Daniel 3:17-18

Daniel 3:17-18 "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Missing My Friends at Christmastime

I am sitting here missing all of my friends in the cancer community. Many of you have posted Christmas greetings on your blogs. Thanks, guys. For me, it is just what I needed to get back on here after a four month absence and wish you all the season's best as well.

Today has been nice and relaxing. Last year we stayed home for Christmas because I was just a few weeks out of surgery. This year we decided to repeat the experience (without the surgery) and spend the day at home with our children. We did all make it to church midday for a nice service, but that was it. Carla fixed us an awesome turkey dinner.

The best news of the day came this morning. We were visiting with my daughter from my first marriage and her husband using Skype. It was fun seeing each other on our computers over the internet. They watched us open a Christmas card they had mailed to us. Inside was an ultrasound picture of their baby announcing that Brittany is pregnant. That makes me a grandfather in six months. Cool!

This month makes one year cancer free for me. I am also now six months out from chemo and my last surgery. All of my followup appointments have been mostly good news. There was a bit of a scare when my CEA count started climbing, but a PET scan showed that it was only inflammation. No sign of cancer. I had a colonoscopy this month as well. They removed a small polyp and said that everything else inside looked healthy.

My goal for 2012 is to get the weight off that I've put back on since treatment. Even before cancer I was getting heavy. It is time for Running Man to start running again. I currently weigh 225 pounds. My goal weight is 175 pounds. That is a 50 pound weight loss.

For Christmas today I gave Carla a ten gallon fish tank full of 50 pounds of sugar.  Each week I will weigh in and remove that much weight in sugar from the fish tank. When the fish tank is empty I will have lost 50 pounds. I will finish by my 50th birthday which is June 3, 2012. Carla's Christmas present is a healthier husband. She was definitely excited.

So there you go. I am still around and I am very much missing my cancer friends. Thank you all for being such wonderful people.

Love, hugs, and best wishes,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's new...

Hi, this is Carla again.
Steve has thought about doing another post, but life has been so crazy lately, I decided I'd better step in. So here is an update.

The good news on Steve's health is that he finally had a painless bowel movement last week! That may sound like a funny thing to say, but since his reversal surgery, having anything go passing through his sphincter has not been fun. He had started to think that poop and pain were going to be the new norm. Now there is hope for the future.

The next piece of news is that Steve and I ran away on a week long cruise to Alaska with my parents and all but one of my siblings. (My brother's wife was due to have a baby and that is a really bad time to disappear for a week.) I am the oldest of seven children so it was quite the miracle to pull off. It was knowing the cruise was coming that kept Steve focused during the last few rounds of his chemo. If there had been any delays, he would have been unable to make the trip. It was wonderful to leave the heat of summer in Utah and go north where the highest temperatures were in the 60's. Alaska is an amazing and beautiful place to visit. Doing it on a cruise ship spoils you rotten.

After we got back from Alaska, school started up for Steve and the kids. Steve was down to his last year of school when he was diagnosed with cancer. It was really hard for him to put his education on hold while he dealt with his cancer. Fortunately, one of the classes he was required to take in order to graduate was available this fall. So he is in class every Tuesday and Thursday night. He has also been putting in overtime at work at the request of his employer. It brings in some extra money, but means we don't see a whole lot of him during the week.

What is nice to see is that his brain is fully functioning again and his stamina is increasing. Chemo took so much out of him! There is no way to explain how much it affects you and in so many different ways. I'm just glad he was willing to go through it all. Hopefully we will get to have him for years to come.

As for me, I'm taking the year off from working at the elementary school. This last year was the hardest year of my life to date. (I wouldn't mind keeping it that way.) This year is also the last year that I will probably have all my children at home together. Nathan is a senior in high school and will be leaving home next year. I want to enjoy this last year with my family all together. It is hard to do that if you still have all the washing, cleaning, shopping and cooking to do when your kids get home from school. Maybe, I can finally stop feeling tired all the time if my life is less complicated. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. You are in ours as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I Got Mugged

This is my mug shot.

Alice's mug finally got here from England. She designed it herself and it looks great. I really like mine.

Alice and Mabel

Alice Pyne is a 15 year old girl in England fighting cancer. After four years of treatment the cancer has spread throughout her body. There is nothing more the doctors can do. But Alice isn't done. She created a bucket list at the encouragement of her mother and posted it on a blog for her friends to see. Her blog went international almost over night. Wonderful people all over the world are rallying to encourage Alice and help her accomplish her bucket list. That's where the mug comes in. It's from her bucket list.

Alice is one amazing young lady. You'll like her, too, I think. It's completely understandable after meeting her how I got mugged.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


A day without skid marks? Inconceivable!

