Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stent Removal Tomorrow

We had a great weekend. Mike is doing well right now. His blood counts look good and his platelets are slowly but surely moving up. We are not doing Chemo this week because Mike is having his stent removed tomorrow at around noon. We are praying that the opening is large enough that we can remove it completely and not have to walk that road anymore. The GI Doctor wants to install a permanent Wall Stent. The problem with the stents is that they are self expanding which leads to pain in Mike's ribs and stent location. As we evaluate what to do medically, the thought of a permanent stent with permanent pain seems a little extreme right now. We are praying that God will keep his esophagus open while we continue on this Chemo road.

Other than that, Mike and Elizabeth are working on her science project. Daddy had always wanted to make a solar hot dog cooker out of a parabola and now they are tackling that together. I warned everyone from the beginning, that is not my thing and I can not be expected to pick up any slack. So the past two days, I have had the joy of pushing Mike in the wheel chair around Hobby Lobby and Lowe's to find the supplies needed. (Honestly, it was a joy! I wouldn't have thought this possible a few months ago). It was actually probably funny if someone was taping us on a hidden camera. In Hobby Lobby, Mike made me go up and down the aisles and he would say, "Stop. Ok. Go. Ok. Stop... Back up, you have gone too far. Ok. Stop. " I don't know if that is funny in writing, but I am sure people thought I had the patience of a saint!

Mike had the strength to walk around the stores, but not enough to do it for a long time. So we still pull out the wheel chair. That was such a blessing from Giact.

So, we are hanging in there and thank God everyday for His care, another day together, and our precious family and friends.

Our House in FL to sell at the right price
Mike's procedure tomorrow - no complications and that the stent can be completely removed
Esophagus - that it will remain open and the tumor will not close it
The Rippee family across the street. It appears at this typing that Prostate cancer is about to lead his father home to Jesus.
Mike's blood counts to continue to stay strong and that he will continue to gain weight
Visions for God's plan for our future
My Mom - she is going to the Dr. this week for follow up to Radiation. Pray that cancer will be gone for good
Financial prudence and wisdom

The Maxwell family and all their help with the FL house this past few weeks.
Hal and his care for our yard and family
Being used by God to shower His care for a special family
Insurance and Medical Care
A father and daughter science project!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

We prayed... He answered...We're blessed!

Mike's WBC count in finally moving in the right direction. It is up to 3.1 today and his platelets are up to 57. Still low, but praise God that they are on the way up. Prayer works. Thank you for praying with me and I am so blessed to be able to report that God answered.

Now... Let's pray together for the sell of our house! :)

We did get an offer last weekend, but it was for $63,000 less than the asking price. So they were looking for a bargain that we can not afford. But we did thank God for the offer and now we have faith that God will bring someone forth will buy the house for somewhere within our price range.

May God Bless your weekend. It is a special weekend here and I won't forget to thank God for his blessings. I am celebrating my birthday and Mike is still here to celebrate with me. God continues to give us each day. We are blessed beyond measure.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Prayers lifted up

What a week! I praise God for the healing he is doing with Mike right now. I am going to confess, that even with the good news, I was a little disappointed. I really struggled with the fact that there wasn't more news. But then, through some books and through the wisdom of Elizabeth, I confessed my sin. God must get so exasperated at me! I praise God that things are moving in the right direction. Dr. Khan even referred to Mike's tumor today as "stable". Wow. 6 months into the fight and the tumor is stable and the liver lesions are reducing. I am ashamed of myself. Thank you God for all you have done.

Mike, of course, gave this great military analogy the other day. He said something to the effect of it is a war on two fronts. We put enough resources to hold one at bay and take the first one out. Then we will unleash everything on the other battlefront. I'll have him blog it next time. It made me laugh. He is such a tactician and warrior at heart.

So today we went to the Doctor's office and Mike's blood count is still messed up. His WBC count went up a little bit to 1.6. That is still dangerously low and he is at a high risk if he is exposed to anything right now. His platelets are holding at 30 and his Red Blood Cell is dropping again. We saw Dr. Khan and he thinks it might be related to his enlarged spleen that we saw on the CT Scan. The spleen is responsible for filtering the blood. We are going to give it a few more days to see if things change.

I want to call on all the prayer warriors out there to lift this up and pray specifically for Mike's spleen and his bone marrow/blood counts. Pray specifically in the Name of Jesus and command Mike's body to perform and regenerate in it's God created state. Speak to his WBC, his Marrow, and to his spleen. God is faithful and He will answer. Watch...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good CT test results, praise God Almighty!

Dear ones, Mike blogging today.

The red blood cells seem to be holding their own after the transfusion, however, the white cells are not responding to the shots and coming back up. The platelets are misbehaving as well. But overall, the transfusion was an incredible blessing. I'm back at home now. We'll figure out the white cell and platelet problem somehow, with God's help.

