Tuesday, November 30, 2010

first day of Chemo

written by Don

Today was my first Chemo therapy day, but also another radiation treatment.

We left the house at 7:45, made it to radiation by 8:45. The radiation therapy was not nearly as long as the first one, I was tied down for only about 10 minutes. I still felt a little of the claustrophobia, but thought it out and survived. It's a strange impulse to want (crave) to sit up when you are tied down...

The Chemo took a LONG time. We were there for initial bloodwork at 9:30, they told us it would be 45 minutes to start the Chemo; the Chemo med was delivered at 2PM...   If they had said it would be a 4 hour wait we would have been ready for a 4 hour wait. You all know how that feels I'm sure.

The Chemo consisted  of 30 minutes of saline for hydration, 1 hour of chemo, then 30 more minutes of saline. Once it starts it doesn't take long. And for the first time anyway, the chemo didn't feel any different than the saline. They gave me two anti nausea pills prior to the IV, by 9PM I still don't feel any nausea. We'll see how that pans out....

 Next Chemo day, 12/6, we are going in by 7AM, get the bloodwork done, then go to Chemo; not only will we be nearer to the head of the line and have a shorter wait, but we can do radiation in the middle at 9AM, during that shorter wait time. Should put us home by 3 or 4 instead of 6.

The Government VA hopsital is not interested in alternative anything, their main concern is that it may hinder their current treatment. In fact, they only use FDA approved treatments, meaning they only use the drugs that the drug companies submit to the FDA for approval. They won't even consider any alternative.. I don't like that. I'm sure that the chemo is not cheap, somebody has to pay for all that R&D...

I am so grateful for all your thoughts and prayers, it really makes a difference when I am in treatment. Chris B told us she prayed specifically for the radiation to kill all the cancer cells and spare the good tissues, I like that. I am so certain that God's will be done, I will be finished and cancer free sooner because of all the prayers. Thank you all and God bless you.

From Mary ...

Today was a really tough day. It's only the 2nd day of treatment and I as I sat alone in the overly crowded room .. I cried.

The day started out hurried and out of order.
I need to get a new order going in my life, an early morning routine.
 I have smoothies to make, vitamins to count out and oil capsules to fill. On top of all the regular morning stuff I was able to make an awesome smoothie - beautiful green kale with added carrot and apple.
We were going to have a long day today and trying to keep on top of Don's alkaline diet I knew I needed to have food from home. I was able to find some fresh green beans, put them in a zip lock and make some herbal tea in my thermos. In a desperate attempt at food I threw in a package of cancer food, white flour crackers. Finally, off we went. We made it there on time and made our way to the clinics.

Downstairs in the BASEMENT - no windows, concrete walls - we go to the radiation dept.
It's a small waiting room with enough electrical plugs for me to use to plug in my laptop.
The tough part is looking at all the other patients as they wait for their turn. Most of them just stare at the walls. Some, like the guy sitting next to me today, love to talk. This one man was telling me how the Lord helped him through homelessness and into a better life. He said that now he is very prayerful because He has to ask the Lord what bad things he is allowed to do and to what extent.
I was in a bit of shock - I told him that is different from me cause the Lord doesn't allow me to do any bad things. He told me his reasons, I asked him if he reads the Bible, he said he does so I figured the Lord will teach him through His Word.

As I sat out there in the waiting room, my heart was in the radiation room with Don. I was so sad that he was in there.

I have had a battleground in my mind.

We made it up to chemo .. it's a larger room, it has one TV with pointless shows and people just staring. Some of the folks seem well, but many are alone and silent. As I look around the waiting room I see the many people rolled in and out in their wheelchairs. Bodies slumped down. Alone. There are a lot of older men, bended backs, worn.
I hated being there.

The system at the VA is a first come first serve program. We came in later so we were far down on the list - but we didn't realize about that process all morning. We just knew we were supposed to be going in for Chemo at 10:00 am but instead it was waiting and waiting.