But a recovering rectal cancer patient can always dream.

My nurse friend recently asked me how my new plumbing was coming along. I answered that I'm not miserable so we're pretty excited about that. It's an interesting perspective, yes, but considering I could have ended up wearing adult diapers for life, I am pleased with my progress. While my sphincter is still sensitive, I'm not so jumpy on the toilet seat anymore. Bowel movements frequently come in clusters. With a smaller storage tank, I might make two or three trips to the restroom over the course of an hour before getting a break for several hours. Still no clear signals for when I need to go, hence the skid marks and the extra laundry.

I went to Huntsman Cancer Institute last Friday for my first followup appointments. I started the day with a CT scan in the morning. Who doesn't love drinking two bottles of barium contrast solution for breakfast? I got berry flavor this time. Yum? After the scan I went to the lab for a series of blood tests. An hour later I met with my oncologist for a check up. Overall my body is healing nicely after a year of hellish cancer treatment. I'm just left wanting for strength and stamina. My doctor reported that my numbers looked good from the blood tests. Good news there.

Mixed news on the results of the CT scan. No sign of anything in my lungs or liver, but I have a swollen lymph node at the join near my original tumor sight. The join is where Dr. Slow hooked me back together after removing my rectum along with 18 other lymph nodes. The doctor explained that a swollen lymph node could just be the result of irritation from the surgery. Then again, it could also be cancer. Rather than waiting a year for the next CT scan, I will be going back in six months to see if the swelling has gone down. I go back in three months for another round of blood tests. They want to watch this closely.

My last appointment on Friday afternoon was with my dermatologist. She did a full body check looking for any trouble spots. With my fair skin and a lifetime of sun damage, skin cancer remains a real threat. I left her office with four spots on my head being sprayed with liquid nitrogen. It always feels good to freeze potential cancer in its tracks. At least after the stinging goes away. I think she likes me because she invited me back in six months.

Did I mention that I did the whole day of appointments by myself? Carla and the kids were down on Lake Powell last week with my brother and his family on their house boat. So who had more fun, huh?

And who would have thought a year ago that I would survive weeks of radiation, months of chemo therapy, two surgeries, and the longest endurance event of my life? Inconceivable!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What a sunset!

I drove home from work tonight just as the sun set over the Great Salt Lake. Wow! Absolutely gorgeous. I haven't seen one that good for months. We live about half an hour west of my office building along Interstate 80 so I got to see the reds, pinks, oranges and yellows all the way home. Perfect way to end the day.

God sure made a beautiful place for us to live.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Life is Good

Guess who's reading books again? Yep, that would be me. I'm on my third book since surgery. The best part is that I want to read and I'm enjoying each book. I love being done with cancer treatment. And for Fiona, my second book was "The Book Thief." Wow. That is a different book, but a great story. I quite liked it. Now I am almost finished with "The Scarlet Pimpernel." Good stuff.

Guess who started back to work this week? Yep, that would be me. After seeing my surgeon last Thursday, he said I was able to return to work whenever I wanted. So I talked with my supervisor at the office and we agreed I would work partial days this week with the goal of working up to full shifts by next week. The good news is that so far my ability to concentrate and stay focused has improved immensely since I've been off of chemo. There's a surprise!

Guess who's going back to college? Yep, that would be me. I started thinking about finishing up my course work at Westminster College over this last weekend. Another sign I'm done with my cancer treatment. On Monday I dropped by the campus and visited with one of the professors in my department. He was excited to have me back and felt confident that we could get me graduated by next May (only 12 months after I was originally supposed to finish). I'll be going back on Tuesday and Thursday nights starting the end of August.

Guess who still hasn't had any accidents since coming home from the hospital? Yep, that would be me. Now that I'm done with my cancer treatment it is all about the poop. Or at least it certainly seems that way. I am happy to report that diarrhea is mostly a thing of the past. Soft and clumpy is a vast improvement. Things to improve would include my sphincter not feeling like it's on fire each time it passes anything (radiation damage) and less noise and gas from the new plumbing. Boy, does it make some great, gurgley sound effects. Even in public.

Guess who's pretty happy being done with cancer treatment? Yep, that would be me. What a crazy year it has been. Each day I feel a bit more human, a bit more like the other people around me. Just tonight I was over at our church and some respected friends of mine commented on how much more animated I am. One of them said I was even talking in whole sentences instead of short phrases. So there you go. I am back to talking as much as I ever did. I am still me! All in all, I have to say that life is good.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Timed Voids

First things first, I am home. They kicked me out of the hospital Monday afternoon. Of course, it helped that they also thought I was ready to leave.

