Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Treatment update


We've been back at the treatment center for the last 3 weeks and will remain here at least until the end of December. The last week or so has been a real setback for me. My energy levels have been good, blood work is spot on, appetite is still increasing and my weight is up a few pounds, but my neck is literally falling apart.

Over the past several months I've been developing these very slow growing lumps on the right side of my neck. My doctors didn't know what they were and just left them alone since it was quite obvious that I already had cancer elsewhere in my body. In the past week or two some of those lumps have come to the surface and broken open and are not healing. There is quite a bit of drainage and my oncologist and surgeon in Minnesota don't really know why this is happening. One of the boils started off like a big blister, but after it popped it has grown deeper and wider, and is continuing to grow. I think the area was already quite irritated by tumors deeper in the right thyroid cartilage. I suspect that this is breaking apart so quickly and not healing due to the irritation from tumors combined with the fact that I've had way too much radiation which similarly caused a breakdown in my jaw in August. The radiation compromised the tissue and blood supply so much that things break down very easily and don't heal. In just a few days the wound grew so deep that I could fit the tip of my pinky into it. A few days ago I woke up with much more pain and noticed that it doubled in length and tore open along the scar of my surgical incision. I'd seen some pretty nasty wounds with all that I've been through, and my gut feeling was that this one is big trouble so we went to the ER to get it checked out.

The ER doctor and the wound care specialist on call at the time said that there isn't anything I can do to stop it from progressing at this point. I have a follow up with a wound care specialist next Monday. I wrote an update to our small group last week asking for prayer. At that time the wound was the size of the tip of my pinky. Now, a week later the wound is the size of my pinky, length, depth and height. If I literally took my pinky off my hand I could fit it right into long crater in my neck. I can see muscles in my neck moving around. My knees get weak just looking at it when I clean it.

Please pray that God would heal the wound, heal me of cancer, and relieve some of the pain. I'm back on a decent dose of narcotics to give me some comfort, but the pain breaks through the narcotics every few hours.

Despite this setback in the neck, the rest of my body is holding up ok. Other than being tired from the narcotics, I'm still doing much much better as a whole than I was doing in October when I was on narcotics. So praise God for that. Since the wound in near my voice box I am starting to really lose my voice. I'm not sure if this is from inflamation from the wound, or from cancer taking over things. Despite the pain, I'm amazed that I'm still able to spend lots of quality time with my family from NJ, who came out here to visit for the holidays. I love them so much and I'm so thankful to be together with them. They're even making the sacrifice to eat most of the meals with me here at the treatment center on this special diet!

Please pray:

1) For healing from cancer and from this wound.

2) That I wouldn't continue to be anxious or discouraged about this, that I would just see it as another way to have to trust God through this trial. I'm struggling with fears and anxiety of pain and suffering. I'm also fearful that this will cause my health to spiral down again.

3) That God would relieve my pain and give me rest at night.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Few good bosses...


I sent an email yesterday to my old boss, Dave, at Motorola in Seattle to say hello to him. I had been meaning to send him an email for a long time, but I kept getting sidetracked by my health or treatments. Yesterday's email came back undeliverable, which made me wonder, because I know his email address like the back of my hand.

This week I was making plans to return to Minnesota sometime in January rather than stay the whole winter in California. I wanted to take the northern route to pass through Seattle to visit with him.
Dave was a huge help to me as I dealt with my first bout with cancer in 2007, since he himself had gone through cancer treatments a few years earlier. He totally understood what I was going through, and made sure to support me in any way he could. When I returned to work after my first round of treatments in the summer of 2007, I told him that I don't know what is around the corner in life, but I know that moving to Minnesota would be the best place for my family, especially if cancer came back. So he pushed to get me to Minnesota and still be able to keep my job with Motorola.

I was shocked this morning to find out the bad news. His cancer had returned soon after we moved to Minnesota. It turns out that he passed away last month.

When I first interviewed with Dave for a job in his office, I told him that I was going to get married pretty soon. As a good boss he was often thinking about the quality of my personal life, so he said to me, " Then we better fly Grace up here as well for a weekend, because if you're going to be successful, its going to be with the support of your wife."

When I first started working for Dave I was a proud, naive college graduate, but he bore with me and helped me develop despite all my flaws. In the coming years Dave continued to help me flourish as a young man and engineer. He had a profound impact on my life to say the least.

Things I learned from Dave:

1) Don't eat too many Yakima cherries at one time, they're explosive if you know what I mean.

2) Take your your work seriously, not your boss.

3) Work with the utmost integrity. It may not get you a bigger bonus or the next promotion, but its just the right thing to do.

4) To some work is their life. Dave always taught me that work is a part of life. Enjoy life and you'll enjoy work.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008



Today at the treatment center I met a man that came here a year ago with stage 4 malignant melanoma. He had a huge tumor on his foot and cancer all the way up his leg to his thigh. A year ago they had to help him just to get up and walk to the back patio of the treatment center.

After doing this treatment for a year, he has returned. Doctors' scans show that there is only one little tiny lump in his thigh, and the tumor in his foot has gone completely away. He still limps some because there is non-cancerous dead tissue where the tumor was, but he's having that removed. He was able to take a 1.5 mile hike the other day compared to not being able to walk a year ago.

He hugged me and told me that it is a lot of work, but to stick to the therapy. If you create a good environment for your body to deal with the cancer, it can do it! Seeing his remarkable recovery and his happy spirit encourages me to keep fighting!

Please keep praying for neck and back pain relief, as that makes it difficult to sleep at night.