Cancer Blog - From Dec 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007
For the current page, please see: http://diehlmartin.com/cancer.html
Diehl Martin passed away in
October 2007. If you need to contact someone, please contact Monica Martin.
Jun 30, 2007
It has now been nearly three weeks since the last chemotherapy
infusion, and I feel pretty good. One thing which is obvious is that
for me the symptoms of the pancreatic cancer have been less pronounced
than the side-effects of the chemotherapy. Of course as time progresses
this will change, and I am apparently not far from that time, assuming
that I understand what Dr. Posey is telling me. I go back for
my next infusion on Monday July 2, 2007, and that will end the respite.
There are five more infusions scheduled, and then I do not know what
exactly will happen.
The chemo side effects now include the nearly total loss of taste and
smell. Foods have textures, and that is all. Add that to the intense
cold sensitivity and the attendant peripheral neuropathy caused by the
Oxaliplatin. Then add to that the wild skin rash from the Tarceva. Then
there is the total exhaustion from this level of poison in my system.
With the rapidly increasing tumor marker indicating that the chemo is
failing at controlling the rapidly growing and spreading tumors, I am
beginning to forsee a time when the chemotherapy will be discontinued
and hospice will be called. How long will that be? I do not yet know,
but I would be surprised to last another year.
The last couple of days have been productive. I fixed all of the
computer problems from earlier in the week. I am working on a couple of
minor projects on the house to make things better for Monica and the
photo business. It is so very hot this week that I really have to stay
inside, so I am working inside.
Last night we had a violent storm here, and lots of rain. I have spoken
before of our local downtown eatery, Wanda's Restaurant –
well the storm took their roof off, and filled their building with
water, so they will at least be out of business for a while. I went in
today and the folks from the fire and water recovery business were
packing up everything for drying. Wanda's husband Jim looked seriously
pale. I would ask all of the prayer warriors to lift up Wanda and Jim
Poole. They need divine help now to get through this.
Jun 28, 2007
Yes, I am still alive. Circumstances have overtaken me, and I have not
been able to blog this week.
Saturday evening through Wednesday evening I was with Monica at the
annual convention/seminars/ trade-show of the Professional
Photographers of Mississippi and Alabama. There was internet access
only if I were willing to pay dearly for it, and I could not afford to
do that. So there were no updates during that time. No, this was not a
vacation – it was exhausting. We learned a lot, though.
When I got back I had to deal with a dead air conditioning unit (here
in hot and humid Alabama that can be a real problem) and two
inoperative computers. Both computers had been running Microsoft
Windows, and both had Windows failures. I despise Microsoft and I
despise Windows, because Windows has proven to be so very fragile that
the slightest problem requires the entire operating system and all of
the applications to be reloaded, and then Microsoft has the audacity to
make it nearly impossible to reauthenticate Windows XP when it dies and
has to be reloaded. They must really despise, loathe, disrespect, and
hate their customers to treat us that way. But as long as they make
billions and billions of dollars, they can do no wrong according to our
government and the sycophant computer trade press. (By the
am writing this on an IBM ThinkPad laptop running Linux. It is
affordable and has given me no trouble whatsoever.)
I am enjoying an extra week without chemotherapy. The scheduling got
reset because of the appointment with Dr. Posey, and so I ended up
skipping a week. I have relatively few symptoms (yet) from the cancer,
but the chemo side effects are pronounced. But by now, the chemo side
effects are wearing off, and I am beginning to feel human again. Of
course, the time off may accelerate the progress of the tumors, but I
am still enjoying the change. Next Monday, I go back to Kirklin Clinic
for the beginning of the next ten week series of treatments, and that
is soon enough.
Jun 21, 2007
The next phase of this cancer event seems to have started. Today I
returned to Kirklin Clinic to have some more blood tests, and to see
Dr. Posey. Most of the blood work showed expected things, caused by the
chemotherapy (lowered hemoglobin level, fewer platelets, and such).
However, the CA19-9 tumor marker had more than doubled since the May 7,
2007 tests. The CA19-9 was 160 last time, and this time is 349. This is
a sign that in spite of the aggressive chemotherapy, the tumors have
been growing rapidly. The road through the valley has started, and the
end is in sight.
One new side effect of the chemotherapy is that I can taste just about
nothing now. Food has textures, and a tiny bit of smell associated with
it, but even that is fading. When my dear sweet Monica asks
I want to eat, I do not know what to say, because the food I remember
is not what I will experience. Last night was typical: we had to eat in
a hurry, and stopped at Burger King. I had a Whopper with cheese, and
the only thing with any taste whatsoever was the pickle, and even that
was barely there. Eating an onion could just as well be eating an
apple, and I would not know it, other than the different texture.
What shall I do? I will trust my Lord and Savior, and not worry about a
thing. When He calls me Home I am ready to go. Until then I will work
as long as I am able. I have served Him all these years, and I am
certainly not going to stop now.
Jun 20, 2007
Today we received good news – Blue Cross Blue Shield of
is paying for the full chemotherapy cost, including the horribly
expensive Oxaliplatin. This had us concerned, as the folks at Kirklin
Clinic made me sign a statement each time I went for chemo stating that
I knew that if BCBS did not pay, that I was liable for the entire
amount. At over $4,500 per treatment for the Oxaliplatin, this was not
something I could figure out how to pay by myself. So once again the
Lord has provided a way out, and I am very thankful.
I am still very tired today, and a bit distracted as well. The
neighbors are having the 100 foot high oak tree on our property line
removed today, and it is so large that we wondered how they would be
able to get it out without damaging things. So far, it has gone
perfectly. Hooray for people who know what they are doing.
Jun 18, 2007
Today I am telecommuting once again. There is enough energy to sit in
the office chair and do CAD work on the computer. Life is good.
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Jun 17, 2007
Ah, it is Sunday at last! I taught our adult Sunday school class, and
thoroughly meddled. It was fun. Then we went off to sing in the choir
at the late service. That was the end of the day as far as energy was
concerned, but I had accomplished what I set out to do. I do not mind
at all blowing the whole day's energy at church.
My primary text for today's lesson is this:
of you will be able to read it, and others will not be able to do
so. For those who cannot, it is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and
is the key to understanding the whole book of Deuteronomy, and really
all of scripture.
Jun 16, 2007
Today Monica taught a portraiture class, and I used all my energy
preparing for it, and then helping out for the morning session. After
lunch, I went down for a long nap, and when I got up the afternoon
session was just about over. I do what I can, but I still have to
contend with the fact that the energy level is really low.
Jun 12, 2007
I'm very flat today. Yes, the day after chemotherapy infusion tends to
be the lowest day. Nevertheless, Monica says that I am doing better
than after the last couple of infusions, so I am glad. Well, perhaps
she was influenced by my behavior at lunch. Monica told me that the
strawberries were at the point of eating them today, or tossing them
tomorrow, at which point I launched into a bombastic verse of
“It's now or never...” warped to speak of
instead of love. She must be right. If I am able to sing Elvis songs,
then I must be doing better than two weeks ago.
Jun 11, 2007
Today was infusion day. I have had the Gemzar and Oxaliplatin pumped
into me, and all of the energy pumped out. (I am also taking Tarceva
orally.) The next few days may be very flat indeed. My good friend
Richard Moebes drove me down to Kirklin Clinic today (bless him!!) and
so there was good company and conversation all the way to Birmingham
and back. It is great to have as generous a friend as Richard, who is
willing to repeatedly take whole days out of his schedule to get me to
Today I took the laptop computer loaded with work for me to do. My day
job is great, in that it is very distracting, and keeps me from
thinking too much about the cancer or the treatment. So I used the
laptop as a CAD system, and built parts for the parts library, put them
on the new schematic, and wired things up. So in spite of it being
infusion day, I still got a fair amount of work done.
Jun 10, 2007
Today has been a good day, but then again Sundays usually are good
days. We made it to Sunday school and then sang in the choir at the
second service. For lunch we had our Sunday treat, tuna sandwiches. OK,
that is our cheap lunch for Sunday, but some time ago our daughter
Marie told us that for years she thought it must be something special
because it was what we had after church on Sunday. Then it was nap time
for me, and after that we went up the hill to O'Charley's for supper.
The food was good, but I couldn't eat much of it. There was a salad
which I ate most of, then a little steak and some broccoli, which was
very good but which I could not finish. I ended up taking half of that
home in a carry-out box.
One of the side effects of the chemo is that my stomach area is always
upset, and nothing feels good to eat. This is a lousy diet plan, albeit
rather effective. Food? Well, I just really don't much care if I eat or
not. I still weigh just a bit less than 180 lbs, so losing weight is
not going to make me waste away any time soon. Still, food is as much a
social event as anything else. I could just listen, talk, and not eat
what is on my plate. I feel worse when I don't eat, so there is a limit
Jun 9, 2007
Today I received email from the wife of a fellow pancreatic cancer
patient, saying that he had gone Home to be with the Lord. I get rather
a lot of emails from people with pancreatic cancer, and their
caregivers, and there are some real heart-wrenching stories involved.
It seems that most people are not diagnosed until their cancer is much
farther along than mine, and so they only find out what they are facing
very near the end. Yes, I apparently am going downhill too,
but my hill is not as steep as theirs yet. My heart goes out to them
all, but there is not much I can do. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is a
very harsh diagnosis, and one which offers very little hope of
recovery. The most the medical folks can do is try to slow the
progression and give the patient a bit more time. No one talks in terms
of a cure. There isn't one yet. It spreads like wildfire, and destroys
the internal organs one by one until the body cannot continue any
Without my Lord I do not know what I would do. He has carried
me through this desolate land, and is still carrying me now. In the
end, I get to go Home with Him forever. In the meantime, I may feel
lousy, but I know that this too shall pass. The end of the story is
written. I just do not know exactly what will happen between now and
then, so I continue day by day clinging to my Lord and Savior. He knows
what I am going through, and I trust Him completely.
Jun 7, 2007
Yesterday was a very full day indeed. Derek, my supervisor, came out to
the Guntersville office, and we spent a very intense morning going over
the details of new designs which I am to begin shortly. Our talk
extended through lunch (at Wanda's restaurant, in Beautiful Downtown
Guntersville) and then I got back to work for the afternoon. I had a
tiny supper – I could not bear the thought of much food by
– and had a brief nap before heading off to church for choir
rehearsal. By the time we got home it was way past time to push me
through the shower and off to bed.
On the one hand, I do usually find the energy for the things which
really must be done. On the other hand, I run so tired sometimes that I
run the risk of quite literally falling over. But who am I to complain?
I am coming up on three years since being diagnosed with pancreatic
adenocarcinoma, which is usually fatal right away, and am still here
and still joyful. Thank you,
This is the first day I have felt reasonable in about a week an a half.
There is still not a lot of energy, but I can work here at my computer,
and as long as I do not exert myself much physically, I feel almost
normal. The Elidel seems to have knocked the rash down dramatically
– the giant forest of pimples all over my face are almost
and with them the itch is mostly gone too. I am thankful for small
things at this point.
Jun 4, 2007
The Lord is very good to me. I am well enough to work today. The Elidel
has reduced the rash on my face sufficiently that I can shave again,
which makes me look much more normal. My beloved Monica is wonderful,
and we are still very happy after knowing each other for more than 40
years. So life is pretty good today.
Yes, there is not much energy, but I can still smile, and I do. Thank
you, Lord Jesus!
Jun 2, 2007
Dr. Posey prescribed Elidel
to apply to the nasty rash, and after a few days, it seems to be
helping. It is a topically applied immunosuppressant, and has quite an
interesting bunch of warnings. For a Stage IV Pancreatic Adenocarsinoma
patient undergoing truly nasty chemotherapy, I am currently just
pleased to get some relief from the ugly, itchy side-effects of the
Jun 1, 2007
I don't feel well enough today to say much. So instead I am putting
here a hymn which everybody knows – but they really probably
don't know the whole hymn, or its story. When you get to the end,
perhaps you will understand why it means a lot to me.
Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.
tells me so.
Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, “Let them come to Me.”
Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.
Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.
Here is the original last verse they don't print in the hymnals:
Jesus loves me! Loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill,
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree.
The story of how the song came to be written may be found here:
May 31, 2007
Yesterday was “the day after chemo” and it was the
one so far. This round of chemo has hit me very hard. I succeeded in
working (telecommuting) and got a bunch done, but by about 3:30 p.m. I
could barely move. I felt extremely cold, and so Monica bundled me up
in three thick layers in the big chair upstairs, and after about a half
hour I stopped shivering. The day was essentially over at 3:30. A few
hours later I got up, washed up, and went to bed for the night. As you
might guess, I didn't make it to Wednesday evening church and choir
Chemotherapy is carefully dosed poison, which is given in sufficient
doses to kill cancer cells, and hopefully not kill the patient. With
three separate chemo agents in use now, I am in a world of hurt. The
crazy part of this is that there is still no hope of a cure with this
treatment. It is just a delaying action to delay the pancreatic
adenocarcinoma from finishing me off.
I have the advantage of knowing that the future is taken care of. My
Savior took care of that long ago. Soon there are decisions which will
need to be made concerning whether to continue this treatment, as the
treatment is both awful and furiously expensive, with no promise of
recovery. I do not worry about tomorrow, though. Jesus knows about it
all, and so I do not need to worry. Where He leads me, I will follow.
May 30, 2007
I am very low today. Yesterday's chemotherapy infusion drained all of
May 29, 2007
Today I am at Kirklin clinic, and today is infusion day for me. Oh,
trill of thrills! First comes the Gemzar, then a calcium/mangenese
supplement, then the Oxaliplatin, and then more calcium/mangenese
supplement. It should take about five hours. The blood test results
were not too far off normal, but they indicated that I was a bit
dehydrated. This is not from a lack of drinking enough liquid, as I
probably drink two liters or more of liquid besides what I get at
meals. I have scanned the blood test results, and the pdf file is here.
If you look at the report, you will see that in spite of eating
carefully, the blood sugar reading is still high at 108. I understand
the significance of that number is that what is left of my pancreas
cannot produce sufficient insulin to properly use the sugar, and as my
pancreas gets further eaten up, this will probably get worse. According
to the nurse, I have lost about 3-1/2 pounds in two weeks, which says
that the high blood sugar is not the result of my eating too much of
the wrong things. So I will have to watch this very carefully indeed.
Today John Morris drove me to the clinic. Thanks, John! Monica would
have driven me here today except that she has a big photography job
this morning, and since there are 18 models hired for the event, it was
not going to be rescheduled. This is the big summer clothing
advertisement shoot for a local clothing chain, and Monica needs for
this job to go well so that there can be future business there.
I asked about the terrible rash, and Dr. Posey prescribed an ointment
to apply to the affected area. I hope it works. Of course, what
constitutes “working” is open to question as well.
the part of the rash that is on the back of my head makes my scalp sore
to the touch. I described it to Monica as a case of my hair hurting.
Hair, of course, cannot hurt, but the description is apt, nevertheless.
One thing that the rash means is that I did not get a placebo. One of
the oncology nurses said that the fact of the rash is telling me that
the Tarceva is working on the inside as well as on the outside.
Hmmmm..... what does this mean? Does this mean that I have a
rash on the inside, too? We shall see. The next doctor visit where the
progress (or lack thereof) will be evaluated in on June 21, 2007, and
Dr. Posey will get to determine how well things are working from the
blood tests alone, since no other tests are allowed by the insurance
company this soon since the last tests. This really is walking by faith
and not by sight – or perhaps stumbling around in the dark.
Prayer warriors: please pray that the insurance company will pick up
the cost of the Oxaliplatin treatments. I cannot afford them by myself,
that is for sure. The label on the infusion bag of
says that I got 179 milligrams of this fine chemotherapy agent, and
that is costs $4,475. It is so expensive that Kirklin Clinic made me
sign a waiver before they would infuse it, saying that just in case
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama didn't pay for it, that I know that I
have to pay for it out of my own pocket. One treatment at that cost is
bad enough, but every two weeks? Oh my...
May 28, 2007
In spite of it being Memorial Day, we have customers coming. We
photographed a wedding two weeks ago, and today we have the couple
coming to see their wedding pictures. These are fun events.
The rash from the Tarceva (one of my chemotherapy drugs) is
exceptionally nasty. It feels like a colony of large ants has taken up
residence on my face, and the area on and around my nose looks for all
the world like the results of ant bites. Ugh! I am fully capable of
keeping my hands away from my face, but that does not stop the itching,
and a look in the mirror is a frightening experience. The medical
people have declared this to be “perfectly normal”
someone taking Tarceva, but “normal” is in no way
feel. This stuff is nasty, and the rash is continuing to
May 27, 2007
Today has been a good day, although the energy was used up early. We
started out in our Sunday School class, and I was teaching today. Since
I am low on energy, I was not as energetic as I usually am. It went
well enough, but by the time I was done speaking (about 35 minutes) I
was totally spent. From there we headed to the choir room, and got
ready to sing. I made it through the hymns and the anthem, listened to
the sermon, and we headed home. I was almost too tired to eat, and
headed off for a long nap. I did not make it back to church this
evening, either. Once the energy for a day is gone, it does not just
Monica drove us to Huddle House for supper, and I was really too tired
to deal with it. I had their “crispy chicken salad”
ate enough to have said I had supper, but did not get anywhere
near finishing it. I was too tired to eat.