 All along my goal and my hearts desire was to be encouraging for Don. I was battling in my mind and heart.
I had a few grounds in which I was battling. The first one was my internal objection to this whole process in our lives. This demanding invasion.
The other battle was my self pity. Oh boy, did I have a lot of that. I had forgotten my goal of replacing my self pity with thanksgiving.
In my previous medical experiences I had become accustomed to .. comfort, lovely decor, privacy, my needs attended to.
Instead, at the VA -   there were crowded conditions, coughing, somber faces and
being one of the many.
Being surrounded by all that was despondent - I didn't even remember to think about the Lord.

It was while Don - being ever brave - was in the chemo room receiving the his treatments, not complaining and but instead finding the good- that I came to the lowest part of my day.

As a last desperate attempt to have some control in my life I opened my laptop. I found the classical section on my Itunes and proceeded to have order amidst chaos.

I looked at the pictures from our family Thanksgiving and like a piece of ice beginning to thaw I started to remember my blessings.
Looking at their faces made me smile.
Then listening to amazing praise music, looking at my blessings I remembered the Lord.

That's when I cried.

All the emotions came to the top of my heart. I felt safe enough to cry.

Don, is my protector and provider and he has cancer.

Somehow the room condition didn't matter as much, it was secondary. I came to the real issue, my fear.
I felt safer somehow. The Lord brought me to my need for Him. I am so thankful that He reminded me of Him - even amongst all the chaos.

As I was listening to my music, crying and being with the Lord I saw the nurse practitioner I had previously decided I didn't like - mostly because she represented chemo and the dangers it ensued - and the Lord showed me a time in the future when I was no longer going to dislike her but instead have peace with her and the situation. I was grateful for that impression. It enlarged my perspective. That was today. Tomorrow is another day .. one day at a time.

Dwelling in the shelter of the Lord Most High

Monday, November 29, 2010

Radiation .. Day 1

 (By Don)  The wait is over, their planning and calculating are complete. I had my first radiation treatment today. 

When I went in to the VA radiation oncology dept, and a new technician showed my computer file to me, he said "make sure your picture is on here before we get started"...kinda scarey, I need to check to see if they got the right guy??

He showed the treatment area to me (the one on my neck, not the room I was going into), the area that would be x-rayed. It's bigger than I thought.  So is the treatment room.

I layed down on another one of those narrow tables, the one that doesn't leave room for my arms. But I didn't need to worry about them, he strapped them to that block and tackle rig I talked about in a earlier blog, my feet press against a board, pulling my arms taught and towards my feet, pulling my shoulders down, and ultimately assisting me to lie still. He put the infamous mask on me, bolted it (and me) down to the table, and I was trapped!! No way out. Strapped in to the rack---just like during the Inquisition...they had found out I was a Conservative!!

He is in the control room, on the outside, I am alone inside the treatment room. He had told me to raise my knees up if I had trouble (it's hard to scream with the mask on (he had also told me there was an intercom)).

My hands started to get numb, he said it was normal, just hold still. The technician began aligning my body to the machine, sliding me left or right, each time taking an x-ray to be certain I was lined up inside and out. After about 20 or thirty minutes, my hands were really getting numb. 

I wanted to get up. I began to experience claustrophobia. But I knew it was almost over. Wanted to sit up and massage my hands. The technician said "okay here we go!". I was lined up and he was ready to get started!!

But I knew I only had 5-6 minutes left. I could stick it out. I had to think about something else besides getting up. I had made a fist with each hand earlier but it did not help the circulation, I made fists again, around my thumbs. I put my thumb between my first two fingers and began counting, 1, 2, 3... When I got to 60, I would move my thumbs down to the next two fingers, and count out a minute more, then the next two and another minute, then back up again. When I ran out of space between fingers going up, 5 minutes would have passed and I would be almost done.

But my mind raced before I finished counting to 60 every time! My brain couldn't count to 60 without thinking about something else. But when it thought about being claustrophobic, I move my thumb and went on the next 60.... 1, 2, 3, 4...

Next thing I knew, he said "that's it!"  and I was done. "You can lift up on you knees" and then I started to take those stupid straps off my wrists. He said we can loosen them for tomorrow. I said good, let's do it. 

So this story is a little in jest. But I did get a little claustrophobic. This session was 60 minutes long, about 45 minutes bolted down. The remaining radiation treatments will be 20 minutes long with less than 10 minutes of solitary confinement. I can handle it. 

