Friday, December 30, 2011

Walls

"Walls"
December 30, 2011
From Bob

We had a great Christmas. Below is a picture of each of our kid's families. I find myself looking at this picture several times a day. It always makes me smile.



Happy New Year!
It is hard to believe that it is almost 2012. I haven't made any New Year's resolutions. For at least 20 years one of my resolutions was to try and lose weight. I wanted to lose about 10 pounds. Try as I might, I could not do it. When Patra and I came home from the Mayo Clinic last December, I began to lose weight without even trying. Be careful what you wish for. Within a short period of time, I lost about 75 pounds!

The other night I went to take a shower and took my shirt off. I don't normally look at myself in the mirror but this night I did. The only word that can describe what I saw is "hideous." I looked like that guy in the comic book ads who got sand kicked in his face. I realize that I am substantially below my normal weight but I should just look skinny, not misshapen.

Fortunately, looking good right now is not high on my priority list. There are however things that I need to block out of my mind. I believe that I have been mostly successful. Faith, family and friends continue to be my first line of defense.

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

When you have a life-threatening and incurable disease, it is very important to guard your mind. If you are not careful, you can go to "dark places" and easily get depressed. It is not just those walking through the "tall weeds" who need to guard their minds.

When I was first diagnosed with this "nasty little disease, I made a decision to construct "walls" in my mind. There are just things that I don't allow myself to think about because it would only make me feel worse. For example, I do not like to think about the plans I had for Patra and I for our retirement years. Once, I asked her if she wanted me to tell her those dreams. She responded by asking me if I needed to talk about those things, and I said no. She said that after 39 years of marriage, she knew my dreams... our dreams. Fortunately, for the most part, the walls have stood and I try not to think about tomorrow. We walk day by day and God has now given us two years.

It is important to focus on the positive and not the negative. I work hard to keep negative thoughts out of my mind.

Philippians 4:8 (quoted above) has always been a favorite verse of mine, even before I became sick. It tells us the things we should be thinking about. Things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. Use your mind to think about those things.

Next week I will get my second epidural steroid injection (ESI). This time the doctor will inject my low back where the lumbar fractures are. I am excited about the possibility of some relief.

I had been doing well until Wednesday at dialysis. I had not retained much fluid and so they were going to take off a small amount. I thought it would be a breeze. With about an hour to go, I suddenly became dizzy, my blood pressure dropped and I thought I was going to pass out. As always, the nurses were great - they gave me fluid and I was back to normal by the time I went off the machine.

Dear God, Thank you for my family and for our joyous time together this Christmas. I pray that I can continue to focus my mind only on the things are honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. Please help me to keep the walls up in my mind that protect me from my negative thoughts. Thank you for friends who continue to encourage and pray for us.

Until next Friday, God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011
From Bob

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

We really do wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas. With all the different schedules, our family will be getting together tonight (Friday) for dinner and then we will exchange gifts. I love Christmas.

During dialysis this week, I spent a lot of time listening to Christmas hymns and carols. The story of Christmas is one of those amazing, mysterious, miraculous acts of God. God became flesh and dwelt among us. As I have "pondered all these things" in my own heart this week, I have thought of friends and acquaintances who have left Jesus in the manger. This beautiful story of the baby born in the manger has not ended. We do know that He grew up in favor with God and man. His message of peace and hope was met with a brutal death by crucifixion and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus overcame death and was resurrected. He is presently in heaven but will someday come to earth again, not as a baby, but as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

On Tuesday, I had an MRI of my spine. I was instructed to lay on my back on a
table that couldn't have been more than 6 inches wide made out of solid rock. Even with my significant loss of weight, it seemed like there was more of me off the table than on the table. Who thought it would be a good idea to have someone with a broken back lay on a skinny table, hard as a rock, and not move for 45 minutes?

As we were going into the room, Patra was told to keep my wheelchair outside the door for fear that the powerful magnets might suck the wheelchair into the machine. Am I the only person that thinks it's wrong that they won't let my wheelchair anywhere near this machine and yet they slide me INTO the middle of the powerful magnets.

This was by far the loudest MRI machine I have ever been in. When it was done, I told the nurses I felt like I had front row seats at a rock concert with a very bad drummer. To keep my mind occupied, I tried to keep beat with the MRI machine by singing Christmas carols. Only thing I could come up with was " Grandpa got run over by a " nasty little disease."

As they were about to slide the table into the machine, I was handed a "panic button." "PANIC BUTTON - REALLY? How many people panic that we need to have a "PANIC BUTTON?" Couldn't you come up with a better name, like "call button."

Received the results from the MRI. It showed compression fractures at T-10 and T-12. It also showed that I have fractured every one of my lumbar vertebrae. Yep, it showed fractures to L-1, L-2, L-3, L-4 and L-5. For " good" measure, it also showed a disc bulge at L-5- S-1.

Unfortunately, the doctor we consulted with Thursday afternoon did not feel that I was a candidate for kyphoplasty (where cement is inserted to stabilize the bone). We will continue with the epidural steroid injections.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.
This Christmas may we all give praise to God for the greatest gift ever given!



Dear God: Thank you for giving us Jesus. May we celebrate His birth by bringing you our sacrifice of praise. Please be with all of our friends who are walking through the "tall weeds." May they feel your presence in a special way. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lots to Report

Lots To Report

Friday, December 16, 2011
From Bob

Our son-in-law's eye removal surgery on Monday went well. However, he is still in a great deal of pain. The surgeon explained to Jenny that David would have more pain because of all the scar tissue he had from previous eye surgeries. He is also having problems with adverse side effects from the pain medication. We continue to pray that his pain will go away.

Our grandson Andrew had his follow up MRI at All Children's Hospital yesterday. He did better this time although he was still anxious. He received a good report from his surgeon and has been cleared for another year. We are very thankful for this good news and answered prayer.

I had an epidural steroid injection yesterday. The doctor used a monitor to help him guide the needle as he did the procedure. When he finished he said no wonder you are having such low back pain. In addition to the T-12 compression fracture, I also have several new fractures in my lower lumbar spine. I will return in 3 weeks for an injection into that area. While I was disappointed to learn about the new fractures, it does go a long way to explaining the intense pain I have had. I am so glad that scripture teaches that even as my physical body continues to deteriorate, someday I will receive a glorified body!

I have an MRI scheduled next Tuesday so hopefully the doctors will get more definitive information regarding my back. Next Thursday I have my first appointment with a neuroradiologist to discuss a surgical procedure (that many of you have suggested to me) where bone cement is injected into the spine to build up the vertebra and get the pressure off the nerves. I'm not sure if I could even be a candidate for such a surgery with my medical history, but it's certainly worth discussing.

Every Christmas season we ask our children to give us a list of what gifts the grandchildren would like. As I get older, I find that there fewer and fewer items on their lists that I recognize. When I was a boy, one of the best things about Christmas was getting the Sears "Wish Book." I would pore over that book every night and pretend that I could have any of the toys. I memorized pages of toys. My imagination ran wild. In many ways, the anticipation was better than the actual receipt of presents.

My list this Christmas is no longer about things...

