Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nick's Story

Today I woke up feeling down. I didn't want to talk to anyone and thought I may hideout all day. As easy as that would have been I know my family would have been irritated if I went missing so I decided to sulk around the house. I was tired of being sick, feeling sick, and thinking about being sick. I also missed work, the union and basically my life as a whole. Then, Kay showed me an inspirational video that put me in my place. It's about a man who was born without legs or arms who has a great attitude and is just happy to be alive.

Here is Nick's Story:

*Just copy and paste the link into your browser or go to and type in "never gave up."

Anyone who is feeling down should watching this video and get off your butt and move on with life just like I did.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:5

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Back to Chemo

Sorry it's been so long since I've updated the blog, but my blogger was out of town! I'll go ahead and update you on the happenings of the past few days. Last week I woke up with a small knot on the side of my neck. By the next day it was a big knot. I went to my regular doctor and they did an ultrasound. They determined my lymph nodes were swollen, but couldn't tell if it was my cancer or just an infection. I was concerned and eager to visit my oncologist at MDA. She said she wasn't sure what it was, but if it was cancer the chemo would knock it out. If it were an infection and it didn't go away I may end up on antibiotics. As of now, the knot is still there. I think it's probably an infection, but it made for an intense week.

On Wednesday I had my first chemo with the new drug. Before chemo was done I was already nauseated. Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday were rough. I couldn't eat or drink without vomiting. By Sunday I was feeling better, just tired. I'm not sure why I got so sick this round. Maybe it was because I had a break from chemo or maybe the new drug didn't settle well? Either way this round was not fun.

The only other thing that I've noticed since my last blog entry is my nails are changing color and texture. Some people say your nails can even fall off! I sure hope that doesn't happen.

I'll have chemo again a week from tomorrow.

"He who has the son has life; He does not have the son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:12

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Great Concert

I love music. I've been a drummer just about my entire life and have played in bands since I was 14 years old. I've also traveled all over the US listening to live music including some of the greatest bands such as BB King, DMB, ZZ Top, and Tina Turner. None of these experiences compare to the concert I saw this past weekend. My sisters and I went to a church to see Casting Crowns. In all my years of seeking out live music, I have never seen a Christian band before. It was awesome! There was an energy to this place that I've never experienced before. The entire concert was like a church sermon. The band members spoke about God continuously and prayed often. Each band member was either a youth minister or music director for their church. They told their testimonies and encouraged the kids to press on even if school is a struggle. About 85% of the audience were teenagers and it was so neat to see kids celebrating the Lord. You never see teenagers loving the Lord on the news, you only see vandals. It was refreshing to see. This concert was so emotional and powerful. If you didn't come to tears at least once while watching the crowd then there was something wrong with you. Overall, it was an amazing sight to see so many people worshiping the Lord in one place.

Also, I receive chemo tomorrow. This will be the first chemo with the new drug. I have no idea how it'll affect my body. Also, I'm the first person they are trying this drug on for stomach cancer. I'm the guinea pig! It's been proven successful for breast, colon and lung cancer. They feel like it will work and I sure hope so! I'll update you in a couple of days and let you know how everything went.

"I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory." Psalms 63:2

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Whole Lot of Doctors

As a cancer patient you would think that the only doctor I'd see would be my oncologist in Houston, but that's not the case. She's in charge of my chemo, but it takes several doctors to maintain my health.

Eye Doctor-When I had my PICC I was taking Heparin which is a blood thinner. I had to make frequent trips to the eye doctor to make sure there was no bleeding behind my eyes. Even though my PICC is gone I still have monthly appointments with him.

Diabetic Doctor-The chemo makes my sugar level rise for several days after each treatment. This doctor makes sure my diabetes doesn't go out of control while I endure chemo.

Oncologist in Bmt-I'm seeing an oncologist in Bmt who takes my pump out for me after each treatment. This prevents me from having to drive back to Houston when my chemo runs out.

Family Doctor-The new drug I'll be taking is suppose to make my blood pressure rise. My family doctor is in charge of maintaing my blood pressure through medication.

Medical at Refinery-I keep in touch with the Medical department at the refinery so they know my status.

Insurance Nurse-A nurse from my insurance calls regularly to check on my status.

Nurse from a wellness program at work-He calls weekly to check on my status.

Oncologist in Dallas-you heard our story the other day!

Not only do I visit these doctors frequently and discuss my health on the phone with several nurses, but I also am a regular at my pharmacy. I go so often that they know me by name.

I really feel blessed to have so many great doctors looking after me, but I must admit that I sometimes get tired of sitting in waiting rooms.