The Lord is very good to me. In spite of this crazy cancer business, I
have no real reason for complaint. Everything we have needed has been
supplied. I have no reason to think that will change, either. The Lord
is very good to me, indeed!
May 24, 2007
I spoke late yesterday with Dr. Posey's office, and the nurse on duty
stated that the wild rash and spontaneously bleeding spots are normal
side effects for this set of chemotherapy drugs. She said to look
around the next time I am in the infusion waiting room, and that I will
see a significant number of people with similar side effects. OK, so it
is normal. That makes it no less annoying, painful, and itchy.
I looked up the documentation for these drugs, and what I see is
research results which say that they tend to increase survival just a
little bit – say from six months to seven, on average. I see
examples of cures being shown in their literature. So I really have to
wonder at the cost and side effects of the drugs, if they are only
marginally successful at treating the cancer. I have to ask the
question: Is this sort of treatment something which makes sense? I have
no answer for that question right now. As the patient, I do get at
least some say in what is done, and so far I have gone along with
everything which Dr. Posey has suggested. But I am reminded of my
mother's experience, where she was treated for cancer over the course
of a year, much of that spent in absolute misery from the treatment,
and at the end of the year died anyway. That was 25 years ago, and my
thought at the time was that she had been diagnosed with cancer, and so
they tortured her until she died. Yes, that is a harsh assessment, but
it sure seemed that way at the time. In retrospect, we might have
handled things differently.
So, where do I go from here? Right now I will continue the treatment
which has been prescribed, which means two more infusions, and then
another visit with Dr. Posey to see what has transpired. Beyond that, I
do not know. I continue to seek the Lord's will in the matter. In Him
alone I trust.
May 23, 2007
I am very carefully keeping my hands away from my face. The latest
chemotherapy is causing a nasty rash, which is first and foremost on my
face (but is elsewhere too), and it itches furiously. The nurse who
returned my call said I should try benedryl, and see if it helped any,
and while it might be reducing the itch, I really cannot tell. Ugh, I
feel like scratching the skin off of my face, but I know it would not
help, so I just leave it alone. Even though I have been very careful
not to touch it, the rash has begun to bleed in places as well. It
looks as bad as it feels. Yes, I know, it could be worse. If I
wait, it just may get there, too.
I have put in another call to Kirklin Clinic to see if there is
something else I should be doing. In the literature there are
statements about the potential dangers of using these chemotherapy
agents while using blood thinners, and I am still on Arixtra (a blood
thinner) for the thrombosis they found earlier this year. I have to
wonder if this is not adding to the difficulty.
Did I mention how badly it itches? Owie.... Owie! Owie! Owie!
May 21, 2007
I wrote last Monday that one of the nurses had asked me whether the
skin rash from the Tarceva had started yet, and that it had not at that
time. Well, it has officially started, and boy does it itch. I now have
pussy little spots developing all over, and especially on my face. Now
that I know what it is, I can live with it by knowing I should ignore
it, but still, this level of itch is hard to ignore. Something tells me
that this is not the worst it will get, either, as it continues to
Anyone local who reads this will understand why I have stopped shaving
for the duration, and that yes I will look different for a while. I
find it amusing that, from past experience, the older ladies here in
Guntersville will come right out and tell me that I really ought to
shave, that it looks better and such. Yes, I know that, but I
afraid that I will make the situation much worse shaving through this
I have one other observation. The Oxaliplatin was advertised as causing
peripheral neuropathy, and that cold can bring on acute episodes of
this. Well, it sure does. It was advertised as being a “pins
needles” sensation, and that does not do it justice. Mine is
like being stuck with cactus. Cutting up vegetables to make a salad
causes this in my hands, and drinking cold liquid makes it feel like I
swallowed the whole cactus. Yuk! So now I am even more careful to avoid
all things cold. Oh, and it gets worse: the literature says that after
taking Oxaliplatin for a while, I will probably develop chronic
neuropathy, and that it can take weeks or months to go away, assuming
it ever does. I am so very thrilled.
I have my next appointment with Dr. Posey on June 21, 2007, and at that
time he will determine whether this treatment is working, and whether
it is rational to continue it. We shall see how this works out. There
is no guarantee that it will have any positive effect whatsoever,
although it does have real side effects.
I am not worried, though. I am entirely in the Lord's hands, and that
has not changed even one bit. He knows full well what I am going
through, and I am satisfied that all is well even when my body is
telling me otherwise. If life were all about this world, and nothing
else, there might be cause for concern. But that is not the case. As a
citizen of Heaven, I am not worried that here in this foreign land
things are hurting and itchy. This too shall pass, one way or another.
May 20, 2007
Perhaps you have heard of “Spoon Theory.” If not,
for a quick overview of it, and then come back and continue. You're
back? Good. Then we can continue. Yesterday, I used all of my spoons
for Saturday, and some borrowed from today, by getting up bright and
early, and doing all of the yard work. I ran the weed eater around
everything, used the riding mower to mow the entire yard (it is 468
feet deep, and takes a while to complete) and then used the backpack
mounted leaf blower to clean everything up. By the time it was over, I
could barely move, and the day was essentially over, by 10 a.m. But the
yard was done, and I could at least muster the energy to open the
blinds and see that it looked good.
This morning we got up and went off to Sunday school and the later
church service. Monica had to rehearse through part of Sunday school
for her ladies' group special music, while I simply sat through Sunday
school. Then we left for the choir rehearsal before the service, and we
did that. I did an extensive narration for an anthem (fun!) and that
worked out well. Once again, though, it was quite draining, and by
noon, the spoons were all used up. So I slept until supper, and then we
went off to Sunday evening church, where Monica's singing group sang
eight songs, and came home. What a weekend. Note that the energy level
is lower than it has been, but if I am careful and think about it in
advance, I can plan the use of my limited energy to do a few things I
really need/want to do.
May 18, 2007
The chemotherapy infusion was Monday. Today is Friday, and I am
beginning to feel a bit better. The energy has returned sufficiently to
allow me to work all day without a siesta.
The Oxaliplatin has an unpredicted and unusual side effect. As I have
written before, during the chemotherapy with Gemzar I have had
continuing bouts with skin infections involving my legs (tinea of some sort)
and it has never really gone entirely away. Well, it would seem that
the Oxaliplatin poisoned the tinea,
and that skin infection has cleared up completely. It makes sense.
Platinum in a “heavy metal,” and that is quite
living things. In this case, yes, the poison was meant for the cancer,
but it wiped out the skin infection in the process.
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
May 17, 2007
The first few days after the new and improved chemo infusion have been
spent in a state of exhaustion. Whatever else this fine medication
does, it is an energy drain of the first magnitude. Yesterday evening,
I almost put myself to bed without my supper, since I was really too
beat to make or eat it. I did convince myself to eat, and then headed
off to Wednesday evening church, but then was so tired that I was
unable to stay through choir rehearsal. I feared that if I got any
lower, that I would be unable to drive the three blocks back home again.
This morning I have propped myself up in front of my work computer, and
expect to get a full day's work accomplished. It will probably be all I
do today, but it needs to be done. I have to keep working to have the
health insurance to pay for the (fabulously expensive) cancer treatment.
Note, though, that the exhaustion is the only major side effect from
the new chemotherapy regime. That is a blessing, since these drugs are
reputed to frequently cause much worse trouble than this. The Lord is
very good to me indeed.
May 15, 2007
Yesterday's chemotherapy infusion went as well as could be expected. It
took all day, but at least there were no immediate adverse reactions to
the new medications. Richard Moebes gave me his whole day, and drove me
there, waited patiently, and drove me back. We talked, and talked, and
talked some more. Thanks, Richard!
So far, the only obvious side effects from the combined Gemcitabine,
Oxaliplatin, and Tarceva are sore muscles in odd places (for instance,
my jaw muscles ache) and more thorough gastric distress. I also seem to
have a case of “chemo-brain” as evidenced by
vocabulary when I speak – I am not always saying the right
and am often at a loss as to what the right words are. So I will have
to be careful to speak even more slowly and carefully than I have been.
I have made a pdf file of the blood test for 5/14/2007, and it is
It provides a baseline of sorts, so that it should be possible to
follow what changes occur over the course of this three-drug treatment.
One positive thing to note is that the dietary change has made a
positive effect on the blood sugar. See that listed under
“Glucose.” It is still high at 102, (normal is
70-100) but is down by twenty points from what it was the last time it
One thing which I find educational is that in spite of the diagnosed
stage IV pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and in spite of the increasing
number of organs affected, I have nearly no remarkable symptoms other
than those from the chemotherapy drugs. People sometimes ask why a
relative's pancreatic cancer was not found early enough, and I now know
the answer. Until some major organ gets so cancerous that it causes
major symptoms, the patient does not know to go to the doctor and get
any diagnosis. But furthermore, even then, the diagnosis is likely to
initially be confined to something being wrong with that particular
organ. So, for instance, someone who has symptoms of diabetes is likely
to initially be treated for the diabetes, and not immediately suspected
of having anything else wrong as a cause. So the pancreatic cancer
continues to spread unnoticed. In my case, if the initial tumor had not
blocked the bile duct and caused obvious jaundice, I would not have
known something was going very wrong.
So, here I am, 2-1/2 years after initial diagnosis, still living and
doing remarkably well. Yes, I have had to slow down a lot, and yes
there is absolutely no guarantee of what tomorrow will bring. The Lord
is very good to me, and I have no reason to complain. He has His own
purposes for my life, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to live
out the life He has provided for me.
May 11, 2007
Today we received the letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama,
approving the use of Tarceva in my treatment. I have attached a pdf
file of that letter here.
We then stopped at the pharmacy and picked it up, so I can start that
later today. So that part of the process has worked. On the other hand,
I got a call from Kirklin Clinic warning me that they had not received
approval for Monday's scheduled infusion of Oxaliplaten, and that I
will need to sign a waiver saying that I will pay for it if Blue Cross
Blue Shield of Alabama decides not to pay for it. The nice lady said
that they have never had BCBS reject this drug, but then again there
was no guarantee about it. Health issues are bad enough, even without
he uncertainties of the costs. Yes, I know that drug companies have to
make big profits to pay for drug development, and to keep their
investors paid off and happy. That does not make it one bit easier when
it come time to pay the bills.
The Oxaliplatin, by the way, is scary stuff. I have put the nurse's
and it leaves me with the impression that this is the first
chemotherapy drug I have faced which has been proven to accasionally
just kill a patient outright, even properly administered. It has a
truly remrkable set of usual side effects. Next week may indeed be different.
Yesterday I drove the 90 mile round trip to Huntsville, so that I could
work there for the day. I met some of my objectives by going, including
speaking directly to a few people who needed to know what is about to
happen with the changes in my chemotherapy treatment. I spoke to Steve
Case, the CEO, about my changing medical condition, and what the next
treatment would be. He is extremely supportive, and I really appreciate
that. I work hard, and they know that – but quite frankly I
worked hard for several employers before who would have simply written
me off as too big a risk to keep employed. So, thanks Steve. I enjoy
still being able to work through all of this.
some telephoning, and found that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama
normally covers the use of Oxaliplatin for cases such as mine.
Itis off-label primarily because there is very little which
on-list for pancreatic cancer, since there are relatively few drugs
specifically for it, as compared to the biggies like lung cancer,
breast cancer, or colon cancer. So all should be well. This is a Very Good
since each dose of Oxaliplatin for mewill cost about $4,650.
cost would be for each infusion, every two weeks, in addition to the
$1,850 for the gemcitabine administerred at the same time. Add that to
the cost of the Tarceva, which is $3,450 for a 30 day supply. Ouch!
Without insurance, there simply is no treatment for pancreatic cancer,
since so few of us could possibly affort it.
May 9, 2007
One thing I have not mentioned in the blog is that, beyond the other
things changing, that my blood sugar level has been slowly rising. This
is checked every time I go for a chemotherapy treatment, and over the
last several months it has slowly crept out of the normal range (70-100
mg/dl) and and has been rising. OK, after the Whipple procedure half of
my pancreas is already missing, and so insulin production capacity is
lower than it once was. But note that in the CT scan report from Monday
it states that there appears to be cancer involvement in the pancreas
area again, and this may mean that the insulin production capacity will
fall some more. So now it really is necessary to get better control on
the diet to make absolutely sure that I am eating right, since getting
that wrong would make the situation worse.
So what is the problem? I have control over what I eat, and
should be possible to change things. That is all well and good, except
that there are now two conflicting goals: one is to keep my weight up
(which they urge on me about every time I go to Kirklin Clinic) and the
other is to carefully control the caloric intake so that there is no
extra insulin production necessary. I know how I will solve this, and
it will probably mean that the weight comes down slowly. I remember
when I was in junior high school that my grandmother Pauline Mast
Wessiert Garrett came to live with us, and she was a brittle diabetic,
albeit one who had a great weakness for her own cooking. My mom's
solution was to make sure that there was not even anything in the house
that Grandma could not eat on her very restricted diet. The whole
family lost weight including Grandma, who I would estimate lost 25
pounds in six months. She also felt a whole lot better with her
diabetes under control. During that period of time, I also learned to
enjoy eating that way. So, the solution is a simple one, and is
achievable. I have discussed the situation with Monica, and we will buy
groceries accordingly. That is easy enough to actually achieve.
This is one of my all-time favorite hymns. The words were written by
William H. How, and were first published in 1864. The usual tune is
(which in Latin means No Name), was written by Ralph Vaughn Williams,
and was first published in 1906. If you would like to hear it, you may
find it here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/f/a/fallthes.htm
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
May 8, 2007
For those who may be interested, I have scanned the CT scan reports
from May 7, 2007, and used Adobe Acrobat to turn them into pdf files..
The chest scan report is here,
and the abdomen scan report is here.
Of course these are not the CT scan slices – I wish I could
those and post them, but alas, that is beyond what Kirklin Clinic will
give me. The description that the radiologists prepared is quite
revealing all by itself, however. Yes, things are getting worse. This
is the first real statement that the lesions (that is doctor-speak for
signs of cancer) have spread to the liver. The spread in the lungs and
lymph nodes in the lung area is another biggie. The
skeletal metastases” (that is bone cancer) is another biggie.
This is also the first time that the cancer is stated to be back in the
pancreas itself. This is still pancreatic adenocarcinoma, but in stage
IV it has spread and continues to spread.
So, the next issue is that the treatment is changing. Dr. James Posey
indicates that what he wants to try is a much intensified and broadened
chemotherapy, in order to see if he can get any response whatsoever.
The Gemzar by itself, while it may be slowing the growth of the cancer,
has not kept the spread from happening. So what he is prescribing is to
use three chemotherapy agents simultaneously. The Gemzar will continue
at the same rate and dosing. Also added are Tarceva
The Tarveva is a daily pill, and the Oxaliplatin is another drug which
will have to be infused. All of this depends upon approval from Blue
Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, which is by no means assured. These drugs
are in the new and expensive category, and their use together is
experimental. So we shall see what actually happens.
All of these new chemotherapy agents come with their own side-effects,
and so the next few weeks may be, well, different.
For now I feel
better than I probably should, given all that is wrong. But the chemo
agents will, in all likelyhood, rectify that oversight.
What I find amusing is that our HR person sent out her annual health
insurance renewal notice yesterday, and in it is the statement that the
drug costs comprise about 25% of all spending, and that they had gone
up more than expected, and more than on other contracts. Hello? Yes,
that is probably my fault, since I am personally responsible for a
significant fraction of that cost last year and this. This slow death
of cancer is very expensive, and the only end in sight to the expense
is when the treatment is finally unsuccessful at keeping me alive. For
54 years I was the world's cheapest with regards to health insurance,
since I was never sick enough to see a doctor. Then I got hit by The Big One,
and became the most expensive
person on the plan. Ah well, this too shall pass. In a year or two, it
will be someone else. That does not give me joy in the slightest, since
I would prefer that no one have to go through this. On the other hand,
there will be someone else to blame.
So, fellow prayer warriors, now there is more to pray about. Once
again, my main prayer is that whatever happens, the Lord will use
me to glorify Him through any and all of this. I may have to live in
this progressively failing body for now, but I am consoled by the fact
that this whole cancer business is not about me – it is about
Him. He is faithful through all of this. He supports me through this
day by day, and when it is all over here, I get to be with Him forever.
So tell me again, how can I
May 7, 2007
Today was the day for the three-month medical tests and follow-up visit
with Dr. James Posey, the oncologist, at Kirklin Clinic. We left home
at about 7:30 a.m., and drove to Birmingham, found a parking space on
the seventh floor of the parking deck, and started the process. Since I
was scheduled for a chemotherapy infusion as well as the tests, they
“accessed” my port, and drew three vials of blood
Those went off to two separate labs (the CA19-9 testing is done across
the street at UAB hospital). Then we went directly to the radiology
area, and checked in for the CT scan, which was not scheduled for
another hour. Their new procedure, however, had me called in
immediately, stuck with an IV in the big vein in my wrist (up from the
thumb) and left in a very cold waiting room for more than an hour, with
no way to get my sweater back on over the IV. I was given a quart of
water to drink, and then after the scheduled time was finally called
back in to be scanned. Once that was done, we quickly walked to the car
for a quick lunch of a sandwich and some cucumber slices
was the only opportunity to eat) and then ran back to sign in for the
oncologist visit. It did not take long to get taken back to the
examining room, but we then waited for about two and a half hours to
see thee doctor. That was probably a good thing, because this way there
was time for the radiologist to read the scans, and for the blood test
results to be completed, and all of this to be entered in the computer.