So no chemo for a while with the white count so low. We did a CAT scan yesterday and got the very good results today: Liver lesions have decreased in size since last CAT scan between .2 and 1.0 centimetres (cm)in size--average reduction looks to be about .5cm. Spleen slightly enlarged, probably related to its role in cleaning old red blood cells out of the blood. Pancreas, adrenal, kidney, aorta, prostate, bladder, and gall bladder normal. Some lymph node swelling in the chest, hopefully from carrying away the toxins of dying cancer cells. They found what sounds like a minor problem in my L5/S1 back vertebrae --knocked somewhere between 0-25% out of position with maybe a hairline fracture. My back hasn't bothered me in a while, but it does on occasion and I've always suspected it was due to a bad fall I took off an obstacle at Ft Bragg. Nice to have it pin-pointed, and to know that it is likely minor and won't get worse. A fair amount of lung tissue scarring was noted on this one. Thyroid normal, esophagus/stomach unchanged, and another nodule in the lung disappeared!

Lord Jeshua thank You! By Your stripes we are healed. Because you are faithful, powerful, wise, the merciful, gracious Son of the living God! Please continue to Bless your unworthy servant and my family/friends.


Saturday, March 21, 2009


We got home this morning around 9:30 am. Mike got two more pints of blood and his levels went up to 10.8. However, his WBC count went down even after the shot yesterday. He received another shot in the hospital. We have to go do a CBC tomorrow morning and then we see the Doctor on Monday with the CT Scan at 10:00 am.

I am a little nervous with the blood counts not coming up that much with 6 pints of blood. I really thought we would be in the 12 range. But I am lifting my prayers upwards that God will heal and be in control. This coming week is a little scary for some reason. But I will fear not, because those that trust in the Lord shall not be disappointed.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Mike's blood count did not go as high as it needed to go. So he is staying one more night and getting 2 additional pints of blood for a total of 6 pints this time. I praise God for Mike's insight. He was right. His numbers were 9.8 RBC and 27.5 on the HCT. They wanted him above 28 HCT. We had the choice of being discharged, but the Doctor thought it best to give 2 more pints to really tank him up. Mike and I talked about it and thought that would be best too. Who knows? His RBC might actually go into the normal range. Not only that, we didn't want to be back in next week for another transfusion. I will update again in the morning.

In Hospital - More blood

It has been an interesting 24 hours on our front. We went to the Cancer Center for our daily CBC and Mike's numbers were all off - both the White Blood and Red Blood. Mike got a shot for his White Blood count and then it was decided that he needed a transfusion. We went through the paperwork process for the outpatient route that we did last time. However, Mike then said he felt like he was going to crash and couldn't wait until tomorrow (today). So we changed the paperwork and waited at the Cancer Center for a bed to open up at the hospital. We waited until 4:30 at the Cancer Center and then decided to drive across the street to the hospital to wait there. It was one of those God things. The hospital wanted us to go home and wait for a call, but Mike didn't want to move that much. So we went to the Lobby and I thought I could at least fill out the paperwork for admittance and then maybe we could cross type and match for our blood while we are waiting on the room. We hit the Registration about 30 minutes before everyone goes home and the supervisor didn't want to leave Mike waiting. So she called and harassed the house supervisor so much that we had a room by 5:30 pm. So that was a praise.

We were given a semi private room and much to my worry, the guy next to us has some sort of nasty strep throat thing among other issues. I talked to the nurse saying Mike can not share a room with the gentleman. I didn't want to risk that Mike would catch his disease. The nurses worked on it and the other guy was moved upstairs and Mike now has a private room. So that was another praise.

Well, as I have said many times, Mike knows his body. He was correct in that he would need more than 2 pints of blood. He got them last night and his numbers are still considerably low. So we are waiting on 2 more pints. The process is always slow. I am looking at the clock and hoping that we can get this done before shift change at 7:00 pm, but I am not sure. So it will be another late one. But I am praying that 2 more pints will do it or at least will raise his numbers.

I did finally get the CT Scan scheduled for Monday. We will see the doctor at 8:30 am and then have the CT Scan. Hopefully, we will get the report by Thursday of next week. I also am praying that the CT Scan will again show the miraculous healing of Jesus.

There are so many ways to thank and praise God in the past 24 hours. For Kelli and Deann and Heidi for taking care of Elizabeth. She played at a new friends house and then went to a great indoor pool. Elizabeth also spent the night with Aunt Amy and Uncle Rob. For family that took care of the dog and other needs. For friends that sent all those books. I finished one and started two others. For quiet time in the hospital as Mike sleeps to pray. For all the people that moved mountains so Mike could get blood last night. Even as we wait on two more pints, the first two have made a great difference. His heart rate is down in the normal range again. It was high yesterday. And yes, for the precious blood donor (s). I just keep thinking of Bill Curry when he said, " Hear me. There is LIFE in the blood." back in the fall.

