Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Scriptures and Songs"

(Sunday February 28, 2010)
"Scriptures and Songs"

Today is day 6 at Moffitt. We have never been in a hospital for 6 days. (Patra says we have never been on vacation for 6 straight days.) While the people have been wonderful, we are getting a little tired. More than a little tired, some of the time now, exhausted.

I am still dealing with the fluid retention. Today was the fourth day (I believe) of treatment with protein and then a diuretic.

At times, I feel a little helpless, but never hopeless. There is a big difference. My hope is in the Lord and that is secure beyond anything.

Because of not feeling strong, I don’t have the energy to read. As most of you know, that is my primary hobby so I miss it in one sense but don’t have a desire to do it.
I am so grateful for growing up in a Christian home and being taught the truth of the Bible and memory verses from an early age. Now, wonderful thoughts come to my mind at extraordinary times. It is amazing to me how comforting scripture and hymns and songs are at this time.

Just a little example from this afternoon - they were working on an I.V. and it was turning out to be a process. I was under my headset listening to my music and thinking about far more important things. I thought I’d share with you a couple of the titles to the songs I was listening to which made the time pass wonderfully. “Great is Thy Faithfulness,“ “How Deep the Father’s Love for Me,” “God is in Control,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “We Shall Behold Him,” “Wonder Working God,” and “I Will Rise.” Now if you are listening to those songs, how could you not be at peace, at rest, and comforted.

I wasn’t surprised when the nurse just told me after taking my vital signs. “Mr. Bugg, your blood pressure is wonderful.” You may not be in the hospital but you might try a few of these songs for your blood pressure.

Bob

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Five Stars"

(Saturday, February 27, 2010)

"Five Stars"


Update from Emily:

I hope that Dad will be able to post his own update today, but until then, I wanted to share a quick note:

I was able to visit Dad last night for a few minutes after his bone marrow transplant. He was doing very well (considering all that his body had been through that day)! I took my three-year-old son, Austin, to the hospital for the first time tonight. Since children are not allowed near Dad's room, Austin stayed in the family lounge with Grandma while I visited Grandpa.

As we walked into the family lounge, Austin immediately noticed a game of checkers on the table and a huge t.v. on the wall. Can we watch t.v.? Austin asked Grandma as soon as she walked in the room. "Of course," Grandma said. After my short visit with my Dad, I went to pick up Austin in the family lounge and noticed his tongue was a surprising shade of green.

"Grandma and I found a green ice pop in the freezer!" Austin told me elated.

On the way down to the main lobby, I allowed Austin to push all of the elevator buttons. As we walked out into the parking garage, Austin looked up at me, "Mom, this is an awesome hotel that Grandpa is staying in!"

So, dad, although you might not think so at times, the combination of checkers, t.v., green ice pops and elevator buttons has Austin rating your "hotel" with five stars!

We love you!

Here are some pictures of Dad in his five star hotel.

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Adam, Dad, and Emily on Dad's "rest day"

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Mom's "suite" for the next three weeks

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Dad holding his special gift from Sharon (Adam's wife)

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Day Zero"

Friday, February 26, 20010
“Day Zero”

As a bone marrow transplant patient I am learning a new language. Today is Day Zero, the day of my transplant. From this point forward the doctors and nurses will refer to “Day plus 1”, “Day plus 2,” etc. I have met patients over the last couple of months “I am day plus 50 day”, “plus 100. “ I am “three years past transplant” - always referring back to Day Zero.

When I asked why they start today and not the day I came into the hospital, the nurse said because today is your new birth.

Wow. I have had a natural birthday almost 60 years ago, a spiritual rebirth almost 50 years ago, and now my cancer is giving me a re-boot. (It was interesting to me that because of the chemo therapy destroying my bone marrow, I will need to have my childhood innoculations redone. I told the doctor it will be fun to go to the pediatrician’s office with Megan and Avery and tell them that Grandpa and the girls are all there for our “puppy shots.”

Call it what you want, but I woke up this morning knowing that today is the day the Lord has made. I am going to rejoice and be glad in it.

It appears that next week may be a difficult week with side effects. Based on yesterday, I am probably not going to be able to write for several days next week. The girls will keep you advised. Please know that on the days I am unable to write, those are probably the days I would most solicit your prayers. There is a new commercial on television where a bridge has been destroyed and the beer truck can’t make the delivery to the town. The town people all immediately run and gather together to form a human bridge so that the truck can drive across them and make its delivery. I see your prayers as my friends coming together and supporting me to get to the other side. Do you understand how important that makes each one of you in supporting me? I do.

They tell me they will need to infuse about 10 bags of stem cells today and that it will be a long day. Just to keep you advised, I think we made some progress yesterday on the swelling. I haven’t seen the doctor this morning so I hope she agrees. I do know that they are going to have some issues to deal with today in that regard because the infusion of the stem cells also requires I.V. fluids. Please pray for good decisions to be made in that regard.

