Since Our Last Meeting…

A lot has happened since the last post here; some moments were very intense, emotional, and only truly able to be understood from an insider’s perspective, while others were general gaiety with a few moments of tension. By any measure, this post is long overdue. Let me see if I can give a fair summary of the things that can be understood, things that have my heart overflowing through my eyes, that you may better share the journey with me.

Good friendship, good food...strong fellowship , and a great God!

Good friendship, good food…strong fellowship , and a great God!

I was discharged from inpatient status on Thursday February 5th (just before I wrote “Breathing Room”), and had both Friday and Saturday to mentally prepare for the sudden changes of social equilibrium that I go through when family shows up. Sunday, right as the church service was ending, daughter-in-law Laura was letting me know they were on the ground and needed a pick-up. We made that arrangement (fortunately, Joy’s son Ben was in town to help with Warren’s care, so before he returned to the cities, he brought them in from the airport), and I was able to get my first chance to see two of the grand kids, never mind my son and daughter-in-law. The next day, a friend who is living his dream arrived in town from Hong Kong, at employer expense no less, to spend the better part of a week with us. During the time he had with us, we flew, and we ate – what else – Chinese food. We talked via FaceTime with Dale’s wife, and Dale was able to get his baby fix by loving on Eliza Rae. We watched movies and talked, and talked, and when we were done? Well, to be honest, we’ll never be done talking. There may be lulls in the conversation, but time is elastic for those who let it be.

The next full week I spent largely as a passenger as we completed radiation treatment, with either Mathew or Dale driving us to Sioux Falls, me bundled into the co-pilot seat, and occasionally number one grand-daughter piled into the back seat so Laura could get a break. The radiation itself was uneventful, save the promise that I would indeed lose most of my hair came true. Matthew was able to demonstrate great parenting skills (No, not ninja, or some other hyperbolistic bull; great is more than sufficient a term of praise, we both know it, and that was all I needed to see). Talk about pride in one’s child’s rearing skills? Oh yeah, it’s there,  and I can talk about it – it just doesn’t need a flapper. That I could write a solitary post about Dale’s visit, never mind what his journey meant to both of us, without demeaning the visits of my sons? I’m finding more and more as the days start warming and we note the budding in Sioux Falls, but just as it is hard to give each day in a man’s life its proper weight and due (my own no less than yours and, push the dramatics aside – we all do matter very much to those others in our lives. It is how that weight and matter get apportioned, and  by whom.)

Next week, Dale leaves, Jesse and his family arrives, as does Jan and David. (These events are all things that have been, not shades of things to come. I need to get to bed – long day, and my typing speed is pathetic – and yet more company arriving tomorrow in real time.) Today, real time, is March 25th and much ground is there yet to cover.

May God bless, and Brandee Schafer? You melt me with your words, sister. My fears are different, and appear to surround me, but I love Cade’s 15 year old wisdom. Hugging you from the little gray house on the prairie, tears and all.

Breathing Room

A minor annoyance – I cannot remember my password to the Caring Bridge site I’d set up back in the esophageal cancer days, and the ability to login via Facebook only adds to my annoyance because it does not give me access to the back end, where I can edit my pages and do updates. So, I reckon I’ll be doing them here and on Facebook and keep everyone that I’m connected with electronically updated. For some of you, the information below will be a rehash of what’s already been posted, while for others, all new and not really pleasant information. Bear with me? Thanks – I thought you might!

Lung cancerSo, here’s the current status: I have small cell carcinoma in multiple organs. It was first discovered in my lungs and lymphatic system, followed quickly by the liver and the brain. A PET scan has to be rescheduled; Medicare rules only allow PET scans to be done on an outpatient basis, and only a PET scan will reveal if the disease has spread into territories not covered by the CT scan, which I suspect will be the case based on where I am experiencing pain. The treatment plan is for a total of ten sessions of radiation applied to the brain (whole brain, since we are after any seed cells that might have been missed in the brain MRI) and the lungs (the whole upper chest cavity). The brain has a 11 mm lesion on the right temporal lobe, and it may be causing some odd behavioral quirks I’ve been seeing. The radiation therapy is well begun, with three sessions out of the way already. The liver, which on the limited resolution of a CT scan/monitor screen, compressed so it can fit on the monitor, looks like – your choice of analogy here – Swiss cheese, with the holes being the cancer cells, or the victim of a shotgun blast – again, with the holes being the cancer cells. One of the pockets looks as large onscreen as a cue ball, and others are approaching it in size, while others give it a more gravelly appearance. This organ is to be treated solely with chemotherapy, a single session so far as I know, and I will be lobbying for that to be administered here in Luverne.

To summarize, then, I have Stage IV, inoperable, and somewhat expected to be terminal, cancer. That is not, strictly speaking, the death sentence it may seem. My oncologist was a bit on the no-nonsense side when he said only 20% of folks who have this level of affliction make it to the 5 year, or “cured”, spot – and he said that before we knew for certain it had metastasized to the brain. Given what we saw, I asked, what’s the likely prognosis? 6 to 9 months, or the end of the year, to be generous. And yet…

I had a visitor while I was hospitalized whom I love a great deal. Susan was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer, and successfully fought that beast off (my esophageal cancer diagnosis came while we were still co-workers, and she was commuting to Rochester for some of her treatments), only to have a new bout of cancer – like mine, unrelated in type to the first cancer – that has placed her in the same category, but that was two years ago, and to look at her today? You’d never know anything was wrong with her.

As has been put on various threads on Facebook, we don’t have expiration dates stamped on our feet. My sole counter to that is that perhaps we do, but only God knows where that is encoded or where it might be located. I certainly do not know, and I am not going to go looking, as it is hard to bend my right hip without causing terrible pain. There is also some pain in my chest – depending on what I’m doing at the moment – but I can assure you I am not looking for an expiration date whenever I hurt.

Friends and family are coming in from all over the globe – from Hong Kong and Okinawa, Dallas and Richmond – and they start arriving tomorrow, as I was just informed via text from my daughter-in-law. Needless to say, I’ll be off line a lot more in upcoming days – I need the breathing room for these folks as well as the treatment regime – but know this much, if you know nothing else about me and this battle: I have not given up, and will not give up. My trust is in the Lord of Hosts, and where He wants me, there will I be.

May God bless all of you.