Monday, May 16, 2011

Gage County Relay for Life 2011 - I've Seen Miracles



Let me just start out by saying that I am not a public speaker and the thought of giving a presentation to a large group simply terrifies me. Recently I was honored when asked to be the featured speaker at the 2011 Gage County Relay for Life. Terror immediately set in, but along with the terror came a sense of honor, and the feeling that this was something I needed to do. As I hung up the phone, my brain was clicking away and I knew what I wanted to talk about – Miracles! We all see things that just seem too coincidental, but many of us do not consider them to be miracles. I see miracles every day and when they happen, it give me a sense of peace, knowing that God is with us, helping with the little things as well as the big things. Attached is a link to video taken at the Relay for Life event, with my talk beginning at the 6:44 mark. I estimate there were 400+ people there, way more than any other presentation I have ever given.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COO6kKDLWPw&feature=player_embedded#t=403s

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Good things are in store for you!"


Wow! It’s been quite a while since I have written a blog…time is sure flying by. I have been working pretty much full time again, mainly coordinating training for the police department and other light duty matters. I have a plan worked out to get back on the street again, but the Chief wants to make sure I can defend myself before that happens. So I also began working out on the elliptical and with free weights. I am amazed at how much muscle I have lost and it may take a little longer than I expected. Anyway, back to the topic of writing this blog. Last night Denise, the girls and I went out and ate Chinese. The food was great and there are plenty of leftovers. When we finished I handed out the fortune cookies, I always am amazed at how you can read something into those things to make them fit your particular situation. Mine read “Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.” Denise told me that I had to write that in my blog and here is why. A couple weeks ago, I had another scan to see how effective this chemo regimen was working. We were all pleased to find out that the tumors are shrinking, my liver is clear of tumors and the bone lesions are “maturing” and scaring over. My Oncologist estimates that at this rate he believes that I will be finished with this regimen in 3-5 months. The 3-5 months is why Denise said I had to write it in a blog. I’m not a very superstitious man, but every once in a while it is good to get a little positive note like that…even if it can fit a multitude of scenarios. One last little note about how I have been feeling. I have been feeling great most of the time, I still have hair and everybody tells me I have my color back. I wasn’t aware I had lost it, but when I look back at some pictures taken last summer, I can tell I looked a little pale…especially since I usually tan well. Thank you all for the prayers, well wishes and positive comments, and if you feel like it, leave a comment to this post…nobody reads them except me ;-)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just a swing'n


It was spring when I found out I had cancer, the time of year when our swing gets taken out of storage and set up on the deck. I spent a lot of time on that swing, thinking about how I was going to deal with this cancer, just sitting there enjoying the birds and squirrels, or sitting with a computer on my lap typing out a blog entry. I have had many visitors show up while I am swinging, and they end up swinging along with me sharing my passion for that smooth swinging motion. Now comes the time of year when I have to put the deck swing back into storage. I am really going to miss sitting on that swing, visiting with friends, or making out my “to do” list of things that I must get done. But, I am sure I will find another place to do my thinking…oh! and make a spring “to do” list. First thing on that list…set up deck swing!

Monday, November 1, 2010

This little cricket

A while back, I decided to clean up the shop. It had gotten a little shabby and was in dire need of a good sweeping. After I swept all that sawdust into a tidy pile, I noticed some movement. It seemed that I had swept up a little cricket in with the sawdust. I was feeling compassionate and didn’t want to throw that cricket in the tall garbage can (just saw dust, no food scraps) and let him go hungry and eventually end up crushed by the garbage truck. I tried to shoo this little cricket out of the sawdust, but he just kept burrowing himself deeper in the pile. After several unsuccessful attempts of “shooing”, I decided on a different plan of action and began picking the larger chunks of wood out of the pile. I was going to toss the remaining sawdust out into the yard and let this little cricket enjoy a better fate than the garbage truck was going to provide. After spending some time with that little cricket, it got me thinking. There are times when I remember acting the same way, afraid of the unknown and not knowing what to do, except bury myself in a pile of sawdust. I am thankful that God is working to help give me options, and even though I may not make the right decisions, he is still looking out for me and guiding me through some rough times.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How did your garden grow?


I just pulled up the last plant from the garden. This was my first real attempt at gardening, and I guess if you keep that in mind, it didn’t turn out too bad. The sugar peas were great, but I didn’t realize that they don’t produce very long. We did get our fill of sugar peas early on though. The tomato plants produced a lot of green tomatoes, but they didn’t seem to want to turn red very fast. Still, along with all the onions and peppers that grew, we were able to make and can several pints of chunky salsa. Alicia absolutely hated the smell made while processing the tomatoes, and made sure I knew it about every 15 minutes or so. Even though, most of the garden produced fairly well, I did have quite the experience with sweet potatoes. Lets begin by saying that, it’s good to have a sense of humor! My neighbor gave me some sweet potato shoots, but I was a little late getting them planted. Then the hail came, and knocked all the leaves off, leaving only a short stem. Of course, I didn’t bother “hilling” them either. I kept those little shoots watered though and they eventually began to vine out. When it came time to dig them up, my dad and sister were bragging at how big and how many sweet potatoes they had. I was eager to see how big mine were, but wanted to leave them in the ground another week or so. That way I could have bigger potatoes and do my own bragging. When I dug them up, all I had was these stringy carrot looking things, not much bigger that the root itself, and very few of them. So much looking forward to bragging rights. Of course, dad’s plants produced plenty of potatoes and he shared some of his produce with us. I am looking forward to next years garden, and then I’ll remember to hill those potatoes…maybe I’ll throw out a bit of sand to mix in the soil too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How's my hair?