I ended up not getting any kind of an appetite back until Wednesday night, so those first days home were interesting. I had to try and stay hydrated, my body was trying to recover from surgery, and my new plumbing was trying to make sense of itself all with little or no food to work with. This led to continual cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea, dry heaves, all the fun stuff. I managed it with pain meds and forced eating. We stayed on soft foods like chicken noodle soup, yogurt, and protein drinks. (May I just say here that I love my wife. She is one strong force in my life.)

Sometime on Wednesday night I realized my salivary glands were running overtime. And I was craving food! So I headed to the kitchen and fixed myself a grilled cheese sandwich with Campbell's tomato soup. Dipping those sandwich strips into that creamy soup was pure pleasure on the palette, and my first real meal in a week. Eating has improved each day since. Yay! Eating is such a cool part of life.

Of course with more food comes more waste which leads me to the next part of this update...

So far so good on the bum end of things. I've been given enough trusted advice on this topic to feel pretty good about our progress. For example, no major mishaps since we've been home. (And yes, if you want to read between the lines put the emphasis on since.) This means I am getting to the toilet in time. 

Let's put this into perspective.

1) My pelvis received massive amounts of radiation pre surgery.

2) An extremely important part of my large intestines is missing, as in my rectum.

3) There is currently no communication between my new plumbing and my brain. Full and empty are indiscernible.

4) All I have produced since surgery is gas and diarrhea. Lots.

Under the circumstances I am pretty darn proud of my little sphincter at the end of the line. In spite of its own aches and pains it is doing its job admirably. That's a great start.

Oh, I almost forgot.

A friend, who is also a nurse, asked me how I was getting along the other night. I explained the situation and said that I was simply hitting the restroom at regular intervals to stay ahead of any accidents. He smiled and said, "You know, there's a name for that. It's called timed voids."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!
Unfortunately, Steve didn't get to go home for Father's Day. That would have been the best father's day present he could have had. I think he is getting tired of being here at the hospital, but doesn't know what he can do to make it happen. He is still having problems with nausea and has no appetite or real energy.
 I ended up leaving to go home around noon so that I could take a shower ( it had been three days since my last one), change clothes, attend church with the kids, etc. The kids and I all came back to the hospital at 4:00 p.m., but Steve wasn't feeling up to much visiting.  They gave Steve a large card they had made for him and a small plate of peanut butter cookies. They went home at 5:30 so that he could keep resting. We'll just have to have a delayed father's day celebration when he is finally feeling well enough to enjoy it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This to shall pass...

Today got off to a bit of a rough start. When I arrived just before 7 a.m., I walked in just as Steve was starting to feel nauseated. When the nausea persisted, we let the nurses know what was going on and they gave him some medicine to help.  He ended up getting a couple of doses of anti-nausea medicine throughout the day. It seemed to help a bit, but he didn't have any appetite the whole day. Around the middle of the day he started passing gas. Unfortunately, with the gas also came some diarrhea. Steve ended up sleeping for most of the day. I'm hoping all the extra sleep will be helpful to his poor body and that he has a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Visitors Galore

Today was perfectly fun. Not much happening yet on the bum end of things. After a day on ice chips yesterday, I was given a clear liquid diet today. Lots of soup broth, jello, tea, water, juices and popsicles. Breakfast lunch and dinner were all the same. But, it is slowly getting things moving. At least it's making lots of gurgles and growls down in my bowels. I am told that when I can pass a little gas they will switch me to soft foods. So far I can burp. :-)

Carla joined me from home early this morning. In fact, she'll be leaving for home again tonight. Nathan drove all of our children out to visit over lunch. Carla brought in pizza for everyone and we played our Apples to Apples card game. I of course sipped my soup broth like a good boy. We had a great time together and nobody got kicked out for making too much noise.

When the kids left, I was just lying down to catch a nap when my neighbor, Mark, showed up. So Carla took a nap while the two of us visited. I took a walk around the hallway with Carla when Mark left and was just lying down for that nap when my Bishop (church leader) and his daughter showed up for a visit. Cool. No sooner did we see them off when Carla's parents showed up. I fell asleep before they left. :-}

We walked past my surgeon, Dr. Sklow, in the hallway during one of those walks. He was here on his rounds. He said he'll most likely put me on soft foods in the morning to take the next step in waking up my large intestines. Toast, noodles, things like that. Should be fun. That toast is going to taste pretty good by then. He was pleased that we were getting some walking in and said that our progress was normal and not to worry. Patience...

