Sunday, February 20, 2011

chemo brain

Don writes:

They call it chemo brain, where the brain is in a fog, fading in and out. I'll be in my office trying to do a little work and I'll come around staring at my screen and wondering what was I looking for?

But it is past due time for an update.

The last post I wrote I was in my last chemo and had one more week of radiation therapy. The chemo was on Tuesday Jan 11th, so I completed that week in the basement every day getting zapped. Then a three day weekend. By Sunday my throat was screaming at me. I know there is a several day lag time between the treatment and the effects of the treatment. I had four treatments the next week. I started thinking, I've stopped for three days, why would I start up again and go thru what I just went thru for the three day weekend, again? When I went in that Tues the 18th, we talked to the Dr, who could not convince me that the last three days would make any definitive difference, other than the whole dose had been determined by experience, and divided into 35 bearable doses. The tumor had been gone since week three I think, now we were zapping the last of the cancer cells. After much prayer and discussion, Mary and I decided to stop. God had already taken care of the last of the cancer cells. 

But that was the day (Tues the 18th) I was admitted to the hospital for three days due to dehydration and lack of nutrition. And my plumbing wasn't working so well due to the pain meds. So they hydrated me and sent me home with a new bagful of medications for helping me eat, drink, etc. I checked out that Thursday. Everyday the radiation Dr came in the ask me If I had changed my mind about the last four tratments, but I held my ground, I was three days into recovery and did not want to go backwards.

So we went home to work on those things mentioned above.

Day by day, ever so slowly, I drank more water, and most every day one of Mary's smoothies. I kept loosing weight. (I eventually went from 242 to 178. (I'm wearing my 21 year old son's bluejeans). But that was this past week.)) I lost about 10 lbs a week, nothing appealed to me. I had to eat so I did little by little, never enough. I'd have a fairly good day and be able to walk around a little, maybe to the mailbox. The next day laid down most of the day. I got so sick and tired of not being able to do anything. What was God working on?? What would he have me do? What was I supposed to be learning?

I have since learned that he did not want me to 'do' anything, only rely on Him to heal me. He was teaching me to have patience.

At one point I had an appointment with the chemo Dr, I was so tired and sore I rode in in a wheelchair. That's when she told me the recovery would take 6 weeks. Up to now I was expecting a week! Thanks for the warning.

So I believe this week I have finally climbed out of the hole I was in. Both feet out and on the ground. My throat is still sore. I went surveying with Benj a couple more times, yesterday I even drove four property corner pins. Wore me out, but not as bad as the last time. I can work a full shift in the office. But I have to watch that I don't overdo it. Another thing God has taught me is to not be a workaholic, to spend time with Mary and the family. Rely on Him more for bringing in the work. If the Creator of the universe can heal me of cancer he can certainly give me enough survey jobs.

Thank you all for your many prayers and support. We would not have made it without you. But don't stop, we are still a long way from complete recovery. We are blessed daily as we continue to rely on Him. We don't know what tomorrow will bring, we have put ourselves in His hands. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nothing dramatic to report .. thank You God .. just to let you know, Don is on the up mend. He had a rough couple days lately, but now I think he is seeing the light. Still tired. But he worked beside Benjamin today and they got out two land survey drawings .. Way to go guys! You two are AWESOME.

He is drinking water .. so glad .. drinking more food .. and having less nausea.

Dwelling in the shelter of the Lord Most High.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sometimes life is rough. Sometimes it seems the water is going to take down the ship. 

Don has had turmoil 

It seems like the uphill battle his daunting. When you are tired and weak it's hard to imagine that you are going to be able to make it the rest of the way.

Don has had the waves crashing in his mind as he has worried about basic things like - wanting to eat and drink - about keeping food down - as well as financial worries. 

No one can help him eat or drink, no one can make him well. 

It would seem he is alone on this journey, going through the dark, raging waters.


Brothers come along side you when you are weak
They pull the ropes when you aren't strong enough
they bail the water out of the boat
they strengthen the ship

Don has a band of brothers. 
There have been so many brothers that have come along side him. There have been so many people that have equipped him for the journey. 
Supplying him with tools and prayers. 

The journey has been particularly  drenching the last couple weeks. 
The water has been coming in from all sides. 


Brothers come along side you when you are weak
They pull the ropes when you aren't strong enough
they bail the water out of the boat
they strengthen the ship

brothers have come along side him and have been shouldering the storm with him. 
Real shouldering .. getting dirty, sacrificing shouldering. Taking on the burdens shouldering. 


thank you 

I love the brotherhood but I don't ever want to forget our beloved sisters.
Thank you sisters for your love and faithfulness. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Finished the Treatments

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.
Abraham Lincoln


Don has finished his last radiation treatment. He has gone faithfully to that basement clinic 5 days a week since the end of November. It's been a long time. He has made some friends, has learned some new things and he has been physically broken down.