During my last appointment with the oncologist, he commented about my hair and how well I have been able to keep it. That got me thinking about all the comments I have received and the gestures that have been made relating to hair. The most memorable gesture I recall happened shortly after I was diagnosed. My niece Nicole, had the longest and thickest brown hair I had seen, and she was proud of it. She wanted to do something to show her support for me, and made a decision to donate most of her hair to Locks of Love, which is an organization that makes and donates wigs to children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy. I saw a series of photos that were taken while she was having her hair cut…she was all smiles! I am very touched by the gesture and her constant concern for me. Then, a couple months ago, I went to the barber (not a hair stylist, but a real barber). My hair had thinned a bit by then and the barber took care while cutting it. After cutting the hair, he turns on his vacuum and begins to vacuum the loose hair clippings. I became a little concerned when the vacuum suctioned to my scalp several different times. I could just imagine that the vacuum had sucked a section of hair, leaving me with bald patches all over my head. Fortunately, the hair was not quite that brittle and all was ok. He did finish my haircut with a dose of hair tonic to help strengthen the brittle hairs…I love going to a barber! Then, a couple weeks ago, our Pastor mentioned that he was going to grow out his hair and then make a donation to Locks of Love when it was long enough. When I saw how much it had grown and how he had it styled, it reminded me of how I wore my hair in high school…aah nostalgia! Then there are my coworkers. More than one of them are planning to shave their heads, once I decide my hair is too thin and shave mine. Thank you all, I so am touched by all the gestures and your concerns about my morale.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

One Long Week

After having gone through two months of this new chemo treatment, my oncologist wanted to take another CT scan to see how effective this new regimen was. The scan was scheduled for a week ago last Monday at 8:30 in the morning, with a follow up appointment with the oncologist the following Friday. I don’t think I slept a whole lot the night before. It seems that I spent every waking moment, praying for good news, or at least that the news would not be devastating. I arrived for the scan at 8:00…I guess I was anxious. The scan only took 5 minutes, and I laid a still as possible, wanting the scan to be as accurate as it could be. All done! Now I could eat breakfast and spend the rest of the week wondering what the results were. Tic-tock tick-tock, the days seemed to drag on. I tried keeping busy, but those “creeping thoughts” seemed to work their way into my brain, with all kinds of “what ifs.” Finally, Friday came and I headed to my appointment, along with Denise and my Mom. I'm not admitting anything, but I may had been speeding just a little bit. After about 30 minutes of waiting, Dr Carlson came in. The first thing he asked was if the pain was the same, worse, or less. Oh great! I had a brief flash back to my last M.D. Anderson trip and braced for bad news. I told him that the pain seemed to be about the same as it had been for the last 6 months. Then Dr Carlson made the most wonderful comment I had ever heard. “Well, normally we see that the pain eases as the tumors get smaller, which is what we are seeing in your case!” There was silence in the room, while I closed my eyes and prayed a huge Thank You! I commented that this was the best news I had heard in the last 6 months…then Denise spoke up and said that it was 7 months. She is so good with dates and numbers! Dr Carlson also commented that I hadn’t lost much weight or hair, and that it was a no brainer that we should continue with the same treatment. What a relief it was to hear some good news. It made the weekend visit to Grand Island, so nice…I think I wore a smile the whole time.

I know several of you are concerned that I might not be feeling well, because I had not made an entry for quite a while. Actually it’s just the opposite. I have been feeling pretty good lately and have been able to get several projects done around the house and get into work more often. At the end of the day I am a bit tired and “brain fried” though, and just can’t seem to write the right words. I will try to do a better job of getting something written a little more often.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What a Birthday!


Last Saturday was my birthday and what a fun birthday it was. The family spent the whole day with us, painting the house and replacing gutters. It was a long day and with everybody working so hard, we got a lot done. It is such a relief to get the bulk of the outside maintenance done before winter comes. In the evening we celebrated by relaxing on the deck, eating grilled burgers, homemade ice cream, and of course birthday cake. It’s been a while since that many people sang Happy Birthday to me, and they sang loud knowing it is a “Victory Song.” I was very touched and felt that tickle in my throat, but was able to hold back the tears…although I am sure everyone could tell by the expression on my face, how much it meant to me. I am so fortunate to have such a great family and have a hard time expressing in words, just how much they all mean to me. Let’s just say that I am so very blessed!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A New Chemotherapy Regimen

Two weeks ago I began a new chemotherapy regimen, because the regimen I had been on for three months was not working as expected. This new regimen is directed at adnocarcinoma cancers with the infusion process taking about 4.5 hours every other week. I get the same antinausea and antidiarrheal injections as before, but now get an infusion of Cisplatin and Avastin. From what I have been told, the Avastin stops the formation of blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the tumors, therotically starving them. Cisplatin is a common chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of many cancers. One of the side effects of the Cisplatin is that it makes me super sensitive to hot and cold. I like cold drinks and thought it was interesting that a cool glass of water, actually felt like a slush when I drank it. I did not realize how sensitive it made me until my mother brought me a chocolate shake during my last infusion. The shake felt like it had little ice crystals in it, not the smooth creamy shake I was used to, and made my lips tingle with pain. After a couple sips, I got a strong pain in my stomach and back. I couldn’t figure out was what going on until after a minute or so, when it left as suddenly as it came. I have had brain freezes before, but never a stomach freeze. Now I take smaller sips when I have a cold drink. In addition to the Cisplatin, Avastin, and somthing called 5FU, I am also given a 15 minute infusion of Zometa to help strengthen my bones in the areas where the cancer has settled in. After finishing the 4.5 hour infusion, I have to continue with an additional 5FU infusion for another 46 hours, so I am hooked up to a mini-pump that I wear for the next two days. Since my infusion was on a Friday, I go in and have the mini-pump removed on the following Sunday. 24 hours after the mini-pump is removed, I go in for a Neulasta injection, to help boost my white blood cell production. The Neulasta makes my bones and joints ache, which I guess is normal. It seems like quite a procedure and the nurses that give me the infusion have to really know their stuff. Every time I have an infusion it effects me differently. Sometimes my lower back aches, sometimes my upper back aches, sometimes my side or hips ache, and sometimes my neck aches, but there is always some aching, and when I walk, I must look like an old man from behind. I just keep reminding myself that the achiness is due to the chemotherapy drugs doing there thing, and that the pain is not from the cancer.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Livestrong!