Maybe someday I will write a book on that one statement. There is so much more in that statement than just the words. In the same realm of when God says to tell them "I AM". Three letters that encompasses the creation of this universe, the creation of us, the salvation of mankind, and an ongoing relationship.

Prayer needs:
Mike - blood levels, CT Scan, eat and drink, energy
Deanna - rest, time management, financial wisdom
Elizabeth - reassurance that Daddy will come home from hospital and peace
Our House in FL to sell
Connor's healing

Blood donors
a roof over our heads
insurance for medical needs
friends and neighbors - both new and old.
Kindness of strangers

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The exact words

Some weeks ago, I blogged about Connor Cruse, an 8 year old with cancer. His web-site is www.connorcruse.com . This is the most recent posting and as I read this it was like reading exactly what I would like to say but never had the words. While Connor has been battling longer than Mike and the cancer is somewhat different, the words ring truer than ever.

We have been fighting cancer with Connor almost 46 months, longer than WWII. And when I hear people ask where do you get the fight, where does the energy come from, how much longer, how does Connor have the stamina, we simply have one answer and that is our faith in God through this fiery journey that we've been on. With visits to Dallas, Houston, Boston, New York and now Ft. Worth, with the primary tumor being Neuroblastoma and now a completely new tumor, we still rest in the Lord. At the end of the day we will fight until there is no more fight. The only way we are getting through dark nights, thoughts that we don't want in our brain, questions we don't want to have to answer, doctors we do not want to have to see is your prayers, your encouragement, and knowing that our Lord is giving us strength. Early on in this fight I quoted Psalms 23 saying we are going through the valley of darkness, to our right is dark, to our left is dark. Our old life, our old "normal" is behind us and the new normal ahead of us is black. The only way we're getting through this is with your fingerprints all over us pushing us through this. Today as the father of an eight year old son with two dragons inside of him trying to devour him I say thank you. With 46 months of fighting this, hundreds of visits to the doctor, thousands of pills taken, gallons of chemo infused, and countless surgeries, Connor has never complained. My question to you today is what do you have to complain about? I'm asking you to be grateful, to embrace life's challenges, to say a prayer for an eight year old boy who is fighting cancer, and also I say thank you for your incredible faithfulness in lifting up our family.

I copied and pasted his Dad's words into our blog for two reasons. One is that the thoughts and words are the same in our camp. We fight, the doctors appointments, the questions, the chemo, the fight, and the "new normal" are all the same things that we feel. The emotion of a parent is the same raw emotion that a wife struggles with. Yet here is another fellow brother in Christ that fights with the same sword of Faith and prayer. And by God's grace, they are surrounded by fellow prayer warriors lifting them up.

I wish I could describe the literal covering that all the prayers for us do. There are times when you can physically feel it. It is so real and so important because sometimes in the depths of the raw emotion you are just calling out to Jesus over and over - like a baby calling to her momma in the middle of the night. You need Him, but can't put the words together to say exactly what you need. And in the end, Jesus runs to you and pulls you close and gives you what you need, just like a momma does. So your prayers are lifted up when the words escape us...

Now to my second reason for copying and pasting from Connor's web-site. Please pray for this sweet boy. Prayer changes things and we need Connor's cancer to leave his body.

Mike? This round of Chemo is tougher than normal. Prayer is needed there too. We go in tomorrow for blood work and I need to nail down the CT Scan.

By the way, did I mention that the God we serve is able to heal both Connor and Mike? We serve a mighty God! He is mighty to save!

(Thanks to whoever posted the link to the song by Hill Song! I brought tears to my eyes today.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oops I did it again!

Well, I did it. I made plans for the week of Spring Break. Or at least mental plans and then I am reminded of that "C" word.

Yesterday, Mike has his weekly Doctor appointment. Mike's WBC was really low. Too low to do Chemo. Dr. Khan also wanted to get a CT Scan so everything got postponed. Mike's RBC count was down to 9.8. Not too bad, but it has been dropping again. Anyway, we were released and I thought we would get the week off. Elizabeth is on Spring Break so I started thinking and making plans. I want to go to the Dallas Arboretum and we all want to see the King Tut Exhibit that is in Dallas right now.

However, we went in for our daily CBC and Mike's WBC count was up and Dr. Khan wanted to hit the cancer again with Chemo. Mikes' RBC was down even further to 9.2 and we all know that probably by the end of this week or early next week, Mike will be getting another transfusion. Of course, God could change that, but the Chemo is extremely hard on Mike's red blood cells. So the transfusions are kind of par for the course. There is a shot out there to increase RBC production. However, Khan has steered clear of it in Mike's case because there are some studies that have shown that it can increase cancer cell production. Both Mike and I were hesitate to do Chemo. Me for selfish reasons. Mike because he was so tired. In the end, we decided to go forth because we were afraid that his RBC count would delay the next round of Chemo. It is really important that you hit the cancer hard because you do not want the cells to mutate or adapt to the chemo and then become resistant. It is kind of the same principle of taking antibiotics too often.