After that, we headed straight home. What a day!
The doctor read all of the reports, and told us the news. The cancer is
continuing to spread, slowly, and now is firmly established in the
lungs and liver, as well the other places mentioned so far. He
specifically mentioned that there are significant signs of bone cancer
growth in the area where the back and spine meet (which explains the
growing soreness in that area). The lymph node involvement is now not
only in the abdominal area but in the lung area as well. The peritoneal
tumor is continuing to squeeze the inferior vena cava and aorta, in the
area between the blood vessels to/from the kidneys and liver. The
CA19-9 cancer marker is as high as it has ever been for me, at 160. Now
for the good news: the thrombosis in the inferior vena cava is gone,
which lessens the risk of an immediate stroke or heart attack if a
piece of it had come loose and lodged in the wrong place. Believe me, I
am thankful for such things.
I have copies of the reports, and I hope to scan them and put them up
here as pdf files. We can parse them together, and see what else was
said but which Dr.Posey did not mention.
Because of the above, Dr. Posey is changing the treatment. I
willnow be taking three chemotherapy drugs, one orally and
infusion. It would have been started today except that there was not
enough time to get it all done by the time the other appointments were
done. So I get this week off, and the new treatments will start on
Monday May 14th. Once again, the new drugs are in the fabulously
expensive category. We dropped the prescription for the oral
chemotherapy drug with Buddy Bunch, our favorite pharmacist, and he
first priced it ($3,400 for a 30 day supply) and then ran it through
the Blue Cross Blue Shield automated system, which denied approval for
payment. So Dr. Posey will have to personally argue the merits with the
insurance folks for any of this, before it can be approved. Should I
last the year, and should this new treatment continue, this year's
pharmacy bill will easily top $100,000. I am very expensive indeed.
The amazing part is that, in spite of the above, and in spite
the prognosis, I still feel remarkably good. Sunday I was able to teach
my Sunday School class, and sing in the choir. I work every weekday
that I am not in Birmingham for medical appointments. I still help
Monica with the photo business, and actually get some other things
done. The Lord is so good to me!
May 2, 2007
Yesterday was unusual. Oh, the daytime things went normally, but then a
few minutes after supper my cousin Peggy called and asked if were were
available to photograph her daughter Melissa's wedding, this weekend.
It seems that the previously arranged photographer is too ill to do it,
and so Peggy was scrambling to find a replacement. Oh, I forgot to
mention that the wedding is on the beach, on the outer banks of South
Carolina. I really love my cousin, the wedding sounds beautiful, and
this would have been a great opportunity, except that I don't travel
well any more, and Monica has been really tired lately. So after some
careful thought we had to decline, but Monica was able to arrange with
one of her friends (an excellent photographer), Karen Simmons from
Atlanta, to offer to drive up and photograph the wedding. All is well,
One frustrating thing about being sick with pancreatic cancer at this
level is that while I can do many things well enough that no one
notices that I am sick, there are some things I really have to decline
to do. No longer am I driven by what Imust
do, but rather have to be governed by what Ican
do. As long as I accept that attitude as my own, and do so without
apology, I can carry on without trouble. I need no longer worry about
what others have on their list for me to do, and they know this. I get
a whole lot done, but I do not get worried in the slightest about what
I can no longer accomplish. I sleep much better at night this way.
I am joyful in the Lord. Thank you, Jesus!
Apr 30, 2007
We had a very busy weekend. This was the 100th anniversary for our
Guntersville, Alabama, and there was much activity regarding that.
Furthermore, I did more computer troubleshooting (I have come to
despise computers and software as necessary but unmanageable),
photography business planning, book keeping, and such. Items that we
had for sale on eBay sold, and so things had to be packed up for
shipping. Friday evening was our “monthaversary”
the 27th of the month, and were married on the 27th of some
month) so we went to the nice restaurant for a celebration. I even
sneaked in a Sunday afternoon nap. All-in-all, it was a good weekend.
I get interesting emails from folks who are/have-been/care-for cancer
patients, and some of them provoke discussions. This weekend brought
one from a nice person with whom I discussed the difficulties of
knowing what highly-touted research really means. My take has been that
a lot of research results are statistically insignificant, but have to
be spun in a highly favorable light in order to get the next round of
funding (a process known as “grantsmanship”), and
the press picks up on the highly positive blurbs that flow from this
cycle, and tends to hype the latest little tiny result at the greatest
cure-all imaginable. As a result, I do not get very worked up over what
I see in the news about the Latest Wonderful Cure. When I see results
locally, then I might believe. In the meantime, it is of no practical
The Lord has given me another week with Monica, the Love of my Life. Am
I happy? You bet! Am I thankful? Oh yes! Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Apr 27, 2007
Yesterday I had a mandatory meeting at the Huntsville office, so Monica
and I drove to Huntsville first thing in the morning. She dropped me
off at the office, and then made some necessary purchases, and also
photographed at an outdoor portrait session. She picked me up after
work, and then we had supper at Little Rosie's Cantina (excellent
Tex-Mex food in Huntsville, Alabama) and then headed back to
Guntersville. We were both too tired to do much, so the evening didn't
last very long.
It would seem that the sulfa antibiotic may be working at dealing with
the lung issues. I am off of the Mucinex, the lung filling has receded
and things are rapidly improving. For this I am very thankful, as it
has been difficult to breathe for some time. So, why did the sulfa work
when the azithromycin didn't? Well, there is some thought that the
problem was not a bacteria at all, but rather a mold of some sort. The
sulfa antibiotics are supposedly much more effective at dealing with
the mold than the azithromycin. So how did I get the mold in my lungs?
My guess is that I was doing something outdoors without a dust mask,
when I really should have used one, and inhaled some quantity of it. It
could have been from pressure washing green stuff off of the north
walls, or it could have been from the huge clouds of dust from mowing
the yard. Who knows? But now I will be much more careful to wear the
dust mask when I work outdoors. I know, I know... as a cancer patient
with a weakened immune system I should know to do this, but sometimes I
have forgotten to do so.
Apr 25, 2007
The days immediately after my chemo infusion are days of flatness. This
week it is no different. Yesterday I did not get nearly as much done as
I would like, and went to bed early. I skipped the monthly meeting of
the Tennessee Valley Professional Photographers Association, because
not only was I too tired to drive, I was too tired to even ride along
to Huntsville with Monica driving. Chemo is just that way.
On the other hand, I am still here, and able to function for the most
part. I will be working all day on the engineering job by
telecommuting, and this evening will be church night, including choir
rehearsal. Tomorrow will be a full day at the Huntsville office. So
things must be going rather well. For someone who was diagnosed with
pancreatic adenocarcinoma 2-1/2 years ago, this is very good indeed.
The Lord is so very good to us!
Apr 23, 2007
Today we went to Kirklin Clinic for another chemo infusion. Boy, were
they ever overloaded! The appointment was for 11 a.m., and we arrived
an hour before in order to get the blood drawn and the blood analysis
done. We did not get out until after 3 p.m. for a 90 minute ling
infusion. This is called “Medical Standard Time.”
will be done when they are done, and no sooner. I cannot
complain, though. They are overloaded with patients because they are
very, very good at what they do. It is worth the wait.
We spoke first with Jill the RN, and then with Dr. James Posey, the
oncologist. The results from the MRI of my head ten days ago came back
mostly normal. There are small blood vessel issues (normally seen in
senior adults 20+ years older) but that is all. There is no
of a tumor or other similar problem. Hooray! So the migranes will be
treated with modern migrane medications. This is a relief.
Since I have been having serious chest congestion problems since
December, Dr. Posey got out his trusty stethoscope and listened to my
breathing. His comment was that my right lung is being
“musical” (not a good thing) and that since the
azithromycin hadn't fixed the problem that he would put me on a ten day
course using a sulfa drug instead. We hope and pray that this works.
All in all, this has been a good day. Yes it was long and tiring, but
things are really going well for someone with stage IV pancreatic
cancer. In two weeks, I will go for another CT scan and they will get a
good look and see what is changing inside me this time.
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
April 20, 2007
Was it flu? Was it food poisoning? We do not know the cause, but last
night was very rough for both of us. I'll spare you the details, but
let's just say that our gastric systems were very distressed indeed. So
we are both a bit short on sleep today, but feeling much better.
Out strangeness for the day is the closing of a large part of
Guntersville, Alabama, for the duration. One of the big grain elevators
on the other side of the lake caught fire, and the authorities have
been really worried about the possibility of an explosion. Grain
elevator explosions can be very powerful, and so this is no idle worry.
So Alabama highway 227 from US highway 431 east has been closed, and
that entire area evacuated. This has affected some of our photographic
customers. Monica was scheduled to do a senior session at a home on the
other side of the lake this afternoon, and that was called off. So we
shall see how long it takes for the local fire department to decide
that safety has returned to Guntersville.
On a much better note, our daughter Marie is flying in this evening. We
really do enjoy having her around, and so this is a wonderful thing.
She apparently found a really cheap flight, and took the opportunity to
come for a visit. More fun!
Once again, the Lord is very good to us.
Apr 18, 2007
We are back in town today. Nothing on the blog was updated for a few
days while Monica and I were at the Southeastern Professional
Photographers Association meeting in Atlanta. We attended the seminars
and trade show, and learned a lot. We also had a lot of good
conversations with great friends from the industry. So we are
tired after all of the travel, but very pleased and rather jazzed with
new business ideas.
Travel is a frustration for me now, though. The drive to Atlanta is
about 3-1/2 hours, and I have a very difficult time lasting that long
in a car. Part of it is due to having a much shortened digestive tract,
which makes frequent stops a necessity. Part of it is due to the
soreness that comes from the “sclerotic lesions” in
lower back (those are the body's adaptations to spreading bone cancer).
Part of it is due to having to haul around a large pouch of medications
which must be remembered at various times during the day. Long distance
travel is really out of the question any more. However, I am still here
and feeling better than I have any right to under the circumstances.
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Apr 13, 2007
The MRI of my head was this morning, at Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham,
Alabama. We left at 4:30 a.m. and arrived in the parking deck by 5:55
a.m., and were the first in line at the MRI facility in the basement of
the clinic. By 6:15 I was checked-in, changed, and ready to go. The MRI
took about 45 minutes, and was definitely different from the previous
scans I have been through: the bone and the PET scans are slow and
silent; the CT scans are fast and the machine makes funny noises; The
MRI was slow and as loud as a jackhammer. They issued me a
foam earplugs, and then clamped my head in place with what appeared to
be sound-absorbing pads over my ears. Then I had to hold my head as
still as I could, with my eyes closed, while the machine did its very
loud thing. There was a brief pause at about the 30 minute point, when
the technician pulled me out of the machine and injected some contrast
dye in a vein in my left arm. Then it was back into the machine for
another 15 minutes of hammering noises. Once it was over, we drove back
to Guntersville, and were back by about 8:50 a.m.
So what are the results? Well, I won't know for a while. It will be at
least two working days until the data is processed and available on the
Kirklin Clinic computer system. Even then, I will not know what
happened until either Dr. Posey calls, or until I get an appointment
with the neurologist, whom I have never met.
So, for all of those who thought I really should have my head examined,
well, I finally did.
Apr 11, 2006
Yesterday started normally, but had an unusual middle part. Derek, my
supervisor at Aegis Technologies Group in Huntsville, emailed me and
noted that the manager two levels above him was in need of some office
space to place several new-hires, and so what would I think if they
recycled my office in Huntsville? OK, well it is a very nice office as
far as engineering office go: it is a single-person office of about 150
square feet, with a huge window and a view of the trees and grass to
the north of the office, and had lots of working space with a large
table, two desks, and two computers. There is one detail about it,
though, which made their request perfectly reasonable: I telecommute
from 45 miles away in Guntersville, and am virtually never in
Huntsville. So, of course, I would be willing to give up my perfectly
splendid office. All I had to do was to go to Huntsville and remove my
stuff, which included nine large framed pieces of photographic art, my
books, lamp, and other things which would be in the way. So Monica and
I made the 90 mile round-trip, and accomplished all of that. I will
still have my Linux computer there in a corner of the lab or somewhere
so that I have something to use on the occasions I am there (every two
weeks or so) and that is about all. So, I no longer have a real
engineer's office in Huntsville. Note, though, that this is a de facto
acceptance of my telecommuting from now on. I have been telecommuting
for the last year, during the stage IV pancreatic cancer incident, and
it works out well for all of us. So this is a Very Good Thing.
So today I am once again working from the wonderful corner office in
Guntersville. It used to be an apartment living room, in the building
behind our photo studio, and I converted it to an office nearly 3-1/2
years ago. My commute is all of 100 feet from one building to the
other, and in an age of sky-high gas prices, this is just right. It
saves nearly two hours a day of commute time, and about 1600 miles of
driving per month. Believe me, the savings in my energy is very
helpful, and the savings in money just about pays for the cost of the
co-pays on the drugs I need.
Life is good. Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Apr 9, 2007
Today was my usual infusion day, and it went well. We left Guntersville
at 5:30 a.m., and arrived at Kirklin Clinic (In Birmingham, Alabama) at
about 7:10 a.m. I picked up my blood test paperwork, proceeded to see
Dana at the Oncology / Hematology check-in desk, and we waited a bit.
Carmen called me in, access my port, and drew my blood samples, and
then sent me back to the waiting room. After an hour or so, Donna
called me in to the smaller infusion room (the one with no TV sets
– Hooray!) and pumped the Gemzar into my port. We ate our
in the car in the parking deck, and then headed back to Guntersville.
We were home by about 1:45 p.m.
While we were there, we spoke to Dr. Posey (the concologist) and his
nurse Jill, and talked to them seriously about the recurring serious
migrane problems which have been so frequent during the last couple of
months. They are scheduling me for an MRI of my head, and to see a
neurologist at Kirklin Clinic. While it is possible that we are seeing
medication-induced problems, there is some concern that there may be a
tumor growing inside my head. This would be entirely consistent with
the pernicious nature of pancreatic cancer; it spreads every which way.
So, dear prayer partners, we have a request. Please ask the Lord that
the doctors will accurately diagnose what is going on, and what is
Apr 8, 2007
We have had a most wonderful day. I felt well enough to teach Sunday
School, sing three songs with the choir (I sing bass), and visit at a
potluck with about 20 fine friends in Huntsville for part of the
afternoon. I had made my specialty pie, with a filling which was 2/3
rhubarb and 1/3 red raspberries, and it vanished in an hour's time. We
have no relatives here, so we are very pleased to have friends who
invite us. Thanks Dan and Donna!
Apr 4, 2007
Yesterday and this morning have been an adventure. Tim and Kelly
Waterman met us for supper, and then again for breakfast, and we had a
fun time. We finally got to meet Heidi, Annika, Micah, Wilson, Patrick,
Rebecca, and Robert. All seven are children, of course, but are as
polite and well-spoken as anyone that age can be. Thanks for coming so
far out of your way to come and see us!
After all of that adventure, I am a bit tired this afternoon, but I
figure that after work I will take a brief nap and then head off to
choir rehearsal. I have traded weeks for teaching Sunday school and so
I am on this week rather than next. This should work out fine, since by
Sunday I should feel pretty good, before Monday's chemo treatment takes
all the energy back out. At least the two week cycle is sort of
Apr 3, 2007
For those who have emailed or called during the last couple of days,
yes, I am still alive. No, things have not become much better. There
has not been enough energy during most of the last week to even
consider adding to the blog. Last week's chemo treatment left me so low
that I did not make it to Wednesday evening choir rehearsal, did not
make it to Sunday evening church service, and really did not do much of
anything but sleep, eat, and telecommute to the office. Cancer can be
like that. The cancer leaves the patient low, and the treatment makes
it worse. The chemo drugs may help slow the spread of the cancer, but
not without a terrible cost.
All of the above notwithstanding, today we have a treat. Tim and Kelly
Waterman are coming to visit, all the way from Idaho. I have not
actually seen Tim since 1976 (yes, 30 years ago) although we have
corresponded since then. Oh, and they are bringing their seven kids
along, too. This should be an adventure. Tomorrow I may not be able to
stand up, but I will use every bit of energy I have to visit with these
fine friends today.
So, How did I meet Tim? Well, 30 years ago he was the most serious
student in a young adult Sunday school class I was teaching. The Lord
has provided some really amazing friends over the years, and Tim fits
in that category. I suspect that we will pick up about where we left
off 30 years ago. He said we could discuss the differences between John
Calvin and James Arminius over supper. With seven kids along, I don't
expect that to happen. I will have enough of a time trying to keep
their names straight, since I have never met any of them.
Mar 28, 2007
I'm tired... very, very tired. Energy level: -0. Gastric distress:
plenty. I feel weak enough today that it is hard to stand up without
wobbling. My chest hurts way down inside. Through all of this I know
that the Lord still loves me. Yes, my body is failing, but it could be
worse. At least it is not a moral problem. At least it is not a matter
In the long term, the mortality rate is 100%, so it should come as no
surprise that at some time our bodies fail us. It is still a surprise
when it happens to us, though, because we get real used to waking up in
the morning, and living life here. While I am in no hurry to depart,
there is a part of me which would like to go Home. To quote Billy
Graham, "I do not know what the future holds, but I do know who holds
the future." I have never been to Heaven, but I do know who runs the
place, and I trust that what He has prepared for us is a lot better
than anything we see here.
