Thursday, December 13, 2012

Full circle

Today is Thursday, I am out of the hospital and my second surgery is done.  Thank heavens!  As promised, the gravity of this surgery was much less than the first and I am grateful for that.  They went up through my nose and cut a hole through my sinus and retrieved as much of the tumor as they were able.  They then made an incision under my upper lip and accessed the sinus from there and removed the rest.  I am a little swollen and with all those holes in my sinuses things aren't draining quite right yet.  In the process of getting out the tumor they destroyed my maxillary nerve so I am really numb on the upper right including my palate.  Like dental anesthesia times 10.  I kind of doubt that will come back.  To be honest, I know it needs to be done, but I'm getting kind of tired of being "whittled" on.  Each time there is a little less of me after.  I guess I will have better empathy for my patients when they are numb now.

It was quite strange, while preparing for surgery they took me to the exact same bay as last year to await my turn.  After the surgery I was assigned to the same hospital room as last year for recovery.  Wow, that brought back memories.  It seems I have come full circle.  As always, the nurses and everyone else was great.  They are so professional and careful at Mayo.

Bad Boy tattoo 
I'm feeling pretty rebellious these days.  My bald head makes me look like a "bad guy" and after the surgeon signed my neck it looked like I had some low budget tattoo.  Then they told me that they used cocaine to numb my nose during surgery.  Really it is a slippery slope.

Today I am hoping to hear back about the pathology of the tumor they removed.  We are also meeting with radiation oncology this morning.  The nature of the remaining tumor may influence how they go about the radiation.  I don't think that I mentioned but we have decided to have our radiation done in Utah.  We have a doctor there who is willing to work with the radiation oncologist here to design a treatment plan.  It was a matter of deep thought but being in Utah will allow me to be close to my family, to continue to work and teach and of course the cost will be radically less if we do it in Utah.  After praying about it and going to the temple we feel okay about that decision.  Dr. Foote here is wiling to oversee the procedure remotely and that made us feel better.  We meet with him today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The most beautiful place in the world

I am home from the hospital.  Yeah!  The last two weeks have been strange.  Ever since I began my last round of chemotherapy two weeks ago my health went into a a steady decline.  As I try to remember the events these last two weeks it all seems fuzzy like a dream.  Eventually I ended up in the hospital with a serious condition called "Tiphlitus".  It pushed me closer to the veil than I wanted.  I shouldn't complain.  It is those times when I am pushed to the very edge that I have had the most sweet spiritual experiences in my life, and I am grateful for those.  However, as a general rule,  I would like to live my life just a little further from that edge.  Thanks to the prayers and faith of family and friends, the skills of doctors and nurses and the intervention of God, my body has begun to mend.  I have a ways to go still but yesterday they felt I was well enough to finish my healing at home and I was discharged.

Santa Claus or Eric...hmm
One of the effects of tiphlitus is extensive abdominal swelling.  I have been blessed in my life to never really struggle too much with my weight.  I really take no credit, just the hand I was dealt.  What a strange experience to be transformed nearly overnight from a size 34 waist to a size 44 waist!  And to go from 175 pounds to 215 pounds.  Very weird!  Maybe I'm turning into Santa Claus?  It has gone down quite a bit now but I still wonder who I am seeing in the mirror.  It's like looking at myself in a funhouse mirror.

View from my hospital room
While in the hospital at least I was blessed to have a room with a beautiful view.  That was nice.  However I think that I prefer my current window view even though somewhat less spectacular.

A view I prefer
Years ago, when I was in dental school,  I had a patient who had traveled nearly everywhere in the world with his job.  I was very untraveled at the time and so I asked him one day, "What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in all your travels?"  He thought for a moment and then said, "The most beautiful thing I have ever seen is what I see at the end of a long trip when I walk through my front door".  I have never forgotten that and that is how I felt when I walked through our door yesterday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

An update

As many of you already know and to update those of you who do not, Eric was admitted to the hospital this last weekend with a serious bowel infection following his last round of chemotherapy.  His bowels were highly inflamed and he is on high dose antibiotics as the doctors try to get the swelling down before his bowels become necrotic and die.  

We held a family fast for him Sunday and he seems to be improving.  His white blood cell counts came up from 0 to 4.1 (normal is 4.5) which is the most critical part of overcoming this problem.  His blood pressures are back up into normal ranges and the inflammation is starting to go down. 

We are so grateful to all of you who fasted and prayed with us on Sunday as we definitely felt the strength that comes from your faith.  

He will remain in the hospital for a few more days as the doctors monitor his progress. We know God is with him at this time and is aware of him.  We are confident that he will return to health soon.  

-The Vogels

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The end at last!

Friday was my last day of chemotherapy.  Seven rounds and twenty one dose later I am so ready to be done.  This last regimen started out somewhat easier but each progressive round has been more difficult.  This last round has pretty well knocked me off my feet.  With a few interruptions, I have slept almost 72 hours.  I could fall asleep again now but I am so sick of sleeping!  At the completion of chemotherapy they have a bell for you to ring signifying that you have finished your treatment.  Ringing that bell caused JoLynne and I to shed a few tears.  Everyone in the room cheered and clapped.  I wish that they could be done as well.  Someday somebody is going to figure out a way to treat cancer without chemotherapy.  That will be a wonderful day.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sometimes you just need to laugh

Hope I won't need to call him too soon
So, the other day at work a friend dropped by to visit.  We served together in Bolivia as missionaries.  Honestly, I haven't seen him for nearly 30 years.  I'm not very good at keeping track of people.  At the time I was busy with patients so the receptionist didn't even tell me that he had come.  He did leave his business card which the receptionist gave to me at the end of the day.  I looked at the front side and saw his name then I flipped over the card and began to laugh.  I'm sure he didn't know the challenges that I am facing but it did make me laugh.  As a matter of fact, I chuckled about it on and off most of the day.

I am doing well.  Lately mostly I have just been tired.  I think I have brought tired to a whole new level for me.  The other night I was getting ready for bed, brushing my teeth, flossing and all that.  I was really tired so I laid down on the bed to finish flossing.  The next thing I knew I woke up with floss dangling from my mouth.  I had fallen asleep while flossing.  I think that may have been a first.

I know,  I need a new toothbrush

I think we can see the "light at the end of the tunnel".  This coming Wednesday I will begin my last round of chemotherapy.  I don't look forward to being sick again but at least this is the last journey down this dark road.  Thank Heavens!  In three weeks we will have another MRI taken and hopefully the tumor will show additional reduction in size.  They are going to give me a little time to recover from the chemo then off to surgery.  Right now I am scheduled for a surgery consult on December 10th and surgery either December 11th or 13th.  Unless something changes it will be a same day surgery.  It will be done at Mayo as a laproscopic surgery.  One tumor will come out through my nose and the second one through my mouth.  A few days after surgery JoLynne and I are going to meet our children in Florida and go on a Disney cruise.  We have never been a on a cruise before.  This will be the first.  All of our children are in the area and we decided to "splurge".  It will be good to be together, making happy memories.  In mid January JoLynne and I will move to Minnesota for 7 weeks while I undergo radiation therapy.  Nothing like Minnesota in February.  JoLynne asked what we are going to do during all day when  I am not receiving radiation treatment.  I told her "We'll just chill out".

