Friday, April 11, 2014

Birthday Boy



  We celebrated Caleb's first birthday last Sunday. He was 1 on March 28, but we had to wait until the whole family was cleared up of the snuffles, colds, etc. as my blood counts are low and I am supposed to avoid such things.


Good chocolate cake!


Brothers

  We have the boys again this afternoon as Katie needed to be at a business function with Dave.

  The weather is having a hard time deciding that Spring is here. Some beautiful days at 75-80 but next Tuesday is forecast at 52-32! What!
   I am trying to do as much as I can outside every day the weather allows, but my stamina is severely limited. I started the second month of chemo Wednesday. Side effects are really fairly minimal, but for stamina, hair loss and numbness of feet. 
  We continue to sell some unneeded things on Craig's List. Sold a lawn plug aerator yesterday for $120, then got a small load of topsoil delivered this morning for $100. We found some really nice 3 ft. blueberry bushes for $12.95 at Kroger, of all places, so we are replacing some that didn't make it. Also lost a lot of strawberry plants this winter.
  I am anxious to plant more garden, but my common sense tells me to be patient.
  I got a shot Wednesday that is supposed to help my body build more blood cells. I guess it is one of the PED drugs Lance Armstrong is accused of taking. Cost $3000! Thank goodness for insurance.




Saturday, April 5, 2014

More Spring and Great Report !



  The forsythia is in full bloom and the redbuds are breaking out. Looks like Spring!


The first asparagus spear of 2014! I had been checking every few days; went out today to pull a few weeds and there it was!


  Rita and I planted the onion sets and potatoes last Monday. If temperatures turn out as forecast the next 2-3 weeks, I hope to plant corn, squash, tomatoes etc. before the end of April. Accu-weather says highs from 65-80 and lows mostly 45-58 so that would be wonderful.

  I must admire the gardeners in several blogs I read who live in the "North" who still have hard freezes and snow. Minus 6 a few days ago in North Dakota? I don't think I could stand it!

Medical Update

  We received wonderful news Friday at the doctor's appointment. First of all, my blood counts, which had been dropping down to near the transfusion level, had improved. But BEST of all, the CA19-9 pancreatic cancer blood marker test, which had been skyrocketing to 14,000 and then 36,000, had dropped to 6000! God is using the chemo as we have been praying to kill those bad cells.
  This was an off week from chemo and I feel more nearly "normal" than I have in many a day, but I have another repeat of the March chemo starting Wednesday April 9 for 4 weeks, with 4 more months to follow after April.
  Thank all of you who are praying. God hears and answers!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hope SPRINGS Eternal !



Dwarf peach tree March 22. Four nights later we had to cover it when the low hit 19. Last night and tonight are about 33-34, then maybe spring arrives! 62 today, 70's the rest of the week with nights much warmer.


  Wendy & Steve came over the 22nd and did several jobs for us, including roto-tilling some of the garden beds. Rita and I hope to plant two 21' rows of Yukon Gold potatoes and two 21" rows of Walla Walla onions Mon  or Tues.
  I had to order the Walla Walla sets online. All the Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart etc. garden centers carry Bonnie plants and they only stock a generic "sweet" onion. I checked with the manager at our local Mennonite nursery and he had never heard of a Walla Walla. I explained that it was "the Vidalia of the West". It originated on the island of Corsica and was introduced to the Walla Walla Valley in Washington State in 1900; the Vidalia started in Georgia in the 1930's.
  Some say that you can't grow WWs this far south, but we had an excellent yield last year, outperforming Candy and Red Granex.
  April forecast is mostly 70's with a few 60's and 80's. Lows mostly 40's and 50's with maybe 2 or 3 high 30's. We'll get past this hard winter yet!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Update & Then Change Focus



  This spread is from last Saturday when we had a wonderful visit from my niece Laurie and her husband Wayne from California. More on that in a subsequent post. This was a lunch layout with deli sandwich fixin's, sausage cheese dip, buffalo chicken dip, potato salad, fruit and veggie trays, apple pie and more. Yummm!

  Here is the latest medical update and prayer request Then I hope to start making some "regular" posts more tilted toward gardening and such, as I feel stronger and Spring holds promise, in spite of this horribly long and cold winter.

