Nov 26, 2006

Back from NYC

Holly and I are home from NYC. We had a fantastic visit with Su and Dan! It was low key because we have already been to NYC, so we weren’t interested in seeing all the sights – we just wanted to hang out with our friends and chill. So we slept in, had morning coffee with breakfast, went to a few museums and went downtown to see some Christmas stuff. And of course, we ate a lot – eating is always important on vacation in a fun place. The train ride home was a little crazy – we got into DC 30 minutes late and the train was packed, but we both managed to get a little nap. I hope to have pictures up later this week. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend, we sure did. Thanks Su and Dan!

Nov 22, 2006


Holly and I made it safely to NYC. We took the Amtrak up here and it was a heck of a lot nicer than taking the bus. We took the subway to the train, right to Penn station where we had to walk one block to jump back on the subway to head over to Roosevelt Island, where our friends Su and Dan live. I took my GPS on the train with us and the GPS told me that our top speed was 125MPH! I was surprised that they go that fast - I guess I just didn't think it would go that fast. Anyway, I'm probably not going to blog from here so I want to wish my loyal readers a very happy Thanksgiving. Eat turkey and sleep, then eat a little more. The holiday eating season has begun!

Nov 19, 2006

No Whooping Cough, Pants and Pics

Yeah – so there’s no way I have Whooping Cough. Friday morning I woke up early with a heavy cough, but after Holly left for work, I went back to bed and slept for about five hours. That was the first time I had slept more than four hours in a row since Sunday night and I felt really well after that rest. Holly and I actually headed out to get some dinner and ice cream Friday night too. Saturday I woke up late in the morning and figured I had gotten about nine hours of uninterrupted sleep and felt even better. I let Holly sleep in another few hours because I had kept her up at night all week with my coughing. We went shopping and to church and to a friend’s birthday get together too. I felt much better yesterday with a slight cough still. This morning we woke up after about ten hours of sleep and I felt better yet. We did some more shopping and chores around the house. Up until today, I needed to use an inhaler several times a day to loosen up my lungs, but I haven’t taken one puff at all today. So, there’s no way I had Whooping Cough because I’m not really coughing today and my lungs feel fairly clear. I am beginning to think that I had a very bad case of Bronchitis or some other upper respiratory bug. So, back to work tomorrow! Thank God it’s a short week.

As I mentioned earlier, Holly and I went shopping earlier. We went to Old Navy and we bought four pairs of pants. I knew I needed new ones and mentioned getting them to Holly. She was slightly ticked off because she was going to get me clothes for Christmas, but I beat her to it. I guess she’s going to have to get me something else! Like possibly a Logitech Harmony universal remote. Man that would be terrific. But, don’t tell her I told you. Anyway, I now have pants that are apparently considered trendy and in – as opposed to gaudy and old. Sweet.

I got a reminder today that one place where we have pics stored was going to be deleted unless I clicked some link to make it not be deleted. Check out these newly saved pictures from our wedding, honeymoon and family reunion a few years back: MSN Pictures.

Nov 16, 2006

Whooping Cough?

I went back to the doctor this morning and because I feel pretty normal except for the cough, the doctor thinks that I might have Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough. It is very hard to diagnose, but it is the only thing that makes sense. Holly did a little research and found a very good website that pretty much exactly describes my symptoms, minus the vomiting: The Symptoms and Sounds page is spot on – so much so that it’s amazing. I’m going to call the doc again tomorrow and ask him about this website and ask if I should go ahead and get tested. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for adults to get it. The test requires a swab or something to be inserted through the nose to the back of the throat. But if the test is done too late, the results can be inconclusive. So, that’s why he didn’t want to do it. He did give me a Z-Pak, or Zithromax – an antibiotic. I’m to lay off all the meds except an inhaler of Albuterol and a decongestant. I feel a tad better, but I’m not looking forward to going to sleep again. I just can’t figure out where I might have gotten Whooping Cough. Maybe I got it from Holly’s mom – after all, she is from Aggieland and she was here last week (I’ll let you think about that one for a bit.)

