Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Catscan Day

Yesterday I left my house at 5a to go to my 7:15a catscan appointment at MDA. When I arrived at MDA and received my schedule and it turned out they had bumped all my appointments until later in the day. I didn't mind too much but did feel sorry for my friend who drove me. MDA is usually pretty good about working you in though. I got through the blood work quickly and then moved on to the xray department. When they were checking me in it turns out there was a block on my account. Then the fight began. I went to the business office and discovered that the insurance company refused to pay for the upper scan that measured the size of my tumor. What really irritated me was that this is one of the most important tests I will take and when MDA entered the test into the computer they saw my account was blocked. Instead of calling me to let me know what was going on they let me drive from Beaumont in the pouring down rain to find out I may be sent home empty handed. When I spoke with the business office I offered to pay for the test myself but she refused. My main concern was what if the insurance company refused to pay? I needed the test done, I would pay for it, end of story. They should schedule it and work it out with insurance later. She and I exchanged words and then I got on the phone with the insurance company. Apparently the doctors at the insurance company and the doctors at MDA were having a hard time reaching one another. They needed to discuss the test before the insurance company could approve the claim. Long story short, after 30 minutes of trying I was able to set up a phone meeting with the doctors. If the people at MDA didn't know me before today they do now.

By 11a everything was sorted out and my xray began. This xray was just a regular chest xray to make sure nothing has grown in my lungs. Then, I went to the catscan department. They call you in a room and allow you to pick the flavor of barium you'll be choking down. They had apple, banana, orange and berry. The nurse said berry is usually the flavor everyone chooses so I went with that one. It was much worse than muscle milk. It makes me shake every time I drink it. They give you 1 hour to drink about 20 ounces of barium and then it's time to either get an IV or get your PICC flushed in preparation for receiving the contrast. Luckily, I had my PICC so they were able to add the contrast through that instead of giving me an IV. They called me back, prepared my PICC for the contrast and then gave me another hour to drink 20 more ounces of barium. When this hour is up they lay you flat on a table and then shoot barium up your rectum. They have a machine that is shaped like a donut and is about 2 feet wide. Your entire body isn't covered by the machine, but the table goes through the donut while it's taking pictures of your body. You first do the test without contrast and then they add the contrast to your PICC/IV. As soon as they add contrast to your body you can feel the heat all the way to your toes. It doesn't hurt, but everything gets hot. The contrast and the barium work together to light up your body, without it your body would be dark during the scan and the doctors wouldn't be able to see anything. The contrast goes through your entire system while the barium lights up the parts of your body connected to digestion. Together, your entire body is lit up and gives the doctors a better visual.

For me personally, it makes my sugar level go up and gives me some stomach problems. Now, I'm in the waiting period. I have a 4p appointment with my oncologist on Monday the 4th to receive the results. Please pray for a good outcome.

"If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, "My foot has slipped," Thy lovingkindess, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul." Psalm 94:17-19

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why Not Me and You?

First, I'd like to tell you about a miracle that happened in my family last night. My 32 year old niece, Kim had a massive heart attack. She was rushed to the hospital and had to be brought back to life by shocking her heart. After working on her for some time the doctor came down to talk to the family. He said that she was really lucky. The type of heart attack she had is nicknamed the "widow maker" because no one ever survives. The main artery going to her heart was completely blocked, so they placed a stint in. As a firefighter at Exxon I have had to assist others in the rescue of heart attack victims. From my experience, if they are to the point of needing shocked they usually don't survive. It is truly a miracle that Kim is alive. Please pray for her and her family during her recovery time.

During my experience with cancer I felt skeptical of whether or not I was worthy of a miracle. My first visit at MDA was not encouraging. The surgeon began the conversation by telling me I was not a candidate for surgery. He then proceeded to give me tons of percentages that did not give me good odds. Overall, he said that most people with my cancer live up to 5 years and that if the chemo didn't work I'd have 6 months to live. I did not feel confident when leaving Houston that day. A week later I went to my oncologist for the first time and asked her not to give me success rates or percentages. I just had one question, "Has anyone ever survived stomach cancer?" Her answer was yes and that's all I needed to know. From that point on I decided to fight. When first diagnosed I'd pray for a miracle and then wonder if God would choose to save me? Why would he? I didn't attend church regularly, wasn't the best christian and I'm not perfect. I'm not a preacher, I'm not a deacon or a priest. Why would God waste a miracle on me? I'm sure other people have problems too and probably struggle with the same doubts. What I've come to realize is God loves us all. We are all his children. As a parent, I love my kids the same no matter what they do. One may be better at sports and the other may make better grades. If one child messes up that doesn't make me love them any differently. In the end, God loves us all equally and if it is in his will a miracle could be in store for any of us. So why not me or you? Just have faith.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, December 27, 2009

God's Love Filters Your Life

This Wednesday I'm having a catscan done which will determine whether or not the chemo is working. I'm already anxious about the results and my brother always tells me a miracle is coming. I know he is right because I've already improved so much.
I've been reading a book entitled "You! God's Brand New Idea" by Max Lucado and found a passage I'd like to share with you. This passage has comforted me and already made me feel better.

"God's Love Filters Your Life."

Every so often in life, we found ourselves standing before God's counter, thinking we know the itinerary. Good health, a job promotion, a pregnancy. Many times God checks the itinerary he created and says yes. But there are times he says, "No. That is not the journey I have planned for you. I have you routed through the city of struggle."

We can stamp our feet and shake our fist. Or we can make a sailor-in-the-storm-decision. I know God knows what is best.

He alters all itineraries. He knows what is best. No struggle will come your way apart from his purpose, presence, and permission. What encouragement this brings! You are never the victim of nature or the prey of fate. Chance is eliminated. You are more than a weather vane whipped about the winds of fortune.

We live beneath the protective palm of a sovereign king who superintends every circumstances in our lives and delights in doing us good.

If you have something in your life that has you worried or concerned remember to trust in God. He'll get you through anything.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is that a probe or a 2x4?

A few days ago an old friend came in town and some of us decided to get together and catch up. While visiting we started discussing different medical procedures/tests we've suffered through. I thought I'd share with you the example I told the guys. Before my surgery 3 years ago the doctor told me I'd need one more test ran. I was skeptical because most of my other tests had been done rectally, but the doctor told me all I needed was an MRI and I immediately felt relieved. As a firefighter claustrophobia is not something you are concerned with, so I knew sitting in tight quarters for an hour or so would be a piece of cake. I even confirmed with the front desk that all I needed was a simple MRI. Once receiving that confirmation I relaxed and enjoyed reading my book until my name was called. Eventually, a male nurse came out and called 5 names, mine being the last. He lined us up near the dressing rooms and began calling out orders to each of us. He started with the first person in line and told him to strip down to his underwear, put the gown on and go to room 1. He then told the 2nd, 3rd and 4th person all to strip down to their underwear, put on the gown and go in their room. Then, he got to me. He told me to take off ALL my clothes, put the gown on and go to room number 5. Red flags immediately went up and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. I called the nurse into my dressing room, sat him down and asked, "Why am I different than everyone else?" He replied, "Well, sir, your test is different because it is done rectally." They then brought me into a room and of course there were 2 LADY nurses to administer the test. They asked me to get on the table, lay on my side, and they pulled out a probe that looked like a 2x4. They put the probe in, and you roll to your back and then lay in the machine for 45 minutes to an hour. Let's just say it was uncomfortable. After the test was over 2 NEW woman nurses came in to remove it. Of course, it couldn't be the same nurses who had already seen everything. When they removed the probe I told the nurse that I felt violated and that she at least owed me lunch. She laughed but her elderly nurse friend did not agree. I did receive lunch, but I payed for it myself. At the time the test seemed traumatic but looking back it's just kind of humorous. I survived!