This last week has been the hardest .. as expected. The major difficulty was eating and drinking. His throat is swollen and burned, 
and the expected nausea.  

The end result was that Don became dangerously dehydrated. 

Last Tuesday .. the radiation dr was checking on Don's status and I was very panicked and worried. Don has been taking lots of meds, throwing up, not drinking and not eating. 
After hearing the reports the doc admitted him to the hosp. It had been days since he had water. That doesn't even mention food.  I was so thankful that Don was going to get water. 

We stayed in there for two nights. They filled him with fluids that included saline, glucose and some electrilites. When Don went in he was exhausted and a little spacey. 
We got his meds organized. We found some anti nuasea meds that worked. The drs at the VA did a really good job. I appreciated their attention to details, like treating his shingles that had broken out all over his shoulder and chest. 

The food .. on the other hand was AWFUL - I have never experienced such horrible food before. Everything was baby food. That's OK, but within that condition there was NO flavor. Or such a mixed up weird flavor that it was hard to tell what it was. On the puree they served him they used some kind of form to show us what it was supposed to be - for instance, if it was corn puree then it had been formed into corn form on top of it. 

Over the last week we have been blessed by so much love .. Thank you for the prayers, visits, the calls, the crackers and chocolate! 

Benjamin and Elisa did a good job holding down the fort while we were gone. Elisa, the sweetie .. cleaned the whole house and gave us a lovely evening when we finally got home. 

Now we are at the place of getting better .. one day at a time. 

We are still praying for Don to be able to eat food and water .. He is down to 183lbs. 

It's time for him to get back on track and start eating. He agrees and I think he has decided that it's time too. 

Hopefully, soon we will be able to hear from him on here. To be able to read what have been his thoughts and how the Lord has walked with him. 

For now .. the journey is not over .. just the treatments .. now comes the uphill recuperation. 

But we are still ... 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

His Last Chemo

The last chemo treatment ... 

There is silence in my heart when I write that. 

There are at least 4 more radiation treatments. 

Still kinda numb - not unlike Don who is kinda numb but not numb enough. 

I wonder how much Don will remember of all this. The brain has a great way of blocking trauma. 

He struggles to sleep at night, the pain awakens him. He needs to eat but he just sits there and puts his head on the table, dreading the pain of swallowing. 
He has been using his Christmas equipment we are glad to say.  He rests on the couch. I tell him to go ahead and rest cause this is the only time he will be allowed to lay around. 

But I do have this funny story to tell you ..

Picture Don - all a mess. Losing his hair on the back of his head, skin darkened and peeling from the constant burning of the ex ray. Won't eat anything, says it all tastes horrible. Barely drinks water, only has enough to help him as he struggles to get little tiny pills down his blistered throat.  He falls asleep as soon as he sits down.
 The poor guy is exhausted and wiped out. 
We expect all that. We all understand his depleted condition. And so we do everything we can to lighten his load.  No big deal, it's family. 

He gets a phone call - he answered the phone and on the other end is some guy that he did a survey for that needed some clarification for the city .. about some buildings and stuff. 
The next day after the call (which I knew nothing about) when we were packing up to drive to Durham, around 7:15 am, Don starts gathering survey stuff to put in the car. 

Here is a guy that struggles to talk, eat, drink and walk with out stooping - packing up the car with survey equipment. I know it had been days since he ate any real food, and with that I mean 1 cup worth of protein, milk and ice cream and he thinks he is going to go survey. 

Surveying is an occupation that requires a lot of careful detail. Down to the smallest degrees of numbers. So, here is Don, drugged and spacey ..  planning on going to the customers house to help him out. 

I drive us to Durham cause it's a long drive and Don gets pretty tired - as we were driving I was trying to get across to Don his weakened condition,  I went ahead and explained all the reasons why him helping this guy out was not a good idea. I called Benjamin - asked him for his advice on how to handle this .. he told me .. "Dad will do what dad will do - good luck"

Don was having particular medical problems that day so we had to stay late to talk to the dr. 
I thought for sure since we were delayed and he was SO tired that for sure when he called the guy that he was going to cancel due to illness .. but no, instead he called him - speaking with a hoarse voice just told the guy his radiation went a little long that he would be an hour late. 
The guy was fine with that and they set a time. 

I have to tell you, I was mad. I couldn't believe he would be so ... well, something ... to agree to doing that - even after I explained to him the lack of wisdom concerning that course of action. 

