Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day Zero! November 15, 2012

Day Zero with my best friend!

Today is the day!  Another birthday.  I will not bore everyone with the complete medical process. You can google it.  STEM CELL TRANSPLANT DAY!  DAY ZERO!

Throughout this journey, Chris and I have prayed for "hope."  Hope in Christ, a future, hope to be back with my students, hope in a treatment plan..............HOPE!

Family is here for this day.  I was wide awake at 3:45.  Not worrying; just anxious.  Pre-game jitters.  I know the opponent, but  it's a new, unknown path.

"start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile—be sure now to keep your distance!—and you'll see clearly the route to take. You've never been on this road before."  Joshua 3:3-4 (The Message)

     In The Fellowship of the Ring, the first movie of the Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam are leaving their beloved shire, a land of streams and valleys and meadows and forests.  They are on a journey that will take them to the very ends of the earth, only they don't realize that yet.  They think they are simply traveling to the next country.  

     As they cross a field, Sam stops.  Frodo stops also.  "What's the matter, Sam?"  Frodo asks.
"If I take one more step, " Sam says, "I'll have gone further than I've been before."
     Frodo smiles, walks back to him, puts his arm around him and answers, "Come on, Sam!  As Gandalf says, 'It's a dangerous thing, just going out the door.'"     (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Mom and Dad 2

Today I take a new step.  My world will not be the same for a while.  Tough days ahead, but it seems a dangerous thing just going out the door. But I do not go alone.
Dr. Bhushan, God's blessing for my new birthday!
Lilian, one of my angel nurses
Chris decorated my room with family and scripture

Ryan's new tribute to Dad

Hold Fast!

What's Wrong With The I-Phone 10

Okay, I could have picked many things to start this discussion. (Okay, apple geeks, do not head to the mall.  There is not an iPhone 10!)  The latest car model, computer, firearm,  guitar, video game, etc.  It isn't amazing that we can be so controlled by the latest model or upgrade.

Do you know how many mail order catalogs are mailed out in this country each year?
40 Billion!
The purpose of every one of these catalogs is to make us discontent, to cause us to feel as if what we possess isn't enough.   We must realize that STUFF does not make us secure.

Psalms 90:12 says:           12So teach us to number our days,
                        That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Nothing puts life in perspective more clearly than to be in a battle for your life.  This is not a time-management technique. It's not a check list, nor an accumulation of needless stuff. It is acknowledging that God is in the mystery of each moment.  A common mistake of "driven" people is that "we" forget our destination.  We lose our purpose.  We must manage time less and pay attention more.

Mary Oliver writes, "The dream of my life is to lie down by a slow river and stare at the light in the trees-----To learn something of being nothing----A little while but the rich Lens of Attention."

One of my students sent me an e-mail yesterday.  She said that she sat and thought about me and what I was going through.  She then shared with me her pondering, "Why does it take illness, separation, or a loss to make us enjoy the moments?" What a heart of knowledge and wisdom!

I want to learn the rich lens of attention.  What are others feeling around me?  Are they lonely?  Despondent?  Needing to talk?  What are the colors that surround me?  A smile!  A laugh!  A tear!

I pray for more time. Time to dance, sing, laugh, and love with those God has gifted to us!

28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."   Matt. 11:28-30

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Story WIth Value

The story you are about to hear is true..............
One of my favorite books is by Donald Miller, "A Million Miles In a Thousand Years."  He uses the elements of a "good" story as he chronicles his life travels and lessons learned.  Conflict is the time of the story where the character is developed.  As humans we avoid conflict, if possible, but sometimes life brings conflict to our doorstep.

I now realize that running, training, and competing in marathons was conflict which developed my character.  The conflict was self induced, but it caused me to reach deep inside myself and sometimes to rely on God and others to finish these long runs of endurance.  Bleeding toes, aching muscles, cramps, blisters, and general pain.  Each month of training and each of the five marathons helped me to live a better story.

