Thursday, May 29, 2014


As my last post described, my cancer has gone into remission after only 3 rounds of chemo.  While I still have 3 more rounds left to get through, it's a huge relief knowing that this chapter has an actual finish line.  Before knowing that the treatment was effective, there was always the question in my mind that it may not get all of it and I would have to move to a second line treatment and drag this out further.  I was also aware that early response to chemo for my specific type of lymphoma is a major predictor of long term survival (fellow nerds can view the study here.)  Another benefit of the fast response is that I no longer need to take the Allopurinol, so one less pill to take every day. 

Everything going forward seems somewhat anticlimactic, but I guess it's not.  I think about being at the halfway point like it's halftime in a game.  At halftime, you regroup, evaluate your performance and adjust your strategy if needed.  Well, no adjustment is needed here, just perseverance.  Like the quote by Winston Churchill (and the country song by Rodney Adkins): "If you're going through hell, keep going."  It's kind of ironic that the lymphoma never bothered me (until the tumor got big enough to put pressure on my lungs and impact my breathing.)  Last year I was in the best shape of my life and did some really fun things, all while "having cancer."  The hard part has obviously been the chemo as well as the recovery from the biopsy debacle.

Another recent event I haven't mentioned was my dad and our friend Anthony shaving their heads on stage at church in support of me.  They did it to promote an event they're planning where people can shave their heads to raise money for us and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (cleverly named Operation Bald Eagle.)  I had no idea about it, so I was in shock at both the head shaving and that they were planning the event.  It's very hard for me to be in this position, but at the same time I'm humbled and grateful to have such an amazing support system.   

My dad and I after he shaved his head
 This past weekend was Memorial Day, as well as the date of the marathon I was supposed to run (the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT.)  I was starting week 4 of my 16 week training plan when I found out my diagnosis.  I wasn't sad or angry.  Although I'm much farther from that goal than I was a few months ago, it's still something I know I'll accomplish.  For now, I'm excited that I've been able to start running (using the term loosely here) again.  I'm only able to make it 1.5 miles before my left leg feels like it's going to fall off, but it feels great to be able to do anything.  My left leg was the one damaged in the surgery, so it's going to take awhile to rehab it and I'm not sure it will ever be the same as it was.

My marathon training plan.  The gray was as far as I got before the diagnosis.

Today while I was hobbling along at my 11:00 per mile pace, I thought about Terry Fox.  He lost a leg to cancer in 1977 and then in 1980 he ran 3,339 miles across Canada in 143 days to raise money and awareness for cancer research.  His run was cut short when his cancer came back and he passed away in 1981.  I learned about him a couple years ago from an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.  His story inspired me then and does even more today.  This weekend I'm going to run/ walk a 5K, (have I used enough hyperlinks in this post?) so we'll see how that goes.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Good News

I had planned on writing about reaching the halfway point of chemotherapy today and including the results of yesterday's CT scan in the same post, but I'm not going to be able to do that today.  A lot has happened over the past couple weeks and I'll share that separately, but today is all about the scan results.  I met with my oncologist today and I am in complete remission.  That is not a typo - complete remission.  Praise the Lord, hallelujah, jump for joy complete remission.  I will still have to complete the last 3 rounds of chemo, but who cares now, right?!  It will be much easier to tolerate knowing there is a true end in sight.

"Because......we're happyyyy....."

As strong as my faith is and as much as I've been expecting a positive outcome, I have to admit I was shocked to hear the news.  I was expecting to hear that things were progressing well, but mentally I hadn't thought that it could be gone this early.  Maybe it was a defense mechanism.  I had prepared myself for bad news and that it wouldn't shake my faith or optimism, although I didn't really think the news would be bad.

Good report

 I had just had my blood taken and was going through some questions with the nurse when Dr. D'Silva came over.  He just came right out and said "we have the results of your CT scan and you are in complete remission."  My jaw dropped and I think I said "what?!"  I just looked at him, then at Tiffany, and at our nurse navigator Katie, who had come over to give me a copy of the report as a huge smile came on my face.  There were a lot of hugs and high fives as the other nurses came over to congratulate us.  I heard the word "miracle" and someone else asked if this was some sort of record, after only 3 cycles of chemo.  My cancer responded well to the treatment and I have taken good care of myself physically in addition to being young and otherwise healthy.  But I have also been covered in prayer from day 1 by so many people to a caring, merciful God.  For all of that I am overflowing with gratitude today. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why I Have Faith

I'm starting this post while hooked up to the IV getting my third dose of chemo.  I say "starting" because there's a good chance that I'll lose focus or dose off but I wanted to write while I had something fresh on my mind. A few people have remarked over the past couple of months about how strong my faith is.  This means a lot to me because my faith is foundational to who I am and it's reassuring that this is what comes out during a difficult set of circumstances. I attribute the strength and peace that I have to the many prayers that are being prayed on my behalf.  But my personal faith, this confident assurance that I have in my innermost being, is something that has been built up slowly over the years.  Its not just hope (although I do hope I get better.)  It's more than my positive attitude; it's actually the source of it.  And it's not a blind faith.  Years ago I learned that it was possible to have a relationship with God and I decided that I wanted that in my life. I prayed simple prayers where I just talked to God, something like "I don't know how this is going to work since I don't think you speak audibly to people anymore, but I'd like to know you." After that I started seeing God revealing Himself to me subtly, through people coming into my life, through circumstances, and passages in the Bible seemingly speaking directly to what I was dealing with in life. There were opportunities for me to take hold of.  I saw small prayers being answered and God directing my steps.  As I trusted Him to lead me, my faith grew.  