So, I had to admit, I shed some tears. I was mad at myself, but I really hate cancer. I hate looking at pictures from 8 months ago and wondering what happened? I just want some normal things. Most of all, I want Mike to beat this disease.

I had to go home and get some stuff for the Chemo, most importantly the pain patch for Mike. I was glad to be alone in the car and do you know what? In my pity, God spoke to me and put a song in my head. I don't' know the name of the song or the author, but this is what played over and over in my head "Savior, He can move the mountains, My God is mighty to save He is mighty to save " ( I am singing it for you right now!) He also reminded me that I prayed hard for Mike last night and this morning and asked Him to heal Mike's pain. It occurred to me this could be the answer. The Chemo back to back might in the end, be a good thing. So sometimes I have to remind myself to keep walking in Faith.

Prayer Needs:
Mike - that the Chemo will do it's job and kill the cancer and nothing else
Mike to develop a hunger for food
For the pain in Mike's esophagus to stop
Mike to drink more
Our House in FL to sell in God's timing at the right price to the right person
Me - to keep the Faith and that God will give me medical wisdom and financial wisdom

God is still here and still very much involved
That I can sing to you over the blog :)... (And Everyone said AMEN!)
Beautiful weather
Aunt Amy and Aunt Nancie for their help this week
Insurance - by the way, we met the cap this week (only took 45 days) ... no more co pays until October...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monkey Boy goes to the Movies

Today is Friday and we started off the day as we usually do - at the Cancer Center. We did our daily CBC and got the good news that Mike's numbers are holding (WBC and RBC) and we don't have to go back until Monday morning. Two weekends in a row!

We were blessed by a visit from Pierre and Joshua this afternoon and then I picked up Elizabeth from school. We then decided to kick off Spring Break by hitting a matinee movie - Escape to Witch Mountain. Mike decided to go too! It is his first movie since we were in Florida back in September. So Mike put on his mask (monkey boy) and we went together as a family.

You know, it may seem like an insignificant event but it really is a big deal to Elizabeth and I. Anytime we get a moment when we can go and do things as a family is like opening presents on Christmas. Something you have wanted for so long and finally got.

Well, Spring Break is finally here. Elizabeth is staying up late tonight and is so excited. We have one goal for next week - Dallas World Aquarium. Most everyone around here is going somewhere like San Antonio. I have to wonder if we will ever get to the point where we can go somewhere again as a family. Right now, it is a privilege and a blessing to be helping others out as they go away for a few days. It is nice to be able to repay the kindness we have been given.

Finances-- UGH! We found out today that the money we have been getting from the VA and the AF is messed up. We have been getting concurrent receipt which means we have been getting our AF retirement plus the VA benefit. However, you can only get concurrent receipt if you have spent 20 years on active duty. As everyone knows, we were medically retired 7 months short. So the VA payment is subtracted from the AF Retirement. So if our retirment was $10 a month and our VA benefit was $5, on concurrent receipt we would get paid $15 a month. But in our case, we get paid $10 a month - $5 from the AF and $5 from the VA. Now there is a silver lining. The VA payement is not taxed. So your taxable income is less. (This is your retirement lesson of the day. By the way, you have to be over 30% disabled -I think- when you retire to qualify concurrent reciept)

So as of right now, we owe the government $9,000. We still don't know how we will be required to pay that back, but we will at some point. I guess I had hoped that because Mike was 100% disabled, there was some loop hole or provision. But that is not the case. It is so frustrating right now. I would NEVER recommend anyone doing what we did as far as retiring from the Air Force. Everyone bent over backwards for us and I don't regret any decisions that were made - like extending the retirement date. All those decisions were right. However, the paperwork system is not as flexible and it is now starting to catch up. Honestly, I can't even imagine the work and headaches that we caused for everyone at the 623rd, Col Fowler, Cynthia, and Col Wiegand. So if you are reading this right now, thank you again for everything. Thank you.

So as the weeks go by, the writing is on the wall and I will need to figure out how to go back to work in between all the doctors appointments and Mike's care. He is getting somewhat stronger, so God willing, it will be ok. I also plan on writing Congress about the law of concurrent receipt. It makes no sense to me. If given the choice, we would have stayed in the AF. I think in any situation where someone is medically retired due to illness that concurrent receipt should apply. Hopefully, the law can be changed so that the next person in a situation like ours can benefit.

