Friday, April 30, 2010

"I Misread the Instructions"

(Friday, April 30, 2010) “I Misread the Instructions”

This has been a good week. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts. I walk twice a day and although the walks are tiring, I “recover” from the walks pretty quickly.

Tuesday night Patra will drive me to my Men’s Bible Study since it is the last night of this year’s study. The Bible study started 11 years ago and this was my 10th year having the privilege of serving as the Teaching Director. We meet once a week for 30 weeks, basically following a school calendar. I had to step down after my diagnosis and treatment began. The study continued without missing a beat. I am really proud of all of the men who stepped up and filled in. Several men have told me how meaningful this year’s study was for them. I can’t wait to see them. The men have been very faithful to lift me up in prayer and I know that my spirit will be lifted up by being with them for a little while.

I am also looking forward to the day I can attend church and my Bible study class at church. Fortunately they don’t have a “year end,” so I have some time to keep getting stronger before I make that trip.

My next 3 posts involve “incidents” from each of my children’s lives which have taught me lessons about reading.

Jenny’s story occurred on her first day of first grade. The plan was for me to be home early that day to take care of the children so Patra could attend a class. I got tied up at work so Patra dropped Jenny, Emily and Adam off at my parents’ house.
It was late when I arrived to pick them up.

When we were in the car, I asked Jenny about her first day and whether she had any homework. She said she did.

Since it was now bed time, I told Jenny that as soon as we got home, I would put Emily and Adam to bed and then I would help her complete her homework.

[What occurred next was entirely predictable recognizing my psychological make up. My brother and I have often wondered how our parents, neither of whom completed high school, instilled such a high regard in us for education, including making sure that homework assignments were timely completed.]

Jenny informed me that her homework assignment was written on a note from her teacher. As we entered the house I quickly grabbed the note and read the assignment. I put Emily and Adam to bed and went to my chair and called for Jenny to bring me “Book A” because her assignment was to read “Book A.”

Things did not go smoothly.

“Jenny, please read the book.”

“It’s my first day of school. I don’t know how to read.”

“Sound out the words, but hurry, we have to read this book tonight.”

“I’m tired. I want to go to bed.”

“My daughter is not going to be behind the first day of school.” “Read.”

After much anguish and many tears, I did what any American dad in my position would have done.

“OK, Jenny, you can go to bed, but your mother will get you up early so you can finish reading Book A. You are not going to be behind when you go to school.”

When Patra came home she asked me if I had seen Book A. “Have I seen Book A? I am very familiar with Book A.” As I turned in the chair to answer her question, it all came together. In her hand, Patra was holding a book cover. The note from the teacher had said “Cover Book A.” The assignment was to put a book cover on Book A. I had interpreted “cover book A” as an instruction to read the book. After all, if I had been told to “cover a hearing” for another lawyer, it would mean totally handle the hearing.

Jenny and I had completed about 6 weeks worth of “homework.”

There was some good that came out of my misreading the instructions. To this day she has never asked me to help her with homework.

We are often guilty of “misreading.” It is more likely to occur when we are tired or frustrated or preoccupied with other thoughts while reading. I do not think I would have made this error if I had not been running late, frustrated by the demands of the day, not wanting to be embarrassed by my daughter being behind in her work. Sometimes we read without thinking. (No thinking person would have thought a teacher would assign an entire book (although it was a short book) on the first day of first grade?)

Particularly are these issues true when reading the Bible. We come looking for confirmation of our positions or opinions instead of seeking direction, inspiration or instruction. That may be part of the reason that people with diametrically opposed opinions on issues will each claim Biblical support for their position.

As I have had some additional time lately to read my Bible, I have intentionally tried to approach my study with an open mind – What is being said? What am I to learn from this passage? Is there something I need to change in my life because of the teaching of His Word? I’m trying to put the demands and concerns of the day out of my mind and I’m trying to think about what I’m reading.

Years after Jenny and I had our encounter with “Book A,” I told that story during a speech to a group of lawyers. I explained that fortunately I had not permanently damaged Jenny’s education as she had obtained a degree in Business Management from Auburn. One of the lawyers in the back of the room spoke up and in a rich southern drawl said “if you hadn’t messed her up, she might have gone to a good school and gotten a good education. Roll Tide!”


