Sunday, December 28, 2014

You just never know....

They talk about the best laid plans of mice and men.  Well, I don't know how well mice plan but the plans of this man at least are sometimes uncertain.

I had been doing so well lately.  My energy was improving, I have a little peach fuzz hair coming back on my head, my pain levels had increased but I was dealing with it.  Christmas was wonderful.  We got to talk to our two missionary sons, one in Spain and one in Chile.  What a joy to see their smiling faces and hear their laughter again.  My daughter had come from Oregon with her husband and our darling granddaughter.  Our son had come home from Boston.  Life was great!  Then suddenly I began to feel pretty wiped out.  I noticed the beginnings of a fever.  I decided to lay down for a nap but by the time I woke up I felt worse rather than better.  My temperature kept increasing which meant, another trip to the emergency room.  I just love that place.

So, on Christmas afternoon around 3:00 we took off for the emergency room again.  I was not feeling my greatest.  I guess it must have shown since they moved me to the head of the line.  Or, maybe I just get priority treatment for all the frequent flyer miles I have there.  Who knows.  Anyway they got me back pretty quick.  My fever was high enough that it didn't take them long to decide that I would have to stay in the hospital.  They wheeled me up to the 7th floor.  The charge nurse came out to meet us and said "Haven't you been here before?"  It's not a good thing when the nurses begin to recognize you at the hospital.

Snow Goon

So, I spent the next four days in the hospital.  The doctors finally decided I had pneumonia, an infection in my facial wound, and strep throat.   All at the same time!   Oh, and a yeast infection too.

Well, after four days in the hospital I am doing better  but the doctors in Houston tell me that I need to wait a week and become infection free before they can start treatment so I guess my treatment will be bumped back a week.  Not what I wanted but I guess it will have to do.

On a happier note, it has been heavenly having my daughter and son in law here with our sweet granddaughter.  She really wanted to make a snowman which we did.  She has kind of demented uncles (influenced by reading so many Calvin and Hobbs books)  so it ended up being a snow goon.  I hope she isn't damaged for life.  It has also been wonderful to have our son here on break from medical school.  He is a great young man.  We love having him around.

I guess we have a week to burn now.  Maybe we will use some of the time to investigate reconstructive options for my face.  Maybe the snowman could use some work as well.

In the meantime, thank you for all your prayers in my behalf.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A root canal frenzy

God bless endodontists
So, radiation is a blessing and a curse.  I believe that radiation treatment has preserved my life this long so that I could find a definitive solution that wasn't available a year ago.  But, it hasn't been kind to my teeth.  Yesterday I spent several hours with my dear friend Daniel Burr, an amazing endodontist.  I don't want to show up in Houston with infections.  They tell me that would be grounds to eliminate me from the study.  High levels of radiation damages blood vessels.  In my case the bone has been damaged as well as my teeth.    Yesterday Daniel and I decided to find out just how many teeth might have died due to loss of blood supply.  It was an exciting day.  I had 8 more root canal treatments yesterday, a new record for my friend to start on one patient.  Essentially all of my back teeth on the right hand side but one had died and a few front teeth as well.  That brings the count on root canal treatments to ten in the last two weeks.  I am so grateful to my friend for taking so much time to take care of me.  And to my patients I want to tell you, I'm sorry that drilling is so unpleasant. It rattles, smells bad and is just generally unnerving.  I have done this to people for 26 years and I need to be more sympathetic.

Slightly used mandible for sale
On an interesting note, JoLynne has been researching how my jaw might be rebuilt once the cancer is defeated.  There are amazing things going on.  One of the pioneers is a Dr. Marx from Miami.  He is using stem cells and cadaver bone scaffolds to grow new jaws.  He grows it in the patients back and them moves it over when it is ready.  My friend the oral surgeon just downstairs from me just returned from Chicago listening to him speak.  Where do I sign up?  I need one of those.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cast off the anchor ropes, raise the sails!

Monday was my last chemotherapy ever I hope.  Only time will tell but I can hope.  I have been bald so many times now I have almost forgotten what I look like with hair.

As is often the case, the full impact of the chemo doesn't hit you until a few days later.  So, yesterday was a hard day physically.  I just felt run down from the moment I got up.  Everything hurt more and my wounds just wouldn't dry up.  When I have a hard day physically it makes it hard to have a good day emotionally.  They go hand in hand whether I like it or not.  I came home at lunch just dragging.  Sweet JoLynne got home shortly after I did.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I had been at home crying, but oh well.  JoLynne is amazing.  She never scolds me, just puts her arms around me and tells me "it's going to be alright, it's okay to get discouraged"  I don't pretend to understand why things are the way that they are but when JoLynne puts her arms around me I can physically and emotionally feel the stress flow out of me.  She has something magical about her.  I am so grateful!  The problems feel the same size but somehow I feel bigger with her there by my side

Ah, picc lines, so much

Today I feel much better.  I just woke up feeling better.  They took out my picc lines today.  After four months I was more than ready to be done with them.  It so so strange to have them pulled.  It doesn't hurt but the lines are pretty long.  They kind of just "reel" them out of your vein.

My treatment date in Houston has been moved up to December 29th.  The researchers called and said that my T-cells grew very nicely and are all done.  They have 12 batches of genetically modified T-cells sitting in the freezers, waiting to be injected back into me.  All that is lacking is the FDA to come and sign off on the batches and a free hospital bed.

May God's wind lead us safely there. 
With my picc line removal and the treatment date moved up I feel like a ship casting off.  "Cast off the anchor ropes and raise the sails"  There is something reassuring about being tied to an anchor rope but the reality is you never get to your destination until you lift the anchor.  Raising the sails has risk but the time comes for taking risks if you want to get anywhere.  I'm ready!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Never pray for empathy

I don't want to sound proud but I will just say that I have always taken pretty good care of my teeth.  It kind of goes along with my profession.  In the last 30 years I have had only one cavity.  I always try to be empathetic to my patients when they suffer with dental problems.  I really do care.  But to be honest I haven't had a lot of tooth problems myself so my caring about their problems doesn't come from personal experience but rather just because I love my patients.  Well, I guess that is changing.  This dumb cancer is bringing me more experiences.

My mouth is suffering the after effects of massive radiation exposure.  They told me that after 33 rounds of head and neck radiation that I had here I had my "life time maximum".  Unfortunately, as things turned out, we had to have more radiation at Mayo to save my life.  The second time around was an quite a bit more radiation than what I had received during the 33 rounds.  So, now I am like three times my life time maximum. I pretty much glow in the dark.

 I have been having more pain so my sweet wife suggested that maybe I had tooth problems.  I hadn't even thought of that since I don't ever really have tooth problems.  Knowing that she is almost always inspired I went to my office and took some x-rays.  Sure enough, my two bottom right molars had abscesses and I probably have three abscesses on the top right.  No cavities, just dead teeth.  I think that they just gave up and died from so much radiation.  Much of the bone around the teeth is also gone.  All I can say is "Darn it all!"  Honestly I would swear if I thought it would help.