Prayer needs:
Our house in FL to sell and to for us to at least break even. The person that was asking the questions a last week has faded into the sunset. So we are anxiously awaiting God's new buyer!
Mike to develop a hunger
Mike to drink more
Mike's billirubin to decrease- he is getting yellow again
Spring Break - please pray for amazing family time
Financial wisdom
The CT Scan next week - miraculous results
Cancer - that it will go away

Psalm 91 - we cling to His Word and His promise of healing
Mike's strength to go to the movies and climb the ladder to change a light bulb
Spring Break
Retirement Check - even though we wish it could be more, we are still getting it!
SGLI - we were approved for a 2 year extension with no premiums.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why I need this man

Here is a funny story that happened today. Mike is still in the "Chemo Fog". While in this fog, Mike sleeps a lot, grunts when I ask him the "Are you Ok" question, throws up, and in general doesn't interact. So winter has hit again. Sometime in the middle of the night, it went from 80 degrees to 40 windy and rainy. It was so miserable this morning that the dog wouldn't go outside.

So we drop Elizabeth off at school and then drive to the Dr's for our daily blood count. Mike's blood count is holding steady at 11.3 and his WBC is up due to the shot yesterday. We are good to go. We get in the car and Mike assumes his position - seat belt on, bucket in lap, and head laying on the rim of the bucket. The car is on and it is steaming up. I turn on the defrost and the front windows are good to go. I backing up out of the parking lot, all the time whining to out loud about the foggy back windows. I am really talking to myself because Mike is out of it. So I am done backing out and still talking to myself about the cold weather, the foggy windows, and the rain when Mike pops his up. He then reaches over and turns on the rear de-fogging system button and puts his head right down. He doesn't say a word.

All I could do was laugh and smile. It never occurred to me to to turn on the rear defrost. That was such a Mike moment. Listen to the problem at hand. Evaluate the situation. I have no doubt he went through some sort of mental checklist. Make a decision and act. Then go back to what he was doing.

I need this man to be around for a long time!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Left Speechless

Well, as we expected, Mike did another round of Chemo yesterday. We saw the Doctor first and he evaluated Mike and signed the orders for Chemo. He did say that everything looks good and after this round of Chemo we will proceed to do another CT Scan. I am assuming that will be sometime next week. I have been praying for the results already knowing God has the ultimate plan under control.

We did head back to the Chemo room and Fran and the team got Mike going. We got to the center at 8:00 am, but didn't get back to the Chemo room until 10:00. Mike's Chemo is different that most. He does Cisplatin and Campostar. It is a long, toxic process. They need to hydrate him and give him pre-medication before each Chemo drug. Needless to say, we were the last ones there at around 4:15. But we managed to get home and Mike did well for the rest of the evening. In fact, I went to bed around 10:30 and he was still up playing on his PSP.

Some interesting things of note: Mike had the hiccups last night. A side effect he hasn't had since the first round. I feel for him though. The hiccups cause pain at the stent location. Also, Mike is loosing pigmentation in his fingers. Again, another side effect. It is not a big deal but odd and gives you a little indication at the toxicity of Chemo. Or to look at it from another angle, what it takes to kill cancer under current treatments.

Speaking of that, I got the most incredible call today. A short call, but one that left me speechless. I got a call from the 623rd Special Ops Group at Hurlburt Airfield today. They are putting together a Relay for Life Team in Mike's honor and wanted permission to use Mike's name. Wow. I didn't know how to respond. Ok. I teared up. That is now my typical response when people touch us beyond words. We have never walked this road of cancer before. Not with anyone in either family or with any friends. But now that we are here and hearing people's stories everyday, Cancer is alarming. It crosses all age groups, all sexes, all ethnicity, all income groups, everyone. I met Kathleen at the cancer center. She is down in TX from Iowa seeking treatment with Dr. Khan. Her husband is Active Duty National Guard in Iowa. She was telling me that she told her husband that he needed to look at her leaving him as going off to war too. The enemy she is facing is cancer.

I was just relaying to the girls at Pekeno last night this thought. The one thing I do love about Dr. Khan and his practice is that he takes all insurance - Medicare, Tricare, Medicad. I would also be willing to lay money on the fact that he has treated those without insurance. I don't know that for sure, but I feel like he would. Believe it or not, I have heard of Doctors turning away people with cancer because they have the wrong portion of Medicare and this person died. So raising money for Cancer research - all forms of cancer is important. However, I just wish everyone would get together as one big team. I do feel that there are some important and significant finding in the homeopathic world in terms of cancer.

So, we are touched, humbled and proud to lend Mike's name to the the 623rd Team! Thank you for such an incredible honor and we pray God will do great things with it.

