lot of days off when Al is off, but he is great about using his days to help around the farm. This will be a big help when & if the Lord allows us to sell and move. A lot less stuff to have to move or get rid of.

Getting rid of all the "stuff" you have collected over 25 years is a long, slow process. I am very proud of Al for beginning to let go of some of it. He has always been one to keep everything because he might have use of it some day. So....we have an acre of metal and wood and tools and gadgets and thingamagigs and whatchamacallits, just to name a few.

He has made great headway in starting the cleanup. Maybe by the time the economy kicks back into gear, we might have gotten rid of a lot of the stuff he will never need. It is very hard to give up your dreams and to know that all those projects you had been wanting to do....will never happen.

We will just have to come up with some new dreams, a new direction that is more appropriate to what our lives will be like in the future. We thank God that we have come this far in the battle of this disease. As a friend from many years ago wrote, we are trusting in the Bigger "C". Christ is bigger than cancer. He gives us a hope and a future, because He lives.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Motorcycle


We have a buyer for the motorcycle! PLT. He came by last night to look at it and ride. Someone local that we had previously met. He ministers through his motorcycle group. So...not only do we have the burden of the motorcycle taken away, but it will be used for God's Glory to boot! I pray that all the financial elements fall into place to allow the sale to go through as planned.
I know it is a great disappointment to Al to have to give up riding. He waited 3o+ years to be able to have another motorcycle. He only had it for 2 years. I guess we were suppose to help pay for it, so that this person could afford it for his ministry. Amazing how God works!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Albuquerque



After Al's last Velcade shot in his first round on Friday, we left for New Mexico. He felt good and loves nothing better than a road trip. Even though the night before he had experienced some pretty intense pain in his back (or hips).
He is still not able to determine exactly what is causing the pain. Don't know if it is the hips, the back or what. It could be left over from the radiation or it could be from the new chemo. It seems to be random and usually in the late evening.
We had a great time seeing our friends who moved there from Waxahachie with their two teenagers. They had only been back home from a year in Africa as missionaries when they got the opportunity to move for his job. It was a God thing because they had both always wanted to live out there. They both now work for a ministry called Faith Come By Hearing. Look it up, if you don't know anything about it...they are fulfilling THE GREAT COMMISSION. Exciting stuff.
The weather in Albuquerque was fantastic! Reminds me of Mexico. Unfortunately, the wind was pretty strong, so they cancelled the mass balloon launch on both days, the last 2 days of Balloon Festival. We did get to see a few launch on Monday morning from their balcony.
They had all kinds of plans for things to do while we were visiting, but Al's back began to hurt some on Saturday and he was up all night, so we just hung around the house, visited and watched the Cowboys blow it. It was nice, relaxing. We are thinking of going back this winter.
Never figured out what caused all the pain, but we did learn that applying heat to his back does help. By Sunday afternoon, with some rest and heat, he was doing much better.
He drove all the way on the trip home. Does he not trust my driving? Anyway, we stopped by Palo Duro Canyon on the way. Both of us are born and bred Texans, but had never been to the canyon. Awesome! We plan on going back there, too, when we have more time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Velcade

The latest chemo treatment was not suppose to make him sick, but he is feeling pretty lousy. I don't know if it is because they started him on it even before he finished with the radiation or if that has anything to do with it at all. I am praying that this is just his body getting used to the new drugs. He got up and went to work, anyway.
Isn't cancer just a cruel thing? We were going along pretty good. Things seemed to be getting better. Everyone told me how great he looked. He spent the weekend working around the farm, cleaning up metal. He has still had some side effects, but nothing he couldn't handle with some medicine.
Last week we went to visit at Campfire Creek Therapeutic Riding Center out near Five Points, south of Waxahachie. Our friend, Jill is just getting it started with her friends, Emily and Bobby. We had a great time getting to know these wonderful people. We have decided to begin volunteering to help them get this ministry growing. I am helping administratively Al hasn't yet determined what he will do. I imagine he will be a side walker or something of that nature, as he has always wanted to work with special needs kids.
We meet some other great volunteers and were looking forward to our first night out at the center together. But when Al came home last night he did not feel like going out there with me. I was disappointed, but I took Justin's girlfriend, Charli with me. She wants to help them with the horses. I am hoping Justin will get involved, also. My friend CJ came out to meet Emily and Bobby and Jill. She gave them some insight into a new program for RAD kids (look it up on the internet) called Beyond Consequences, for emotional challenged kids.
The riding center is building a new barn, arena and bunkhouse/studio. It will all be available for groups besides their riding therapy, art therapy and EAC (equine assisted counseling) They want it to be used for a place of healing from all types of physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.
Anyway, more about that on another blog. I have high hopes for this to be the direction God is leading us as a family. To be involved with His work through a ministry that is making a difference in the lives of others. It is not probably one I would have chosen on my own, but after just a couple of visits with these folks, I feel God in the whole scheme.
Al is excited to have a way to help others. Since his body is less able to do the physical activities that he is accustomed to, this will give him an outlet for some of that energy. He has always been an extremely mobile person. Always on the go. Extremely generous, too. He needs a way to use his energies. He and Bobby hit it off right away. He also met Donny, who is the unofficial chaplain of this new endeavor. They plan on having men's breakfasts out in the new barn, when that gets finished.
I ask for your prayers for Al's body to settle down with this new drug. Velcade. That God would lay His hands upon him. I thank the Lord for this new opportunity to focus on others needs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just Another Fun Day at the Hospital

Yesterday, we spent all day at Baylor hospital. Labs, Dr. visit, a couple of hours in the infusion room for his Aredia and a new chemotherapy drug, Velcade, then on to radiation. We got to eat lunch from the hospital cafeteria while he was hooked up to the IV. They really have pretty good food.
The visit with the oncologist did not have any surprises. He asks a lot of questions about how Al has been feeling. The answer: he has really been doing pretty well, lately. He has some uncomfortable side effects from the radiation, but nothing that can not be managed pretty easily. His back has been feeling much better. He has quit taking any pain medication other than occasional Tylenol or Advil. His legs ache a little, once in a while. The pain in both places is sporadic. He is sleeping better.
We give all the praise and glory to our Heavenly Father who is granting him some relief!
So...the doc started him on the Velcade immediately. It is a shot to be given by IV twice a week for two weeks, then one week off. He will go through about 4 cycles of this before they do any further testing. It is not suppose to make him sick or his hair fall out or anything, so hopefully, he will be feeling better and better.
When Al first went to see the oncologist, he had 5 grams of plasma cells in his blood. The first couple of chemotherapy treatments knocked it down pretty good, but also took a great toll on his body. The first transplant brought the plasma cells down to .6, which is pretty good, but we were hoping for zero. After the last transplant, the amount of plasma cells did not diminish further, so they are going to try to get it to zero using the Velcade. But no steroids, if possible. You will remember, it was the steroids that caused all these problems with his hips.
As for all the issues with hips, legs, back....they are all on the list to be monitored. None of the issues are serious enough, at this point, to warrant any kind of surgery (whew!).
After the radiation and the rounds of this new chemo...he will undergo all the tests again... blood, bone marrow biopsy, MRI, etc. Then we will see how this new treatment has worked.
We are thankful to be in a place of peace. We look around in the waiting room of each floor and see the devastation of cancer. It is staggering to see the numbers of people who are suffering just in this one hospital. And there are so many of these hospitals around the country and the world. We feel grateful to have access to great medical care, to have great medical insurance and to have a merciful and compassionate God.

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