"A heart at peace gives life to the body." Proverbs 14:30

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quick Update

Yesterday the Jesus' birthday party was a hit with Owen and his best friend. They read the story of Christmas and used a toy manger scene to further explain the details. The kid's got to sing happy birthday to Jesus and blow out the candles. Actually, they begged to blow the candles out repeatedly. The kids also received gifts in honor of Jesus' birthday. I think the boys now have a better understanding of the meaning of Christmas.

Today I'm feeling pretty good. I've started walking and doing exercises with my left arm. I can't work out my right arm because of my PICC but hope to maintain muscle in the rest of my body. I even ate beef for the first time in months and so far it seems to be settling well. My oncologist has stressed the importance of exercise and nutrition to me. She wants my goal to be maintaining calories and keeping my body in shape. The doctors believe I'm doing so well because I was in such good shape to begin with and I'd like to keep it that way. Anything helps!

I do have a question for those of you who have been through chemo. After I receive my treatment the top of my head breaks out in a rash. Do any of you have a similar experience?

"Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Festivities

This past Saturday and Sunday I was a little nausea and had some lower back pain and stomach pains. Again, the pains I have are caused by the chemo fighting the cancer and usually go away by Monday or Tuesday. Also, my hair is starting to grow back and it's 90% white. I may end up looking like Einstein's twin by the time this is all over.

This weekend was full of many Christmas festivities. First, we had our last Christmas at my mother's house. It was both happy and sad. We had fantastic mexican food (catered by Dana Jara if you are interested), watched the kid's opened gifts and played a stressful game of BINGO for cash. Usually before the BINGO began mom would open her gifts from everyone. If a card was attached to the present she would read it front to back to the entire crowd. She'd shush people, make sure everyone was paying attention and read every single word that both the card maker and the gift giver would write. It was one of those things we all joked about but will certainly miss.

My son-in-law has a different work schedule, so this Sunday we woke up to Santa gifts for my grandbaby. He was surprised by his Santa gift at least 5 times. He'd run in the room and then run back out. He wanted to know, "What's the big idea?" He also wanted to open and play with each gift when we opened presents. It took us a good 3 hours to open all the gifts.

My daughter is trying to explain to my grandson the meaning of Christmas. When she first explained that it was Jesus' birthday he was concerned that he'd have to give Jesus the gifts and got a little defensive. So, today we are having a birthday party for Jesus. We baked cupcakes, plan to order pizza, have balloons, and read the story of Christmas using a manager scene. Once she explains everything again she's going to give Owen and his best bud each a gift and tell them that because it's Jesus birthday and we want to remember it we give each other gifts. Hopefully this party will clear up any confusion.

This Christmas was really important to me because even though I feel that the chemo is working doubts still creep in. In the back of my mind I was reminded that this maybe my last Christmas, so I enjoyed watching the kids open gifts more than I ever have. People tell me that these doubts are the devil trying to get you down, and it's true, but that doesn't mean thoughts don't still creep in. So, with all my might I'm fighting negativity at all times. I did manage to shake the doubts off and have a great Christmas.

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 18, 2009

Family History of Cancer

I'm feeling pretty good today, but I'm anticipating being sick later. Usually the vomiting kicks in when my chemo pump stops administering the medicine. It's the strangest thing, but it's almost instantaneous.

In the past, men in my family usually died of heart attacks. No one really ever had cancer or at least we didn't know about it. As the years progressed cancer has definitely become well acquainted with my family.

1. In 1971 my father's mother died of a liver disease that we now believe was cancer. Her symptoms were almost identical to the ones my father had years later.

2. My father got prostate cancer in the late 80s and he went through radiation. The radiation damaged other parts of his body, but they considered him cancer free. He refused to have surgery.

3. My sister Susan got breast cancer and they did a lumpectomy and radiation. She was then cancer free.

4. In 1996 my dad got pancreatic cancer that later spread to his liver. He passed away in 1998. It's interesting because my dad had taken my mother to the hospital because her heart was racing. While they were testing my mom, my sister noticed my dad looked yellow. She insisted he see a doctor and by the end of the day we found out he had cancer. I was out of town, and when I got home both my parents were in the hospital. We were later told my dad had 4 months to live. Not satisfied with that answer, we forced him to go to Houston and he lived 2 years.

5. In 2006 I got prostate cancer and had surgery. The surgery was a success and I was then cancer free.

6. My mother got breast cancer in 2007. She had a lumpectomy and radiation and was considered cancer free.

7. Then, of course you know I have stomach cancer.

Now, my family is definitely taking being tested seriously. Hopefully everyone will continue to get tested on a regular basis. I can not stress the importance of getting your regular checkups and tests done. You never know, you could be the first one in your family with cancer!

For a family who never had cancer before, we sure have had our fair share. You know, every one has been affected with cancer though. Everyone knows someone with cancer.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Father's Love

A friend forwarded this to me and I thought everyone should read it.











































































Today at MDA

Today was my day of fun at MDA. My day began with blood work and a meeting with the doctor's assistant. He said my blood work was good and actually some aspects of it improved like the nutrition side. Even though chemo is hard on me, they think the reason my body is responding so well to the drugs is because I was in such good shape before being diagnosed. My next appointment is set for December 30th and that's where I'll have a full body scan and a lung x-ray. On January 4th I'll have an appointment with my oncologist and they'll decide where to go from here. This visit will probably be the most important doctors visit I'll ever have. If the chemo is working there's a good chance the treatments will continue. As far as the side effects from the chemo this round I'm having nausea, stomach pain, drowsiness and my head is hot. I don't have fever, and I'm not sweating, but my head is hot. It's weird. Every week is a different adventure.

Pray Now Please!

Just started chemo. Please pray it's working!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Live Life to the Fullest

The doctors say I can eat anything, so over the past few days I've been experimenting with different foods. Some work and others don't!

I'm not qualified to discuss some subjects, but in the most recent months I've become knowledgeable on one subject and that is living life to the fullest. I have no control over whether or not the chemo is working or how long I'll be on Earth. Although most things in my life are out of my control I do have a few personal decisions I can make. While on Earth I'll make good decisions that will impact my eternal life. I can choose whether or not I'll take the path to heaven or hell, and I choose heaven. The choices and decisions I make are up to me and no one else. I'm going to enjoy each minute of my life, be thankful for the good things, and try to change the bad. I'm going to praise God and give Him all the glory He deserves, so when He comes for me I'll have a front row seat in heaven.

I've learned that the best way to live my life is to wake up, thank God for another day, and pray away any pain I may be feeling that day. I say this because I'm worried about someone in my life. In the past 2 months my friend has convinced himself that he has 3 different types of cancers. The doctors continue to prove him wrong and each time they do he convinces himself another cancer is taking over his body. Right now his life is consumed by worrying and fear instead of being thankful that the doctors haven't found cancer. I told him to trust in God. Get up, plan a vacation, pray away any fears, and live life. The life he is choosing to live right now is not full of praise, joy, positivity, and can not be good for the soul.

