It is happening!

As I type, my bone marrow donation is slowly infusing, as if it were a regular old blood transfusion. In one sense, it’s a bit anticlimactic. But it truly is a wonderful gift and a miracle!

The gift is from a 28 yr old girl, who willing endured a yucky procedure, so that I might live.

The miracle is in the science that takes her gift and transforms it into a blood product that my body will use to rebuild itself!

I am most immensely humbled by what’s happening. This gift I do not deserve, will save my earthly body, into prolonged life.

This is not unlike the undeserved gift the Son of God offers us. He willing spilt His blood, unto death, so that others would go on living, into eternity, as Children of God.

“…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭9‬:‭22‬ ESV)

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A Mini-Milestone has passed…

This is a short update, yet good news for me. Just a while ago I finished getting my last pre-transplant treatment, some chemotherapy. It won’t be my last chemo forever, but it does usher me into the next phase, which is the actual transplant!

Tonight and tomorrow is dedicated to just chilling.

Then, on Thursday, I get my transplant!

In the mean time, be praying for my donor! He/She is most likely nervous today, as they prepare to be harvested tomorrow. I pray that the procedure is effective and that it is at least tolerable. I also pray for special blessings over them.

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Quick update…chemo time!

OK, so yesterday marked the end of my radiation therapy. Yippy! It made me generally yucky; nausea and headache. My taste started to depart as well.

But this morning, I move on to the next step towards my transplant; chemotherapy. I’ll start a high-dose chemo today, for two days. Then I’ll get another one for two days after that.

Together, the radiation and the chemo are my main pre-treatments before actually receiving the bone-marrow/stem cell transplant. They’re designed to completely wipe out my immune system, so that the donated cells will be utilized to rebuild.

Chemo makes me sick.

So, please continue to pray that I can maintain a comfortable status quo.

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Well, the time has come…

The time has arrived for my bone-marrow/stem cell transplant. The actual transplant won’t take place for over a week. There’s some prep-work to get done first. Most of it isn’t very fun, however.

There really isn’t much I can share that you readers of my blog don’t already know. Today I’m being remanded readmitted to UCLA. As I type we’re sitting outside of Admitting, waiting for my room to be finished. (Since I’ll be on the Leukemia/Hematology Wing for a while, they’re cleaning up a good room for me. One with a decent view.)

Tomorrow I should start my full-body radiation. That’ll go twice a day, for 4 days. Then I’ll get several days of high dose chemotherapy. Then I’m supposed to get a day off of “rest”, then the following day should be the stem cell transplant. Last we heard, that’s scheduled for July 3rd.

Assuming this schedule is still accurate, the donor, whom I do not know, will have their bone marrow harvested on July 2nd, and it’ll be shuffled off to UCLA, via LAX. As I’m typing, I’m overcome again that some skinny young guy is choosing to endure this donation, for me. What a gift.

I’ll try to keep the updates coming, but this journey is bound to get harder before it gets easier. So, bear with me, and ask questions if you have them. Feel free to post them in the comments, or to me on any of my social media profiles.

We continue to covet your prayers, as this journey continues. My unbelievable wife has cared for me in the most amazing ways, and honestly, I’m not that easy to wait upon. She too benefits from your prayer support. Our kids continue to be hosted primarily by my parents, but the upcoming couple of months will go back to being a little creative, like last year. My father-in-law will be caring for them a little. One of my closest old friends has volunteered to host the boys for a long weekend of what I can only imagine will be some great fun and memory-making. And at some point we may even do the musical-house-thing back at home, with our church community hosting the kids again. Deanna will be trying to stick to taking the kids home each weekend, for the normalcy of regular church attendance and a chance to touch base and connect with them. So, pray for her miles and miles of traveling as well.

I yearn to continue to NOT…waste my cancer. It’s my goal and mission, no matter where this journey takes us.

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Who wants a transplant?

This guy!

If you haven’t heard, a bone marrow match has been found! I have to wait a whole year before I get to find out who is doing the donating, FYI.