I called my dear friend, Daniel Burr.  He is an endodontist and he was so kind to get me right in at his office.  The question is, how do you do a root canal treatment when you can only get your mouth open 1/2 inch?  Well, I don't know how Daniel did it, he is a magician, but he got in there and cleaned the bottom two out and medicated them.  When we have some more time we will do the top ones.  For all my patients who have had root canal treatments in the past I guess I can now join your club.  One way or another, God is going to shape me into something better I guess.  Right now He is teaching me empathy.

Other than dental adventures and dealing with some pain I am doing okay.  We are still anxious for January to arrive.  I'm getting used to taking most of my nutrition through my stomach tube.  It's a relief to not have to get everything by mouth.  JoLynne is so kind and patient.  She is always concerned about me and trying to do whatever she can to make me comfortable and healthy.  The other night I was hurting and waiting for medications to kick in.  JoLynne sat there for probably 30 minutes rubbing my feet trying to take away my pain.  She is truly angelic.  I am blessed more than I can say.

My brother in law passed away just recently.  It was such an sudden thing.  During the few months that he was ill we prayed our hearts out for him.  I can't remember a time that I have ever prayed that hard for anything.  If prayers and tears alone could heal you he would have been healed many times over.  Only God knows the whole plan.  I don't pretend to.  It was hard to see him go.  My sister Marie is a strong, faithful woman.  She will be okay but it will be lonely for her until they are together again.  How grateful I am to know, without a shadow of doubt, that death is not the end.  I can't understand how people deal with this who lack that knowledge.  I know that I will see Randy again one day, I have no doubt.  I look forward to that day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tubing in November

You know, I would like to go just one day besides Sunday without getting something in the mail from a doctor or hospital.  I guess that isn't going to happen soon since I keep going to see them so often.  Oh well.  My doctor, Dr. Wallentine stopped to talk today for a minute in the clinic while I was getting chemo.  He mentioned that our offices are close and that he often sees me crossing the street or getting out of my car on the side towards traffic.  He told me "I almost ran over you again the other day"  I told him, "I bet Selecthealth would pay you nicely to run over me"  He said, "Probably true but keeping you alive is my goal, so I can't run over you"

On Thursday we went to see the ENT.  I can't hardly hear at all in my right ear anymore and it feels swollen like an earache.  They did a hearing test and confirmed what I already knew, basically almost no hearing in that ear, really none in the high range and the eardrum wasn't moving right.  The doctor took a look and saw some fluid back there and recommended a tube in my ear.  They told me that it could be done at the hospital or in the office but warmed me that there would be quite a bit of pain.  I chose the office.  The anesthetic was pretty easy.  When they took a scalpel and cut my eardrum my hearing immediately got a little better.  The vacuums was loud but not so bad.  It was weird having the tube put in, I could hear it click into place.  Anyway, I feel like I am hearing better now.  And the pain they warned me about was like nothing.  I guess it is all relative.   On a scale of 1-10 that pain was like a 0.5.  I live in the 3-5 range with peak pain around 8 every day so that was nothing.  I wish that the pain of that surgery was all I had to endure.

In the meantime I had a great call from the scientist in Houston.  Basically she said that the T cells from my blood are growing really well, that she has already talked to the HER2 people so that I can move directly to that study if GD2 doesn't do what we want.  We had also wondered why they couldn't just keep adding T cells for GD2 if is was working to replenish the ones that were getting tired.  She said that we could do exactly that.  If is working I would just sign up for the study again, and they would keep giving me larger and larger doses until the cancer was defeated.  We loved the sound of that.  I wish January 5th could come sooner.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another blog

Isn't language interesting.  Twenty years ago if I told someone that I was going to blog someone would have probably handed me a bucket to catch it in.  Now it means something completely different, or at least I hope so.  Hopefully what I write is more than verbal vomit.

This last Monday I had blood collected for the clinical trial in Texas.  I came into the doctors office holding this fairly large box full of empty vials and handed it to one of my sweet nurses.  She took one look and said, "Wow, that is a lot of blood."  About two thirds of the way through she couldn't get any more to come.  I wondered if I had run out but she managed to pull a little more and finish the job.  I'm still here blogging so I guess that something is still circulating in there.

Kids in Oregon after we abandoned them
Monday afternoon I had a "PEG tube" put into my stomach.  I have really been struggling to swallow. I just can't direct traffic in the back of my throat.  Sometimes the food goes down, sometimes it gets stuck, sometimes it comes out my nose, sometimes it goes into my lungs.  They think that is the reason I got pneumonia this last week.  Sometimes you just have to laugh.  A few days ago I had just eaten dinner and had run over to a friends to take them some tomatoes.  As I was getting out of the car I sneezed and out popped a carrot, not a small one.  I just looked at that and thought "Oh brother".  Anyway, with this tube directly into my stomach I can still keep nourished and not have carrots popping out of my nose.

It was an emotional day for me.  I remember looking at that box as we sent it off to Texas via FedEx thinking, "Okay God, now you have my blood, turn it into a miracle."  It seemed so final.  Then getting the PEG tube seemed like another admission to my declining health.  Arghh, I hate that.  I just kept repeating in my mind, "prepare for a miracle Eric"  We are full of hope and we trust God.  Sometimes I just think "I believe, help thou my unbelief."  It's hard to have perfect faith all of the time.

My angel wife and our granddaughter
I talked to the lead scientist today from Baylor.  She is very nice.  It sounds like treatment will probably begin January 5th.  It will take that long to engineer the cells.   Probably we will need to stay in Texas for about 6 weeks.  This is a phase one trial meaning they are testing safe doses.  She told me that it appears that the initial dose that they had thought to start with appears safe so she is going to jump me up to the next dosing group right from the start.  That is good news to me.  She also said that my blood shows that I am positive for another marker, HER2.  That is also good news.  If the GD2 doesn't work they can try the HER2 instead.  She believes a trial against osteosarcoma using HER2 will begin within a few months.

In the meantime, I haven't had chemotherapy for almost three weeks now and boy do I feel good.  I just love how I feel when I'm not being poisoned.  Chemo will begin again on Friday so I will try to enjoy feeling human again even if it is only for a few days.
If joy had a face, this would be it.

This last week we had most of our children with us.  Seth had flown out to go to his cousins ring ceremony.  Shanelle, Mike and Vivian came to bring our car back from Oregon.  That was a clever way of us to get them to come.  Sunday we took up the entire row with our family.  That made me happy.  It was like the good old days.  They have all gone home now but it was nice while it lasted.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"There and back again"

I should take a few minutes and detail what's going on around here.

Well,  on Sunday we flew to Houston Texas to meet with doctors and scientists involved in clinical trials.  There are several studies that I am interested in at MD Anderson cancer center and one being done, literally across the street at Methodist hospital under the umbrella of Baylor university.  It was a fast trip.  We landed at around midnight on Sunday and had appointments on and off Monday, and flew home Tuesday afternoon.

MD Anderson is an amazing hospital.  They are dedicated to finally finding a cure to cancer and are committing enormous amounts of money to just that.  I read in one of their press releases that they felt that we should spend as least as much to cure cancer as we did on the moon program if we want to find a cure.  Anyway, they are hard at it.  We got checked in there and in the meantime the lead scientist from Methodist arranged to run over and meet us at a coffee shop in the hospital.  Her name is Lisa Wang and a super nice person.  Her study is one that was suggested to us by my brother in law Troy and in all our research we have never crossed this one off the list.