Another example of this is people who hate their jobs. Instead of focusing on the good things about their job like the friends and the stability, they only see the bad things. Before they know it 30 years of their life has been wasted away by complaining and negativity. What a miserable existence! I challenge all of you to be able to differentiate from the good and bad. When things are good, be thankful for them and when things are bad, change it. Don't harp on it.

God is most definitely in control, but he does leave some things up to us. We have to plan and make choices while also trusting Him and being able to remain flexible. We must listen to Him and try to follow His will for our life and make good decisions. Below is a story my friend sent me and I'd like to share it with you.

There was a bad storm in town and the river started rising. Police came through the neighborhood asking people to leave because they'd drown in the river if they stayed. The man told the police officer he wasn't worried about it and God would take care of him. The river rose and the water got to the door of his house. Then, a man came in a boat and asked him to get in the boat because if he didn't he'd drown. The man replied, he wasn't worried about it because God would take care of him. The water then rose to his roof top. While on his roof a helicopter flew by and tried to rescue him. He said he wasn't worried about it and God would take care of him. Without accepting help, the man drowned. When he got up to heaven he was upset. He asked God why he didn't take care of him. God said he did. He sent a police officer, a boat and a helicopter to rescue him and he wouldn't listen.

The moral of the story is that God is willing to help, but we must be willing to listen. He gives us direction and then we must follow it. He can't do everything for us.

I'd like to share one other story with you. My daughter's friend spent all day making a gingerbread house with her 3 year old son. The next day, while the kid was at school, the dog ate the gingerbread house and had left only a few pieces on the table. The mom was so worried her son would be devastated. When the little boy ran in the room and she explained what happened all he said was "Yay! Thanks Ginger for saving me a piece!"

Isn't it great how he has such a positive outlook on life?

Overall, We all have to make decisions in life. We must live life to the fullest, be positive, praise Him and listen to God when He is trying to speak to us.

"I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.

Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live." Psalms 116:1-2

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Expenses for a Day

The last two days have been really good. I haven't had much pain or been nausea.

I thank God that I work at a place that has a great union. We have bargained for good benefits and pay. First, let me begin by saying I don't need money. I am blessed to have such great insurance and benefits and my family is fine. My point to this blog entry is thinking about all the people who don't have insurance or good benefits. I can't imagine the financial burden they must be in. I thought I'd tell you about some of the expenses that you incur when traveling back and forth to MDA.

This is the cost for 1 day of chemo:
1. $50 for gas
2. $20 for food for the day
3. $15 for parking
4. $25,000 per chemo treatment (I have insurance, don't worry)
5. Some people loose a days pay when traveling to MDA. I luckily work for a company that pays me for sick leave.
6. Some people even pay airline tickets and hotel stays.

This total isn't including the blood work, the doctors visit or any other tests/scans that may be ran while at MDA. Again, let me say that I don't need money. I've just been thinking about other people who may not be as blessed as me. With that being said, I'd pay a lot more than that to be getting the level of care MDA provides. You can't put a dollar amount on the value of your life.

Even though life gets tough, we don't have to fear because God will not only give us comfort, but he'll also meet our needs.

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Like Milkshakes (spoken like my grandson)

Today the nausea went away which is great. If you recall, a few weeks ago I was telling you how up to 5 days after chemo touching anything cold would shock me. I've recently found out that the effects stay with me much longer. Today I was outside without my gloves and discovered that my hands tingle and go numb. Oh, and I should mention that my mustache is falling out. I'm still determined not to shave it just yet.

Has anybody ever heard of professional strength muscle building milkshake or muscle milk? In my opinion, they all taste like crap! After my first visit with my oncologist she said I needed to stick to a 2,000 calorie diet a day. The only problem is I couldn't eat. So, to maintain my calorie intake my family and I decided shakes were the way to go. First we started off with muscle milk. Everyone told me that chocolate was the best flavor so that's the one I chose. It was so terrible that I almost spit it on the floor. I'd hate to taste the worst flavor. Then came the milkshakes. Keep in mind I couldn't drink anything cold because of the chemo. We had to warm each milk shake before I drank it....mmmmmm....mmmmmm....good! I wasn't sure if the chemo or the shakes were making me throw up.

My daughter, Tiffany was determined I would meet my daily goal of 2,000 calories, so she began inventing shakes hoping one would be a winner. She stood at the counter with her blender like a mad scientist cooking up her formulas. She even named the shakes: peachy keen, merry melon and berrylicious. Oh yeah, she named them all. I give her an A++ for effort. Everyone that tasted them thought they were great, but I think they were just trying to lure me in for the kill.

Finally, I got everyone together and explained that I never wanted to taste another shake again. After the first chemo treatment I thought I could successfully eat bread again and decided to go to Red Lobster for their biscuits. Luckily their biscuits are delicious and 250 calories a piece. I thought everyone understood how strongly I disliked the shakes, but the next day I arrived at both my house and my mothers to find 5 pound containers of Professional Strength Muscle Building Shake Mix. You can see how well my family listens to me! My determined family began trying to force me to drink these high calorie shakes. This crap would make my whole body shake when I'd drank it.

Praise God I can eat again. I can now reach my daily 2,000 calorie diet by eating normal food. I really do appreciate my family and friends who pushed me to eat that many calories a day. Not only was I not able to eat much, but the doctor was asking me to eat more calories a day than I did when I was well. It was a challenge and I'm thankful I had people cheering me on.

I never, ever, ever, ever want a protein drink to touch my lips again. If anyone needs a 5 pound container of muscle shake mix let me know-I'll give it to you.

"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." Matthew 5:41

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beware of the Internet

First, I want to wish my son a happy 23rd birthday and I'd like to thank my daughter for helping me with my blog.

I spoke a little too soon when posting yesterday because I've been extremely nausea the past couple of days. I didn't know whether I'd be kneeling or sitting when I went into the restroom. What a trip!

Lately I've received calls from people who are newly diagnosed with cancer. While they are waiting for their appointment with the oncologist they are consumed with fear and turn to the internet for information. I understand that reaction because I did the same thing but learned it's the wrong move. The internet feels your head with worries, fears and worst case scenarios. You end up convincing yourself you are going to die before you've even been evaluated by a doctor. For example, when researching my specific chemotherapy drug you find that toenails fall off, finger nails fall off, throat tightening up, tightening of chest, etc. Just because these symptoms happen to some people doesn't mean it's the same for everyone.

You need to find a doctor that you trust with your life and you feel confident that they are knowledgeable on your cancer. If you don't feel at ease with your doctor you should find another one. My oncologist not only specializes in my cancer, but she also explained things well. She's been with MDA for years and understood that finding out your diagnosis is scary. She showed us scan after scan, answered all of our questions and even took notes for me so I could focus on what she was saying. She explained things so well I didn't need the internet to look up further information.

There are times when it's appropriate to research your situation on the internet.

1. Research your doctor. Look for reviews, their experience, etc.

2. If they can't do anything to cure your cancer then you could research alternative methods.

The best way to research your questions besides asking your doctor is finding another person who has had your same cancer. Keep in mind that if the person has a negative attitude I wouldn't turn to them for advice.

Don't let the negative information you find on the internet get your hopes down. It's important to stay positive when dealing with cancer.

"Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalms 25:4-5

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Mind is a Crazy Thing

I want to thank everyone for all of the cards, plants, flowers and donations this weekend. We had a great turnout at my mother’s visitation and funeral. Thank you for coming out and celebrating her life with us.