Round 3!

A few weeks ago I was browsing through radio stations in the car and stopped on a station where a guy named James McDonald was speaking. At that moment he said "God did not promise a life without storms. He promised that if we build our house on the foundation of obedience to Jesus that our house will not fall when the storms come."  So that's where I am during this trial.  I chose a relationship with God and to try to follow the principles in the Bible as a guide for the decisions I make in life.  I have seen God direct my path up to this point and give me the ability to be a better husband and father than I ever could have been on my own. For those reasons I know that He is not done with me yet and there is a continued purpose for my life.

Two of the purposes I have in life
I was talking with a friend recently who had lost someone very close to him. He wasn't mad at God but he was searching for something deeper. My only advice was to just ask Him. We too often think that we have to clean up our lives before approaching God, when He takes care of the cleaning after we acknowledge our need for Him and begin seeking Him. It's a life long process that no one will ever get perfectly right, but we have the opportunity to get closer than we were before. To build that relationship, that unshakeable foundation so that when the storms do come (and they will), we have that Source of strength and peace right at our side. 

One of my favorite examples of faith is in Daniel 3:13-18.  "Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

That's how I'm approaching this from the spiritual perspective; the God I serve is able to deliver me from this, and He will.  But even if He does not, it doesn't change my faith and devotion.  Note: the Bible also says in James 2:17 that faith without works is dead, and I certainly believe that God also works through modern medicine among other means, hence the chemotherapy, nutrition, acupuncture, yoga, etc. that I'm also doing.  

As I enter a difficult week, I'm going to post a few verses that continually encourage me below the song,  These may encourage you, too.  This song is also very uplifting and a good fit for this week.   

Psalm 16:8 - "I have set The Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

Psalm 9:9-10 -  "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."

Psalm 27:13, 14 - "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"

Psalms 118:17  - "I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the lord has done. "

Psalm 119:50 - "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life."

Psalm 145:18,19 - "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them."

James 5:11 - "As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pockets of Normalcy

Time these days is measured based on which week of which cycle I'm in.  Right now I'm close to the end of week 3 of cycle 2 so I'll be going back in for chemo again on Tuesday.  This week has been really good overall and has been the closest thing to a normal week in over two months.  I started Monday off with acupuncture and also received a vitamin b12 shot during that visit.  I had started to experience some minor numbness in my fingertips, which is an expected side effect of chemo, so the b12 shot was offered to treat that along with the lack of energy I had been feeling.  Whether it was the shot or just a coincidence, I felt awesome after getting it and have felt great mentally and physically all week.  After the appointment, I stopped at work for a quick visit with my coworkers which also gave me a boost. 

On Tuesday I started working again which has helped bring back a sense of normalcy.  It's only part time, but it makes the days go by faster.  My boss has been good about making sure I know that I'm needed while not putting any pressure on me to do too much before I'm ready.  Having that flexibility and support has been huge and something I don't take for granted.  It's one less burden I have to bear while I focus on getting better.  Wednesday night I was able to attend the monthly board meeting of PMI-NH and see my friends there for the first time since this ordeal began which was nice.  And then Thursday night I made it to our weekly small group/ Bible study.  All of this without needing any naps!  I'm feeling pretty accomplished this week.

Related to nothing in this post, but I've gotten really good at making non-alcoholic concoctions

I've still been walking every day to stay in some semblance of shape.  This week I was really tempted to start jogging  because I felt so good but my better judgment kicked in and I held off.  I look forward to running again but I still have another 3 weeks for my surgery to heal.  The last thing I need is to rupture something so I'm being cautious with it. 

Things at home are settling into somewhat of a routine.  Now that it's finally warming up here Tiffany and the girls can spend more time outside or going places, so my takeover of our sunroom doesn't cramp their space as much.  Genevieve is also adjusting better lately.  Being a four year old, she knows something is different and that her daddy has been sick, but isn't able to understand or process it.  She has gravitated more to Tiffany and was more hesitant around me at first, so we could tell she was dealing with it.  For example, one morning when she woke up, she came into our room to lie down next to Tiffany as she is usually the first one up.  I had already gotten up, but I came back in and laid down next to her.  She slowly and casually crawled away from me to the other side of Tiffany while eyeing me suspiciously.  We actually laughed about it, as I knew it was part of the adjustment process.  For my part, I've tried to act as normal as possible around the girls and reassure them that I'll be better soon.  Last Friday I took Genevieve out to lunch and a movie for some bonding time and since then she has been back to her usual self with me.  Nadia has been blissfully ignorant of anything and has just been happy to have me around more.  I love my girls.

My lunch date

From last summer

Love this picture

 I also have the date for my next CT scan to check the progress at the halfway point of chemo - 5/22.  That's all for now.