For all you Iron Rangers, Bemidjians, South-Western Minnesotans, St. Cloudians, Backus-Folk, Ohioans, Georgians, Texans, Cheeseheads(Wisconsinites just didn’t sound right), Iowans, Canadiens, Illinoisians, Californians, New Yorkers and all the rest of you who I may be forgetting-below I have add a picture of me from today. I thought I should post something so you can see I’m actually looking fairly normal (again feel free to add joke here). As my Mother-in-law will confess, I do look a lot better in this picture than the day Sarah brought me home from the hospital. They just keep knocking me down, but I keep getting back up.
Also, after deep deliberation with my esteemed advisors (really there was just one and all she did was shrug her shoulders) on whether we should expose myself further or not. We(I) decided why the heck not. So in the Halloween spirit I have added a picture of myself without the shirt-yes it is a bit scarry (mis-spell and pun intended) to the “About Me” page of this website. So for those of you less than enthused about seeing all that, just don’t click on the “About Me” page, or if you do just don’t look below the cute picture of Karen and the boys. For those of you who don’t know how to navigate through web pages, look at the top of this page and find the words “About Me”. Move your cursor over those words and click your mouse. You will then go the only other page I have on this website.
Again I feel all those thoughts, prayers and well wishes are doing their work. I did very well through this last chemo session. I actually felt a little better through this one and recovered a little quicker. I have a bad feeling that my next one won’t be quite as easy, but you never can tell. Thursday, Friday and Saturday were typical down days last week; with feelings of nausea, fatigue, and not being able to touch or drink cold (over even mildly cold) drinks. I know the syptoms probably get a little worse as I don’t drink enough liquids over those 3 days each session. The good news is I had an appetite and usually tried to eat my way out of feeling sick. That worked part of the time and the other part of the time I still had to take my pills. I went to work today and had no problem working my 8 hours. The boys and Karen are all feeling pretty well. Brenden and Jaxson are finally starting to get over their colds. Again, I feel blessed as their must have been a protective bubble over me as I didn’t catch a cold from my guys or people at work. This week the guys are on their count down to Halloween. As a Halloween trick (or treat depending on your perspective) I actually may post pictures of my scars. I need to talk it over with my advisers to get their thoughts before I expose more of myself to the world. Before I do that I promise I will get some normal pictures of myself on the web page. For those of you who haven’t seen me recently, I don’t look a whole lot different. Now if I could only find a photographer with 15+ years of experience to take my pictures…
Today I jumped back into the battle with cancer. My Dad attended this session with me, as he did the last one. I first had my blood draw and then met with a nurse practitioner to review my overall health and blood levels. During my consultation I asked if I should get a flu shot. They thought that would be a good idea and that it looked like my blood work could handle it-even though my white blood cell counts were a little low. I then was called back for the 3 hours chemo session. I even got a free lunch out of this one as it was over the noon hour. Near the end of my session I reminded the IV nurse that I was supposed to get a flu shot. She said she would check her records and then give it to me at the end of the session. So I get finished with my Chemo and she gives me the shot. Within 30 seconds my neck, stomach/chest and back all break out in red splotches. Then the nurse says something I am beginning to hear a lot of, “I have never seen this before”. The good news is that within 5 minutes all the splotches faded, you could actually watch them disappear. All she/we could figure out is that I had a negative reaction to something they add to the flu shot. This of course delayed my departure for another 30 minutes(again are we all seeing a trend in my health=side effects/set backs/delays, etc…). The delay worked out for the best ,though, as one of my fellow cancer support members (and colon cancer survivor) showed up to shower me and my family with gifts. Now for those of you who have been visiting me in the hospital and at my house I don’t even have to mention her name. But for those of you reading this from far away, let me introduce you to her. Her name is Pat Groeper. Pat probably visited me in the hospital 7-8 times over the two stays. She has checked on me during 2 if not all 3 chemo sessions. Pat and her husband (Burl-another cancer survivor whose battle still continues) have even made it down to drop off even more presents at our house throughout this whole battle. I think my kids think she is another type of Santa Claus, they even write her thank you cards. All and all she is just another amazing person I have been blessed to meet along this journey. Please say a prayer of blessing for Pat and Burl and continued healing for Burl’s battle.