Our friend Matt, from LA, did manage to stop by. We walked down the street to El Pollo Rico(always fantastic) and brought it back to the apartment to eat. We talked and called it a night. He heads back to LA tomorrow morning. It was good to see him again.

My friend John sent me the following link this week. I thought the video was pretty interesting – a good job on the editing:

Nov 15, 2006

Even Sicker, Sandy Update and Scalp Sliding

I had a heck of a time trying to get to sleep last night. The new cough medicine didn’t really do much to stop my cough. All it did was make me woozy with a cough. I went to bed around 11pm but woke up at 1am since my throat felt like it was closing up. I immediately started hacking again. Ii tried to go back to sleep but I was up again at 2am. I decided to sit in the other room for a while to see if my cough would go away. I ended up on the computer for a while and then tried to lay down again at 3am with no luck. Finally, at 4am I thought.. duh! Why not put pillows behind my back and try to sleep propped up a bit? It took me a bit of trial and error, but I finally found a good position because next thing I knew, the alarm was going off to wake up poor Holly. I know I was keeping her up all night. She went to work around 8am and sometime between when she got up and left for work I pulled some of the pillows from behind and went back to sleep. I woke up around 11am with a very sore back and neck and coughing again. I have been coughing all day and I fear that I’m going to have trouble sleeping again tonight. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to have to get up early again (if I’m not already up) to make another doctor appointment so that the doctor can take another guess at what’s going on. I’m tired of coughing, my lungs feel congested and I’m tired. I hope they can get me feeling better soon because tomorrow will be one week that I’ve been sick.

A friend of ours from LA, another Matt, will be in town tomorrow for a meeting downtown. He wants to stop by tomorrow to say hi. His wife, Yoli, and he and their daughter stayed with us for about a week last summer as they visited DC. I hope I’m feeling better – it’ll be nice to catch up for a few hours.

Next, I got another update from Mike and Sandy I wanted to share with you:

Hello all - I wanted to provide an update from today's exciting trip to St. John's Cancer Center… Today went pretty well. In the last update I mentioned that there was a good possibility that Sandy's blood count would be too low for her to get her IV chemo today. That would have meant that she had to get shots for the next three days to build her up enough so she could get the IV chemo on Thursday. Well - Praise the Lord, her blood count was high enough today that she could get the IV chemo. That is really good news that her body is holding up to all the abuse. The bad news is that the blood count was not all that high and it probably needs to improve before next week.

Sandy got two more radiation treatments today and is looking pretty crusty. She continues her two a day radiation through Friday and then is done. For those of you keeping count; that means it is 32 down, 8 to go! Sandy sees the radiology oncologist tomorrow so she may know more, but I don't think anything is going to change at this late stage of the treatment.

The regular oncologist visit next Monday may be more exciting. We really aren't sure what we do next. The oncologist wants to see the radiation results to decide for sure what to do next. Sandy is off the oral chemo this week (the off week in the cycle) and will finish the radiation on Friday, so the oncologist wants to regroup before deciding how much of what and how often starting next week. We will meet with the oncologist on Monday and decide the next course of treatment. Based on the previous conversations, it should be the two chemos that she is on now, but different frequencies and dosages.

Even though things are starting to look better in beating the cancer right now, Sandy could still use all the prayer she can get. Her blood count really needs to rebound a bit this week so the doctor can continue to treat the cancer rather than the blood count. And some of the treatment side effects are starting to kick in. Sandy is having trouble swallowing which is caused by the radiation irritating the esophagus. In addition, the skin on her hands, mouth and lips is very sensitive. Even toothpaste feels like it burns her mouth and lips right now and bending her thumbs is a little sensitive. This is normal from what we are told, but still not pleasant. And her left arm is still a source of pain since the surgery. Once again, normal but not pleasant.