The concept is pretty cool.  Basically it is this.  The body has a system to fight cancer, unfortunately it doesn't always work well enough.  One of the body's defense forces are called T-cells, sometimes called T killer cells.  Basically they roam the body looking for anything that doesn't look right.  If they find something messed up, like cancer or other things, they hook on to whatever it is and destroy it.  The problem with cancer is that sometimes cancer has developed ways to hide from the T-cells or the T cells get tired before they finish the job.

In this study they take T-cells from your own body and genetically enhance them.  They give them special targeting DNA that makes them just look for one thing, in this case my cancer.  It turns out that my cancer has a unique marker in the cell membranes called GD2 which isn't really found on any cell in the rest of my body.  So, instead of looking for anything that is amiss, these genetically modified cells only look for osteosarcoma.  Secondly they put other DNA in the T-cells that makes them live longer and get tired more slowly.  Once they have these super T-cells they begin to clone them outside of your body until they have a whole host of them then they re-inject them into your body.   Anyway, it is a phase I trial, meaning early research, no guarantees, but the concept has worked well in neuroblastoma patients, who also have GD2 and a similar concept has been successful in treating adult leukemia, it also works really good in mice.  So, they were excited to have me join their study.  I am a perfect match.  The study plans to include 26 people.  So far they have treated one.  Almost no side effect to treatment because it is so narrowly targeted.

We then met with scientist/doctors at MD Anderson.  They were also very nice.    They had a few studies there that might be applicable to me.  Interestingly enough of the ones I was aware of two had been put on hold due to supplier problems and one wouldn't open until November, maybe.  I asked them if they had heard of this GD2 study and they knew of the concept but didn't know that one was going on across the street.  Both doctors said, "This is the best study for you to do.  You should use ours as a back-up plan if this doesn't work"

I guess I had hoped for  a pillar of light or at least an angel directing traffic to be visible.  I left wondering "Is that's God's way of showing us the way, by simply making the other studies unavailable or having other doctors push us back the other way?"   Maybe there was an angel directing traffic but he seemed to be dressed in undercover clothing.
Tuesday we went to the temple in Houston.  It was beautiful, as always.  We had a good session, no burning bush but a sweet peace that we always feel in the temple.  Wednesday our son Jarom sends me a text with an article link just out that day.  The title is "Lab made blood cells hunt cancer, leading to remissions" and it is all about the research on T-cells that I just described. 
It was hard to read that article, my eyes seemed to have a forecast of "frequent rain showers".  Again, why that article right then?  Maybe God nudging us in a certain direction.

Here is our honest belief:

  • God can heal me whenever He wants and however He wants
  • My healing may happen at the hands of men, guided by God
  • If others can be blessed by the way in which I am healed, then so much the better.

Shanelle and Grandpa
Cute Vivian at the beach
Adam, Vivian and Elizabeth
Well, Wednesday was fall break and we decided to drive to Oregon to see our Daughter Shanelle, and Mike and Vivian.  We took off late Wednesday and arrived just after dinner on Thursday.  Honestly I didn't feel very well much of the trip but it was so nice to see Shanelle and her family.  Wow did that make me happy.  We went to bed Thursday night at Shanelle's house and I had a bad night.  Lots of pain, fever, chills and yuck.  Poor JoLynne in the middle of the night rubbing my feet and trying to help me stop shaking.  We finally got out a thermometer and I had a temperature of 102.3.  We went down to Mike's office in the morning.  He found I had an ear infection and was worried about what else it might be so he called my doctors in Utah.  They were worried I might have sepsis again and said I needed to get home ASAP.  We booked a flight out of Eugene and spent all last night in the ER.  The blood cultures are not back yet but what they do know is that I have pneumonia and an ear infection.  And that there is no  cancer in my throat or tongue.  We were worried about that due to my trouble speaking and swallowing.  Mike had given me a strong antibiotic in Oregon and maybe it is a coincidence but maybe not, within 24 hours my speech is quite a bit better.  Hopefully that is infection related as well.

We still have one study at UCLA we are looking at.  We should know about that within the week.  It is using T-cells as well.  Either study would require at least 8 weeks to get started.  That is how long it will take to clone the cells.  As always we appreciate your faith and prayers.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My life

"I walk up stairs formed of faith
I look out windows built of hope
I see images shining back at me of an
imperfect, but beautiful life as it is,
and visions of a wonderful life yet to come"

Eric Vogel
October 2014

(Okay, the stairs squeak a little
and the windows are sometimes a little dirty
but it's good enough for me)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

I love my profession

Someone once said, "Choose a job that you love and you will never work a day of your life".  I like that saying.  Now I know that every job has it's moments, mine does, but truly I love what I do.  I have thought about what I love so much and decided that the main thing for me are the wonderful people that I treat as patients.  They feel more like friends to me, not just patients.  It has always felt that way to me but even more so since my health challenges.  When I was first diagnosed the first people we told were our children, then our siblings and parents.  Then we had to make a choice, would we let others know or try to keep it to ourselves.  We made the decision to tell others, my patients and members of my church.  One reason was selfish, I knew that some would pray in my behalf and I wanted to wear our God's ears with petitions.  But the second was that most of these people felt like family to me.  How could I not tell them?  I knew that I would loose some patients who would go looking for a "healthier dentist" but I chose to tell anyway.

For these last three years I have been so grateful for the kindness these people have shown me and the prayers they have offered for me.  I knew how much I loved my patients and church members, I now know better how much they love me in return.  From time to time I have doctors that wanted me to see a mental therapist or join a support group to help me deal with my cancer.  I simply tell them that my therapists and my support group are my family and my friends, many of which are in my practice and my ward and stake.

Okay, having said all that let me tell you something that lifted my heart the other day.  I have a patient and dear friend who I have treated for many years.  She comes from the most wonderful family.  I love all of them.  This particular patient was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer about 17 years ago and told it was incurable.  They estimated she had 18 months.  She underwent treatment anyway even though she new it wouldn't cure it.  Part of her cancer was in the back side of her throat and I could see it.  I took careful photos of it every time she came and would share those with her physicians for their records. I can usually get way better images than they can.  As the years went on we could see it growing but there was little we could do.  These last three years my heart has come to understand her's even better with my own health challenges.  This last week she came in.  She told me that about 6 months ago they had surgically removed some of tumor so that she could swallow better but fully expected it to grow back.  Then in November a new drug was discovered for her cancer. She started taking it within days of it's approval.  Last time I saw her she had a huge tumor in the back right of her throat and another pretty big one in the left side of her throat.  Now when I look, the right side had nothing and the left side had shrunk to almost nothing..  She said "God just needed to keep me alive until a cure could be discovered"  I can't describe how those words came home to me.  It perfectly describes how I feel and what I hope for.