1. I want to gain enough strength that I could go to a Bible study class and give my testimony of the goodness of God. (Patra thinks it would be a good idea to be strong enough that I don't pass out. I think it would make my testimony more dramatic and memorable.) Through "the tall weeds" He has never left me. His words in scripture have sustained me, comforted me, encouraged me and challenged me. It is amazing how He has "managed" my care. He has placed doctors right where they need to be. During the most difficult times He has sent Christian nurses to pray with me and to care for me. ( I need to be clear - not all of my nurses and doctors have been Christians yet almost without exception they have been very caring and competent in my care. I am so thankful to ALL of them.)
I want to be an encouragement to others. If my testimony could touch even one person and inspire or encourage them, it would be worth everything I have been through. Please pray I'll get this wish.
2. I wish that I could walk again. I am so unsteady and weak that I can only take a few steps with my walker and Patra holding me up. Even that has become more difficult lately. Not being able to walk really limits my freedom.
3. I wish that I could gain more independence to ease the burden on Patra. The role of the "caregiver" is much more than a full time job. The grandchildren are such a wonderful distraction for her. (They are wonderful for me too. Every time that Avery comes over, she runs through the house and into my room and yells "Grandpa." Makes my day!)

This week Patra and I will "celebrate" our 39th anniversary. My days of "celebrating" are not what they use to be. (I sure do wish it was my 39th birthday.) I always thought we would be one of those couples recognized at church on their 50th anniversary. As Patra and I talked the other night we agreed that life had thrown me a curve ball. So while we may not make it to 50, I will cherish every day God allows me to spend with her.


(Patra and Bob 39 years ago)


Dear God: You are so good. Even in the "tall weeds" You walk right beside us. Your Holy Spirit ministers to my needs. Our family prayer list is long this week. I pray that David will recover quickly. Thank you for the good report on Andrew. I pray that the doctors will figure out a plan to alleviate my back pain. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9

Friday, December 9, 2011

From Bob

We would ask that you join our family as we pray for our son-in-law David (married to Jenny). He will undergo surgery on Monday, December 12, to remove his eye. David injured his eye as a young boy and has been unable to see out of it for many years. For a long time, David has had severe pain in the eye and so a decision was made by his doctors to remove the eye. We are praying for the procedure to go well and that it will eliminate his pain. He should receive his "new eye" the beginning of next year.

On Thursday, December 15, our grandson Andrew (age 6 - Jenny and David's son) will have a follow-up MRI to keep track of the progress from the brain surgery that he had a year ago. We appreciate your continued prayers for him - he's doing great. Pray that God will calm his anxiety, he doesn't like going to the hospital. (Neither do I!)

(David and Jenny with Andrew and Megan on Thanksgiving)

This past Tuesday, I felt so good that Patra and I went out to lunch. It was wonderful! We went to one of our favorite beach restaurants for grouper sandwiches. It was such a beautiful drive across the bridge to Clearwater Beach. I can't even remember the last time we were able to eat out. I must have overdone it because the next day my back went into spasms and I passed out from the intense pain. Patra kept me from falling out of the shower chair. Later that day, I went to dialysis. I did very well through dialysis but when I was getting into my wheelchair, my back again began to spasm - intense pain so severe I passed out again. I remember the nurses asking me if I was " still with them." They put me back in my dialysis chair and started an I.V. of fluid and gave me oxygen. They brought Patra back from the waiting room to sit with me. Just having her there was very comforting. I am always appreciative of how caring and compassionate the nurses and techs are at dialysis. As I write this, I am feeling a little better, but haven't been out of bed. I pray that my pain management doctor can help me get some relief when I meet with him on Monday.

I have often turned this week to a comforting verse in scripture. Romans 8:18 "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.". I know that someday all my pain will be gone. It truly will be glorious. The pain is temporary but the Glory will be eternal!

I met with my cardiologist this week. That went very well. My blood pressure was good and he didn't detect any fluid in my lungs. When he listened to my heart he didn't hear any arrhythmias. He is concerned about my heart function so I will have an echo cardiogram in February. He also wants to do blood work to check on my thyroid. Some of my medications have been known to have adverse effects on the thyroid.

The sale of my office fell through, and although we were disappointed we know that God will send the right buyer just when we need it.

Dear God: Thank you for the promises of scripture. Help me when I begin to get discouraged to think of the glory to come. We pray that David's surgery will go well and that his pain will be alleviated. We pray that Andrew will stay calm for the MRI and get a good report. Thank you for friends who have so faithfully supported us and prayed for us.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, December 2, 2011

Family, Friends and Mentors

"Family, Friends and Mentors"
Friday, December 2, 2011

From Bob

It is hard to believe it is already December. I am always grateful to see a new day, so it is really exciting to turn the calendar for a new month. Everything seems to speed up in December. I may enjoy Christmas more this year because I physically can't speed up. I told Patra earlier that I was exhausted after such a busy day. After all, I had eaten three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)and with the walker AND I walked probably 20 feet to my recliner and back. In between all that activity, I took a morning nap and an afternoon nap. I should sleep good tonight!

I have an appointment this week with my cardiologist and next week I meet with my pain management doctor again. In addition to the pain in my back, I now have severe pain in my rib cage. I hope he can offer some type of relief. It is very difficult to get in and out of the car to get to dialysis 3 times a week.

I received some sad news this week, my cousin died unexpectedly from a heart attack. How I wish I could be at his memorial service today instead of at dialysis. I have so many wonderful memories as a boy growing up and going on vacation to visit his family. I am praying especially for his two children, his sister, and his dad. I would have never thought I would live longer than Jim. Every day I am reminded that we do not control our destiny. I do not know why God has allowed me to live as long as He has. I am convinced that as debilitated as I am, God has given me these "extra days" because He has a purpose for me.

I have been so blessed over the years by friends and family who have taught me, encouraged me, stood by me, and loved me. I have been especially blessed by a number of pastors who have taught me so much. One of those is my current pastor, Jerry Lancaster. He has been so faithful in teaching God's Word. But today I would especially like to thank my former pastor, Bob Adams. Bob was our pastor when our children were very young (Bob's wife Janice kept our son Adam in the church nursery. I think he was quite a hand full). I was just learning how to be a lawyer. Patra and I were learning how to raise a family.

Bob Adams was a mentor in so many ways. I remember going with him on a hospital visitation. There were several occasions when we met at my office or in his office to discuss different matters. Whenever I was with Bob, I always walked away feeling better. He was certainly one of those men who was the same in the pulpit and out of the pulpit. He was a man of integrity and honesty -character traits that I have tried to develop in my own life. Bob taught me to love the Bible as the Word of God and to study it. He would handle every situation by looking to Scripture. With Bob Adams, "What Would Jesus Do" was not a slogan, but a way of life.

When he was my pastor, he and Janice had two young daughters -older than our children, but still young. When I was diagnosed with this "nasty little disease" Bob wrote me the most encouraging letter. Little did we know then that their family would soon be walking through the "tall weeds" too. This year their daughter, Lisa was diagnosed with cancer. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy. This is a "club" where it is not welcome news when someone else joins. I was so discouraged when I heard this news. I had to remind myself that God is good and He is in control. Patra and I pray every night for Lisa and Steve and their children. I know that many others are also praying for them and I know personally that you can feel that prayer support.

It seems that our prayer list gets longer every day. There are so many people facing serious problems. I am convinced that the only hope we have is to turn the situation over to God and seek His will for each step we take.

Dear God: You are the Creator of the universe. You love each one of us. Thank you for putting men in my life who have inspired me and encouraged me in my walk of faith. I pray that where it is your will, that you would heal my friends. I pray that in every situation they would feel your presence.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey Trot
Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving!