Sunday, October 14, 2012

After the storm comes the sun.

This has been a good week.  On Thursday I went in for my scheduled MRI.  Always the plan was to do two cycles with the new type of chemo and then re-take my images and see what effect it was having on my tumors.  If the tumors were the same size or larger then we would move immediately to surgery then radiation.  If they were smaller than we would consider continuing on chemotherapy for another round or two to see how much we could shrink the tumors prior to surgery.  Radiation is still on the table as a treatment option.

I have to admit, it was with great trepidation that I went to pick up my results on Friday.  I don't know if I just didn't want to get my hopes up again.  It was hard not to imagine that I was feeling additional numbness on the right or that my taste sensation wasn't being further altered.  I had kind of convinced myself that the chemo wasn't working.  By the time I arrived at the clinic I was almost too afraid to get out of the car.  I just couldn't get my composure.  I sat there in the parking lot for a while and then finally said a prayer and told Heavenly Father "I need you, I can't do this on my own."  Only a moment passed before a sweet peace seemed to pass over me.  I seemed to hear in my mind the words "I am here"

It's hard to express what that meant to me.  Needless to say, I now had the courage to get out of the car and walk into the clinic.  I picked up the report and went back to the car where I could have some privacy to read it.  I won't bother you with the whole report but here is the good part:

A lesion, previously identified in the right pterygoid muscles that measured 2.9 x 2.1 x 2.1 cm now measures  1.9 X 1.8 X 1.9 cm.  The slightly more inferior lesion in the operative bed that previously measured 2.3 x 1.8  cm now measures 1.3 x 1.3 cm.  Both lesions enhance to a lesser degree than what was noted previously.
I read those words and then sat in the car and wept.  Finally a chemical combination that seems to be effective against my cancer.  Suffering through chemo is no fun but when you find out that it is ineffective it seems to magnify the suffering.  When they tell me that it is working it makes whatever discomfort I have experienced seem so worth it.

When I finally got all the tears out I went up to give the nurses some blood and hug everyone and tell them the good news.  Then I called Mayo to tell my doctor there what the report says.  He has been so kind to us and felt so bad when my cancer came back.  I was only able to leave a message but I'm sure he will be delighted.

We meet with the doctors on Wednesday and we will see where things go now.  In the meantime, I feel like prayers have been answered and maybe I am finally on the road back to health.

By the way, did I mention that I have a beautiful Grand-Daughter?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"The bitter and the sweet"

Well, I am into my second round of chemotherapy.  I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that things get harder as you go along. I guess I remember it being that way last time.

Last night was a hard night.  I was super tired and fell asleep around 7:00 pm.  I finally found my way to bed around 9:00.  By about 11:00 my stomach was churning like crazy.  Sweet JoLynne, in her wheelchair, was trying so hard to take care of me.  She got up and found the anti-nausea medicine and a "barf bowl"  I swallowed the medicine but promptly threw up.  We tried that a few times and then just kind of dealt with it.  By the time morning came around there was really nothing left to throw up and my stomach had started to settle.  Finally I was able to get to sleep.  I feel bad that I messed up JoLynne's night as well.  I was grateful that JoLynne had texted the Stake President the night before and excused me from meetings.  I was in no shape to be out.

In contrast to that, Shanelle and Mike brought by our granddaughter and let us babysit Saturday evening.  Little Vivian is so sweet!  It sure doesn't take any time at all to become attached to her.   I wasn't feeling the best but she didn't care, she just snuggled right up to me and fell asleep with me.  Sometimes when I am on chemo I have anxiety as well.  With that sweet little girl next to me I could just feel the anxiety leave my body.  What a blessing she is in our lives already.  I am grateful for her.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Last night "all the shingles blew off"

This time my chemotherapy has been MUCH better than last time.  Wow, what a difference.  I have still been super tired and dizzy and all that but I don't feel like I was run over by a truck.  However, my hair hasn't liked it too much.  Actually it caused my hair to fall out sooner and more completely than last time.  For the last couple of days it has been falling out like crazy.  Every time I touch it sections were falling off.  By last night I couldn't stand it any more.  I sat down at the table and just pulled it all out by hand.  It was so loose it didn't hurt at all.  I guess it didn't look too good.  It made JoLynne cry and I was sorry for that.  So....back to bald.

You know, it has been a hard time in our family.  Between my cancer coming back and JoLynne's broken legs,  It hasn't been easy.  On top of all that, we were notified by the credit card company that our identity had been stolen while we were waiting for JoLynne's leg operation.  Finally, the night we got home from the hospital little Elizabeth came into the room in tears.  Her pet bird, Peeps, had died.  Peeps has been part of our family for 15 years!  I will be honest, at the time I thought, "You have got to be kidding!"  But time has passed, the bird had a very nice funeral, the credit card company is helping us fix the damage, JoLynne's legs are healing and I am doing quite well for a bald guy.  I have often thought back to the time when my son Seth and I were running a marathon together.  Seth was recently home from his mission and in pretty good shape but probably not marathon shape.  He really didn't train well enough.  In spite of that he finished in good time.  At the finish line he was really sick and not looking well at all.  After a few minutes, when he could talk he said. "Dad, I know what Hell feels like now."  Then the profound statement, "When your'e going through Hell, you just need to keep on running."  I have thought of that statement often.   Quitting isn't an option and brighter days are ALWAYS ahead.

And, speaking of brighter days, we now have what may be the most beautiful granddaughter ever born.  Words don't express how happy her arrival has made us.

We have wonderful neighbors.  One neighbor brought over a "Jazzy" scooter and our other neighbor allowed me to use his Segway.  JoLynne and I are riding again!  It's almost worth breaking your legs and having cancer when you get to travel like this...

Finally, the other evening there was a beautiful double rainbow.  It was so bright it almost looked unreal.  This was shortly after JoLynne had come home from the hospital so it was very difficult to get around, but with several of us helping, we managed to get her outside in a wheelchair where we could watch the rainbow slowly fade from the sky.  It was spectacular.  Afterwards I found myself thinking about the first rainbow and the trials Noah and his family had been through.  Wow, it makes my problems seem really small.  How sweet and tender for God to give him and his family the gift of a rainbow.  In their case it was a promise that God would never send another flood.  In our case it felt like God saying, "I am aware of you.  Look to me and your problems will fall behind you"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wrapped in love, 29 beautiful years.