My story with cancer began in 2008.  I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  At the time and for the next three and one half years, it was treated as a solitary plasmacytoma.  Spinal surgery, rod inserted in spine, 8 weeks of radiation, and 6 months of chemotherapy.  In September of 2011, my wife Chris, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Surgery followed by six weeks of radiation.  More pain to develop our stories.  Chris has now had twelve months of clear scans.

On July 12th of this summer, I visited my oncologist with swelling in one of my testicles.  More doctor appointments and tests before they all agreed that I needed an orchiectomy.  I was assured that my cancer did not usually spread to the testes.  On July 27th my oncologist called the house with tough news.  Not only were plasma cells present in the tumor, he wanted me to get evaluated for a stem cell transplant.  Since that time:

  • 7/30 - Bone Marrow Biopsy
  • 8/2 - Medi-Port Installed
  • 8/3 - Accepted into Stem Cell Transplant Program
  • 8/13 - 8/16 - Hospitalized for 4 days of extensive chemotherapy
  • 8/30 - Lost Hair
  • 9/8 - 9/12 - Hospitalized for 2nd round of chemotherapy
  • 9/28 - Lumbar Puncture and intrathecal chemo
  • 10/3 - Lumbar Puncture for spinal blood patch
  • 10/10 - 10/14 - Hospitalized for 3rd round of chemotherapy
  • 10/15 - 10/24 - Chris drives me everyday for Neupogen shots at Medical City
  • 10/25 - Stem Cells Harvested
  • 11/7 - 11/13 - Hospitalized for 5 days of chemo
  • 11/14 - Day of Rest
  • 11/15 - "DAY ZERO"
  • Hospitalized for approximately 2 more weeks
  • 1 week of staying locally for daily treatment and tests
I write all of this not for pity or attention.  The best information and encouragement I have received have been from others who have gone through this procedure.  I am blessed that God has allowed medical personnel to fine tune such an unbelievable process.  I praise God that there is a treatment which can give me more time.  I am thankful for my wife, Chris, who has been with me every step of the way. I am thankful for my children and grand children. I am thankful for humble, praying nurses and doctors.  I am thankful that I have been chosen to run this race.

Please Hold Fast with me!
II Timothy 1:23

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sir Kevin of Devon

     There are many things to write about, as I sit in my 11th floor hospital room at Medical City.  I will be here for about 3 weeks.  In the next post I will update everyone on my last five months, but in the window of my room sits a book.  It is a children's book.  Chris is convinced that my hospital room be filled with memories and hope.  Let me explain why this book is special.
      I have four siblings.  We are all very different, but have many similarities.  Sharon is the oldest child.  She lives in Oklahoma and teaches college English.  Her husband, Don, was a football coach for over 30 years and we lost him to a massive heart attack in March of 2009.  It seems like yesterday and to this day some of the silliest things will bring on uncontrolled sobbing as I remember Don.  Sharon and I still struggle talking on the phone.  We send cards, letters, e-mails, and I send texts; Sharon reads texts.  But Sharon loves to find unusual things at garage sales, antique stores, and estate sales.  Some of these things remind of us our childhood and some are just junk.
     After I found out that my monster (cancer) was back, Sharon found this children's book and mailed it to me with a personal letter.  I took it to my office, where I am the high school principal.  It sat on a shelf until one day I knew I had to read it to Mrs. Whitlock's AP English class.  I will let Senior Maricela Coronado tell you the rest in a letter that was published in our local paper.