What a great day. We had all the children and grandchildren here to celebrate this year. Andrew spent the night at our house, and he and Austin had a great time playing together and laughing.

As a tradition, we always run and walk the "Turkey Trot" at Clearwater High School. I was surprised on Thanksgiving morning when everyone came into my room wearing "Team Grandpa" T-shirts. Adam and Jenny put great effort into ordering the t-shirts and keeping it a big surprise until Thanksgiving morning.

Our family has been doing the "Turkey Trot" for about 25 years. Every year we take a family picture wearing our Turkey Trot shirts... below are pictures of some previous years.

1988

1989


1998


2004


2007


2009


2011

(I'm composing part of this post on Thursday, Thanksgiving morning.... right now the house smells so good with the turkey and all the side dishes; I can't wait to chow down.)

We have so much to be thankful for. On Wednesday, we accepted an offer to sell the office. That is a real answer to prayer.

I am so thankful for each of you that have been following our journey through the "tall weeds." Almost every week I hear about someone who is reading the blog and praying for us.

I think we are going to have to go to the next step with my back - injections. Last Sunday I passed out getting into the car from the intense pain. Patra wanted to take me to the E.R. but I insisted we go home. Over the past two years I have become somewhat of an expert at passing out. When I told the nurses at dialysis what had happened, they said I should have listened to Patra.

Thank you again for joining our family on this journey.

Dear God, thank you for allowing me to enjoy another Thanksgiving day with my family. You continue to provide answers to our prayers (like selling the office) and great encouragement from our friends.

Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, November 18, 2011

TENS

TENS
Friday, November 18, 2011
from Bob

I was pleased with my visit to the pain management doctor for the compression fracture in my back. After being given some options, I decided to try the conservative route first. The doctor gave me a back brace, a TENS unit (Transccutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator), a muscle relaxer, and a numbing patch which is applied to the area of pain. When I am sitting or laying in bed, the TENS unit does a good job of blocking my pain. The TENS unit has four sticky pads connected to wires which send small electronic pulses to my back. (Note from Adam: I suggested that we borrow a taser and try to shock ALL the pain out in one jolt, but Dad didn't seem too keen on that idea.) I still have difficulty standing and getting in and out of my wheelchair. Patra and I joke that we should get a video of me trying to get out of the car - someday it will be funny. Right now, I just worry that I may have to sleep in the car. We will continue this treatment for several weeks, but if the pain doesn't subside, then the doctor will try injections.

My brother Chuck came for a visit this week. He and his family live in Kentucky. After being in our house with all the grandchildren, I'm sure he will appreciate some quiet time when he gets home. The grand kids have enjoyed Uncle Chuck - crawling on him, bringing books for him to read. I enjoyed watching Andrew and Chuck discussing baseball and looking at some of my old baseball cards. As I listened to their conversation, I was struck by how fast Andrew is growing.

Bob and Riley

Avery and Chuck

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. I am really looking forward to turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. Even more, I'm looking forward to being with all of the children and grandchildren. I don't want to just be thankful, I want God to know I am thankful to Him. Every good gift comes from God. I am spending the beginnings of my prayers praising God and thinking of His attributes. God is good, God is love, God is gracious, God is merciful, God is omnipotent, God is omniscient, God is faithful. What can you add to this list?

Bob

Friday, November 11, 2011

"THANKS!"

"THANKS!"
Friday, November 11, 2011

From Bob


This week I was taught an important lesson by my grandson. Andrew had extensive dental work and the doctors put him to sleep for the procedure. He did very well but he was very anxious and scared. After it was over, he and Jenny went through fast food for a treat. As they were in line, Andrew let out a loud, "THANK YOU!"

Jenny turned around and asked who he was talking to. He said,"God." The prayers of a 6 year old boy had been answered and it was natural to him to give thanks. I thought about how many times my prayers have been answered and I have neglected to give thanks.

Note from Jenny:
I usually try not to interject into my dad's posts each week, but I just have to interrupt to share that the story got even BETTER after Andrew's prayer of thanksgiving on Thursday...

Early Thursday evening, Andrew asked Jesus into his heart! He'd been asking questions all week about God, Jesus and heaven. After he prayed this precious prayer Thursday evening, we talked a lot about what it meant for his life. Both David and I are thrilled and so grateful to God for Andrew's decision to trust Jesus Christ to guide his life here on earth and give him eternal life in heaven!

I'm with my dad... I want to learn the lesson and thank God for the years of prayers that were answered for Andrew to know and love Jesus at a young age!

Now, back to his post...

We live in a world where sin rules. As a result, disease and illness afflict us all. To be honest, until two years ago, I thought that I and my family were immune from any serious effects of sin. Sure we had our share of childhood illnesses and broken bones, but nothing too serious.

That all changed in early December, 2009 when the results of my kidney and bone marrow biopsies came back. I knew there was something wrong with my kidneys, but Amyloidosis? I had never even heard of it. That was soon followed by the hematologist/oncologist telling Patra and me that I had multiple myeloma. Watching television made me think that if I ever received this kind of news, it would be accompanied by a change in the music or lighting. But my doctor was very matter of fact. "Here is your bone biopsy report. You have multiple myeloma." Patra had tears in her eyes but held up pretty well until we got to the car. I don't remember any words we spoke but I know that as we looked at each other, we communicated on a deep level.

I am still a blessed man! Sometimes I think I may be more blessed now than I was before my diagnosis.
I have told more people I love them than I ever did before. And I mean it when I say it.
I think I can see things more clearly than I ever did before. I spend far less time worrying about inconsequential matters.
My prayer life is more focused.
The Bible is so important to me.
My family means everything to me. They have been so good about checking on me and coming by to visit. That is wonderful because I am basically bed-ridden because of my back pain. I love it when everyone crawls into Grandma's bed (right next to my hospital bed) and we laugh and play.
Patra and I have grown as a couple. Every once in while I ask her if she had known that we would be where we are, would she still have married me? So far, she has always said "yes."

My back is still giving me significant problems. I have an appointment this morning (Friday) and I am praying that soon I can get some relief.

Dear God, THANK YOU! Too often, I have neglected to give you thanks. You have been so faithful. I am even thankful for the ways you are using this "nasty little disease" to bring me closer to you. Thank you for the blessings you give. May I be faithful to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, November 4, 2011

November 4

November 4, 2011

From Emily:

One of the joys of living in a university town is special events like Homecoming! The entire town (including the local school district) shuts down for the weekend as the campus comes alive with fans, parades, and the ever present orange and blue!

While I am not even a Gator fan, I cannot help but immerse myself in the excitement of the event: picnics with friends, play dates since school is canceled, and college football.

This year, however, I made a quick decision about homecoming weekend. I was going to actually head home. If my little family had the time off work and school, then we were going to enjoy homecoming with my mom and dad!

Multiple Myeloma has changed our family. I can honestly say that there is no place I would rather be right now than hanging out with my brother, my sister, my precious nephews and nieces… and especially mom and dad. This is home… this is homecoming.

And then I imagine what heaven must be like. What a homecoming it will be!

Here are some of my dad’s thoughts from this week:


From Bob

I was able to avoid being hospitalized this week, but hospitalization was a real possibility. This was a very difficult week. Because of significant back pain, I went back on some heavy duty pain medication. That led to some mental confusion and even worse, I had serious gastro-intestinal problems. Monday was probably the worst day I have had at dialysis. The doctor has given me another prescription for pain.