As far as how I’m feeling, I have been less nausea the past couple of days. I also feel less pain and will know more as the week progresses.

The mind is a crazy thing. Dealing with both an ill mother and my cancer has put me in war mode. I’ve had to reach a certain state of mind that helps me stay focused on getting well. When my chemo day is approaching I have to focus on pumping my self up because I know that I’m going to be sick for several days. Being mentally prepared for those days helps me power through. I’m not dealing with little, daily problems at work. I’m dealing with life and death and must stay strong. Only the strong survive! With that being said, it doesn’t mean I’m disrespectful, not appreciative, or don’t need my friends and family. I have to be cautious not to close out those closest to me. I’ve been asked how I stay in war mode and there are several factors that help me. First, receiving texts, calls and emails from friends and family remind me that I have support. The main reason I stay strong is my faith in God. He gives me strength each and every day. Even on the days I don’t feel great, God gives me strength and protects my mind from negative thoughts. I’m sure some people say I’m just finding God because I’m sick and there is truth to that. It took a serious illness to slow me down and help me find God. I don’t ever plan on loosing him again though. Don’t wait for something tragic to bring you to God.

For years I thought Christians were weak because they needed someone else to make them strong. I didn’t agree with the saying “turn the other cheek” and thought it was an excuse. I use to believe strength came from physically being able to protect yourself. I’ve had broken noses, fractured sheens, black eyes, bruised ribs, hurt backs, 2 rounds of cancer and with all of that physical violence, I’ve found that physical fighting is not what has given me strength. God has given me strength. He fights my battles for me.

With God’s help you can do anything. His strength enables us to face situations with grace, humility, kindness and perseverance.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:26

Friday, December 4, 2009

One of my 2 Heros

Each time I have chemo it's like a new adventure. I never know how the medication is going to affect my body. This time my blood pressure is running high.

Today I'd like to tell you about a Christian who I want to be like-my mother.

-Married to a wonderful man for 56 years who died in 1998. They never had a serious quarrel. They also loved to dance and enjoyed music. They were both very strong Christians and raised their family with Christian values. Missing church as a family was not an option.
-People and strangers from all over would call and ask her to pray for them. She had very powerful prayers. For example, I've had lots of friends call my mother when their kids were sick. Her prayers were like magic. When she asked she received.
-She said the Rosary everyday for anyone who was sick or needed comfort.
-She lit the candle every morning.
-Our favorite times were gathering on Saturdays when she made spaghetti and meatballs.
-She cooked every single Saturday for the entire family.
-She gave to charities all over.
-She was really generous to people who she thought needed it. For example, she went out of her way to tip bust boys at restaurants.
-She volunteered at Some Other Place for years.
-When at Some Other Place she learned the homeless people’s birthdays and gave them money as a gift.
-She had 6 children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great grand children.

My mother loved her family, friends and especially God. She gave us all a strong Christian foundation to build on. She continuously praised the Lord each and every day and I hope I can remember to do the same. I know she's in heaven helping Jesus run the place. Now we have 2 angels in heaven looking over the family.

Before passing, she was worried about my well being. I promised her that I'd be ok and so would the family. Now I must live up to my promise and beat my cancer.

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm Getting a New Daughter!

My son is engaged to be married. The date isn't picked yet, but we couldn't be more thrilled.

Praise the Lord

My mother's visitation will be from 5-7p on Sunday at Broussards on the corner of Major Drive and Gladys. It will be followed by a service at 7p the same night. The funeral will be held Monday at 10a at St. Anthony's Cathedral on Neches right off of College Street.

God has definitely been working in my life and has answered 2 specific prayers. First, my mother didn't suffer and second I got good news from my oncologist. My blood work was still good. My white blood count was low but still good enough to receive chemo. If it's lower than 1 they won't let you have chemo and you have to receive shots to build your immune system. The blood work also showed that the chemo is staying in my system and fighting the cancer for a long period of time which is good. Also, the swelling in my stomach has gone down some and my stomach wasn't rumbling as much as it use to which is a good indicator. After my last chemo treatment I had intense stomach and back pain and was concerned. The doctor felt since the pain went away after a few days that the chemo was fighting with the tumor and winning. I'm also glad to report I didn't get sick on the ride home. Overall, the chemo treatments seem to be working and I'm ecstatic. God is good!

"Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find [a] refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light." Psalms 36:5-9

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Words Can't Express

My family has had a big loss today. My mother passed away at 4:45p. She had an extremely rough night last night, so this morning my family gathered and prayed over her while listening to worship music. God answered our prayer and she relaxed and rested peacefully to the end. My brother went to the store and bought a CD that had my parent's song on it. They danced to Vince Gill's "Just the Two of Us" at their 50th anniversary party so we played that song for her a couple of times. My parents loved to dance so we encouraged her to go to heaven and dance. After the song was over the priest showed up and said the last rights and we all prayed. Quickly there after she passed away peacefully. We feel like my dad came and got her and they were reunited tonight. Although we are glad they are both together words can not express how much we will miss them. After discussing it with my family we decided I should go to my chemo appointment tomorrow. Please continue to pray that chemo works and for my family as the week continues.

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Monday, November 30, 2009

Family Support

This weekend I got a cold and was nervous that without it clearing up I wouldn't be able to receive my chemo this week. So, on Saturday morning I began calling MDA hoping to get a Z Pack and to see if an antibiotic would interfere with the chemo medication. After 4 phone calls and a 24 hour period I finally received a call back asking me to call my regular physician. I then spent the rest of the day trying to get in touch with my family doctor and was told they wouldn't contact the doctor or discuss medication over the phone. Now I'm 2 days away from being evaluated by my oncologist and I'm afraid she won't administer the chemo if I'm sick. I was hoping to begin an antibiotic early in the weekend so she'd never hear me sounding hoarse. I plan on contacting my family doctor this morning to see if there is anything they can do. Also, Friday my mother took a turn for the worse. She hasn't eaten or drank anything in 4 days. Hospice has now determined she needs 24 hour nurse care and have moved in with the family. Please pray that she is not in pain and peacefully joins my father in heaven.

With that being said, I'd like to tell you about how blessed I am to have so many different loving families in my life. First, I'd like to tell you about my martial arts family. I've been doing Aikido for 30 years and spend 4 hours a week working out with these people. When you are hitting each other, putting people to sleep and throwing one another on the ground you get pretty close quick. They have been supporting me through this process and I'm thankful for them.

I also have a band family. I've been playing with the guys in this band for 3 years and have been playing with one of the guys since I was 17. When you are playing music it's the only time you feel no pain and your thoughts are focused on the music and not reality. When you and a group commonly love music there is nothing like producing a song together that brings us so much joy. Experiencing that joy together creates a family because not many people understand the impact music has on our life. I really miss playing my drums right now while sick. Today my son in law is going to help me put them together so I can just look at them. I look forward to playing them soon and I'm so thankful to God for the gift of music.

Exxon Mobil has also been a great family to me. One of the recent retires figured out that we spend 60% of our lives at work. We sometimes worry that the family atmosphere at work is being lost but all the texts, emails, phone calls, visits and especially prayers prove otherwise. We are still a family and it's up to us to keep it that way. Being sick reminds you how blessed we are to work in a place that has good insurance and sick leave. I want to give thanks to God for having worked at Exxon Mobil for 32 years.