The other day I was visiting with a reconstructive surgeon.  At some point, when my cancer is cured, I am going to have to reconstruct the right side of my face.  The surgeon was very nice and said that what I needed was complex but possible.  He then told me, "You know, you may not survive this cancer right?"  Well, I know know as well as anyone what medicine can do for my cancer right now.  I have read hundreds and hundreds of clinical studies related to my cancer and they all start out with "Since there is no known treatment for recurrent osteosarcoma..." then they proceed to talk about why their experiment might further our knowledge about this untreatable disease.  I looked at this surgeon and said.  "You know, I am barely old enough to rememberer Polio.  It used to be mostly incurable.  Then God chose to reveal a cure.  How many polio patients have you seen this week?"  He got a big smile and said, "None... I like the way you think"

So, life is good.  I have had a wonderful year with two sons getting married, another son leaving on a mission, and hundreds of things that have brought be great joy.  I appreciate every single day.  The hard days just make me appreciate the good ones more.  I love walking, holding my wife's hand and I am looking forward to years and years of that to come.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A time for inspired decisions

If this were a serial novel I think I would have lost my audience by now.  I would do more regular updates but I want to wait long enough that I have something of importance to say.  I guess that time has come.

I have just completed my third round of chemotherapy.  My energy level is up and down.  For that matter so am I.  I fainted again yesterday while walking to the kitchen.  Such an unusual feeling.  When I woke up, I was so disoriented.  I was laying on the floor of the living room, sprawled out and my first thought was "This is a really unusual place for me to take a nap"  Then I notice a few tender spots on my back and knee and couldn't quite figure that out then it finally dawned on me what had happened.  It's just weird.  I'm glad I didn't hit anything too hard.  I struggle to keep my blood pressure up.  JoLynne now has me wearing compression socks.  No more showing off those sexy legs of mine.  I have increase my salt intake which was already high.  I guess I will just start sprinkling water softener salt on all my food.  And, I am drinking more water.  I was already drinking about 8-9 glasses a day.  Now I slosh when I walk and I think I will invest in a second bladder so that I can stay in bed all night.

Thursday I had a follow-up scan to see what effect the chemotherapy has been.  Honestly I was expecting the worst.  When I first started chemo I saw immediate improvement but then some of the symptoms began to come back.  Trouble swallowing, speech impairment, the sore in the back of my mouth returning slightly.  Never to the point I was at in Boston but not perfect.  We picked up the results on Friday and they showed that the tumor was almost identical in size as compared to the beginning go of chemo.  We would have loved to have it reduced but, considering it's astronomical growth rate when I started I am truly grateful to have it not grow any bigger.  I will gladly accept that.  We meet with the doctor on Tuesday to decide what to do with that information.
family at the airport

About two weeks ago I was released from my calling in the Stake Presidency.  This has been a wonderful calling for me so there is some sadness when it comes to an end as expected with any calling that you love.  I have loved serving with President Roberts and Larry Myler.  They will always be dear to me.  I have loved the members of the stake, especially the youth.  They inspire me. I have loved helping people go to the temple of God and receive the blessings that can only be had there.  I have loved having inspiration in preparing my talks and lessons.  I feel like God made me something better than I am while  I served.

All that being said, when the president told me that I was to be released I felt a sweet confirmation that it was God's will and that brought me peace.  The president said that he felt that in his prayers that I would likely have to travel to find the final cure for my cancer.  I believe that statement was also inspired.

We hoped that chemo would be the final answer but always I thought that the cure would be found elsewhere.  With that in mind I and my wife and my children have spent a ton of hours combing over the internet looking at clinical trials that are applicable to my disease.  I have personally looked at over 400.  They don't speak english in their descriptions, so, even with my health care background, I often have to look up a lot of words.  Almost all of the trials are phase I, which means that the research is just beginning on a particular treatment.  A year ago most of these trials were not available yet.  We believe that God has preserved my life to this point so that an answer would be available.   I have now honed it down to about 9 trials that I think are promising.  Only God knows which of these will prove to be successful, but He knows!  I am doing all in my power to study them out and I have faith that God will show us the way that we are to go.  I had a sweet blessing from my former Stake President today and among other things he told me that God would reveal to us the path we were to travel.

Spencer and his mom
The other big event of this week has been the departure of our son Spencer on his Mission.  We saw him off at the airport early Wednesday morning.  He is such a good boy and we miss him already.  We are grateful that he has chosen to serve a mission though.  His life will be forever altered for the better.  He will be in training for 6 weeks in Mexico city then he will fly off to northern Chile.  I can only imagine the adventures and sweet spiritual experiences that await him.  In the meantime, it's mighty quiet here at home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A good day...mostly

Yesterday we had the chance to visit with several doctors.  The infectious disease doctor, who we love and is so careful about everything, said, "I really don't see any evidence of infection.  You are doing great.  Call me if you need me."

Then we went to the oral surgeon.  Wound care wanted him involved early so that we could talk about what to do if my bone transplant has died etc.  He took a look at my pano and said, "I don't think your fibula graft has died.  Usually it looks moth eaten when it dies.  I think there is some dead bone that will need to be cleaned out but not the whole graft."  He felt like when chemo is done and we have a handle on this cancer we could do hyperbaric therapy again and surgery.  The surgery didn't sound too bad.  Most of the important structures that they would normally have to cut through are already gone.  He also talked about reconstruction of my sunken cheek.  Apparently they can take a muscle from your chest, turn it over and thread it up through your neck, into the area that needs to be filled.  Again, he said that he thought this could be done locally.  Yeah.  I have joked with JoLynne about having a breast implant put in my cheek when I am done.  I keep telling her that I only need an "A size", that shouldn't be too expensive.  Anyway, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.  I plan on getting better, I love it when people act that way too.

On the not so good side, I went home after that and sat down to lunch.  I was being good, eating soft foods when suddenly I started to bleed and not a little.  It quickly filled my bandage and was falling out on the table.  JoLynne grabbed me and ran for the emergency room  I had a rag on it which was filling up.  The waiting area was pretty empty and they checked me in and said "Sorry, we don't really have a room for you.  Why don't you just sit there until we have a room available."  We sat for an hour, JoLynne and I and my blood soaked rag.  I thought, "If I were having a heart attack would I be sitting here waiting for a room?"  Who knows.  Anyway, after an hour the bleeding had stopped and they were ready for me.  Oh brother.  They tested my platelets and they were low but not too low and basically they had no idea what to do so they simply put a new bandaid on my face.  After the bandaid it still took them over an hour to discharge me.  Are all emergency rooms run this poorly?  I wonder.  In the meantime, don't have a heart attack in Utah Valley.
Who are those youngsters?

Later when we got home our bishop and stake president came over to give me a blessing.  That was more valuable to me than what they did at the emergency room.  They gave JoLynne a blessing as well which I greatly appreciated.

Today I am tired but good.  It is our 31st anniversary today.  JoLynne informs me that we have been married 11,323 days.  I can't describe how blessed I have been by having JoLynne in my life.  She is my soulmate, my sweetheart, my support when I can't stand on my own, my confidant, my darling wife.  Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for her.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pictures of a miracle

Okay, I'm just going to tell you.  This is kind of graphic so don't look if you're squeamish.  But to me I feel like I am looking at pictures of the God's hand at work so I decided to share.  So I will start but putting  a pretty picture.  If you want to see the ugly pictures then scroll down.

I see God's hand here too.  Is there anything more beautiful than the Oregon Coast?

Okay,  Here come the pictures that are a bit graphic.  Please don't scroll down if you don't want to see them.  That's okay.  It won't hurt my feelings.

Picture taken in the back right side of my mouth May 10, 2014.  