Since this is a birthday, I am really looking forward to my cake and ice cream!
God Bless!

Bob

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Rest Day"

(Thursday, February 25, 2010)

"Rest Day"


Update from Emily:

I am currently sitting with dad up at the hospital, and he wanted to send out a quick update.

He finished his high-dose chemotherapy yesterday, and today is what is referred to as a "rest" day. Unfortunately, since he still has significant swelling, this "rest day" will include another treatment of protein and diruretics. Tomorrow is the transplant day. Tomorrow will involve a long transfusion of his collected stem cells back into his body. He is having some side effects as his blood counts are falling after the chemotherapy, but the doctors and nurses have responded quickly providing symptomatic relief.

Thank you again for following our family on this journey! I took some pictures of his room at the hospital today and hope to upload them soon.

Love to you all,

Emily

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Getting Wired"

(Wednesday, February 24, 2010)
“Getting Wired”

Patra and I checked in to Moffitt at 11:00 am on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, the initial examination and lab reports showed that I was “unbalanced.” (OK friends, be nice, not mentally unbalanced but an unbalanced fluid level.) My protein level had fallen even further than on Monday. My edema (swelling) was bad, REAL bad. That resulted in a need for lots of medications during the afternoon and early evening. I couldn’t begin to tell you the names of all the medications I received orally and by I.V. (This is my way of telling you that if this post doesn’t make sense, it is the drugs.) Speaking of drugs, while Adam was visiting, a nurse informed us that one of the medications would probably make me very “wired and hyper.” My wife and son smiled at each other and began to describe my personality to the nurse. From their description, most people would think I am relatively calm, which I interpreted as boring. I personally would prefer to think I am working on trying to develop one of the fruits of the Spirit – self-control. Under either interpretation, I would admit that I am not often “wired.”

Since there is a camera in my room to help the nurses monitor me, Adam went to my nurse as he left and asked if they could video tape me while I was “wired and hyper” – he would love to have a copy of that. His request became the talk of the unit – at the shift change, my new nurse mentioned his request to me.

I was impressed by the work of the doctors and the efforts made to give me comfort and healing. I met with a number of different departments getting oriented.
Our room is large, with a television, desk, recliner and a couch that converts into a bed where Patra can sleep.

Adam’s wife, Sharon put together a framed picture collage of our family and grandchildren. It sits right in front of my bed – it is very special – it cheers my heart.

They were finally able to start the chemotherapy at 8:00. Understand, I had never before had chemotherapy. Over the last couple of months, when my mind would go there, I would think of chemotherapy as Alfred Hitchcock or Stephen King on steroids. Just before 8:00 p.m. the pharmacy delivered the chemotherapy medication and there was a somewhat formal protocol between the nurses confirming that I was the proper patient and it was the correct drug. They stood on opposite sides of my bed and read out loud to each other from my wrist band and the drug’s identification numbers. My eyes got larger.

Then my nurse put on a heavy protective gown and heavy blue gloves before she began to hook the drug up to the machine and to me. I confess – my pulse elevated. And then … drum roll … my role consisted totally of sitting in bed eating ice chips and orange freezes to help minimize mouth ulcers and sores while watching the Olympics - hardly the stuff of a Stephen King novel. A verse came to me: “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.”

The doctors and nurses have told me that the side effects and problems from the chemotherapy, which can be many and can be problematic, will probably occur in about a week.

I have my second chemotherapy Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m.
Oh, in case you were wondering, I don’t think I was wired or hyper but I do remember asking my nurse about midnight if she wanted me to recite the first 7 places of the winners of all the Alpine skiing events for the last 4 winter Olympics. In any order she chose. I don’t think that is being wired – maybe babbling.

My thanks to Jenny or Emily for deleting 20 pages of extraneous material from this post.
Bob

Note from Emily – just because I think pictures are fun, I am adding a picture of Adam, Sharon, and their precious baby, Avery to this post (since dad mentioned them). Many of my dad’s friends haven’t seen Adam in a while and I think that pictures are always a welcome addition to any blog.

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Additional note from Emily: my mom asked me to do this about a week ago - and I just now remembered - I think I have chemo brain! If anyone would like to email my parents rather than commenting on the blog, please feel free to email them at patrabugg@gmail.com. Jenny and I also keep "mommy blogs" and would love to have you visit any time to see additional pictures of Bob's family.