Working in the fire/safety department also creates a strong sense of family. When that alarm goes off and there is a fire or someone is down you have to respond as a group and look out for one another. When you are in that situation you are putting your life in someone else's hands and that trust creates a strong knit group. We can argue with one another, but we don't allow anyone else to come into the station and disagree with a family member. If you confront one person you get us all. Our favorite saying in the station is we love you like a brother or sister. There is even one I love like a daughter. Over the years there have been rumors (just rumors) that the company wants to shut the station down. Not only are we the best trained responders in the country, but we also keep people safe 24/7. Like any family, we will fight to keep our family together.

I also have a family in USW and they are very close to my heart. This is a group of people who work together to keep the refinery safe and fight for fairness, respect, wages and benefits for all employees. This is a thankless job and done without any compensation. It's been a pleasure and a honor to be a leader in this organization since 1979. Being the president of this union has been one of my life's biggest accomplishments. When the committee and executive board deals with such serious issues like someone's loss of job or pay it brings a group close together. Some of my best friends have come out of the USW leadership through the comradery and travel. I thank God for the people who have allowed me to lead them for all of these years.

My dad use to say that he was the most successful man and he was just a welder. We all judge success differently and I believe as him, I'm successful because I have a great family. He was proud of his 6 kids just as I am mine. This challenge has put a great deal of pressure on wife and kids and they have stepped up to the challenge to help me. Without support from them I'd be lost. I'm blessed to have my wife and 2 kids! I also have a strong extended family. My brothers and sisters and I have remained close over the years. We see each other daily and stay involved in each others lives. We were taught to love one another by caring parents who raised us in a 750 square foot house. We slept 3 to a bed and had no choice but to love one another. My wife's family has also been supportive during this time and I feel thankful to have so many loving family members checking in on me each day.

You may noticed I did not mention a church family. This is because I haven't regularly attended church in years but that will change. If you know anyone who has cancer you should pick up the phone and call them or email them. Let them know you are thinking about them. Your email may make a difference in their recovery. It's a challenge to remain in a good state of mind during this process and it helps when you know others are behind you. With a good mental prospective, you are more likely to fully recover. I am so thankful to God for putting so many different families in my life. Without them my life would not be as full. These families support me during the rough times, but I must also mention that I get my main strength from God. Although I've forgotten about the love and support He has given me over the years, I will not make that mistake again. Thank you God for all you've done for me.

"Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." 1 Chronicles 29:13

Friday, November 27, 2009


This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for so many things, but this year in particular I'm thankful for the simple things.

1. I'm thankful that I woke up on Thursday with very little pain.
2. I was not only able to eat but also enjoy my food.
3. I was able to spend the day with family and friends. We squeezed 40 people into my mother's 750 square foot home.
4. I woke up to my grand baby being in the house.
5. I've always been able to speak in large groups when it's related to work, but I've never openly prayed in front of people. This Thanksgiving my mother asked for my 2 brothers and me to bless the food. For the first time in my life I was able to pray in front of people and actually found it easy. Why would it be hard to praise God when he made it possible for me to have such a happy Thanksgiving.
6. This was particularly a special Thanksgiving because for the first time ever I knew who to be thankful to....God.

"I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart..." Psalms 9

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Great Christmas Gift Idea

A close family friend of ours is an amazing artist and has just come out with Christian art. Some of the proceeds go to help families who are out of work at his church. Each print is $25 and for a limited time only if you buy 4 you get the 5th free. Please check out his website. If you look under the gallery section you can see pictures of the art. Thanks for checking it out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Today my family and I met at my mother's house and had a head shaving party. I wanted my grandson to watch my head being shaved so he wouldn't be scared of me. My niece Hayley cut my hair while the rest of the family took pictures and had a good time. My son still wants me to shave my mustache, but I'm just not ready yet. I'll attach a picture so you can see my new look.

I've always been a patient man when it comes to big issues like bargaining contracts or fighting fires, but I'm not so patient with life's little issues. When getting ready for work at 4:30a I've been known to wake up my entire family by yelling, swinging open doors, and flipping lights on looking for a hair brush. Having cancer has definitely given me a lesson in patience. Not only do you let the little things go and focus on the big picture, but you are also forced to do a lot of waiting. I will spend hours waiting for a doctors appointment at MDA, but I don't mind and I'm thankful for the great treatment. Several months ago if a doctor were running late I'd get irritated. I've noticed at MDA cancer patients are nice people. They no longer let life's little annoyances irritate them. It's a shame you have to get sick to realize what's important in life.

Although I've learned patience, I'm a terrible patient. I've always been active and I'm having a hard time sitting around. This week I've had a great deal of stomach pain and it makes me nervous. In my heart I know the chemo is working but doubts still enter my mind from time to time. I'm ready to KNOW the chemo is working and for my life to return to normal. I have to remember that I'm not in control. God has a plan for my life and although I don't know His plan I need to trust that He knows what's best for me. I must have patience and wait on his timing. It took being diagnosed with cancer to slow me down and force me to stop and listen to God. Do you take time to stop and listen to God? To praise Him? Are you prepared to be patient and wait for his timing? To follow His will for your life instead of your own?

"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9

It may look like I have a lot of hair left, but it was falling out by the handfuls. It was only a matter of days before it was all gone. Once my hair was shaved I felt like my ears doubled in size and my nose grew 3 inches.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good Bye 70s Look

Today I had pain in my stomach but other than that my day was better. The other news is my hair started falling out. Today in the shower a handful of hair fell out and each time I brush my hair the counter top is covered in hair. Soon we will be having a hair shaving party at my house. It also appears that my mustache is going to fall out. I've had a mustache since I was 18 years old so it will definitely be strange to not have one. After researching chemo on the internet, I learned that depending on the dosage and chemical all the hair on your body can fall out. I even read that when your hair grows back it can be a different color, straight, curly, thicker, etc. In most cases the hair comes back looking the exact same and sometimes even thicker than before. One of my fears is that when it grows back I'll look like Buckwheat from the Little Rascals or Einstein. If my hair grows back crazy I'll be sure to post a picture. My kids have been urging me to change my 70s hair cut for years, so I guess they are finally getting there way.

"God never asks us to suffer for the sake of suffering. He never asks us to give up something good unless he plans to replace it with something better." Commentary from a study bible.

See, I may even look better like McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


The last two days can be summed up in two words: cancer sucks. I've been nausea, throwing up and just plain sick. The affects of the chemo are starting to wear off and today has been a better day. I haven't been as nausea but have been extremely tired. I've just got to keep my eyes on the prize.

Throughout our life we all face challenges and it's up to us to determine how we handle them. We are either strong or weak and our attitude affects the end result. I realize being weak can be a good thing because when you are weak you may turn to God for his strength. Weak is not a good thing if you choose to handle problems by whining and complaining all the time. For example, 52 years ago I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed before they had disposable needles, glucometers, technology, or knowledge on the disease. The kids in school never understood what was happening when I'd have a reaction. They didn't understand why I was able to eat in class and they weren't. I was even occasionally forced to beat kids up who tried to steal my food. I remember passing out at school or not being able to participate in the holiday parties by eating all the tasty treats. I was different, but it made me stronger and work harder to be my best.

Another example is being a union president. The committee and I are forced to make tough decisions that do not make me a popular person. I've had to stand up in front of 100s of people and make announcements that irritate the crowd. You still have to go to work the next day and face all the people you frustrate.