All in all it was a fun day. Any pain around my old stoma sight is minimal, with some swelling and tenderness in places. I still feel a bit bloated at times. I can press the magic morphine button for pain relief as needed. I'm sure that has been helping. My night crew just checked in. The nursing staff changes every 12 hours on the 7's. It takes the next shift awhile to make their rounds. I'll be in good hands again tonight.

I'll stop here and get this posted. Carla will leave next, and then we'll see if I get any late night visitors besides the staff. :-)

See you all in the morning...

Sleeping in my own bed

Good morning,
Steve had a good night with the usual interrupted sleep you get in a hospital. He actually had one of the aides he had during his earlier surgery assigned to him for the night. John was one of our favorites and knowing he was looking after Steve allowed me to go home, see the kids, and get a better nights sleep in my own bed myself.
I was back at the hospital at 6:45 a.m. and just missed the visit from the surgical team. They had changed the packing material where Stanley used to be. Steve has already completed a couple of walks since I had saw him last night. He is looking a lot better and has a lot more energy than he did yesterday. He went for another walk after I arrived, hoping to relieve some bloating in his abdominal area. He is now on a clear liquid diet and had chicken broth and a bit of jello to kick things off. Having eaten and exercised he is taking a short nap.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Room to Spare

News Flash: Steve has been transfered to Huntsman and can be found in room 5525.
It is rather ironic in a way. Apparently both hospitals assigned him a room. Around 5 p.m. the U of U hospital got a phone call from Huntsman asking for the whereabouts of their patient. What makes it so funny is that the last time Steve was in for surgery they couldn't get him a room for a day and a half. This time he was assigned two rooms simultaneously.
What was surprising for me to see was how much the transfer wore Steve out. For all that they say it is a simple procedure to reverse an ileostomy, it sure beats up a body. Steve's resting up from his most recent adventure and will hopefully get a good nights sleep.

Not the Cadillac

Steve has been released from recovery and assigned room #5202 at the U of U Hospital. It will be nice when they finish the addition at Huntsman. In the meantime, if they run short of beds there, they use the U of U hospital for overflow. Steve is doing well, but is tired and a little sore. (He didn't get an epidural this round.) I figure today is the perfect time for him to sleep as much as possible, before his body starts really testing his new plumbing.

to recovery and beyond

Steve just finished surgery and was taken into the recovery room. They are hoping to move him up to Huntsman, but aren't yet sure if a room will be available. (Apparently the rooms at Huntsman are the equivalent of a cadillac when it comes to cars.) Steve did well during surgery and they aren't expecting any complications. The only food he will be allowed to eat today is ice chips. If that goes well, he can start eating some simple things tomorrow.

All Checked In

Hi Everyone,
We woke up at 5:00 a.m. and left for the hospital at 6:30 a.m. this morning. Steve didn't get much sleep last night. (He is the same way just before running a marathon.) Hopefully, he can get caught up on some of his zzzz's after surgery. In the meantime, we figured out patient parking and got him admitted for surgery. (We are at a hospital next door to Huntsman so that Steve can have his surgery sooner. Huntsman wasn't able to fit him in for a couple more weeks.) Dr. Sklow stopped in and will begin the reversal procedure at 8:45 a.m. I will update you throughout the day as things progress.
Tata for now. Carla

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farewell, Stanley

The time has come to say farewell to Stanley - as in Stanley the Stoma. As far as we know I passed all of my pre-surgery tests. We never heard back from the doctor on that awesome pressure test last week. (I guess that means I can take the pressure, eh?) My surgery starts at 8:30 tomorrow morning. We have to check in by 7:00. It should take about an hour and a half. The hospital stay will be 3 to 5 days with another 2 to 3 weeks at home for recovery.

Stanley has been great company for the last six months. I can't image going through chemo and dealing with my new plumbing simultaneously. No thanks. Or rather, a big thanks to Stanley for helping out. And he isn't really leaving. He's just going back where he came from. The good news is that he will always be a part of me, you know, deep down inside. :-)

Stanley before

Stanley after

Carla has agreed to take over the blog again while I'm incapacitated, so check in often and leave lots of nice, encouraging comments.

And as always, thanks again for all of your thoughts and prayers, etc.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Carole!

Everybody please stop by Carole's blog and wish her a happy birthday. She is 51 today by her own admission. How many women do that, huh?

Let's get 51 birthday greetings posted on her cancer blog, which she affectionately calls What a Pain in the Bum!

Carole, we wish you the best of birthdays and many happy returns of the day!

Much love, The Chamberlins

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Bum Deal

First of all, a shout out to Uncle Jim and Aunt Wanda. Love you guys!

Secondly, a quick summation for Carole. All is well. :-)

Now for the details...