The x-ray report for my low back pain showed that I have mild degenerative disk disease throughout my low back but the more significant finding may be a compression fracture in my thoracic spine (T-12.) I have lost about 40% of the disk height. The issue is that the level of the compression fracture is higher than my symptomatology. I have an appointment the end of next week with the pain management doctor. This doctor comes highly recommended - I've learned that the better their reputation, the longer it takes to get an appointment.

I can't believe it is already November. The grandchildren dressed up this week for “trunk or treat” events at their churches. They continue to bring me joy and I have included several pictures below for you to enjoy as well.



Ms. Megan (age 2) is now modeling a new pink little cast on her leg. She broke her foot getting out of bed.





Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, October 28, 2011

150 and Counting

150 and Counting

Friday, October 28,2011
From Bob

Megan and Avery's two-year-old birthday party was a great success. I may be biased, but these are the two cutest two-year-olds I know. Sharon and Jenny did a great job preparing for the party, and it was good to see so many family members. The girls had all of their grandparents there. That means a lot to me because I don't remember any of my grandparents. I find great comfort in knowing all of my grandchildren have loving grandparents who will always love and support them. Megan and Avery were also surrounded by brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends.




Unfortunately, while sitting in my wheelchair at the party, I twisted my back and it went into spasm. Monday, at the conclusion of dialysis, I was unable to get into my wheelchair due to the pain in my back. The nurses had me wait several minutes before I finally made it to the wheelchair. When they pushed me into the reception room, Patra said I looked terrible - no color in my face and my shirt was wet from sweat. We eventually were able to get me loaded in the car.

I had an x-ray yesterday of my low back and we are making an appointment with a pain management doctor.

This is the 150th post for this blog since January, 2010. I can't believe it. Moffitt Cancer Center recommended its bone marrow transplant patients keep a blog to update family and friends. I had never done anything like it before. I figured I would write a few blog posts while in the hospital. I honestly thought my "nasty little disease" would be in remission once I finished the bone marrow transplant and there would be nothing further to write about.

Boy was I wrong on the whole "remission" thing.

I would have never believed what has occurred during the past two years. Patra and I often talk about our "journey" and the twists and turns it has taken. This was not our plan for these years. I could not have made it without her. While we would not have chosen to walk through these "tall weeds," we know that God is in control and that He will never leave nor forsake us. It is in some of the darkest moments that I most feel God's love and mercy.

The blog has worked in keeping people informed. Surprisingly, writing the blog has been therapeutic for me. I think about the events from a different perspective. It turned into a "family affair" where Jenny, Emily, Adam and Patra have all been called upon to assist. I am especially appreciative of them taking charge during those times I was unable.

I hope my grandchildren will read the blog someday and feel like they know their grandfather a little better. I have tried to be honest and transparent in my writings so they will know the "real me."

One of the greatest blessings of the blog is the number of people in my life that it has allowed me to re-connect with. Friends from childhood in Miami, friends from Elementary school, Junior High School, High School, College and Law School, friends from Youth Group at church, lawyers and staff I have worked with over the years, friends from church and the children's schools.

Dear God: Thank you for always being there. You have never let me down. Help me to always be faithful to you. Father, help me to be the husband, father, grandfather and friend that I should be. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thankful

"Thankful"

Friday, October 21, 2011
From Bob

I woke up this morning and it was 65 degrees! The weatherman said it would be in the 50's tomorrow. Enough cold weather! I don't mind it being in the 70's, but anything below that is too cold for this Florida boy.

I was reminded that about a year ago, Patra and I were in Minnesota. You want to talk cold; THAT was COLD. I saw enough snow to last me forever.

One of the memories that I have from our time there was Patra and I celebrating Thanksgiving together in the hospital room. I'd had surgery about 2 weeks earlier and was still recovering. Patra sat on the edge of the bed and we ate turkey and dressing from the hospital cafeteria... not exactly the Thanksgiving feast that I am used to. Because of the cold and being there so long, we were really missing the kids and grandkids. About a week after Thanksgiving, one of my doctors wanted to do an additional surgery. I told him that I was homesick, cold, and that we had doctors in Florida who I was confident could do the surgery. Within a few days, we were on a plane flying home. I hope I never have to go back to Minnesota between November and April.

Another memory that I have is of the nurses "encouraging" me to walk. I wanted to tell them that one of their surgeons had removed my insides, and as soon as he gave me back what he took out, I would be happy to walk. The nurses didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor, so instead, Patra practically dragged my body through the halls. Whenever we passed the nurse station, I made sure they saw me "walking".

I have actually thought a lot about Thanksgiving this year and can't wait to experience a full Florida Thanksgiving with the whole family. One of the reasons that I'm thinking so much about Thanksgiving is that I have so much to be thankful for. When we left the Mayo Clinic, there was a great deal of uncertainly whether I would still be here for another Thanksgiving. Our prayer was that I would be alive for the birth of both Riley and Anderson. Not only did I get to meet them but now am enjoying watching them grow. Adam drops Riley and Avery off at our house 3 mornings a week. They are sometimes still in their pajamas and watching them play sure cheers my heart.


Since I've reached those goals of meeting my newest grandsons, I've made some new goals to look forward to. Patra and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary in December, and Adam will graduate from law school in May of 2012. It will be 36 years since I graduated from Stetson Law School. I sure do hope I can attend Adam's graduation.

Next week, both Avery and Megan celebrate their second birthdays. I will share pictures of their birthday party which we are all looking forward to.

As you know if you follow this blog, I have spent a lot of time in the hospital these last 2 years and have had a number of operations and procedures. It is amazing how well I am doing. I am thankful to you who have prayed for me. I believe I am alive today because God has answered many prayers. I am forever thankful for that.

In dialysis, it appears that I am in a vicious cycle where I drink too much fluid which results in "fluid overload". I try to drink very little each day but I am always so thirsty and sometimes I cheat. One of the symptoms of my disease is extreme thirst, and yet I must limit how much I can drink. When they take off my excess fluid it causes my blood pressure to plummet. As I have mentioned many times, after dialysis I am extremely dehydrated. I cannot describe how miserable that feeling is. In order not to faint, I drink some fluid as soon as Patra gets me to the car, and this causes the "fluid overload" cycle to continue. It is such a delicate balance... one that I have not yet mastered.

Dear God,
Thank you for so many blessings. I also thank you for our friends who have supported and prayed for us. We are truly blessed. I thank you for everyday that you have allowed me to be with my family and for bringing me through the "tall weeds". May I be faithful to you in everything that I do. May my thirst be only for you Lord. In Jesus name. Amen


Until next Friday,
Bob

Friday, October 14, 2011

Extraordinary

"Extraordinary"
Friday, October 14, 2011
from Bob

One of my doctors came up to me this week in dialysis and said, "I can't believe I haven't seen you in the hospital lately." It does seem that we measure this journey by my hospitalizations. I think I've been in about 10 times since January. There is such a balance between getting enough fluid and having a fluid overload which leads to congestive heart failure. Recently it appears that we have been able to finally balance those numbers a little better.

After dialysis I am always dehydrated and come home washed out. The only thing I can do is go to bed. The dehydration is still causing my muscles to spasm in my back and I am very uncomfortable. Muscle relaxer medication helps a lot. Fortunately, on the days that I'm not in dialysis I feel pretty good, but do sleep a lot from the medication.