A while back I started wearing a yellow “Livestrong” bracelet. For me it is a little reminder to make the most of each day. “Livestrong” and be a productive member of my community, “Livestrong” in relations with family and friends, “Livestrong” by being a positive role model, and “Livestrong” in faith. I live in a fantastic community, and the support shown during the recent benefit still has me in awe. I do what I can to help out neighbors, attend community functions, keeping up on local current affairs, and I enjoy meeting new people when I am able to get out. Family and friends are obviously a big part of my life, and always will be. During my tour as a police officer, I dealt with many family quarrels, and learned that some family members haven’t even talked to one another for many years. I can't begin to image what that must be like. I continually strive to be a positive role model, but I guess we just never know who we affect or if we are even doing the right thing. My faith is a big part of who I am and I want that to continue to be my inner focus. I pray frequently and there have been times when I have pleaded, even to the point of begging God, to cure me of this cancer, or at least give me additional years with family and friends. Then there are those times when I just don’t know what to pray. It is those times I simply imagine myself sitting with a good friend, you know, someone who is comfortable with just sitting quietly until one of us thinks of something to say. Sometimes nothing is ever said and I simply sit and enjoy the outdoors, but then sometimes I get an overwhelming feeling of peace and contentment flowing through my body and realize that even though things are not as I had imagined they would be, there is a master plan at work. I have no idea what that master plan is, but know that in some small way I am fulfilling a role. I pray that we all realize what is important to us and make a daily effort to "Livestrong" in support of the master's plan! God bless you all!

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Hope and Pray

While I was at M.D. Andersen a couple weeks ago, I mentioned having some upper back pain. The oncologist informed me they noticed a lesion on my T4 vertebra, and were recommending I have a bone scan. My oncologist in Lincoln scheduled the bone scan for earlier this week to find out if the cancer had spread further. This morning I was informed of the results of the scan. It seems the cancer has spread to several areas of my skeleton, too many areas to treat them all with radiation. My oncologist is hopeful that this new chemo regimen will attack that cancer as well and keep it in check. I guess I am kind of numb right now, and not sure how I feel. Every once in awhile I hear about, and am encouraged by, someone who found out they have cancer throughout their body and have been able to fight it for 5+ years. I hope and pray that God has that planned for me, that one day I can be an encouragement to someone dealing with this illness…”Tony Lenners was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, that was throughout his body, and he has been a survivor for 10 years!”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our prayers have been heard!

I just received a phone call from my oncologist at M.D. Anderson, with what I consider to be good news. After our devastating consultation last Monday, the oncologist was confused about how my cancer was acting. It wasn’t responding to the normal treatment for a neuroendricine cancer, and a neuroendricine cancer would have grown much more than mine has. He asked another Pathologist to reexamined the sample, and they now believe it is a different type of cancer. Now they are thinking that it is more of an adenocarcinoma, which is more common and I believe more treatable. I got off the phone and cried the first tears of joy I had cried in a long time. After having received the worst news imaginable a couple days ago, I now have a new course of treatment and the hope that goes along with that. I am going to sleep so much better tonight! Thank you so much to everyone for all the prayers. I truly believe…"Our prayers have been heard!" Praise God! Halleluiah!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not the news I was expecting

Oh my!...this is going to be a hard one to write. I had hoped our recent medical trip to M.D. Anderson Center was going to be good for us and end in positive news…after all I felt relatively good. Instead we got hit hard with news that was worse than I had ever imagined. The worst I had expected to hear was that the tumors had only gotten slightly smaller or stayed the same…not gotten larger. My parents, Denise and I arrived at M.D. Anderson on Sunday, July 25th and I prepared for a day of tests and scans. I was not scheduled to see the Oncologist till 2:30 the following day, and prepared for a long night of wondering and fighting off those “creeping thoughts.” Monday, drug on and finally 2:30 arrived. We waited in the waiting room for the next two hours, getting more anxious by the minute. 2 ½ hours after our original appointment time, we were escorted back to an examining room, and another hour after that, the physician’s assistant met with us. Rather than hearing “I’ve got good news!” from the physician’s assistant, she immediately wanted to listen to my lungs, asking if I was having any shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Humm? I asked if she was going to be the one to tell us the results of the CT Scans. No more delays, the physician’s assistant informed us that yesterday, the radiologist called them after reading my x-rays and scans, which is unusual. “You have a couple of blood clots in your right lung!” Apparently that is serious and they injected me with blood thinners right away, to ward off the formation of additional clots. That wasn’t all…”The chemo has not been as effective as we had hoped, and the tumors have grown slightly.” At that point I was about ready to walk out of the examining room, I just could not take anymore bad news, but I had to hear the full story. It seems that I have a couple of blood clots in the right lung, there are two tumors in my liver instead of the original one, and the original one has grown. There are additional lymph nodes in my chest and abdomen that are showing up as cancer, and one of them has increased in size to 2.6 cm from the 1.8 cm on the last scan, three months ago. I mentioned, to the physician’s assistant, that I had been feeling pain on the left side of my back radiating to my chest, and that my stomach and bowels have really been acidy, making me ill. They were unable to find any cause for the stomach and bowel problems, but that the pain in my back was most likely do to irritation from a suspicious growth on my T4 vertebrae. They were recommending that I have a bone scan when I returned home, and that I may want to opt for radiation treatment. When we finally met with the Oncologist, he confirmed everything the physician’s assistant had told us and went over a revised course of treatment that they were recommending. The chemo I had been receiving was their most aggressive treatment, but since that was not working, they were going to “mix up the cocktail.” I recalled during the first visit the Oncologist saying that if the original recommended treatment did not work, anything they would recommend after that would be less effective, and did not even bother asking about a prognosis. That night was one of the longest nights of my life. When I did fall a sleep, I would wake 15-30 minutes later. Thankfully Denise let me sleep with the television on.

