Note: Page down for the original post. I realize that with a journey like this that people want different degrees of updates: none, acquaintance level, friend level, family level, and mom/wife level. So instead of multiple blog posts, I’ll just put some observations and updates here and anyone interested can check at their convenience. Be blessed, and thanks for all the encouragement and prayers!
OBSERVATIONS AND UPDATES
9/13 – I’m glad to be home after round 6, the final one for this phase! Hard to believe this part is over. I went in for the first round on Memorial Day and started the last round on Labor Day. What did I do on my summer vacation? I went through 36 bags of IV chemo, 7 Covid tests, 6 spinal taps and a whole lot of pills.
This may be the steroid talking, but I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’ll probably crash for 4-5 days later this week but I’m still working out and walking wherever possible. Then again, they did give me a couple units of blood this time that may help with the recovery, so we’ll see.
Next step is getting a scan next month. If it comes back clean, and we have optimism that it will, then I’ll do the high dose chemo / stem cell transplant later this year or early in 2021. That should put it into further remission. If there is still cancer on the scan then that’s a fairly sizable problem, as they would need to switch me to some other treatment such as a new clinical trial. But we trust in the Lord for all that.
More importantly, this last week in the hospital had one great opportunity after another to encourage fellow believers and to share the Gospel. That was a big answer to one of our main prayers.
Looking forward to a couple months, Lord willing, of being able to work out regularly without taking a week off every three weeks to go to Chemo Camp. Exercise just does so much physically and mentally.
I had lots of spare time in the hospital, so I was able to memorize Revelation chapters 2 and 3 (see blog posts below). That was a blessing. And I binge-listened to about year’s worth of Stand to Reason podcasts, which were edifying as always.
Thanks so much for all the prayers. Please pray for continued witness opportunities as we go through this. I can assure you that we got great answers. So many blessings I can hardly count them!
8/22 — Done with round 5! Hard to believe there is only one more round of this cycle to go. Just need to plow through the first week home, which is the hardest. Then one more cycle, then a couple months off until the really hard high dose regimen late this year or early next year. Had good opportunities to share the truth of Jesus this week – please pray for more of those, especially for the 6th round.
The time in the hospital goes slowly, as most of the time I’m just tethered to the IV pole 24×7. I get totally caught up at work and have been able to redeem the time catching up on Stand to Reason podcasts, reading the Bible, and memorizing Revelation chapters 2 and 3 (what a blessing – just polishing it all off now!).
8/7 – No big news. Slogging through side effects of round 4. Glad the process is working. Hope you all are well!
7/23 – Scan news: Thanks to Jesus and great medical caregivers and technology He has provided for, the results came back well. Some parts were in complete remission and the largest one had reduced considerably and had less activity (whatever that means in cancer terms). The doctor was very pleased, which means we are as well. This means we’ll do these next three rounds of chemo and then the likelihood is high that I’ll do a high dose chemo / stem cell transplant after that. Long road, but it provides the best odds of longer remission. The high dose chemo thing includes a bone marrow biopsy, which was apparently something created by the spinal tap people because they didn’t like having the most painful procedure. Thanks for all the prayers!
7/19 — Finished round 3 and had the predictable week of side effects. Feeling a little better today. Getting another scan late this week so I’ll update again then. Pretty sure the tumor is down quite a bit but will be curious as to how the doctor interprets the status. Good week for work. Nice morning of worship and online community group today. Still doing normal prayer / Bible reading / memorization pattern. Really enjoying Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and will have a few blog posts on those later. Hope you all are well. Feel free to email or text me with any prayer requests. I have time!
7/6/20 – Round 2 side effects much more than expected, but had a few good days. Was able to work out enough that I’m started to get strength back for round 3. Praying for no spinal tap complications again and for witness opportunities. Hope you all are well!
6/21/20 – Made it through round 2 of chemo – 6 full days plus another spinal tap. By the grace of God and many answered prayers there were no side effects from the tap this time, which will make all the difference for this recovery period. I’ll crash for a couple days but will work out hard from there to build back strength. So much to be thankful for! Most of all, had many great conversations in the hospital about Jesus.
6/12/20 – Good news! Chemo is working. Eating better, working out and starting to gain back a little weight for the next round. Very long road ahead but extremely grateful for the progress and all of your prayers. Alternative treatments exist had this chemo combo not worked, but I’m not sure I would have had time. Thanking Jesus for this progress.
6/7/20 — Apologies for the lack of updates. It turns out that while the spinal tap procedure itself isn’t that bad, it is a problem when it doesn’t seal properly and you get headaches and are somewhat immobilized for a week until they decide to fix the patch. Long story, but it made for a darker week. I’m pleased to say that it seems to be better now.