Mar 27, 2007
Today is our 36th wedding anniversary. Looking back at my life, there
are some things I would have done differently. However, I would pick
Monica again in a heartbeat. I have known her for more than 40 years,
and she is the one for me. Happy anniversary, Monica!
On Sunday I got to teach my Sunday school class, and that was fun as
usual. This particular lesson included most of John chapter 11 (the
raising of Lazarus from the dead) and has plenty of great material to
work with. Yes, those who are there know that I am going to teach some,
preach some, and meddle thoroughly. I try to have the most interesting
class in town, in the hope that it will attract more students to come.
Some days it seems to work, and Sunday was one of the better days.
Yesterday we went back to Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham, and I had one
of my regular chemotherapy infusions. As usual, the 90 minute infusion
ended up taking all day, simply because it takes an hour and a half to
drive there, 45 minutes to wait for them to access the port to draw the
blood sample, an hour to wait for the blood tests to be done, a half
hour waiting for the pharmacy to mix the Gemzar soluiton, an hour and a
half for the infusion, an hour for lunch in Brimingham, and another
hour and a half to drive back home. The Gemzar leaves me very flat, so
I typically need a nap in order to have enough energy to even consider
eating supper, and by then the day is over. I cannot complain, though.
I see people every time I go for an infusion who are there all day, for
multiple days at a time, and then have to be hooked up to a pump that
they take home with them to infuse more fine chemo stuff over another
day or two. So, in fact, I have it very easy.
I could list what hurts and what the problems are right now, but I will
not bother. The Lord is good to me, and I have absolutely no reason to
complain. Two and a half years after diagnosis with pancreatic
adenocarcinoma, I am still here and able to function at some level.
That is a better series of events than most pancreatic cancer patients
get to experience. I hope to keep on going until the Lord calls me
Home, and while I am here, will recommend Him to everyone who will
listen. Thank you, Jesus!
Mar 23, 2007
Today has been a good day. I got a lot of work done
telecommuting, and I have come to a good stopping point for the week.
That is most satisfying.
I spoke with Jill, Dr. Posey's nurse, today and we rearranged the
schedule for my chemotherapy infusions a bit. Beyond that, we discussed
my continuing breathing difficulties, and she called in another round
of antibiotics (azithromycin) to see if that cannot be tamed.
Furthermore, we discussed the continuing visual migranes, and Jill
indicated that she would let Dr.Posey know, and that some further
diagnostic tests might be required. So that is taken care of.
This morning, Richard Moebes came over with his chain saw, and helped
me remove a couple of tree tops which have fallen over from the city
property next door. He did most of the work, and I dragged some of the
pieces to the brush pile. It is great to have as good a friend as
Richard. So now it is possible to mow the back yard without having to
avoid the areas blocked by the city trees. (There used to be a utility
substation next door, and while the substation is now gone, the forest
they planted years ago to hide the substation is pretty well overgrown.)
Richard and I also talked a bit about this week's Sunday school lesson.
It is based on John chapter 11 (where Jesus raises Lazarus, four days
after Lazarus has been dead). Richard is one of the two other teachers
who trade off teaching our class, and he has a real heart for it. I
appreciate his input whenever I can get it.
Today has been a wonderful day, and I thank the Lord for it all.
Mar 20, 2007
Saturday I did some yard work. Running the riding lawn mower was no big
problem, but doing some of the manual labor jobs was just barely
possible. I got to a good stopping point and stopped. It does
look better out there, and maybe later his week I can do some more of
the job. Sunday was good as always, with Sunday school and then singing
in the choir at the second morning service. I had a nap, and then
headed back for the evening service. Yesterday I went in to spend the
day at the office in Huntsville. It is necessary to do this at least
one day every couple of weeks in order to coordinate activities and
So, after a fitful night's sleep, I got up this morning, washed up, and
came out to the office. I have a 100 foot commute for my telecommuting
job, and that is much better than the long drive in to Huntsville. But
this morning I had quite a “light show” - once
again I had
a visual migrane which ran for about an hour, and it obscured about 2/3
of my visual field this time. This is happening frequently now. I can
usually wait it out, and get back to working without too much
disruption. As long as I am not driving at the time, things end up OK.
However, I have on occasion has this happen while I have been driving,
and there is nothing to do but find a safe place to pull over, because
the visual migrane essentially causes temporary blindness. Those
rippling colorful lights completely obscure what is really there. As I
indicated a few days ago, I need to convince Dr. Posey that it would
make sense to extend the CT scan to include my head next time, since
there are symptoms which tell me that something may be changing there.
Mar 16, 2007
Last night was not good. Sometime around 3 a.m. my lungs were so
clogged up that I was having serious problems breathing. I woke up
Monica, and she bundled me up and put me in the upstairs recliner, and
that helped some. After about an hour, I could breathe again, and came
back to bed. I do not know how what is happening relates to the cancer,
but it sure does get my attention. Not being able to breathe is
Late yesterday afternoon Monica and I ran some errands. The trip took
us to the post office, the bank, Staples, and Wal-Mart. While we were
in the Wal-Mart, Monica ran into a couple of people with whom she
needed to speak, and so they talked for about twenty minutes. I nearly
fell asleep leaning on a freezer case, waiting for the meeting to end.
The exhaustion is increasing, and it is becoming more difficult to do
very much. The combination of pancreatic cancer and chemotherapy is
wearing me out.
This morning I am dealing, once again, with visual migrane effects. My
vision is blurring, and there are one or more sparkly colorful spots
which intermittently block my vision. This has been happening a lot
recently. I have to wonder if this is related to the recurring major
pain in the back of my head. I am going to ask the oncologist to extend
the CT scan to include my head next time. So far the scans have
included my pelvis, abdomen, and chest. My increasing symptoms tell me
that they need to look farther.
Even with all of the above, I consider myself most blessed every day I
wake up. The Lord is so very good to me; He made me, He redeemed me,
and He sustains me. When I am done here, He will take me Home to be
with Him. So how can I possibly lose?
Mar 15, 2007
Yesterday was a good day, but seemed awfully long. The chemo-induced
exhaustion seems to be getting worse. Besides that, parts of my insides
are hurting in odd ways, and the breathing difficulties are growing.
All of this makes sense from the radiologists' reports from the cast CT
scan, as it would seem that I am feeling some of what they are seeing
– as the cancer spreads, more things get affected, and there
more to feel. In spite of that, I worked my normal hours yesterday, and
then went off to choir rehearsal in the evening. By the end of the day,
I was so tired that I could barely stand up. I do not plan to stop
doing anything unless I simply cannot do it any more. As long as I get
to bed early and get ten or more hours of sleep, I am able to continue
to do much of what I have done in the past. I do have to do it more
I find it amusing that every time I go to the Kirklin Clinic they weigh
me, and tell me how good it is that I have not lost weight. Everyone
else is supposed to lose weight, except for the cancer patients, for
whom losing weight is a sign of trouble. Even so, today when we went to
Wanda's Restaurant (the local downtown cafe) for lunch, I had them
substitute tomato slices for the potatoes on the lunch special. The
medical folks may tell me that I should not lose weight, but I
certainly don't want to carry any more around than I already do.
One peculiarity of having a particularly pernicious form of cancer is
that it shortens my perceived time frame. When people tell me about
something six months away, I have to consider what six months from now
may bring. On the one hand, I am not by any means in a hurry to check
out and go Home. The Lord will call me Home at the appointed moment,
and that is fine with me. Nevertheless, this forces me to make few
commitments, since there is no assurance that I will be here tomorrow,
let alone six months from now. When asked about doing something, I am
likely to say, “I would love to do that, assuming I am here
able to do so.” Life comes with no easy assurance of
I know that now, and it is just as true for you as it is for me,
although right now it is more obvious for me. So I do not worry about
the future. The Lord will take care of that, and all I have to do is to
trust Him today.
Mar 12, 2007
Chemo day! Today we left Guntersville at about 5:45 a.m. and drove to
Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham, so that I could have my chemotherapy
infusion. Everything went as well as it usually ever does. Once again,
the only real delay was in getting the lab test results after the blood
was drawn. That is the normal course of events. So after the results
came back, I was hooked up to the infusion pump, and they pumped in 1.8
grams of Gemzar diluted in what looks like about 500 mL of saline
solution. With the port, this is a very straightforward process.
We left the clinic at about noon, and were back in Guntersville before
2:00 p.m. The Gemzar leaves me very tired, and so after we got back I
slept for a couple of hours. After that, we went to Huddle House for
supper, and then came home. It is nearly 8:00 p.m., and bed time. There
is no energy left to stay up any longer. But if exhaustion is the worst
side effect of the chemotherapy, I consider myself most blessed.
Mar 11, 2007
What a day this has been. Today has been the day we scheduled for the
celebration of the 40th anniversary of our first date. OK, I know, that
is an amazingly sappy, romantic thing to do, but we decided it would be
fun, and it has been so. We had planned to have the big celebration
last March for our 35th wedding anniversary, but due to the pancreatic
cancer I was in the hospital at the time. Our 40th wedding anniversary
is another four years away, and the statistics are very much against my
being around for that celebration, so we did the next best thing, and
celebrated today. More fun!
Our daughter Marie is in town, and brought along her friend Victor.
Marie provided rather a lot of her hand-made chocolates for the event.
While she lived in Seattle, she learned how to make the high-end
chocolates, and they are indeed amazing.
Today started out with Sunday school, which I taught, and the late
church service, at which Monica's octet sang, as well as the large
choir in which we both sing. That was a full morning. Then the party
was at Jim and Jenny's home on Lake Guntersville, and we had about 35
guests. There were friends from the arts community, friends from the
photographic community, friends from the office, and friends from
church. What an adventure! It would seem that the entire group got
along rather well. Near the end of the festivities, Jim and Jenny got
out their guitars and sang “our song” and Monica
and I both
cried our eyes out. What a blessing it has been.
Many thanks to all who made this possible. We are honored by the
presence of so many good friends.
Mar 9, 2007
My slightly exciting week has caught up with me. This morning I woke
up, but getting up was barely possible. I succeeded in washing up,
giving myself my daily injection, getting dressed, taking all of the
other medications, and very slowly walking the 100 feet commute from
the house to the office. (I was honestly too tired to eat breakfast, so
I didn't.) I even got a lot of work done, but it has been as if
marching through a dark fog of thick molasses. Cancer and its treatment
can be a real energy sink.
Mar 8, 2007
Today is my birthday, and I am now 56. That is a treat, since no one
had expected me to make it this long. Now for most purposes I am still
considered a “Junior Citizen” (that is what we are
graduate to senior citizen status, right?) and that is fine with me.
For many things, young is as young thinks and does, and I am not
thinking “old” in the slightest. Now, if I could
around this minor detail of pancreatic cancer, I might make it to
senior status someday.
So I hurt in places – unusual, internal places –
am not sure I have ever felt before this cancer incident. So what does
a pain there
mean this time? Is this the next tumor that the radiologist will talk
about after the next scan? Who knows? This reminds me of the words of
John Kelly, who was as fine a senior as I ever met. He said,
age isn't for sissies.” What he was saying is that we have to
through things as we age that we had never even considered when we were
young, and we might as well just used to it.
Every day I am glad to wake up and be able to thank the Lord for
another day – a real gift.
Mar 7, 2007
This has been a long but productive day. I got up extra early and drove
the 45 miles to the office in Huntsville, and worked with Derek most of
the day. We went over the design of my current major project, and other
than a few minor things he approved it as-is. On the one hand, it is a
great benefit to me to be able to telecommute on most days, because the
extra energy necessary to drive the two hour round trip simply isn't
there. On the other hand, it is very useful to get some things
accomplished in person.
I came home, had a tiny supper, had a nap, and then we went off to
Wednesday evening church service and choir rehearsal. It was wonderful
to be with my church family. The rehearsal was fun, and it made a
splendid end to a great day. The Lord sure has been good to me!
Mar 5, 2007
The severe respiratory problems seem to have left now. I still have one
more azithromycin tablet to take (and they do urge the patient to take
them all) and that will complete the course of treatment. It is very
helpful to be able to breathe again. So now it is back to only dealing
with four known varieties of tumors, and the chemotherapy necessary to
keep them from growing any further.
On Sunday, Monica and I will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of our
first date. Yes we have known each other that long, and I first
convinced her to go to a high school event with me on March 11, 1967.
We might have celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary last year, except
that I was in the hospital over that period of time. So this will be
our big celebration. It is great to know each other that well. She is
still my favorite and only.
Mar 4, 2007
Happy Sunday! I have been much too sick to teach my turn in Sunday
School, and so today Jerry Johnson did so in my place. I was also
unable to sing in the choir. I would really like to do these things,
but I am not doing well this week. The major cold/flu going around has
been devastating to me, since the immune system is so low due to the
cancer and treatment. I hope next week will be better.
Mar 1, 2007
Today I am not quite as low as yesterday, but nearly so. This business
of coughing up great gobs of green goo is exhausting. At times, I cough
so hard that I literally cannot breathe. So today when Jill (Dr.
Posey's nurse) called back about something else, I asked about the lung
infection. She suggested two things, one being Mucinex, which is a
modern expectorant, only recently available as non-prescription, and
the other being Azithromycin, a prescription antibiotic. She called the
prescription in for that, and we picked it up after supper. I do hope
this treatment works.
The other thing I discussed with Jill was the prescription for the
blood thinner Arixtra. I had thought that the prescription was for six
weeks, and it turns out it for six months. Well, I know why health
insurance is expensive – it is at least partly due to people
like me who end up using modern medications like Arixtra. Do the math.
It costs almost $100 per injection, and I have to have 180 injections
of it. That works out to nearly US $18,000 worth of Arixtra. I looked
up the costing, and this is not considered expensive for a drug of this
type, as the others cost even more. Add that to the cost of the other
ongoing treatments (bi-weekly chemo with Gemzar at $1,800 per
treatment, CT scan every three months at $3,600 per scan,
plus the costs of the various other drugs), and we quickly
get into the $75,000 per year range for someone who has pancreatic
cancer and is really not expected to live all that long. As I have said
before, for the first 53 years of my life I was exceedingly healthy,
but then I got cancer and am making up for all of my inexpensiveness
all those years.
There is another point which makes modern health care more expensive
that it used to be, and that point is that it is remarkably effective.
The doctors have used treatments to keep me from immediate death
several times, and each time has extended my life, but has also added
to the bill. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the “rational
way” to cut health costs is to ration care, and let
“grandpa” (that's me) die now, because he costs
more than he will be worth from now on. I do still have a very personal
interest in this case, and so I am very glad that the rationing has not
come here yet.
Feb 28, 2007
Well, today is a record low energy day. There is no major pain
anywhere, but the total combination of the cancer, chemotherapy, and
major chest cold has left me totally flat. I can prop myself up in
front of this CAD system at which I work all day and do my circuit
board layout work, but if I try to get up or even just cough hard, it
feels like I just might black out. My vision pulses, and everything
just fuzzes out. To get from one building into the other takes two
flights of stairs, and if this continues, I may end up working from my
laptop in the house. I can never remember being this low.
What do I want out of life now? When I get Home, I want to hear
“Well done!” from my Savior. That is it. When I am
weak I am reminded that my time here is limited, and that after that my
Savior will take me Home. So, I am very weak today, but not in the
Feb 27, 2007
My energy level is hovering around zero right now. Yesterday's
chemotherapy treatment went as well as it possibly could, but the
Gemzar (gemcitabine) drains whatever energy I might have. It could be
worse, I assure you. Yesterday at the chemo infusion center there was a
young man with no hair (some chemo does that) who was hooked up to his
infusion pump on its pole on wheels, and was sprinting to the bathroom
with this semi-mobile pole – yes they give us all drugs to
the nausea, but some people have it harder than others. As I say, it
could be worse. If the only bad symptom I get from the chemo is
exhaustion, I consider myself most blessed.
Richard Moebes drove me to Kirklin Clinic yesterday, and that was
wonderful. I am not sure I could have safely driven back after the
infusion, and I really needed the ride. Beyond that, it is wonderful to
have such a person to talk to all the way there and all the way back.
We discussed lots of things, including many involving our respective
Christian walks. I treasure his friendship – he is truly a
I seem to have caught the ferocious chest cold that Monica has been
battling, and last night I almost couldn't breathe. I coughed so hard
and so deeply that it was hard to catch my breath. That will keep me
awake big-time. With a half-functioning immune system (chemo wrecks
that too) these infections are a problem. Besides that, the fungal skin
infection is back, and although I treat it topically with the
clotrimazole cream, it is very slow to heal. So I guess that besides at
least four types of tumor right now, and ongoing chemotherapy, there is
some other reason that I am a bit weary.
On Sunday afternoon Monica and I received a phone call from Tim
Waterman, a friend whom I have not seen for about 30 years. Long ago, I
was teaching young adult Sunday School in a tiny church in Pomona,
California, and Tim was a student in that class. We became good friends
at the time, and have stayed in contact on and off ever since. It is
good to be reminded that things we have done long ago still have
serious significance to others. Things we do in the everyday course of
our lives can have long-term effects. Most of those we will not know
about until we get Home and can see the whole picture. But sometimes,
every once in a while, we get a glimpse of how what we have done has
affected others. We may not remember, and others may not either, but
the Lord knows about all of it. He will not forget us.