I wrack my brain trying to think of reasons the treatment isn’t effective. After all, I try to stay active by gardening and taking walks, trying to eat right and let the chemo work, and of course constant prayer. I just don’t know why, and may be I’m not supposed to know why. I do know this…I am reminded that each day we are given is a gift and to try and live life to the fullest. Denise and my parents are worried that I am just going to give up. I have never been a quitter and as long as I have something to hold on to, no matter how small, I am going to give it my best. God bless all of you for your constant prayers and support, and I’ll end this entry by asking you refer to my “Making a mess of the sand!” post from May 20th.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friends Helping Friends


What a wonderful community we live in and what wonderful friends we have. Last Sunday was the Friends Helping Friends “Fun” Fundraiser, and if you were to base success just on the way I felt, it was a huge success. I am so grateful for everyone who gave donations, helped out, sent prayers or attended the event to socialize and give support. Thank you to everyone for making Sunday such a special event. This coming Friday we are headed back to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for testing and to see if the treatment plan is effective. I pray for good news, but either way the support we have received has been a huge moral boost.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Glad I Never Won The Lottery

Ever since I heard there was such a thing as a lottery and that you could win millions by just wagering a buck, I have always imagined what it would be like to be a millionaire. I would go to sleep at night trying to figure out how much to give to charity, friends and family, and imagine what we might spend our shares on. Four months ago, all that changed. While I was in the hospital, I mentioned to my parents that I used to dream about winning, but that during the course of a couple days that had all changed. I had received so much support, so many visitors, and so many cards and calls, that it made me realize something. If I had won the lottery how many true friends and real support would I actually have had? I think that would have been the loneliest time of my life. Instead I realized that having close friends and being a true friend, is much better than winning the lottery.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Daryl's Smile

I spent the summer of 1978, as a volunteer working with mentally handicapped, and was fortunate to have made a very special friendship. As part of my daily routine I was assigned to spend time with a special friend for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. My friend was Daryl Pearson. Daryl had not always been mentally handicapped, and a couple years earlier, he had been a graduate student at the University of Colorado working on designing an artificial heart. While attending college, Daryl had been involved in a serious motorcycle accident and suffered major brain damage. The first time I met Daryl, I saw a 20 something man with medium length light brown hair, sitting in a wheel chair. He only had the use of his right arm, and was unable to talk – the only sounds he was able to make were humming noises. Wow, now what can I do with Daryl for two hours each day? He was too big for me to take in and out of his wheelchair and we couldn’t chat about anything, because Daryl simply couldn’t understand…at least that is what I was told. As it ended up, many days I would just push Daryl around the complex. Sometimes we would pull up to a park bench and just sit there and watch as people walked on by. I could see that Daryl would watch the activity and he seemed to be somewhat interested. As the days went on, it seemed to me that I was noticing more of a smile on Daryl’s face. I didn’t remember seeing it that first day, but I grew to really enjoy his smile. I realized there was more to Daryl that what I could see on the surface, and wished we could communicate with each other. After a while I started to believe that my purpose was simply to get Daryl out of his resident hall to get some air. Then one day the other volunteer’s and myself had the day off. When we returned the following day, one of the employees told me that when I didn’t show up to spend time with Daryl, he tried to wheel himself out the door, by using his one good arm. Daryl had never tried to move himself before, and they were shocked when he tried it the day I hadn’t shown up. Oh my, even at the age of 15, I realized that even though we could not talk to each other, we were communicating just by spending time with each other. The rest of the summer I looked forward to simply spending time with Daryl, seeing his smile, and sitting with him as we watched the people pass by. That was one great summer and I am glad God spoke to me on the radio [“Still Listening” post from June 26, 2010]. Daryl wasn't able to complete his artificial heart, but he made a big impression on mine with that pleasant smile of his!

No Phone Zone Challenge

If you were to choose one cause, what would it be? For me it is bringing awareness to the hazards of distracted driving, specifically using cell phones while driving. Many times I will see a car drive through a red light, fail to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, or continually slowing down and speeding up. When I look at the driver, 9 times out of 10 they are talking on a cell phone. This evening I was asked to attend the High School Cheerleader Practice. The Beatrice High School Cheerleaders and Coaches are preparing to leave for camp next week and have decided to take a challenge with them. As a team, they are challenging all the cheerleaders at camp, to sign a “Tony Lenners – No Phone Zone Pledge” stating that they will not use a cell phone while driving, and to take the challenge back to their respective schools to challenge the entire student body. I’m not sure how they found out that this was one of my biggest concerns, but I am extremely honored that they are willing to include me in their effort, and wish them well. Now for the hard part…I am extending the challenge to each of you to do the same, and at least mentally, sign your own “No Phone Zone Pledge.” If you think that there is no way you can go without talking on your phone while driving, consider these two things. How did we ever get along without cell phones just 10 years ago, and more importantly, how would I ever be able to cope if I were to injure someone simply because I could not wait to pull over to talk on the phone.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Still Listening!