#1 prayer request: I need to be able to eat more. Seriously. I’ve lost 23 lbs., and nearly a pound a day since being in the hospital for chemo. I think we’ve stopped the slide but that obviously can’t continue. My focus for the next week is to regain some weight and strength before the next round of chemo in the hospital.
Enjoying being at home. Mrs. Eternity Matters is being her usual amazing self and taking care of every little thing. I’ve learned to listen better and let her do things for me. Win-win. She is great at researching things (retired librarian + excellent discernment) and has helped immensely when looking into drug interactions, side effects, questions for the doctor I hadn’t thought of, etc.
And we continue to be blessed by all the family and friends supporting us and praying for us. Blessings to you all!
5/29/20 – One thing I’ve been trying to thank people about for their prayers is that they are already getting answered. Yes, we obviously want complete and permanent remission, but it’ll be a long time until we know if and how that was answered! But we’ve had a lot of very specific prayers answered already: very clear decisions, rapid progress in getting tests and treatment started, great caregiving teams and more. I want people to know that the prayers are working and deeply appreciated. And let us know how we can pray for you. It isn’t a one way street!
5/28/20 – It is humbling when you think about the millions of things that had to take place to end up with the medical personnel having and knowing how to use all these different machines, chemicals and preventatives and so many other things to make all this work. The amount of trial and error and suffering had to be staggering, and here I sit getting to benefit from it. Feeling blessed. Was there a profit motive for some of it or most of it? Sure, and I’m OK with that. Yea for capitalism! But I never forget that these people could be doing a lot of different jobs. Oncology must be extra demanding because of the technology and how you can often lose patients despite your best efforts.
5/27/20 – I have found that my habit to respond to “How are you” with “I’m blessed” is a good conversation starter / “faith flag.” I don’t say it in a dramatic way, just matter of factly and sincerely. As I like to say, it has the added value of being true. But when saying it in settings like the oncology floor people do notice and appreciate it. It usually brings a smile and an “amen” from Christians. It works in regular settings, too. And it is an easy segue to explain how in the midst of things like this that I really am blessed beyond measure.
5/26/20 — I had my first spinal tap, so I can take that off my bucket list . . . right after I put it on. One nurse said, “Some people get very anxious about them.” I wanted to say – but fortunately didn’t – that maybe if she didn’t cringe the whole time she talked about them that it might help. She’s actually a wonderful nurse, just not a poker face :-). But it was way better than I expected. Just a couple numbing shots and a little pressure. Nothing to fear. They must have come a long way with those, because I know they used to be much more painful. And yes, the Dr. had seen and enjoyed This is Spinal Tap. He noted the “this goes up to 11” line and I said my second favorite was, “There is a fine line between stupid and clever.”
5/25/20 – I just heard from a dear friend who has suffered mightily for years but has served the Lord wholeheartedly during that time. He just found out that he has leukemia and only has 2 to 3 months to live, but he’s still sharing the gospel and led to people to Jesus last week. A lot of people would like to have my problems.
It is always a good day to be a Christian. In good times or bad, his salvation, peace, truth and more are priceless.
That is even more true on the day when your oncologist tells you that not only has your cancer returned much more quickly than expected but that it transformed to a very aggressive form. I’m really hoping that this sequel is the last in the franchise.
Random thoughts . . .
As before, by his grace alone we are at complete spiritual peace with this. We are task-completers and are always eager to know the next steps and to get on with the program, but with respect to matters of eternity things are as solid as could be. Praise God for that, because it is absolutely not my nature. It is purely a supernatural thing provided by his grace.
We pray that it leads to many opportunities to glorify his name and share his truths with others. We’ve already had several significant opportunities. Our outlook is pretty much the same as with the first cancer plot twist.
We are extremely grateful for the health care available to us, especially in light of the Covid-19 restrictions and pent-up demand for services. I went from initial scan to treatment in three weeks. I’m really glad we don’t have socialized medicine.
This will be a big burden on Mrs. Eternity Matters, the best of wives and best of women. This treatment is much more severe – 6 cycles, 21 days each. The first 5 days of the cycle are 5 different chemotherapies, then a spinal tap of a different chemo in between each cycle. Oh, and another Covid-19 test each time. If all that puts it into remission – and it should – then I may do a high intensity chemo series where they take my stem cells out and then put them back in and re-do my childhood vaccinations. That would increase the odds of eradicating it.
So we both have to be super-isolated as much as possible, and for quite a while. Covid-19 makes it worse. I think my body can fight Covid-19 or cancer, but not both.