Last Saturday night Patra and I went to the mall!!! We met some friends and ate at the food court. I'm not supposed to have salt, and I'm sure there was plenty in what I ate, but it sure tasted great. Never would I have imagined that doing something that ordinary like eating at the food court would feel so extraordinary. Maybe I'll feel well enough to attend our grandson's ballgame tomorrow morning.

This week, it has been one year since little Andrew (6) had brain surgery at All Children's Hospital. You would never know except for the scar on the back of his head. He has done remarkable. He is thriving and enjoying playing Little League again. We appreciate all the prayers that went up for him. Thank you.





Throughout the past 2 years that I have been sick, I have learned much about the power of prayer. I am so thankful for all of you who lift me up to the Father in prayer. We are not only thankful for the blessings we have been given, but it also gives us a chance to pray for our friends who are also walking through the "tall weeds" In addition, my own personal prayer life has grown. At night, when Patra and I pray, we may cry, laugh, or just talk. Not only has our communications as husband and wife been enriched, but also our communications with God has grown stronger.

Isn't it an amazing thing that we can communicate with the Creator of this Universe at any time and know that He hears our prayers.

Dear God, Thank you for another good week. Thank you for healing our grandson so perfectly. What a blessing to know you hear and answer our prayers. Thank you for extending my life a little longer. I pray that I will remain faithful until the end.

Until next Friday, God willing,
Bob

Friday, October 7, 2011

Silver Lining

Friday, October 7, 2011
from Bob

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:1-5


The above verses are some of my favorites in the Bible. While the divinity of Christ and the Trinity are difficult concepts to understand, these verses make it clear that Jesus was present with God from the very beginning, and in fact is God.

This week has been a pretty good week. (Any week I am not in the hospital is a good week.) I am still having blood pressure problems after dialysis. I can almost make it through the 4 hours, but right towards the end I usually get dizzy. I also continue to have painful muscle spasms in my back. (Fortunately, they are NOT as bad as the electric type shocks that I was having). The doctor prescribed a muscle relaxing medication which works a little too well. It's been effective in loosening my back muscles, but it has also been quite a trip! Patra was amused today when I looked at the clock and tried to say "eleven" - I think my 2 year old grand-daughters say it about the same way I did. "L a l a v i n", I slowly said. Patra said that's what time it is in "La la land." It's a good thing the meds have worn off enough for me to dictate this blog. Patra's been giving me some caffeine to jolt me out of a 3-day fog.

Saturday, our grandson Andrew (6) had a Little League game. It was cool and crisp here in Florida that morning, and everyone was energized by the refreshing weather. Patra pushed me in my wheelchair to watch his game. I had to wear a sweatshirt, but it felt so good to be outside. This time last year, I never would have imagined I'd ever get to see Andrew play another season. God is good... all the time.

Patra and I realize every day how blessed we are by our family and friends. Thursday night we were visited by 2 friends who drove up from Miami. I have known them since I was about 2 years old. We reminisced and laughed about old times at school and church youth group. The silver lining of having this "nasty little disease" is that I have had the wonderful pleasure of reconnecting with a number of friends I have known since childhood. Many from my church's youth group have dropped by to encourage us. We are all now in our 60's, but it seems that we've been able to pick up right where we left off.

Dear God, I thank you again for the blessings that you give. I thank you for Jesus who was there at the beginning and came to earth in order to die and be resurrected. Jesus did this because he loved all mankind. Father, please be with all of our friends that are also "walking through the tall weeds". Thank you for our family and long time friends who share a common bond through Jesus.
In Jesus name, Amen.


Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, September 30, 2011

Distractions

Distractions
Friday, September 30, 2011
from Bob

1 Peter 4:11 - "... by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified in Jesus Christ."

It's been a good week!

I think we've made some progress with respect to my dialysis treatments. They have raised my "dry" weight (the weight they try to get me down to by removing fluids). Because they are removing less fluid, I have not passed out this week from dehydration. Unfortunately, I continue to have intense muscle spasms in my low back, but I'm praying that is going to resolve itself soon. I have had to take some heavy duty pain meds this week to keep the pain manageable.

Since contracting this nasty little disease, some people have responded to me as if I had done something noble or honorable in contracting this disease. It is my belief that because we live in a fallen world, there are illness and diseases which people contract for no apparent reason. This week as I read my Bible, the thought came to me that while there is nothing noble about being diagnosed with this disease, my response to this illness is extremely important. I must find God's peace and God's provision for every day. My belief is that in the midst of my suffering, if I hold firm to my faith, then THAT will bring honor and glory to God. All I desire is to be faithful to Him and obedient to His will.

We had a good weekend. Emily came home for a visit, so we had all our kids and grandchildren here. Below is a photo of Patra and I with the 6 grandchildren. Please note that it was harder to get that picture than it would be to nail Jello to a tree. As we tried to take the picture, one baby needed to be fed, another child didn't want to take pictures, another had a meltdown and grandpa wasn't feeling very well either. For our friends who have more than 6 grandchildren, I wish you the best if you try to get a picture of them all at the same time.



We have also apparently entered the stage where the little girls are going to start performing for us. Below is a 30 second excerpt from their dance performance for us on Saturday night.



Truly, our grandchildren are a blessing and have been a great distraction from this disease. They make me laugh all the time.


Dear God,
Thank you for a good week and for our family. Thank you for the times we are able to share with each other. I pray that the memories of these happy times will stay in our hearts forever. I also continue to pray for so many of our friends who are walking through the tall weeds. I specifically pray for their comfort though your presence.
In Jesus name
Amen


Until next Friday,
God willing
Bob

Friday, September 23, 2011

UP and DOWN

Friday, September 23, 2011
from Bob

"UP" and "DOWN"

"Through it all,
Through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all,
I learned to depend on His Word."


We knew when we started this journey against this nasty little disease that it would be a roller coaster ride. Some days we're going UP and some days we're going DOWN.

"UP"... I woke up Saturday morning and felt the best I have in almost 2 years. Patra and I decided to drive over to Clearwater Beach and she pushed me in my wheelchair on the beachwalk. I even felt well enough to walk a little while holding onto the handles of my wheelchair.

Beach, sand, surf... beautiful. It was great medicine.

I was still feeling pretty strong, so we went to one of our favorite beach restaurants and sat next to a window overlooking the water. Watching sailboats, powerboats and jet skis while we ate lunch was an uplifting experience. I told Patra that this meal had to make up for all the birthdays and anniversaries we've missed these past 2 years.

After a long afternoon nap, I wanted to go to the mall. It had been such a long time since we had been there, it felt like a vacation. What a GREAT day!

Sunday, I still felt energized and we went to church and lunch with friends. It was a rare and unbelievable weekend.

"DOWN"... Monday was dialysis day. Because I had had such a great weekend, my liquid weight was probably higher than it should have been. It was necessary for the nurses to take off a LOT of fluid. Unfortunately when they were finished, I became very dizzy and my blood pressure dropped significantly. It took awhile before I was released from dialysis. It's hard enough to sit there for 4 hours while I receive treatment, but to have to sit another hour or so in that chair becomes almost impossible emotionally.