At 15 years of age, I had a decision to make. Our church had a program for youth willing to volunteer a summer working with the mentally handicapped. I had seen a presentation and was kind of interested, but a whole summer? That would mean missing a whole summer of baseball and whole summer missed spending time with my pals. It was a big decision and my parents encouraged me to think about it for a while. I figured I would spend some time thinking and praying about it in a secluded spot, and our new camper fit the bill. After about 20 minutes or so I was still undecided and about to give up to go hang out with my friends. Instead I decided to give it a few more minutes and turned on the radio. WOW! At that very moment God spoke to me! Not with a clap of thunder or from a fiery bush, but in a way I could easily accept. The very first song that played was John Denver’s “I Want to Live.” As I sat there listening to that song, I realized that God was not telling me what to do, but he sure was making it easy for me to make a decision. By the end of the song, I knew that I wanted to “share what I can give”. As I walked in the house to tell my parents, my emotions got the better of me and I could barely tell them what had happened. I eventually got out that I had decided to volunteer that summer. As it turns out, that was one of the most rewarding summers of my life. There have been many other times when I know God has spoken to me. It’s when my inner voice from God says, “go talk with that person standing alone in the corner”, or “pick up that piece of trash”, or when I am on patrol, “pull over and shoot the breeze with that child.” Just recently, I was having supper with my parents, and mentioned that I don’t usually read horoscopes or believe in them, but that I read one recently that had a negative message about abandoning my hopes. Just then our waitress walked by and said, “don’t believe them, they [horoscopes] are all wrong!” Now that was God talking!

It may be an awesome voice coming from a fiery bush up on a mountain side, it may be a song on the radio, or it may be something as subtle as the confident voice of a waitress, but know this - God speaks to us…all we need to do is listen!

Below is a link to John Denver’s song “I Want to Live.” I thought you might enjoy it; I still love listening to this song!

video

Friday, June 25, 2010

Blah

I just finished another chemo session today. My blood work was all right except that the white blood count was a little low – still within the range to keep giving me treatments though. My kidneys are functioning well and my weight is up by a pound. This one is really kicking me in the gut, so I made sure to take some additional anti-nausea medicine as soon as I got home. Maybe I made a mistake by eating a little bit too much pizza yesterday. I laid down for a bit and later I’ll take Lucky for a walk – Connie told me that she always walked after chemo and it helped her. I am sitting on the patio swing now, and I can tell the anti-nausea medicine is starting to work. I think I’ll try and eat a light supper tonight, but not too light, I don’t want to loose that pound I was able to gain.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Relay for Life


I just got back from the Relay for Life event in Grand Island. It was the first time I had ever attended one, and it was overwhelming to say the least. My brother, sister and their families had joined a team and invited me to come walk with them. The first thing I noticed when we arrived, were all the tents and booths set up around the track. There were businesses, organizations and individuals, giving away stuff or having carnival games as fundraisers for cancer research. When I checked in I was given a purple shirt with the Relay for Life logo on the front and in large letters on the back was a saying, “Happy Birthday is a Victory Song!” I got a little lump in my throat thinking about the significance of that reference. I was told that cancer survivors walked the first lap, and grouped up with the others wearing purple shirts. Even though there were many other walkers, I felt kind of alone, thinking it was going to be a long lap. When the first lap began, there was the sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace”, and people standing all around the track clapping as we walked by. Remember that lump in my throat earlier? Well it got huge, really huge, and I had a difficult time holding back the emotions welling up inside. About ¼ of the way around the track, Bev tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was Tony. I had never met Bev before but she was a friend of my Mom and Dad, and walked the rest of the lap with me. While we walked, we talked about our cancer journey, and she introduced me to some other survivors. At the end of the first lap, I was joined by my family, who were anxiously waiting for me at the starting line. As we walked the second lap, we looked at all the luminary bags placed around the inner and outer rim of the track. My niece, Nicole had decorated several of the bags with my name and picture on them. After the second lap, I was at my half-mile limit…Lucky and I hadn’t walked farther than that in a long time. Mom, Dad and I left to get a bite to eat and returned later. Around 9:30, when it began to get dark, they lit the luminary bags. That was impressive to see all those bags glowing, lighting the path. I walked a couple more laps making my total distance an even mile, before heading home. Everyone else stayed late, with some staying till 6 AM, after walking many miles. Sitting here typing, I think about all the symbolism surrounding this event, especially that first lap and how lonely I felt, until I met and talked with other survivors. And then there was that extremely uplifting and supporting second lap. I had some apprehension about attending a Relay for Life event this year, mostly because at times I still live in denial. And, while there will still be some denial, I plan to remember that quote on the back of my purple shirt. So, now every August 28th, if you hear me humming “Happy Birthday to me…” feel free to join in knowing that I am celebrating another year of victory!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our Garden