Thanks to all who continue to pray for me. Those prayers must be working as my overall health and strength continues to seep back into my body. I keep getting up and working as soon as I can and even have added back in 2-3 mile walks. Also, after my first 2 sessions it showed the tumors were shrinking, so lets hope and pray that continues as I get back into my chemo routine again.
Good night all,
Well this is the week I re-join the fight against my cancer. It as been an awesome two week vacation from facing the realities of this disease. I’ve been living the fantasy life: spending time with the family, taking 2 mile walks, visiting with friends, eating a more normalized diet, working 40+ hours at work, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, talking politics, playing baseball with the kids, going to dinner with my wife, worrying about Jaxson’s health, going to church, paying attention to Fantasy Football and trying hard not to focus on cancer. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. I’m guessing that I am like most other cancer patients in that you wish you could get back to being/feeling “normal” as quickly as possible. You either want to go backwards or fast forward with your life, but you are stuck in “play”. Life has been so “normal” that I have missed both of my cancer support groups this month. One of them I was busy finishing up my 11 hour work day and the other was tonight. I realized about a mile into my walk that the church support group had started about 30 minutes earlier and I was missing it. Again I think I have just been having too much fun pretending I’m “normal”.
I did get another kid question yesterday (this one wasn’t as tough as Jaxson’s last week). I was pushing Brenden (the 5 year old) on the swing in the backyard. Brenden looked up at our roof and asked where our chimney was. I pointed to the small back one coming from our gas fireplace. He then asked where each of the two neighbors chimneys were. Having no idea why he was suddenly so fascinated in chimneys, I just pointed out where there two small/skinny chimneys were located. He then was quiet for a minute and then asked, “How does Santa fit into those small chimneys”? I stepped right into this one. Now I was tempted to take this opportunity to explain that Santa wasn’t real and that it was just Mom and Dad pretending to be Santa. After all he is 5 and I am guessing some kids in Kindergarten may spill the beans, and I would rather he hears the truth from me. But since I hadn’t worked that out with the boss (Karen), I decided to do with what any other red-blooded American parent would do-Enhance the lie. I explained to Brenden that Santa was magic and could shrink into any size chimney. He decided that was a good answer and kept right on swinging. Who am I to question his reality. For the past two weeks my reality has been pretending that I don’t have cancer.
Reality bites back with Chemo. on Wed. morning-time for some cancer cells to die!
Thanks for all the thoughts, cards, gifts, comments and prayers. All of them help! I have been so touched by all the great comments-of course I read them all as does Karen.
May God’s blessings be upon all of you-thanks for reading.
Nothing exciting going on, and that is good. I am still enjoying spending time with the family and working full time again. This week I managed to get in almost 47 hours. Every night is family time and the kids seem to be enjoying all the Daddy time again. Jaxson hit me with the hard questions this week. He asked to see my surgery area and then asked me why I had that done. That was tough, but not as hard as the next question. “Daddy you don’t have to stay at the hospital again do you?” That was tough. I wanted to reassure him that I wouldn’t have to but with a probable Liver surgery within the next year, I just couldn’t do it. So I told him that hopefully I wouldn’t have to but that if I did it would just be for a couple nights. That is about the only question either one has asked me since I got back home.
Again, overall life is great! My appetite grows daily and my weight slowly goes up. I thought I had gained about 10 lbs. since the hospital, but when I weighed myself I was only up 5 lbs. Everyone says that I don’t look that different from before, so I must be looking healthy again. The area of my surgery is generally sensitive and a little sore, but not bad. Also my body is functioning well and my stamina goes up every day. My longest day of work this week was 11 hours and believe it or not I was still up at 10 p.m. that night. Tonight, though, the week has caught up with me and I am ready to crash. Grandma and Grandpa Stratton are staying with us this weekend so I get to direct some chores around the house. Since I am not supposed to lift more that 10 lbs, I have to have Chuck do some work around the garage and yard for me.