Picture taken of the same area June 11, 2014

Picture taken of the same area July 11, 2014

Picture taken with an iPhone July 20th, 2014 in Boston when all heck broke loose

Picture taken yesterday (8.22.2014) of the same area, much closer up because my mouth can suddenly open again.  This is .after 21 days of chemo.

What I didn't take was a picture of the smile on my face and the tears of joy that came when I looked at this picture.  I will leave that to your imagination.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Round #2: Bring it on

Cool 1960 bike
Today I start my second round of chemo.  Goodbye appetite :( …   I can't complain, I have had a good five days which was a blessing.  I felt well enough tonight to go on a date with JoLynne.  We have a very old tandem bicycle, a Schwinn that my father bought in 1960.  Anyway, it still works and it's cool and retro.  We rode down to Utah lake.  It was great.

On Tuesday we went to see the infectious disease doctor.  He hadn't seen me in about 2 weeks.  He looked at me, looked at the mass in the back of my mouth and then sat down and said, in his Russian accent, "Doctor Vogel, your tumors are visibly smaller."  That was music to my ears.  I have felt better, better swallowing, less pressure on the side of my head, when I drink fluid it no longer shoots out my nose.  That was pretty annoying, by the way.  I asked him, "I have only been on chemo, 20 days, is it possible that they could shrink so quickly?"  His answer was "Well they grew that quickly, why could they not shrink quickly as well?"  I like doctor visits like that one.  Having my cancer respond to chemotherapy is such an answer to so many prayers.

Sometimes good things come out of bad.  I have a dear brother who I had little contact with for quite a few years.  Maybe because of my cancer we have reconnected.  He is a good man and has always been a champion for the underdog.  He came to visit last Saturday with his wife.  It was wonderful.  At one point in the visit he looked at me and said "I have been praying that God would take the cancer from you and give it to me"  For him those aren't just words, he would really do it.  It makes me a little teary eyed thinking about it.  I told him, "I wouldn't give it to you."

Well, we will simply continue to pray for a miracle in whatever form God chooses to send it.  We have faith that a miracle will come.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

laughter is good

So, I am doing pretty well.  Since this is the fourth time I have done chemotherapy you would think I would be good at it by now.  I must be a slow learner.  I have had two good days the last two days and that is a blessing.

The other day we were in wound care for the hole in the side of my face.  They are so good there.  As the nurse was reviewing my history and condition  she asked how my appetite was doing.  Well, my appetite isn't great so I told her so.  She asked if I was taking any medication to help my appetite.  I told her I wasn't even aware of any.  She smiled and said, "You bet, you can take Canibus, (marijuana) to help your appetite.  I just started to laugh.  The thought of me taking marijuana painted a funny picture in my mind.  I don't even use alcohol mouthwashes.  I think I will just keep forcing the food down for now.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Joy and Hope

Well, this has been a challenging week and a wonderful week.  Life is that way sometimes.

John and Callie exiting the temple
Let me start with some good news.  This was the week my son John Eric Vogel married his sweetheart Callie Leigh Stettler in the Brigham City Temple.   This occupied most of the day on Friday.  I was concerned about my strength and ability to be a part of the events without becoming too tired but I was blessed.  One of my sweet nurses agreed to come early to the clinic to give me fluids and steroids so that I could feel better.  She met us there at 7:00 am,  We decided to drive our motorhome to Brigham City so that I could rest along the way.  My wonderful son Seth drove the whole way while I slept in the back.  It was like magic.  I climbed in the motorhome, fell asleep and when I woke up we were there.  Now I know why my kids like traveling like that so much.

My family, how blessed I am
The temple was just as you would expect, amazing.  We had a few minutes to wait while the bride and groom were coming.  I sat and looked at my sweetheart JoLynne across the room.  Thirty one years ago we knelt in a similar room at an altar of God and made covenants with each other and with God.  Where did the years go?  It seems like yesterday that the sealer stood and pronounced those words, "For time and for all eternity" over JoLynne and myself.  I felt like I was being transported through time.  I looked to my side at our older children.  I felt like my happiness was too great to contain.  The marriage ceremony was beautiful, simple and sacred.

Very creative car decorations.  Talk about green vehicle
Well, afterwards, a luncheon with family and friends and then a beautiful reception planned by Callie and her family.  I was tired and had to sit down at times but felt like the Lord gave me enough strength to get through.  I slept the whole way home again while Seth drove.  My cute little daughter Elizabeth, now 13 years old, came back and snuggled up by me while I slept.   They grow up too quickly.  I am grateful my daughter was still willing to snuggle up to her dad.

The next day I was pretty tired.  There was a lot to prepare here at our home for the open house.  Our dear friend and neighbor told us very firmly, I don't even want to see you out there.  She arranged for all the neighbors to come and clean up the yard and set everything up.  It was like an army descended on our home.  We are so blessed with good neighbors.

The open house was great.  I saw people who are so dear to me.  I am a pretty tearful guy these days and this was a tearful night for me.  A young man who I loved as if he was my own son come by with his family.  What a joy to see him with his children.  A dear former stake president who has prayed his heart out in my behalf.  So many dear friends.  You know, you can go through life collecting things, and we all do, and in the end they mean nothing for the most part.  But, the relationships we develop along the journey, those really mean something.  In my present situation that seems so clear to me.

Well, John and Callie got off on their honeymoon.  They were nice enough to text us when they arrived at their destinations which I appreciated.  What a wonderful adventure lies ahead for those two.  I can't even imagine.  I hope they are as happy as JoLynne and I have been.  That is saying something.

I wanted to be holy, just not this way
Well, regarding my health, it has been also good and bad.  I began chemotherapy about a week ago Thursday.  Ahh, chemo, such a joy.  Imagine a ballon.  Now imagine all the air is let out.   That is about how you feel.  No energy, no appetite, nausea, mouth sores, etc.  Oh well, it is a process to a desired end.  I had been having significant amounts of pain.  Even though I was taking some pretty heavy duty pain meds the pain still was effecting me.  I would wake up in the night just drenched in sweat as if someone had dumped a can of water over me.  Finally Tuesday morning, I got out of the shower and noticed that I was dripping from my face.  My face had been quite swollen.  Apparently the pressure built enough that finally the skin burst.  It wasn't pretty but my pain was almost completely resolved.  Later another small area burst and I saw further improvement.  I am now taking almost no pain meds and am pretty comfortable.  I have quite the wound on the side of my face but we will hopefully get into wound care tomorrow and have them help us to address that.  Saturday my son in law, a nurse practitioner, pulled out a flashlight and looked into the hole in my cheek.  Apparently you can see the bone and the titanium plates that were screwed in during surgery.  So, we will be very happy to have wound care involved in helping me to heal this wound.

In the meantime, I am working a little, not as much as I would like but as much as my energy allows.  I have a wonderful associate, Mike Merkley, really a gift from heaven who is helping me to take care of my patients.  JoLynne and I have moments of doubt and fear.  We don't know exactly where our path will lead.  We both still believe that God is going to work a miracle and that I will be healed.  We have this vision of us sitting on our front porch in a double wide rocker, watching our grandchildren play on the lawn.  We talk about that a lot when we get discouraged.