Sir Kevin of Honey Grove

      When people think of their greatest fear they picture snakes, spiders, terrestrial creatures, and maybe even the act of dying. When people think of pain they picture world hunger, depression, and loss; yet when thinking about life, most people will think of their family, a place called home, and God. As humans, we all have our own individual way of dealing with our pain and fear. 
Walking into our classroom we all noticed his smile, enthusiasm, and his will to live a normal life. It was hard to not notice the mask on his face, the hair that was missing, and the joy in his eyes. Mr. Weaver is our high school principal. Most days he is watching us progress in our studies, but this particular day he entered the senior class to talk about life. 
     As a senior, you realize that life is passing, time is rushing, and people are changing. With these thoughts in mind, my senior class watched as Mr. Weaver entered our classroom. He carried an old and faded book in his hand. He stood at the front and asked if he could share a story with us—a children’s book. As seniors we had long forgotten what story time felt like, so we eagerly invited him wondering what the story would be about. 
     He held up the book: Sir Kevin of Devon. It was quickly pointed out that the book had his name. Mr. Weaver smiled and began to read, “’I’ll fight this monster!’ Brave Kevin Said.’” As a senior, it’s hard enough to try to picture yourself in a future that you have no idea about. It’s even harder to tell yourself that you are no longer a child, especially when you are having story time with your principal. Everyone listened as Mr. Weaver continued to read, “He carried a sword, and a shield, and a mace. But proudest of all was the look on his face… Good sire,’ said Kevin, ‘I have come from the East. I am seeing a monster, a terrible beast!’”
     As we listened, thoughts of our greatest fears entered our minds. Monsters in all forms came…soon we would leave home, we would be independent, and somehow the thought of it all scared us. We continued to watch Mr. Weaver…we made the connection instantly. He was reading a book about a knight who had to fight a monster. Just like the character in the book, Mr. Weaver was fighting a monster in real life—cancer. The reading continued, “’the monster did come, but small Kevin stood fast. He raised his sword as the creature stormed past.’” 
     We sat thinking of monsters that stormed into our lives. Flashbacks quickly flooded our memories…Mrs. Horner’s death, fires, car accidents, loss, cancer within our community, suicides…we continued to think of the monsters that entered our lives abruptly, and we realized that liked Sir Kevin, we need to raise our swords and be strong. Mr. Weaver paused as he turned the page and said, “Woah, this is a long children’s book…” Everyone in the classroom laughed at the fact that the book was too long and difficult to be considered a children’s book. Mr. Weaver happily continued to read, “’I can’t stab it,’ thought Kevin, ‘it’s as hard as a kettle. It won’t listen to reason; its brains are all metal. So I’ll just have to chase it through country and town. Sooner or later it has to go down.’”
     Sometimes things in our life are unpredictable, they don’t just go away. Instead, we have to be persistent and help ourselves through whatever we’re fighting. Fighting a monster means never giving up until you win the battle. The monsters in our life do not care if we suffer or hurt. Cancer does not have emotion, it is not alive, and it doesn’t have a soul like we do. The things we consider monsters don’t listen to reason…things like death and fire do not understand that they cause pain. Those monsters have no knowledge of the damage they cause, so it is up to us to get rid of them. Mr. Weaver continued to read, “’He chased it up mountains and then chased it down…he chased it at last…and then the monster went down…Long live Sir Kevin! The Townsfolk cried, the bravest knight in the countryside! And there stood Kevin with eyes all bright. He had dreamed his dream. He’d been ready to fight. He had proved himself worthy of being a knight!’”
     Slowly Mr. Weaver closed the book, and as expected he questioned what we thought of it. The room was silent, and everyone knew exactly what it meant. Mr. Weaver slowly stood up. He took out a letter from his sister. He began to read parts of the letter that informed us about the origins of the book. It had been bought by his sister at a garage sale due to a promise that they had kept to each other. We all continued to listen as Mr. Weaver read his sister’s letter. After reading it, he smiled and told us that he was happy that he could share something personal with us. 
     Mr. Weaver left the room, and yet there was still silence. We all looked at each other with a certain understanding about living life to its fullest and fighting any challenge that threatens our existence. We sat back at our desks watching the clock. Somehow we felt that we were waiting…waiting for hope, waiting for life, waiting for Kevin to kill the monster. We still are waiting.
Mr. Weaver, I do not know if you will ever read this, but we will wait with you…we will fight with you…and together we will watch the monster fall down. As seniors we will graduate knowing that you defeated the monster…We will thank you for being strong. We will thank you for believing in us…and for showing us that we can fight anything in life. In the future we’re going to fight endless battles with many monsters, but for now let’s fight this monster called cancer. Mr. Weaver, you are from this day forward Sir Kevin of Honey Grove, and you will win this battle…
by, Maricela Coronado