Lastly, I've been diagnosed with cancer twice and if I go down it's going to be after a hell of a fight.

I was born with a certain strength as a Hidalgo, but my experiences have made me even stronger. Recently, as I looked back on my life I distinctly remember looking up to God and asking for strength, patience, and knowledge. I never realized that I turned to God in each of those situations. When facing angry people at work I always pray that God gives me the wisdom to say the right words or when facing a doctors appointment I always ask for strength. Not only have I never noticed I prayed often but I never admitted it either. God has given me strength. Everyday day when you wake up you can decide whether you are going to be strong or weak. You can decide whether or not you have a good attitude about the situations God hands you. Are you going to allow God to have control of your life and make you stronger?

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

Friday, November 20, 2009


Hey guys, this is Tiffany. My mom has about 50 of the bracelets with my dad's name on them to give away. Anybody who is interested in getting one just email us or leave a comment. We can get them to the union hall or one of his close friends to pass them out. Thanks for the support!!!!

Day 2 After 2nd Chemo

The few days after chemo are rough and I'm in the middle of day 2. I'm feeling really nausea and have already thrown up once today and it's just 9a. I have also discovered I get shocked when touching anything cold. This round of chemo has affected my body just a little different than round 1. I'll be taking a couple of days off of blogging and will see you again on Sunday. Have a good weekend!

God won't give us anything we can't handle.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Embarassing Moments

Yesterday I had my 4 hour chemo treatment and it went well. I prayed, ate lunch and then they zapped me with Benadryl. I slept the entire time! Last time I received chemo it took 2 days for the side effects to kick in. Today, my sugar level went high and the nausea set in immediately. Thank you for all the prayers and support. I've been receiving cards from churches all over saying they are praying for me and I truly appreciate it.

Today I thought I'd share some embarrassing moments with you. Although they were embarrassing at the time now I find them humorous.

1. My entire life I've been a modest person. For example, I've never changed my clothes in front of my children. Then, I'm diagnosed with prostate cancer and modesty goes out the window. I had several finger ways, 2 biopsies, ultrasound, MRI and 2 colonoscopies all in my rectum. During each test I had to lay on a table naked and women were always in the room either assisting or performing the tests. Now I understand what women have to go through each time they go to the gynecologist.

2. During my 2nd biopsy I was laying on the table naked and the girl prepping me said, "Oh, your Mr. Hidalgo. I think you know my father in law." Her father in law happened to be one of my good friends. He and I were together the next day and he brought up the fact that I met his daughter in law. I replied, "Yeah, she saw a lot more of me than I did her." It's one thing to have a stranger in the room with you when you are having these tests done, but when a connection is made it's pretty embarrassing.

3. MDA is as teaching school and sometimes they have several people examine you in one visit. During one of my exams I had 3 different people do the "finger test" before I refused to let anyone else touch me. It makes you want to go out into the lobby and yell, "Does anyone else want to see me naked? If so, come on!"

4. After my prostate cancer I had a catheter for 9 days. To prevent me from driving back to MDA my primary care doctor agreed to take out the catheter. Before the appointment I had started walking up and down the street with my bag attached to my leg. A neighbor came outside and yelled, "Mr. Hidalgo!" She then asked if i remembered her and I didn't. She said she was going to be the nurse practitioner to take out my catheter. I immediately went in the house and told Kay, "Oh my goodness, even the neighbors are going to see me naked."

A family member shared this verse me and I thought I'd share it with you.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Hey guys! Chemo just started and will be going on for the next 4 hours. Please pray it works!!!!! He should finish up around 4:30p and then come home with a pump that continues to administer chemo for the next 48 hours. Thanks for the prayers, you're the best!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Get Tested

Today was another good day and I have even began walking. The doctor has ordered my to maintain a 2,000 calorie diet and to walk each day. Tomorrow I go back to MDA for my 2nd chemo treatment. Please pray that tomorrow's treatment goes well and really works. If it does the pain in my stomach may disappear. My appointment is at 10:45a and I receive treatment for 4 hours. Please pray during that time. My daughter will post the exact time the chemo begins in the morning so you'll know when to pray. Please stay tuned.

Many people have been asking why I didn't catch my cancer sooner, so today I thought I'd discuss the symptoms I had with both cancer diagnosis. Three years ago I went to the doctor for routine blood work because I just celebrated my 50th birthday. I was having no symptoms but my PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) came back high. Every three months they tested my PSA and the levels continued to rise. I never had symptoms. The cancer was caught early and I was able to have my prostate removed. I was then cancer free. I can't emphasize enough to be tested, have your blood work done, etc. If I wouldn't have gotten my blood work done there is a good chance the cancer would have spread through out my body.

Stomach cancer is a sneaky disease. Many times stomach cancer isn't caught until it's too late. To have a full body cat scan you must have a good reason or the doctors won't order it and insurance won't pay for it. I've had a few lower abdominal cat scans because of the prostate cancer, but they never had a reason to go any higher. As a result, they never scanned my stomach or esophagus. I believe insurance should pay for an annual full body scan for cancer survivors.

A few months ago I was working out pretty hard and started having pains in my lower back and upper stomach/lower chest. I thought I had pulled a muscle. A couple of months later I was having trouble eating and the food would go straight through me. At this point I began going to the doctor to figure out the problem. During this time my blood work never indicated there was a problem. This cancer surprised me and the doctors. The doctors did a good job and didn't miss anything.


I'd like to share a prayer with you that 2 different friends have shared with me:

HEAVENLY FATHER, I call on you right now in a special way. It is through your power that I was created. Every breath I take, every morning I wake, and every moment of every hour I live under your power. FATHER, I ask you now to touch me with that same power. For if you created me from nothing, you can certainly recreate me! Feel me with the healing power of your spirit. Cast out anything that should not be in me. Mend what is broken. Root out any unproductive cells, open any blocked arteries or veins and rebuild any damaged areas. Remove all inflammation and cleanse any infection. Let the warmth of your healing love pass through my body to make new any unhealthy areas so that my body will function the way you created it to function. Father, restore me to full health in mind, body and spirit so that I may serve you the rest of my life! I ask this through JESUS CHRIST our LORD, Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finding Out You Have Cancer is a Bummer.

Today I went to the oncologist for the first time since chemo. She gave me great news! The oncologist said that usually if chemo is going to work it begins after the first chemo treatment. Since my back pain has decreased and my appetite has improved she feels the chemo is working. As a result, she is increasing my chemo dosage for this week. Your prayers have gotten me through my first round of chemo and I want to thank you. Please continue to pray for more improvements.

Finding out you have Cancer is a terrifying experience. If you ever have a family member or friend awaiting results from blood work or biopsies go with them to the doctor. They will need comfort, encouragement and someone to drive home if the news is bad. Three years ago my doctor called me on a Saturday and asked if both my wife and I could come into his office to review my test results. I then asked what time he'd like to see us assuming he meant Monday, but he said it couldn't wait and to meet him at his office on Sunday. At that moment I knew it was bad. This left me with 24 hours to assume the worst. That Sunday I found out I had prostate cancer and then had to wait weeks before seeing the oncologist in Houston. In those weeks, my spouse and families life became mine and fear set in. I started having thoughts like was it in my lymph nodes, was it in other parts of my body, was I going to live or was I going to die.

