Monday, March 17, 2014


I came home from the hospital late in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 11th.  It felt great to be home.   I had a nice setup in our sunroom with a new memory foam mattress for our pull out couch courtesy of my parents and a refrigerator full of my new favorite drink, Boost.  Wednesday morning I woke up feeling good, so I made myself some breakfast and chatted with Tiffany and the girls while they were getting ready to go to the Wednesday morning women's bible study at our church.  Since I was still a little shaky when I left the hospital, I was scheduled to have a visiting nurse and physical therapy for a few sessions and the nurse was scheduled to come this morning.  I had planned to have my friend Dave come over after the nurse left as he was going to help me with a few errands I needed to get accomplished.

The nurse came and toward the end of her visit I started to feel like I was hitting the wall.  After she left I laid down flat and closed my eyes as I was starting to feel nauseous.  I texted Dave to tell him not to come over because I wasn't feeling well, but he showed up right after I sent the text.  I couldn't even open my eyes when he came in, so he dropped off a few things he brought over and left.  I woke up about 3 hours later and felt a little better, so I had something to drink along with some more pain medicine and took it easy the rest of the day.

I went to bed around 11:00 and read because I couldn't sleep.  I was laying down, trying to take long, slow, deep breaths and praying in my head when I noticed that my heart was absolutely pounding.  The more I tried to get it to slow down, the faster it seemed to go.  I knew this wasn't right, especially since I was lying down so I decided to take my pulse.  It was over 100.  My resting heart rate is usually in the 60s, so this really freaked me out.  I debated for a few minutes before picking up the phone and calling my mom to get her perspective as a nurse.  It was after midnight but she picked up the phone right away.  "I woke up about 5 minutes ago and felt like I should pray for you," she said.  I told her what was going on and she said that I could just be dehydrated so I should drink some Gatorade and try to go back to sleep.  I said ok, and I drank about 32 ounces of Gatorade which seemed to help, so I laid back down and fell asleep.

I woke up around an hour later, sweating and with a pulse of over 100 again.  I rolled over gingerly and stood up to walk to the kitchen and take more pain medicine.  As I did, my legs and arms felt numb and I started getting really worried.  It was 3:32 am.  I called my mom back, who again had already woken up about 2 minutes before my call and was in the middle of praying for me.  "I'm sorry to ask this, but can you come check me out?  I think I might need to go to the emergency room and if this were the middle of the day I wouldn't think twice."  She said they would be over in 20 minutes, so I got up, got dressed and paced nervously until they arrived.

After my mom listened to my heart we all agreed that I needed to go to the emergency room.  I was feeling more weak and nauseous again so there were any number of things that could be going on.  Tiffany, being 3 months pregnant, was nauseous and exhausted from being up on and off all night, so she agreed to stay home to get some more sleep and stay home with the girls while my parents took me to the hospital. She could then come in the morning when her mom came over to be with the kids.

 We had no wait at the ER due to my condition and I was wheeled to a small room right away.  The ER nurse, Rhonda, was absolutely phenomenal, as was the doctor, Dr. Simpson.  They hooked me up to get IV fluids right away as well as medicine for the nausea and pain.  They made sure I was as comfortable as possible and went over the battery of tests they were going to do to figure out what was going on with me.  As they walked out and closed the door, I reached my breaking point.  I put my hand over my face and the tears started flowing.  All of the emotion of the past week, the pain, the lack of sleep, and the fear and despair from not knowing what was causing this latest episode came rushing in.  I told God that I didn't think I could take much more and I needed help.  My parents were still in the room and tried to encourage me.  "I know this sucks, but it will get better."  I felt like I hadn't even reached the hard part of this fight yet, so I wasn't sure even though I said "I know."  I composed myself and then closed my eyes to rest.

Shortly after someone came in to take some blood so they could run some tests.  I was then taken for an enhanced chest and abdomen CT scan to see if I had a blood clot, internal bleeding, a bowel obstruction, or anything else internally.  I was brought back to the small room in the ER to wait for the results.  My sister Erin stopped by on her way into work to check on me just as Dr. Simpson was coming in with the results.  All of the blood work looked normal except for my very low counts due to the blood loss from the surgery, and the scans were clean as well.  He said he wanted my surgeon to review it, but could not get through to him.  Dr. Hoepp had given us his cell phone number after my ordeal, so we tried that with no luck.  Erin was able to find out through some contacts that he was at the hospital in a board meeting, and got word to him about my situation.  He sent word back that he would be down right after the meeting ended at 9:00am which gave us all a sense of relief.