All in all, a day to celebrate the successes and pray for God's guidance and relief for the challenges. Speaking of leaning on God, Sandy and I had a very moving experience on Sunday. The elders of the church, our Spiritual Council, organized a "laying on of hands" for us before services on Sunday. We met in the chapel and the Spiritual Council members along with the Pastors laid hands on Sandy and I, anointed her with oil and prayed for us. There were about a dozen people in all. A real encouragement to us and an example of leaning on each other as the Bible instructs us.

Sandy and I are both looking forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. We really need a chance to have some time off work and hopefully away from treatments to spend some "fun" time with family and friends. Matt and Julie are coming in from DC and of course Jessica and Kimberly will be here. I think that is exactly what we need right now.

God bless you all and thank you so much for your continued support. Love, Mike

PS--- Mike covered it all for me. Thank you for your continued prayers & please keep praying. I'm still very tired but at least I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel w/radiation if nothing else. I hope & pray that you & yours are doing well, staying healthy & having fun. Thanks. love, S

I am encouraged by Sandy’s progress. Keep on praying for them, they need it. One last thing – I spoke to my neurosurgeon, Dr. Rosenbaum, today via email (I guess that’s not really talking, eh?) Anyway, I asked him again about the possibility of fixing a problem I am having at the left end of my incision. I keep on getting ingrown hairs that get painful because they closed it up and put skin over more skin where hair is still growing. It’s not pretty. He said that they might be able to fix it in Jan and we might also look at closing the gap where no hair is growing on the incision line. It should be a simple procedure. He said, “I think you could have a better job done… For now - I want you to start holding your scalp and sliding it back and forth across your skull. I know this sounds crazy but if you are able to wiggle the fibers loose and make the whole scalp slide freely we can avoid the prolonged application of a tissue expander.” So, next time you see me, I’ll be sliding my scalp back and forth!

Nov 14, 2006

Sicker and Good news for once

I woke up this morning and immediately started coughing up colorful stuff. I knew that I needed to see a doctor since there’s no way I was going to make it to work. Over here, if you’re sick, you can usually call in sick one day, but anything after that you need to see a doctor if you need to stay home longer. In order to see a doctor the same day, you have to call the clinic starting at 7am for a “sick call” appointment. I started calling the clinic at the Pentagon right at 7am, but a recording said they were still closed. I called back every three minutes or so until they answered the phone at 7:20. The only latest appointment they had was at 8:10! That was less than an hour away!! I had to rush into the bathroom and brush my teeth, jump into some clothes and get on the metro ASAP. I didn’t have to wait long for either of my two trains and I made it to the Pentagon and through security by 7:55. I walked briskly (no small feat at the Pentagon) to the clinic and made it there by 8:05 – just in time!

Because I was coughing and stuff, I had to wear a mask over my nose and mouth to prevent the spread of my germs. It was a little embarrassing - people kept looking at me like I was some kind of freak. But when the doctor called me back, he thanked me for thinking about everyone else by using a mask. The doctor had a chest x-ray done just to make sure I did not have pneumonia – I don’t. He figured that I just have a very bad upper respiratory infection brought on by a nasty virus and assigned me to quarters for 48 hours – which means I can’t go back to work until Thursday – unless I still feel bad. I got some more meds mainly for my cough and got home around 11am. I’m looking forward to seeing how my nighttime cough medicine works tonight!

Now for some good news regarding a cancer fight! Around the time that we went to St. Louis for Matt and Julie’s wedding, I told you about Matt’s mom, Sandy, who is fighting breast cancer. She’s responding to the treatments and is doing pretty darn well. Here’s an update that Sandy’s husband, Mike sent me last week:

Hello all - I am once again the guest writer for tonight. Don't be surprised if you get an update within the update from San if she is feeling up to it later. Today was a good day, of course, everything is relative. We went to see the oncologist and she was thrilled with the response we are getting from this new drug/radiation combination. The small tumors are almost gone, the bigger ones are smaller and no new ones are appearing. It looks like our plan to cook Sandy twice a day while feeding her poison both daily and weekly is working. Whoo-hoo!