When we got home, I passed out when I tried to stand up. Patra couldn't hold me very long and told me she gently lowered me to the floor. I take issue with that since I think she broke one of my ribs. Because I was dehydrated from dialysis, one of the unfortunate side effects is muscle spasms. While I was on the floor, any time I moved or anytime Patra tried to lift me, it felt as if I was grabbing hold of a high voltage power line. My back has never hurt so much. She eventually got me half on the bed but the effort caused me to again pass out again, so she slid me back to the floor. Jenny and the kids came over and she and Patra tried every conceivable way to get me up. I refused to let them call 9-1-1 or any neighbors because I knew they would try to pick me up, and my pain was just TOO intense. Even when my arm or foot was touched, it caused me to flinch and my back felt like a bolt of lightning had just hit me.

Eventually, my grandson Andrew (age 6) had an idea. He suggested that we just put a mattress on the floor so I could go to sleep there. We got the mattress that we use in the van for our trips to Gainesville, and I was eventually able to be rolled onto it. After I was able to gain some level of comfort, Patra and I had dinner on the floor and we commented on how it felt like we were camping out again like we used to do when we first got married.

"UP"... The next morning the intense pain had subsided some, and although I was very stiff and sore Patra was finally able to help me off the floor. I spent the rest of the day in bed on a heating pad.

"DOWN"... On Wednesday after dialysis I seemed to repeat Monday's pattern, and had to remain an extra hour until my blood pressure was stable enough for me to leave.

"UP"... When we finally got home Wednesday, Patra refused to let me stand, so I didn't pass out. Fortunately, I was able to sleep in my bed that night instead of the floor.

"DOWN"... I have realized that I will never be able to return to the practice of mediation...

"UP"... so we have finally put my law office for sale. I always thought I'd not be able to emotionally let go of my office. Patra and I designed it and did much of the finishing work inside. I believe God has given me a peace about letting it go, and it was not as hard as I had imagined it would be. It has been a wonderful family business with Jenny and Patra working by my side, but it is time to let it go.

"Through it all", whether UP or DOWN, God has been faithful.

Dear God,
I thank you for your presence in my life. I thank you for friends who pray for me. Thank you for allowing me to feel well enough to have such a great weekend. It is my prayer that they can resolve this blood pressure issue during dialysis. Thank you for my children and grandchildren and the blessing that they are in my life. I pray that I would remain faithful to you. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home

"Home"
Friday, September 16, 2011
from Bob


"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16

Throughout this journey through the "tall weeds", I have been learning a great deal about prayer. I will often lay in bed when I can't sleep and just talk to God. Many times while in dialysis, I will close my eyes and just pray.

You will never know how much the prayers of our friends mean to us. You really exceeded my expectations last week with your prayers. In last Friday's blog, I asked for you to pray that I would be released from the hospital quickly. On Friday I had dialysis at the hospital and when I was done, they took me down for a chest x-ray. About an hour later, my pulmonary doctor came in and told me that even though I still had pneumonia, it was improving and he was going to release me from the hospital THAT AFTERNOON. Earlier that day another doctor had told us we would probably stay until Wednesday (of this week). There is no place like HOME. I guess I dodged another bullet.

Although I don't understand everything about prayer, being able to pray to our Heavenly Father and knowing that my friends are also lifting us up has been an incredible blessing. Thank you.

I am on heavy doses of antibiotics and the major problem that I'm having is that my antidepressant medication has a strong interaction with one of my antibiotics. The doctor wanted me to discontinue taking the antidepressant but I talked him into just lowering the dosage. I have 10 more days until I can go back to my regular dosage. At the reduced dosage I do get some relief, however there are times when things seem to become overwhelming. For example, I have struggled this week with dialysis even more than usual and I find myself questioning whether or not I have told my children everything that I want them to know before I pass away. In reality my kids are probably tired of me telling them how much I love them. Patra has encouraged me to try to remain positive and think of my dialysis as my new job.

I'd like to quit this job.

I sure liked my old job better.

Again, prayer is such an important aspect with dealing with the depression.

I have been able to enjoy the grandchildren so much since we have gotten home. I missed them immensely while I was in the hospital. Patra and Jenny babysit 4 children every day during the week so I have an opportunity to see them often. Andrew (6 years old) loves to play in my hospital bed. Last night he asked if he could lay with me in the bed so he could raise and lower the head and legs of the bed. Wish I had a picture of us in a "V" position. Avery (almost 2 ) has become my buddy, she is not afraid to crawl on me while I am laying on the couch. Sometimes she does this when I least expect it or when I'm almost asleep, but she seems to get so much delight that I wouldn't change that for anything in the world. Her giggles are good medicine. Megan (almost 2) likes to pretend to "scare" me. She will say something like"boo" and I pretend to jump out of fear, and she squeals with laughter. She can "scare" me much longer than I can jump.

Dear God, Thank you that I got out of the hospital and that my pneumonia seems to have been resolved. Thank you for friends that pray for me. I am so grateful that I can pray to YOU. Thank you for the blessing of my children and grandchildren.

Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pneumonia

"Pneumonia"
September 9, 2011
(From Bob)

Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be such a good week. I am in the hospital AGAIN getting treated for pneumonia.

I felt well enough to go to church on Sunday but by Monday (while I was at dialysis) I started feeling miserable and was having difficulty breathing. I was put on oxygen and the nurses recommended that I go to the emergency room. When we arrived, my oxygen saturation level was 77% (should be at least 92% apparently.)

When my doctor came in, he told me I had pneumonia and said, "theoretically, we should be able to reverse this process." What do you mean "theoretically"? What do you mean "should" be able?

When the results from my arterial blood test came back, the nurse said, "your arterial blood gas is not that horrible". I was immediately concerned about what "not that horrible" meant. I didn't have long to contemplate her statement because she then said we are sending you to the Intensive Care Unit. So I spent Monday night in ICU.

In ICU, the pulmonary specialist ordered that I wear a "BiPap" mask. The "BiPap" is a machine that forces oxygen into your lungs. When the respiratory therapist came to fit the mask, he said that some people were unable to tolerate wearing it but the only alternative if I couldn't stand it would be to put me on "life support." I said, "Give me that mask." There was no way I wasn't going to make that work. Patra said it made my cheeks puff out like I had mumps and flattened my lips like I was riding a motorcycle going 100 MPH. We should have taken a picture to insert here.

Surprisingly, Patra and I both had a peace that everything would turn out OK. Such a peace could only come from God because we were not getting much encouragement from the doctors. Sure enough, Monday was a rough day, but Tuesday morning when they removed the mask, I was feeling so much better. God is good -- all the time.

As I write this blog note (Thursday afternoon) I am still in the hospital and I still have to wear the mask every night. I would like to go home. I don't even have to look at the food menu - I have it memorized again. The doctors are discussing when I can leave, so please pray it will be soon.

I appreciate your prayers more than I can express in words. I know that your prayers help to give us God's peace.

Dear God, thank you for your peace. I know that it could only come from you. What a blessing! I pray that I will be faithful to you every day.


Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, September 2, 2011

Humor in the "Tall Weeds"

Humor in the "Tall Weeds"

Friday, Sept 2, 2011

by Bob (dictated to Jenny)

I was asked recently how I could maintain a sense of humor in light of everything that has happened. The answer of course is God's grace. I am also reminded every day that there are people in much worse shape than I am. I do not want to minimize or trivialize the pain and suffering that so many people are going through. There is nothing funny about a bone marrow transplant. I did not laugh much during chemo-therapy. I am convinced that if we open our eyes in the midst of the circumstances of life, we will find that there are humorous aspects to most of life's situations. Without seeing the humor, I do not believe I would be able to walk through these "tall weeds."