Jenny's blog: www.mom2drew.blogspot.com
Emily's blog: www.emilybugg.blogspot.com

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Checking In"

(Tuesday, February 23, 2010)

“Checking In”


Today is a big day. We check into the hospital at Moffitt this morning. I am ready. The edema (swelling) has become a problem. I am having a lot of difficulty walking the past couple of days and I am now about 25 pounds heavier than my normal weight. I look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Patra says it looks like my skin has been replaced by “memory foam.” Medically, they say Grade 4 pitting edema.
Today begins the active phase of my transplant. The goals are to destroy the cancer cells (watch out you “nasty little diseases”) and to prepare room in my bone marrow for the new cells to grow.
Today and tomorrow I will receive high dose chemotherapy.
Thank you so much for your prayers. Your prayers mean more than you can know.

Yesterday at my pre-admission physical, the doctor told me to get a good night sleep because the next couple of days will be taxing. I thought to myself, “that will be impossible.”

But…I slept pretty well last night. Peace that passes understanding.

The best part of the last twenty-four hours, however, was my quiet time this morning. Nothing mystical, mysterious, bizarre, weird or earth shattering took place. I didn’t receive any coded messages or secrets to unlock any doors. Let me share some words which came to my mind during and after my prayer time this morning. Calm, serene, confident, assured, peaceful, at rest, hopeful. How great is our God!

I’d like to share with you some words from the song, “My Life is in Your Hands.” It’s on my Ipod and I have been listening to it every day for weeks now. The entire song is terrific, but this portion will show you how meaningful it has been for me.

“My Life is in Your Hands”
Kathy Troccoli

Life can be so good
Life can be so hard
Never knowing what each day
Will bring to where you are
Sometimes I forget
And sometimes I can't see
That whatever comes my way
You'll be with me

My life is in your hands
My heart is in your keeping
I'm never without hope
Not when my future is with you

My life is in your hands
And though I may not see clearly
I will lift my voice and sing
Cause your love does amazing things
Lord, I know, my life is in your hands

Nothing is for sure
Nothing is for keeps
All I know is that your love
Will live eternally
So I will find my way,
And I will find my peace
Knowing that you'll meet my every need

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Americana: Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Apple Pie"

(Monday, February 22, 2010)

"Americana: Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Apple Pie"


We discovered several weeks ago that Andrew’s opening day ceremonies for T-Ball were on Saturday, February 20, only three days before I go into the hospital.

Fortunately, Andrew has inherited his athletic prowess from his father, David, who has done a great job teaching him about baseball and developing in him a love for sports of all kinds.

This would be his first baseball team. I really wanted to be there. He and I share a little baseball history. I come home from work and Andrew and Patra will be in the front yard playing baseball. When I get out of the car, he says, “Grandpa, I will be the ‘batter,’ you be the ‘pitcher’ and Grandma be the ‘glover.’

“Do you want a fastball, curve or slider.” He always yells - “S W Y D E R!” Every time he says “swyder” my pitching arm strengthens – I could throw that plastic ball a thousand times to hear “swyder.”

Because the opening day ceremonies were so close to my hospitalization, I was probably the only person at the park who had received medical clearance to attend.

Andrew was well supported. In addition to Patra and me, his mother, father, sister, cousins, uncles and aunts were there to cheer him on.

It appears that Andrew’s favorite part of the game is his uniform. There is no rookie in any spring training stadium in Florida that will have more pride when he puts on his uniform. He also really liked the free hot dogs that the league provided – as did the rest of the family.

My medical staff is pretty smart. I bet they knew how much it would cheer my heart to be there.

Since getting my diagnosis, it has been my goal not to miss any lesson that God wants to teach me through this process. As I thought about the day, I imagined God smiling at me. Beautiful weather, baseball, my family – Yes, God smiled at me that day. And as I was thanking Him for smiling on me, I thought, “God, are you grinning? Did You just wink at me?” I am convinced that my gratitude for His blessing pleased Him.

Bob’s lesson from T-Ball: As important as the blessings of God are, the most important thing is our response to His blessings. His blessings are a gift to us – our response is a gift back to Him.

I pray that everyday during this journey I will think of His blessings to me and respond in a way that will give Him praise and glory. I don’t want these “nasty little diseases” to prevent either one of us from receiving the gift of the day.

Americana: Baseball, hot dogs… “Patra, I don’t know why, but I have this strong craving for a little apple pie… maybe heated up a little … and maybe just a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.” After all, it’s the little things in life that mean the most, including little league.



February 2010 123
David, Megan, and Andrew

February 2010 144
Andrew ready to play

February 2010 165
Grandpa and Andrew enjoying the "little things"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Put the Pedal to the Metal"

(Saturday, February 20, 2010)

In the last 7 days, Patra and I have made the 30 mile drive from our home to Moffitt every day. So about 420 miles and almost every day we came home through the 6:00 traffic – at least 14 hours in the car this week.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were basically 10 hour days at the hospital with procedures, tests, consultations and injections. I quickly became a fan of my catheter. It saved me a lot of shots and pokes. Wednesday, they were able to collect 4 million white blood cells which are now safely frozen and awaiting transplantation into my body next Friday.