Feb 23, 2007
For the last several weeks it has felt like my neck was
The CT scan results already show signs of bone cancer involving the
pelvis and spine, and so seeing it elsewhere would not be at all
unusual. However, thinking further about what I am feeling, I am not so
sure that is where the pain is coming from. It appears to be actually
coming from inside the back of my head. This is not a good sign. The
pancreatic adenocarcinoma has been spreading through the abdominal and
chest area, and something tells me that this new sign involving yet
another area must not be ignored. So, it is one more thing to bring up
on Monday when I go down to Kirklin Clinic for my next chemo treatment.
When the oncologists say that pancreatic cancer is aggressive, they are
not kidding. After watching my own illness, I can honestly say that
there is a constant realization that, however well I am doing today,
that there is no guarantee of tomorrow. It is as if something that I
cannot see is chasing me, and is constantly gaining ground on me. It is
something which I cannot outrun, cannot outwit, and cannot outlast.
Sooner or later it will kill my body. At that point I am in the hands
of my Savior, so I need not worry about the ultimate outcome. He
already won the victory for me (and for you also if you will but accept
it) so my salvation is assured.
The process of living and dying with cancer is a messy business. It is
no fun for the patient, and it is in many ways even harder on the
caregivers. No one wants to see a loved one go through this. However,
the force of love propels us to stick around and stay together even
through this harshest of times. Always remember that cancer of any sort
is merely a bodily failure, and not a failure of love. It is not as if
cancer were a great moral failing. Cancer does not separate us from the
love of God. He supports us even as we go through the valley of the
shadow of death. That is where I am right now, and He is with me even
I plan to continue to do everything I can for as long as I can through
this process. The Lord is with me, and so I can deal with the failing
body. As He gives me strength, I will continue, and when my time here
is over, He will take me home to live with Him. How can I possibly lose?
Feb 22, 2007
I get one day at a time, and was pleased to wake up this morning. Last
night I was exhausted after spending the day at the Huntsville office
of Aegis Technologies.
the ongoing pancreatic cancer treatment, they allow me to telecommute,
which is very helpful, but every so often it is necessary to go in and
coordinate activities face-to-face. For some discussions, there is more
involved than mere technical detail, and it helps to have the
give-and-take discussions in order to get things resolved quickly.
One of the things I made sure to do was to have my supervisor read the radiologist's report from the
latest CT scan,
so that he has some hope of knowing what the short and medium term
possibilities are. I am the electrical engineer who is designing some
of the wonderfully complex electronics for a key piece of his current
big project, and I try my hardest to make sure that he has not only all
of my latest design files, but also every bit of insight I can give as
to why things have to be this way. He needs to know this in case one
day they call and say I didn't wake up, or that I am back in the
hospital again. My employer has treated me as well as any employer ever
could, and I believe it is my responsibility to return the favor and do
whatever I can to make sure that my projects can be completed without
me, should that become necessary. All it would take is for some part of
that thrombosis to break loose and lodge in the wrong place, and I
could be in the presence of Jesus my Lord in under five minutes.
Yesterday evening Monica and I went out for a date (our 36th wedding
anniversary is March 27th) and then after that we went off to both of
our choir rehearsals. She is in the lady's octet, and they rehearsed
before the main choir rehearsal. Besides singing, I also did the
devotion for the choir, and by the time we got home at about 8:20 p.m.
I just about had to be scraped up off of the floor to be put in bed.
Every day I enjoy the day that the Lord gives me. Every day I enjoy the
Lord who has given me the day.
Feb 19, 2007
The Lord gave me another day to enjoy!
Sunday was a lot of fun. I showed up for both church
services, and sang at the later one. After all of that hustle to get to
the early service, one of the other quartet members didn't show up, and
so we didn't sing at the early service. Sunday School was great as
usual – a wonderful opportunity to be with my favorite group
fellow believers. After church, Monica and I
quickly headed home and got her set for a promotional event at La Strada
(the fancy restaurant downtown), loaded up her vehicle, and set up with
sample portraits and a computerized slide show of her work. Then I
headed back to the house and collapsed for a couple hour long nap.
After that there was a small supper, and then a return for the evening
church service. After that, I washed up and headed off to bed. With the
ongoing cancer and treatment, I just do not have the energy I used to.
I cannot complain, though. I am still here and very pleased to be.
The skin infection I
dealt with last year
has returned, and is just as pernicious as ever. Furthermore, the upper
respiratory infection has held on since December. Chemotherapy can be
expected to degrade the body's ability to fend off infections, and this
is a prime example. I am going to see Dr. Foley (my GP) tomorrow, and I
will discuss this with him.
The other issue I am dealing with is that the Arixtra
(blood thinner prescribed to help deal with the thrombosis in my
inferior vena cava) is working sufficiently that I am dealing with an
issue with nose bleeds. Furthermore, I have to give myself an injection
of Arixtra every day, and the injection sites are bleeding a bit too,
and then leaving rather ugly bruises. I am 15 days into a 40 day
treatment with this stuff, and while I really hope it works for the
intended purpose, the side effects are unpleasant at best.
Having said all of that, I am still alive two and a half years after
diagnosis with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and that is remarkable. I
have read enough about this disease, and met enough others who have
been diagnosed with it to know that surviving this long is a great
gift. I am very pleased.
Thank you, Jesus!
Feb 17, 2007
Weekends are very good things, as they usually allow me to catch up a
bit on regaining some energy. So today I slept in a bit, and also had a
nap mid-afternoon. Without the extra rest, there is no hope of feeling
decent throughout the week.
Tomorrow is a bit harder. On Wednesday evening I was asked to sing bass
in a quartet on Sunday, and agreed to do so. Now when I was asked it
was supposed to be for our 10:45 a.m service, at which I would be
anyway as that is when our choir usually sings. But there was a message
yesterday evening that now we will be singing at both services, and
that there is an extra early rehearsal before the early service. I
would love to sing, and will do so in this case, but I know I will pay
the consequences for doing so. I can only run so long on adrenaline,
and then I pretty much collapse. I love to sing, and take most any
opportunity to do so, but I try to find out in advance what time
commitment there will be, so that I can know whether to agree or not. I
do wish that people would let me know in advance what is really
expected, because dealing with the pancreatic cancer and the treatment
has made it so that there is not nearly as much of me to spread around
as there used to be.
I have people tell me, “It is great that you have been
cured!” Others tell me, “I hear you are in
remission!” While this would be truly great, and I do feel so
much better than I felt for much of last year, I have not been cured
yet. Beyond that, the word “remission” is a
that the oncologist will use if and when I have been clear of cancer
for about five years, and even if it were all gone, it would still be
more than four and a half years away. No, what I have now is the
opportunity to live one day at a time. If I can get up in the morning,
I know that I have one more day, “today.”
the only day I get. Yesterday is gone and cannot be changed; Tomorrow
may never come; but the Lord has granted me today, and for that I am
The implication is that if something is important for me, I had better
do it today. I cannot say that I will get to that yesterday, because I
cannot go back and do yesterday over. I cannot in all honesty say that
I will do it tomorrow, because it is only by the Lord's daily provision
that there is a tomorrow, and then it only happens when tomorrow
becomes today. So, as a cancer patient, all I have is today. But that
would be true even if I were not a cancer patient, now wouldn't it? We
all get one day at a time, if the Lord allows it.
Feb 15, 2007
Life is good in so very many ways. I am being allowed to do things
which I have wanted to do, which I had pretty much given up on being
able to do. Last Sunday I did a solo in church for the first time in 30
years, and this coming Sunday I am scheduled to sing bass on a fast
tune in a quartet. More fun! I am scheduled back into the rotation for
teaching Sunday School (we are currently spreading the load between
three people). As long as the energy lasts, I find it wonderful to be
able to do this.
As long as the energy lasts, that is. The exhaustion and the pain level
are slowly increasing. With the chemotherapy the exhaustion is
expected, but the spreading pain is not a good sign. Yes, pancreatic
cancer is very aggressive, and yes it spreads, so I have to watch
carefully to see what is going on every day. Beyond that, the skin
infections are back, and I have been dealing with a respiratory
infection since mid-December. Radiation and chemotherapy can hurt the
immune system quite badly, and so fighting these infections is harder
than it would otherwise be.
So what now? I live day by day. The Lord gives me one day at a time
just like everyone else. So today, while it is still today, I will
happily serve Him with all there still is of me. He apparently still
has things for me to do here, and as long as that is the case, here is
where I will be.
Feb 14, 2007
Exhaustion is the order of the day. With the cancer and the current set
of medications, the energy level is very low. I feel weak, but mostly
fine otherwise. There is stiffness, and increasing pain in the general
area of the right kidney. I expect to make it to choir rehearsal
tonight, but that is it. There will be no other activities.
I have no complaints, though. I am still here, and the Lord is very
good to me.
Feb 12, 2007
This is being written from the infusion lab at Kirklin Clinic. Today is
a chemotherapy day for me. Michael has “accessed”
and drawn the blood samples (two vacuum bottles) and the blood tests
have been done. Now I am sitting in the first recliner by the door,
with a blanket to keep me warm (they keep this place downright chilly)
and the little IBM ThinkPad computer on my lap. Kathy has hooked the
initial saline solution injection up to the port, and now there is the
inevitable wait for the pharmacy to mix the Gemzar (gemcitabine) with
its dose of saline solution, so that can be infused over 90 minutes.
This sequence of events has become rather routine since last June. I am
privileged to still be alive after two and a half years with pancreatic
cancer, and I suspect that this chemotherapy routine will continue on
and off as long as I live. I am pleased to be able to continue to live
and serve my Lord and Savior Jesus for however long He keeps me around.
Everything went well, and we are now back home in Guntersville. The
chemotherapy treatments are pretty much painless, but sometimes, as
today, they can be absolutely exhausting. By the time we got back I
could barely stand up or keep my eyes open. So I crawled into bed for a
two hour nap. After that I very slowly made supper, and we ate. So
today has been successful, but at a great cost in energy. Part of this
is because I just do not travel well any more. Part of this is because
the Gemzar is quite potent stuff, and lays me pretty low. Part of this
is because we had a very busy weekend, and used up all of my available
energy before Monday even arrived. So I will head off to bed by
probably 7 p.m., and sleep nearly twelve hours before tomorrow. By
then, the energy should have returned, and I can do my telecommuting in
order to pay the bills. Quite frankly, if this is the worst I see of
cancer symptoms, I am most blessed.
Feb 11, 2006
What a day. I really enjoy Sundays. Today the Lord allowed me
teach Sunday school, sing in the choir, and do a solo (for the first
time in about 30 years). We ate out for lunch, came home, and after
studying some in Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, I had a nap. After a
light supper, it was back to church, and tonight we had our local
quartet Four for Him
sing for a while, and then Lulu Roman (remember her from the Hee Haw TV show?)
came, gave her testimony, and sang for most of an hour. Wow! What a day!
Tomorrow, very early, we will drive to Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham,
for the first chemotherapy treatment of this next series. While it is
not exactly fun, it is routine by now, as we pretty much know what to
The Lord sure is good to us!
Feb 9, 2007
Chemotherapy begins again on Monday, February 12, 2007. Once again, I
am scheduled to be given Gemzar (gemcitabine) which seemed to work the
last time. I am scheduled to do this every other week for twelve weeks,
when the results will be re-evaluated.
I had asked Dr. Posey's nurse if she would be so kind as to send me the
test result printouts, so that I might see them, and they arrived in
yesterday's mail. In order to give all of the prayer warriors a better
picture of what is going on, I have scanned them and turned them into
pdf files. The CT scan
report is here, and the blood
test is here. When I spoke to Dr. Posey on Tuesday evening,
he told me about what he thought was most important, and the reports
fill in some gaps.
There are a few interesting tidbits for those who can understand the
medical terminology. The one I found most interesting in the CT scan
report was the “new nonocclusive thrombus within the inferior
vena cava.” That is a partial blockage of the big vein up the
middle of the back, and that explains why Dr. Posey put me on the
Arixtra blood thinner. If that blood vessel were to be blocked, it
would mean an immediate trip to the hospital, as that blood vessel is
the only way for the blood to return from the lower half of the body.
This is treatable, but it is quite dangerous.
On the second page, in the “Impression” section,
point 2 summarizes “Increasing mesenteric adenopathy.
Compared to June, multiple nodes have developed.” This would
explain why I am being put back on chemotherapy. The lymph system is
very susceptible to secondary cancer, and this is a sign that the
spread is happening.
On the third page is material that Dr. Posey did not discuss with me on
Tuesday, but which I read as saying that there is increasing indication
that things may be spreading to the lungs as well. Under
“Impressions,” point 4 is almost humorous. The
radiologist sees this as either cancerous, or I merely am dealing with
pneumonia. Oh yeah.
The blood tests are mostly within reason, except for the CA19-9 tumor
marker, which is high. The other blood item I see is that the glucose
is running at the top of normal range, which makes sense because I have
only half a pancreas any more. There is always the risk, after a
Whipple procedure, of having to deal with diabetes, because the
pancreas is where insulin is produced. So that will have to
So now there is something to pray meaningfully about. I am not worried,
because I am absolutely convinced that the Lord has it all under
control. I am His, and I live for Him. Yes, there are some bodily
failures, but at least they are not moral failures. Whatever happens,
whether I live here a long time, or whether I am called Home soon, I am
satisfied. What He wants is what I want. So what do I pray for? I pray
that He will glorify Himself through my life, whatever way that happens
to take me.
Thank you Jesus!
Feb 7, 2007
The Lord has been very good to me indeed. I feel remarkably good, with
just a bit of soreness in my back midsection. For someone who has been
through all of this, I am extremely thankful.
I had the CT scan on Monday, and yesterday evening Dr. Posey called
back with the results of that and the blood tests. First of all, the
CA19-9 pancreatic tumor marker is up to 94, which is higher than it was
ever seen last year (it had topped out at 76 in August). The CT scan
showed Mesenteric Adenopathy involving the Omentum. As he explained it,
there are a couple of enlarged lymph nodes there, which seem to
indicate a secondary lymphoma (secondary because this is the spread of
pancreatic cancer, and not lymphoma). In order to combat this, he is
prescribing at least twelve weeks of additional chemotherapy, using the
same agent (gemcitabine) which was used the last time. I tolerate it
well, and it seems to work. The bi-weekly chemo infusions will
recommence as soon at they can be scheduled.
The peritoneal tumor (soft tissue) seems unchanged from June, and the
sclerotic lesion (bone cancer) of the right illium (pelvis) has not
changed either. There is, however, an indication of blood clots in this
area, and so he is prescribing a blood thinner called Arixtra. I will
have to give myself daily injections of this. We checked with Buddy
Bunch, our favorite pharmacist, and he indicated that Arixtra is one of
those really expensive new drugs, and that he has never had anyone need
it before, so it is on order.
Dr. Posey noted that there is evidence of Fibrosis, which is a common
side effect of the large doses of radiation and chemotherapy I have had
during the cancer treatment. This could be the cause of some of the
pain I have had, because it ties things together which are not usually
attached, and thus makes it so that internal parts tug on one another,
So now I have gone eleven weeks without chemotherapy, and it appears
that the gemcitabine was holding some things at bay, which have begun
to grow as the chemotherapy was stopped. So now the treatments will
continue, and we shall see what happens.
I have no reason to complain. For someone who has been dealing with
stage IV pancreatic adenocarcinoma, I am doing remarkably well.
Feb 6, 2007
Yesterday was seriously long. I worked in my office as usual in the
morning, and got a lot done. I made sure to finish eating by about 10
a.m., as the CT scan was scheduled for 3:20 p.m., and they ask that I
not eat for five hours before the scan. I made a picnic lunch to take
along, just in case things got crazy during the day. So at about 1 p.m.
we started driving to Kirklin Clinic, in Birmingham, Alabama. The 75
mile trip was totally uneventful, and we arrived in plenty of time.
When we checked in, it was obvious that they are remodeling the CT scan
part of the radiology department, and the waiting area has been moved
– I assume that they are trying to wring more working space
of a fixed amount of square footage in the clinic.
After a very brief wait, I was called in, and given the usual large
amount of water to drink before the scan. (Apparently they want to have
the stomach and the first part of the small intestines
“inflated” for the images.) The technician asked me
usual round of questions, and then I was called into the room with the
CT scan machine. This machine is the latest model CT from GE, and is
much smaller than the old ones. I climbed onto the sliding table, and
the technician hooked up the IV (big stick!), and thetest was
over in about ten minutes. The only semi-exciting thing about the whole
event is that they pump in a large amount of “contrast
solution” through that IV, and do it very quickly. For
reason, it immediately causes a “hot flash”
feeling, and I
feel like I am roasting for about one minute.
The CT scan machine has a mechanical voice which tells the patient what
to do: “Take a breath!” ... “Hold your
... “Breathe!” ... and all of this from a
that sounds like the speaker is from near Chicago, Illinois. There is
also a “Hold your breath!" smiley face (with cheeks puffed
which appears where the patient can see it. I almost laughed when I saw
it, but if I had laughed, I would not have been holding my breath, now
would I?” Sot the scan was soon over, and we were free to
By now, it was time for rush hour in Birmingham, and we had already
decided that rather than battling the traffic out of town that we would
eat supper in Birmingham, wait around a bit, and leave for the 75 mile
trip back to Guntersville after the big rush was over. So we headed
down highway 280 for a couple of miles, stopped at the Brookwood Mall,
and ate supper at Jason's Deli. After a leisurely meal, we walked down
the mall for a ways, and spent about an hour in the Books-A-Million
store. Each book store is different, and tells a bit about what the
bookseller thinks will sell in this area. In this case, the most
populous books were cookbooks, and they must have had 450 linear feet
of them. I also checked out their technical book section, and there was
a very small selection. As compared to the bookstores in Huntsville,
this is just the opposite of what I would find. As I say, what they
stock is what they think will sell, and I get the feeling that it says
that food is a really big thing in Birmingham. After an hour looking at
books, I was beginning to hurt rather badly, and so we left the mall
and retraced our trip back to Guntersville. It was a bit slow, as the
traffic out of Birmingham was only partly abated, but it went without
incident. We arrived home by about 8:15 p.m.