Last fall Alicia and I began spading a plot for a small garden. It was a long day, but felt good to accomplish that project through physical labor. I have a fantastic neighbor who helped me know how much sand and compost to put on the plot and he even tilled the garden a couple times before it snowed. Early spring, my neighbor tilled the garden again – that soil sure looked nice. The plot is fairly small, so we just planted some of the basics, two types of onions, tomatoes, sugar peas, beans, bell peppers, banana peppers, and a couple sweet potatoes. Alicia and I keep the weeds under control and patiently wait for the plants to grow. This is our first garden and fortunately there are a lot people with helpful suggestions – I always thought Sevin was just a misspelling of the number and never knew why sweet potatoes are “hilled”. I check on the garden daily and I get a real satisfaction seeing it grow. Its kind of funny how things work out. Last fall when we began preparing our garden, we just wanted to eat healthier. Now that I am fighting cancer, the importance of eating fresh vegetables is vital, and the physical activity gives me a little exercise, helping to ease the soreness. Watching the plants grow requires a bit of patience and Alicia and I are looking forward to picking that first tomato and making salsa. That reminds me, I need to get some more pint jars.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Learning to Enjoy the Entire Box of Chocolates

Forest Gump is one of my favorite movies, so it was inevitable that I would end up using it as motivation for one of my entries. My outlook on life and all its wonders, has taken such a turn. I used to see the negative side of things and wonder how things could have changed so much from when I was younger. I used to hear a lawnmower running early in the morning and be upset that I was not going to able to sleep in. Now, I hear that same mower and think that my neighbor takes pride in his property and how he is beginning his day so early. I used to swat flies. Now, I watch them and wonder what they see when they look at me. It used to be a chore to take Lucky for a walk. Now, I smile as I watch him bounce along, leading the way. I enjoy watching the squirrels chasing each other around the large tree in our backyard, and when a robin sits on a branch a few feet away and seems like he is singing just for me. I don’t know if I had become grumpy over the almost 25 years of being a police officer, if my sullenness was just part of getting old, or maybe, dealing with cancer has just made me realize how precious every day is. I do know that now I am in awe of everything God has made and blessed us with, and find myself smiling over the littlest things. I find myself taking joy in just about everything and never want to miss spending time with family and friends. Even if that activity is simply to ride along to the store for a gallon of milk. While there, I hear a child crying out because she wants some chocolate… I crack a little smile, isn’t she precious!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tulips


It’s funny what thoughts come to mind while just sitting there listening to the click thump of the chemo pump. I was about to nod off when I recalled a simple life lesson I learned a long time ago. When I was in first grade, our next-door neighbor had a row of tulips that grew along the east side of her house. I’m not sure what I was thinking at the time, except that I wanted to give my mom a bunch of these flowers for our kitchen table. I am pretty sure that I pulled up six or so tulips in different colors and was so proud when I presented them to my mom. I could tell that my mom was touched by my gesture and it struck me as funny when she asked where I had gotten them. “They were growing over by the neighbor’s house,” I said. After realizing that I had made a mess of the flower bed, by pulling the tulips, my mom let me know that our neighbor would wonder what had happened to her flower bed, and that I should go and talk to her. Then mom displayed the tulips on the table, just like I had envisioned. I don’t remember much about being six years old, but do remember the look on my mother’s face as we walked up to the door. I can only describe it as “sorrowful pride”. Sorrow that I was going to have to explain that I had pulled some of those tulips, unintentionally making a mess, and the pride that I had picked those flowers just for her. Our neighbor was not home, so mom and I did our best to tidy up the mess, and made plans to talk to her later. Our neighbor was one of the nicest neighbors we could have had. The life lesson I learned that day – While your intentions might be to simply make someone happy, you should always consider how your actions might affect other people. That simple life lesson I was taught at such a young age, has stuck with me for forty years and helped give me the morals that I value so much. I recall that life lesson every spring when the tulips come up. I don’t think that my mother could have handled that situation any better! Thanks Mom!

The Wave

Last Sunday, while on the way to church we met a car on a gravel road. I waved at the driver and they waved back, just like rural people always do. “Who was that?” Brittany asked. “I don’t know”, I answered. Confused a little, Brittany said “Then why did you wave at them?” She had asked the same question many times before and I could never really explain it well enough I guess. This time I remembered asking my dad the very same thing when I was a young boy. “Dad, who was that?” My dad’s answer…”It’s just something you do, to be friendly, when you met someone.” For me that was good enough and from that time on, when I was lucky enough to sit in the front seat with him, dad and I would wave at every car we met. Thanks Dad, for another life lesson learned – It’s easy and fun to be friendly! After telling Brittany how I got that habit from my dad, I chuckled, and imagined the exact same conversation going on in the car we just met…“who was that?”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Am I Doing Doc?

A couple weeks ago I was having some pain and other symptoms, and was scheduled for another CT Scan. I met with my Oncologist the next day, however they had not received a comparison scan from MD Anderson, and were unable to compare the two to see how the tumors were reacting to the chemotherapy. Today, I met with my Oncologist again and was told that after they compared the scans, there was no significant change, and that he was certain the abdominal pain I was having was due to the formation of scar tissue and not from a tumor. I was also told that some of the other pain issues I was having; upper back, chest, and pelvis, were common nonspecific pains that are seen quite frequently after major surgery and during chemotherapy. I am not sure what I expected to hear, but know what I wanted to hear. I guess this will give me another month to heal and pray that the tumors are getting smaller.

