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Our refrigerator had an ice maker transplant today.

It was a long time coming.
For years, our ice machine has made ungodly, crunchy, mechanical noises.
It has sounded like an army of ice making gnomes has lived in our fridge, probably near the frozen bean burritos.
The repairman showed up early.
He wanted to talk politics with Diana.
Even still, he was done in ten minutes.
It was a quick fix.
He took out the old and put in the new.
It was a transplant.
Then he told Di that it might not work because this type makes noises.
Then he got in his truck and left.
Thanks buddy!
You hope the quick fixes will work.
You hope for the quick fixes.
But, usually life isn’t a quick fix. It’s an epic journey with victories and heartache, pain and pursuit.
It reminds me of a book series I read once and that I’m reading again now as we are on our own journey.
It’s “The Lord of the Rings”.
I read it years ago and the time seemed right to read the whole series again.
(Yes, I’ve seen the movies, but the book IS always better than the movie.)
I love the story and I’ve always resembled a Hobbit.
It’s all about finding the courage to fight, finding the right friends to travel with, and finishing well.
These are all things I’m trying to do now.
Here’s one thing I know…
“Where there’s life there’s hope, and need of vittles” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Which brings me to an update…
As I recover from the surgery a few weeks ago, vittles are still limited for me.
As we adjust to life with a whoopee cushion attached to my gut, I’m still eating a lovely variety of protein shakes and other soft foods.
I got a little crazy the other day and tried some meat!!
It was chopped up beef and it was delicious!!!
I chewed it until it was soup.
It seemed like it was fine until the middle of the night.
It woke me up and things got ugly.
As I was taking care of business in our bathroom, I had a couple of random related thoughts…
Gag Reflex would be a cool name for a band.
Dry Heaves could be the name of their first album.
I have other fun assorted aches and pains.
My back hurts and my brain is foggy.
That happens sometimes on long journeys.
We have a follow up appointment with the surgeon early tomorrow morning.
The next round of chemo starts next Monday. The quicker it responds, the sooner the stem cell transplant starts.
We are ready.
The Holy Spirit gives us new courage every day.
We travel with an incredible band of friends, we are so thankful.
We will finish well.
I just heard the refrigerator make some unnatural, crunchy noises.
Oh man!

Slam dunk!!

Posted: February 13, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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This morning we had a meeting at Duke with some amazing people.

It wasn’t about basketball.

It was about delivering a death blow to the belly bully. 

It’s time. He’s caused too much pain, and he has definitely overstayed his welcome. 

After spending the night with a dear friend and her awesome dog, we walked into the Duke cancer center early. 

There are so many sweet people all doing the same slow moving dance of suffering. 

It’s breathtaking. 

Before entering the waiting room we had to put on masks. We were required to leave them on. 

I hate masks.

Except for Batman’s mask, it’s cool. 

But I don’t enjoy wearing the surgical mask.

It immediately fogs up my face.

It smells really nasty when I belch. And, I belch a lot lately.

AND…people can’t see me smile when I’m wearing a mask. 

I have to work hard to smile with my eyes.

Sometimes that looks goofy. 

We were ushered back to a small, Duke blue examination room.

We met with a nurse who took my stats and vitals. She weighed me and measured me, I’m holding strong at five feet tall. 

We met with the Doctor, his team, a finance worker, and a social worker.

The social worker commented “This has been going on for a long time, how are you able to deal with it?”

We told her, “Our faith, our family, our friends, that is it.”

It felt like a long job interview. Lots of questions.

But…

Here’s the good news…

They said yes!

We are proceeding with a stem cell transplant!

We are killing the belly bully.

It could happen as soon as next month. 

Here’s what it looks like…

I start a new round of chemo on February 25th.

The tumors need to respond to that chemo.

If they don’t, we will throw another round at them. 

The Doctor said we will keep punching until they respond. 

(PLEASE pray that they respond quickly!)

Then, we go to Durham. 

They will take out my stem cells and freeze them. 

It will be like a Luke popsicle. 

Then I go through super aggressive, in patient chemo. 

If will kill any cancer that is left.

My bone marrow will also be a casualty.

That is why we need the stem cells. 

They will be defrosted and transplanted back into my body through the miracle of science. 

Then, I will have about three weeks when the stem cells are building me back up.

The brave little stem cells will be recapturing lost ground. 

My immunity will be pretty nonexistent. 

When the dust settles and we can take off the masks, the belly bully will be gone.

I will be strong again, ready to dance, and wildly frolic with the Moonpie, and play mediocre basketball. 

That is the plan. 

It’s not going to easy.

But, NOTHING about this crazy journey has been easy. 

Here’s the good news…

Duke said yes. 

SLAM DUNK!

Driving out of the hospital parking lot, Diana and I could only tearfully repeat the word “WOW!” to each other. 

Nothing else captured how we felt right then. 

Sweatpants

Posted: February 11, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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I’ve never been a sweatpants kind of guy.