Lately I have been sleeping on the floor in the living room.  For some reason the couch is more comfortable for JoLynne than the bed with her injured legs, so I try to sleep close to her so I can help her in the night.  (By the way, her sleeping on the couch does not denote any strife in our marriage for those of you who may be wondering.)  Anyway, this morning I woke up looking at a picture painted by my Grandma Vogel.  It hangs on the wall  in our living room.  It hung on the wall in my parents house as well all the years I was growing up.  I have been looking at that picture for about 50 years.   I was wrapped up in a quilt made by Grandma Vogel as well.  She made it for us, 29 years ago as a wedding present.  The colors and the pattern are bold and wild, it reminds me of her.  I remember when she gave it to us.  She told me at the time that she had counted how many stitches she placed while hand quilting it.  She told me that she quit counting stitches at 10,000.  It was early morning and I had this overwhelming feeling of being wrapped in my Grandmother's love much like I was wrapped in her quilt.  It's hard to describe but it was very real.  Later when I had JoLynne up I told her of the feeling I had, she started to cry and told me that she had the exact same impression earlier in the night when she awoken and had looked over at me wrapped in Grandma's quilt.  I don't know what the relationship is between our world and that of our family who have passed on but I believe that they are not as far apart as we think.

JoLynne is doing better.  The pain is diminishing.  She quit taking percocet today and that has helped.  She still can't stand on her own but we have high hopes that she may be able to do that with crutches within a few days.  She is so sweet and pleasant even when she is hurting.  I need to be more like her.

Today is our 29th anniversary.  JoLynne was apologetic this morning about the situation being less than ideal for our anniversary.  I told her, "Hey, we're together, taking care of each other and still very much in love.  That seems pretty good to me"  Some day we will look back at this anniversary and shake our heads and laugh.  We both have a vision of some day being old and sitting on the front porch rocking together.  I look forward to that day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Well, just when you think you have enough on your plate......

Thursday Night JoLynne and I were returning some dishes to some very kind neighbors.  It was dark and JoLynne stepped in a small hole that she didn't see.  Down she went.  She didn't break the neighbors dishes but I wish I could say the same about her ankle.  She is no whimp when it comes to pain but this was really hurting her.  I looked at her left ankle and it was really weird looking.  The leg bone wasn't over the heel anymore, it was over her arch.   Lot's of swelling of course.  Her right ankle was really swollen as well.  We grabbed some ice and a blanket and called the ambulance.

In the ER they determined that she had sprained her right ankle and had a complex fracture of the left ankle.  She broke the distal part of the fibula and shattered the distal end of her tibia.   Pretty much we left her "without a leg to stand on".   (sorry for the bad humor)

The ER doctor manipulated her ankle back into it's right place but told us it would require surgery to put all the bone pieces together.    We spent all day Friday waiting for swelling to go down.  I accused her of being a "fallen woman' but she didn't think that was a very funny joke.

Surgery was this morning, (Saturday) and the surgeon just came out to tell me that everything went well and she should be out of recovery in about an hour.  We will see a therapist this afternoon.  If JoLynne can put weight on her right ankle then she can come home.  If she can't then they will make us send her to a rehab center for a while....Yargh

We are sure going to be grateful for our health when this is all over.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A new plan of attack

Well, it has been a busy week.  I feel like I have been running from one appointment to another.  Yesterday we returned home from Mayo with a new plan of attack to kill this cancer once and for all.  Mostly the news was very upbeat.

We flew to Minnesota on Sunday and started our consultations early Monday morning.  We met with various doctors until Tuesday evening.  After much discussion this is the tentative plan.  I am to return home and have two rounds of chemotherapy here in Provo to try and shrink the tumor.  Basically a round includes three days of chemotherapy, about 5 hours a day followed by 18 days of recovery.  They will be using a different chemical combination this time, Ifosfamide and Etoposide.  Along with several other support drugs.  These drugs are supposed to be less damaging than the last ones that I was given.

If the tumor  shrinks substantially in 6 weeks they may continue on with chemo for one or two more rounds.  If it doesn't shrink or grows then I will be off to surgery.  Everyone believes that the two tumors that they found are regrowth of the original tumor. Our doctor said today, "You can fit a million cancer cells on the head of pin", in other words, it's easy to miss something in surgery and not even know you missed it.  The new surgery will be much simpler.  They intend to take out the top tumor through my nose and the lower tumor through my mouth.  It will be outpatient surgery!

After I have healed for about 4 weeks they intend to start radiation.  For that part I will need to move to Minnesota for 6 or 7 weeks for radiation every day, five days a week.  The doctors felt strongly that the radiation should be done at Mayo.  The radiation oncologist is also the Stake President and a very nice person.  He said that because the tumors are small the radiation beam will be very small and have very little effect on adjacent structures.  Just a good sunburn on my right cheek.  I could do that in Mexico for free.  I should  have mentioned that to him.  I can't say that I am too excited about being in Minnesota for the winter with my newly bald head.  Oh well, I have lots of hats.

After radiation I may have two more rounds of chemo or perhaps I will just be done.  It kind of depends on how effective the first rounds of chemotherapy appear to be.  The only other piece of depressing news came from my blood test.  The numbers have come up but not really enough to call them normal.  They talked about possible damage to my bone marrow from the first chemotherapy.  Hmmm... I would offer to eat more liver but then I would have bad blood and an upset stomach.

So after hearing everything we were trying to decide if this was the right thing to do.  JoLynne and I were out walking along the river talking about our options.  Generally we felt good about it but still some lingering doubts.  It was a beautiful evening and the sunset was beautiful.  I was trying to get a picture but there was too much in the way.  Finally I found a place to snap a picture.  After taking it both JoLynne and I realized that the rays of sun all focused right on the building where my radiation and surgery would be performed.  Maybe it was coincidence but it gave us both goose bumps.  We think we are doing the right thing.

Tuesday evening we stopped at the temple in St. Paul.  Again a beautiful sunset but this time the sun's rays were pointing to the Minnesota temple.  I really felt like this was God's way of telling us that in these two places we would find the answers to our prayers.

Today we went to set up the chemotherapy appointments with my doctor.  They drew blood again and by some miracle my blood levels have now returned to normal.  It feels like God keeps clearing obstacles out of our way.

Sometimes when I think about this whole adventure I wonder why things are happening the way that they do.  I don't really know the answers but this is what it seems to me.  It feels like this whole cancer thing is like a big brain teaser puzzle.  The kind where you have to move each piece in just the right way and the right time to solve the puzzle.  Of course God could just heal me but instead he is managing my disease with the resources at hand, orchestrating events.  For example, if they had a positive biopsy the first time they would have started me with chemotherapy instead of surgery.  We now know that standard chemo didn't work against this cancer and it would have grown and probably made the tumor inoperable.  If they had done radiation the first time it would have been a large area.  The result would have been much greater damage to my other structures.  Now the tumors are small and the radiated area will be small as well.

Really, all I know is that God is in charge and that I am going to get better.  It just takes patience.  In the meantime, thank you for your prayers.   Please pray for my family.  I sometimes think it would be just as hard to watch someone you you love go through this as it would be to go through it yourself.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Moses and the Red Sea

I'm sorry that I didn't follow up on my last blog sooner.  To be honest it has taken me a few days to get my emotions under control enough to write about it.

