Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Other Side of the Tunnel

Boy, looking at the date, it has really been a while since I have posted.  Sorry about that, everyone. In case I don't get back to this real soon, Merry Christmas!

Before I get into my musings, let me update everyone:

  • No significant change in my cancer readings -- hooray!  It moves slightly up and down, but it is holding remarkably steady. It is like there is a stalemate going on in the battle between my immune system and the cancer (like the trenches in WWI?). Whatever it is, I'll take it. 
  • Because of the stalemate, I am chemo free. My department chair and I were trying to come up with words to a Christmas song, something like:  "I'm not getting chemo for Christmas!  Mommy and Daddy are glad.  I'm not getting chemo for Christmas. 'Cause Christmas is no  time to be sad."  Ok, it is a work in progress!  But that is a real blessing.
  • My blood results are still not that great. My neutrophils, the ones that fight bacterial infections, have sometimes been up past the border in the bottom range of normal, but most of the others are hovering not too far below the bottom end of the normal range. The good news is that while they are low, they are not terribly low (as in need transfusions low). The doctor still calls me "immuno-compromised", but he said my wife could probably stab me, and I would not bleed out, so that is something!  Because of this and getting sick twice in the past few weeks, I decided I have to keep my mask on at church and in many of my meetings on campus and be more cautious.  Here is a picture from Wikipedia of Neutrophils: 

  • I feel a LOT better than I did after my transplant (8+ months ago) in terms of my energy levels, ability to concentrate, etc.  However, my energy levels are still low.  Yesterday, we went out to dinner for our anniversary and then to the mall to look for some stocking stuffers. We left there and came home about 8 pm. I was pretty much wasted, and I should have told my wife I needed to leave earlier. It is hard to do that, and sometimes I am burning reserves and don't know it until I "hit the wall".  So, I am still walking, I've been working, etc. all of which is a big improvement. I'd like to think I can keep getting better, but it has been 8 1/2 months.  We'll see.  
  • We got to do some of our bucket list!  Because I am teaching online, I was able to stay in touch with students and manage my classes from a distance. We went out to California to see my son  Ben and his fiancĂ©e, Sonal. We enjoyed that and went with them to see Yosemite National Park. UH-mazing. I really enjoyed it and being with family. I stayed for a conference there in San Francisco. Two weeks later, my wife and I flew out to Denver to see her family because of a true miracle event: a funeral of her uncle Roger Nielson who died at the age of 22 in World War II at Tarawa. If you don't know much about Tarawa, it was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theatre in the war. Decades ago, Patricia's grandmother had received word first that her son was missing and then that he was presumed dead. However, she was later informed that they could not locate the body. That was the way it stayed for a long time; my wife thought he had been killed trying to get on the beach and his body was lost at sea. However, just over a decade ago, an event occurred that ultimately led to History Flight (a non-profit now working with the State Department and the military) discovering the remains of her Uncle Roger and 34 other US Marines who were killed at Tarawa. His DNA was matched to her surviving Uncle Cory, and he was brought home to Denver to be buried at Ft. Logan Cemetery.  It was quite touching, and we all feel very grateful to History Flight for the work they are doing. 
  • Unfortunately, we have not yet had a chance to take down a terrorist.  We are working on the other bucket list items.  
  • Our sons are doing very well. Ben is working hard at his law firm in California and Wesley is really enjoying his time in his MFA program in Florida. He will be working right up until Christmas, so we won't get to see him here, but we are thinking of flying out there in the not distant future. Ben and Sonal will be getting married in July, so we are planning to be there. Hopefully, I will STILL not be on chemo and can enjoy the celebration. 
That's the latest!  Now on the musings -- click away if you don't want to hear them!  Last chance!.......

Last time I wrote about the uncertainty that comes with cancer and the anxiety that goes with it. We have had several real blessings in our life recently that have enabled us to pay off our house which has really reduced some of that significantly: I know that we have a place to live no matter what happens. The apparent stability of the cancer right now has been another blessing in that regard - it gives us a window of time to enjoy life and do some of the things I've mentioned above.  But that uncertainty is not gone, although it is reduced.  I was thinking yesterday that it is like stumbling down a long very dark tunnel with a flashlight whose batteries are running out - you can only see a little ways ahead and sometimes even that is murky.  

My metaphor here may become strained, but to me, every tunnel also has another side where the light is still shining. For me, I have been thinking that gratitude is part of what helps me keep walking; I am grateful for the time I have had on the earth, for this chance to be with family and my wife, for this Christmas that I can have to enjoy without chemotherapy. I am very grateful to my doctor who found the cancer early and has given me this time - my wife and I were speculating on where we would be now if he had not found it. (Shudder). I am grateful to my oncologist who listens to us, who is truly concerned for not only my well being, but our quality of life. I am grateful to all of you for your support and expressions of love and prayers. Most of all, I am grateful for my wife who has been staunch and unflagging and at times irritatingly optimistic about everything going on and whom I love dearly, and for God who watches over me. In many ways, I think that gratitude is the conduit, at least for me, that strengthens my faith and that brings the hope that helps to balance that uncertainty. 

Until next time!