  I had my second chemo treatment last Wednesday. The good news is that I have really had no side effects as yet from the chemo. The not so good news is that God is not finished healing me yet. The Ca 19-9 marker test was again greatly elevated and the PET scan was, in Dr. Gians words, "a mess". So I most likely have cancer still lingering somewhere in the abdominal area. Dr. Gian added Abraxane to my Gemzar chemo last Wednesday...the latest potent and expensive drug, I guess.
  Yesterday, I spent 2-3 hours with Rita's help cleaning up around the shop with 2 trips to the "dump". (The gutters were not correctly installed on the shop building and I had a lot of rot behind them. So had Terry (who built the shop for us (but not the gutters!) take them down, repair, and re-install correctly. So we cleaned up all the old and rotten wood. I may have overdone it; came in the house for a nap and next thing you know I had a 101 + temperature. Our doctor instructions were to call immediately if I ever had a temp over 100.5 because my white blood cell count is low. So.............a trip into the emergency room, 4 hour stay, x-rays and blood tests, IV anti-biotic, and then, thankfully, back home. Tests were all good, no infections, so just a cautious and preventative measure.

  I feel better and stronger than I have in months, but obviously I have a long way to go. Please continue to pray for healing. We serve a great God who is able. Praise and thank Him!



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Farm Update and Medical Update



  Look carefully and you can see the stock trailer leaving the driveway with our bull, 5 cows and 3 babies. We do miss them but we got a fair price and greatly reduced the workload. I have also sold the last 7 round bales of hay, both hay rings, the 3 point hitch bale spear and the cattle feeding trough. All through word of mouth or Craig's list. We sure enjoyed seeing the first 3 baby calves. That is the best part of owning cattle.
  Still to sell: the tractor, bush hog, lawn aerator, lawn thatcher and various fence posts.
  Here are a few more farm pictures.



  And here is Rita's beautiful Christmas cactus and a couple shots of Caleb:




  Here is the latest medical update:

    Yesterday was my first chemo treatment and it was uneventful. No side effects and all was well.
 
    Several things to be praying about. My original CT at Vanderbilt showed a nodule in my lower lung. Dr. Parikh referred to a pulmonologist who said it was nothing to be concerned about. I had another CT at St Thomas Rutherford 2 weeks ago which showed my entire lungs and a second nodule near the top was seen. Again, referred to a pulmonologist and he said they are too small to be biopsied; probably nothing to be concerned about but he will monitor it.
 
    I saw Dr. Gian, my oncologist, yesterday before the first chemo. I have been having terrible lower back pain. Hydrocodone didn’t help and had side effects. I was taking Tylenol and it helped but I couldn’t take it often enough to cover 24 hours. Dr. Gian took me off Tylenol (hard on the l liver) and put me on Ibuprofen 3X / day. It has virtually stopped all pain and last night was the best night I have had in weeks. He said the pain is likely from muscles still healing from my surgery.
 
    The biggest concern is that the blood test from 2 weeks ago saw a greatly elevated Ca19-9 level. This generally means a metastasis, but can also be still a reaction to my surgery, as the pancreas, liver, stomach, small intestines and ductwork were all cut into during surgery. The test will be run weekly to see if it is rising or falling. A sample was taken Wednesday. We are just trusting that it is not a metastasis.
 
    I felt better today than I have for a long time. My weight loss bottomed out at 90# and I have regained 6, so that is positive. I sold the 3 point hay spear today and was outside for 30-40 minutes loading that and visiting. I found that I didn’t have the strength to lift myself up onto my tractor seat! Going to have to pace myself. 
 
    Specific prayer requests:
            * That future tests show the CA19-9 coming down indicating no spread of cancer.
            *  Please pray for Carol, a blogging friend in Washington state. She has a vigorous return of cancer after 5 years from her original colon cancer Please pray for strength and for God's touch.
 
    Once again, thank you all for your prayers and all expressions of concern.
 
Love,
 
Ray
 
 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Latest Update

 
It has been about 2 weeks since my last post. On Feb. 24, I saw Dr. Lisa White for a pre-op appointment before out patient surgery to place a port so we can begin chemo. I was so exhausted by the time I got to her office that she ended up calling an ambulance to take me literally around the corner to the Rutherford Hospital ER. I was there 4 hours getting IV’s as I was severely dehydrated.  The ER doctor ran several tests , basically looking for blood clots, but all tests were clear.
 