Well, my tests are back and frankly the results were not what we had hoped.  The biopsy showed malignant, metastatic osteosarcoma, or in other words, my cancer is back.  When I asked how certain they were of their results, the doctor told me that they were certain.  An MRI was done on Wednesday and found that the tumor detected a month ago has grown 2-3 mm in a one month period and they detected a second tumor, slightly smaller than the first, growing about an inch away from the first one.  The doctor here thinks that they may have grown from a remnant of the last tumor.  Our oncologist here called the doctors at Mayo and it was agreed that I should be go back to Mayo for treatment.

The good news is this.  On Tuesday we had our visit with the oncologist where we received the news about the cancer coming back.  JoLynne and I were pretty disappointed.   We have been through so much and hoped that we could close that chapter of our life and move on.  We both felt like we needed a priesthood blessing.  After thinking about so many friends we might ask,  we decided to ask a dear friend, Ross Cole, who was the Stake President when I was called to be a bishop.  He now serves in the temple presidency.  I consider him to be a close friend and he was happy to give me a blessing.  He asked if our family would join with him in fasting before the blessing was given.  I have been fasting pretty often these days.  (I think that if I fast often enough maybe the cancer will die of starvation)

So, President Cole came by our home Wednesday evening.  I have great confidence in this mans ability to hear the voice of the Lord and I trust that he wouldn't say anything that he wasn't inspired to say. My son Peter was newly ordained as an Elder last Sunday.  He now has the authority to perform priesthood blessings.  I asked him if he would anoint me.  He did a wonderful job even if it did make me cry.  Then President Cole, my sons Peter and John, and my son-in-law Mike, placed their hands on my head and pronounced a beautiful blessing.  The cancer was rebuked, I was told that my body would be healed.  These are the words I needed to hear.  Later Peter gave his mother a blessing.  It was also wonderful, and exactly the words we needed to hear for her as well.  These blessings brought us great comfort!

In talking with our doctors we have arranged to return to Mayo clinic on August 27-28th for a new workup.  All doctors involved before and probably a few more will come together to formulate a new plan of attack to defeat this cancer once and for all.  I have great confidence in them but more importantly I believe that God will intervene and that a miracle will happen to heal me.

On Friday morning early I was driving over to the park near my house to work on a large triathlon that I host every year to raise money for our charitable work.  It is a huge task and with everything else that has been going on it has been challenging this year.  I'll be honest, I was a little depressed and unhappy about how things were going.  Anyway, the thought popped in my mind about the story of Moses and the children of Israel leaving Egypt.  The Israelites had so many miracles performed allowing them to leave Egypt and then they finally arrived at the shores of the Red Sea.  Suddenly the armies of Pharaoh showed up and had them trapped with the sea behind them.  At this point they begin to doubt saying thing like "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness."  Then Moses tells them "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you to  day...The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace".  I have wondered sometimes about how the Israelites could doubt after so many miracles.  I think I won't judge them so harshly anymore.  Then, of course, the Red Sea was opened, the Israelites escaped and the armies of Pharaoh were destroyed.

Way back at the start of this whole adventure the first words that popped into my mind were these "Be still my son and know that I am God".  I am grateful to remember those words.  Miracles have happened, I believe that more miracles will yet happen.

About a month ago one of my patients told me, "You are doing so good we don't even pray for you anymore."  It was nice to think that I no longer needed to be in so many peoples prayers.  Unfortunately, it looks like I have a few more hurdles to cross.  Once again, I am very grateful for your prayers and faith in my behalf.  I will try to keep you posted as new things develop.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

biopsy pending

Family at "Mecca" (Tillamook Cheese)

We are just home from our trip to the North West.  It was a wonderful trip.  So nice to have all of our children but one together and Grandpa as a bonus.  It was beautiful, sunny, cool and relaxing.  We also got to see Eileen and her husband Kelly.  Their home is lovely and Eileen seems so happy.  I still miss having her as an assistant in my office but seeing her so happy more than makes up for it.

Part way through the trip I was finally able to got my doctors from Mayo to talk to my doctor in Provo and agree on a biopsy.  It looks like it will be performed on this coming Thursday morning and I will get the results back on Tuesday afternoon.   A lot hinges on the results of that biopsy!

It's good to be busy so that I don't have too much time to think about things.  On Sunday the other counselor in the Stake Presidency was kindly asking me how I was doing and I said the first thing that popped in my mind, "I can't let tomorrows storm ruin todays sunshine"  I felt like those words were inspired and wiser than I am.  Everything will be okay, I am certain of that.  In the meantime I am very grateful for prayers offered in my behalf.
Behind every storm cloud the sun is waiting to shine forth

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Most wars have more than one battle

Well, this past Thursday was wonderful and not so wonderful.

The wonderful part was seeing our niece that we love married in the Bountiful temple.   She married a young man named Brandon and he seemed just perfect for her.  It was great!

The not so good part was our visit with my oncologist later in the afternoon.  Really I have felt great lately, really no cause for concern, and yet somehow there was this lingering concern that I couldn't put my finger on.  For that last two weeks I have been praying for good news from the doctors and yet I had this feeling that was hard to describe.

Anyway, we went to the oncologist and they discovered a new growth on my right side.  It is deep, near the sinus and measures about one inch by one half by one half.  They can't tell what it is from the CT scan or the MRI but it wasn't there three months ago.  The doctor told us that we need a CT guided needle biopsy to determine what the growth is.  It was a sobering visit.  I didn't really cry much until later that evening.  I guess I was kind of in shock.  I kept thinking, "Not Again!"  I felt victimized, like nothing I could do would protect me and I was completely at the mercy of the disease that I couldn't control.  I felt like putting on my shoes and running and running and trying to run away from my problems.  I wondered if I had the strength to go through all this again.

That evening I had my sons give me a blessing.  It was wonderful.  It wasn't until after that when everyone was sitting together in the living room crying that my tear glands just broke open.  I cried for quite a while after that.  Simple things like saying prayers with my daughter, I am just not ready to give this life up yet.

I sent out an email to my siblings and some friends asking for their prayers.  I don't pretend to know how everything works but I know that after that  I was able to sleep and that was a blessing.  Friday I called my doctors at Mayo.  Neither of them have seen the scans yet so they just had to rely on my rendition of the results.  The primary surgeon seemed pretty disappointed.  I think he felt so certain that he had gotten it all.  He did say that he was willing to operate again and that the surgery this time should be less traumatic.  My sarcoma doctor was much more upbeat.  When he heard that it had come back in the same site where it started he felt very confident that it could be treated.  First of all he said that it might be benign.  Part of my tumor was benign the first time.  The biopsy will tell us that.  Secondly he said that sarcomas often come back in the the site where they were removed and that a second surgery is often effective in eradicating the cancer.  He said if would be harder if it were back in my lungs but even then treatments are often effective.  He did say that I may need to go back through chemotherapy or even radiation, time will tell.  A lot hinges on the results of the biopsy.

We are supposed to leave for our family vacation today.  I asked the doctors if I should stay home and they both said "No".  A week wouldn't make any difference and I should go on vacation and not worry about it.