So now it is up to the radiologists to read the CT scans, and up to Dr.
Posey to interpret what all of it means. Perhaps in a day or two he
will let us know what is happening inside of me.
Feb 5, 2007
This afternoon we will once again drive the 75 miles one-way to Kirklin
Clinic in Birmingham, this time for a CT scan appointment. This is the
CT scan that should have been done last week, except that the paperwork
was not submitted to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama for a
pre-approval. Our prayer is that we get an accurate diagnosis out of
this, since there is no real way to see what the pancreatic cancer is
or is not doing except with a scan. The external symptoms do not tell
the doctors much until things get way out of hand. The CA19-9 cancer
marker gives some clue, but it is not particularly specific to
pancreatic cancer. So we really do need an accurate scan and reading.
Yesterday was most excellent. Sundays usually are. I really do enjoy
being with those who love the Lord. I really enjoy singing the great
hymns of the faith, too. More fun!
Feb 2, 2007
The miracle continues. My respite from the symptoms of pancreatic
adenocarcinoma is most welcome. That is a miracle, to be sure, but it
is not the big miracle.
It sure is a good thing Jesus paid the price for my sin, because if I
had to just be “good enough” I would have
no way to
make it. I am aware of some of my shortcomings and failures, and am
confident that there are a lot more that I don't recognize. In my own
strength, I will never be able to be “good enough.”
His help every day, all day long. But even if I never failed, that
would not put God in my debt. He does not owe me a thing, but through
His grace He has loved me anyway. He made me, He redeemed me, He
sustains me all day every day, and He has saved me from certain death
multiple times. I am His.
What about you? He loves you too, you know. Life is a whole lot easier
once you figure that out, and hand it all over to Him.
Feb 1, 2007
Today we were called by the scheduling desk at Kirklin Clinic, to let
us know when the appointment for the CT scan will be. Blue Cross Blue
Shield of Alabama approved the scan, and so the clinic has scheduled it
for Monday, February 5, at 3:20 p.m. While we would always prefer an
early-morning appointment, it is necessary to get this scan done, so
that Dr. Posey can evaluate what my actual condition is. So we will go
in next Monday afternoon for just the CT scan, and then have supper
there before heading back home. That way we will avoid some of the
worst of the traffic.
Why is this scan so important to me? Well, my last chemotherapy
treatment was on November 27th, and through December I felt nothing
at all – the pain was entirely gone. Now, there is a
growing stiffness and low-level pain internally in the lower back right
area, which corresponds to the area where that peritoneal tumor has
been found since last June. If it is growing, then treatment needs to
recommence in some form. If what I am feeling is something else, we
need to know. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is pernicious, and while it may
sometimes respond to treatment, it can quickly get out of hand if there
is no treatment. So we shall see what happens.
Jan 30, 2007
I got to thinking recently about rationing healthcare, and quite
frankly, it leaves me with a very uneasy feeling. If you look a my
condition, and the statistics surrounding it, you can see how a
rationing plan would probably affect me. I am over 55 years of age
(read that as “old”) and I am dealing with a
pancreatic adenocarcinoma (cancer). Now, someone who has a diagnosis of
pancreatic adenocarcinoma is statistically extremely likely to die
within less than four months, regardless of the type of
he receives. It would make sense, then, in any rationing system to not
put resources into a pancreatic cancer case, because the patient is
most likely destined to die quickly anyway. Everyone else I personally
know who has had pancreatic cancer before me or since has already met
My case, where I have survived two and a half years so far, with
aggressive treatment, is very unusual.. In any rationing plan, at my
age, after the diagnosis of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the
“authorities” would have logically determined that
I was as
good as dead, and the cheaper solution would have been selected, which
is to say that they would simply call hospice, and not treat me other
than to drug me so that I would not die in terrible pain. They would
not have had to spend that quarter of a million dollars (so far) on me,
because I would be determined to be not worth the cost. In short, they
would have left me to die.
As strange as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama is (and they can be
very strange at times) they have not just left me to die. The coverage
is expensive to everyone who participates in their coverage, and after
53 years of being extremely healthy and thus costing them virtually
nothing, I finally got the really big cancer and am costing serious
money. Under this system, I at least am being treated with the hope
that I will recover, a hope that is statistically unlikely, but seems
to be within reach now. Under a rationing system (typically a
state-mandated “single-payer” plan”) I
certainly would have already been medically abandoned, as simply too
So rationing healthcare may save money, but the tradeoff is that
“grandpa” has to die, along with a lot of others
simply “not worth saving.”
Jan 29, 2007
Today is being spent at Kirklin Clinic, in Birmingham, Alabama. I have
an appointment to see my oncologist today, and already it has been a
bit of a run around. Everyone here is very friendly, which really helps
deal with the issues. We arrived early, because we had not heard back
about if/when there were lab tests scheduled. Our first stop was the
lab desk in the oncology/hematology area, and they had my appointment
listed, but no lab paperwork to tell them which blood tests to perform.
The very nice lady at the desk sent us to the waiting room for the
doctor, where we saw another very nice lady who checked me in, took the
copayment, and volunteered to go back to see the nurse for the
oncologist, in order to get the proper paperwork. In about fifteen
minutes, she returned with the paperwork which says to do the normal
panel, plus check the CA19-9 tumor marker. This is a good thing, as it
is the only real sign whether there is any ongoing cancer growth. So
from there we headed back to the lab desk in the oncology/hematology
area, and picked up the labels for the blood vials. From there, we
headed to the infusion area, for them to use my port to draw the blood.
On the one hand, it would have been quicker to just have them draw it
from my arm, but on the other hand, the port will plug up if it is not
occasionally used, so we decided to have them use the port.
So, what should I hope for today? Well, my hope is that the Lord will
be glorified through whatever happens. Whatever happens, I am entirely
satisfied that the Lord knows it all already, and has the best interest
in heart. I am content to watch and wait. If the result is a trip
through the valley again, so be it. If the result is a trip to the
mountaintop, well that is fine by me. Something tells me that I will be
told to wait...
Sharon, the chemotherapy infusion nurse, drew the blood using my port,
and that went perfectly. The port worked the first time, and she had
the several vacuum vials all filled in a jiffy. The process was nearly
painless. The folks who work that lab are all pretty good, and Sharon
is way above that high average.
We got to see Dr. Posey about two hours after the schedule said. Even
so, only part of the blood test report was finished; the regular blood
tests were absolutely normal, but the CA19-9 tumor marker reading was
not yet done. Furthermore, it turned out that Dr. Posey had indeed
intended for there to be a CT scan this morning, but somehow the
paperwork never was processed, so it never happened. So Dr. Posey had
me take off my shirt, did the normal stethoscope tests, and that was
the end of the exam. As we suspected might happen, there were no
results to discuss. Even though there were open slots available today
at radiology on their CT scan machines, since there had been no Blue
Cross Blue Shield of Alabama pre-approval for the scan, that could not
happen. The nice scheduling lady entered the request for approval for
the next scan in the computer, and assuming that approval is received,
then and only then will a schedule for a scan be made. After the CT
scan is done, we are to call Dr. Posey's office to let him know to read
the report, and call us with the results. Other than that, we now have
a return appointment to see Dr. Posey three months from now. Health
insurance: you can't live with it, and can't live without it.
Considering that we are dealing with pancreatic cancer, which can turn
around and kill you in just a few weeks, their approval process is
I am so very glad that the Great Physician does not require even one
approval from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama.
Jan 27, 2007
The miracle continues! After two and a half years of battling
pancreatic cancer, I am so very pleased to feel this much better. My
energy level is still rather low as compared to what it was before this
whole cancer incident began, but I feel good, which is a real relief.
The Lord continue to be so very good to me.
This morning I was writing checks and paying bills, looked at today's
date, and thought about what is peculiar about January 27th. It seemed
important, but it took me a minute to remember the significance. On
January 27, 1981, my mom died of the complications of lung cancer, at
age 51. We sent her Home with her favorite hymns, and had a send-off
party. Her future was assured by her Lord and Savior, and so while we
missed her very much (and still do) we are confident of seeing her
again when we finally are called Home. So it has now been 25 years
since then, and now at age 55 I have been dealing with my own cancer
for some time. While I am in absolutely no hurry to be called Home, it
is good to know that there are those I know and love who will be there
Yesterday we had a most unusual event. Monica was interviewed for a
local TV station news program, on the subject of being an honest
photographer. Apparently the news folks have been dealing with the case
of a photographer in Northern Alabama who was failing to deliver
pictures after being paid, and so they needed to interview a good
photographer, and through an interesting series of events, they decided
to interview Monica. She apparently presented herself very well, from
what we have been told by those who saw the newscast. On the other
hand, we have not seen that news segment, because we do not own a TV
set (and haven't since 1989). Why not? Well, ours burned up in 1989
when the tornado came through Huntsville, and we never replaced it
because we are too busy to watch it, and find that much of the
programming is simply disgusting. Why pay good money to have that
forced upon us?
Jan 26, 2007
Note to prayer partners: Monica and I will be driving down to Kirklin
Clinic in Birmingham on Monday, January 29, 2007, for an
appointment with my oncologist, Dr. James Posey. If all goes well,
there will be a blood test, and from that and my current small
symptoms, he will determine what is going on. My midsection is a bit
sore when I stretch or cough, and that is the total extent of remaining
pancreatic cancer symptoms right now. There will be no CT scan this
time, as none has been scheduled. Anything known in this case will come
from the reading of the CA19-9 tumor marker, which has been as high as
76 last fall, and the last time it was measured had dropped to 30 (high
in the normal range). Please pray that the test and diagnosis are
accurate, as we need closure on this whole event.
Today I drove to the Aegis office in Huntsville, and worked there all
day. After getting up extra early, doing a full day's work, and
commuting both ways, I am exhausted. I am very glad that most days I
can telecommute, because it cuts the energy drain significantly. Today
was amusing in one way in that my company supplied computer, which had
died with smoke last week, is off for repair leaving me to use a
computer I supplied. I keep a Linux-based computer on the table behind
my work desk, and it does what I need to do without ever having to run
Windows. I like that. It is good not to have to pay the Microsoft tax
in order to get my work done. Linux meets my mother's cost
criterion. She said, “For free, take; for money, waste
time.” She has been gone for 25 years now, and many of her
cultural assumptions will be with me until the day I join her in heaven.
Monica and I are busy planning the 40th anniversary of our first date,
which will occur on March 11, 2007. We are hopeful romantics
of the first magnitude, and are wonderfully enjoying our unexpected
extra time together. On March 27th, we will then celebrate our 36th
wedding anniversary. We have every reason to celebrate.
Jan 23, 2007
The miracle continues, and I am still doing very well. There is some
residual soreness in the lower back area, but other than that, there
are no symptoms left. I have an appointment with the oncologist on
Monday January 29th, but apparently there will be no scans or anything
for him to see. Monica spoke with the scheduling person, and she
indicated that she had no record of anything being sent to Blue Cross
Blue Shield of Alabama for approval of those tests, and so there is no
chance of them happening as far as I can see. Well, if the CA19-9
cancer marker continues to drop, then that may tell us all we need to
know. That is worth praying about.
I have been spending entirely too much time this past week fixing
computers. The systems we use for the photo business are now about five
years old, and have been one-by-one failing in most fascinating ways.
Since these are business systems, we have to quickly get them going
again, and as the resident geek I get the task. It is time consuming,
and requires replacing things. In the case of Monica's main computer,
in the last six months I will have replaced everything except the case
and the floppy disk drive. Ugh. I am so very glad that my salvation is
not entrusted to a computer like any of these!
It pleases me to be able to work nearly full time once again. I enjoy
what I do (designing electronic devices) and I work with great
peoplefor a most excellent company. The contrast with being
very sick is major, and I am very thankful to be back in the land of
Pancreatic cancer is a terrible thing, and after being told I had just
a few months to live, multiple times, I am still startled at this
recovery. “One day at a time.” I get one day at a
time, and that day is today. Yesterday is done and I cannot change it.
Tomorrow is still out of reach, and I do not know what it will bring.
But today I have, and this is my opportunity to make all of it that I
can. I thank Jesus for one more day - today.
Jan 21, 2007
Today I was able to teach in our adult Sunday School class, for the
first time in nearly a year. This is “Sanctity of Life
Sunday” and I was given the charge to teach on this subject.
find that I get rather emotional, and meddle thoroughly when I teach in
Sunday School, and today was no different. When it all was done, and my
time was up, I closed with a prayer from the Book of Daniel. It seemed
to me that we as a nation have a lot to repent of, and to confess
before the Lord, and this passage seemed to fit. Now, this prayer is
aimed at a specific place and time, but the spirit of it is exactly
that with which we need to approach the Lord, as we deal with the
outrageous behavior which we see all around us in this
Here is the prayer of Daniel:
Daniel 9:3 So I gave my
the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting,
sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed
and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps
covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His
commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and
rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances. 6
Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke
in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people
of the land. 7 Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open
shame, as it is this day-- to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of
Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far
away in all the countries to which Thou hast driven them, because of
their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against Thee. 8 Open
shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes, and our
fathers, because we have sinned against Thee. 9 To the Lord our God
belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10
nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His
teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. 11
Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not
obeying Thy voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with
the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for
we have sinned against Him. 12 Thus He has confirmed His words which He
had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on
us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done
anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the
law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought
the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving
attention to Thy truth. 14 Therefore, the LORD has kept the calamity in
store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with
respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His
voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who hast brought Thy people out of
the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and hast made a name for Thyself,
as it is this day-- we have sinned, we have been wicked. 16 O Lord, in
accordance with all Thy righteous acts, let now Thine anger and Thy
wrath turn away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain; for because
of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people
have become a reproach to all those around us. 17 So now, our God,
listen to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplications, and for
Thy sake, O Lord, let Thy face shine on Thy desolate sanctuary. 18 O my
God, incline Thine ear and hear! Open Thine eyes and see our
desolations and the city which is called by Thy name; for we are not
presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of
our own, but on account of Thy great compassion. 19 O Lord, hear! O
Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my
God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy
Jan 19, 2007
Yesterday I drove the 45 miles into the office in Huntsville, and
worked there for a change. The company-supplied computer died yet again
– this time emitting acrid smoke as it went dark. That
has died one way or another at least three times in the last month.
Fortunately I keep one of my own computers at the office (running Linux
– but that is a subject for some other blog!)
and was able to continue working with only a small disruption.
While I was there, my supervisor and his supervisor agreed that I can
be put back on the 32 hour per week schedule that I have been on for
much of the last year. I had been put back on a 40 hour per week
schedule, but it appears it was due to a database corruption in the
payroll system, and not intentional. So I can still be able to go to
Kirklin Clinic for appointments and not have to take sick leave to do
so. This is a Very Good Thing. For someone with medical issues, it
really helps having a decent and more than reasonable employer.
On the way home, I stopped at the really nice grocery store I pass on
the highway, and picked up materials for our Saturday event, when we
will have a friend over for supper. He is here without his wife (who is
staying behind in Virginia until the school year is over) and so this
is an opportunity for hospitality. It is good to be able to do this
sort of thing again. The Lord has really blessed us in a big way, and I
am so pleased.
Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Jan 17, 2007
Today is a regular work day, and I am doing regular work things, but
from home. My employer (Aegis
Technologies Group, headquartered in
Huntsville, Alabama) allows me to telecommute most of the time (Bless
them!) which cuts down on the drain on energy that a 90 mile round-trip
daily commute involves. They also have arranged for me to have a
32-hour work week, with full benefits, which helps also. This provides
the time for medical events (doctor appointments, chemotherapy
treatments, tests, or whatever) without having to take the limited
amount of sick leave to do so. Besides this, they have a particularly
stellar medical insurance plan, which has allowed me to go through test
after test and treatment after treatment without breaking the family
That brings up an interesting point. Treatment for pancreatic cancer is
expensive. My Whipple procedure had me in the hospital for a week, and
cost about $140,000. Each CT scan cost about $3,500. Each radiation
treatment (there were 28 of them) cost about $1,000. Each chemotherapy
infusion cost about $1,900. Last year's week-long hospital stay where
they did three endoscope treatments cost about $26,000. All of this was
for someone diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, who was not
expected to live six months. This adds up to some seriously big
numbers. For my first 53 years I was amazingly healthy, and my medical
costs were next to nothing, and then with one illness I have so far
cost more than $250,000. I have to wonder if I am worth that much.
The Lord continues to bless us. The miracle continues, and I am feeling
very good indeed. There may indeed be life after pancreatic cancer!