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Hebrews 13:15-16

Thursday, March 11, 2010

We are signficant!

Today started out stressful. I began to get antsy about my chemo treatment. I still hadn't heard if my insurance was going to cover the treatment ($10,000 for this new drug per treatment/$40,000 total) or if I had an appointment scheduled yet. I continued to call MDA, but never heard back. I'm use to relying on myself to get day to day things accomplished, but I realized I don't have to anymore. Instead, I stopped and asked God to help me. I prayed that he'd take care of the details. He's gotten me this far and has almost healed me, why wouldn't the rest fall into place? After lifting my worries up to God almost instantly they were all fixed. The calls starting pouring in. First, I found out my insurance would cover the new chemo! Whew! Then, I received my new chemo schedule, had an appointment time set up and was ready to go. Praise God. It's amazing how everything can fall into place when you trust God. On a side note, I also received a call from my plant manager today. It turns out I received an OSHA award at a conference for mentoring other groups in safety. Although my day started out discouraging it turned out to be great. I was reminded of God's power, the importance of trusting him and the power of prayer.

You know, many of us stay busy at work and maintain a feeling of success or significance. Personally, on any given day I could receive 20-30 union calls while maintaining my normal job. I could be fighting to save someone's job, and also responding to a life or death emergency. My job gave me purpose, made me feel needed and as a results even gave me a feeling of importance. Now that I'm not at work and don't have as many daily responsibilities I begin to feel insignificant. I'm sure some of you have days that you feel down as well.

Today I was reading a book by Max Lucado, "A Cure for a Common Life." This book answered my doubts and made me feel better. Just in case you are in a similar situation I'm going to share some of his thoughts with you:

Lonely people fight feelings if insignificance. What do we do with such thoughts? No one knows me. No one is near me. No one needs me. How do you cope with such cries for significance? Some stay busy; others stay drunk. Some buy pets; other buys lovers. Some seek therapy. And a few seek God. He invites us all to. God's treatment for insignificance won't lead you to a bar or dating service, a spouse or social club. God's ultimate cure for the common life takes you to a manager."

"I am with you always," Jesus said before he descending into heaven, "to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

"Search for restrictions on the promise; you will find none. You won't find "I will be with you if you behave when you believe. I will be with you on Sundays in worship at mass." No, none of that. There is no withholding tax on God's "with" promise. He is with us. God is with us."

If you ever doubt your significance try to remember that you are important to God and he is always with you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Act of Kindness

I want to tell you about a kind doctor who befriended me in October when I was first diagnosed. A friend's mom, we'll call her Ms.G works with a cancer group in Dallas and this doctor is one of them. He happens to be an oncologist surgeon who specializes in stomach cancer. Ms. G sat down with a few of the doctors and discussed my case with them. After hearing my case he became interested and continued to check on me through Ms. G. Before long, the doctor started calling me personally to check on me. He also gave me all of his numbers so I could reach him if I ever had a question. Every once and a while I would need clarification on something MDA told me and he would clear it up. He'd call me in between his surgeries to check on me and to find out how my doctor appointments were going. He genuinely wanted to know about my progress.

Before continuing, I'd like to stress the fact that I love my doctor at MDA and I'm not second guessing her. The Dr. in Dallas never contradicts what she says and is just following my case as a friend. I must admit that it is comforting to know that if my cancer ever spreads to the point of no return that I have a 2nd doctor willing to take my case.

The Dallas doctor has been encouraging me to visit him and review my case in person. I've never felt well enough to travel, but with my recent chemo break I decided to take a road trip to Dallas. The doctor met me at his office on a Saturday and opened it up just for me. He reviewed my case, did an exam and spent about an hour with me. I want to clarify that he is not getting paid! Out of the kindness of his heart, he took a special interest in my case and decided to help me. Following the exam I went to lunch with the doctor and got to know him better.

This doctor feels like I'm a prime candidate for remission because I was in good shape and that I can eat again. He feels like this new drug can work and that MDA made a good call by choosing it. He has used it on colon cancer and has seen great results.

It's really unheard of for someone to take time out of their busy schedule to help a stranger. He had never met me and went out of his way to get to know me and check on me. As an oncologist surgeon I know his days our full, but that didn't stop him from going to the office on a Saturday for free. Amazing!

I must also thank my two friends for driving me to Dallas and stopping along the way to let me rest. I'm still tired from the trip!