However, this morning I received a call from my family doctor, Dr. Payne. He had received the CT from that day and there are a couple of “nodules” at the bottom of my lungs that they want to check out. I see a pulmonologist next Tuesday. Please pray that this is nothing abnormal. My original CT in November showed something similar and Dr. Parikh had a pulmonologist look at the CT and concluded nothing was wrong. We pray for a similar finding this time.
 
I had my pre-op this morning for the port, which will be done Friday morning, with chemo to start next Wednesday.
 
Needless to say, this is a difficult journey. Please continue your prayers and pray for my family, especially Rita, as they are bearing a heavy load.

On another note, I sold the cows as a group to a young rancher near here.  I was happy that he took them all and they are going to a good home. I sold a hay ring and will sell several more items in the coming weeks, including the tractor. Time to cut back to a more manageable workload.
 
Blessings to you all,
 

Ray

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cow news and medical update



  I haven't been able to get out for recent pictures of the cows. Wendy snapped this last month to show me in the hospital. Since then, 3 of the 5 cows have calved so we have 3 little Angus babies running and playing.
  I have made a big decision. I am selling the cows. So far I just mentioned it to 3 neighbors and 2 people have interest already. It's possible that if we can't sell the herd together, we might wait until late summer when the calves are weaned and then sell.
 There are just too many projects that would need to be done before next year and I am in no shape for rodeoing. I have enjoyed them for 4 years and I will just go ahead with the chickens and garden; easier to handle.
 We met the oncologist yesterday for  a consultation and chemo may start in a couple of weeks. 2 months chemo, 2 months radiation plus different chemo, then 2 months repeat chemo. I will see Dr. Lisa White Monday to schedule time to place a port under the skin so I don't need to be stuck every time I get chemo or IV.
  Our oncologist, Dr. Gian, was recommended by Dr White, and we love him. He prayed with us and prays for all his patients daily.
  My biggest challenge now is to gain strength. I have lost 83# since 1 year ago, 53 of it since November, and I am skin and bones. My appetite is good but I get physically full too soon. My GI tract was altered during surgery and just hasn't expanded enough yet. So I try to eat several times a day, but I feel full most of the time. I am able to walk around the house with neither walker or cane. I used a cane yesterday going to the doctor's appointments. We also saw my family doctor yesterday. He altered my meds as my blood pressure and pulse rate are still too high.
   Please pray that I can eat more, gain strength and begin chemo strong.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Another "God thing"

  Today we had a followup appointment with Dr. Parikh. He is pleased with my progress; goal is to improve a little every day, and we can definitely see that.
  When he came into the room today, he said, "There's my miracle patient!" And he told us that the rare clostridia blood infection I had has a 10% survival rate!  Add that to the fact that only 15% of pancreatic tumor patients qualify for surgical removal, and it can only be explained by a miracle from God. Once more, thank each of you for your prayers. Only God could do it.
  One of my biggest faults that God has pointed out to me is impatience. Progress is so very slow that I still struggle with it. Please pray that I keep focused on Jesus and take one day at a time.
  Bless you all.
  Ray

Friday, February 7, 2014

Feb. 7 update


    Some of you readers are likely aware of some or all of this, so please excuse me if I repeat. But I want to be sure all who have stood with us through this journey know where we have been and where we are.
 
Jan. 15 - Whipple surgery to remove tumor in pancreas plus other "parts". Cancer diagnosed as 2b and chemo/radiation/chemo to follow.
Jan. 21 - Returned home in record time and feeling good.
Jan. 24 - About midnight, developed sharp pain and tremors; ambulance ride back to Vanderbilt.
Jan 25 - On ventilator and described as "sickest patient at Vanderbilt right now".
              Septic poisoning, infection around liver
             On ventilator, dialysis, 24 IV bags, touch and go for 3-5 days
Jan 30 -  First day I really am awake enough to know what's occurring; ventilator taken out
Jan 31 - Feb 7 - Progress every day and I happily !!! Returned home Tues noon. This is Friday evening and each day shows improvement.
 
I have probably 10-15 # of retained fluid yet to deal with, but things are progressing very well. I'm sleeping in my own bed, eating Rita's cooking instead of hospital food, and I'm not chained down with tubes and wires. I can move around the house with a walker and am slowly rebuilding strength.
 
This has been an incredible journey that is absolutely a miracle of God. So many thousands of people praying, so many texts, phone calls, visits and expressions of concern. It has brought me face to face with my God, and many familiar Bible passages and hymns from the past 60+ years of my life have taken on brand new meaning. I hope to write more in the future about my spiritual journey through this.
 