The effects of the chemo are gradually and blessedly going away. People are actually starting to comment on how well I am looking. My hands and feet still have a few cracks but nothing too bad. I can walk well and grip things again. All good stuff. Sadly my appetite is back and my weight is climbing. So much for the cancer diet. Now I'll have to actually watch what I eat and exercise like everybody else to stay fit and trim. Fortunately, my energy is also returning.

My final surgery is scheduled for Wednesday morning, June 15th, just two weeks from today. The procedure is called an ileostomy takedown, which sounds like a wrestling move to me. ("That's two points for Dr. Sklow for the takedown!") The purpose of the takedown is to reverse the ileostomy, allowing traffic to once again flow through what is left of my large intestines and into my new plumbing. If everything works correctly, it will then leave my body in a controlled manner, at my bidding, through the original exit God gave me at birth.

Two tests were performed to ensure that all is healed and ready for use before the flood gates are reopened. Last Thursday, Dr. Sklow was kind enough to insert his finger well into my bum checking for any strictures. (Yes, I'm going to let you look that word up for yourself.) He smiled and said I had no strictures. Green light for test number two (let's say the pun here is intentional). Yesterday, I went back to the hospital for the pressure check. That's where they look for leaks in the new plumbing. Since I know many of you are curious, I'll explain how this is done.

The Mother of All Enemas

I lay on my left side on a table in an xray room. I am wearing my birthday suit and a lovely hospital gown open at the back. A man wearing a lead vest and a lead collar inserts a magic wand into my bum. Wait, let's call it a plastic tube with a bulbous tip about the thickness of Dr. Sklow's finger. Me, I am prepared for this. I am biting on a rolled up wash cloth which Carla (who must now remain in the waiting room) brought me after witnessing last week's stricture stress. Only a muffled scream escapes my lips.

Within moments I am being filled with a contrast fluid from a large bag hanging on an IV pole. That's lab technician number two's job. Squeeze the bag until I'm full. My job, he explains, is to hold it all in. No pressure there! Xray man number one keeps the wand in place with one hand while he guides a movable xray arm thing-a-ma-jig across my body all while looking at a monitor out of my view. He has me roll this way and that for several minutes getting images of my glowing intestines from all sides.

"Anything leaking in there?" I ask during a brief lull in the process. Mind you, I feel like a ballooned up puffer fish at this point. "You'll have to ask your doctor for the results," he replies. So I am guessing that no news is good news. I'll head in for surgery if I haven't heard from Dr. Sklow before then.

And finally, all good things have to come to an end (or out the end as the case may be). I am invited to use a toilet just off the xray room so I don't have to waddle back to the changing room. Ten minutes and several pints later, I am guided back to the dressing room where there is another toilet calling to me. Eventually, I make it out to the waiting room to see Carla, when suddenly I have to high tail it to yet a third toilet down the hall. When Carla sees me next I am shaking, exhausted, weak and sweating. I guess the third time is the charm.

It would be half an hour more before we got me out to the car for the trip home, but at least I was empty at last. I told the technicians when I first walked in their little torture chamber that I thought I was getting a bum deal.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's a Photo Finish

So I rush to the end of my chemo marathon and I'm too pooped to post.

Thankfully, Fiona is in my cheering section when I cross.

And she brought her camera!

Please click on the post title to see Fiona's awesome tribute at the finish line.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day here in the United States.

For all you wonderful women out there, thank you. Words will never fully express my gratitude and appreciation for your contributions to the human race. We are nothing without you.

May I introduce you to Rosalyn Virginia Chamberlin?

She's my mother...

and my dad's best friend.

I love you, Mom!

P.S. Six days and counting with chemo. (This is a cancer blog, after all. :-))

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Life's Little Distractions

This little distraction let me drive it home a few weeks back.

It's been living here ever since.

I've been very happy about that.

Carla says it's a very pretty car,

and a fun ride.

It's even more fun to drive.

My children are now asking me to teach them how to drive a car with a manual transmission.

And for the first time in our marriage,

so is Carla.

Go figure!

We're looking forward to our first mini road trip,

just the two of us...

Carla and me.

Michael helped me clean this beauty today,

right after I taught him how to drive it in an unused parking lot.

So now I have a car cleaning buddy and a very excited son.

Of course, I'm excited too!

The other little distraction in my life is cancer...

Can you guess which one I prefer?

I was supposed to start my sixth and last round of chemotherapy on Friday morning. Didn't happen.