Our beautiful granddaughter
Today, my doubts seem less.  I sometimes wonder if it is the prayers of others that brings me that peace.   I do believe in the power of others faith.  I love and appreciate so many of you who have prayed for me through this whole long journey.  My nephew's son the other day came up to me and said, "Uncle Eric, we have been praying for you a long time.  Why are you taking so long to get better?"  Well, I don't know the answer to that question but I am grateful for the prayers.

Friday, August 1, 2014


There is a process when one gets really bad news, unfortunately I am becoming familiar with it.  Perhaps it is different for everyone.  For me it goes like this

  • Shock
  • Sadness
  • Sadness mingled with hope
  • Hope overcoming sadness
  • An overwhelming desire to get in the ring and fight like crazy.
So, I am at that last step now.  Cancer cannot rule my life.  I am not powerless.  I have a lot of fight left in me, just watch.

This morning we went to visit the new charity clinic that Henry Schein has very generously built to allow me to expand my charity work.  It was so beautiful!  I am just filled with desire to get in there and do some good.  For those who don't know, Schein is one of the largest dental suppliers in the world.  Out of the goodness of their hearts they offered their resources to build this clinic and cover all of it's operating expenses so that we can help more people in need.  Their generosity is like a gift from Heaven.  I am so grateful to them.

Then we went to the doctors.  The infectious disease doctor thinks my swelling and fevers are all due to tumor not infection.  Unfortunately, our oncology doctor is out of town until Tuesday.  The ones on call were reluctant to let me get started.  Basically they didn't want to take the responsibility if something went wrong.  They were very determined to have us wait until Tuesday.  JoLynne was equally determined that we get started today.  (By the way, you probably don't know this about JoLynne but she can be VERY strong willed at times, especially if someone she loves is threatened)  We seemed to be an an impasse.  We really feel that this cancer is growing very fast and that five days would make a difference.  Finally the doctors here agreed to call our doctor at Mayo.  He agreed with us that treatment should commence now.  The doctors here finally gave in. 

So, here I sit, hooked up to chemo.  Ring the bell, I am ready for a heck of a fight.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Faith as a grain of mustard seed"

There is so much uncertainty in my life right now.  I have held off writing, hoping for more answers.  Well answers will come as they do.  It is challenging to not see more than one step ahead of you.

Last week we left for a family vacation in Boston.  On son Seth is there in medical school and we were looking forward to having the whole family together again with him in Boston.  I have had a small growth in the back right side of my mouth for some time.  We have had a biopsy of it done and it was simply scar tissue.  I had been feeling great.  No pain meds, running in the mornings, swimming and biking.  Almost normal.  Just before we left I thought the bump seemed a bit bigger and looking at it with my intra oral camera it did seem bigger.  I showed it to the doctors but they said not to worry, we were having a scan done August first and we would look at it then.  It had never shown activity on any previous scans.

So we left for Boston.  First night we came in late and went to dinner with Seth.  It was great.  Then we rented a car and drove to New York to watch the pagent, go the sacred grove and other church sites.  It was really wonderful.  Many years ago, I spent a whole summer living on the back of the hill Cumorah helping to build the stages and sound system  It was a remarkable time in my young life.  We lived in a barrack on the back side of the hill and the church hired a cook to keep us well fed while we worked.  There was about a dozen of us young 17 year olds.  This was my first time back to the pagent since I was 17.  It was great to be back there.  Walking through the sacred grove filled my heart with joy.

In the meantime, I was starting to have more pain.  Back to tylenol and ibuprofen every six hours.  I was feverish and having trouble swallowing.

When we got back to Boston we contacted our doctors at Mayo.  They advised us to go the the ER there in Boston.  We went and spent a whole day there.  They took a CT scan and finally came in to advise me that it appeared that my cancer had returned and had spread up the right side of my head, behind my eye and into my brain, temporal lobe.  They felt like with my case complexity and all that I would be better off at Mayo where the doctors knew me.  There was a lot of discussion about an emergency tracheotomy (where they cut a hole in your throat and put in a metal plate to keep the hole open.  this insures an airway)  They also talked about life flighting me to Mayo.  I finally told them, "look, I'm having no trouble breathing, I don't want an emergency tracheotomy.  Call an ENT if you don't believe me about the airway."  The ENT came in and confirmed that my airway was wide open.  The crazy talk continued though.  I have decided that some doctors are just crazy.  One oral surgeon came in, one of the senior residents, and said, "open your mouth"  Well, I can't really open very wide these days.  I did the best I could.  He said "Why aren't you opening?"  I told him, "That's as far as it goes".  He said,  "I don't believe you, you're just not trying"  At that point he grabbed my upper and lower jaw with both hands and tried to force it open.  Of course it wouldn't move.  Then he got all frustrated and said, "Why are you even here, what do you want from us?"  Yup, the king of bedside manner.  Finally we just told them,  "We are done,  give us a copy of our CT scan.  We are leaving"

So, we left our children in Boston with Grandpa and Seth and we got a flight to Mayo.  The doctors there were super accommodating.  They all squeezed me into their schedules.  The did a PET/CT scan, new biopsies and a lot of consults.  No one could say much without the biopsies but the assumption was that the cancer was back.  The surgeon said "inoperable, incurable, but with the right chemo maybe we can buy you some time"  Everyone else pretty much concurred with that.

Thursday we went to the temple.  On our way home the first biopsy came in.  All was negative for cancer.  We were elated.  They wanted more biopsies from other areas.  Friday they did 6 more biopsies with an 18 gauge needle.  That is a pretty good size needle.  Think pencil lead size.  They were tracking the position of the needle with ultra sound.  I watched the first couple that it got to be too freaky and I quit watching.

At that point there wasn't much more we could do but wait so we flew back to Boston to be with the kids again.  Seth had done such a good job entertaining them.  They had swam in Waldon pond, kayaked on the Charles river, Gone to all sort cool historical places.  He is a great brother and tour guide.  We only had a day and a half when we got back but it was good.  We went to the horse race track.  I had never been to one of these before.  We figured out how to place bets and then made our bets using swedish fish.  Natalie was the "bookie".  Most of us lost all our fish by the time it was over,  Obviously the bookie came out best overall.  She was nice and shared her fish with us.  We went out to tangle wood to a Boston Pops concert that night.

We got back to Utah on Sunday night late.  Because of the swelling we got an appointment with the infectious disease doctor who had treated me earlier.  We had Mayo send out any records that they had.  This was a hard visit.  The doctor read through every thing from Mayo and then told us that the biopsies showed positive for osteosarcoma in every area.

Have you ever had a dream where you were falling and you could hardly scream because you were so scared.  I guess that is kind of how it felt.  Like a terrible bad dream and you just wanted to wake up and find out it isn't real.  The doctor basically said, "What are you going to do?"  At that point we were kind of in shock but neither JoLynne or I are ones to give up easily and we told him so.  He said "There is no reason for you to suffer, we have lots of medicines that can stop your pain"  I have had a lot of pain lately.  He was concerned that there may be an infection on top of the cancer so he started me on IV antibiotics that same day.