Mr. Don just set his jaw and said that not only is he going to South Boston to do this survey but I was driving him there and would I get going cause he didn't want to be late. 

grrr.  Knowing my stubborn man I decided that I will indeed drive him from his radiation treatment in Durham - to South Boston (over and hour and a half drive) - while I drove he slept, exhausted the whole way. 
To be perfectly honest .. I cried. 
There were so many things going on in our lives and this was just to much. 

We finally arrive. I was hesitant but cooperative - he told me I could just stay in the car.

 In the freezing cold he got out of the car and measured all around the property with that guy for over 45 min. He was walking and talking and moving just like normal! 

He finally finished the physical measuring, got back in the car with his note book, pencil and numbers and started doing his planning. Meanwhile I finished my nap - he got back out - gave the man his adjusted plat and then got back into the warm car. Ready to go home now. 

But the part I absolutely love about this story is the look in his eyes when he got back into the car. He had a look of stubborn accomplishment. 

He had surveyed! 

Weeks of chemo, radiation, starvation, lethargy and exhaustion did not stop him ... He still had what it took to do the job. 

I laughed out loud ..  I had to give him credit, he did it. And he loved it. I was very proud of him. 

One of Don's favorite sayings that he tells Benjamin, his grandsons and the young bucks God's brings into his life  ... 

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. 

And I guess Don did just that. 

The rest of the story .. not ten minutes down the road .. he was fast asleep in the passenger seat.   Exhausted but happy. 

Note from Don ... 

thanks brothers and sisters for your continuing prayer support!!!   but specifically for these final weeks, I need His assistance in patience and strength as the treatments are completed, my throat is very sore, hard to swallow, I've lost over 30 pounds now, the chemo side effects last 5 days now so I cannot get anything done, Mary is very faithful, trying to feed me and medicate me but I tend to not be very cooperative. I received my last chemo today, but still have 6 more radiation treatments, then another week or two downhill before recovery begins.      thanks for you continued prayers!!!!!!!!      Don

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eating is Important

From Mary .. 

Just a note to update you on all that is going on. Don's treatments are coming along. We have two and a half weeks left. Daily radiation treatments - most of them at 8:30 am in Durham. It's a nice drive every morning, Don and I get exercise power walking over the sidewalk bridge. 

His neck is getting red, kinda maroonish. He is starting to have really tender skin at the bottom part of the radiation area cause that has not been callused by the sun. I heard at church that we need to get some medicine on it right away to avoid complications.  

He doesn't eat or drink two days after his chemo (treatments once a week) . His appetite is better today - meaning - he has eaten 3 or 4 cups of food. I'm not sure how much water, but it's better then it was. Now he drinks maybe 3 glasses in a day. He has been taking his vitamins, I pull them apart and put them in his smoothie. Except for the red ones (they are the omega vits) . They do not mix well at all. The last couple days he has been happy with Gold Standard vanilla protein powder and vanilla ice cream (that has whole milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla beans) half and half - with a dash of cream. 

So fattening - but even then, if you only eat a cup or two - a couple times a day - you are good - you can eat whatever you want. Last week Don was out pounding hubs with Benjamin in the field. He is still working at his desk most of the day, making calls, drawing plans - managing stuff. He gets tired in the day, frequently - but that is a side effect of all his treatments. He might sleep in his chair at the desk or sometimes lays down on the couch with his new blanket. 

His throat is a constant pain, about a number 6 (out of 10 - 10 being crying out in pain) but the meds help bring it down to a 3. The three is probably what most of us have when we have a sore throat. He is lethargic sometimes and other times he gets up and does stuff around the house. He gets tired easily when driving so I do a lot of the driving back and forth to Durham. 

I have been putting coconut oil on his neck but I hadn't put it towards the bottom, we will have to see if it improves when I put it on there. I have not been faithful putting the oils on his feet. Sometimes he goes to bed and before I realize it he is settled in and I don't disturb him. 
That is our general schedule. I need to get better at being more consistent with his meals. 

Benjamin has been really handling the field work for the survey business for Don. He gets workers, talks to the clients, decides how the job needs to be done. Pretty impressive. 

Elisa is sad these days but she is seeking the Lord to help her get her heart on track with Him. Same with Ben Keenan. They have broken up and that has caused heartache in the family - cause Ben has become part of our family. But we all are trusting the Lord with their futures and we just know that God is going to do a good work.  

We are all really appreciative of LifeWay, Elisa's work. They have been so supportive of her and our whole family over the last month or so. Helpful with scheduling and working with our different dramas going on in our family. 

Antioch, our new church has been very encouraging to Don. He feels really loved there. I think we all do. The folks keep pointing us always to the Lord. All the little kids put a smile on all of our faces. So many kids in that church! Mark has great sermons and I really appreciate how he talks to and challenges the men to be the spiritual leaders in their families. There are a lot of men in that church that are serious about their roles as a husband and a father. The single men seem to be serious about their walks with the Lord and the direction the Lord is pointing them. And a lot of the women love ... whole foods!! We speak food to each other. Fun. Plus, there is fresh milk to buy and fresh eggs from the homeschool families. Pretty cool place. 

