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.