Thursday, April 22, 2010

"My Young Inspiration"

(Friday, April 23, 2010) “My Young Inspiration”

Patra has had to assume another role in this journey. She is now my primary physical terrorist – I mean therapist – encourager. I need to gain strength and a key to achieving that is walking. We try to walk twice a day. The problem is that sometimes walking is not a priority for me. It requires a lot of effort and frankly, I would just as soon stay in the recliner. This requires Patra to use all of her skills – persuasion, begging, cajoling, bribery. I like bribery best. I recently negotiated an extra Oreo cookie (approximately 50 mg sodium) for completing a walk.

I plan to return to work in about a month. That is really exciting. I look at the calendar everyday and am motivated to get stronger by realizing that the day is approaching when I can go back to work. (I know that some of you are thinking that it is the drugs which have effected my thinking - "you want to go back to work?")

Wednesday night I went to Andrew’s T-ball game. Jenny arrived early and parked near the field Andrew was playing on. When we arrived, I sat in her car and watched the action. Although I felt like I was watching the game through binoculars, it was still great to see Andrew and his Countryside T-ball Rays.

At the T-ball game I also saw a young boy with leukemia who has been an inspiration to me and many others. He was there to watch his younger brother who plays on Andrew’s team. He is part of a wonderful family and his maternal grandparents are some of our best friends.

I remember the day we found out he had leukemia. My daughter Jenny is in the same life care group with his parents and her cell phone began to buzz with text messages. Very quickly, a prayer chain had formed and people were earnestly praying for the family.

His mother keeps a wonderfully written blog about his journey which is a fabulous testimony to the family’s recognition that the most important things in life are faith, family and friends. (It is no wonder then why the blog appeals so much to me.)

His courage and strength in dealing with his treatment were an inspiration to me as I later began to deal with my own “nasty little diseases.”

When I was in the hospital at Moffitt I would often pray for this young boy and a number of other people that were dealing with some serious health issues. But I confess that my prayers for this young one were a struggle. As I prayed, I found myself asking questions which I had successfully resolved for myself but because of his age, I was having difficulty accepting for him. Why? He is so young? He is too young.

I reasoned that because I was older I was better able to handle a journey like this. After all, I had studied the Bible for years, I had sat through more sermons, I had read more books, I had been involved in significant doctrinal discussions, I had ... yada yada yada.

One night, the verses from Luke where Jesus speaks to His disciples came to my mind.

Luke 18:16-17 (NASV) But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.

I may have been older, but with age also comes the life experiences which cause us to lose our simple, pure, childlike faith . As adults we may become hardened or cynical or skeptical or overanalyze. We may question the goodness of God. Far too often, we think that we know more ... even more than God.

I realized how much God loved this young one and I realized how his simple, pure faith would serve him very well as he fought his battle.

My prayer struggle ceased. I had been inspired and taught.

When I saw him Wednesday night playing at the ball fields, I could see for myself the purity and innocence. I bet he doesn’t have to be bribed to exercise. His parents probably have the opposite problem – getting him to rest when he needs to. He has a great smile. I’m going to smile more – I practiced today in front of the mirror and I think it makes my hair look longer.

I wonder how God will use him and his family in the years to come.

His grandparents told me that they were praying for me. A little part of me wanted to tell them that they were relieved from praying for me – they could spend all of their time and effort praying for him – I would understand. But a bigger part of me is incredibly thankful for their prayers. I know that their prayers, like my own, have been shaped by what we are going through. I know that their prayers have an intensity because of the love they have for their grandson and an understanding of how his illness has impacted him and them. I am now a beneficiary of their focused and intense prayers.

I want my own prayers to be more focused, more intense.

Young friend, as Paul told Timothy, don’t let anyone minimize the impact you have because of how young you are. You have been an inspiration to this old man and you have also been used to teach this old man some great truths about how much God loves us both.

1 Timothy 4:12 (NASV) Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.


Friday, April 16, 2010

"Freedom and Responsibility"

(Friday, April 16, 2010) "Freedom and Responsibility"

Quick Update: Patra told me earlier this week not to focus on a day – “I don’t feel as good today as I did yesterday” – but instead to compare how I am doing to a week ago. That was excellent advice because I clearly do see improvement from that longer perspective.