But it is good that as aggressive as this type is, it is also well known with a distinct – albeit challenging – treatment plan. One of my goals in life is not to have a disease named after me, so I’m glad to keep that streak going.
The outpouring from friends and family has been amazing once again. We are blessed beyond measure. Such a blessing to be close to the girls and their husbands and their families.
The work situation is great. I already worked from home, and now much of the rest of the company has joined me in that. My supervisor and my team are phenomenal. I obviously won’t be going anywhere this year, so I have plenty of vacation days to cover anything. What are you doing for vacation this year? Trying to stay alive :-).
I got a comment from someone I really like and respect, but who said something that wouldn’t have occurred to me: He said it is OK to be angry at God. Believe me, I’m the chief of sinners (with apologies to Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15), but I can honestly say it never occurred to me to be angry at God. He has blessed me mightily for so long that it is laughable to me to question him now. It isn’t like He did it all to set me up and pull up the drawbridge on me. Live or die, I’m his. Him forgiving my sins was more than I would have dared ask for and all I really needed, but He has done so much more.
Like I’ve said, the end of the book of Job is in the Bible for a reason, in that we don’t get all the answers to everything in this life and God is fine with that. But the rest of the Bible is there for a reason as well, so that we can learn everything God does want us to know, such as how Jesus is the only way to salvation.
I often think of what Pastor Kevin DeYoung said about how Christians should think: Jesus loves me and He knows what He is doing. In tough times we can rest in that simple, timeless truth. He is sovereign and we can trust him completely.
It was a blessing to have already been in a great relationship with God when this came up. I was already in the habit of My favorite Bible reading / prayer / memorization routine, so it wasn’t like I had to say, “Oh no! Cancer has returned! Better get back to God!” I wouldn’t fault anyone who turns to the real Jesus for any reason at any time, but it was so nice to already be there.
Everything is already shut down for a while, but even as things open it will probably be a year before I can go to church or do prison ministry. Our favorite hobby, ballroom dancing, is out – except for dancing in the dining room when we move the table and when I’m physically able. So no more of this for a bit . . . but our goal is to get healthy again and be able to compete in late 2021, God willing.
I found that it helps to have things to aim at when working your way back into shape. Last time I’d lift a lot between cycles. The first few days were really tough, having to give myself pep talks for every brief set. The warm up sets felt like heavy sets, just like they do these days. But it gets better quickly and really helps long-term. Dancing helped as well as it was a great for energy and a nice mental diversion.
I’ll probably blog quite a bit less but hope to still follow all of you. Dialing back on the news cycles probably won’t hurt, either.
The odds of survival seem good, but it was a good catalyst to update my screen capture videos and other documentation of all of our financial, insurance, etc. matters in case I die. You really do your loved ones a great service if you line things out for them. Things are miserable enough when someone dies without having to go through lots of extra high stress searching and paperwork. My Dad was very organized and things like being able to export information from his password software to mine saved countless hours when I was setting things up for my Mom. If you don’t have a will, get one right away.
The chemos I had last time didn’t cause me to lose my hair, but this batch definitely comes with a free haircut. A wonderful follically-challenged friend/relative already sent some lightweight headwear and we have some bandanas ready to go. I think the world will get by just fine for a while without my chronic bed head. And the doctor already prescribed three anti-nausea options, so I think she is hinting at something there. And there are a “few” others meds to take . . . the doctor basically said, “Go to Walgreens and get one of everything.”
Prayers for healing are appreciated, of course, and I covet prayers for the peace and comfort of Mrs. Eternity Matters, and also for my 85 yr. old Mom. She’s a very committed believer but this really worries her.
But please also pray for endless opportunities to glorify God and share Jesus through this. Having something like this always focuses me like a laser on the things of God. I’m comfortable with any discussion about Jesus and his word once it gets started, but I’m terrible at starting conversations. But this disease gives unique opportunities to share with non-believers and to encourage believers. No one seems to mind if the cancer patient brings up Jesus, so I shamelessly exploit that :-). Seriously, I use my usual Stand to Reason tactics in conversations, but the talks do open up much more quickly and easily.
We got Daisy just before my last chemo treatments (she was a rescue dog, 6 years old at the time). She was a great chemo napping buddy, and now she’s back in business. (OK, she never really stopped.)
We will all die someday. I pray that anyone who reads this makes sure he is right with Jesus. We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and He is the only Savior. His terms are indescribably generous, but you must come to him based on them and not your own made-up terms. The latter will land you in Hell for eternity.
I praise and thank God for his salvation and his assurance. I am enjoying his word as much as ever.
Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
1 John 5:12–13 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
Jude 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
And about 30,000+ other verses . . .