I’ll be readmitted to UCLA on June 23rd, and the actual transplant should take place on July 3rd. There will be some outpatient fun, next week. And then once I’m remanded admitted, I’ll have a fixed schedule of activities, all for the protocol of prepping me for the transplant. Because my relapse back in April showed some leukemia in my CNS (central nervous system), I’ll be getting some radiation on my head and then some full body radiation as well. Then, for a few days before the transplant, I’ll get the highest doses of chemotherapy I’ve had yet.

All of that is designed to truly wipe out any remnants of leukemia anywhere in my body, then wipe out my bone marrow as well. Once that’s achieved I’ll get the new stem cells. (They’ve decided to transplant donated stem cells and not actual true bone marrow.)

Interestingly enough, this is when the difficult part of the journey begins. There are risks that I could get sick, with such a diminished immune system. So, the medical peeps will be working hard to avoid all that. Some of my treatment will be preventative. And of course, any setbacks will be addressed. But after the transplant, I’ll go onto a gazillion different medications. There’s this concern about rejection, aka Graft vs Host Disease. Everyone gets a little GVH, so I should expect it. And, they’ll treat anything that arises. But that’s the biggest concern. Assuming all goes well, after around a month to a month and a half I’ll be discharged. However, I won’t be going home. I’ll be staying at what is basically a special hotel across the street from the UCLA hospital. Staying that close will allow me to be super close in case of a setback or worse. Also, I’ll have nearly daily appointments at the clinic. My stay there should be about a month long. Obviously all these ballpark timelines could be adjusted. Hopefully shorter! :-)

But even after I get back home I’ll have a while to go on this journey. Many things will have to be put off, for now. I’ll start off with a lot of limitations, even going out in public will be limited with some “rules”. Assuming I continue to recover, I’ll get better and better. My post-transplant care will extend to several important milestones. First will be 90 days after transplant. Then 100 days after transplant. Then 6 months, then 1 year. Many of my new meds will continue for the bulk of that time.

I’ll keep you updated and posted with any changes and updates, fo sho!

Thus far, we’ve had just enough to meet our obligations. But that’s only been when so many of you have helped out. Thank you! For those interested in helping out a little more, feel free to click the button below.

So, I have a nice long stay at UCLA ahead of me. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier. My wife especially has a tough job for the next few months. She’ll be my primary caregiver, 24 hours a day, for quite a while. She has literally thousands of miles to travel, to and fro, Camarillo to UCLA and Santa Maria to UCLA, and back and forth and back and forth. There will be much eating out, for her especially. The poor kids will be in a bit of limbo, crashing at my parents’ and sister/bro-in-law’s and getting to go home on the weekends, sorta. Hopefully our summer will be the bulk of it, and I’ll be headed home at the end of August or early September. Only the Lord knows.

Thus far, we have been truly blessed by all the levels of support, starting with the massive network of prayer that continues today. Of course the financial support has been fantastic as well; starting with so many of my coworkers donating their vacation hours, to help us bridge the gap from my sick time ending and our long term disability kicking in. Additionally all the logistical help has served us well. At home there has been many who helped care for our kids; staying at our home with them and feeding them.

We thank you so very much. The Lord has been so good to me. I have the most incredible wife, you truly do not know. I have the kind of wife that young men truly hope in their hearts they are blessed to marry.

*****Update*****

Loved ones, I have an update on my schedule next week. We’ll be crashing at my parents’ place Tues-Thurs, at least. I have 3 days of radiation at UCLA, and that decreases our commute.

We may end up needing to go down on Friday too, that is yet to be determined.

Then we’re back for the weekend, before heading down to UCLA for the long journey that will be my stem-cell transplant, and recovery.

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Bone Marrow Match

Assuming all of the details are worked out over the next few weeks, it appears that I have a matched bone marrow donor. It’s pretty good news! We’re a bit excited around here.