( This is a sermon about Joseph and his faithfulness - his character. 

That is a short rundown. We still have a lot of emotions running high around here. With Don's cancer treatments there is the unknown about weight loss and they keep threatening him with .. some terrible thing if he loses to much weight. A few other medical things that make me nervous but none of it makes Don nervous. He just keeps walking forward. Amazing. 
High emotions regarding Ben's departure but we are confident that God will take care of us all. Here is a verse that applies to our lives these days. 

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

 1 You have searched me, LORD,
   and you know me. 

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar. 

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways. 

4 Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely. 

5 You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me. 

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence? 

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea, 

10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast. 

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,” 

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.

 13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well. 

15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be. 

17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
   How vast is the sum of them! 

18 Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you.

 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
   Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! 

20 They speak of you with evil intent;
   your adversaries misuse your name. 

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
   and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? 

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
   I count them my enemies. 

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts. 

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.

I still have yet to take the Christmas stuff down - I will get to it, I know I will. 
Lots of things to do and funny thing - we will get to them, if the Christmas stuff is up a bit longer then it should, that is OK. 
Ben K. and I have a joke about how long will the Christmas wrapping be left out upstairs - who knows? I am confident at some point it will be put away. Too bad he's gone, I'd ask him to do it. hahaha Ben.

Still in the middle of this journey, still walking on auto, taking everything one day at a time. 
Thank you for all your prayers and support. 
Can you believe it .. the Lord just gave us over $100 worth of farm fresh Angus beef?? 
If you would like to pray for something, please pray that Don will be able to eat. That he would be hungry, and that he would be able to drink water!! 

We love you all. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

(Mary writes)
Today we are remembering that Jesus was born many years ago.
I love history cause it's shows us God's plans. SO many years ago, one part of God"s plan was fulfilled. So many combinations of things had to happen to make it precise. Which is yet another reason I love our God - He is precise. A perfectionist actually. The events that happened when Jesus was born were actually part of a bigger plan that was initiated at the beginning of time. God so loved the world that He GAVE His one and only son ....

Our desire to be god, to exalt ourselves above the Creator. Our inclination towards rebellion of the truth - that God is god and we are not -  brought separation from God. Being the perfect parent God has a greater understanding, a longer vision then us. We strive and pull, He plans and creates order.

And back to the point of this post ... His plan was to send a solution, His precious son Jesus.
Because of that Gift, we can be brought back into fellowship with the God,
Creator and Father who loves us.
I love Jesus and I can't wait for the day I get to walk with Him.

We have been having a crazy Christmas. The traditions have been really helpful. When at this time of our life when all the routines are gone and the life that we had come to recognize and know as our own is changed. Buying presents has been done in kind of a daze, we were late in putting up the tree. I didn't send out cards this year or make gifts for others. It's just a different type of Christmas this year. But, when we went out in the woods to find the tree, which stood without ornaments for days and days in our living room, we were going through the motions which gave continuity to our lives. One day at a time.
Elisa and Benjamin have been so fun, helping with shopping and wrapping. Elisa wrapped and shopped for her dad. Benjamin helped me pick out stuff for his dad's stocking.
There have been so many fun surprises.

Christmas Eve I was finally wrapping the presents. After lots of treatments and battling survey software Don has been very tired. He struggled to stay awake to watch our Christmas Eve movie - It's a Wonderful Life - As we watched the movie again another year ... it was finally starting to feel like Christmas. Very pleasant.
Traditions, they give a sense of a place in time. And the comfort of previous memories gave us a sense of security.

We made a video for the family, opening the presents they sent us and then we added a few songs to entertain them. Here is a sampling of a song we sang for the family.

(This movie has gotten out of sync, now it's just dumb but I can't get it off, it won't delete - sorry)

Otherwise ... 

Finally, this morning, after a long winters nap - we awakened at around 9:00 AM.
I got the kids up and we enjoyed a lovely morning together. Don got some great presents - a new pair of slippers, new pj's, a new blanket, a new pillow and 20 videos, along with some great books. We told him that the gifts represents his job for the next month. R & R.

Here are some pictures from Christmas Eve 

Christmas Eve dinner

Christmas magic

Christmas morning 

Our beautiful sunshine handing out the presents.

I got a new Bible ... So excited!! 

Even Daisy got a gift

Benjamin's candy stash

Here is Don, surrounded by his equipment. 

We hope that you also have had a wonderful Christmas. We love you ALL so much. 
Merry Christmas !!