Shortly after 9:00, Dr. Hoepp and his Physician's Assistant, Holly, came through the door.  "Do I have to return the fruit basket now?" he said (my mother had sent his office an Edible Arrangement after he saved my life a few days before.)  He said he reviewed all of the tests and that he was ordering a blood transfusion.  He said my body was not regenerating the blood at the rate he expected due to the lymphoma, so that is what was causing my symptoms.  He would make the arrangements and I would be admitted soon.  A wave of relief rushed over the room and hope instantly filled me again.

I ordered some food from the cafeteria and a couple hours later I was brought up to my room back on the Fuller Unit.  The nurses got me all situated and started the very disciplined process of a blood transfusion.  I would be getting 2 units (pints) of blood and each one would take 3 hours.  I was told a few times about the 1 in 2 million risk of getting HIV or Hepatitis along with a risk of my body rejecting the blood and having to stop the transfusion.  About an hour after the first unit was started, I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up, the first unit was almost finished and I felt, well, alive.  The term "life blood" had never been more real than at that moment.  It was like a miracle, all of the nausea and weakness were gone and I felt like a new man.  I was so happy that we figured out what the problem was and that I would feel better and be able to heal from the surgery appropriately.  The nurses were amazed at the turnaround and remarked at how it was like night and day from just a few hours before.  I thanked God and relaxed during dinner while Tiffany and my parents visited and the second unit was introduced into my body.  Tiffany left at about 9:00pm and I was still so happy and relieved as I got ready to sleep.  One funny side note is that I needed the nurse to bring me some earplugs and a bendryl in order to get to sleep.  My "roommate" was an elderly, hard of hearing gentleman who also happened to be a big fan of MTV reality shows and TNT Wrestling.  His TV was so loud I'm sure the whole floor could hear that wrestling match.  I was too happy to be irritated, and soon drifted off to sleep with my earplugs in.

The next morning I felt even more amazing.  They took my blood one last time and then I ordered a nice breakfast since I had an appetite for the first time in a week.  Dr. Hoepp and Holly came in early and he remarked at how different I looked.  Holly said it was like a miracle.  He said I was cleared to go home later that morning and that was that.  Tiffany packed up my things while I went through the discharge process after breakfast.  As we left, I thanked God and looked forward to healing up so we could start attacking the cancer.


  1. ok, mtv reality shows....definitely of the enemy ;) loud wrestling....i wonder if the Lord is trying to tell you something HAHA. i am sure you are facing or going to be facing some sort of wrestling bout with the father. this LIFE experience on the one hand sounds like living hell, but i know in my heart that God is in control as always and He will shelter you and your family. i used to get so mad at the enemy, like every bad thing in this life was his doing, until a few years back when i read many scriptures that spoke about how the enemy has to go before the Lord for a sort of "God approval" before anything could be thrown our way. it still sounds so strange to me that our loving father would ever give any sort of "go ahead" to what seems like such madness, but we do serve an infinite God, and our finite minds cannot grasp His ultimately HOLY ways of making us more like Christ. i love you brother and i know your faith will sustain you. remember, surrender is NOT a bad thing, its the only thing we NEED to do when it comes to letting God's will remove us from ourselves. <3 of course my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family and will continue to be.

    1. Thanks Christian - that is a cool way of looking at it and I know there is a greater plan at work.

  2. Your writing is very encouraging Joe, I am praying for you often ... God bless you and your beautiful family.

    Sherry Wasserstrom
    (I work with your mom at VNA )

  3. Joe you are such an eloquent writer. When I am reading your post I am crying when you are crying and laughing when you are laughing. I hope you can feel all the love and support that is coming your way from Connecticut.

  4. I so love reading this information directly from you Joe. Life Blood what a whole new meaning for you Huh? God is so good and you know he has a plan. What atestimony you have. Looking forward to the next entry.
    Karen Johnson

  5. Joe...thank you for sharing your journey with us...I am amazed by how much you are ministering to those of us who are reading your blog even though you are the one in and out of the hospital!...thank you