Thursday was not a good day. Because they were able to collect all of the needed stem cells on Wednesday, Thursday was to be a day off. We should have known early, it was not going to be a good day.

Patra fixed me breakfast (you have to understand that I love all meals but especially breakfast). I sat in the chair and just looked at it. I had absolutely no appetite. I was able to eat one bite of toast and that was it. A few minutes later, I was in the bathroom and almost passed out. I was dehydrated and began to sweat profusely.

Dehydration is a recognized problem with amyloidosis, and the powerful narcotic which enabled me to produce stem cells very rapidly may have played a part. Just going through the procedures this week may have contributed to it. Nausea didn’t help.

Patra called Moffitt and after a brief discussion about where to go, it was decided I should go to Moffitt.

That’s when the NASCAR driver in my wife came out. She was good. (Please understand that I am not being critical of her driving. We both agreed that we needed to get there quickly – literally we were in one “Accord.”)

I was not able to open my eyes (I’m not sure I would have wanted to) but I could tell she was drafting well, cornering sharply and may have bumped a few cars that thought they were in the lead. Looks like I’m married to “Danica Patra.”

Moffitt took immediate steps to remedy the situation. I received a I.V. fluid and medication to help with the nausea. We were released about 6:00 p.m. It may have been the drugs, but when we got to the car, it looked like it had been painted with a big godaddy.com logo on the hood.

Yesterday (Friday) we went back for a dressing change for my catheter site, lab work, and a check of my fluid levels.

In addition to the catheter, I wish they would install a dip stick.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Moon and Back

(Thursday, February 18, 2010)

Dear friends and family,

This is Emily posting for my dad. We wanted to keep you up to date on dad's health, although "these nasty little diseases" are keeping him from writing a blog post for himself today.

Yesterday was a successful day of collection of white blood cells! I am quite new to the world of medicine and bone marrow transplants, but it is my understanding that they (the doctors at Moffitt) were able to rotate his blood through his body six times yesterday - collecting four million white blood cells! The collection went so well, in fact, that the doctors told him he didn't need to come back to the hospital today (Thursday).

Dad's body had other plans, however, and he (and Mom) returned to Moffitt today due to dehydration. He is in good hands and both Mom and Dad report that they feel an amazing sense of peace even in the midst of such an arduous process. We know that only God can provide a peace that truly does pass understanding, and we want to once again thank you for your prayers.

As Austin and I left the house this morning, my dad called out his familiar goodbye. "Be careful today. I love you to the moon and back!"

So Dad, although these drugs are making you a little "spacey and nauseous" as if you have actually traveled all the way to outer space - we all want you to know that we love you to the moon and back too!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Installing a Carburetor"

(Tuesday, February 16, 2010)

Today will be a long day. The doctors will install/insert/implant/place a stock Holley four-barrel – strike that – I apparently watched way too much coverage of Sunday’s Daytona 500 – the doctors will not be installing a carburetor in my chest.
I’m getting a catheter (most of you have probably heard of it referred to as a port). It has a fancy name which reminded me of the carburetor. I’m getting an Intravenous Central Line Catheter with two access caps, known as a Neostar double-lumen catheter. From what I understand “it slices! it dices! it makes julienne fries!” Only kidding. (Some of you are old enough to remember Ron Popeil’s television commercials for the Veg-O-Matic during the 60s.) My new catheter will provide access to major veins so that I will be able to receive fluids, nutrition, chemotherapy, blood product transfusions, and medications. That’s almost as good as making julienne fries. And this thin, flexible plastic tube with the fancy name will cost my insurer more than a Veg-O-Matic.
In addition to the procedure to install the line, I will have a session on caring for the catheter. Then Patra and I will attend a two-hour class for bone marrow transplant patients and at the end of the day, I will receive my Neupogen shots.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"A Century of Friendship"

(Monday, February 15, 2010)

“A Century of Friendship”

