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.


  1. Everyone who knows you and your family Dr. Vogel will fight along with you. By fight, I mean petition the Lord and weary the Lord with our thoughts and prayers on your behalf. I remember sitting in the hospital when Mitchell was 3 years old on life support, having died for 4 minutes prior to being revived. I'm sure my thoughts and feelings at the time would be consistent with what your feeling and those who have experienced similar circumstances. Although we might not "command" the Lord to do anything, it's worth a shot. Come to think of it, I recall my petitions on Mitchell's behalf to have had similar pleadings. If it can work for him, surely we can request it on behalf of one of the best men I've known. After all, the rest of us have no problem in being a little selfish by asking for more time to be with such a great person!

    1. Dear Brent, Thank you for standing by me in my time of need. You are a true friend

  2. My heart is hurting tonight as I read this.
    You have been in my life in so many sacred moments.Running, and having babies, getting church callings and recommends, I remember my first marathon, you spoke to me and calmed me, and followed up afterwards. I was so happy to find out we were related! Thank you for your work as worthy priesthood holder, a dentist, various church callings, and mostly a friend, you are an amazing person.
    I hope the Lord can calm the storm for you and all who love and know you. We are better, because of you. We will pray for you and your family.
    Your example of how a marriage should be, thank you for always holding her hand and loving her so much.
    Please let us know what we can do. Anything.

  3. Dear Jessica, I am so sorry to make your heart hurt. I really believe that the Lord is going to show us a path out of our current dilemma. We just need to wait upon Him patiently and with faith. I can't see the path but I believe He can. Than your for your love and support

  4. Eric, You and your family are in our prayers. If there is anything I can do for you, let me know.

    1. Thank you Jeff, You have always been in my corner.

  5. Eric- you and your beautiful wife and amazing family continue to inspire me and set such amazing examples for me. I really look up to you. I truly do love you and your family. I am thinking of you and praying for you all. I know Heavenly Father will answer your prayers.

    1. You continue to amaze me. What a great example you are!! Thank you for your kind words, I just wanted you to know how much we look up to you. We will continue to pray and have faith. His plan is the best plan.
      Have a great weekend with your family!!

    2. Thank you. With God's help we are going to beat this stupid disease.

  6. My Dear Friend Eric,

    There’s a lot running through my mind as I type to you, but I keep coming back to the same two thoughts. Elder Neil A. Maxwell once read the following poem during a talk:

    “My life is but a weaving between my God and me
    I do not choose the colors He worketh steadily
    Oft times He weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride
    Forget He sees the upper and I the underside.

    “Not ‘til the loom is silent and the shuttle cease to fly
    Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reasons why
    The dark threads are as needful in the skillful weavers’ hands
    As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.”

    During my darkest moments my mind always seems to turn to this poem. Though it doesn’t always bring the peace, joy and gladness that I long for, it does bring hope for brighter days and eternal success.

    My other thought that comes to mind is an old Quaker Proverb that goes something like this:

    “Thee lift me, and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll both ascend together.”

    If there is anything that we can do to help “lift thee” please do not hesitate to ask as we have always been lifted by your love, kindness and friendship.

    With all our love and prayers,

    Eric, Jeannette and Family.

    1. I love that poem Eric. I will plead for what I want but in the end God will direct event and He is way smarter than me. It will all work out as it should. I really believe that my mortal tapestry is not complete yet.

  7. I'm so sorry about your news. The Bartholomew family will be praying for you and your family often!