The Comfort Cross


My dad took up wood carving a couple years ago as something to ease him into retirement and has really become quite the artist. Mom also is also very artistic and has many hobbies. Both of my parents joined their church’s art club, which spends a lot of their time carving these curvy shaped crosses that fit perfectly in your palm. They are comfort crosses, something you can hold on to when you are praying or when you just want that constant reminder that Jesus is with you and the sacrifice he made on your behalf. I was given one earlier this year and kept it near my bed. Three months ago, I went to the Emergency Room and then on to St Elizabeth Hospital for surgery. My comfort cross was still on my nightstand. Fortunately, my mother had hers in her purse and gave it to me just before I went in for surgery. I held onto that cross during surgery, at least I remember having it before going under and having it during recovery. It gave me comfort and I was not afraid. During the following week in the hospital, I held that cross most of the time, even falling a sleep with it, and many times that cross was wet with tears. While in the hospital, I met others with similar medical problems and wanted to give them some of the peace I got while holding the cross. Mom and Dad came through with several more crosses. I have rarely felt as good as I did when I was able to pass along those comfort crosses and have a chat with my new friends. Since then, not a day has gone by that I hold that cross and pray for people and things that really matter.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Three days of recovering from chemo

Day one – The first day after receiving chemo feels pretty much like having the flu, headache, nausea, palpitations, a little cramping, and a bit more aching where I was already sore. My dog Lucky makes sure I get out for our ½ mile walk. He keeps a pretty good pace, which helps work out the soreness. Eating is sporadic and Denise and I have an understanding that she doesn’t make my favorite meals just in case it ends up coming back up and then become my least favorite. So I just had a turkey sandwich with some water. Sleeping was not too bad. I woke three times rolled over and went right back to sleep. Day two – I had half a bagel with some peanut butter and some Cheerios. After breakfast I went out to check the garden and just enjoy the nice weather. Everything seemed to grow quite a bit, except the hail reeked havoc with the sweet potato sprouts I just planted. I have a slight headache, fewer palpitations, and less cramping. Every once in a while a little nausea creeps in, nothing like yesterday though. I made a couple pancakes for lunch with just a little syrup. I probably should have had something with more protein, but those pancakes were pretty good. I thought about taking a short nap, but ended up checking emails instead. Then I spent an hour or so on the patio swing, listening to the birds and watching the world go by. Since I am feeling better, Denise made one of my favorites – cheeseburger pie. She is doing everything she can to make sure I eat enough and keep my weight up. After supper, Lucky and I go for our daily walk and then Denise and I sit on the porch swing. A couple of coworkers stopped by today on their break to see how I was getting along. What a boost! Day three – Woke at 6:30 and felt pretty good, at least good enough for a cheese omelet, some Tylenol, and the last of the Emend (a three day supply of anti-nausea medicine). I stopped by work today, just to keep in touch with everyone, and then made a quick trip to Wal-Mart. I’m having much less soreness and nausea today, and no more palpitations. There is a little more cramping, than yesterday so I think I’ll stay home the rest of the day. Like I mentioned earlier, the first three days recovering from chemo feels to me like having a flu. I try to do as much as I can, and refuse to just lie in bed. That would make for a long year. Hopefully as the weeks go on, I can get into work a little sooner and much more often.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Creeping Thoughts

I have been told that dealing with cancer is a personal journey – a life long emotional roller coaster that can, at times, be very lonely. Friends and family do all they can to support and lift me up, and I am very grateful for that, however, there are more times than I care to admit when my mind says “Hey, what if…” or “Are you sure this is working?” Man, I hate those creeping thoughts, and they always seem to come in the middle of the night, when I’m the loneliest. The other night, I had some discomfort. I’ve been awaken by pain before, and after a couple minutes I was able to tell myself “You idiot, you were playing tennis with Brittany and forgot to stretch afterward” or “Stupid, you and Alicia spent the day tilling the garden, now go back to sleep.” Lately however, my mind starts saying stuff like “You didn’t do anything today, you shouldn’t be sore.” Then it’s on – those creeping thoughts begin with the worst visions imaginable. I try to think of all the possible reasons for the aching, but creeping thoughts keep coming back. I try finding something on the television, but there are those creeping thoughts. I grab my comfort cross, which helps me focus on prayer, but creeping thoughts are still there. It ends up being a long night and I am so relieved to see the sun coming up. Throughout the rest of the day, I get the chance to talk with friends and family and with their patience and understanding, those creeping thoughts start to fade. I am relieved and thankful that God is able to use my friends and family to help me through this part of my emotional roller coaster, even though I know that creeping thoughts will find their way back.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Making a mess of the sand!


While I know that I have a personal journey ahead of me, I also know I have a personal relationship with Jesus and get choked up every time I read "Footprints in the Sand." There have been many times when I looked behind me and saw only one set of footprints in the sand, and know that Jesus was carrying me during my lowest times. There have been some times when I saw two sets of footprints, and realize that Jesus was walking with me during the best times. There have also been times when I looked back and saw hundreds of footprints, but none of them my own. It didn't take long to realize that while Jesus is always with me, he also lives in my family and friends, letting them help lift me up, walking with us all. For me it is comforting to know that my journey ahead will be eased with the support of friends, family and my savior Christ Jesus - Thank you for making a mess of that sand!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chemo

I had no idea what to expect during chemotherapy and was pretty anxious on the eve of my first treatment. Now that I have completed a cycle, I want to try and give you a little view of what my normal treatment day is like.