So, here we sit.  I have an appointment with Dr. Wallentine on Tuesday.  Mayo has ideas about chemo agents that have worked on others in the past who didn't respond to first line drugs.  There are some clinical trials we are looking at.  There have been a lot of tears.  Tuesday night I ordained Spencer and Elder, preparatory to his serving a mission.  Right after that he helped his brothers give me a beautiful blessing.  Wow, I didn't know I could cry that much.  Then he helped while I gave JoLynne a blessing. How grateful we are for the priesthood.

We don't know what the future holds.  But there are things that we know without any doubt.  We know that God loves us and is aware of our situation and is standing by our side through the hardest parts.  There is nothing in this world that we are more sure of than that.  JoLynne and I know that we have made covenants in the temple of God.  Those covenants promise us that we will be together for eternity if we are faithful.  We know that Christ conquered death and because of Him we will live again as well.

So right now we are just begging God for more time.  We have laid before Him our best arguments and poured out our hearts to Him.  We know that if it His will, a miracle will happen and my life will be spared.  We love Him and we trust Him.  We know that many of you have offered up prayers in our behalf as well.  We are so grateful for your love and faith.  Yesterday, while I was waiting for an MRI a stake member, who has his own challenges, saw me.  He hobbled over to me with his cane, put his hand on my knee and said, "President Vogel, I love you, My family loves you, we pray for you every night" He then picked up his cane and made his way back to his chair.  Even though I have serious challenges, I am very blessed.

JoLynne keeps telling me "We just need the faith of a grain of mustard seed.  If it can move mountains, it can certainly cure this cancer.  So, I have never seen a mustard seed but maybe I should study them closer.  Thank you for all that each of you have done and continue to do for me and my family.  We love you.

Friday, July 25, 2014


2 Kings 20
Chapter 20

Hezekiah is told he will die and pleads with the Lord; his life is lengthened fifteen years--The shadow goes back ten degrees on the sundial of Ahaz--Isaiah prophesies the Babylonian captivity of Judah. 
1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying,
3 I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
4 And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying,
5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord.
6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
7 And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

It has been a tough week for us. We have taken hope in the story of Hezekiah

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Do you ever have those "Woe is me" days?  I have to confess, I do.  The other day we were at a family event with JoLynne's family.  It was a dinner at her sister's house and then we were going to look at some family pictures.  Since my cancer and all the associated surgeries and radiation my ability to eat is not so good.  To start with I am completely numb on the right side of my face from my lower eyelid to my neck.  So, I can't really feel even if my lips are touching.  The end effect is that I put food in my mouth and it doesn't always stay there too well.  Often it drips down my face and I am totally unaware due to the numbness.  Drinking is especially hard since I can't feel my lips touching the glass.

Also, I have a lot of scarring so I can only open my mouth just a very little bit.  I can barely fit my smallest finger in my mouth.  That is my maximum opening.  So eating is a very slow process.  I have to cut up the food into super small bites so that it will fit.  My tongue doesn't work too good to guide the food around so I have to use my fork to guide the food to where my teeth come together.

Well all of this doesn't make eating very fun, especially in public settings.  I feel like a spectacle when I eat.  I don't know if you have noticed but so much of our social interactions revolve around eating.  This makes my life challenging at times.

Flora Zella McCarther and JoLynne's mother
So, back to our family dinner.  I was struggling through the meal, as I always do.  I was feeling sorry for myself, wishing I could be more normal and feeling self conscious.  Well I finally finished the meal and we went downstairs to look at family pictures.  I wasn't feeling very happy.  The first picture up was my wife's grandmother.  She was afflicted with terrible rheumatoid arthritis.  In the picture she was shriveled up with that terrible disease sitting in a homemade wheelchair.  Really just a kitchen chair with small wheels screwed to the legs.  My sister in law proceeded to talk about how she lived like that for 14 years,  unable to walk or even feed herself.  They would lift her into the chair in the morning, feed her and set her on the porch to wait until people came in from the fields at lunch time.  They would feed her again and leave her on the porch again while they went back out to the fields.  And that is how it was for her day after day for 14 years until she finally passed away.

The next slide was of an uncle.  He was stricken with stomach cancer that moved into his bones.  He was a veteran so they took him up the VA to be cared for.  He couldn't move without his bones breaking so he lay in bed for three years unable to move.  Every few hours they would restrain him with a second mattress and flip it over to try and prevent so many bed sores.  JoLynne's dad, who was watching the slides with us talked about going up to visit this uncle and what a positive attitude he had despite
his disease.  In his words, "You could never visit with him without going away feeling uplifted"

By that point I began to see how foolish I had been.  Here I am complaining because I eat slow and drip a little and yet I can walk and run and feed myself and work at my profession.  Sometimes I just need a little reality check.  That night was a pretty good reality check for me.

Friday, July 4, 2014

My independence day

Today people across the United States are celebrating independence day, recognizing this country gaining their independence from Great Britain.  In addition to that, today is my own celebration of independence,   Today marks one year free from cancer!

On July 2nd 2013 I finished my last SBRT treatment at Mayo and we returned home on the third of July.  That memory stands so clearly in my mind.

A year and 2 weeks ago my cancer had returned.  I had three tumors, about 4 cm each, growing right next to vital anatomical structures.  After looking at my images my surgeon at Mayo told us that I was "inoperable" and that there was no hope for recovery.  I asked him if he had other patients as serious as me and what they had done.  He told me that he had others as bad off as me and that they had tried all sorts of things including holistic and conventional therapies and that he had never seen anyone at this point survive.  He is a world class surgeon, these were terrible words to hear.  JoLynne and I took a long sad walk by the river there in Rochester.  It was overcast with a slow rain.  That was a very hard day!  Despite  his words we thought that perhaps God still had a plan for me that included my recovery.  Even driving to the airport in Minnesota after that unpleasant visit I remember telling JoLynne, "I just think that there is something more that we haven't heard yet"

I remember at Church a day or so later.  A dear friend of mine, my former Stake President, came up and asked to know what was going on.  I told him what we had been told.  He listened patiently and when I finished he said "That's perfect".  I was so startled at his response and asked him how he could possibly feel that way.  This was his response "It's perfect because men have done all that they can to cure you, now when you are healed you will give the credit to God."  My friend is an wonderful, unusual person.

Well a day or two passed and we had another call from Mayo, this time from Dr. Foote, inviting us to return and attempt a cure using SBRT.  He told me that at that point they had 9 months of data using this treatment against osteosarcoma and so far the results were promising.  We chose to return and undergo the treatment.  Today marks one year since that treatment completed.  Every three months since that time I have had PET/CT scans carefully looking for cancer and so far I am free, NO CANCER!

It has been a hard year in many ways, the pain from radiation burns has been challenging.  I spent at least 9 months of the last year using dental anesthetic to control the pain.  I have had set backs and challenges but here I am.  As of now, my pain is very manageable, I am able to work full time, my energy is good.  I even ran four miles the other day.  My legs were sore and I laughed all day whenever I felt my sore legs.  There was a time when four miles wasn't even a warm up run for me.  At the same time, I am so grateful that I can run.  I even order new running shoes the other day off of eBay.  (They don't sell my favorite shoes in the store anymore).

True to my friends words, I was healed and I gladly give the credit to God.  I live a life redeemed.  My life was at the edge and God chose to pull me back and to allow me to remain.  How does one live a life redeemed?  I think about that every single day.  Every morning I ask God to lead me to someone whose life I can bless, whose burdens I can lighten.  I want to show God my appreciation through the way that I live my life.  I can honestly say that nearly every day that prayer is answered and that makes me happy.