The medication change seems to have worked. I have not had an episode of severe chest pain in over a week. That is wonderful.

I took hormones earlier this week that were prescribed to stimulate my appetite. They work REALLY well. Megan and Avery better watch out. “You have so much sugar, Grandpa is going to eat you up,” may be literally fulfilled.

On March 4, 1993, Jim Valvano, the former coach of the N.C. State basketball team (which won the NCAA Tournament in 1983) was awarded the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first ever ESPY awards. Jimmy V died of metastatic cancer later that year. At one point during his televised acceptance speech, he was told that he needed to wrap it up, his time was up. Valvano stopped his prepared speech and told the audience:

“That screen is flashing up there thirty seconds. Like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty seconds? You got a lot, hey va fa napoli, buddy. You got a lot.” [Disclaimer: I have no idea what the Italian phrase means.]

I have watched his speech several times over the years and it is clear that Valvano was letting the world know that his cancer had given him a freedom. In light of his diagnosis and prognosis, Valvano wasn’t worried about going past his allotted time, even on national television where every second is measured in tens of thousands of dollars.

Many times since my diagnosis I have sensed a freedom I never had before. These “nasty little diseases” have given me a new perspective on my life. What’s important in my life has become clearer and I am more focused on those things. I surprise myself by the number of things that aren't of great concern now. Only a few months ago, I would have spent time and energy trying to fix unimportant concerns.

Part of my new perspective is an appreciation for the priorities of life. Faith, family and friends are most important.

There is an even greater freedom than the freedom from a serious illness. In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes some profound statements about faith and freedom. John 8:31-32 … “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine: and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:36 “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Unfortunately, over time, we often relinquish some of faith's freedom because the distractions of life distort the perspective and priorities of our faith.

With freedom comes responsibility. I struggle with this part of the equation. For some reason(s), God has allowed me to take this journey. He knows His plans for me and His plans are always good. (Jeremiah 29:11) What does He expect of me? Will I be open to whatever His plans are? Will I be faithful to His call? Will my answer be “Yes” to whatever He asks?

I don’t want to waste this cancer. I want to be responsible as I enjoy the freedom I have been given.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Are We There Yet?"

(Wednesday, April 14, 2010)

“Are We There Yet?”

When we started this journey (and blog!) Patra and I didn’t know exactly where we were going or how long it would take to get there. We still don’t. After completing the bone marrow transplant and being able to come home, the pace of the journey has definitely slowed down. It is really nice not to have to go to Moffitt every day for tests or treatments. It is exactly one week today since my last transfusion and I.V.

When I began the blog, I was hopeful that it would allow me to reflect on my faith, my family and my friends. Additionally, I wanted it to be an encouragement to others. It has been wonderfully therapeutic to take time to think about how the journey is proceeding. More than anything, you have been such an encouragement to me. It is humbling to know that people care enough to follow along on this journey and are regularly offering prayers and best wishes.

You have been there when we traveled some rough and uncharted territories. You went with us when the path closed and we were suddenly on an unexpected detour.

I do not want to abuse you for being such faithful friends. I don’t want to have anyone calling out, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Even worse would be for someone to yell, “Stop the bus. I want to get off.” I don’t want to wear you out.

I hope you will still follow along and pray. Your support means more than you could know.

So I have decided to begin posting new blog entries once a week beginning this Friday. Not only will this help me to spend more time composing the posts, it will also give you a chance to recharge for the rest of the journey. If something unexpected or significant occurs, I will supplement the weekly report.

As always, Patra and I send our love (and thanks.)


Monday, April 12, 2010

"My Friends Lift Me Up"

(Monday, April 12, 2010)
“My Friends Lift Me Up”

We knew there would be days like today. Today has not been a good day. I feel kind of puny. I have very little strength and just want to sleep. Eating has been difficult. Food I normally like doesn’t taste good. The worst part is that I know it scares Patra. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

I have tried to keep track of some of the great statements people have unintentionally made to me during this journey. One of my favorites came just before I stopped working. An attorney friend who would not see me until after the procedure wanted to give me an encouraging word. Finally he said, “Bob, after the bone marrow transplant, you will be a new man… You will still be a man, right.”