I’ll have a few visits with my doctor, down at UCLA, as we and they prepare for my readmission. I’m also going to have some exciting treatment, to prepare my body for the transplant. Of course I’ll get more chemotherapy, yeah. They need to drain my bone marrow, so that when I get the new-to-me bone marrow, it can be the source of my recovering immune system.

If you recall, I had a little leukemia in my CNS, this last time. (That was why I had to have all that chemo inserted into my spine!) Well, in order to make sure it’s really gone, they’re gonna irradiate me. This will be my first radiation, so yippy for that. I’ll get a little especially for my brain, before I’m readmitted. Then I’ll get full body radiation once I’m admitted.

Everything is tied to the donor’s schedule, for now. So, with a tentative date just over two weeks from now, my readmission might be then or a little after.

So, join with me as I pray for Wolverine’s powers. I’m good with bone claws, BTW.

wolverine_bone_claws

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A real update…

This time around I’ve kinda dropped the ball on keeping y’all updated. Sorry. The reasons are simple; my first week or so here was horrible!

Let me catch you up. I last left you with the how and why, about returning to UCLA because my leukemia had returned. I touched on some medical stuff and a bit of our financial stresses. Since then, an overwhelming number of you stepped in to help us out, and it has been such a blessing! We are humbled by the care so many have offered. And it’s not just the financial help, through PayPal. It’s also the meals being made, at home when Deanna is there with the kids, and meals made in Camarillo, when the kids are with my parents. We are also grateful for all the overwhelming prayer support that we know is being offered round the clock.

I’ve spent that last month tucked away in my hospital room, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. In fact, last Wednesday marked my one month anniversary. Yippy!

One other thing I need to catch you all up on is my treatment plan. Since my setback last month, I’ve been through another aggressive induction chemotherapy treatment. On top of IV chemo, the leukemia was found in my CSF, so I received a whole bunch of chemo, via a spinal tap. Guess what…THAT SUCKS!

In the next few days I’ll be headed home for a rest. Then, in a few weeks, I’m headed back to UCLA for a bone marrow transplant. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve heard that there are matches in the “bank”, but they’re still waiting for results from a possible family match.

I’ll try to keep you all posted, as we have more information.

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And…it’s back.

By now, most of my regular readers have probably heard via the social internets that my leukemia has returned.

My Quick Update post earlier this week hinted at the possibility that I was sick again. Those weird symptoms just couldn’t have been something minor.

So here we are, back at UCLA. Yesterday we went in, up in Santa Maria, for the results of the spinal tap (lumbar puncture), and they weren’t good. There is evidence of leukemic cells in my spinal fluid, and the blood cultures also indicated the same in my blood. My SM doc had already connected with the superstars here, and passed along the orders that I get my crap together, and get to UCLA.

Last evening we arrived for admission, after packing up the whole family and dropping off the 5 who can’t care for themselves with my sister. (You’re counting…you missed one…Oreo the dog.)

We hit our room just before shift change. We mostly said hello and were greeted by old friends. After slipping into an old familiar routine we sat down, and with a great sigh, we started to face our reality.

I am sick. Again.

We will be spending weeks on end, right here on 6 East, of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. This time, Deanna will be headed home for the weekends, assuming the gas funds remain. We see the added value for her spending time with the kids that way.

Today we settled in to our room. I had several tests and procedures; an MRI, another bone marrow biopsy, and a PICC line placement. And just now, this evening, my chemotherapy began. I’ll be getting 3 different poisons, over the next 6 days. Then on top of that, tomorrow I start getting chemo pushed into a spinal tap. Yep, it’s like that!

Honestly, it feels a lot like it did last time. But this time we’ve walked that journey already, making us no longer rookies. Yes the severity of it all is raised up a bit. Doses are higher. It’s effects on me will be worse. But we carry with us more wisdom.