Faith, Family, Friends. A friend (by definition) “is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.”
I am blessed by my friends. Friends from church, from work, from the neighborhood. I even have friends that I have never met personally – such as new friends I’ve made through the blog.
I also have some friends that have been friends for a long time. Thom and Chobee are those types of friends. I have known each of them for about 50 years – so together I have a century of friendship with the two of them. Thom and I met as very young children at West Flagler Park Baptist Church in Miami. We were baptized the same day when we were 10 years old. Chobee joined West Flagler Park just a couple of years later and he and I went to junior high, high school, college and law school together. Unfortunately, over time and with our work and families, we have not been able to be together very often. They both live in Volusia County where Thom pastors a church and Chobee practices law. Unfortunately, for too many years, our contact has been limited to Christmas cards, occasional phone calls, and the rare personal visits.
When they learned about my diagnosis, they called to talk and to encourage.
Last Saturday, they made a road trip to Clearwater to visit us before I go into the hospital.
We had 12 people for lunch on Saturday. It was so much fun – it cheered my heart. We talked, ate and reminisced. But mostly we laughed. We told stories about each other. (When your history goes back 50 years, you have stories to tell, and some that you don’t tell.)
We remembered a Sunday school teacher that used a flannel board to teach us Bible stories. We remembered a chalk artist that came to church during a revival who obviously made an impression on us. We were all active in the youth group, even leading several youth revival meetings in South Florida. We talked about the people who influenced us during those years. We all agreed that we were blessed by that church. It became our extended family.
Since we all went to the same junior high school and high school, there were also lots of school stories. I have always told my children about the very rough junior high school I attended (lots of gang activity, fights, police). (I know, it sounds a lot like walking up hill to and from school and through the snow and sleet, etc.) But Thom and Chobee confirmed it all. We also talked about the incredible change when we went to high school – which was a wonderful experience.
Before they left, Thom and Chobee and I went into my office and they prayed with me and for me. We told each other that we loved each other. They assured me that they are only a phone call away if anything is needed.
Friends – they go real well with faith and family. “Nasty little diseases” – I think you are in real trouble. I have some great allies fighting with me.

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Thom, Bob, and Chobee

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Fine Dining"

(Sunday, February 14, 2010)

Patra and I just got home from Moffitt. Today was the second day of injections of Neupogen. Neupogen is a blood growth factor used to stimulate my bone marrow so that it will produce a large number of stem cells - which will be released into my blood stream so that later this week they can be collected and frozen for the transplant. (This part of the process is called mobilization.)
One of my nurses mentioned how many lives have been saved because of this drug. I couldn’t help but think how wonderfully the human body was designed by a loving Father who has also gifted very bright scientists and doctors who have been able to bring about these wonderful life saving treatments.
I tolerated the shots well – the nurses were terrific. I don’t ever remember having shots in my stomach before but it was not bad. I had some pain in my back this morning (I was grateful my nurse had perfectly described the symptoms to me last night). The pain medicine worked wonderfully and I am feeling good tonight.
Our very first appointment at Moffitt in December was on our anniversary. Patra and I spent a long day there meeting with doctors and being tested. We didn’t know where anything was. (Now, less than two months later, I feel like I could be a tour guide.) We didn’t know that Moffitt had a very nice cafeteria. So for lunch on our anniversary, Patra and I sat in a waiting room and split a package of cheese crackers. On a day of emotion because of the overwhelming medical news and plan of treatment, we looked at each other while we were eating our crackers and began to laugh at “the circumstances.”
Tonight, because of the schedule for shots, we ended up grabbing Popeye’s chicken and driving to a parking lot on Moffitt’s campus that “overlooked” a wooded area and had a picnic.
Does this man know how to show his wife a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day or what?
It is true that it means more who you are with than what you are eating.
But it is also true that when this is over, I owe her a few very nice dinners out. (Maybe under an umbrella at Checkers?)

"Happy Valentine's Day"

(Sunday, February 14, 2010)

Slide1

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Revised February Calendar"

(Friday, February 12, 2010)

Just to keep everyone up to date, we start tomorrow with basically daily trips to Moffitt for injections (mobilization) and harvesting (collection) of stem cells. On Tuesday, February 23, my hospitalization at Moffitt begins. I appreciate so much your prayers. Hopefully the attached, revised February calendar will let you keep track of us over the next couple of weeks.

Bugg February calendar

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Taking a Break"

“Taking a Break”

(Thursday, February 11, 2010)

Yesterday was a historic day - my last mediation until I recover from the bone marrow transplant. I was certified as a circuit civil mediator in 1991. It took a number of years to “build up” my practice until I was able to mediate full time. In 1994, I started keeping count of the number of mediations I conducted. When we finished yesterday’s mediation, the total number of cases mediated since 1994 equals 6,217. (That’s a lot of conflict.)

It has been a “family business” in every sense of the word. Diane, Lucy and Sheila worked with me in the early years (and did a terrific job – thank you!) but for the last several years, it has been Patra, Jenny and Emily serving as receptionist, bookkeeper, coordinator, accounts receivable, accounts payable, custodian, etc.

Prior to coming to work with me, Jenny was the operations manager of a Tampa store of a national retailer. She was the “career woman” and moving up the corporate ladder, but in 2005, she and David were blessed with Andrew. Suddenly her priorities changed. I offered her a deal she couldn’t refuse. Come to work for me and I will pay you substantially less money than you are making but I will recognize that this job is not the priority of your life. She accepted my offer (after all, I am a professor of negotiation) and it has worked out wonderfully for me. I have been true to my word – she has been drastically underpaid.