Thursday was spent at the Huntsman Cancer Institute getting my lab work done, checking in with my oncology team, and visiting my ostomy nurse. I've had a skin rash around my ileostomy for the last two weeks. It even got into my naval. (Let's all say "yuck".) It itches, it seeps, it gets crusty, and it starts all over again. Daily. I was given a prescription for the rash which is helping, but Friday morning the rash decided to fight back first.

A new spot showed up all purply and puss filled. Carla immediately declared it infected and started stabbing it with a needle. Since we were changing my ostomy wafer at the time, we decided not to put the new one on for a few hours. This gave my rashy skin some air time, but it also left me and my stoma 'au naturale' for most of the morning.

The ostomy wafer sticks to my skin around the stoma and holds the plastic bag which covers it. Imagine what fun I had holding a bowl under my stoma instead, playing catch as it proceeded to process my breakfast. Makes me look forward to loosing my memory in my old age.

We do feel the medicine and the extra two days off have helped the rash calm down. Nobody wants me getting infected while on chemo. Chemo exacerbates everything it comes across. Tomorrow morning, Sunday, I'll start taking my Xeloda again. This delay will cost me two more days in May. I will now finish chemo on Saturday night, May 14th. Nothing like moving the finish line late in a race...

Not to worry, though. As much as I really don't want to go back on chemo, I really do want to get this last round started, because the next stop is the FINISH LINE!

Of life's little distractions, I have to say that my spunky little Mazda Miata found me just in time. My newest distraction definitely helps me deal with my second.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mile 17

Hello. My name is Steve.

(I haven't written in awhile, so some of you may have forgotten my name. :-))

I think part of the reason for the gap is because how I'm doing seems trivial at times compared to how others are doing. Who am I to complain or have a tough day? I haven't looked at my own blog in days and then when I do, I find out that David's journey is over.

I loved you, David, just because we were comrades in cancer. I knew you through your blog for only a few short months and you likely never knew me. But I know this, the world is now short a truly gentle man among men. My prayers continue for your family.

As for me, I'm dealing with my own journey through cancer. The intellectual part of me knows not to compare my journey with others. We each have to travel our own road, though none of us really travel alone. I'd say at the very least we have angels at our side. (My personal favorite angel is my wife, Carla.)

All right, then. Here's my update on how I'm doing.

I'm doing.

That's about it, really. Round 4 finished OK. The week off went faster than it should have. That or it's getting harder to recover between rounds.

We started round 5 a bit concerned for my feet (hands too, actually). Three days in things got a bit scary. That was Sunday night. My hands and feet turned a very angry red and threatened to split into open soars in several places. Each of my big toes got infected around the toe nails which hurt with the slightest pressure. My oncologist has always asked me to watch for any open wounds. This is the closest we've ever come.

I went ahead and took my Xeloda the next morning and drove in to work. Carla got on the phone with the nurse who got word to my oncologist. They stopped my chemo immediately. Three days off, no questions asked. If things calm down we will start again Thursday night. That's tomorrow night. Things are calming down, sort of.

Carla has slathered my hands and feet with plain yogurt for the last two nights. Interestingly effective at sloughing off dead skin and removing the heat. My skin actually returns to its pre-chemo white for a time. So my hands are back to their normal, poorly chemo condition, and my feet have made some healing progress.

The second thing my oncologist did was reduce my dosage. Music to my ears. I completed round 1 on eight pills a day (4000 mg). It kicked my butt. I started round 2 on seven pills a day and finished on six. Rounds 3 and 4 were both done on six pills a day. Round 5 (the one I'm in the middle of) started on six, took a three day break, and will finish on five (2500 mg).

There is also the part where cancer and cancer treatment just wears you down over time. I've managed to work partial days for the last three days.

Tomorrow night it's dinner with a serving of chemo for dessert. Must keep fighting cancer.

Now, let's explain the title for this post - Mile 17.

I have completed 34 marathons over the last 18 years. That's 26.2 miles each (42 k). One of my favorite courses is in northern Utah. It's called the Top of Utah marathon. For ten consecutive years I found myself at the starting line up Blacksmith Fork canyon. Absolutely gorgeous.

By mile 14 you reach the mouth of the canyon where you see your friends and family for the first time during the race. Exhilarating. Then the course flattens out for three miles while it winds through a tranquil neighborhood. You pop out at mile 17.

For 14 miles you feel the excitement of the race, enjoy the fall colors blanketing the canyon walls, talk with other runners along the way, and look forward to seeing the fans at mile 14. For the next three miles your legs adjust to the flat course. Still a bit of talking between fellow runners. I see my family again at mile 17 and then things begin to change.