Although I think he was joking, just in case, I assured him that a bone marrow transplant was not the same as a sex change operation. It is interesting however how much of a change it can make. We were told that for those transplant patients who receive their new stem cells from a donor, they may have a different blood type after the transplant.

While I was in the hospital, I would often think of the gospel story where 4 friends bring a paralyzed man to Jesus. When I started feeling good enough, I would read the story in each of the gospels where it is related to us. Matthew, Mark and Luke all report this particular story. Jesus was teaching a crowd which included many of the day’s religious leaders. Because of the crowd, the paralyzed man's friends were unable to get him to Jesus; so they went on the roof and lowered their friend down to Jesus. (My lawyer friends will spend way too much time here wondering who paid for the damage to the roof.)

Jesus forgives the man’s sins, which infuriates the religious leaders. “Who is this who forgives sins?” Jesus knows exactly what they are thinking and says “Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or get up and walk?” In order to prove that Jesus did in fact have the authority or power to forgive sins, He then says to the man, “Get up and walk.” He does and everyone is amazed.

There are so many lessons and truths from this story. But the encouraging lesson for me has been to think about how this man’s friends brought him to Jesus when he was unable to do it on his own. There have been so many times, especially days like today, when I am grateful to have friends lifting me up in prayer.

Thanks for being that type of friend.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

"It's What's Inside That Counts"

(Saturday, April 10, 2010)
“It’s What’s Inside That Counts”

Many years ago, I was told that if you really want to know what’s in a tube of toothpaste, you have to squeeze it. If you really want to know what a person is made of, look at what comes out when they are squeezed.

This journey has not been easy for our children. There is obviously never a good time for a family when it comes to something like this, but it does seem that this was an especially difficult time for Jenny, Emily and Adam to have my “nasty little diseases” added to their plates.

They are married with young children. Two grandchildren were born in October. When Megan and Avery were born, I was just beginning the process of discovering the diagnosis of my problems. Andrew will be 5 in less than a month and Austin will be 4 at then end of this month. At that age, they require a lot of attention. Emily and Adam have sold their houses since my diagnosis. Emily moved from Texas to Florida. Adam quit his job as a police officer and started law school only months before my diagnosis. Emily is in the final semester of course work for her Ph.D. before she starts her dissertation. Jenny not only helps run my office but is incredibly active in her church and women’s Bible study. She is way too busy. (I wonder where she got that from?)

Patra and I could not be more proud of them. They have been squeezed and some incredibly wonderful stuff has come out. They have proven themselves and probably proven to themselves that they are more capable than they could have ever imagined.

They keep up with us and are always willing to help in any way. I’m sure they have been outside their comfort zone on a number of occasions but they have hung in there.

When friends have offered to help, we responded “thanks, but Jenny, Emily and Adam are helping.”

The Bible says that children are to honor their father and mother. You have honored us through this process.

In the best possible way, I don’t believe that our relationship will ever be the same as it was before. Sure, you will still laugh at some of the things Mom and I say and do. And Mom and I will still question some of your choices. That is a parental prerogative I am not willing to give up. But I still believe our relationship will be different. I remember with my own parents there came a time when it seemed in some respects that I had become the parent and they were the children. Our relationship was still wonderful but it was different. Now, because of these “nasty little diseases” Mom and I will need to rely on you more than we have ever had to before. We value your input more because we need your input more than we ever have.

You will always be our children but as you have been squeezed you have responded wonderfully. There was some great stuff inside you.

Jenny, Emily, Adam - I wish you did not have to go through this – honestly, I wish I didn’t have to go through this – but Mom and I could not imagine going through it without you. Thanks.


Friday, April 9, 2010

"Let me Intoduce you to Flo Margie"

Friday, April 9, 2010
“Let me introduce you to Flo Margie.”

This is one of the most joyful posts I have made. I would encourage you if you have not already done so to first read my post of Sunday, April 4, 2010 – “I Got My Kiss.” If you haven’t read that post, you will miss the blessing of the following comment I received. A couple of days after my post of April 4, 2010, Emily called and said “Dad, Flo just wrote you.” I couldn’t believe it when I went back and read the comment she made.