Again life is good and I am still enjoying my vacation from the doctors, Methodist Hospital and my Chemo. treatments. Full time work and family time each night and on the weekends is so much better than the hospital.
Good night and God bless,
All is well right now. My body is working well, although I tend to over eat as my appetite is back. I am guessing that over the past two weeks I have gained 8 lbs. back. I am still on my low residue diet right now, although as of this Friday the doctor said to start going back to my normal diet.
I visited with Dr. Belzer last Friday morning. He said l looked great and was surprised that I was already back to work. He said from here on in that he would not need to see me anymore. His part of my cancer battle is done. He said he will keep tabs on me through Dr. Duane, my Oncologist. I told him about my roommate (his former patient), James, that he had died. Dr. Belzer said he was not surprised as James had cancer throughout his abdomen (I did not know that), along with the colon and Liver. Lastly Dr. Belzer reviewed my collapsed colon with me again. He and a Pathologist spent time discussing the how and why it happened, with no results. Only 4 inches of the colon had collapsed and it was not gradual. The colon looked normal on both ends of the collapsed area. Neither of them had seen that happen before. Also that means they can’t guarantee that it would not happen again-not reassuring. But somehow I still think it feels different this time. After my Dr. Appt. I couldn’t help but re-visit my old 4th floor. There was only a couple of my nurses working and my chaplin. It was fun seeing them without all the tubes connected, looking relatively healthy.
Last week and weekend was tiring. I did manage to get 35 hours in at work. Also managed to help out around the house and even go on a 2-3 mile nature walk with the family on Saturday. After my big walk I was exhausted and napped for about 2 hours. It feels very weird being this weak for so long, but as the dr. pointed out 2 major surgeries in 7 weeks time will do that to you. All weekend was relaxing and fun just spending time with the family.
This week is already starting off with a bang. I worked almost 10 hours today and am still standing-well almost. A week and 1/2 left before Chemo and I am loving every minute of it. As always thanks for all the notes, thoughts, gifts and prayers. I am always amazed at all the love and caring that has came out of this.
Last night I finally got a chance to call one of my hospital roommates of 4 1/2 days. He was the gentleman who had a similar diagnosis to mine but his cancer was much more aggressive. He was diagnosed a week after me and the doctors went back and forth on whether he should have a surgery or not. They finally decided not to do the surgery but rather jump right into Chemo. He and I had the same doctor-Dr. Belzer. His body reacted poorly to chemo so they pulled him off it. He ended up back in the hospital because some of his bodily functions weren’t working right. The night he was admitted we talked for awhile and later he told me that the doctors told him he had 6 months to live if he did nothing. He told me he hoped I would never have to hear those words. He then explained that over the next few days he and his family would be trying to make a decision on whether to continue the fight and face another type of chemo or live out his remaining months medicated but at home under the care of Hospice.
Monday-Thursday of that week I spent every afternoon with he and his family. Monday was weighing the options day. Tuesday was decision day-he chose to not fight the cancer anymore, but go for 6 months of quality life. Wednesday of that week was Hospice and filling out all of the documents on the choices he was making. Thursday was his release day. Before he left I asked him for his phone number and told him I would give him a call once I got released. Thursday of that week was my toughest day in the hospital. I got up enough strength to get out of my bed and shake his hand before he left. His name was James LeBlanc and he died 3 1/2 days after that hand shake. He was 67 years old.
His wife Sandy and I still had a great conversation last night even after she delivered the shocking news. Sandy and the rest of his family are great! They kind of adopted me into their family as I was apart of his last week. James even tried to look out for me while we were in the hospital. He was the one who told the Hospital Chaplin to visit with me. Sandy asked me to stay in touch and I told her I would call her next week to see how she was doing.
It was shocking, sickening news on how deadly cancer can be, and 24 hours later I am still trying to process it.
Please say a prayer for Sandy and the rest of their family for peace tonight.