Sandy is on week two of her oral chemo. That is the on two weeks off one week chemo. She received her second dose of the IV chemo today. This is probably the last one of those for a while though, because her blood count is dropping to the point that she probably won't be able to tolerate the drug next Monday. The plan will be to check her blood count next Monday. If it is too low (as expected), then they will give her a shot each day for three days to build her blood count up. They can't give her any of these shots if she is on the oral chemo, so next week works fine because it is her off week. Then, after the three shots, they hope to be able to give her the intravenous chemo on Thursday the 16th. That should be about the time her radiation is wrapping up assuming they keep the 2 a days going. Sandy sees the radiology oncologist tomorrow to verify that. Then, the oncologist will probably change the drug sequence - oral chemo on a week off a week and the intravenous chemo every other week or every third week in bigger doses. We will have to wait to see how things look and how Sandy's blood counts are after next week. All in all, a pretty good report for someone who is being tortured. I am not as good as San with the other stuff. I think everyone else is still fine. Thank you all for the prayers and please keep it up. Love, Mike

PS---Now you see why I have to take Mike w/me to keep straight what the docs tell me. OMG! I'm still very tired & for the most part go to the cancer center, come home, sleep & go back. Once in awhile Mike feeds me & I shower :) That's it for me. Please keep praying. We're making headway :) PTL Love, S

Sandy is doing remarkably well after hearing that the cancer was getting aggressive a few weeks ago. It looks like the doctors have figured out what cocktails are working for her. I’ll post more entries from Sandy and Mike when I get them. Please keep praying for them! They really need it.

Nov 13, 2006

Still sick and News about a cousin

I didn’t go to work today. I took a shower last night, shaved and everything with the intention of going; but after I got in bed on my back, I started to cough. No matter which way I turned, I still coughed. I think I finally fell asleep around 2am. When my alarm went off at 6am, I was exhausted and the cough came back. I’m taking a prescription decongestant to prevent getting bronchitis like the last time I got a cold; so I’m not supposed to take anything else. But I do lay off the decongestant and take Nyquil at night hoping that it will help me sleep. Anyway, I’ve had a cough all day – I hope it is gone tomorrow.

My cousin Sandi emailed me last week to share some news with me. Here is the email:

I wanted to let you know- and to pass on as needed about one of our cousins... Paul Mommaerts (I think he's about 47 years old now,) who is Ken's son (he wasn't at the reunion...) Kelly, Mary and Tim/Ford's brother. I haven't seen him since I was about... Maybe 7 years old?? Anyway, he has suffered from some kind of mental illness over the years and has distanced himself completely from our/his family. Kelly called me about 2 weeks ago, and told me she was going to try to find him again - which she does every so often. Well, I hadn't talked to her at all until this morning when she called me... Over the weekend, she was looking for her Brother Tim's phone number for something else, when she stumbled across some old work numbers of Paul's, an IHOP Restaurant in the Detroit area... Out of the blue, yesterday, she called the IHOP. She introduced herself and was immediately handed over to a manager who said "Thank goodness you called; we've been trying to locate family for Paul...” Yesterday (Saturday, I think) he suffered an ischemic (massive) stroke; he is currently on life support with very little brain function and last I heard from Kelly, is not expected to live. Kelly was in shock at the situation and of course of the timing. She was leaving today to go to Detroit to try to see him and find out more about what is going on.

I immediately forwarded the email to my sister and father and replied to Sandi. An hour later she replied back to me:

Well, since I sent this to you, Kelly called me and let me know that Paul died at 7:09pm tonight. They kept him on life support until she got there. No one else in the family is going up there. Kelly will handle the arrangements (Strange family, no comment... whatever.) Anyway, she said that she is trying to arrange a memorial service for his co-workers who have been so wonderful in the past few days (the coworkers at the restaurant are paying for Kelly's hotel room for 4 days) and there will apparently be a memorial service later. Weird thing, apparently before he died, phone calls were going around saying he died... I would imagine your parents might even already know. *sigh* I don't know much else, except that it is probably a very sad story overall. Kelly said he had been homeless at times... I am just so thankful that God had Kelly call and was able to be with him when he died so he could be with his family. Isn't that just amazing??