Today, Patra and I met with Margie when I went to my appointment. I asked her if I could print her comment as my blog because I knew from the people that have seen it that it would bless a lot of people.

And yes, there were lots of hugs and kisses to go around today.

My dear Mr. Bugg,

I want to send you my heart felt thanks for the wonderful letter you wrote on your blog about your experience at Moffitt and me. It was sent to my boss and she forwarded it to many of my co-workers. I cried when I read your story. You are truly filled with Gods spirit and love. He has a wonderful way of bringing his children together.

The day I stopped to talk to you and give you your Kiss was all from my heart. God gave me a compassionate and loving heart. He gives us all a special gift. Thankfully I am able to use my gift every day at Moffitt. I too am a twelve year colon cancer survivor. I was in stage four when I was diagnosed and I am a miracle to be alive. Every day is a blessed day to me and a gift. If I can make one patient a day feel special that is my way of giving back.

I am so glad that your treatment is going well. I will keep you in my prayers every day. I will look forward to seeing you and your wife this Friday. my real name is Margie, but please call me Flo. I consider that a compliment.

May God bless and keep you always.

Margie Schwerdt


With your wife’s permission I will give you your next Kiss here in the lobby for every one to see.

If that doesn’t brighten your day, you need to have your brightener checked


Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Weighty Matters"

Thursday, April 8, 2010
“Weighty Matters”

Life’s unexpected surprises. Yesterday (Wednesday) Patra and I spent the day at Moffitt. I had an episode of severe chest pain (GERD – Gastro-Esophogeal Reflux Disease) Tuesday night and Wednesday morning my nausea returned with a vengence. “Danica Patra” quickly (very quickly) drove us to Tampa and I was immediately placed in a bed and treatment was started. When we first arrived, it was thought we would need to spend the night at Moffitt. I am grateful that the treatments were very effective and we were able to leave the hospital about 5:30. Unfortunately, I had another GERD episode Wednesday night but thankfully the nausea has not returned. It is the nausea and resulting rapid loss of fluid that causes me significant problems.

There was good news. My blood work came back with improved numbers from last week. White blood cells, potassium, platelets were all significantly better.

I told Patra in December that 2010 was one year where the doctors had guaranteed I would succeed with two of my New Year’s resolutions – I would lose weight and I would work less this year. (Be careful what you resolve or wish for!) Because of the problem retaining fluid, the edema (swelling) had actually resulted in a significant weight gain. I believe my highest weight during my hospitalization was 230 pounds. When I was released from the hospital on March 24, my weight was 215. That became a significant number because some medication is to be taken only if my weight exceeds 215. Yesterday, I weighed in at187! For those of us who are math challenged, that means I have lost 28 pounds in 14 days – an average loss of 2 pounds per day. Jenny Craig, Slim-Fast, Weight Watchers and NutriSystems – eat your hearts out.

Most of that weight loss comes from eliminating the fluid retention. I still have edema but it is much better than it was. The doctor commented yesterday that I actually have ankles and knees.

Several nights ago I had a discussion with God about the lessons He is teaching me. I told Him that I thought I had learned everything I needed to know about nausea. I was pleading my case as best I could. I mentioned to Patra the next day that my definite impression was that He would not promise me that I would not have any further problems with nausea. However, it was very clear that I should rest in the truth that He would be with me every step of the way. While I did not enjoy Wednesday morning and will continue to pray that the nausea will stop completely, there was again that indescribable peace in knowing that He is with me and that He cares.

A lighter Bob

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Little Setback

(Jenny posting for my Dad)

Well, last night and this morning will have to fall under the "minor setback" category (although my dad may disagree with how he felt being categorized as "minor").

After an all-night battle with a GERD attack (esophageal spasms that mimic the pain & severe discomfort of a heart attack), my mom called Moffitt around midnight last night to discuss his condition.

Because Moffitt doesn't have an emergency room (and my Dad can't be exposed to the germs in another hospital's ER), they instructed my mom to administer pain meds through the night.

In addition to the GERD attack, he also battled an extreme case of nausea well into this morning.

They went back to Moffitt today for lots of fluids. Although they thought he might also need blood products, the good news is that his blood levels are VERY good today!