Speaking of God, He allowed me to be used for his glory yesterday. I received an incredible book from Mrs Howard (Doug and Dena's mother). It is called "Psalm 91: God's Shield of Protection" by Peggy Joyce Ruth. She and her ministry is located near Brownwood, Texas ( www.peggyjoyceruth.org ) Psalm 91 has been an incredible promise to Mike and I. I blogged about finding it back in September I think. We read it quite often and I have been praying it over Mike more than I can even count. This book specifically relates to the trials and dangers that the military faces. It breaks Psalm 91 done verse by verse and then has many stories of how Psalm 91 protected the military. The true stories of God's Protection in it are nothing short of amazing. Here is an short synopsis from her website:
Psalm 91 has been called the soldier's prayer. Countless soldiers, from the time of the Civil War to those involved in present day conflicts, have thousands of recorded stories of miraculous interventions. These 16 short verses carry promise of protection from every evil known to man. This book explaining our Psalm 91 protection covenant needs to be placed in the hands of every military personnel and family

So, I had just ordered extra books to share with some people and I ran into Kathleen. Her son is an NCO and he had just married. She said his new wife was having a hard time being away from home for the first time and throughout the conversation she revealed that the new daughter-in-law was religious. I told her I had a great book for her to send to her to encourage her. This was on Friday. I stuck the book in my mega-purse that I now carry and gave it to her on Monday. I saw Kathleen in the hall reading it. I believe that Kathleen needed it more than her daughter-in-law. You could see it in her eyes when she thought no one was looking. I believe God will use it.

Prayer needs:
Chemo effects on Mike - it to kill cancer and nothing else
Mike's blood remains strong
Please pray for the results of the CT Scan that has yet to be ordered
Mike to develop a hunger for food
Mike to drink more right now to flush his kidneys
Our House in FL to sell
The Relay for Life Team

To be able to be used by God even in the circumstances right now
No homework for Elizabeth all week
Open House at School tonight!
Insurance and Medical Care
laughter with the girls last night at Pekeno

PS. Doug and Dawn- we are huge Chick-fil-a fans but it was Sunday!!! Chick-fil-a is closed.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Monkey Boy

We have had just an awesome weekend - actually a great few days. Mike's strength has been such a blessing after the extra blood this week. I have to say, that I never gave much thought to blood donation prior to this cancer walk, but now I am going to be a donor for life. I am sure the blood donor has no idea what he or she gave to us. But it is huge.

So we spent the weekend doing family stuff. Elizabeth had softball practice. She is excited about her new team here. They are called the Yellow Jackets and they will be getting cool yellow and black ring socks. Her games will start in April and run through the middle of June. So that will keep us busy a few nights a week. On Saturday, we took a shopping outing together as a family. We went to the new Super Target, Big Lots, and Tuesday Morning. Mike did go. We load up the wheel chair and Elizabeth and I take turns pushing him around. The funniest thing happened at the Super Target.

Mike wears this heavy duty germ mask when we go to public indoor places. It is somewhat round and has a silver bar that you squeeze to conform to his nose. This is just to protect him from germs. He also wears this black stocking hat to cover his bald head. So we are pushing him through the toy section at Target and this little 2 -3 year old boy points at Mike and says, "Look Mommy. There is a Monkey!" His mother was appalled but we laughed, because he kind of looks like one. Plus, Mike has this on-going thing with me when I ask him to do too much. He will tell me he is not my "Monkey Boy" and then he will make great monkey noises. That little boy's comment just made us laugh. So today when we got out of the car for church, I said, "Come on Monkey Boy". It's my new pet name I think.

It has been a good week for the most part. We have laughed together at a few things and it has been awhile. We also seem to be having more real everyday conversations. It is so heavenly or of heaven. I don't know where we are in the battle of this cancer, but this is a nice stretch. To have family time, nice weather, and laughter. Life is blessed.

Today, we finally took Elizabeth to Town Lake Park. We also took the dog. We walked around the lake, bought duck food, fed the ducks, watched the turtles, and got some much needed sunshine. Actually we had quite the "small town" Texas Sunday. We went to church, went to the park, and then drove through Dairy Queen!

We also got a visit today from my Uncle Dick. It was very cool. We were able to help him reconnect with one of his fellow Army soldiers from Vietnam. He hasn't talk to him in 40 years, but told us stories. He found out he lived in TX and we were able through the internet to track him down to Boerne, TX. Dick called him and they talked and he will be meeting him in Denton on Tuesday. They haven't seen each other in a long time and both were reluctant to hang up the phone. When they did, Dick broke down in tears. He was so happy. He said, "It is so hard to explain." Mike and I both told him we understood. It is hard to explain to anyone outside the military circle, but their are times when your fellow soldiers (airmen or whatever) become family. We understand the tears, because it is the exact same way we feel every time we get a phone call, email, posting or visit from those we have served with.

Finally, Mike has been eating small things for a few days now. Not a lot, but bites here and there. He even ordered chicken nuggets at DQ (he ate 1) and had a bite of my dipped cone. I know everyone will recognized the miracle in that last sentence.

Tomorrow is Chemo... (sigh).... But tonight is a blessing!