Jenny and Patra share the job. Jenny works in the morning, while Patra babysits - at noon they would switch jobs. And since the switch often occurred at the office, I would get to see Andrew (and now, Megan) almost every day at lunch. I love the fact that Andrew is so comfortable at the office. He will say hello (if he is not being shy) to my clients as he proceeds to the refrigerator and grabs a doughnut or snack.

Emily is in the final stages of obtaining her Ph.D. In the last several months, with the schedule of doctor visits and a new daughter for Jenny, Emily has come aboard and is helping out. What a great blessing. Austin now is just as comfortable as Andrew around the office.

As you can see, my staff is way overqualified.

I have never regretted my decision to become a mediator. I will miss it a great deal. Most importantly, as I have told the people I work with – I’m just “taking a break.” I’ll be back! I just need a little time to deal with these “nasty little diseases.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"It's OK to not be OK - just don't stay there."

“It’s OK to not be OK – just don’t stay there.”

(Tuesday, February 9, 2010)

This past November, on Thanksgiving day, a young pastor of a large Baptist church in Texas, suffered a seizure caused by a Grade 3, aggressive, malignant brain tumor. Pastor Matt Chandler is 35 years old, married and has two young children. In early December, he had major brain surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy and treatment.

I have never personally met Matt Chandler but I have read several articles about him. He has for some time had a saying, “It’s OK to not be OK – just don’t stay there.” When he made this statement, he wasn’t specifically referring to how we handle a difficult diagnosis or illness. But like a number of other sayings - the minute I heard it - I claimed it as one of those thoughts that will help me through my own journey.

I am asked several times a day, “How are you?”

I almost always answer, “I’m OK.”

“No, really, how are you?”

“I’m really OK.”

Faith, family and friends – those are the reasons I’m OK.

I really am OK. Right now.

But I don’t know if that is going to be true tomorrow, next week, or even later today.

Someone may soon ask me that question, and I will say, “I’m not OK.” And that’s going to be OK, too, as long as I don’t stay there.

My faith may falter. I sincerely hope not, but I do not know. I’ve never done this before. I don’t know the future. When I read the Bible, it doesn’t sugar coat – even the apostles went through times where their faith faltered. There were times when they weren’t OK. But they didn’t stay there.

Faith, family, friends. When I think about those three foundations, I have a cheerful heart and I am optimistic that more often than not, when you ask me, I am going to say, “I’m OK.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Irony"

One definition of irony is “an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.”

Several days ago I received a letter from the National Marrow Donor Program. I opened the letter wondering how it was related to my treatment since I will be doing an autologous transplant (I will collect my own stem cells for the transplant – a donor is not used.) The letter reads in part:

Dear Robert:
On 01/19/2004, you took the first step to help save someone’s life – you signed up to become a member of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry….
Please take a moment to verify your contact information. If you are found to be a match, we need to reach you quickly.


I can assure you, and the National Marrow Donor Program, that where I am now, is contrary to what was, or might have been, expected by me on January 19, 2004.

How ironic.

From talking to my doctors, I don’t think they are going to want to reach me quickly anytime soon.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Intellectual Property Law"

"Intellectual Property Law"

Since 2003 I have taught “Negotiation & Mediation” as an adjunct professor at Stetson Law School, my alma mater. It has been an honor and a privilege, and a lot of fun.

Because it involves a long hospitalization and time away from home, one of the things you have to do in preparation for a bone marrow transplant is plan what you are going to do to keep your mind occupied. We have been getting the supplies together – laptop computer, Ipod loaded with music and podcasts, and of course books. In that regard, I pulled out a copy of Judge Posner’s book on Intellectual Property (IP) Law. I know nothing about IP law. Students at the top of the class (not me) understand Intellectual Property. A number of my students have been interested in IP and I figured this “sabbatical” would be a good time to be intellectually challenged and put together some interesting role plays involving Intellectual Property law for my class.

When we met with a doctor Thursday, she brought up the subject of books. “Some people come here thinking they are going to learn a new language. They fail to realize that the drugs we give you adversely effect your ability to think. I suggest you bring books you have read before so you will remember the characters and the plot.”

“Judge Posner, sorry about that, but I think Intellectual Property and I are going to have to have to get together at some later date.”

I am now going through Andrew and Austin’s coloring books, trying to find ones where I recognize the characters. (I hope Austin doesn’t mind that I’m planning to take all of his green crayons - his favorite color.)

Seriously, how am I going to find books that I have read before that I remember the characters and the plot.

Where would I find a book like that? Particularly one that I would want to read again.

A book that I will be able to remember the characters and the plot.