"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:1-2

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What Not to Say to a Bald Cancer Patient

This past week people have really said these things to me:

-I didn't recognize you.
-Oh, your bald.
-Your face is wrinkled.
-You look old.
-If someone saw you on the street they'd look at you and say he looks sick.
-You look terrible.
-Man, you always looked so much younger than me. I always thought you were about 35, but now you look about 60.
-It's coming back all gray.

*These comments didn't hurt my feelings at all, I just thought they were funny.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thank You Lord

Yesterday I met with the oncologist to receive my P.E.T. scan results. I found out that my tumor is dead and no longer has cancer cells! That is great news! The lymph system still shows traces of cancer. Three spots in particular are "hot" and those are located near my clavicle bone, neck and my stomach. Because there is still cancer in the lymph system she can only assume there are still cancer cells throughout the system. She also concluded that the chemo is still working because the cancer hasn't spread and there are no new tumors. Although the chemo is working it looks like it's not as effective. We were hoping that the 2nd round of chemo would put me into remission, but it didn't which tells us the chemo is not working as well as it did in the beginning. To make sure the chemo is working the best it can the doctor is adding a 4th drug. This drug will attack only the cancer cells and leave the good cells alone. This drug is experimental and hasn't been approved by the FDA or used for stomach cancer. She feels that by adding the 4th drug I could go into remission. Right now I get to take a week or two off from chemo and give my body a break. The insurance company will likely fight paying for this drug, so the doctor needed a few days to get it approved.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed because I was hoping I'd be in remission. The great news is the tumor is no longer feeding the lymph system, I can eat, I can exercise, and I overall feel better. God definitely answered my prayers! If you remember, every time I took communion I'd pray that it would heal everything it touched and it did. My health is definitely in God's hands and he will heal me on his time. Overall, 5 months ago the doctors didn't give me much hope and thanks to God I'm feeling much better. The truth is my body could not have responded to chemo at all and I could be in a much different situation right now. I will continue to focus on all the positive things in my life and not think about the negative. I will also continue to praise God, study his word and grow closer to him.

Lord God, How thankful I am for Your Book, Your Word, that lives and abides forever. Thank You for the way truth comes to life when we see it as print on the pages of the Bible. Thank You for the power of your Word that transforms lives and mends broken hearts and strengthens frightened hearts. May we, in the process of time, begin to feel more and more at home in Your Word, so that the life of another becomes ours and the truth another provides becomes a principle for us to live by. Thank You for coming to our rescue again and again by Your grace. And for those who are most afraid, I pray they will know Your peace and relief from anxiety as they turn to the promises in the Bible and there find hope to go on.
In the all-powerful Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Source: Charles Swindoll

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

P.E.T. Scan and Prayer Request

Today I left home at 4a to get to my 6a P.E.T. scan appointment at MDA. I thought I'd tell you a little bit about the test and about my experience.

P.E.T Scan information:
P.E.T. is a technology that combines the fields of medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics, and physiology to study the function of organs such as the heart, brain, and bone. It is different from conventional imaging methods such as x-rays, CTs, ultrasounds or MRIs, because P.E.T. images provide information about how tissue functions. The other imaging methods show what the tissues look like. Luckily they were able to see me immediately and the scan took about 2 hours. The P.E.T. scanner looks similar in shape to a CT or MRI scanner. The bed on the scanner moves during the exam so that each area of the body can be imaged. The P.E.T. scanner makes no noise.
Source: MDA brochure

My P.E.T. Scan experience:
Like many tests, I wasn't able to eat 6 hours before or inject insulin into my body because it could affect the test results. I was concerned about this because usually if my sugar level is low I eat a snack and if my sugar level is high I inject more insulin. Long story short, I did have some issues with my sugar level and was forced to snack in the middle of the night. Also, when arriving at MDA my sugar level was high, so I feared they'd reschedule the test. Luckily it all worked out and I was able to have the scan done.

They did a complete body scan from my forehead to my thighs. They were looking for cancer cells that may be in my body. The scan also examined the tumor and found out if the cancer cells are dead. If the cells aren't dead the scan will then find out how deep the cancer cells go into the body tissue.

First, they put an IV into my arm and put a small amount of radioactive material into my body. The radiation only stayed in my body for a short while and had no lasting effects. Once the radioactive material is administered they take out the IV, put me in a room by myself, and asked me to rest while the material spreads through my body. I rested for an hour and then they took me to the scan. The radiologist told me that the length of time the test would take depended on my height and the reason for the test. The test itself only took about 30 minutes.

I get the test results back tomorrow at 9a. Please pray for good news!!! I'll keep you posted!

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17: 19-20