My treatment cycle is three weeks long with two weeks on and one week off, to give my immunities time to build back up. I am actually only getting chemo on one day a week. So for example, I go the 1st Monday, the 2nd Monday and then have the 3rd Monday off. My last Monday went like this. Herman, my father-in-law drove me to Lincoln for an appointment at 10 am. Five minutes after arriving, I am headed back to an exam room to have my port prepped and have several blood samples drawn. Shortly after my initial surgery, I had a Port-A-Cath or "port" installed. It gives them a place to connect the IV’s without having to poke holes in my arm. While I am waiting for the blood test results, a Nurse Practitioner goes through some standard questions, asking how my week went – health wise, and I get a brief check up. Next, I head to the treatment room, which is in this case a converted conference room with four comfy recliners positioned facing the front of the room. The normal treatment room is undergoing renovation. The temporary treatment room is in the center of the complex so there is limited cell phone reception and no wireless Internet access. Also, since this is just a temporary treatment room, there isn’t any television…good thing I brought a book. We are still waiting for my lab results, but the nurse gets me started with a couple injections (an anti-nausea medicine and something else) and then starts to give me ½ of a small bag of Potassium Chloride to flush my port, again. Next, comes a large bag of Potassium Chloride. The IV solution goes through a mechanical pump that makes a steady clicking sound. When all four chairs are full and all the pumps going, it almost sounds rhythmic, like a house full of pendulum clocks. Finally, the lab comes back and everything is within their ranges, and more importantly, my kidneys are still doing well. Now I get the go ahead to take a very expensive pill that helps control nausea - Emend. Today, I have a visitor. My pastor and good friend Chuck shows up for some support. He had to promise the receptionist that he would not stay very long though because the room is not really set up for visitors. After finishing the Lactated Ringers, I get the first of two bags of chemo drugs – Irinotecan and CISplatin. In between those bags I get another couple of syringes of something that keeps me from getting diarrhea right away. It is about this time that my body decides that with all those fluids going in, I need to get rid of some. Now I have to go to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes, and of course every time I move the pump alarm goes off and shuts down. It seems that I have a “fussy” port and have to lie pretty still or it restricts the flow and sets off the alarm. Every so often, the nurse brings around a basket of snacks with pretzels, chips, and candy, but I am not very hungry. Must be all the fluids I’m getting. After I finish the chemo drugs, and the remainder of the first “flush” bag, I am finished. From the time I walked in the door to the time I am walking out is right at 4 ½ hours. My wife, Denise shows up at the door just a few minutes after I sit down in the waiting area and we are on the way home. Later that night, around 3:00 am the nausea and diarrhea kick in, lasting for about three days.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Lucky"


Those of you, who know me, also know my dog Lucky. Lucky is a Sitzu that has been part of our family for the past 10 years. A while back, Lucky and I were out for a short walk – he doesn’t like long walks. When Lucky decided to take care of business, I diverted my eyes to give him a little privacy. When I looked down, I saw the biggest four-leaf clover. It was much bigger than the surrounding clover and seemed to radiate and just jump out at me. Now, if this had happened three months ago, I would have plucked that thing and rushed out to the nearest convenience store to buy a lottery ticket. But with all that was happening, I wasn’t feeling very lucky, and let it be while we finished our walk. Later, I shared it with my family; the girls were amazed that I had found it and even took some photos. Eventually, we plucked it and pressed it between some books. That was a month ago and I still haven’t bought that lottery ticket. Instead I use that four-leaf clover to remind me how lucky I have been – wonderful childhood, loving wife, healthy bright children, close relationship with my parents and siblings, wonderful in-laws, a career I am proud of, coworkers who are also good friends…I could go on, but you get the idea. I quietly hope and pray that allowing me to find that four-leaf clover is God’s way of telling me that everything will be all right. In the mean time it is a reminder to take time and enjoy the little things and of how lucky I truly am.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Just the Facts!" ...but with feeling!

I had intended for this entry to be in keeping with the Dragnet quote “Just the facts!” however it’s hard to talk about my diagnosis and treatment without some emotion.

For about six months I had been seeing my physician about some nausea with slight abdominal pain. OTC Prilosec and prescriptions to treat stomach acid worked for a short while, but then the symptoms would come back. They performed an Endoscopy of my stomach and found some bacteria (not uncommon) and put me on antibiotics. A couple days later, while at work, the pain was overwhelming requiring me to go to the Hospital Emergency Room. As a result of that visit, and a CT scan, they found a “thickening” in my colon. Six hours later I was in surgery undergoing a colon resection. The surgeon later told me that he removed a tumor the size of a small apple from my colon and that he suspected the cancer had started in my appendix, because he was unable to find anything left of my appendix. “Cancer?” Whoa, I am only 47 years old and have been relatively healthy all my life, how is this possible? That word, “cancer” started me thinking about all the possible consequences associated with that disease. I had so many responsibilities and so many family moments I was looking forward too. I spent the next week recovering with the help of family, friends and the nursing staff. I made some new friends too, and even though I cannot remember names, they are friends just the same. Two weeks after surgery, I was scheduled for a set of scans to find out if there were other tumors. The scans did not show any large tumor masses, and even though the oncologist did not have the pathology report back yet, he felt that my cancer was a common type of colon cancer. That seem like some good news to me. Two weeks earlier while I was still in the hospital, my parents had urged me to get an opinion from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, but there was a month wait to get in. The next 30 days was a month of reflection and realizing the enjoyment in the simple things. The MD Anderson trip was emotionally difficult to say the least. We learned that I had rare Neuroendocrine Carcinoma of the Colon, and that there were a couple small tumors still remaining in my colon lining and liver. The oncologist stressed that while this was a different type of cancer than I had initially been diagnosed with, that it responds quickly to chemotherapy and suggested that I begin treatments within the coming week. I am so grateful that my wife and parents were with me during this time, however the drive home from Houston was a long one. There is just something about being home when you are down. Within the week I was beginning chemotherapy that will last 6 to 12 months.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Loving family and great friends

The first thing I want to come out of this blog is to let everybody know the importance of a loving family and truly good friends. Through this ordeal, I have come to realize how truly blessed I am to have such a loving carrying family, and great friends! My biggest admiration comes from something that shouldn’t surprise me. I have always know my family and friends were very good and caring people, and now also realize that so many of them have a strong religious faith. So many prayers have been sent and I am grateful to have such wonderful support. To all my family and friends, though I always try to show it, but rarely say it...God Bless You, I Love You All!