I thought I would relay a story that happened about a year ago when Patra and I went to Moffit Cancer Center for an appointment. When I got out of the car, my world began to spin, and I realized I was about to pass out. Patra “carried” me into the main lobby and found the closest chair for me to sit in while she ran to get a wheelchair. When she returned with the wheelchair, we went up the 4th floor, and I was placed in a private room where I received fluids and protein. Some time later I began to come back to reality, and I asked, “Pat, was I sitting next to a dog downstairs?”

She laughed and then explained to me that the closest chair available in the lobby was a chair at the end of the aisle where the dogs were gathered for “pet therapy”. In just one moment, when I was semi-conscious downstairs, I had felt a presence and opened my eyes. In those brief moments I was staring face to face with a very large golden retriever. Our noses were about 3 inches from each other. I drifted back into la-la-land and only hours later remembered the encounter. "Was there a dog sitting in the chair next to me in the waiting room?"

Golden Retriever

photo credit


I have always enjoyed the imprecision and ambiguity of the English language. One time we had a friend who brought cake over, and as she was leaving, she said to me “Be careful, don’t eat too much you might get sick.” We all laughed as we processed the words. Me? Get sick? Can I get any sicker than I already am?

Almost every morning Patra checks on me by asking, “Are you OK?” I usually respond by saying, “No… about 2 years ago I was diagnosed with a very nasty little disease.” We both laugh and then she says, “You know what I mean. Do you have any new symptoms.”

Again, this has been a very good week and I was able to attend church in my wheelchair last Sunday. I was not hospitalized during the entire month of August and that’s the longest stretch since last November that I haven’t required hospitalization. I have had some problems with my blood pressure at dialysis which causes me to become faint and pass out, but we are working on that and hopefully it has now been resolved.

This week I caught a cold and have a horrible cough. Thursday morning while I was trying to wash my hands at the sink, I coughed and my back went into spasms. As I started to fall, Patra caught me before I hit the floor. I skinned my arms on the counter and because my skin is so thin, both arms began to bleed. It was a bloody mess. It did look funny (or frightening) because after she got me back into bed, we both looked like we'd been attacked by a knife. Patra cleaned me up and now I look pretty pitiful with gauze bandages from wrist to elbows and every time I cough, my back hurts.

Dear God, thank you for all the blessings you give to us. Help me to continue to see the humorous side of what I'm going through. Please be with all of our friends that are sick. We thank you for so many people that are faithful to pray for us. Thank you for answering their prayers for me to stay out of the hospital. In Jesus name, Amen


Until next Friday, God willing
Bob

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to School

Friday August 26, 2010 "Back to School"

from Bob (dictated to Patra)

It has been a busy week for the Buggs. Our daughter Jenny began homeschooling Andrew (first grade) and she is very enthusiastic about his learning. As always, Jenny's schedule is full so we pray for her as she begins this new adventure.

Our grandson Austin started kindergarten in Gainesville and we love it when he calls us to tell us about his day. He is enjoying his class, his teacher and his new friends. Emily started a new job too. She is the director of preschool ministries at Westside Baptist Church. We look forward to seeing how God will use her.


(Austin's first day of Kindergarten!)

Our daughter-in-law Sharon is a reading coach in Tampa and had her first students this week. She sure misses little Avery and Riley while she is at work but tells us that her days are going quickly because she is very busy.

Adam began his last year of law school this week and will be interning with the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office. it should be a busy and exciting year for him.

Tuesday, Patra and I had a visit with a longtime friend and her mom. We attended West Flagler Park Baptist Church (Miami) together and went through elementary, junior high and high school. We had a wonderful visit talking about people that we knew and our days growing up.

It has been another good week for me. I have really enjoyed feeling better and last Sunday I was able to attend both the worship service and Bible study at church. It was a tremendous blessing and I had no problems.

Unfortunately last week, a good friend Will, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Will was one of the most faithful men I have known and he will be greatly missed. Patra and I pray that his wife will be comforted during the days, weeks and months ahead.

As always, we are so appreciative of the prayers of our friends and family. We know it is only by the grace of God and the prayers of his people that we have come this far in the journey.

"Dear God, we thank you for another good week. We are thankful for the opportunity we have to be with our children and grandchildren. Father I thank you for every day that you give Patra and me . We do pray for our friends that are going through the "tall weeds." We pray that they will be comforted by your spirit and that they would be encouraged by the promised of your Word. Help me to remain faithful to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Until next Friday, God willing.
Bob

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Good Week

(Bob spending some quality time with granddaughters Avery and Megan)

Friday, August 19, 2011 "Another Good Week"

From Bob (dictated to Jenny)

“For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NLT)

It’s been another good week. I haven’t had the need to go to the hospital and I’ve had no obstructions. On Sunday, Patra and I went to my Bible study class at church. That was really a good day. I got to see so many people I haven’t seen in many, many months. People who have been praying for me regularly and it appeared that they were glad to see me too. The teacher did a great job, and I really enjoyed the lesson (which was an introduction to the book of Jonah). I look forward to going back to Bible study class.

On Tuesday, Patra loaded me into the van, and she and I made a trip to Gainesville to visit with Emily’s family. That was another great day. Seeing Emily, Austin, Anderson.

We were glad that James was able to return to work after his emergency surgery last Friday. (After some problems with kidney stones, the doctors had to do emergency surgery last Friday afternoon.)

While at Emily’s, I had a little problem with my blood pressure and passed out, however, Patra and Emily were able to keep me from falling to the ground and hurting myself.

I have intentionally not spent much time trying to imagine what heaven will be like. It seems to me that any human imagination would be inadequate. However I was struck this week by many things that I’m sure about heaven:

In heaven, I will never have a hospitalization, EVER.
In heaven, I will never have any obstructions, EVER.
In heaven, I will never need an NG tube, EVER.
In heaven, I will never experience pain, EVER.
In heaven, I will be in the presence of God, FOREVER.

2 Corinthians 4:17, shown at the top of this post, indicates that the problems we have now are nothing compared to the glory that we will experience in heaven. I have clung to that verse many times and realized that the problems I am having now will soon disappear.

Again, we are so appreciative of all the prayer partners that we have. We continue to pray for so many friends that are experiencing health problems and difficulties.

Dear God, thank you for another really good week. It has been so enjoyable being able to get out and see friends and family and I thank you for that. Please be with our friends that are experiencing difficulties, please comfort them and encourage them and their family members. I pray once again that I will be faithful to the very end. In Jesus name, Amen.

Until next Friday, God willing.
Bob

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Good Week!

A Good Week!

Friday, August 12, 2011

from Bob (dictated to Patra)

This has been a really good week!!!

I haven't had any difficulty with intestinal obstructions and haven't needed to go to the hospital. I feel better than I have in many months. I know that we are able to write these words this week because of your faithful prayers for us - thank you. Patra and I are also praying that we will stay on this new path for a bit longer. Dialysis continues to exhaust me, and I still pass out sometimes with feelings of dehydration after a treatment, but this is our new normal and we have learned to live with it. No, it doesn't get easier, we have just adjusted our expectations. We see so many who are worse than we are in "Dialysis World".

