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“Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side”
Rainbow Connection is one of my favorite songs ever.
The song was written by one of my all time favorite song writers, Paul Williams.  He is a musical genius who is about my size. I love the fact that he could give me his hand-me-downs as I admire his art. He was also in Smokey and the Bandit!
It was originally sung by one of my favorite frogs in a swamp. That makes it forever magical. I love Kermit.
AND, one of my favorite people, Adam Wilson, once taught me the opening notes on my banjo. That’s not all that Adam has taught me…
even though Adam is much younger than me, He has been one of my mentors for quite a while.
AND, the song asks one of my favorite questions…
What IS it about rainbows and what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are constructed of pure promise. (Oh, it’s true…read Genesis 9:9-17).
They are organic hope.
Maybe that’s why they catch our attention every time and we can’t take our eyes off the beauty.
It seems that God doesn’t make drab promises.
He likes color.
Rainbows only show up after the storm. We have to walk through the thunder to see the tints.
Rainbows are amazing, they keep us star gazing.
What’s on the other side gives us great hope for what we encounter on this side. We have viewed and experienced breathtaking beauty and diversity on this side but it pales in comparison to what waits over the rainbow.
As I write this, it is beginning to sprinkle outside.
We’ve gotten a lot of rain lately…
Literally and figuratively.
We’ve seen some storms.
I look up…
Because I know that the rainbow is on the way.
“Someday we’ll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me”
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Brand New.

Posted: February 27, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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There is a salvage yard across from my oncology clinic.

That’s kind of ironic, there is a body shop next to a body shop.
It’s also kind of ironic because I started salvage therapy this morning.
That simply means that we are doing something more aggressive because standard therapy didn’t work on me.
So we start salvage therapy.
I’m looking at the salvage yard as I sit in the BIG magic chair and get a bag of clear fluid attached to my chest.
My counts are good including the hemoglobin that put me in the emergency room this week.

The whoopee cushion that is attached to my my tummy is making some wild and offensive noises. The room is very still and quiet and in the chair next to me is a very prim and proper older lady who has perfectly coiffed hair and a sweater vest. Every time that the bonus butt makes a bonus butt belch, she looks at me like I just kicked a puppy.
I just give her an apologetic smile.
Other than my out of control whoopee cushion, the infusion suite is very mellow. It’s almost like kindergarten nap time for grown ups. Except we don’t get to lay on the floor with blankies and we all have needles in our bodies.
As I awkwardly recline in the chair, the faux blue vinyl makes my skin sweat. It’s almost like wearing a crunchy coat. I’m glad I’m wearing a coat or I would stick to the chair like cheap Velcro.
I learned a new word from a Star Wars book today: gastropod. It refers to a space slug or snail in the book. For some reason it is a good word to describe my digestive system today. I feel all space sluggy.
I got through day one of this new round. I’m ready to get home and get a little rest. The big side effects so far are that my head feels like it weighs as much as a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, I have a strong desire to listen to Hanson music, and the whole sluggishness thing.
As we drive off I look again towards the salvage yard and I ponder…
I AM a salvage project…
I have been wrecked, broken, and crashed…
by disease…
by a broken world.
But…
I AM being made new again…
by the calloused and caring hands of the Master Mechanic.
I AM His restoration project…
So are you.
He made us…
Now He is making us new.
Brand new.

Hey…WAIT!!!

Posted: February 26, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Ooh, look out you rock ‘n’ rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-cha”
-David Bowie

Hey kids!!!
Life is constant change.
Here’s our latest change…
We are going home from the hospital!
We start chemo tomorrow!
Things change, including the Doctor’s mind!!
We are glad!!

Things can change in an afternoon and you can  leave your hospital gown behind.

Phone Home.

Posted: February 26, 2019 in Postcards from Cancerland.

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We showed up at Oncology clinic on time yesterday,

It was time to start the next round of chemo.

I have felt very weak for a few days.
I was blaming that on the fact that I have a diet of a toothless hamster.
Evidently I also had the pigment of a naked peep.
I walked in the office and my doctor and nurses were shocked and stupefied by my pasty white face.
They did some blood tests. My hemoglobin was dangerously low. So I was sent to the emergency room where I got to wait with a mask on my face in a small room.
After awhile I was put in a room. They took lots of blood and ran lots of tests. I had X-rays and CAT scans. Not only was my hemoglobin low but my lactic acid was very high. I had a temperature at one time.
So I was back in a lovely green gown.
I was admitted back into the hospital.
This time in the ICU. Not because I needed to be in Intensive Care, but because the hospital was full.
Intensive Care seems different from the rest of the hospital. Instead of doors, there are curtains. There are different sounds.
 I did throw up four times. How come vomiting can’t ever be a private moment?
At least for me, puking is always public.
There were five people in the room.
I’m bleeding in places that I’m not supposed to.
That’s never a happy thing.
I’ve had assorted wires and cords, electrodes and needles all over my body. Including a glowing red  fingertip that makes me want to call home.
In the middle of the night I got a flu swab test, that involved a q-tip the size of my arm being put up my nose. I’m pretty sure that it scraped my brain.
I received three units of blood.
I was brought up in a house where my dad gave blood every chance he could. I remember him bringing home the little straight lapel pin with the plastic drop of blood. I wonder how many lives my dad saved in the course of his life.
Random observation: hospitals need more pictures of puppies, easily accessible seventies rock music, and ceiling fans.
It has become like a merit badge to be able to tell the different medical professionals that I have been accepted into Duke’s Stem Cell Transplant program.
It’s almost like I’ve been picked for their basketball team.
We really wanted to get dismissed in time for treatment today, but we just found out that we will be staying at least another night for “observation”.
yippee!
So I tighten up my lovely green gown.
There’s nothing predictable going on here.

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Back to the Future is one of my favorite film series.

GREAT SCOTT! It’s a fun story.
True story: Back to the Future Part II was the first movie that Diana and me saw together.
It has great characters, adventure, humor, and some amazing music by Huey Lewis!
There is also time travel!!!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a time machine?
You could travel through history in your DeLorean.

You could erase regret and arrange your future.
I’ve been looking for the keys to the DeLorean lately.
Can I be honest?
There are times when I would love to travel back in time to when I didn’t hurt and I got to hold my granddaughter for hours.
I would also like to travel a year into the future and see how our current situation will work out.
Instead I live in the moment, I learn from the pain, and I trust like I never have in my life.
We met with the Surgeon for a follow up to the random crazy surgery.
Everything seems to be healing up the way it is supposed to.
I’m going to have another epic scar that might keep me from ever rocking a leopard print speedo again.
We are already talking about a colonoscopy reversal.
We have other stuff to work on first…hello belly bully.
But, once he is gone and my blood counts are up, we can lose the bonus butt.
That’s like traveling back in time to a simpler time…right?
Okay, not really.
Maybe it’s the Power of Love that keeps us from seeing the future?
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13
A time machine could short circuit faith, hope, and love faster than a bad flux capacitor.
If I travel into the future and have all the answers, I would be refusing to walk by faith.
If I go back and try to fix things, I’m manufacturing my own hope.
I need to trust a love that is powerful enough to take care of my past, present, and future.
“And with a little help from above
You feel the power of love.”

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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.