I asked the chief technician how often they would check the tumor to see how successful the treatments were, he said probably once a week, but I should check with the doctor tomorrow. I asked him to up the date of the first check, 'cause I had a lot of brothers and sisters praying for me, and it may be gone (Thy will be done) before we know it!!! He just smiled and said, 'check with the doctor'.  But the smile told me he knew what I was talking about. Praise Him, another brother!

btw, if anyone has a spouse, parent or adult child that smokes, my cancer is from my smoking for 30 years, then I quit for 12 years, but it still got me after those12 years of not smoking. If you know someone that smokes, be sure to tell them this story!!! They need to quit NOW!!

Tomorrow, my first chemotherapy treatment!

I (Mary) am so glad I get to be with Don as he walks this path - part of me is weak in the knees and the other part is hoping to be strong for him.  
I got my new necklace, it's a locket and I am going to put our picture in ... On the front I had written: 

Dwelling in the shelter of the Lord Most High

I wore it today and looked at it several times as we walked the halls and as I waited for him. I remind myself that Don and I are safe in the arms of our Lord that we love so much. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Have you ever wondered why certain things happen?

Have you ever wondered why certain things happen?

Well, I have, and I wonder why I have cancer.

James 1:2 says to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds because the testing of faith develops perseverance, so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. And when we persevere under trial, when we have stood the test, we receive the crown of life that God promises to those that love him. We have all experienced the satisfaction of a job well done, how much more so when we withstand the test...

Then there is the objective point of view. Maybe the trial is not for us at all. Peter says to rejoice, in as much as we are partakers of Christ's sufferings. 1Peter 4:13. Oswald Chamber's interpretation of this:
If you are going to be used of God, He will take you thru a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, but are meant to make you useful in His hands, to enable you to understand what transpires in other souls so that you will never be surprised at what you come across.We never realize at the time what God is putting us through; we go through it more of less misunderstandingly; then we come to a luminous place, and say- "Why, God has girded me, though I did not know it!"

And, all things work together for good, for those that love God. Romans 8:28, more Oswald Chambers:
The circumstances of a saint's life are ordained of God. In the life of a saint there is no such thing as chance. God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you cannot understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands. God is bringing you into places and among people and into conditions in order to bring them before God's throne and give the Spirit in you a chance to intercede for them. In this way God is going to sweep the whole world with His saints.

So it's not about me. God is using me, but not necessarily for me. I yield to his work. He is the Master Craftsman. I don't know where He is taking me, but I can't wait to get there. Yes I will waver. Right now I can talk a good talk. But just prior to my getting the results of my last scan I imagined my forgetfulness was brain cancer, eating away at my memory. Every bump or imperfection in my skin was the cancer coming out from my body. But the next day I was clean, test results negative. I am certain that there will be times I will waver. And I am also certain that this testing is not only for me but for those around me, my family.

When we left the hospital the last time, after getting the test results but also after talking to the chemo nurse, we were down. The scan showed several things to follow up on. The chemo went from three sessions total to eight total, once every week. Each chemo session takes 2-3 hours.  I saw several men getting their treatments and was not impressed. As we began our drive home, a semi passed us and there was a sign on the back of his rig, a verse that told us He would be with us thru the end. A personal message, just for us. God is good, all the time...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A small sampling

 Here are a few pictures of Don that I thought were fun. 

 Erin and Dylan's wedding 

Father and son - Benjamin going to Liberty

Here they are .. the Abele brothers.
Bob, Doug, Mike, Don and a next generation - Zackary

Looks like he is telling us something ever so cleaver 

Papa love to hike
Here he is in GA with Ethan

Loving the hair cut - thanks Dylan, love it. 

Don is a Mr. map reader

Don and Elisa. I'm sure Don is explaining some forest detail to enlighten his daughter 

Don and his cutest survey help

Papa loves his grandchildren. Here he is with Magnolia Jane. 

I'm telling you, map reader. 

Don's friends at his birthday .. don't you just love them? 

Don and Mary going to the beach.

Don with Ben, Benj and the little guys .. Ethan, Zackary and Henry. 