At mile 17 the course turns due north and heads for the finish line in Logon, Utah. At mile 17 I have completed two thirds of the course. My body begins to assess what it has left in the tank. There is little or no talking with other runners. It is the most quiet part of the race for me. I focus on my pace, my posture, my breathing, the next water station, the next mile marker.

Marathons have a notorious wall at mile 20. Many runners fade quickly at this point in the race. Often sooner. Hanging on to the finish begs for true endurance. I actually love this part of the race. It humbles you every time. My focus becomes the next corner, the next telephone pole, the next runner to try and pass.

Gently, ever so slowly you creep up on another runner and pass them by. The only words exchanged are words of encouragement. "Looking good," says the runner being passed. "You've got this one," says me.

And then I finish the race. I turn the last corner just after the mile 26 marker, giving one final burst of energy up the street to the city park. I cross the finish line having left it all on the course. I'm exhausted, pert near dehydrated, and completely happy. It's awesome.

My cancer diagnosis came on July 30, 2010. My final surgery will be in mid June. I am two thirds of the way through my protocol.

I am currently receiving adjuvant chemotherapy. I have completed 4 of 6 rounds ending on May 11. That means I am two thirds of the way there.

Two thirds in either case puts me at mile 17.

Mile 17 - Boston Marathon

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cruisin' Alaska, Baby!

That's right, folks. We're taking a cruise to Alaska in August. No kids, just me and the Mrs.. Carla has had this cruise on her wish list for years. Thanks to her brother, it's happening. He's been trying to get their parents on a cruise for some time now. It worked out for this summer. Most of the siblings (Carla is the oldest of seven children) and many of their spouses are coming. We've booked six or seven cabins at this point. Little did her brother know when he made these plans that the cruise would fall on my one year cancer anniversary. So Happy Birthday to my mother-in-law, and Happy Cancer Anniversary to me!

Of course there's still a bit of chemo between me and that cruise, but why let a bunch of pink pills stop me from seeing some of God's beautiful earth. (Carole, you're my inspiration here. Rhodes is gorgeous. Oh, and Angela is going to Maui. I'm just jumping on the bandwagon.) And lest we forget, there's also a farewell party for Stanley before I get on the boat. (Tony, why change perfection? Stanley is the perfect name for a stoma. So I stole the name from you. :-)) My reversal is set for June, a month after finishing chemo. THEN I am getting on that ship with my wife. Together we'll celebrate the victory of our one year battle with rectal cancer. We're going to win the war as well. That's the five year cancer anniversary.

I'm doing all right as far as treatment goes. I decided last weekend that I wasn't going to play the role of cancer patient any more. None of this walking gingerly stuff and looking the part. I've been taking short walks at work and some in the evenings with Carla and the kids. After a week back on chemo I'm actually feeling better than the last round. The regular physical activity is helping. Nothing else has changed, but my body seems to be handling it better. That and I've gone through twice the lotion on my hands and feet this week. Just working harder to stay on top of the side effects. I'm liking the results this round. That's a good thing considering I really didn't want to start round four.

I continue to offer my thanks and gratitude for all of the support that comes through this blog. You all are simply the best. Maybe I should book a few more cabins for my cyber friends, eh?

Bon voyage!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Half Way

Hi Everyone,
Steve and I are sorry we haven't kept his blog up to date lately. We have both been in survival mode and just been focusing on what needs to be done. The good news is that we are half way done with Steve's follow-up chemo. He starts his fourth round tomorrow. He has been able to keep working full time so far, but that takes every bit of energy he has. By the time he gets to the end of each day his body just needs to crash and sleep. The hardest part of the day for him is the morning. Getting his body up and going takes a lot more out of him than he is used to. Just getting up and out the door to work was exhausting him. Because of this and a few other reasons, I ended up giving notice to my work and just stayed long enough to train a replacement.

I just couldn't do it all any more. I have been burning my candle at both ends this entire school year. My work has been wonderfully supportive through all of this craziness, but I wasn't able to be as effective for them or at home as I wanted to be. It has been hard trying to stay on top of work, home, kids, paperwork, taking care of Steve, etc. As much as I loved working with the kids at the school, I couldn't afford to keep spreading myself so thin.

I have yet to feel like I am catching up on everything at home, like paperwork (ugh), but I have been more available for Steve and the kids. I'm hoping that once I'm not so tired, I will be able to get more done in a day. Sometimes I feel like I'm a zombie just going through the motions, but not getting much done. That has been a little frustrating. At the same time I realize that it is going to take a while for me to get caught up on me. I just have to be patient and give my body a chance to bounce back.