For the next three years I went to MDA every few months for blood work to insure I was still cancer free. While waiting for your name to be called you are sitting in a room filled with cancer patients. When surveying the room you see people in all different stages of cancer holding their families hands hoping for good news. While I would wait fear would overwhelm me. I'd see these good people and wonder how I'm any different or better than them. Would it be my turn next? I'd pray and because I'm strong (or so I thought), I'd shake it off.

Three years later I end up with stomach cancer. I began this journey with doctors assuming I had an ulcer. To be sure, they ordered an upper and lower GI. When I woke up from the test, my friend told me the doctor found a suspicious tumor. I then had to wait 5 days for the biopsy results. Those days were filled with worries like, will I see my grandchild graduate, will I see my son get married, will I meet my other grandchildren and the list goes on and on. That Thursday I met with the doctor and he told me I had stomach cancer, cancer in my esophagus, and a cancerous ulcer. He made comments like, "You need to go to MDA so you can feel comfortable that you got the best care you got." To me I felt like he was saying you don't have a chance but go to MDA to make you feel better. I could tell by the look in his eyes I was in trouble. MDA got me in within 2 weeks which is fantastic, but 2 weeks to a person with this type of worry is a lifetime.

I then met with the surgeon and he said that he was hoping to be the person that could help me and solve my problem but he couldn't. The disease was life threatening and had left my stomach and infiltrated my lymph node system. He said my only chance was to meet with an oncologist and see if chemo was an option. I stayed strong but inside I was numb and my family around me was devastated. The ride home from Houston was long and I was forced to call the rest of my family in the car. Both children were hopeful and thought I was tough enough to beat it. By the time I got home I was in a lot of pain and knew that if the cancer was causing this much pain it must be life threatening. I spoke with my brother about getting my affairs in order and would need his assistance. When I got out of the car his advice was to get right with God and I agreed. During this time you are stressed and find yourself praying for a miracle often.

I was thankful that MDA got me in to see the oncologist 5 days later.The oncologist said that without chemo I had 6 months to live but with chemo the future was unknown. Chemo could add days, weeks, months, years, and decades depending on how my body responded to the medication. As you heard today, the oncologist feels chemo is working.

I've spoken with other cancer patients and they have all had the same worries and fears. You don't understand the fear you feel unless you have had cancer yourself. Some people tell us to just not think that way and it's impossible. Others say God has a plan. I agree God has a plan, but it's still scary because his plan may be different than mine. In my opinion, it's normal to worry but each day it gets easier to deal with these fears as I get closer to God. The more time I spend with God and take time to listen to Him I feel these fears slipping away. I know that He is in control and I trust His will for me. With that being said, I know that the worries will creep back into my life, but I'll turn them over to God. My family must be consumed with similar fears, but I want to remind them that God has a plan.

"Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles..." 1 Chronicles 16:11-12

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ok God, I get it!

This past week has been a great week with both my cancer and faith. I believe I'm being healed in both. It's now been a week since my chemo and I already feel better than I did before the chemo began. The week before chemo I struggled to eat and it would take me an hour to eat a bowl of soup. I was nausea and had constant pain in my stomach and back. Now after chemo, my stomach still hurts, but my back does not hurt. I can now eat different foods more quickly with a lot less pain.

God spoke to me in many different ways this week. In July my mother had a had a stroke and as a result my siblings and I take 24 hours shifts taking care of her. Each day I wake up and join whichever sibling is on shift at my mom's house while my wife's at work. I was raised in a strong Catholic family and once a week a priest comes to visit my mother to give communion and pray. If I'm there I always participate. On Monday two church ladies arrived to give communion and pray with us. Then, on Wednesday a Priest and a deacon came by to do the same. On Thursday I had lunch with my friend who has been studying religion for 30 years. We had a great talk and prayed together. When I got back to my mom's house that evening a Monsignor showed up, prayed and gave us communion again. Each time I took communion I prayed that everything it touched would be healed. On Saturday I went to church for the first time in a long time. Before the service began I was thinking about funerals, death and other terrible things that I shouldn't let in my mind. The priest started his sermon and guess what it was about....DEATH. I was shocked and almost fell out of my chair. Some of his points were that God has a plan. He knows your birthday and when you are going to die. Everything else is just biding time on earth. We should be living for Him and praising God until we join Him in heaven. As humans, sometimes we don't understand why people get diseases or even die young. Sometimes it's not about the people suffering, it's about bringing those around them closer to God. At this point, I really about fell out of my chair. God was speaking directly to me. I looked up and thought, "Ok God, I'm hard headed and not very bright. You brought to me 2 church ladies, a deacon, a religious friend, a monsignor, and I was still doubting you. Then a priest delivered a message just to me. Ok God, I get it!" At that very moment I felt the Holy Spirit entering my body. I knew that chemo wasn't healing me, but it was the Lord himself.

"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." Psalms 9:10

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Hey guys! This is Tiffany, Mark's daughter and I wanted to let you know that lots of people are wearing bracelets/wristbands to support my dad. Here's the website The color for his type of cancer is periwinkle. Also, a close family friend made some awesome wristbands with my dad's name on them. I'm sure we could figure out how to order more of them if you are interested. Thanks!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Today was another good day. I was asked to go to lunch with my old friend Rob from work to talk about God and cancer. We had a nice long chat about both and he gave me a great bible. Thanks Rob for the encouragement and enlightenment. I was actually able to eat and it all stayed down.

Tonight was the first time we cleaned the port (Central Venous Catheter). This is a tube that is usually inserted into a vein in your arm, groin or under the collar bone for infusion therapy. Mine is located in my arm and is called a PICC line. The catheter is designed to stay in place throughout your chemo treatment. While at MDA I met a woman who had her catheter in place for 3 years. The CVC has many uses such as infusion of chemo therapy, blood products, antibiotics, IV feeding, and other intravenous medications. Mine goes from a vein in the side of my arm and they led a tube to the main artery in my heart. It's done this way to protect smaller blood vessels from the chemicals. When the doctor told me about the procedure I thought she must be crazy. She brought me in a small surgical room and made me feel comfortable. I asked her how bad it would hurt and she said you'll just feel a few sticks. That's exactly what happened. They deadened it, put it in, and then stitch it in 3 different places so it won't move. It's been sore but getting better each day.

Maintaining the catheter is very intense. If the dressing gets wet we have to change it and have must change it weekly. It's important to wrap it with Glad Press n Seal before showering to keep it dry. We have to flush the catheter daily with Heparin which is a blood thinner that keeps it from forming blood clots. Because it's a blood thinner I have to be very careful not to cut myself. We were trained in 2 sessions at MDA and then had to prove we knew how to clean it before we went home. While cleaning the CVC everything must be extremely sterile. Each time you clean your CVC you must open up a new sterile pack. It includes scissors, sterile gloves, the medication, sanitizer, swabs, tape, and a bandage.The person cleaning it must keep their gloves from touching anything outside the sterile field including clothes, my arm, etc. If they accidentally brush up against something they must start over. Everyone watches the person cleaning it carefully to make sure they don't slip. The main concern is keeping an infection out of the main artery. If there is an infection you may be in the hospital for 2 weeks. They also have to follow a strict, regimented order when cleaning the CVC. For example, when cleaning you can't go back to the same spot twice. If you do you must start over. You also must move the swab in a circular motion. The process takes about 45 minutes to complete. Although it was nerve racking for the first time, we were able to successfully get the new bandage arm. Thanks Kim for all your help.

