Welcome to our CaringBridge site. It has been created to keep friends and family updated about Bruce and his battle with malignant cholangiocarsinoma
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Carol Alfrey, Conley Outreach Community Services
As I write this, I am just five days away from surgery that should give me the best chance at beating my cancer. That surgery will take place at Mayo Clinic, the Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester MN. I feel very fortunate to have a chance at this fairly new surgery and hope they will learn things to help others even if everything we hope for is not possible.
If all goes well, I should be there only about a week; home and healing for about six weeks and my liver should regenerate in about 4 to 6 months. What makes this surgery special is that the larger of the two tumors has been growing around my inferior vena cava (IVC, one of the largest veins in the body, just below the heart). In order to remove that tumor, they must rebuild at least a portion of the IVC. Consequently, the surgery requires the united efforts of a vascular and cancer surgeon.
It sounds simple enough and logical enough but until we found the surgeons at Mayo Clinid, there was no hope of surgery and my prognosis was anywhere from six months to two years maximum.
Among many blessings thus far, the greatest was the first. Suspicion of my troubles were discovered by two doctors in Everett Washington who were looking for a pulmonary embolism that might have given me the terrific pain that looked and felt like a heart attack. It was about 3am on a very busy night at the hospital where my daughter Sarah took my wife and I when I began complaining of pain in my chest and left shoulder. I had many of the symptoms of a heart attack but they couldn't find any evidence that I was having or had recently experienced a heart attack. I will forever be indebted to the ER doctor and the radiologist who, even though the night was long and busy, decided to run that one more test - a CAT scan. When the radiologist looked at it, my lungs were clear -and I had no heart attack - but my future could have slipped through their hands that day if the radiologist had not noticed the spots on my liver. The doctor was not alarming but told me I should get checked out when I got home. We were on vacation visiting our daughter, Sarah, and once they decided my problem was really one of several herniated discs in my neck, we got some medicine and finished our vacation before returning home for a check up. The check up didn't reveal anything alarming at first - in fact every other test run, was normal. My local doctors, however, were concerned and got me into Northwestern Medical Center as soon as possible. Still the initial guestimate was that the spots were benign. Within a few weeks, however, they proved to be malignant. The doctors there apologized genuinely and explained that the tumors were inoperable. My best shot was some experimental radiation trials. While waiting to hear about my opportunities there, I decided to try to find some other opportunities myself. A number of good friends were surfing the net and checking with friends and family and soon a number of possibilities seemed to pour in. None, however, offered the hope of surgery, due to the complication with my inferior vena cava. Then we discovered what looked hopeful on the Mayo Clinic website. January was largely taken up with two trips to Mayo and a process of tests that determined I could be a candidate for this surgery.
Meanwhile, I felt fine and the whole experience was surreal. Equally "surreal" and totally amazing was the outpouring of prayer and support from the community and friends far and wide across the country. It was and still is, profoundly encouraging and humbling.
If you have come to visit the site in search of information please know that I appreciate your prayers and concerns. Also, please accept my apology for doing such a poor job so far, of acknowledging all the cards, calls and visits I've received. Thanks to Carol Alfrey and Tom Fink for creating this dual-purpose web connection between Caringbridge and LotsaHelpingHands. I will do my best to keep this updated as we go along. My thanks too all my family at the funeral home. Jan has kept many of you up to date by phone and e-mail and Tigger and the staff have been regular cheer leaders! With my son, Ben "at the wheel" and all of my family on-board, everything is in good hands at the funeral home and I am in good hands at Mayo. Monday, Feb. 9, my daughter Sarah is flying home to drive up with Kris and I and keep things "entertaining" during my stay! Thanks again for visiting and praying for me, for my family and for the doctors and specialists at Mayo.
Sep 14, 2010 7:51pm
I only wish that Dad’s words greeted you on this update of his journal. Mom will try to post one later as well but I wanted to share some of my feelings to all of you who have faithfully supported him through prayer and posts, so here goes.
Words can’t express what all of your prayers, words of comfort and encouragement have meant to my family. Dad was released from his earthly home and claimed the promise of his Savior, Saturday, September 11th, 2010. As I write this, I am reminded of a quote that hangs on the wall near the entrance to the funeral home. I see it so often that sometimes it disappears from my sight, but never has it rang true like it has today. “Death is not the extinguishing of a light, only turning down the lamp because dawn has come.” Saturday, the lamp was turned down because dawn had broken in Heaven. I can’t help but think that he is still writing, still singing, still smiling; only now he is able to share his gifts in the presence of his Father in Heaven.
Growing up in the church I attended as a boy, my Grandpa Lloyd spoke often of being a “good steward”. The talents we have been given are gifts from God and should be shared, and in that sharing they soon multiply. How true that has been for Dad all his life, but never so clearly seen than through his journals on Caring Bridge during his “walk” with cancer. I say walk because we always think of it as a “battle”. How often I have written that phrase for grief stricken families touched by this or any other disease, but in Dad’s case it is different. Yes he may have done all he could to battle the effects, but he knew in his heart he didn’t have to fight it alone or even at all, believing instead that when God is for us, who can be against us? Dad did walk and talk with his Savior and in the end he was carried to his Heavenly Home like the “footprints in the sand”. Thousands of people prayed for a miracle but Dad understood that even if there wasn’t to be a miracle here on earth, he hoped all of you would understand that the true miracle would be his salvation and the gift of eternal life.
So as darkness falls on the hearts of many this day, imagine him being bathed in a glorious celestial warmth of the tender embrace of our God, as the Son rises to greet Dad on his greatest day. This, if nothing else, gives me comfort and I pray that as our journey with him has come to an end, it comforts you as well, in a way that nothing else can. Thank you, and God bless.
P.S. In case you haven’t received news of his services, visitation will be Thursday, September 16, from 2-8 p.m. at the Orchard Community Church, 101 S. Barnes Rd. (on the corner of Barnes and Galena Blvd.) in Aurora. As always 8 p.m. is mostly a suggestion, anyone who arrives at the church will be able to see our family and say goodbye to dad no matter how late or long the line may be. His funeral will be the following day at 10 a.m., also at the church, with an hour of visitation prior to the service for those unable to attend the previous evening. Burial will follow at Blackberry Township Cemetery. His life story is available on our website, www.conleycare.com. We will also be taping the service. The video webcast will be available live via the same web address five minutes prior to the service or in an on-demand form 48 hours later. Please call us if you have any other questions at 630-365-6414.
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