Since Friday I have felt much more calm.  I can be brave again, I have faith and I know God will take care of me.  He has never failed me yet.  I can even do chemo again if I have to.   I would rather not, but I am willing.  I am certainly not ready to give up at this point.

I am sorry to ask for your faith and prayers again so soon but I felt great strength from the faith of others last time and would be grateful for that help again.  Maybe I will be blessed and they will find a benign tumor.  That would be great.  However, come what may, I am going to be okay.

As I drove around on Saturday doing some errands the thought kept coming to me, "Most wars have more than one battle",   I guess this is the next battle for me to fight.  I believe that the  war will yet be won.  I have wonderful allies at my side.  Today I will just worry about this battle.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

No New Cancer!

It has been some time since my last posting.  If this caused any of you concern, I apologize.

This last week was an important one for me.  For one thing, on April 17th it was six months since my surgery.  As a follow up with my cancer the doctors are calling for CT scans and MRI's every three months for the next two years to make sure that the cancer isn't coming back.  So, on Monday I went in and spent about 2 hours lying in machines as they captured images of my head, neck and chest.

Claustrophobic anyone?
MRI's are interesting.  They put you in hospital gowns and give you ear plugs because the machine is quite loud.  They hook up an IV so that they can inject dye at certain times, then they lay you on a sliding table.   They place a cage over your head so that you can't move your head in any direction, then they slide the table into a tube that is only barely bigger than your body.  I don't know how they would do this with somebody who was overweight since I barely fit.  The technician informs you not to move at all and then this loud contraption begins.  It sounds like you are in a metal tube and somebody is beating on it with a hammer.  For a scan of my head neck and chest it took 80 minutes.  I'm not claustrophobic at all, thank heavens.  The lady ahead of me had to be sedated so that she could be inserted into the machine.

Anyway, my appointment with the doctor to get the results was on Thursday.  I tried not to be nervous.  After all, I know that God is aware of me and that he has been taking care of me all along the way.  What I don't know is whether this trial is over yet or not.  I find myself asking if I have learned all that I was supposed to learn or if God still has more trials for me to overcome.  The thought of having to go through surgery or chemotherapy again is very frightening!  So, my feelings bounce all over the place.  I know that God loves me and yet still I am scared.

Well, Thursday came.  The nurses at the chemotherapy clinic were wonderful as always.  Many of them came in just to hug me and ask how I had been.  A few commented on how different I look with hair.  It's strange to think of a whole group of people who know me better as bald.   Several of them told me how they talk about me often and pray for me.

Finally it was time to talk to the doctor.  I like our doctor, he doesn't beat around the bush.  After a brief physical he sat down at the computer and told me, "Eric, your scans look completely clear.  We can't find any evidence of your cancer returning." I have to admit,  I broke down and cried.  JoLynne is so loving and supportive.  She just squeezed  my hand to let me know how happy she was.  The doctor just grinned.

On the way out several nurses again came out to hear what the doctor had said.  They are so genuine in their concern.  I don't know that I have ever met more compassionate people.  I told them the good news and started to cry again.  (That seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life these days.)  There was an older gentleman across the room who was waiting for his wife who was having chemotherapy as well.  He started to cry too.  What is it about cancer that draws us all together so tightly?  I guess it is the common enemy that we are all fighting.

I was so happy when I got home.  I just felt like climbing on my roof and yelling out the good news.  I did the next best thing and sent a bunch of texts.  I told my kids we were going to have a "No New Cancer" party.  So we went out to eat and just be together.

I still don't know for sure what the future holds.  Mostly I just feel grateful to be healthy and to feel my strength coming back.  I try to remind myself of the miracles that have occurred and to continue to feel that deep sense of gratitude to my Heavenly Father.  I don't want that feeling to fade.  We were at the temple the other night.  There was some quiet time as we waited.  One of the after effects of chemotherapy for me is a constant high pitched noise in my ears.  It is more noticeable when it is quiet.  I also have quite of bit of hearing loss.  Anyway, I was thinking about how my ears don't work quite as well as they used to and the thought came, "What you have lost in physical hearing you have gained in your spiritual hearing"  I believe that is true.  I feel like I am better able to hear the promptings of the spirit than ever before in my life.  This was probably a good trade.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Yesterday was an anniversary of sorts, 5 months since my surgery.  I don't know why it seemed to strike me yesterday but I kept thinking about what I was doing 5 months ago.  It has been a scenic ride these last five months, hopefully a journey I won't need to make again any time soon.

She's makes a way cute grandma
Well, let me start with the big news that I wasn't allowed to tell last week.  JoLynne and I are going to be grandparents!  March 2nd was JoLynne's birthday and it was also supposed to be my last day of chemotherapy (before I flunked out).  Anyway, Shanelle and Mike brought by a surprise present.  When JoLynne opened it there was a note that said "So you can look the part" and when you lifted the paper there was a gray grandma wig and a note saying "Not to be used before September 20th".  We are thrilled for Shanelle and Mike and so grateful for the wonderful changes that this will bring into their lives.  Children are a ton of work but they are so worth it.  We are thrilled!

For those following this blog, you may remember that prior to my surgery a dear friend gave me a priesthood blessing where he promised, among other things, that I would live to see grandchildren and great grandchildren.  This seems to be a fulfillment of at least the first part of that blessing.  We were having a hard time imagining how we would get to part B without doing part A.  Shanelle and Mike have solved that.

So I have downloaded an app on my phone called "My pregnancy" and I check every day to see what our grand baby is doing today.  For those who may care, he/she developed fingerprints this week.  I think Shanelle thinks I am a bit over the top but I don't care.  I have a recording of the baby's heartbeat but I'm just not "high tech" enough to figure out how to attach an audio clip.  In case you're wondering it sounds like this:  "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh......"  It's pretty awesome.

A good day for a run

I went for a run yesterday.  It was the first time since my surgery that I didn't feel like every step was a chore.  I still didn't run very fast but I also didn't suffer as much.  I went 9.22 miles so my strength is coming back slowly.  I picked up Jarom along the run and he ran the last 4.5 miles with me.  I appreciated the company.  He's a great young man.

It turns out that yesterday was also the Rex Lee run.  This is an annual race held at BYU to raise money for cancer research, in honor of the late Rex Lee who died of cancer and was an avid runner.  As we were running along the south side of campus they were just getting ready to begin the race and I happened across a friend of mine, Neal Anderson, who was running the race.  He is in my stake and was the same one who helped me to finish my very first marathon many years ago.  He stopped to show me his race bib.  There on the front was written, "In honor of Eric Vogel".... I am blessed with such good friends.  Just when I think I am getting over crying about everything something like this comes around...  My tear glands are still working.
I am blessed with good friends

Well, life is beautiful.  Every day is a gift.  I love watching the sunrise in the morning or even the snow fall in March when I want to work in my garden.  I love going to work and taking care of patients who are dear friends.  I love hearing my children giggle.  I love snuggling up to my wife at the end of every day.  This world is a beautiful place and fills me with awe and wonder.  I am grateful for the faith of friends and the miracles that have happened as a result of that faith allowing me to continue to enjoy this life.  I am grateful to my Heavenly Father who grants me every breath.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I used shampoo!