We still don't know whether they'll keep him over there for the night... but we're all grateful that he's being monitored and improving so well throughout today.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and thoughts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Strength and Weakness"

(Monday, April 5, 2010)
“Strength and Weakness”

One of the songs I have listened to often for the past couple of months is “Come to Jesus,” by Point of Grace. Early on, it says that the song is for the “weary and the weak.” That would include me. I am very weary and very weak.

I was weak even before my hospitalization. I was weak even before my diagnosis. In fact, I was weak even before these “nasty little diseases” invaded my world.

Early in this process I became concerned about my weakness. A couple of cancer survivors who I deeply respect delivered a very similar message. “Bob, you are about to enter the battle of your life and the only way you will survive is if you fight like you have never fought before. Don’t ever give up. You beat this with everything you have. Don’t fight fair, but you fight every single day.”

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t understand what they were saying. I did. The problem wasn’t that intellectually I didn’t agree with their premise. I did. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t want to win this fight. I do.

The problem was that that wasn’t me. I mean seriously, for those of you that know me, how many of you think of me in a mixed martial arts context? Or as Rocky Balboa? “And in the red corner, out of Clearwater, Florida, formerly a mediator …”

The problem was that I knew that if it was me fighting the battle, I would lose.

Fortunately, I knew this battle wasn’t dependent upon me and my strength.

2 Cor 1209

As I lay in the hospital, there were so many times that this verse came to me. Usually it was during a particularly difficult time. Instead of mixed martial arts, it was more like tag team wrestling. The “nasty little diseases” were getting to me and I would just reach over and tag my “partner” – the Creator of the universe, all powerful, all knowing. In my mind, after I’d tag Him, I’d just roll over to my corner to rest. His power was perfected in my weakness. Can you imagine how bad an outcome if I had decided to fight in my own strength? So like the verse says, I will boast in my weakness, so that the power of Christ will dwell in me.

By the way, in my mind, whenever He entered the battle, the “nasties” called “time out.” That was sufficient for me. It allowed me to get back in the game. So we haven’t seen yet what will ultimately happen. But we know Who holds the future and He is always good.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

"I Got My Kiss"

(Sunday April 4, 2010)
“I Got My Kiss”

We made our first visit to Moffitt Cancer Center on December 22, 2009. A lot has happened in the last 3 ½ months.

I remember that first day well. We drove to the Gold valet parking lot. It was a busy place. Young men were parking and retrieving cars. Patra and I got out of our car, gave a young man our keys and walked into the building.

We walked into a large reception area and I noticed a large number of wheelchairs. It was obvious that many of the people entering and leaving were very sick. They had cancer. Many had lost their hair from chemotherapy. The reality of my situation hit me. “That is going to be me.” At that moment I was not ready to fully accept the reality. “Maybe there was a mistake in my diagnosis. Maybe there was a new type of treatment (without side effects) for the particular cancer I had.”

I remember the woman at the information desk where we checked in. “Sweetie, how can I help you?” I typically do not like servers at restaurants, particularly young people, who call me “Sweetie.” It often seems forced and insincere. But this was a natural, sincere offer of help. It was as if she recognized me, knew my situation, and understood my feelings.

(Do you remember “Alice,” a television show about 30 years ago where Alice worked at Mel’s Diner with Flo?) This woman immediately reminded me of “Flo.” It was obvious she loved her job and was very good at it. She has never met a person she didn’t know, or a patient she didn’t like. And you couldn’t not like her.

While still in the lobby I heard her call out to a patient who was leaving the building. She ran from the Information Desk to the door and leaned over and kissed the patient and gave her a hug.

My honest thought at the time was not positive. “I am not going to be a patient here long enough for everyone to know me and to be personal friends with all of the employees.”

Well, after many trips to Moffitt beginning that day, I was hospitalized there for the bone marrow transplant from Tuesday, February 23, 2010 until Wednesday, March 24, 2010. After being released from the hospital, there were daily trips to the BMT treatment center until we were allowed to go home last Friday.

I almost always saw “Flo.” I would usually wave or say “hi” as I proceeded to my appointment. Sometimes I was sick and in one of the wheelchairs and Patra would push me past the information desk.