Thank each one of you for all your prayers and concern. I value it greatly.
 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Vanderbilt Again

Hi, this is Rita.  Ray had been home for three days post surgery when he developed a systemic infection and had to return to Vanderbilt.  After several hours in the ER, he was transferred to the SICU.  Doctors said at one point that he was the sickest man in the ICU. Thanks to God and the wonderful team at Vanderbilt, he has made great strides.  It is not clear, at this point, when he will be able to return to regular posts but he is anxious to do so.  He so enjoys reading your messages.  We thank you for your prayers and kind words.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oh Happy Day! Home Again!



  Hello Family, Friends and Prayer warriors,

  This is a good day !!  I was released from Vanderbilt mid-day and got home about 2 PM. A huge thank you to Dan and Jeanene B. for the ride home! Thank you to all who visited, brought goodies, sent cards, and all the phone calls, texts and emails. Most of all, thank you for the prayers which sustained us.

  In short, the Whipple is one of the most complex surgeries out there, only a small percentage of pancreatic tumor patients even qualify for it, and God brought me through it in a record time recovery with very little pain. I am eternally grateful.

  God isn’t through yet! Pathology came back this morning and it is mostly cancer. less pancreatitis. I will begin a course of chemo/radiation/chemo in February for 5-6 months. Dr. Parekh says we will “hit it hard”. He isn’t one for much speculation or percentages, but he is the best, so we will trust God to lead him to the most effective treatment.

  It is wonderful beyond words to be home. It is very cold outside but toasty in here! I will be writing more in the days ahead, but that’s all for now.

  Again, thank you for the thousands of prayers and keep praying that treatment is effective.

  God Bless you all!

  Ray;

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Update on Ray

Hi, this is Ray, posting from Vanderbilt with Rita and Wendy's help.  Surgery was long, and more complicated than expected, but went well.  When they began surgery, they discovered pancreatitis as well as the tumor they were expecting.  The pancreatitis surrounded the tumor, and the surgeon removed the whole mass.  Frozen sections were sent to pathology which determined that is was cancer, but we are waiting on pathology results from other areas to determine the extent and stage.  It did not appear to have spread.  I'm doing very well in recovery so far.  I have very little pain.  I am just waiting for the stomach to wake up, which can take awhile after major surgery.  In about 5-6 weeks, I will have to have chemotherapy and maybe radiation.  This will last for 5-6 months.  I will update as soon as possible and answer emails when I return home. Love to all of you.  I appreciate your prayers and support.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Last Update Before Surgery






Hello family, friends and prayer warriors,
 
  Just 2 1/2 days until check in for surgery. We cannot thank you all enough for the literally thousands of prayers and emails, phone calls, cards and notes of concern.  It is so comforting to know of God’s Army out there praying for us. We wholly trust Him for the outcome.
 
  Just a few notes of how we are doing. The past 4 nights have been the best sleep since early November. The jaundice is greatly reduced and the itching has abated to the point that I have slept those 4 nights with no ice packs and little lotion. I have maintained a great appetite, have eaten well and had no pain or nausea throughout this ordeal, and Praise God for that. The weight loss has slowed though total weight loss since 1 year ago is now approaching 60#. My body just can’t utilize food until we correct the problem and get the enzymes and digestive juices flowing correctly. We look forward to post surgery and treatment, to gaining strength while maintaining a healthy weight.
 
  We have been blessed this past week with a visit from old friends Pat & Kathy. Pat is a 7 year survivor of Stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma and we had a wonderful time of sharing and prayer one evening. I visited by phone with Terry, husband of Melanie whom we met at Vanderbilt. She prayed openly with us on our very first visit to Vanderbilt. Terry had the same surgery I will have 2 1/2 years ago and I appreciated his input.
 
  We were blessed with wonderful soup and bread and another Sarah Young book from our friend Paige, with milk shakes and a quick visit from Tom and Dottie, and with a 10th birthday party with family for grand-son Jackson. Plus cards, letters, emails, blog comments and phone calls from so many more. God bless you all.
 
  Lastly, I trust God completely during this time. I want the last words on my mind before anesthesia to be “Help me, Jesus” and the first words when I awake to be “Praise you, Jesus!”
 
  Please pray also for an added measure of strength, peace and grace for my beloved, Rita.
 