Not every shampoo "restores your spirit"
You pay more, but it's worth it.
I am slowly but surely recovering from surgery and the effects of chemotherapy.  The Stake President now calls me "Curly", JoLynne refers to me as "Fuzz head".  JoLynne's description is more accurate.  As I was taking a shower yesterday I noticed a new shampoo that JoLynne had put in the shower.  The label read "Nourishing Oasis, Restore your Hair and Spirit, Energize and Volumize"  Plus it was made in Canada!  I thought to myself "This stuff has to be good!"  I was tempted to use it all over my whole body.  Anyway, I practiced some restraint, and kept to just using it on "the fuzz".  I don't know about all the other claims, but it did make my scalp shiny.

Kind of how I feel
My strength continues to return as well.  Yesterday I ran 7.5 miles.  I am not as fast as I used to be but I am running none the less.  I still have a hard time keeping up with the oxygen demands of my body.  I just need more red blood cells I guess.  I should probably eat liver or something but I think I would rather be out of breath.  I returned the other day from a 5 mile run and was expressing my frustrations to JoLynne that I couldn't run faster.  I told her "It used to be so easy, now I have to work for it"  She just shook her head and said, "It's about time that you understand how the rest of us feel all the time"

The real miracle is that there is snow
The wound care team released me from their care.  The wound on my leg is essentially closed over.  I mentioned to them that I had been skiing.  The doctor shook his head and said that he didn't remember giving me permission to do that.  I reminded him that he had given me permission to run and, Hey, skiing is kind of like running with two boards hooked to your feet.  They didn't see it the way that I did but they didn't scold me any more either.   They told me that I had earned "The Magic Wand".  I thought that they were kidding but they weren't.  After my last appointment they walked me out front and waved a singing wand up and down my body and recited some ditty about how they had worked their magic upon me.  It seemed like magic to me.  I don't think the wand was the key to success but it was funny anyway.

Oh, and I have some really big news....but I can't share it yet.  Maybe next week.

This last week two significant people in my life passed away.  One was the man who performed the sealing and wedding  for JoLynne and me, David Yarn.  I think he performed the weddings and sealings for 9 out of 13 siblings in my family.  He lived to a ripe old age and had a life full of service.  The second one was a young pediatrician here in town.  He had some minor health problems which somehow got out of control.  He ended up having a stroke and dying at age 38.  He had barely begun his medical practice and left behind a wife and four young children.  That is only a little older than my father was at the time of his death.  I guess the reason I mention it is because it re-emphasizes to me the fragile nature of life.  Every day I wake up so grateful to be alive still.  Life is a beautiful, delicate gift.  It is so easy to take for granted but really, who knows how long any of us have upon this earth.  We may have a long life or we may be called home early.  We just don't know.  I try to live each day to it's fullest.  I hope I can help someone in need or do something of value each day that I am alive.  I hope I never go to bed without telling my wife and children how much I love them.  Tomorrow never comes, we only have today.

PS:  Yesterday I winked for the first time in four months with my right eye.  JoLynne will have no relief from the flirting now!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Running off at the mouth"

It has now been six weeks since my last chemotherapy treatment.  It is such a strange feeling.  I feel almost like I am aging backwards.  Each morning I wake up feeling 5 years younger than the day before.  (Ten more days and I will be back in diapers.)  I think that I didn't realize how poorly I was feeling until my health started to return.  The contrast has been wonderful.  I don't think that I have ever appreciated my health quite like this.
Happiness is stinky running shoes

On Friday we went to the wound care doctor.  As you may remember, my leg wound, where they harvested the bone to build my jaw, has had significant problems healing properly.  At one point there were serious concerns about needing to amputate or even worse.  Since I stopped chemotherapy and thanks to the wonderful skills of the wound care team, finally my leg is beginning to look better.  The other day, as I was laying on the bed waiting for JoLynne to bandage my wound again our son Peter came in and said, "Wow, that just looks like normal road rash now".  I will take that as a compliment.  On Friday the wound care team also gave me permission to run again.  It has been nearly four months since I was allowed to run.  So, on Saturday morning, I laced up my shoes and went for a run.  It was Heavenly!  I didn't go too far or fast, only three miles.  I was more out of breath than I am used to.  I'm guessing that my red blood cell count isn't quite back to normal yet.  Still, I loved it.  As I was running, maybe it was my imagination, but it felt weird in my jaw where they put my leg bone.  Like the muscles were contracting trying to help me run.  Those body parts need to learn that they have another role to play in my life now.  They have been re-assigned.  Today my leg muscles are sore.  It is so nice to have that kind of pain as opposed to the other types that I have been experiencing of late.

I forgot to mention a very sweet act of kindness shown to me a few weeks ago.  One of my dearest friends came by with a beautiful painting that he had done for me.  This is the same friend who came and paced me for the last 25 miles of the ultra marathon I did last spring.  He said that while he painted he thought of the scripture in Matthew 6:28-30
Painted by my dear friend and running partner

And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, ashall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little bfaith?
Throughout this challenge one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that God loves me and will take care of me.  I have been amazed at how He has cared about even the seemingly small things enough to send help and comfort. Though the trial wasn't taken away, I always felt like a path was provided so that I could find my way through.  I sometimes wonder if God hasn't always been so involved in my life but I was too preoccupied to notice.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

We love the temple!

We had the opportunity to go to the temple this evening.  Our son Jarom came along with us.  It is always so nice to be in the temple, especially with family.  It feels like coming home.  This trip had a special purpose, to try and get an answer about what we should do with chemotherapy.  One of the sweet things about the temple is that I seem to be able to get answers to my prayers more readily there.  This trip was no exception.  After careful thought and prayer both JoLynne and I received an answer, in the temple, that it is time for me to stop chemotherapy.

I have always found it more difficult to get answers to prayers when the matter I am praying about has such profound personal emotions associated with it.  It is hard for me sometimes to separate my personal feelings from answers from God.  The answer that we received in the temple yesterday was unmistakeable.  We are all relieved that I can begin to move on and regain my strength.  Already, on last Thursday my immune system and my red blood cells had begun to rebound somewhat according to the doctor.  My body seems to be coming back to life again.  I feel like I am waking up from a dream.  I still don't have the strength that I had prior to chemotherapy but I feel so much better than a week or two ago that the contrast is amazing.  I am so grateful to feel good again!

I have learned so much these last three months.  Perhaps in another post I will talk about that.  It's a little close to home still to talk about.  One effect of all this has been on my tear glands.  They just seem to work a lot more often than they used to.  Maybe my heart is softer or maybe I am just getting old and leaky.  I look at my wife and my children, I think about the many miracles that have occurred and my heart is full.   I am just so grateful to be alive!

The Provo temple.  Where JoLynne and I were married.   It continues to be a special place for us

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fortunate fortune cookie

We just returned last night from our trip back to Mayo clinic.  It was a good trip but fast.  This was a three month follow up visit with the surgeons and, of course, a chance for us to visit with our oncologist there and discuss my chemotherapy.