Apparently he has an ex-wife and a daughter. Lisa, my step mom, who is a private investigator is going to try to find her, however, I think it will be difficult. Her name is "Kara Smith, married to a John Smith" and no one knows where she is…

My dad wrote back and told me that, in fact, he had heard from his brother Mike earlier that same day. Anyway, even though we weren’t close to him – he is part of our family. I ask that you please pray for my uncle Ken and the rest of our family that are dealing with his death. And thanks to Sandi for letting us all know what going on. We miss you guys up in Wisconsin!

Nov 12, 2006

Sick Again

I am sick again. It started Thursday evening – my throat started to feel tight. Later in the evening Holly said I felt hot. I took my temp, and sure enough, it was 100.4. It was just a slight fever, but enough to tell me something was up. I started popping Cold-Eeze and took Nyquil to make sure I got a good rest. I took all of the weekend easy and didn’t do anything to overstress myself. In fact, Holly was out Sat afternoon and I happened across Cinemax which happened to be showing all six episodes of Star Wars back to back to back all day long. So, I watched all six of them in glorious high definition and surround sound. What a great way to spend a sick Saturday.

I’ve had a hard time finding time to blog with Holly’s mom in town last week and just a bunch of stuff going on. I have quite a few cancer related items to share with you that I’ll touch on in the following days. Some good… some not so good. For me – I’m doing well. Besides getting a cold again (just over a month after my last one – I guess my immune system is a little shot) I’m feeling extremely well. My hair really is growing in well. I’m letting it grow, but the rectangle on top has very thin light brown hair. If I let it grow out long, there is a pretty significant contrast, so I keep my hair pretty short these days, but I’m not worried about it. Physically, I feel great! In fact, I decided to run on the treadmill last Monday. I started slow but gradually worked up to a pretty quick pace: an 8:30 mile! I held that for about five minutes and gradually worked back down. At the end of 30 mins I had run almost three miles! But boy, did I pay for it the rest of the week. I was pretty sore but I’m not anymore. I tried running on the ground again, but it is just too hard since my right foot still comes down hard. The treadmill platform gives just a bit and is easy on my leg. I’ll run more and more on the treadmill and maybe my ankle and foot will get stronger.

So, here’s some not to good news… one of Holly’s co-workers, Randolph, has a son, Randolph Jr, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly after I began radiation. He had surgery and was doing fairly well until he had a seizure while he was in radiation one day. He fell into a coma for a few weeks. He started coming out of the coma and started receiving treatments again. Two weeks ago I went over to Holly’s work after I was done at work and we walked over to Randolph’s office to ask how his son was doing. He said he was doing very well and that they were going to move him to a Rehab center (much like the one I was at) very soon. That very next Sunday (one week ago today – Nov 5) Randolph Jr’s three kids came to visit him at the hospital. They started to administer his Chemo treatment and he again fell into a coma. Details are sparse, but they tried to revive him – eventually, he passed away (obit here.)

Holly and I attended Randolph Jr’s funeral this past Thursday. He leaves a wife and three boys, age 6 and twins age 4. The “Homegoing” ceremony, as they called it, was very uplifting to me. His family seemed happy with his passing – and it is an occasion to be happy about. Randolph Jr was a believer and gave his life to Christ at a young age. He’s in a better, pain free place now. But I can’t help to feel somewhat guilty for something. Holly and I talked about visiting him at the hospital. When we thought about it, we asked his dad how he was doing, and he said he was doing better. We always got good news about him, so we never made it to the hospital. I never once got to talk to this young man. Would a visit from little old me have made a difference? Maybe. But I think my life would have been touched by visiting him. The only time I ever got to actually see his face was during the viewing. I’m never going to make that mistake again. If someone is sick – go see them. If they end up in the hospital, visit with them. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Make the effort to see someone if you are moved to do so. I was so moved – and never acted. Thanks for the lesson… may he rest in peace.