Playing Puerto Rico with the kids .. specifically his oldest daughter .. Kimberly.

Beach trip .. Wilmington 

Salt Lake Hogle Zoo with Zacakry and Henry

Papa loves the babies.  Here he is with Lucille Jane. 

Don is the kind of Papa that takes time with his grandkids. 

This is not Don BUT I had to add it to show how the apple did not fall far from the tree .. Kimberly is reading the map to Zackary, Henry and Lucy .. and grammy. 

Papa finds all the survey points .. even at the zoo. Here Henry is learning about them. 

Don worked at the Kennecott Copper Mine. He was in his element with all the HUGE trucks and massive construction. 

The proud victors of the new car hunt.
Don and Ben

Daisy interviewed Papa for an article on Daisy's Diaries. 

Don is not in this picture but we needed more of the Tuggle family.
Erin and Dylan, 
Aubrey, Ethan and new baby Magnolia Jane. 

Blessings from the Lord. 
Brothers in Christ. 
Stuart, Don and John

Further blessings .. 
Suzanne, Judy, Stuart
Don and I 
John and Lorie 

A little cutie we love 
Alex Austin

Don with Herman .. they love to discuss the Bible together. 

Don and Damon .. we love you Damon! 

Treasured time .. to the park with Zackary and Henry. 

Papa came to Salt Lake and Zackary met him with a GREAT big hug. 

Henry was happy to see his Papa .. 

Don, Kimberly and Ben (Ben the eldest, Ben the awesome) at the Copper Mine. 

Zackary LOVES maps, can you guess where that came from? 

Don and the wife he blesses every day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Alkaline? Frankincense? Whole Green Foods?

So much information .. so much riding on it.

I  (Mary)  haven't had near enough time to do all the research I want to do regarding cancer and what it takes get rid of it. 
Starters, there are 101 different herb combinations that cured aunt Suzie's uncle Harry.  Don and I are open to new ideas so I look into them. Lots of them don't have much back up. One promising herb tested on rats showed not change in tumor size. 

Choosing to believe what's proven over what's heard of, we look at what is proven.

One avenue involves a "treatment" that has shown great success, is clinically proven over and over but it is rather barbaric. Almost like a bull in a china shop. It involves putting large amounts of poison in the persons body in the hope that as they break down the person's system - the system that keeps them alive - breaking it down just short of total breakdown, strategizing that during that breakdown the cancer will not have withstood the onslaught of destruction and the person will be free from it.

Kind of freaked out by that one. But I will go on ..

We also have the "treatment" for cancer

Radiation   which consists of several types of subatomic particles, principally those called gamma rays, neutrons, electrons, and alpha particles, that shoot through space at very high speeds, something like 100,000 miles per second. They can easily penetrate deep inside the human body, damaging some of the biological cells of which the body is composed. This damage can cause a fatal cancer to develop, or if it occurs in reproductive cells, it can cause genetic defects in later generations of offspring. When explained in this way, the dangers of radiation seem to be very grave, and for a person to be struck by a particle of radiation appears to be an extremely serious event. 

But .. reading further I have also learned that we are bombarded with radiation every waking moment -

every person in the world is struck by about 15,000 of these particles of radiation every second of his or her life,2 and this is true for every person who has ever lived and for every person who ever will live. These particles, totalling 500 billion per year, or 40 trillion in a lifetime, are from natural sources. In addition, our technology has introduced new sources of radiation like medical X-rays — a typical X-ray bombards us with over a trillion particles of radiation ... http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter5.html

Lots of radiation for everyone, every day. Maybe not so bad if it's controlled.

Still .. it's a serious "treatment" that may have long term effects.

The reason we all don't die of cancer from radiation is that our bodies are designed by God to over come the assailment of many dangerous invaders. We have a system set in place that is so wonderful,
it combats villains from the time of our creation. 

After understanding that I have also come to understand that like Loius Pasteur said late in his life ..

"The Microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything."

My next principle to review is the terrain or Don's level of health in his body. Since there is cancer obviously something was amiss. The cancer cells which are so prevelent in everyone's bodies were able to survive God's protection mechanism. Don will tell you that smoking cigarettes directly effected his "terrain" by adding poison to his body. There was enough poison to adulterate the healthy cells and weaken his system.