Prayer Needs:
Our house in FL to sell
Mike to develop a hunger
Mike to drink more
Chemo that it will only attack the cancer cells and kill them permanently and that the side effects will be minimum
Financial Wisdom
Spring Break - Elizabeth is off school next week. I want to pray that we will have the strength to do some local outings with Mike and that we will not be consumed with Medical Issues and appointments.

Unspeakable Joy of watching Elizabeth feed the ducks
A roof over our heads
Uncle Dick's visit from MN this afternoon
US Military
Blood Donors

Thursday, March 5, 2009

LOL and Retirement Lesson #1

I love it!!! The posts are cracking me up from yesterday. I have enjoyed reading them to Mike so much. The music debate has gone on in our house. I have argued that Elizabeth has wanted to play the Oboe since last year at this time. A band came to play at her school and she was hooked. Plus she has been told it is the hardest instrument to learn. I personally was never into band. I played the piano for 5 years, but that didn't go too well. In fact I remember a significant beating that happened after I refused to get out of the back of the station wagon to go to piano. I deserved the beating because I was disrespectful to Mom (sorry!) but I would have rather been outside playing anytime.

Mike, on the other hand, was gifted in Music. His whole family is for that matter. In fact, I will let you in on a secret. Mike actually got a scholarship to play Viola at Oberlin College in Ohio. It was a partial scholarship so it wasn't enough to make him choose that route. But he did have musical talent at one point.

Anyway, my argument- let her choose something she wants. 6th grade is the time to experiment and try to develop your passions. So thank you to our blogging "village" for agreeing with me!!!

Mark, please contact us via email - deanna.phillips@att.net - and I will give you all our contact information.

Today- has been great again. Mike's white blood cell count was down, but he got a shot and we were out of the office by 9:00 am with energy. We went to Town Lake again and I pushed Mike around the lake. It is 1.2 miles and it is just nice. There are trees, fountains, ducks, and turtles. Mike got a little cold due to the wind, but I love spending time with him. Then I left him in the car while I got a hair cut. He is so good. He didn't complain at all. He actually reclined the seat, opened the windows, and slept.

I did get to look at the ultrasound report today. PRAISE NEWS - No blockage in the ducts of the liver. I knew that from the beginning somehow (God..).


Anytime we learn anytime that can help our friends in years to come in regards to retirement, I will post it under this heading.

Tricare Prime - as many of you know, you can select Tricare Prime or Standard when you retire. We chose Tricare Prime due to Mike's cancer to eliminate the unexpected out of pocket expenses. We have been blessed without the out of pocket for so long that it is hard to get your head around - $12 co-pays, $30 for outpatient, $9 for prescriptions, $3 for prescriptions etc. Honestly, in our boat, we need to budget each month for those. One week, we paid $150 out of pocket between Elizabeth, Mike and I. Well, we just got a bill for Mike's TPN, his IV food for $421. I was a little shocked. So as an FYI for anyone out there, Durable Medical Equipment and PEN (TPN) work a little different. You have to pay 20% of Tricare Approved Charges. Needless to say, we are meeting the $3000 catastrophic cap pretty quickly. Also, the cap runs Oct to Oct (military fiscal year). So we will be paying $6000 plus $400 (Tricare Enrollment) fee this year for medical expenses.

I don't want people to misunderstand me. I am by NO MEANS complaining. We are so blessed to have Medical Insurance and Mike is still here so it is worth every dime. I just want to pass on our life lessons so that it may help someone else in the future. Knowing you could pay $6500 the first year of retirement (depending on your retirement date and your health), could be important to know.

Prayer Needs:
Our House in FL to sell and for us to break even
Mike to develop a hunger
Mike to drink more
Financial Wisdom
God to continue strengthening Mike and defeating cancer

Beautiful Weather
Medical Insurance
Cards that keep flowing in - Thanks Rhonda
One more day together as a family

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beautiful day in Texas

Mike posting tonight.

Yesterday we spent the whole day doing medical appointments. We showed early at the hospital out-patient surgery after picking up donuts for the fantastic staff who always go above and beyond to take great care of me. Then I got hooked up for my two units of blood, which took us into the afternoon. After that, we had to go over to the clinic to get the blood level checked, and praise God, the two units was sufficient to raise me up to a safe level. I was fearful that 2 units would not be enough since last time, when a similar level increase required 4 units. But this time at least, two were sufficient. I learned that each pouch of IV blood comes from one individual donor, known to me only as a long string of letters and numbers in an ID code stamped on the sticker. Even though I can't thank them personally, I always pray that the donor of each pouch would receive a special blessing from God for what they have donated to me. I started to feel a little better that evening, and feel a lot better today.