I had an appointment with my cardiologist this week. I was interested in learning more about the surgery that had been done a few weeks ago to create a window in my pericardia sac (lining around the heart). I was under so much medication at that time, I did not remember what the procedure involved. As he explained to me I was surprised to learn how large the window was as he held his fingers to show about a two inch gap. This "window" should remain open allowing any buildup pressure of fluid to be released helping my heart to continue beating. Since that procedure, I have not felt any tightness in my chest, have not had difficulty breathing and have not had any more episodes of congestive heart failure or fluid in the lungs. That procedure and my new hospital bed at home which keeps my head elevated when I sleep has made a huge difference in my comfort level. I am so grateful for the "break".

I also asked him why I am so skinny. I eat huge meals and try to gain muscle, but I continue getting thinner. At this appointment, I weighed 133 lbs. My usual weight was 205 lbs before I got sick. The doctor explained in such detail that I can't begin to describe it, but the bottom line is, this is all caused by my disease and I probably won't be able to gain weight or muscle. It is getting harder and harder to stand because it feels like I am standing on stilts (and looks like it too when you see my bony long legs).

My shingles have finally healed and since getting out of the hospital for the bowel obstruction, I have not had to take any pain medications. It is amazing how much clearer my thinking is. One of the great benefits has been that I have been able to read my Bible again. I have spent some time this week in 1 Samuel and it has been a real joy to read the history of the Israelites.

Patra and I continue to deal with the reality of our journey. The reality of my situation first hit me when I was in the bone marrow transplant wing at Moffitt Cancer Institute. Although I was pretty much confined to my room, I could hear noises outside the door. One night I heard a commotion in the hall. Later that night Patra heard what had happened from a family member when she went to the caregiver coffee room. The young man in the room next to me had died. I realized that this is serious business - life and death. There really has not been a day since then that I have not been aware of the issues that are involved in my journey.

I have unexplainable peace knowing that God is in control. There are many times that I wonder why he has allowed me more days than the doctors predicted. Patra has a friend who continues to pray that my living will baffle the doctors so that only God would be clearly seen through this journey... that His glory and power would be so evident... that only He would receive glory and praise. I whole heartily agree.

Patra and I again thank you so much for your prayers and support . As I have said before it means more than you will ever know. I would ask you to continue to pray that I have no more obstructions. As we pray every night, it is my #1 prayer request that I remain faithful to God until the very end.

Dear God, thank you for a very good week. I pray that I would not have any obstructions. Thank you for our friends and their prayer support. May I be faithful to the end.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

From Bob (dictated to Emily)

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3


First, Patra and I want to thank all of our friends for your prayers and support. You have been incredibly generous and faithful in praying for me. Last week was one of my most difficult weeks (with the obstruction), and this week has been a very good week. We continue to monitor every day to make sure that there is not a recurrence of the obstruction.

Sometimes I am reminded of an old western movie as I continue in this journey. I picture a gunfight between two of the cowboys. Cowboy 1 fires a fatal shot, but instead of falling to the ground in agony, Cowboy 2 continues to shoot back! No matter how many times Cowboy 1 shoots those deadly bullets, Cowboy 2 continues walking forward towards his nemesis. Sometimes I feel like Cowboy 2. No matter how many “bullets” my body encounters, it keeps fighting! I won’t go through a litany of all the procedures and treatments that I have been through, but I do feel like I keep getting shot. For some reason God has continued to allow me to stand on my feet and move forward.

This past week Patra and I were sitting in the living room when we heard a loud boom. The house immediately went black as we lost all electricity. There had been a power failure in the neighborhood, and we were without power for a little over an hour. I was reminded of my need for power in our modern world. We couldn’t watch television or use the computer (because there was no internet). I laid on the couch and very quickly felt the temperature rising as the air conditioning unit sat silent. I must admit that I was worried that my ice cream was going to melt in the freezer.

This power failure reminded me of my need for power in the Christian life. When we accept Christ, he sends his Holy Spirit to live with us. The Holy Spirit is our source of power as we live this Christian life. If we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, then we are living our lives without any power.

When I began this journey through the “tall weeds” and began to fight this “nasty little disease,” I realized that the only way that I would be able to survive is if I tapped into God’s power of grace. I may not have always been as faithful as I should have been, but everyday I look to God for strength and power in these difficult days.

I meet with my cardiologist next week, and we will continue to try to adjust my medication to prevent my heart from getting out of rhythm. I continue in dialysis three days a week.

The grandchildren continue to be a joy to watch. They are all enjoying the pool and the two oldest boys are swimming like fish.

DSCN6830
Austin, Bob, and Andrew


Dear God,
In Isaiah, your Word says that You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on You. I am so appreciate of the peace that you have given me over the many months of my disease. I pray that my mind will stay focused on you and that I will continue to keep your perfect peace. I am also thankful for my faithful friends who have prayed for us and showed us they loved us in the midst of this. I thank you that this week I have had no obstructions and I would ask you to allow me to continue to stay healthy and out of the hospital. May I stay faithful to you until the very end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Until next week, God willing,

Bob

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Dodging Bullets"

Friday, July 29, 2011

“Dodging Bullets”

From Bob (dictated to Patra)

This week turned out to be much more exciting than I would ever have imagined.

Friday morning I woke up very sick. Patra and I went to dialysis and they told us to head to the E.R. When we arrived at the hospital they loaded me with pain killers and sent me to the hospital's dialysis room. I was so sick to my stomach so they had to reduce the time I was on dialysis.

The doctors discovered that I had a bowel obstruction. I was told I would probably need surgery. As the surgeon explained what he would have to do for the surgery, it did not sound like something I would enjoy. However, he also said there was a chance the problem might resolve itself.

This is where my real problems started. The doctors inserted a naso-gastric tube. Naso = nose. Gastric = stomach. I would encourage everyone to avoid a naso-gastric tube.

Let me explain how this works… First, all the doctors disappear. They do not like screaming.

A nurse finds several of her colleagues that have no objection to torture and invites them to join in. The nurse in charge wears a hood to protect her identity. In my case that was unnecessary. I never knew that when I screamed I shut my eyes.

They take a large garden hose and stuff it down your nose all the way into your stomach. You are left with the garden hose in your throat which prevents swallowing. Speaking of swallowing…as long as the naso gastric tube is in your throat, you should abstain from swallowing.

Fortunately my body was able to get rid of the bowel obstruction without the need of surgery. When this happened one of my doctors told me I had dodged another bullet. My surgeon shook my hand and said “Hallelujah”.

On Monday, while in dialysis, my heart went out of rhythm again. That kept me in the hospital one more day while they straightened out my medications. On Tuesday, I was released from the hospital.

I would ask that you continue to pray, and I solicit your prayers specifically that I would not have a repeat of the blockage. I do not believe that I could survive another episode without surgery.

The doctors advised me that there is nothing I can do to prevent another episode. There is no medication, exercise or diet that will impact whether or not the blockage reoccurs. I am convinced that your prayers helped me avoid the surgery. I admit to being very afraid of another episode of obstruction.


Father, let your light shine in my life so that I might be a testimony of the love of Jesus. I pray that I will not have another obstruction. I am so grateful for those who prayed for me. Father, I don’t understand all of the things you are doing in my life but I do know that I love you, I trust you and I know that you are good and faithful.

Until next Friday. God willing.

Bob
 

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