My goal through all of this, no matter the outcomes…is to constantly bring glory to God. Whether I am in remission in 3 months, or in the ground, I yearn for the Lord to be glorified! That’s scary for some to even think about. Well, guess what?! I’m not that guy! Men don’t cower down from possibilities. There is no promise of healing. There is no promise of comfort. There IS promise of suffering. But, more so, there is promise of redemption and salvation. There IS promise of eternity.

Yesterday, before we even had posted this change to the social internets, we started getting support and prayer. I was inundated with actual texted prayers and voicemail messages of prayer. I had an email and text inbox that I simply could not keep up with. What a great problem to have! I love you all so much! And then we announced it on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, and the torrents were unleashed! I immediately knew I’d need to organize information, as soon as we could get it. That’s where this blog came in so handy before. So, you can expect me to write regular updates, with what’s going on.

Another tool that cannot go unmentioned, from last year’s fight, was the amazing blessing gifted to us in financial help. We would have had two months of zero income, and no money for 4 of our 6 birthdays, nor Christmas, had the generosity of our friends and family not kicked in. There were those who were willing and able AND called to give, and they did. We are ever so grateful.

Some chose to give cash, while some actually used a third party, who would get it to us. That’s fine. Others, just handed us cash. That’s fine too. Others mailed us some help, checks and oddly more helpful; gift cards. And lastly there were those who took advantage of a little link I shared to my PayPal account.

Our needs are not as great this time. My long term disability is pumping along steady, and will continue to do so. (It’s not my salary, but it’s better than nothing.) In fact, we recently had Deanna take on a job, to help bridge some gaps. And that job is now on hold. So, we will continue to have shortcomings, but now there will be all the numerous roadtrips from Santa Maria to UCLA and back. (We REALLY hope to have Deanna be home with the kids on the weekends.)

So, if you are willing, able, AND called, we would appreciate some help to bridge the gaps. Deanna will be driving a lot, so gas gift cards are a way to be specific with helping out. And she’s trapped down here in Westwood, with all the college eateries. So, she’s hoping to build her meals from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, as best she can, to stay healthy. So I guess gift cards from those stores would help her out too.

If it’s easier, you can just shoot us some help with PayPal. Click the button, and get it done.

 

The purpose of this blog post is first and foremost an effort at sharing information, with those who care to know about my leukemia journey. It’s not over, and so here we are. As an addendum to that, we are expressing our needs. Some of them are financial. But the greatest need we have is your continued prayerful and encouraging support.

Please feel free to contact us! We’d love to hear from any and all. However, we’d appreciate that you use our email addresses or social media, like Facebook, as a first method. If you already have our mobile phone numbers, feel free to text us as well.

And lastly, there may be some who can and want to come visit me. Honestly, I love visitors! But it should be coordinated. If you want to stop by, please contact Deanna, and she can arrange a good time for you to stop by. You must be sickness free, willing to wear a face mask, and not bring your little ones. (teens and up)

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Quick update…

It’s been a while since I’ve written an update on my leukemia journey. The primary reason for that has been that there hasn’t been much to say. And that’s good news!

I’ve had a handful of followup appointments, and I’m on a every-other-month schedule now. Next month I actually celebrate my 6 months since chemo milestone. It’s a big deal!

Unfortunately, over the past weekend I started experiencing a few concerning symptoms. After contacting my oncologist/hematologist at UCLA, he decided that I needed a few tests, to rule out any problems. There are not clear results yet. I will get feedback tomorrow or Wednesday.

I’m reporting this to you all, first and foremost seeking additional prayer. Please pray for my nerves and my attitude. I want to remain grounded enough right now, to fulfill my responsibilities as dad and husband. But also, please pray that I will glorify The Lord, no matter the trajectory of this journey, as it continues.

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2014 Challenge, Week 14: RULE OF THIRDS + a little bit more…

My other blog, PhotoChallenge.org, has weekly themed photography challenges. Each week myself, or one of the other 3 contributors, writes a post. Last week’s was a landscape theme, with a focus on a vanishing road. This week’s is focusing on the technical tool of the rule of thirds.

I blended to two into one image!

Vanishing Road

Vanishing Road

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