God bless him though - we all think that it    (whatever it is for you)    will never happen to us.

In the end my goal is to strengthen Don's body.

I want to strengthen his body to fight the cancer cells, but at the same time allow for the breaking down of his system so that the chemo can work.

I have asked his dr about this. The dr says that whatever we do at home needs to be normal levels for living. For instance. I told the dr Don was having a lot of supplements. The dr. took it to mean that Don was having mega doses of things like Vitamin C - which is helpful in fighting off colds ect .. and that as Don would be having these mega doses that were strengthening the cells for health - they might also strengthen the cancer cells - which is bad -  meaning his "treatments" would be less effective and hence need to be done longer. Not good.

We are looking into ways to strengthen his body without mega doses of anything, maybe just putting his body into a healthy state. Being very careful not to weaken the "treatment" that is meant to finally kill the adversary.

That's where we are right now. Sifting though tons of stuff .. I am very excited to know about Frankincense oil though. I think we have come upon something that will not only improve Don's terrain, his level of health but has also been clinically proven to kill cancer cells. AND it won't conflict with the "treatments"

I am buying this oil from do Terra company. Actually, our wonderful daughter is buying it for us .. but we are in process of learning about it .. I have done tons of reading and it's pointing in the right direction.

I am also learning about whole foods. Alkaline diets .. tons of stuff. Whoda thought?

I will write more about it later. Must do laundry now.

Love you all .. and we are thankful from the bottom of our hearts for your love and support.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scan Day

     Today I had 2 more scans, my VA team is 'double checking' for any more cancer in my body. First was a CT scan of my head and lungs. Pretty uneventful, except for the drill sgt technician. Walked in. "take off your glasses and your coat." "Lay down." "put your feet here." "slide down." "arms over your head" "hold still."   .....scan.....  "you're done." "there's the exit..."  and I was done!! Had to have been a drill sgt!!
     The next one was actually not a CT scan but a "Barium Swallow". A technician and two helpers. The machine was quite different. This is the one I had to fast for from midnight. Ever notice how you Really Get Thirsty when you are not allowed to drink water? By 10AM I was Really Thirsty.      And Barium does not Quench One's Thirst.      He told me I would swallow one mouthful on the count of three, then turn to the side and swallow another mouthful when he counted to three. But I was a little nervous and on the second one swallowed when he said swallow. So I got a third swallow, which I swallowed when he said three. On each  count of three he took an Xray of my swallows.

     Then they gave me a small amount of what turned out to be similar to a chopped up fizzy tablet, which I had to swallow without burping. As it went down he was snapping away... the fizz of whatever this was was supposed to open my esophagus for better xray pictures. Then a small cup of water to wash it down.

     Then another cup of barium, more swallowing, as he took more xrays from the the front, sides and back.

     Then I went for a ride, from standing horizontally to laying horizontal. Laying on my stomach, she handed me a water bottle with.... not water but more barium... "drink this and swallow as fast as you can and as many times as you can"    ...then I changed sides and she said "drink more and swallow as many times as you can and as fast as you can...but the bottle was already empty and I need another refill. So I got a refill...more swallowing...

     This was for more xrays... I could see their monitor, the barium looked black, but they could follow it all the way down into my stomach. I may try to get a copy of the pictures, they looked real interesting. I was done in about 30 minutes. I will get the doctor's report tomorrow afternoon.

     So I went out, told Mary about the the test, then she asked if I was hungry for lunch, I had to admit that I was not, I was already full... of barium!  So we sat for awhile, I drank plenty of water. Then we went to lunch at the VA canteen. We had an appointment after lunch at 2..... in the speech therapy clinic.... the radiation treatments may tighten up my neck muscles.... so I had to learn some.....swallowing exercises!!!

     Seriously, if we get a good report from these two tests, there is no more cancer other than the tumor at the base of my tongue and the two swollen lymph nodes. I really am thankful for and appreciate all your prayers. God is good, all the time. And even though I am making light of some of my experiences in my blog, I am listening.