“Patra, have we packed my Bible yet?”

Bob

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Developing a cheerful Heart"

We spent most of the day at Moffitt yesterday. It now seems very real and the pace is definitely going to be heating up. We are so appreciative of the doctors and nurses and staff at Moffitt. It is a blessing to have a facility like Moffitt located so close to us. It will certainly make the process more manageable. We have been a patient at Moffitt not even two months, and Patra and I talked yesterday about how comfortable and confident we have become in the treatment and care we are receiving. We feel like we know our doctors and staff personally, and they know us personally and care about us as patients and as people. It is amazing how much comfort that brings.

I am reminded of what God told Jeremiah. (You may recall that Jeremiah is often referred to as “the weeping prophet” so he obviously needed comforting. One of the ways God comforted him was to let Jeremiah know that God knew who Jeremiah was and God cared for Jeremiah.)“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

In my own personal amplified translation of that verse:
“Bob, before you were a baby in your mother’s womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I knew all about this journey you're going through with these “nasty little diseases.” I’m not surprised by them. I know you, and I’ve appointed you to accomplish certain things in your life. And nothing will stop you from keeping any appointment I’ve made for you.

If you have a couple of minutes, I think you will enjoy the video of Megan below. Even at three months, her Mom is already working on developing her sense of humor. As a granddad, I think she has a cheerful heart – I know she cheers mine.

Girl Talk from Jennifer Dunlap on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

“Faith isn’t about getting what we want.”

Tuesday night I was feeling good and went to my men’s Bible study class. I have been the teacher of the class for 10 years and “taking a break” from teaching that class and my Bible study class at church have been really difficult. It was great to be there with the men. They are an inspiration to me and have been very supportive during this journey. Pat Mennega has taken over the teaching responsibilities and he did a great job with the wrap up Tuesday night. The evening certainly “cheered my heart.” Since I do miss teaching, I hope you will forgive me if my post today sounds a little like a teaching lesson. One of the advantages of being sick and having your own blog is you get to define what the blog says.


“Faith isn’t about getting what we want.”

One of my favorite stories about faith is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel. It is a story of three young Jewish men who had been taken hostage into Babylon. Their names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; although we know them best by their assigned Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
They were bright, wise, and good looking; but their most important character trait was their faithfulness to God. They were outstanding in every way. I am confident they were selected to be Outstanding Young Men in Judah and then later selected to be Outstanding Young Men in Babylon. Even as captives, they rose through the ranks to positions of prominence in Babylon.
Although good, honorable and above reproach, the Babylonians resented them. Human nature hasn’t changed. Their enemies wanted them out of office. King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and required that the people in Babylon bow down and worship the image. Worshipping idols and images was a “no no” to faithful Jews. So the bad guys squealed to Nebuchadnezzar. “Look who refuses to bow the knee.” The good guys were in a predicament. Do we fall down and worship the idol or stand up for what we believe? Nebuchadnezzar didn’t like it when people didn’t do what he said. Nebuchadnezzar had an anger management problem, and the Bible says he was in a rage. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were arrested, read their Miranda rights, waived their right to an attorney, (be still my lawyer heart) refused to put up a defense and confessed (a confession of faith). Nebuchadnezzar threw the book of matches at them and sentenced them to DEATH BY FIRE IN A BLAZING FURNACE. (I just did that so you would appreciate that it was capital punishment.)

Listen to what they told Nebuchadnezzar.
16 “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NIV

In legal terms, they appealed to a higher authority and threw themselves on the mercy of the Judge.

I’m in a predicament. I don’t know what my future holds. I am praying for a complete and total recovery. I’m praying for remission. (Remission is becoming one my favorite words.) I don’t know what is going to happen, but I know Who holds the future. I pray that I will have faith like these young Jewish men. I want the kind of faith that boldly proclaims, “My God is able to rescue me from these nasty little diseases, but regardless of the outcome, I will not waiver from my faith in the goodness of God.”

Bob

"February Calendar"

Now that February is here, the schedule is really going to heat up. As you can see from looking at the calendar, Patra and I are going to be spending quite a bit of time over in Tampa at Moffitt. We will spend most of the day at Moffitt tomorrow – primarily in consultations with the doctors and staff and then on February 12 we will begin the injections which start the “mobilization” process involved in the collection of stem cells for the transplant.

Words can not express how much we appreciate your prayers.

Bugg February calendar

"God Will Provide - but probably not this way!"