One day you have a normal life and the next day you wake up and have a disease that turns your world upside down. The change has been difficult for everyone involved. You go from being a refinery worker to almost a doctor when learning about overcoming your cancer.

Below is a diagram of a PICC line.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient

Today was probably the best day I have had in months. My back was not in as much pain, so I was able to slack off some of my pain medicine. I was also able to eat close to normal. I know some of it is mental, but I also really feel like the cancer is shrinking. Today some of my fire fighter coworkers came to visit tonight and it was great. They brought me cards from work and a cancer bracelet to wear. The bracelet said, "What cancer cannot do. Control faith. Shatter hope. Destroy peace. Silence Courage. Invade the soul. Steal eternal life. Kill friendship. Suppress memories. Conquer the spirit. Cripple life." This bracelet makes you want to punch cancer in the nose.

Today I'd like talk about what not to say to cancer patients. None of these comments were said maliciously, in fact I found them comical.

When I had prostate cancer someone said:
1. "My uncle Joe had prostate cancer and he's been peeing in his pants ever since, but he's ok."

and another person said:

2. "My uncle Jim had prostate cancer and he can't make love anymore, but he's ok."

Neither one of those sounded like good options to me.

Lastly, when I was diagnosed with stomach cancer someone told me, "That's terrible. Right now I'm heading to Louisiana to my aunt's funeral. She just died of that."

When I got off the phone I broke out laughing.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Praise the Lord

I want to thank everyone for sending me comments and emails. Even though I'm not responding, they do give me encouragement, strength and brighten my day. I had another good day today and ate well.

I created this blog to update people on my progress, educate people about the trials of cancer, and praise God. There are probably people confused by the spiritual aspect of my blog. I've always been a strong believer in God, but I was never openly religious. I'm not the one who usually says the prayers before meals and did not attend church regularly.

I consider myself a strong man who has a 7th degree black belt and an instructor, a union president and I was born a Hidalgo. In my career I've fought many men, bargained many contracts and have depended on myself to handle most problems. I've always been in control of everything with little help from others. Being diagnosed with stomach cancer made me realize I'm not in control. I can't fix this and I have no control. I'm dependent on MDA doctors and most of all God because it's all in His hands.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I had surgery at MDA and became cancer free. For the next three years I continued with my busy schedule and felt like I was in control of my life. Recently I was diagnosed with stomach cancer and left with a lot of time to reflect. Sitting alone in a dark room, starring at the four walls I remember receiving calls in the past from men all over the country wanting information about prostate cancer. They needed information and hope. I was able to give them both. I remember telling them that there was life after prostate cancer and remember giving all the credit to MDA and the robotic surgery. I never gave credit to who really made me cancer free and that was God. That was a mistake. I made a promise to myself and to God that I would never let that happen again. From that day forward I would praise Him for all His glory.

"I will give thanks to the LORD with all (A)my heart;I will tell of all Your wonders. Psalms." 9:1

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You Make the Decision

I've felt better today than I have in about a month. I had more energy, less pain and an appetite. I really, really believe this chemo is working and I'll be running a marathon soon. I thank God for a good day.

Being sick gives me time to reflect. Today I was reminiscing about the past and how I use to let small issues at work and in my personal life affect my attitude and the way I went about life. Now I'm starting to look at what's important in life which is God, family, friends and living life to the fullest. Your attitude or outlook on life is what you decide it will be. We shouldn't let a person, a job, or a situation affect what's really important.

You make the decision.

"My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy.Your faith will be put to the test. You know that when that happens it will produce in you the strength to continue. The strength to keep going must be allowed to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need." James 1:2-4

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weary 2 Days

I've had a long two days of nausea and throwing up, but today was a better day. A month ago I was bargaining contracts, running a desk in the safety department, jogging, playing drums and martial arts. Now the most exciting part of my day is having a bowel movement. The last few days it was exciting to keep a meal down and when I did the family cheered. We all have to learn to adapt and conquer.

Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble and always be prayerful.” Romans 12:12

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 2 After Chemo

Today is the 2nd day after chemo. The first day was uneventful and the second day has been tough. I've been feeling nausea and feel like I'm in a fog. I've also been fighting high sugar levels all day. With all that being said, it's just part of it and a struggle to be healed.

We went to MDA for the 4th time this week and attended another training session to learn how to clean my PIC line. Once we got home from MDA we also had to remove the chemo pump for the last drug of this series. Our good friend thankfully came to help us figure out how to remove the pump and keep my PIC line sterile.

The chemo drugs cause several interesting side effects. One of the most bizarre is not being able to touch cold items with my hands. For example, I have to wear gloves to reach into the refrigerator. I also can't have cold drinks or food and must cover my face and hands in cold weather. All of these effects last for 5 days after the chemo. They say if you drink something cold it will feel like glass going down your throat and if you touch something cold it will feel like an electric shock. The nurses says not everyone responds this way, but I was not going to be the idiot to try it.

Thank you for all of the comments and emails. It brightens up my day.

The battle continues...

"Instead of complaining about our struggles, we should see them as opportunities for growth. Thank God for promising to be with you in rough times. Ask him to help you solve your problems or to give you the strength to endure them. Then be patient. God will not leave you alone with your problems; he will stay close and help you grow." James 1:2-4

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ground Zero

Cancer puts doubts and fears in your mind about whether the treatment is going to work or not. Today when I arrived I saw a chapel and wandered in to pray alone. A few minutes later people started arriving and I realized it was a Mass. Before the Mass was over I took communion and prayed that what ever the host touched that it would heal. Before the mass was over I felt no fear or doubts. I felt that God was going to take care of me. I feel even stronger and steadfast that I'm going to beat this. Also, what made me feel stronger was that as the chemo was entering my body we had groups of people praying. It's great that my daughter knows how to text and line prayer chains up.

Today I went through my first round of chemo therapy and it took 4 hours. I came home with a pump that will put chemo into my system for the next 48 hours. They put me in a small, single room with a bed, TV and a lounge chair. Before they chemo started they gave me a cocktail of drugs that helped with the nausea and potential allergic reactions. I spend the day praying and sleeping. So far I'm not experiencing nausea. Also, I'd like to thank my friend who was my personal chauffeur today. We were gone for a total of 14 hours today. Thanks for checking up on me and for all of the prayers!

Jesus said, "Don't be afraid, just believe." Mark 5:36

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Preparing for Ground Zero

Today I went to MDA and they installed an infusion port for chemo. This port goes from a vein in my upper arm to a major artery in my heart. This will allow the chemo to go through my body without collapsing the small veins. Amazingly it didn't hurt. The nurse made me feel comfortable and was very efficient. We also attended classes on how to change the dressing and how to flush it. Tomorrow I will start my chemo. I want to thank all my family and my friends for all of the love and support.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not rely on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, November 2, 2009

Good News

A couple of weeks ago I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Gastroesophageal Junction Adenocarcinoma. In simple terms I have stomach cancer that has now spread throughout my lymph node system. This cancer is inoperable, but the good news is chemotherapy may work. I start my therapy this Wednesday and I feel very positive. I know God is with me and I plan on being cancer free soon. I created this blog to update you on my progress and look forward to reading your comments. Feel free to ask questions, leave comments or email me at Thanks in advance for the prayers and well wishes.

"And we rejoice in the hope for the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perserverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:2-5