Jan 14, 2007
Today has been simply wonderful. I am so thankful to be able to do all
of this again. The Lord has singularly blessed me, in returning me to
the land of the living. Early in the morning I put a boneless turkey
breast roll in the crock pot, so that we can have turkey for various
meals over the next few days. Then, this morning we had Sunday school
and church, and then a lunchtime surprise 60th birthday party for a
good friend from my Sunday School class. I made an experiment to bring
for the lunch - orange rolls, using a recipe I made up on the spot.
Someone must have liked them, because the tray was empty by the time we
cleaned up. After all of this there was time for a Sunday afternoon
nap, which really does help make it through the week. Next, I got the
turkey out of the crock pot, cut it up, and cleaned up. Monica made us
a small supper, and then we went back to church for the evening
service. After that, I was on my ham radio for a while, and then
retired for the evening.
Now, reading the above, you can see just how good the Lord has been to
me. Several months ago, due to the ravages of the pancreatic
adenocarcinoma, I was in terrible pain, and could barely get around.
Today I feel great, and am back to using every waking moment to do
something. You can easily see just why I am so very thankful. Thank
you, Lord Jesus!
Jan 13, 2006
I really do wonder just what happened to make the pancreatic cancer
pain go away. Yes, this was a miracle sent from God, and I am very
thankful for that. But as a certified westerner, and an engineer, I
cannot help but wonder what the mechanism was. In this day and age,
most of us cannot leave a mystery alone, but have to pick at it to see
what makes it work. Until the medical tests and scans are done and
interpreted at Kirklin Clinic (late this month or maybe next month) I
have no way to know what exactly happened. I would like to know if the
cancer went away, or whether it is simply pain relief regardless of
what else is going on. And then again, maybe I will never know in this
life, because some medical things are not really explainable.
One thing I am still having to watch carefully is what I eat. After the
chemotherapy, I still cannot stand even the though of fish. It
consistently makes me ill. Some things, such as pork, tie my digestive
tract up in knots. Chocolate reduces motility to near zero, and causes
serious pain. So now I am eating beef, chicken, and turkey in moderate
amounts, and am eating salad with virtually every meal. I suppose the
whole diet is actually healthier this way, but it does require some
thought, especially when eating out.
I am still working on putting my house in order, in spite of getting a
whole lot better. Whatever else happens, doing so helps. If I live a
long life, then I get to enjoy having things well-organized. If I have
a short life, it makes things easier for Monica. It is interesting to
make the lists of “stuff” that I would know all
she would not, and for each item list what it is, what it cost, when it
was bought, and what it might sell for today. This is
“stuff” that I can use while I am here, but will
behind whenever I am called home. Someone else gets it. That is one of
the interesting parts of being called home. The
does not matter at all any more, and someone else gets it all. It puts
the priority on what I have heard called “sending it all
ahead.” That means doing things today which are useful for
Jesus. That is where I want to put my emphasis while I am still here.
Jan 12, 2007
The miracle continues!
Jan 10, 2007
Yesterday afternoon we received a call from my oncologist, Dr. James
Posey. After some discussion, he told us that he will arrange the next
set of blood work, CT scan, and perhaps a PET scan as well. The results
are necessary to determine just what has happened, and what is going on
now. All of this may or may not coincide with the next appointment at
Kirklin Clinic, currently scheduled for January 29, 2007. In any case,
the results of the tests are necessary so that he can know what further
treatment, if any, is advisable.
Dr. Posey made an interesting comment. I had noted that I was so glad
that most of the terrible pancreatic cancer symptoms had gone away, and
that whatever that really meant, that I was very pleased about it. He
replied that, statistically, about 25% of pancreatic cancer patients
die of the symptoms directly, as opposed to the action of the cancer,
and that yes indeed it was a good thing to have that relief. Having
been through some of the possible symptoms, I can see how this is
So now all of the timing is back in the most gracious hands of Blue
Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, who will, in their own sweet time either
approve or disapprove the scans. Until they do, everything comes to a
Jan 9, 2007
Last night, Monica reminded me that I need to not take on too much in
the way of outside duties for a while, and she is quite right. During
the last two and a half years, many necessary things have been delayed,
and I need to make absolutely sureto get caught up on them
add to my load. When I feel really good, there is a part of me which
wants to go and do it all, but I really should know better by now.
There is another matter, and it is that we really do not yet know what
has happened. The visible changes have been very good. Who can argue
with a lack of pain? This is great! However, we do not yet
what has happened. After two and a half years of fighting pancreatic
cancer, I know full well that anything can happen, and that things can
change very quickly. I also know that what I feel is not necessarily a
totally correct indicator of what is going on. The fact that the pain
is gone can mean any of several things, not all of which are indicative
of long term health.
I am very thankful to the Lord for the respite from the pain, whatever
that may mean. This has been the best Christmas ever for us, I can
assure you. I am confident of the Lord's love and presence now, more so
than I have ever been. So whatever happens, I am satisfied. I am His,
and that is enough.
Jan 8, 2007
Richard Moebes recently asked me if I was disappointed at not getting
to go Home last fall, as everyone thought might well happen. It is an
interesting question, because the answer tells a lot about what I
believe. I told Richard that, no, I was not disappointed because I am
confident that the Lord will call me Home when the time is right, and
that the fact that He has left me here tells me that there is still
more for me here. Perhaps that “more” is what I
learn; perhaps that “more” is someone I need to
and perhaps that “more” is something I cannot
imagine. I am
satisfied with His will in the matter. What He wants is what I want.
I am reminded of the Apostle Paul, who stated in 2nd Corinthians 5:5-9:
“Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who
us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and
knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the
Lord - for we walk by faith, not by sight - we are of good courage, I
say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home
with the Lord. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home
or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
So, yes I am looking forward to being at Home with the Lord, but more
than that I seek to please Him in all that I do. I am satisfied with
His timing in all things. One thing I have learned is that He does
indeed have our best interest at heart, and that I can trust Him
completely. Truly our Lord shows His love to us in every way.
Jan 7, 2007
Today has been very good indeed. I really do enjoy Sunday, and this one
was even better than many. It looks like I may indeed have the
opportunity to return to teaching occasionally in my normal Sunday
School class, which would be a treat. Our choir (I sing bass) sang a
fun piece, which got a great reaction. After a two week hiatus, we are
back to having Sunday evening services, and this one was simply
wonderful, with duet keyboard music played by Sandra and Kay, lots of
familiar hymns to sing, and a great sermon from 1 John.
I was asked if I could help out with Christian Men's Job Corps, and
that brings up some interesting possibilities. Steve, who asked me, was
not aware that I also have a full time job (he thought I must be
retired by now) and so I probably will not be able to do the big job he
initially asked me to do, but there are other things where I may be
able to be involved, given the amount of time I actually have
available. We shall see how this works out. In the meantime it will be
a subject for prayer.
Many people commented on how good I look. This is somewhat humorous to
me, in that as an aging bald guy, the concept of looking good is rather
far from my consciousness. On the other hand, yes indeed a I look very
much alive right now, as opposed to the nasty shade of gray I was three
months ago. The color difference is remarkable all by itself. The
The Lord has been so very good to me. Thank you, Jesus!
Today, Monica succeeded in getting at least a preliminary appointment
for me with my oncologist, Dr. James Posey, at Kirklin Clinic in
Birmingham, Alabama. After the first chemo treatment in December, it
was kind of like we dropped out of their awareness entirely. There were
no new appointments for anything – no more chemo, and no
follow-up. Phoning their number and asking to be called back simply did
nothing. OK, it was approaching the Christmas period and some people
may have been on
vacation, I understand, but still it is strange to have no one call
back at all.
The new appointment for January 29th is contingent upon getting
approval from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS) for a CT scan.
BCBS has decreed that CT scans more often than 90/120 days (no one
seems really sure which it is) are wasteful, and so since my last one
was on October 30th, this is about the first tentative opportunity. In
my situation the doctor is not sure what is going on, and the scan is
really the only way to achieve any visibility inside to find out.
Now BCBS has taken it one step further, and has outsourced the approval
process to an outfit with an office in New York. Something tells me
that this is a front for an offshore office (India? Bangladesh?
Zimbabwe? Who knows?) in order to cut costs further. In any case, past
experience with this particular outfit has shown that there is
absolutely no hurry to make decisions, and if they decide against you,
well it is just too bad. So that January 29th appointment really is
very tentative indeed. Until the scan is run and the radiologists read
it, there is absolutely no sense in tying up Dr. Posey's time. Blood
tests alone will not tell him enough to say anything with certainty. We
have been there before, repeatedly.
The October 30th 2006 scan showed that the peritoneal tumor (or
scarring from where it died – no one is sure) is still there,
wrapped around the blood vessels up and down my back, and into the
kidneys. The sclerotic lesions (bone cancer) signs were still there on
my pelvis, and there were signs of spread to the lower area of the
lungs. But every comparison the radiologists made was to much earlier
CT scans, before the last big cancer incident, so we have no idea what
the significance of the findings is.
In the meantime I feel fine. There is a bit of residual abdominal
soreness, but not even enough to take a Tylenol. So the miracle
continues, and I am very grateful for that. Anyone who has been through
major cancer pain will appreciate how wonderful it is to have it
vanish. God is good!
One of the hardest things I do is field questions from fine folks whose
loved ones have pancreatic cancer. I am not a doctor, and all I can do
is tell them what I have found worked for me, and that is not
necessarily much help. It is hard for these fine folks to deal with the
pain of seeing a loved one that sick, and getting sicker by the day,
with no recourse. I simply pray that the Lord will help them through
I can say for my own sake that I am satisfied with whatever the Lord
has in store for me, but I fear that if I wish that for someone else
that they will be hurt by that statement. I know that at some point the
Lord will call me home, and I am ready to go – but not
is ready to go, and most certainly most people are not ready for their
friends and loved ones to go. This is a very painful thing, and there
are no good words to minimize this. As strange as it may seem to some
people, it is harder to deal with the passing of a loved one than to
deal with one's own passing. I hope to be able to say the right thing
at the right time, and to be silent when that is called for.
The miracle continues here. There is a bit of residual soreness when I
inhale all the way, or when I stretch in some unusual direction, but
that is the sum total of all of what I can feel wrong. After the pain
of the last year, this is a most welcome relief. It is such a major
change to be able to lie down flat and not hurt at all. We still have
no word from the oncologist about when the next checkup will be, or if
there is anything else they want to do. At some point, there will be
more blood tests and another CT scan, but before that anything that the
good doctor says is basically conjecture.
The Lord has been absolutely wonderful to me. I am so very blessed.
Thoughts for the New
I never thought I would get to see this day. The Lord is good!
Other people have new year's resolutions; I have a new reality. Having
been saved by the Lord from certain short-term death from pancreatic
adenocarcinoma, I know even better that I am His. So what shall I do
about it? The first realization is that there are a lot of things I
have been spending time on which really do not matter so very much now.
Yes, I still need to do the things which are necessary to live, to pay
the bills and such. But beyond that, what is important enough to
replace my past activities? It is much like the concept of having been
not just set apart from
something, but set apart to
The first part is fairly obvious, and latter one is much less so. The
matter at hand is not somehow what should I give up, but rather what
should I be doing. Where shall I be headed? The answer is not yet
entirely obvious, but we continue to seek it.
One realization is that I should live more lightly in this world. What
I mean by that is that I need to not form such attachments to things
and situations, things which are of this world and may change at any
time. As a citizen of heaven, why should I be so very attached to these
things around me? I most certainly cannot take any of this material
world with me (not that I would want to, quite frankly) to my Heavenly
home, so there is no reason to be overly concerned about
Another realization is that I now know for sure that I want what Jesus
wants for me, whatever that may be. I am assured that He has me very
best interests in mind, so why should I get all willful and want or
work for something other than what He has in store for me? That would
be crazy. Assuming this life to be a brief warm-up and learning
experience for eternity, then it would make sense to learn the lessons
put to me, and recognize them for what they are. He intends to bend me
to His shape, and I need to be willing to be bent.
This week I was reading in a commentary about the First Epistle of
Peter, and the author made the point about our tendency to want to hang
on to certain things in our lives, even after the Lord has saved us. He
called them our “special sins” and pointed out that
was urging his readers to rid themselves of these. So my question for
myself is whether I have put my all on the altar, so to speak. What is
there in my life which needs to be weeded out, that stands between me
and a closer walk with Jesus? I want to see it for what it is, and be
rid of it quickly. Once again, what He wants is what I want, and I have
every bit of confidence that He will help me with this.
I really enjoy singing for my Lord, and have led choirs at several
churches in the past. Right now singing makes good sense, but not music
leadership, as I am really not well equipped for that. I never was a
music major, and the cases where I have led in the past have been cases
where there simply was no one else who was willing to lead, and I felt
led to step into the breech and do what no one else would. This is not
I enjoy teaching Sunday School and Bible classes, and the response has
been uniformly positive when I have done so. I have the gift of
teaching, and I have known it for about 25 years. I attended seminary
many years ago (and did not graduate because I was too poor at the time
to finish) and have all of the resources I need to do that. So that is
a much more likely place of service, when the Lord provides the
opportunity. We shall see. In any case, I want exactly what
Lord wants for me. I do not know the way yet, but I have confidence
that He will guide me exactly where He intends me to serve.
But what if I should get sick again? Well, so what? The Lord has
brought me this far, and He will bring me Home when he chooses to do
so. My part is not to second guess Him, but rather to follow and live
for Him. That is a real opportunity.
The miracle continues, and gets better day by day. Thank you, Jesus!
It is good when we get visitors. We love to have our favorite people
come and see us, and we do our best to make them feel at home. We also
enjoy it when people go home, as we have come to enjoy ourselves, just
the two of us, since we have lived long enough to have that opportunity
again. We know how blessed we are to have this opportunity, as so many
have relatives or acquaintances who live with them until their last
days. We are both still alive, now we are both doing well physically
once again, and we are very happy together. Life is good!
Our daughter Marie left for Dallas this afternoon, first driving to
Birmingham, and then flying to Dallas, and then driving some more to
her home (which is actually in Plano, which is near Dallas). She packed
up the Christmas presents so that she would have less to carry on the
plane, and sent them to her address in Texas. We really enjoyed having
Life is very good indeed. As the chemotherapy recedes into the past, I
feel better day by day, as the chemo is no longer reducing my blood
count. It is great not to feel anemic all the time. God is sure good to
Today was an adventure. We had very welcome visitors, who drove about
seven hours from Greenville, South Carolina, to get here and then after
staying for a few hours, drove right back. My cousin Connie Evans and
her mother (my aunt) Joan Martin came to visit and to check out the
miracle, and we all had a great time. It is good to see such fun
relatives. We talked non-stop for their entire visit, and caught up on
all sorts of family matters. Now Auntie Joan actually lives in South
Bend, Indiana, and had driven twelve hours to get to South Carolina.
With Marie here from Texas, it was quite a gathering. More
Yesterday I told my Sunday School class that it was worthy of note
that, after a major miracle, I do not find myself thanking that
fictional character Santa Claus. No, rather I find myself praising the
Lord God Almighty, who made me, redeemed me, sustains me, and has this
year saved me from an immediate and nasty death of pancreatic
adenocarcinoma. Accept no substitutes for the real thing. We
don't want Santa, we want Jesus!
Last night our own church cancelled services, and so we went off to
visit some fine friends in Huntsville, and enjoyed their 6:30 p.m.
Christmas Eve service. That was a fine event, with lots and lots of
Christmas carols, a great little children's choir, a fun children's
sermon, and an excellent message for the adults. Combine that with the
opportunity to see many friends whom we have not seen much since we
moved from Huntsville, and it was a fine evening indeed.
The miracle continues, and I am continuing to get better. I am still
startled by this recovery from certain short-term death. I am hoping
that the Lord has something useful for me to do while I continue here,
as this recovery has redoubled my devotion to Him.
Wonderful Retail Money-Making Event
Santa Claus Day
Our daughter Marie arrived noonish after a flight from Dallas to
Birmingham, and a drive from Birmingham to Guntersville. We always
enjoy her visits. Tonight Monica and Marie plan to finish decorating
the tree, which is upstairs this time. For the last several years, all
of the decorations have been downstairs in the photo studio (we live
over the store, and have a commercial photography studio downstairs).
It has been very pretty and all of that, but we have had to not use any
of the glass ornaments because of the risk of injury to small children
in the studio. So this year there is a little photographic prop tree in
the studio, and the big one is upstairs where the customers never get
to go. This should be fun.
This morning we went to Church and Sunday School, and had a wonderful
morning. The choir in which we sing did a fun Christmas anthem. We
cannot help but sing, and so this was an opportunity to enjoy. It is
interesting to be up front, and sing, where we can see the entire
congregation. Some folks obviously enjoy, and others not so much, but
we have the opportunity to try to connect the message with the hearers,
and sometimes, like today, it seems to really work.
Many thanks to everyone who has prayed for us during the recent medical
trials. The Lord has answered your prayers in a remarkable way, and
Monica and I are most blessed that you all cared enough to make it a
It is great to be back among the living.
The miracle continues! Yes, things are getting even better, day-by-day.
I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but today is great. The Lord
has been so very good to us!
Today is my last work day of the year. My employer (Aegis Technologies
Group – a great place to work) has next Monday and Tuesday as
holidays. There are two discretionary holidays per year, and I am
taking one of those (Wednesday). Since I am working 32 hours per week,
all I need is one vacation day to complete next week. This week I will
take Thursday as vacation, and once again at 32 hours per week I would
have Friday off anyway. Monday, January 1st is a holiday also. So, I
can take two days of vacation and have 12 days off in a row. Such a
Tonight we plan to go carrolling with the choir. We will meet at the
church and leave from there. When Monica asked me what I wanted for
Christmas, I told her that I wanted to sing, and I get exactly that
this year. This is a Very Good Thing.