I’ve always preferred jeans or cargo shorts.
Sweatpants never looked good on my squatty body.
They bunched up in weird places.
They made my legs look even shorter. That gave me the appearance of someone with the legs of a adolescent bored hippopotamus.
Athletic people wear sweatpants.
I’m not athletic…at all.
The implication is that “Hey! you are going to sweat in these pants”. That really isn’t appealing to me either.
But, things change…
During the last few weeks, while I heal from surgery and get ready for more treatment, I have grown to love and truly appreciate sweatpants.
Honestly, I was afraid of sweatpants before. They never fit me right.
Now, I really don’t care.
I have realized what the people of Wal-Mart have known for years…
Comfort is more important than conformity.
Fashion fades.
Things change.
In the last few months…
Our fight plan against the belly bully changed because the first round didn’t work.
Treatment was interrupted by an emergency surgery.
We are putting together a new plan.
We have a meeting at Duke this week to discuss stem cell transplant.
Things change.
I currently weigh 172 pounds! I don’t remember the last time I weighed 172 pounds, it might have been 10th grade!!!
I don’t recommend the cancer/colon removal/ice chip/liquids only diet plan. But, my body has changed…
A few days ago I was wearing cargo shorts (WITH a belt!), I was walking into a crowded building, there were even several innocent children. As I was walking, my shorts began to slide down. I was seconds away from dropping trouser in front of at least 23 unassuming people. I caught it and walked around the rest of the day with my finger in my belt loop, holding things up and trying not to expose my brightly colored boxer briefs.
That is when I decided that it might me good to try sweatpants.
Things change.
Except for my hope.
My plans change.
My situation changes.
My body changes.
My God does not change.
“I am the Lord, and I do not change.” – Malachi 3:6
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, God is telling his people you might not hear from me for a while, but that doesn’t change anything.
We have learned that you can make your plans, but life can change in an instant.
Life is more sweatpant than skinny jean.
You got to be flexible and move with the fabric of the moment.
Hang onto what doesn’t change.
Hang onto hope!

Fernando.

Posted: February 7, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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It has been two weeks since I had an wildly unpredictable whoopee cushion attached to my belly.
In this most unexpected season, cancer treatment was unexpectedly interrupted by an unexpected emergency surgery that left eight inches of my colon in a metal bowl. In exchange for the colon I got a bonus butt!!!
Let me get a tad more scientific. (After what I’ve experienced the last seven months, I’m an artist with a new appreciation for science!)
I had a colostomy. That’s a surgery that creates an opening (stoma) in the large intestine (colon).
It’s a bonus butt!
We have named him Fernando.
“There was something in the air that night…”
We are adjusting to Fernando.
Fernando expresses himself at the most awkward times, in elevators and quiet waiting rooms.
I get interesting looks as interesting sounds come from under my shirt.
I’ve decided to roll with it and just have some fun.
It is ironic, at a time in my life when I can’t be around middle schoolers, that I suddenly have the funniest middle school party trick! I’m like a walking fart machine.
We are adjusting to Fernando.
It’s a huge mental adjustment.
We have read some stories this week and realized that people of all ages have colostomy bags for a lot of reasons.
It doesn’t slow them down.
They keep on living.
I’m thankful for the science that can create a simple pouch that saves lives.
It’s a beautiful, messy thing!
But, sometimes beautiful, messy things are misunderstood.
I read last night about a ten year old boy who committed suicide because he was being bullied because of his bag.
How tragic.
How sad that a little warrior fighting for his life would have that life squeezed away by ignorance and oppression.
I wish things like bullying and hatred could be removed as easily as a bad colon.
Life is all about adjustment.
We adjust to new normals.
We adjust to the unexpected.
We are adjusting to Fernando.
 

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Image  —  Posted: February 6, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

The Face of Christ.

Posted: February 5, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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This morning my wife washed my feet.

(Full disclosure: she washed other parts of me too.)
But, while I was sitting in her old makeup chair, she washed my feet.
Cheerfully.
Tenderly.
Without complaint.
And I looked at her…
I saw the face of Christ.
Image bearer.
Serving and showing a love unconditional.
I saw the face of Christ.
That changes the way you see people.
At least it should.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen him this week.
One of our caretakers was a sweet, older lady, she has hard, obvious physical limitations of her own.
She also has a smile that lit up the room when she came in.
She’s been working at the hospital for thirteen years.
She changes out linens and towels, she takes vital signs, she made sure we were stocked with the ever important ice chips.
She has a huge heart to just serve.
Cheerfully.
Tenderly.
Without complaint.
One day we asked her to do something that she wasn’t equipped or trained to do.
She didn’t protest or refuse.
She was trying to serve.
That is what she does.
She tried…
She screwed up.
She ended spilling nasty bile on my arm and hand.
I was grossed out.
Honestly, I was pissed.
I expressed my disgust.
She was only serving.
Because that is what she does.
And then I took a minute…
I looked at her…
I saw the face of Christ.
Image bearer.
Serving and showing a love unconditional.
I saw the face of Christ.
That changes the way you see people.
At least it should.
God forgive me for not seeing you.
Forgive me for expressing disgust of the divine when he doesn’t show up the way that I expect.

Breaking Away.

Posted: February 5, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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We
Are
Home!!
We busted out of the hospital!!
The hospital bracelets have been cut!
My Surgeon came in to our room at 7:45 am to tell us again that we would likely get out today .
He said that it depended on my blood counts. And my oncologist would make the call.
Diana was packed and ready to go fifteen minutes later.
But we waited…
And waited…
I ate green jello for breakfast…
I ate yellow jello for lunch…
There was more poking and prodding…
A few good friends stopped by…
And we waited…
A few good nurses and CNAs who have become friends stopped by…
Some of them yanked the PICC line out of my arm, I didn’t really want to keep it as a souvenir. I grabbed the plastic urinal instead.
Finally…
The no nonsense discharge nurse came into the room to give us our marching orders.
There was a thirty four page document…
We read through all of it.
We waited for a dude to give me a magic wheelchair ride.
Finally…
At 6:30 pm we were released.
At which point, I realized that the hospital has a really bad parking lot. You don’t notice some potholes until you have fresh sutures.
For the first time in eleven days I’m wearing pants (actually they are Panthers sweat pants, but that counts, right?) I left the drafty green gown behind.
It’s good to be home.