I have been asked by a couple of people to give an update on how I am doing. The amyloidosis was originally detected when I had complaints of (edema) swelling in my ankles and legs. I was gaining significant amounts of weight in my lower extremities. My doctors prescribed a diuretic to get rid of the excess fluid. Unfortunately, the medicine and the disease caused me to become dehydrated. I passed out in November and was hospitalized for a couple of days and given fluid (yes, that does sound contradictory for someone retaining fluid.) When my care was transferred to Moffitt, the doctors there took me off the diuretic, feeling it is more important to stay healthy for the bone marrow transplant. My legs swell and one of my nurses commented that I have “Popeye legs.” My hands also swell and I have had to stop wearing my wedding ring for fear that I will not be able to get it off.
While I still have fatigue associated with the disease, fatigue is much better than dehydration. (I take a lot of naps these days.) Other than the swelling and fatigue, I feel pretty good most days. Because I do feel pretty good, I often ask Patra, “Why are we doing this?”

“God will provide – but probably not this way!”

We are in the process of shutting down the business for several months while I have the bone marrow biopsy and recuperate. That is hard to do. It’s hard because I really love my job. I look forward to going to work. I enjoy the people I work with. (OK, in an effort to be totally honest, there may be a few people that I enjoy less than the others.) I love being a mediator and helping resolve disputes.

Plus, there is the additional fact that when the doors aren’t open, there is no income coming in.

I confess that occupies some of my thoughts.

But, WOW, did I get great news in an email today. A woman I have never met, who lives in Benin, in West Africa, emailed me today about an interesting business proposal. Apparently her late husband was very wealthy. She is not doing too well. (I’m not sure how she found out about me, but Emily did go on a mission trip to Benin in 2001 - maybe she met Emily and remembers her.)
In any event, she wants to send me US $7,500,00.00 (Seventy Thousand, Five Hundred, US Dollars.) - I know that doesn’t match but I’m impressed that with English not being her first language, she was able to compose the letter as well as she did. Also, either way, that is more money than I would have made in the next three months had I kept working.

So, it looks like my worries are over. WAIT A MINUTE. I just got another email. This time from someone in the United Kingdom – I’ve been selected again. So sad, she also lost her husband, a banker, in the Benin government – what a coincidence. WOW! $20,000,000.00 (Twenty Million US Dollars) This will be so easy, she gave me a code and I can get the money at “ANY ATM MACHINE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.”

I may never need to work again.

God will provide, but probably not this way!

Bob

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"How do you respond to a friend with a serious illness?"

Don’t tell me prayer doesn’t work. Yesterday I mentioned that I had been told I needed to have another bone marrow biopsy. Not exactly my favorite way to spend the day. Yesterday afternoon Moffitt called and my doctor apparently has decided that I don’t need the additional bone marrow biopsy!



“How do you respond to a friend with a serious illness?”

There are many ways that people respond to someone with a serious illness. Some people struggle with how to respond. They don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. The important thing is to respond. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. At the same time, if you wonder whether it's appropriate to say, the general rule is: It probably isn't.

I have had fun with some of the responses. They have “cheered my heart.”

For example:

This is what they said to me.

“Bob, I had an uncle who had the same thing you have, before he died, he had a wonderful life, he traveled the world, visited family, enjoyed playing golf.”

This is what they wanted me to hear.
“Bob, I had an uncle who had the same thing you have, before he died, he had a wonderful life, he traveled the world, visited family, enjoyed playing golf.”

This is what I heard.
“Bob, I had an uncle who had the same thing you have, before HE DIED, yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada.”


I’m only kidding. Everyone has been wonderful. I actually hear the heart of the person talking to me. I hope they can hear my grateful heartfelt response back. To have people tell you they are sorry you are sick, they care for you, they will pray for you, is one of the most humbling things that has ever happened to me. It is also incredibly meaningful.

God Bless!

Bob

Monday, February 1, 2010

"I must be in real trouble..."

I have a theory.

When you are sick, people are nice to you. When you are very sick, people are very nice to you. I must be in real trouble because people have been so nice to me.

I can not thank you enough for all of the expressions of love and support that you have shown to Patra and me. Everyone has been incredibly supportive. Even my lawyer friends. … Of course, there is a little difference when lawyers are nice. They demand that I sign a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting me from letting any body else know that they were nice to me.
“Bob, what would that do to my reputation?”
“What would my clients think if they knew?”
“No one wants to hire a nice lawyer.”

Therefore, I am contractually bound not to tell you who they are.

But going back to my theory, I must be in real trouble because even the lawyers have been really, really nice to me!

We had a great visit with my brother, Chuck and his family. One of the highlights was receiving a telephone call from his daughter, Laura Beth in Australia while we were all at the house together, and while talking to her, we were simultaneously emailing her pictures of the family together. Not as good as having her here, but pretty special.

Today is February 1. February is going to be a big month. I am scheduled to enter Moffitt for the transplant on February 23. There are a lot of things that need to be done before then. I found out Friday afternoon that I need to have another bone marrow biopsy done and they are trying to make the arrangements to accomplish that this week.
 

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