Yesterday evening, Monica and I attended our Sunday School Christmas
party. It was a fun event, with the opportunity to get to know people
better. I appreciate the opportunities to do this. So often, as church
members, we get used to an “everyone shut up, face forward,
just listen to the leader” mode, and while that may be an
acceptable way to disseminate information, it is no way to learn to
love one another. I have come to really appreciate the opportunities be
be in the lives of our friends, and to get to know them so much better.
That way there is some hope of being able to help one another, because
it is only through knowing each other well that we can discern their
Once again, I am having a wonderful Sunday. We started out with Sunday
School and the later church service this morning. This evening we have
the Christmas program, and our choir is a part of that celebration.
This is where I want to be. After a very wild year, I am extremely
grateful to once again be able to participate in worship, and
especially to do so through music.
Problem with Miracles
– or – So I Will Die Anyway
Modern day miracles are hard things for us to deal with. We know they
happen, but being skeptical modern people we cannot just accept them.
There has to be something, some root cause, which we must understand.
Faith was great for our grandparents, but now we know better, and have
to have a rational, scientific explanation for everything. That is how
our western culture is rigged. We think we have to know it all.
So, I have had an obvious miracle happen to me. While two months ago I
was rapidly dying of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, today I am doing better
than I have in years, and there is no good rational, scientific
explanation. The oncologist cannot point to any reason why this should
have happened, but it has. Now, it could be claimed that good doctoring
made this happen, and I will be the first to admit that I went to the
best facility I could find, and had the best doctors available. The
care has been stellar. And yet I was told that this chemotherapy
treatment I have been undergoing (statistically speaking) might extend
my life by six weeks. That was all they could hope for. So now that
things are going so well the oncologist simply calls what happened
“highly atypical,” and I am positive that he is
has happened never has happened in his experience.
So, I am the beneficiary of a scientifically unexplainable event, which
I will call a miracle simply because that is the best word I have for
it. How it happened I cannot tell you. So today I am feeling better
than I have in years, and am most pleased. I happily attribute this
“miracle” to my Lord and Savior, whatever anyone
say. I am most blessed, and I know it.
OK, all that is well and good, but I have news for you. I am going to
die. Even after the miracle, I am still going to die, if not this year
or this decade, then soon enough. That is the peculiarity of the
miracle – this return to life is still only a temporary
Every one of us faces this issue: we are mortal, and even given that
miracles do happen, we are still going to die, if not this year or this
decade, then soon enough. Nevertheless, that does not minimize the
miracle at all. I have been given so much more time (and how much time
I have I do not know) and now have the responsibility to use it wisely.
I have been spared this time, and now with my eyes wide open I can make
the next set of choices which will shape what I am yet to become.
So, I have had this miracle. I was as good as dead, and now am alive.
But what if I were to get sick again tomorrow, and I quickly die of
it. Well, so what of it? To quote Job on the matter,
Lord had given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the
Lord.” He is no less Lord if I live a short life than if I
long one. I am content to serve Him, and to glorify Him through my life
and death, in and under any circumstance. He made me, He redeemed me,
He sustains me, and He saved me from a certain death this year. I am
His. When I am done here, He has promised to take me Home with Him. So
how can I possibly lose in this deal? I am content to be His, and leave
the entire matter in His hands.
So, no, I am not worried that the miracle is somehow incomplete,
because the real miracle is not that I have recovered from a certain
near-term death of cancer. No, the miracle is that the Lord would love
me, and claim me for His own. So I ask the question, “Why
me?” Why would He love me so much? I do not know the answer
that question, but I trust Him fully, and know that whatever is in
store for me is entirely consistent with His love.
He loves you too, you know. Trust Him for everything.
Last night I went to choir rehearsal, and enjoyed it as always. We have
a wonderful substitute director who is only supposed to stay until the
end of the year, and so I have to wonder who will follow that. He
suggested I might have to do that next, and that is more of a challenge
than I would know what to do with right now. Yes, I have been choir
director for three other churches over the years, but that is a big
job, and one which takes a whole lot of work. There is a search
committee for a new permanent minister of music, but there is no
telling how long that is going to take. We shall see what happens. For
now, I am so glad to be able to sing again.
This morning I got going early, and put a pot roast in the crock pot,
first thing in the morning. It is nice to know that supper will be
ready this evening, and that we have little to decide about what to
eat. By noon, the aroma will be overwhelming. For those who may not
know this, I spend most of my days sitting in front of a
Computer-Aided-Drafting (CAD) system, doing electronic design. It is a
very good thing to have lots to do to occupy my mind, as well as to pay
the bills. Working at home, it also makes it possible to go in and turn
the crock pot down to low once the liquid reaches a full running boil.
Once again yesterday, our calls were not returned from the Kirklin
Clinic oncology department. Their phone system is set up to take
messages, and have them call you back, which is fine when it works, but
is frustrating when there is no reply. There has been no reply after
several calls over the last two weeks. I am not terribly concerned, but
Monica is not going to just let it go by. Last night she told friends
at choir rehearsal that today is the day she will call patient
services, to see if she can get answers. I will simply stand by and
My condition continues to improve. I feel great now, and the strength
is returning. The appetite is definitely back, and now I have to watch
what I eat so as to not overload my limited digestive tract. The Lord
continues to bless us wonderfully.
This would be humorous, if it were not important. We have
that the fine folks at the oncology department at Kirklin Clinic have
stopped returning our calls. We can accept the fact that they do not
know right now what to do with me, since my amazing recovery is
apparently completely atypical. However, there is still at least some
measure of responsibility involved to, at the very least, follow up and
see what has actually happened. I do hope that they will not simply
One challenge right now is to figure out how to eat. After that Whipple
procedure in October of 2004, my digestive system is very much shorter
and strangely arranged. The recovery from the pancreatic adenocarcinoma
has not changed this fact. The new arrangement has made it so that I
can eat about half what I could before, at any one time. I should
probably just accept that fact, and get skinny, eating half what I used
to. But eating out is a problem. Have restaurants given up on the
entire concept of portion control? The typical servings are huge, and
even under more normal circumstances are more than I would normally
choose to eat. So, for instance, last night we went out and asked for
our dinners to be accompanied by take-out boxes, so that we could put
half of dinner in the box before even getting started eating. Even so,
the half that was left was still more than is reasonable for me to
eat. Maybe next time I should ask for two take-out boxes, and
portion it into thirds, and eat just one third of it at the restaurant.
I would almost certainly feel better that way.
What is unusual about this Monday? If you carefully check my past
postings, you will see that this would have been the day for my usual
chemotherapy treatment, but today there is none. I am very happy not to
go, I can assure you. As very nice as the staff is at Kirklin clinic
(and they are stellar) it is great to have this week off. OK,
why do I have this week off? Well, it would seem that Dr. Posey is not
sure what to do with me now that I am getting so much better. No one
ever recovers this way from stage IV pancreatic cancer, and so there is
no pre-established script as to what to do in such a case. I
a couple of calls in asking for some sort of an answer as to what they
want to do (if anything) and would be perfectly happy to be told not to
come back until a month or two from now for another blood test and CT
scan to see what is going on. But as of right now, there is no answer.
I am so very blessed! The Lord has done an amazing thing, and no one
really knows what to do about it. I will simply be vocal about it: We
have a Lord who is alive, well, and doing most interesting things to
get our attention. Thank you, Jesus!
Ah, how I enjoy Sunday! Today we went to our usual Sunday
class, and then changed into our choir robes and sang in the choir for
the late service. It is so wonderful to be able to sing the praises of
our Lord once again. After that we made lunch from the leftover roast
and trimmings, and then it was time for the obligatory Sunday afternoon
nap. Then there were cookies to bake (the favorite chocolate chip
recipe that my Mom always made) and some more relaxation.
Marie called us this evening, and confirmed her itinerary for her visit
over Christmas. We are thankful that she comes this far. Maybe soon we
will be able to reciprocate and visit her again. What was out of the
question a couple of months ago is now looking like it may be perfectly
reasonable to do. Marie noted her musical schedule, her
performances before Christmas, and she is quite versatile. Her normal
instrument is a trumpet (Bb or G) or perhaps a flugelhorn or cornet.
Well, she has been playing mellophone this year with a small group from
a drum and bugle corps, and that is a bit different. But then she noted
that she will be borrowing a baritone to play in a tuba Christmas event
in a couple of weeks. That is amazing to me. She has musical skills
that neither Monica nor I ever achieved.
The Lord is great to us. I am so amazed at His grace shown toward us at
this time. To feel this much better is a real treat, after just knowing
that I would not make it this long.
Today, after the usual morning chores, we went into Huntsville to meet
with the David and Carol Blue, to transfer some photographs into their
possession. We judged the year-end black-and-white photography for the
Huntsville Photographic Society, and the Blues will make sure the
pictures get to the meeting on Monday night. We met at Little
Rosie's Cantina for lunch, and the food was excessively good. (For the
non-locals, that is the best Tex-Mex restaurant in this part of
Alabama.) What that means is that I finished the whole taco salad, and
I really should have put half of it in a box and carried it home. Well,
I will survive, but I should know better. After that Whipple procedure
two years ago, the digestive tract does not handle that sort of gastric
assault particularly well. Smaller meals are highly
But it sure tasted good!
OK, and now it is time for a siesta!
I got to looking more closely at the most recent CT scan reports, and I
find it interesting that the radiologists have not been comparing to
the next most recent CT scan (August 14th) but rather back to either
the next previous one to that (June 9th) or to the one from January
2006. That interests me because if you go back far enough, you will
find that things look poor by comparison to the scans with little or no
evidence of cancer. If the gemcitabine has succeeded in killing off the
cancer cells, there will still be scar tissue which will be visible on
the scans, where before the cencer there was nothing. So what are they
seeing? I honestly do not know, and I am not so sure they do either.
For anyone who is interested, the latest blood tests are here,
the latest abdominal scan is here,
and the latest chest scan is here.
You will see what I mean when I
say they are comparing way back to get some difference to talk about.
Scars just don't go away. The ones from the surgeries are all still
there, and the ones from dead cancer will be there also. I am not a
radiologist (nor do I play one on TV) and I do not even get to see the
actual scans. All I get are the reports you see here.
I can sympathize with the oncologist. He called my situation
“highly atypical.” As of last week, he couldn't
what was happening. He told us that he was going to be in conference
with the radiolosts last Friday, but I have not heard any result back
yet. I have called and left messages for Jill, the Wonder Nurse, but I
have not heard back yet. We shall see.
In the meanwhile, I am rejoicing in the miracle that the Lord has
provided. The doctors may not know what happened, but they may not know
much about the Great Physician. He has done a wonder right here, and I
am very thankful.
Yesterday was great, and today is even better, because today I get to
go back to choir rehearsal this evening. I really do enjoy singing with
my church choir, and my opportunity has returned. I am so very thankful
to be well enough again to sing the praises of our Lord and King.
This morning it was cold enough that my office (in the outbuilding,
behind the main house) was cold again. I have to repair the big fan in
the heat pump compressor, as the old fan blade broke and the resulting
imbalance and vibration caused stress cracks in the outer case. It
appears to have been a manufacturing defect – poor metallurgy
the made-in-China fan blade and case – but it has been too
for it to be under warranty now. The HVAC man cannot get a new case
top, and so he is stymied. On the other hand, I see a way to fix it
with a couple of pieces of reinforcement material around the cracked
area, some epoxy glue, and some minor hand work. It just needs to warm
up enough for me to get out there to do the job.
Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son;
Endless is the victory Thou o'er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.
Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son;
Endless is the vict'ry Thou o'er death hast won.
Lo! Jesus meets us risen from the tomb;
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let His church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
For her lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting.
Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son;
Endless is the vict'ry Thou o'er death hast won.
No more we doubt Thee, Glorious Prince of Life!
Life is naught without Thee; Aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conquerors, through Thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan, with Thy power and love.
Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son;
Endless is the vict'ry Thou o'er death hast won.
- Edmund L Budry, translated by Richard B. Hoyle
What a beautiful day. It is cold, but absolutely gorgeous outside.
Today is a work day, and I am telecommuting from my office in
Guntersville. For the time being, I am continuing to telecommute, and
work 32 hours per week, so that any continuing medical appointments may
be reasonably accommodated without requiring me to use the very limited
available sick leave. It is great to have all of the necessary tools to
work from home.
I continue to get better day by day. What a treat it is to recover this
far from pancreatic cancer.
It is review time. For those who have not read the whole blog, or do
not know about my adventure with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, there is a
Summer 2004: I felt very low, but had no real symptoms other than being
really tired all the time.
September 2004: One morning I noticed that the whites of my eyes had
turned yellow. I immediately made an appointment with Dr.Foley, and his
first diagnosis is pancreatic cancer. I am yellow because the bile duct
is blocked where it passes through the pancreas.
October 21, 2004: Dr. Selwyin Vickers and his team perform a Whipple
procedure on me, at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. I survive the
surgery, and the pathologist says they got most of the cancer. However
there is some sign that it may have spread via lymph nodes and nerves..
December 2004 through February 2005: I go through radiation and
March through May 2005: I go through more chemotherapy.
June 2005: My checkups with Dr. Vickers and Dr. Posey look clean.
January 2006: My checkups with Dr. Vickers and Dr. Posey look clean
February 2006: Midsection pain begins. I can no longer lie down without
March 2006: I spend eight days in UAB Hospital while they treat me for
what they think may be pancreatitis. Nothing improves.
June 2006: I am diagnosed with progressive recurrent pancreatic
adenocarcinoma. Chemotherapy begins. I continue to get worse.
Summer/Fall 2006: The assumption is that I will not make it to
Thanksgiving, or maybe Christmas.
October 2006: The pain vanishes. With the Lord's help, I get off of all
pain medication. The pain is still gone.
November 2006: The blood tests show that the CA19-9 tumor marker has
fallen from 76 to 30 in six weeks. Dr. Posey, the oncologist examines
me, and declares the change in my my condition “highly
atypical.” That is doctor-speak for “This is a
which I have no medical explanation.”
December 2006: Things continue to get better, day-by-day, as I regain
The short-form statement for the above is that what has happened to me
just never happens to patients with progressive recurrent pancreatic
adenocarcinoma. I was in stage IV, destined to die shortly, and here I
am feeling better than I have at any time in the last three years. I
call this a miracle, and am extremely thankful to my Lord and Savior
for making this all possible. There have been a world of people praying
on my behalf for the last two and a half years, and their prayers have
been answered in a major and very visible way.
OK, there are some who will tell me that, first of all, it's not over
until it's over. Well I am happily living day-by-day, and get one day
at a time just like everyone else does. The oncologist will not declare
remission until at least five clean years pass, and that is nearly five
years from now. In the meanwhile, I am very thankful to feel this good,
and have the opportunity to live again.
There are also some who will say that the good doctoring did the
trick. Yes, I went to see the best doctors I could find, and
exactly what I was told to do. Yet, they are startled by the outcome,
because from their experience, no one get as far along as I did and
survives this long, let alone gets this much better. From what have
been told, I am at least six sigma out of the norm, and that means that
this is a truly exceptional case. What has happened to me is what the
doctors do not dare to hope for.
So I call this a miracle, whatever anyone else may say. I thank
everyone who has prayed. Please keep praying for me, because it really
is not over until it's over. And more than that I thank my Lord and
Savior who made me, redeemed me, sustains me, and now has given me my
life back. I was as good as dead, and now here I am, brought back to
life. He is great, and is faithful beyond all human words. Amen!
Yes, things continue to improve at a rapid pace. My strength and
stamina are returning, as I work harder every day. The change is so
very dramatic, that I am still somewhat in a state of shock. I am
extremely thankful for this, but sometimes I stop and wonder why I was
chosen to get better, against every prediction. The initial pancreatic
adenocarcinoma diagnosis is now more than 27 months ago, and I had been
feeling poorly for months before that. Everyone else whom I know who
has been diagnosed with this before and during that time has already
been called home. So why was I chosen to get
better? I hope
all the more now to learn the lesson of Hezekiah (II Kings 20) and to
not only get better, but also to serve the Lord better now that He has
blessed me in this way.
Today has been interesting. I started out very early, washed up and
made breakfast. Then there was a scheduled ham radio CW contact with a
friend who is trying to get faster at his Morse code. Next I did all of
the financial work for the home and business, reconciling all of the
accounts, and paying all of the bills. After Monica got up, we went
over to Wanda's restaurant (a Guntersville institution, and a pretty
good place to eat) to make sure she had breakfast also. There was a
trip to the post office, and I then took a brief nap. We then went
grocery shopping at the Publix market in Hampton Cove, since the new
kitchen needed to be stocked with food, so there would be things to
make this week. Everything was put away, and now here I am in the late
afternoon in front of the computer. There is still much to do, and I
will tackle it one thing at a time.
Tomorrow I get to sing in church with my choir, which I have not been
able to do since February. This is great. I have been wanting
do this for many months.
The Lord has blessed us exceedingly, and we are most joyful. Amen!
blog was getting so
long that I had to move the older section to a separate page. To see
the previous section, containing entries before December 2006, please
Change: July 10, 2007
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by Diehl Martin