As that anniversary approached I sent my dear friend, Dr. Foote, an email expressing my feelings.  His response back was very sweet, perhaps I will share that.

Dear Dr. Foote,
I send you my warmest greetings from Utah.  I am approaching a one year anniversary of being cancer free.  This is a major milestone for me.  I feel that my Life was spared by my Heavenly Father but I see your hand as well.  Thank you for your role in this miracle.
I am not sure if  you are aware that near the end of June, last year,  when my cancer had returned, we went out to meet with Dr. Moore again to see what could be done.  He was not optimistic.  In his words, "If I operate on you again there would be nothing left of you.  You would have no life at all."  "Don't spend any more on medicine, go on a cruise or something".  When I asked him if he had other patients who were in as dire circumstances as I was and he said he had several.  I asked him if any had survived and he told me "No".  That was a somber week for JoLynne and I.  My former stake president and a dear friend sought me out on Sunday wanting to know what was going on.  I explained what we had been told by Dr. Moore.  My former stake president is an amazing man.  He listened attentively and when I had finished he said "That is just perfect!"  I couldn't understand why he would say that.  Then he said "Men have done all that they can, now God can save your life and you will give the credit to Him"  How I love that prophetic man.
As I celebrate a sweet one year anniversary I want you to know that I do give the credit to God and I thank you for being his hands in my miracle.
Eric Vogel

Bro. Vogel,
Thanks for sharing this with me.  It really means a lot to me.  I would like to believe that my thoughts were inspired and directed by the Holy Ghost as I pondered and prayed about how we might be able to help you.  The glory and honor certainly belong to our Father in Heaven.  It is humbling to be a tool or a servant through which He accomplishes His purposes.
I am grateful that our Father brought us together for a brief season during our sojourn on earth!
God bless you!

Well, for those of you in the United States I hope that you enjoy your celebration of independence day.  For all of us, irregardless of where we live, we can each live a life redeemed.  In my case my physical life was spared but for all of us, our lives have been redeemed spiritually through the atonement of Jesus Christ.  If we accept him as our Savior we will be spiritually saved.  This is far more profound than being physically saved.  The consequences will stretch thoughout the eternities.  How will one live a life redeemed?  That is a question worth asking.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quick update

Not to leave people hanging, I thought I should give a quick update.

So, Monday I was discharged from the hospital.  They took out my chemo port that I have been toting around in my chest for the last 2.5 years in case it was the source of my infection.  I'm glad to have it gone.  Maybe this marks an end of an era.  No port=no more cancer.  It seems like a reasonable thing to hope for.  They put in a pic line to give me IV antibiotics for two weeks.  Now I have a really fashionable fanny pack and a kind of high tech pump to put in it.  Almost like being on Star Trek.

I was still pretty weak coming home but every day was better than the one before.  Thursday we had an open house for our son Jarom and his sweet fiancĂ© (now wife) in our back yard.  We had so many neighbors and friends who pitched in to make that happen.  It still amazes me how good the people around us are.  We are so blessed.  It was a truly lovely evening.

Friday I went in for my follow up with the infectious disease doctor.  Everything looked good.  I was still having pretty bad headaches so I asked him about that.  He is a really nice Russian doctor.  He said "Dr Vogel, this condition is often lethal, so I think that headaches are not so bad, eh?"  (I don't know how to write that with a Russian accent so you will have to use your imagination)  Frankly the headaches are now pretty much gone and I am very grateful.

Friday we traveled to Boise for Jarom's wedding.  That happened on Saturday morning.  In the temple I looked at Jarom, Natalie, JoLynne and all my endowed children except Peter who is in Spain.  There was such a sense of peace.  Everything in the world seemed as it should be.  I am so grateful to still be here to be a part of such events.

Sunday we drove home and got to sleep in our own beds.  So good to be home.  I am continuing to improve.  Sunday I thought, "You know, I'm not really hurting that much, maybe I will skip my usual tylenol and motion dose."  So, I did.  I have been taking Tylenol and Motrin every 8 hours for the last 11 months.   Ever since my high dose radiation therapy.   I don't like to think about how many of those I have swallowed.  So, I haven't taken any since Sunday, Amazing!  Today I went back to work and had a pretty good day.

All in all, I am doing very well.  Thank you for all your faith and prayers.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Time shares

Well. I haven't blogged here for a long time. I have been too busy being well to sit down and write much. It has been good to feel good again

Unfortunately this last week I have taken another turn in the road. Monday I had an unpleasant meeting at work and came home with a splitting headache.  I just figured it was from the meeting. Tuesday it wasn't much better. My head hurt and I just didn't feel good.  At one point I laid down in my office on the floor and closed my eyes for a few minutes.  Right then my receptionist, Lori, came in and gasped. I think she thought I had fainted or died and fallen to the floor. At least that was a bright moment

By noon I could see I wasn't well enough to work so I went home and had patients changed. I still felt pretty rotten so we got an appointment with an ENT friend of mine. He cultured my sinuses, recommended an oral antibiotic and took a tissue biopsy of an area of my mouth that looks weird

I came home still feeling pretty rotten. Basically every time I sat down I fell asleep. I tried taking the medicine but everything I swallowed I threw up again. Tuesday in the middle of the night I started shaking so bad I thought my teeth would fall out. I couldn't stop. JoLynne woke the boys and was going to have them carry me to the car and take me to the hospital. I threw up again and the shaking seemed to subside so we stayed home

Wednesday I called my oncologist and he suggested coming to the clinic where they could do the antibiotics and fluids IV.  That sounded good so we went. They did some blood work and rehydrated me and I felt a bit better. I was still sleeping all the time. My temperature went up to 104 so that had us worried a bit. Thursday we went for fluids again and more antibiotics. I was finally starting to feel somewhat better. My neck was really sore and I was weak but walking. Friday they called and told me that blood work was back and I had two positive cultures for staph infection in the blood and that I needed to be in the hospital. Also the ENT called and said that the tissue sampled had areas of comcern for cancer.

Home sweet home
We checked in Friday. I told JoLynne as we were pullng up that if I had known how much time I was going to spend here I would have looked into a time share option. She thought that there were better places for a time share

The doctors were very thorough. The infection control doctor seemed especially knowledgable.  I'm glad that they found this. Unchecked it could have gone bad really fast. As it is I will be here on really powerful antibiotics until Monday. If I am responding well then I will go home with an IV pump and continue for another two weeks. They were worried it had damaged my heart. If that were true I would be on the sntibiotics for months IV instead of weeks. The tests showed my heart was fine

We are still waiting for Mayo to read the biopsy slides. I can't worry about that now. It will be whatever it is.  I asked my doctor this morning, dr Wallentine, if he ever just thought "will this guy either get better or die once and for all". He sweetly said "I only ever think the first one Eric"

So, here I sit in this overpriced hotel working on getting better.  We have a wedding the end of this week a granddaughter coming to be tended, bike rides and sandbox time and somewhere in there I need to build a rocket ship (Vivian's request). I had better hurry and get better

Preliminary design on "the rocket"