  Love,
 
  Ray
 

  Surgery: Wednesday January 15,  8 AM central

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Red Maple in front of house

  Hello Family, Friends, and prayer warriors,
  Today I had another CT scan and a follow-up with the surgeon before surgery on Jan. 15. The last CT was nearly 2 months ago. Dr. Parikh said the pancreatic tumor is about the same as it was Nov. 15! Praise God! It is great news that it has not grown during that time. I so very much appreciate the prayers of so many. God is good and all is well. We place our trust entirely in Him.
  Surgery will be at Vanderbilt Wed. Jan. 15 at 8 AM CST. On Tuesday afternoon we will go to Vanderbilt for a few more pre-op screenings. Since we live over an hour away and our check in time Wednesday is 6 AM, Son Dave suggested we stay in a hotel Tuesday night. Then he promptly searched the internet on his phone and found the Scarritt-Bennett Center which is just blocks away from Vanderbilt. It is a beautiful retreat and education center which at one time was a Methodist school. They rent rooms overnight for $50, so we have a reservation there next Tuesday night. What a blessing! Click this link if you would like to see their web site.
  The surgery will begin at 8 AM and is a 5-7 hour surgery. Hospital stay is about 7 days, plus or minus. I will try to send another short email next Mon or Tues so that, in the words of my cardiologist Dr. Jackson, “We will ramp up the prayers” !
  Rita will try to text or email as many of you as she has contact info for after the surgery.
  God Bless You,
  Ray

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year Update

  
  I posted this picture because it represents hope for me. God's beautiful flower creation which I hope and pray to again admire in a few months.

 
Hello friends and family,
 
Here is a weekly update and a look forward.
 
I have been feeling stronger and much more normal this past week. Though the itch persists, we have learned to manage as well as possible.  My weight has stabilized for which we are very thankful, so I can be strong going into the surgery. I have lost about 55# in 2013, but needed to lose that much; the challenge will be to maintain after surgery. My appetite has been great, I have enjoyed eating more than ever, which is a blessing, since many with pancreas problem cause nausea and loss of appetite.
 
I have been able to get around much more this past week. Yesterday, I went out in 21 degree weather, tended the chickens and started the tractor so it would fire right up for Steve when he came to feed. It is a cold blooded diesel and does not like to start in cold weather. Praise God, it started with just 1 shot of starter fluid.  We needed to go to town and I drove for the first time in weeks. It felt so good! We splurged and stopped at Captain D’s for a wonderful fish and cole slaw meal. I probably “overdid it” some but the heart is now strong.
 
We are expecting near record low temps the next 3-4 days. Though it is 45 right now, there is a cold wind blowing about 15 mph. Tomorrow is to be over 50 with rain, then temps plunging with 2” snow, Monday morning 9 with a wind chill of –7,  11/3 on Monday, 20/12 on Tuesday then warming some and the rest of January near normals of 40s hi and 20s lo.
 
I go to Vanderbilt on Tuesday for another CT, then an appointment with my surgeon. Surgery scheduled for Jan 15.
 
Seems as when it rains it pours. Dave and Katie are at the hospital right now (Saturday 1 pm) as Katie has abdominal pain most likely related to her surgery last Spring. Please pray for them and for a good outcome. Caring for Caleb right now is an issue as Dave, Steve and Wendy all must get back to their jobs, my surgery approaches and Rita has her hands full with me, plus she is having shoulder and wrist problems that keep her from lifting Caleb. And in addition to that, Steve and Wendy;s refrigerator went out overnight. They have Jackson and Caleb with them right now as they are out shopping for a new fridge.
 
Please pray for:
 
* Katie and Dave that the outcome of these tests going on right now will be good, for their peace and God’s rest, and for solutions for caring for the boys.
 
* For Steve and Wendy – they are always “on call” and such willing servants; pray for God’s continued strength and peace for them.
 
* For Rita, for relief from shoulder & wrist pain and continued strength. She is my angel !
 
* For our church family at New Heights Chapel, whom we miss so much and so look forward to again worshipping together. The Chapel had a water leak yesterday that did some damage, but services continue, Praise God. So many of you have prayed, called, sent cards, offered help. God bless each one of you.
 
* For good news after my CT and consultation Tuesday. We are expecting a Praise God time.
 
God continues to teach me so much through all this. The devotional book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young has been recommended by many of you and Dave got me a copy a few weeks ago. What a blessing! God is in control. All is well.
 
I will send an update after Tuesday.
 
God richly bless each one of you!
 

Ray