Last Friday, the last thing I had to do before we could leave was get my line/catheter/port removed. That was done in the G.I. unit on the first floor between the reception area and the main hospital. Basically, after giving me some numbing shots, the doctor grabbed hold of the plastic tubing in my chest and ripped it out. I still get faint thinking about what he did. They gave me an ice bag and told me to hold it on my chest. Patra needed to fill one more prescription at the pharmacy before we could leave, so I sat in a chair in the hallway of the hospital outside the G.I. unit.

After having just had the removal procedure, and while sitting there holding the ice bag on my chest, “Flo” walked by on her way to lunch. I smiled as she passed by. When she saw me sitting there, she stopped.

“How are you?”

“I’m going home today.”

“How wonderful. God bless you,” she said as she quickly walked over to where I was sitting. “That is great news. You will be home for Easter. Don’t you come back to see us too often. Take care of yourself.” And then, she bent over, grabbed my face and kissed me on the cheek. “God bless you, Sweetie.”

In an instant I realized how much I had changed since December 22. You may find this hard to believe, but I am proud of my bald head. I am a cancer patient. I look at my fellow cancer patients, especially the new ones, in a different way. I have so much compassion for them, and I am honored to be identified with them. I pray that their treatments will go as smoothly as possible and that their treatment will be effective.

More than anything, I’m glad I got my kiss. I only wish it had been in the lobby so more people would have seen it.

I do have an assignment for myself as we return to Moffitt this week. I must find out her real name.

I sure hope it’s “Flo.” That would be another way she would cheer my heart. I only hope I am half as effective at any ministry God gives me as she is at hers.


Happy Easter!

Easter 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

"It is a Good Friday"

(Friday, April 2, 2010)
“It is Good Friday”

I had mentioned earlier this week that I knew this Easter would be especially meaningful. I had no idea how prophetic I would be. The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind of activity and emotion.

Believe it or not, when you read this, Patra and I will be home. Our home, Clearwater, mi casa. I am composing this at the apartment as Patra packs our van.

This came about suddenly and unexpectedly to us. Yesterday afternoon we had blood work drawn and then a meeting with my primary doctor. When she mentioned that she would like for us to be able to have Easter at home, I thought it was an April fool’s joke. (Yesterday was April 1.) But my doctor is not the joking kind of lady and Patra and I looked at each other wondering if we were hearing correctly.

Please understand that we each had mixed emotions. While you want to get home more than anything in the world, there is also some fear that comes with leaving the security of the cancer center. We have known that if any problems developed, we were very close to help and assistance. We are not released from Moffitt’s care but the doctor felt that we would be able to commute from Clearwater at this point for further treatment. So next week we have an appointment and we will make the drive across the causeway. I am confident that by that time we will both be very thankful for being able to sleep in our own bed.

There were some real issues that had to be resolved. I needed to have my line/catheter removed before we would be allowed to leave. Unfortunately, my platelet count was very low yesterday and the numbers would not permit me to have the procedure. The doctor said she would order a transfusion of platelets which I could do Thursday night and then Friday morning they would recheck my platelets. So about 5:00 p.m. last night I started a transfusion of platelets and we left Moffitt about 7:00 p.m. last night.

As I was receiving my transfusion, I was in a cubicle next to a young man who was also receiving a transfusion. Emotions were running high everywhere. He was not cheerful and it certainly caused us to understand that things may not work out for our release today. He had been doing very well for a couple of weeks and had made arrangements with his doctors to go home for the Easter weekend. Unfortunately, his lab work yesterday was not good and as he was being transfused, he was also calling his family to let them know he would not be coming home. Every case here is specific and I have no idea what the details of his situation are. But I feel for him and I think I understand somewhat his frustration and disappointment.

I could not sleep last night. I had so many questions, so many emotions, so many thoughts, so many praises.

My blood work was done first thing this morning and my platelets were great.

The procedure to remove the line was done about 11:00 a.m. I must be very careful over the next couple of days not to do anything that might cause bleeding where the line was inserted. Honestly, from lack of sleep, emotions and the procedure itself, I don’t feel like doing much anyway.

Again, thank you for all of your prayers. During the night last night, I thought about the blog and I hope over the next couple of weeks to share with you some of the lessons that I think I have learned throughout the past couple of months.

From Clearwater,


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