The visits with the surgeons were great.  They are thrilled with how I am healing.  They were very happy with the way that my leg bone has fused to the jaw bone.  They were thrilled to see the nerves of my face beginning to turn on again and they were relieved to see the wound on my leg beginning to come under control.  We talked to the main surgeon, Dr. Moore, about what he thought about the question as to whether or not we should continue chemotherapy.  He didn't really give us an answer but he did tell us that he was certain that he had clear margins all around the tumor.  He was certain that no tumor stayed behind in the surgery site.  I mentioned to him that my hearing seemed somewhat altered since starting chemotherapy so he ordered a hearing test.  It just so happened that I had another hearing test done just prior to the beginning of chemotherapy so that was useful for comparison.  The new test showed significant hearing loss in the upper ranges in both ears.  I had some loss from before associated with my profession and the sound of dental drills but the loss in the last 12 weeks is much greater.  The doctors informed me that this is one of the possible side effects of the chemotherapy I was given.  One doctor said that once gone, it would always be gone, the other doctor thought I might get some of it back.  The other day I noticed that I can't hear birds sing anymore.  That's kind of sad.

Our visit with the oncologist over chemotherapy was a bit less definite.  We had faxed all of my medical records to him last week.  He must have spent some serious time since we sent nearly 200 pages of records and he seemed familiar with all of them.  He shared the concerns of our oncologist in Provo.   I think it was obvious to both of them that if I were to continue on the regimen that I am on now it would probably take my life before I finished six rounds.  He said, "My heart tells me that you should stop chemo now but my brain thinks perhaps we could design a different regimen based on other drugs that you might tolerate better."  Apparently there is a regimen used in Europe that might have less side effects than the one I am on.  We talked about that for a bit.  He freely admitted that nobody knows for sure what to expect from my cancer since it has never really been studied.  They really don't know the chances of it coming back and they don't even know if chemo is effective against it or not.  They also don't know if there is even cancer in my body anymore.  What they do know is that if I start chemo again it will set back the healing of the wound in my leg and possibly allow another infection to develop.  This was a main concern for him.  He felt that another infection in my leg could be fatal.  When it was all said and done he said that the decision would have to be ours.  He told us he would consult with the other sarcoma specialists and with our doctor in Provo.

Today we went to visit with our local oncologist again, Brian Tudor.  We have come to have a lot of respect for him both as a doctor and just as a caring man.  We went through all the scenarios with him again.  He mentioned that my response to three rounds of chemo was more that what he expected out of six rounds on most people.  In his words "If three rounds beat you up that badly, I kind of think, if there is cancer in your body, it would have been equally brutal on your cancer."  Needless to say, he is inclined to have us quit chemotherapy at this point as well but he encouraged us to pray about it and find our answers with help from above.

So, here we sit, with some big decisions to make.  We don't want the cancer to come back but we don't want the risks of additional chemotherapy either.  We plan on going to the temple tomorrow and consult with the Lord.  He has been so good to us up to this point.  We hope and pray we can receive answers again this time.

Today a dear friend came by.  She said that just prior to my surgery she went to open a fortune cookie.  She was astounded to read the following:

It seems that God is writing messages in park benches, in fortune cookies and elsewhere as well.  We continue to feel His love and concern for us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chemo on hold

Today was to be the start of my fourth round of chemotherapy.  We showed up at the doctor ready and dreading but willing.  They took a sample of my blood, like always, and then we went to wait in the consult room.  Dr. Tudor came in and began the conversation with "You know, Eric, you are highly unusual".  Why do I always have to be weird?

So, my white blood cell count has continued low and has actually gone slightly lower since last week when it was too low to proceed.  Since it has been four weeks since my last treatment that is not what we would have expected.  In his opinion my body is not responding well to the chemotherapy and he wasn't comfortable going forward with the way things are going.  He knew that we were going to Mayo this next week and wants to wait and hear their opinion before doing anything more.  He then said that perhaps we should stop at three rounds and call it good.  We will have to see what the doctors at Mayo think of all that.  He then said that he thought it was divine inspiration that we chose not to do Methotrexate way back at the start.  In his words, "Had we done methotrexate, it is quite likely it would have killed you....okay, maybe I could have saved you but it would have been close".  For those who follow this blog you may remember that the doctors were split 50/50 on whether or not I should do methotrexate.  It was a hard call for us but we took our question to the temple and asked the Lord.  We received a very clear answer back then that we shouldn't do methotrexate.  It should be no surprise that Heavenly Father knew from the start what would be best.  I am so grateful that once again I have been divinely protected.

Cute little birthday girl
Well, after the doctor left I was dumbfounded.  JoLynne stood up ready to leave and I was just sitting there speechless.  I guess I had an expectation that I would need to suffer for so much longer and now I am being told that perhaps I won't.  I guess it is too early to know that for sure.  We will see what they say at Mayo.  So, here I sit, feeling great when I expected to feel lousy.  I'm not complaining.  Today is Elizabeth's eleventh birthday and it seems I got the nicest present.  When I mentioned that to her, she said, "Having you feel good is the nicest present for me too, daddy".  Boy, I am blessed with good kids.

We leave for Mayo on Monday.  We should have answers from them by Tuesday or Wednesday I would think.  I don't want my cancer to come back but I don't want to die from chemotherapy either.  I am sure the doctors will figure out what balance of risk is best.  In the meantime we are praying that they will be inspired as they consider my case.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Don't get into a war when you have no armies

I'm sorry that my posts are so widely spaced.  A friend told me the other day that I needed to post more often so people wouldn't worry.  I will try to do better.

This round of chemotherapy has been challenging.  It started out pretty normal but then when I expected to start rebounding and regaining my strength...I didn't.  I managed to catch a cold, that didn't help.  I have never enjoyed having a cold but catching one when you have a white cell count of "zero" is a whole new experience.  Wow!  I am now very impressed with the importance of the immune system.  After a few days and a fever and some chiding from my sister in law, I decided to call the doctor.  They took a blood sample and after checking my fever they started wagging fingers at me as well.  They wanted to know why I hadn't called earlier and I gave them a very logical answer "I didn't want to bother  you"  The nurse didn't like that answer at all and told me "It's guys like you that end up septic"  Hmmm, I need to come up with a better answer for that question in the future.  Maybe something like "I was being held captive by Taliban terrorists" would work better.

So, the nurse practitioner took a look and told me that my blood work was lousy.  Basically no white blood cells and way too few red blood cells as well.  I had been fainting the last few days and she said that was because my blood didn't have enough cells to get air to my brain.  She was confused about why the drugs they were giving me had failed to bring up my blood counts like they were supposed to.  You would think that since that shot costs $4000 each it would work a little better.  I need to check and see if they offer a guarantee or something.  She then sent me down for a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia and then told me that my lungs were clear but that I had two broken ribs.  By this time I was wondering if they were really mixing up my tests with someone else.  I told her, "I really don't feel that bad and my ribs certainly don't hurt."  She showed me the pictures and told me, "Well you should feel lousy and your ribs should hurt, maybe your'e just used to feeling lousy and now you think it is normal".  I'm not sure if that was supposed to make me feel better or not.  Well, they shot me full of antibiotics and gave a shot of something called "Epogen".  It's supposed to make your body make more red blood cells and will now disqualify me for the Tour de France for at least a year.  Darn it!  The next day they sent me to the hospital for two bags of "packed red blood cells".  It looked a lot like ketchup to me but I'm taking their word on it.