Steve is doing well. Chemo will never be fun, but he is hanging in there. His feet and hands are having the roughest time. The skin on the bottoms of his feet peels off in big sections about every three weeks. (I never knew that skin could replace itself so quickly in such large quantities.) His poor hands are just red, wrinkled and tender. Thankfully it is the top that is the worst, which means he is still able to type when he is working. Hopefully the neuropathy in his fingers will go away once he is no longer taking the zeloda.

Thanks for all your love and support. It is very much appreciated. Carla

Sunday, March 13, 2011

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

A billboard on my way to work!

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month here in the United States. Please take a few minutes to look over this Colorectal Cancer Fact Sheet. Early detection can make all the difference. And don't say, "I'm not 50 yet," either. I was 48 when I was diagnosed. Many are much younger. If you exhibit any of the Symptoms of colorectal cancer, get your butt in and get it checked out!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

♫ I get by with a little help from my friends...

Today Carla and I hopped in the car and went to say 'Hi' to three special friends. It took a few hours, but we were able to greet each one in a special way. Lots of fun.

What is special about these three friends is that I have never met them. Not even today.

They live in England. The four of us support each other through our cancer blogs. That is where I met them, in cyber space.

Turns out there are many more bloggers out there with their cancer stories. It is a tremendous support system beyond our own family and friends.

So today, I just wanted to send a greeting to my far away cancer friends and let you know that we are thinking of you. ("We" being me and Carla, of course.)

To challenge the rest of my awesome supporters, see if you can match each greeting to the correct picture. Submit your answers in the comments.

Hint: If any of you are really trying to get the right answers, take a look in the list of cancer blogs I follow.

1) Hi, Fiona!    2) Hey, Carole!    3) Hello, Tony!

Picture A

Picture B

Picture C

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


With great care or delicacy; cautiously.
Cautious; careful.

That's how I walk.

       ...or so everybody tells me.

 "How are you doing,  Steve? You're walking gingerly." 

 "You are walking gingerly today. How's it going?" 

 "Hey, Steve. You're walking a bit gingerly. You sick?" 

How come nobody ever says,  "Dude, you're walking!" 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coping with Chemo

It's tough.

I'm tired.

I shaved off a six-day beard to clean up for church this morning.

I'm doing my best to work full time and contribute fully when I'm there. I have precious little sick leave/vacation left with one more surgery coming up in June. The more I can work, the more it accrues back up while keeping our finances stable.

I've been using prescription sleeping pills since mid January to try and regulate my sleep. I suspect anyone with cancer can tell you that night time is often no fun.

My regular doctor also increased my Fluoxetine (Prozac) dosage during the same visit. I started on that last fall. Depression is not uncommon among cancer patients.

We finished my second of six rounds of chemo—Xeloda tablets taken with breakfast and dinner—on Friday. My oncologist lowered the dosage twice in the last 14 days to get me through. It turns out (and no surprise) that I don't recover enough during my seven days off to make up for the 14 days on. This chemo is cumulative and so are its side effects. I think the goal with my adjuvant chemo is to keep me toxic enough to take out any remaining cancer cells without taking *me* out. It's a balancing act.

The most notable side effects are my hands and feet. They get what the Xeloda drug maker calls hand-foot syndrome. Makes for wobbly walking and sensitive finger tips. Opening anything with ridges isn't any fun either. Ironic that my chemo pills come in a ridge-capped container! Here is a link to the complete list of Xeloda side effects.

What really knocks me down is the fatigue. Even getting dressed wears me out. I get ready for work and I'm ready for a nap. That's a sad thing considering I used to run marathons!

Stupid cancer.

We are hanging in there as best we can. Tonight Carla held me and just let me cry. I married a real gem.

Three cheers for the caregivers in the world!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Tender Mercies of the Lord

Dear Tony,

No one should ever have to start a blog post with the words "Take this cup from me". It broke my heart to see it on your blog, and yet I understood immediately. Some of us have been there even when we didn't ask for the journey. Please hang on to your faith in your Lord, Jesus Christ. It is He who carries us through, and even beyond when that is our cup to drink.

I share with you my personal witness that God loves his children, individually and personally. I have bathed in His love when it mattered most and been blessed by His tender mercies when peace was no where else to be found. May the Lord bless you likewise, as I know he will.

Love and hugs to you and your family,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cancer Shmancer!

Six rounds of adjuvant chemo may be knocking me around right now, but there ain't no cancer in me! A little radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, along with a lot of faith, fasting and prayers, sent it packing. We're just batting cleanup with this latest treatment. Any cancer cell thinking it's going to hang around in my body has another thing coming. I'm swallowing poison on a daily basis to take you out!

And when I'm done with my treatment, this book may prove useful.

Yeah, I'm paying a price for winning, but living somehow makes it all worth while.