We received a letter from DFAS (the people who do all military pay) explaining how they calculated our retired pay. This was kind of a loose end since I had calculated a slightly higher number. But after reviewing the letter, it appeared to have been properly done. One pleasant surprise is that we are getting a benefit we were previously advised that we weren't qualified for. I'm doing some checking to make sure we are truly entitled to it and that there is no mistake--so it's not time to celebrate yet--but if we get this benefit it will loosen the financial pressure considerably. This may be another big blessing!

Had to also talk to DFAS to restore our insurance premium allotment, which disappeared for some reason when we retired.

Since I had better strength today, and since we had no medical appointments, I made it to two Elizabeth events. First, we had lunch with her at school. Momma does this about once a week, but it was the first time for me. Loved it! And second, went to the middle school orientation meeting at Fabian, where she will attend next year. Didn't really learn anything new here, but at least got to see the faces of some of the staff. Elizabeth wants to do band as her elective. Her other choices were drama/art, orchestra. I would have preferred the drama/art, but Momma supports this decision, saying that she should get to choose this herself. Since she has no interest in becoming a musician, I think the public speaking aspects of drama/art would be a better use of her time, but I'll give in on this so I am not the mean old ogre.

Also received a nice call from Opie today--always appreciated.

Deanna just reminded me that today is the 6th month anniversary of my dire initial diagnosis. For 6 months, the support of the Lewis clan has been phenomenal. Their prayers and giving of time and money and other resources has humbled me to silence and tears. My latest gift came from Madissen today at lunch. As she always does, she immediately ran over and gave me a great big hug. No funny looks at my anti-germ surgical mask, no hesitation, just unconditional love. I have so little to offer in return, only a sincere prayer that Yeshua will bless them as only He can.

By the grace of Yeshua, and by the support and prayers of all of you saints out there, I am still alive. I can kiss my wife, hug my daughter, and pat the dog for another day. Thank you, thank you, thank you--I can't say it enough.


Monday, March 2, 2009

No Chemo this Week - More Blood

It has been another long day, but let's start off with praises. Someone out there wants to know what our average bills are on the house and what we paid in insurance. Whether or not, this is the people that God intends to buy our house, I don't know. But, it is a praise that someone is at least asking questions and taking a second and third look at the house.

We went to the doctor at 8:15 this morning and got home at around 3:00. We saw another Dr in the practice since Doctor Khan is away. The first thing they did was order a stat ultrasound on Mike's liver. The Billirubin keeps going up. They also ordered more labs. They are concerned that there might be a blockage in the bile duct. I am not worried about that for some reason. What is funny, is the Dr. Risvivi wanted to feel around Mike's stomach. He is pressing on it and I am watching his face. His eye brows started crinkling and he felt around. It was kinda of like he was thinking, "hum.. I expected to feel something" like he was surprised at how his belly felt. Anyway, he said everything feels soft and good. Dr. Risvivi ordered a blood transfusion. Mike's numbers at at 8.0 (Mike thinks they are lower). So one of the stops today was the hospital. We signed in and they drew the blood for the cross and type match. We then go back tomorrow at 8:00 am to do the transfusion as an outpatient in the day surgery. We then went back to the chemo room for fluids, nausea medication, and to change the needle in his port. We started the fluids and then they had a opening for the ultrasound. So we stopped the fluids, went and did the ultrasound of his abdomen (mostly liver) and then went back and finished the fluids. What I wasn't prepared for was the pain of the ultrasound. I didn't think about it at the time, but they use that wand and press around to get new the pictures, and it is painful for Mike. It really wiped him out. We finished our day with an adjustment at Dr. Bo's.

We came home and Mike is now in bed sleeping. He is done.

Here is the cool thing about today. We are really developing relationships with the staff at McKinney Medical Center. The lady at the registration registered us very quickly and kind of scooted us out of that aspect very quickly. Then we had to draw blood and the lady remembered us as well. She was so gracious and nice. She then took us to day surgery to have the nurses there draw Mike's blood from his port. (We elect to use the port as much as possible so not to get stuck more than necessary). We walk into day surgery and the whole nurses station lights up with smiles and hellos. It is very comforting. In fact when we are done, one of our favorites tracked us down in the hall and gave Mike and hug. She said that she is praying for us all the time. So we are going in tomorrow and I think I will take donuts or something. They will never know how much easier it makes it when you know that they truly care - beyond what they are trained for I think in this situation.

Now I will let you in on something. This is all Mike. He handles himself with such humility, graciousness, and is so appreciative. I know I have blogged about this before. I can't seem to put it in words, but to walk through this adversity and not complain, say thank you, and glorify Jesus is a great testimony. Do you know I caught him today in the corner, laying his hands on his belly and praying before the ultrasound? I love this man...

Prayer needs:
Sanctification of the blood Mike will receive tomorrow
Mike to eat and drink more
Positive results from the ultrasound
Our house in FL to sell
Elizabeth and her first state testing tomorrow
Financial Wisdom

Medical Care
Marsha and Faith