Where did I put my fibula?
I began to feel a little bit better and then on Saturday I got an infection in the skin graft of my leg where they harvested the fibula bone.  We sent a picture to my surgeon at Mayo and he didn't like what he saw so back to the hospital we went.  They didn't like it either and decided to keep me in the hospital for a day or two on IV antibiotics until it was resolved.  An x-ray of my leg showed that the infection hadn't gotten to the cut bone ends yet, thank Heavens.  They wanted another x-ray of my lungs.  They came in and told me again about my broken ribs, "I know, I know" was all I could say and "no, they don't hurt".  By Sunday they were talking about still keeping me longer and I told them that I was due to perform an important surgery the next morning and it had already been rescheduled twice.  They finally agreed to let me go if I would stay on IV antibiotics and have a nurse teach JoLynne how to hang the drugs.  That worked for me, we finally got discharged at about midnight.

Bald is beautiful....or something
On Wednesday I was supposed to start another round of chemotherapy.  The doctor took more blood and said that everything was still really low.  By the way, I figured out part of why my blood levels are so low.  Every time I turn around somebody wants two or three more test tubes full to look at.  I think the problem is that I am running out because they keep draining me.  Anyway, he was unwilling to start chemo again until the blood work looked better so I got put off a week.  I was disappointed because that means it will take me longer to be done but it didn't seem to be a matter for discussion.  He did say that my chemo dosage was probably too high and that was the reason that I was not rebounding on schedule.

Well, every day since then I am slowly feeling better.  My strength is returning, I have quit fainting, my appetite is improving, my cold is slowly getting better.  On Friday we went to wound care clinic and the doctor looked at my leg and had some good ideas about how to help it heal.  He picked up some cutting tool and said, "this is where I get even with dentists".  Yikes!  Little did he know, my leg is numb in the surgery site so it didn't hurt at all.  I guess he will have to get even on somebody else.  It was kind of gross to watch while he sliced away all the surface of my wound.  Even though it was disgusting I couldn't quit watching.  Morbid fascination I guess.

Today was Sunday and I felt great.  I was able to help with a ward conference and attend all my meetings.  I even did temple recommends this evening.  I think I had four servings of dinner.  I have two days to try and gain seven pounds.  Bring it on!  JoLynne won't let me eat anything that has less than 700 calories.  It's really weird shopping with her.  It's like I have been transported to a nutritional alternate universe.  I'm just grateful to feel well.  Hopefully this Wednesday I will feel well enough to get get chemo and get sick again.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Who are those "youngsters?"
Many years ago JoLynne and I had a bit of a role reversal.  I had just finished my first year of dental school and JoLynne only needed one more semester of college to graduate.   We had a brand new baby, Shanelle, so it seemed the perfect arrangement.  I would stay home for the summer and take care of our baby while JoLynne finished her last semester of college.  I distinctly remember the night before my first turn as "Mr. Mom".  I had so many things I was going to get done.  I had everything planned, I would get JoLynne off to school in the morning,  lay Shanelle down for a nap and then the morning would be mine to get done a dozen things that I had been putting off way too long.  I remember before laying down to bed that night  carefully checking my list of "things to get done."  I was excited for morning.   The next day everything went fine up to the part where I saw JoLynne off to school.   After that it just didn't happen the way that I had envisioned.  Shanelle wouldn't stay asleep, people kept bugging me, one thing after another.  At the end of the day I found that I had only crossed off a miserable number of my "to do" list items.  I was discouraged and determined that it just required better planning on my part.  So, I laid out my list again and went to bed, confident that the next day would be a success.  At the time we were staying at my parents house so we were a little out of our element.  The next day arrived and everything went well again until JoLynne left.  Again, Shanelle was fussy.  Nothing I did seemed to make her happy unless I was personally holding her and playing with her 100% of the time.  I remember watching as my list was again being neglected.  At one point she was especially unhappy, just then the phone rang.  I ran to get the phone but in the process stepped on a sewing pin that was hiding in my parents long shag carpet.  (Sewing pins in the carpet were the bane of my existence).  I hopped to the phone to find it was a wrong number then the doorbell rang.  I was hopping on one foot towards the door, with Shanelle cradled in my arm crying when I landed right in a pile of dog pooh which was laying on the floor.  (Okay, I have no idea how this got in the entry.   I would like to blame it on our old incontinent dog but he was long gone but then.  I really have no idea how it got there, but there it was)  I now had a crying baby in one arm, a sewing pin wound in my left foot and dog pooh on my right foot.  The door was some guy wanting to sell me something.  I remember after shutting the door sitting down on the floor and crying with Shanelle.  How could I be such a failure as "Mr. Mom?"  I remember pouring out my woeful story to JoLynne when she came home from school.  She listened patiently, like always, and then told me, "Your problem is your list.  If you start out planning on getting nothing done but taking care of Shanelle then you will probably exceed your expectation.  If you start out with this long list you will always end up disappointed."  She was right, of course,

When I began this process of chemotherapy I had visions of what what would happen.  I knew that I wouldn't feel well at times but even then I imagined I could do things that didn't' require physical strength I was going to teach myself to play the piano, do my genealogy, finally get serious about learning French, and a dozen other things.  Needless to say, things haven't worked out exactly like I planned.  Today for instance, wasn't a good day.  I didn't have a lot I wanted to get done but there was a leaky valve under our toilet that had to have a bucket under it.  That, I thought was an easy job.  All I need is a part and about 20 minutes.  Surely I can do that.  Well, I managed enough energy to get to the store and get the part.  I turned off the water to the house and took off the valve.  That's when my strength left me.  I was so tired I could barely stand up.  Then I realized that I had bought the wrong part.  Arghh!  I tried to get up to get to the car but I wasn't doing well.  Sweet JoLynne to the rescue.  She stepped right in and said "I can get a part, how hard can it be" and off she went.  Not long later back she came with the right part and with her help we finally got the toilet fixed.  I was exhausted when it was done.  To be honest, I laid in bed and cried a bit feeling sorry for myself and my lack of ability.  Tears of self pity are not the sweetest tears to shed.  I am feeling a little better now,  (well enough to write a blog) but still weak.  I find that the trait I lack most is patience.

Yesterday I felt better than today and was able to go to a Stake Presidency meeting.  In the opening prayer to the meeting the other counselor plead with Heavenly Father for my my health.  More than half of the prayer was for me.  The closing prayer was much the same.  It made a profound impression upon me.  I need to remember how many people care about me and are praying for me and I need to patiently wait upon the Lord.  He knows best.  This too will pass and in the meantime, I think I will quit making "to do" lists.