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"Graduation Day"

My beautiful wife went to live in paradise with the Jesus Monday night (4/15) just before midnight.  We had been referring to her passing as Graduation Day, as she has completed this temporary life and graduated to her eternal home. Right now I am confident she is pain-free for the first time in a very long time, experiencing unimaginable love, and worshiping the Lord alongside her mom, dad, Andrea's mom Jamie, and so many others...

418 days from initial diagnosis to yesterday.  Unbelievable.  We've had so many emotions in that span. Probably most of them, culminating in an intimate peaceful time of immediate family with Debbie at the end.  Within those 418 days the outpouring of kindness and love from friends, family (and some we had never met!) has been vast and extremely humbling - especially to Debbie. Thank you all very much.

There will be a memorial service but we have not worked out details yet.  I will share them here soon.

Thank you again for loving on and caring about Debbie.



Quality Time

Hi all.  Just a quick note to let you know how Debbie is doing.  After a few days of pretty severe gastrointestinal pain,  we are getting closer to managing the balance between pain medication and sleep pretty well.

Our daughter, Amanda and her one-year old daughter came up from San Diego last Thursday and just left this morning after church.  Her husband separately came up for the weekend.  Our other daughters and Debbie's close friend spent last weekend with us and our girls and their families returned again this weekend - which was fantastic.  Over the last week they organized meals, had a house cleaner come over, and even brought Paris to Debbie in the form of a Paris Party, complete with french pastries, food, Eiffel Towers, and french decorations.  Very special.  So much love among our immediate and extended family - our "Ohana".  It really is a blessing that we have time to prepare, to reflect, and intentional time with one another.  

Of course through times of love and comfort, there are times that stark reminders of what's to come.  Having the hospice nurse come over for one.  But in two days they have already done a remarkable job of caring for Debbie's needs.  They will return again tomorrow to put together our care plan.  

Anyway, that's where we are right now.  Love from friends and family as we enjoy each others' company and correspondence.  I guess that's what they call "quality time".



Unexpected Bad News

Hello everyone. I've got to share the worst news possible.  After just a few hopeful months we learned on Saturday that Debbie's cancer has metastasized into her liver and surrounding areas. Her CT scan on Feb. 17 showed no evidence of this, but Saturday's scan clearly depicts masses throughout.  Although we knew this was a distinct possibility, we were caught off guard as to how quickly it returned and how rapidly it's growing. Barring a miracle (which our God can certainly do if he so chooses), Debbie probably only has a few months here. 

Debbie is amazing. I will repeat.  My lovely, beautiful wife is AMAZING!  Although understandably scared and angry at times, Deb has a graceful peace that comes with her usual sense of humor. I share her calmness.  Because of our trust in Jesus Christ, we know with certainty the glory that awaits her in heaven and ar
e confident that it will be awesome beyond comprehension. That understanding, of course, is tempered with physical pain (being managed), the emotions of having to accept this reality, and the sadness everyone is feeling.  We are grateful for the time we will be able to spend with family in preparation.  Please feel free to reach out to Debbie or me. We fully accept words of encouragement, humor, love, and memories.

I apologize that this is hitting you so abruptly.  We have an incredible family and friends and are thankful every day for each and every one of you.  The attached photos are from Monday when the news was confirmed.  We went up to Teresa and Ben's frozen lake cabin to reflect in the warmth of the sun.




I think I want to create a BINGO game for cancer patients.  We'll list all the possible drugs and side effects of cancer, radiation, surgery, and other treatments.  Patients cross off those they experience and win a prize when they complete a row.  Debbie would be doing pretty well by now.

IV port. check
IV infusions.  check
Port infection. check
PICC line. check
PICC line clog. check
Mastectomy.  check
Lymphadenectomy. check
Exhaustion. check (this is the automatic one in the middle of the BINGO board)
Blood clot/DVT in leg. check
Hair loss. check
Foot and hand pain. check
Mouth sores/pain. check
Nausea. check
Headaches. check
Complex migraines. check
Hospital stay.  check
Loss of taste. check
Difficulty eating and/or swallowing. check
Radiation burns. check
Stomach infection. check
And the latest:  Blood clot in arm.  check.  Fortunately, this one is superficial, so no real threat.  "Just" some pain and bruising.

The list above are just many of the things Debbie has experienced over the last year, and I'm sure I missed quite a few.  She and I are able to joke about these things, especially now that the doctors see no evidence of cancer in her.  We are confident and look forward to when Debbie will get stronger and pray that the half dosage of Xeloda she will begin on Monday will not add to the list above or hinder her growing stronger.

We also recognize that others going through his process will be able to add to the list, and many people's list is much, much longer.  Debbie especially has become extremely empathetic and supportive of others facing the same challenge and looks forward to when she will more actively be able to support them.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow...  (ha. I just googled that to see what scripture it comes from and found the song/lyrics "Praise God from all Blizzards Flow".  Appropriate for this month)



Nothing is Easy...

Update.  My poor honey... Deb's mouth sores extended into her throat and esophagus, resulting in a terrible sore throat that pretty much made it impossible to eat or drink for a few days.  On top of that, she had severe stomach pains, "D", and exhaustion... So we went to the ER to get her some fluids last Sunday evening (2/17).  She continued the liquid protein diet and by Thursday felt well enough to eat a few solid foods.  We got an appointment on Thursday to meet with Debbie's oncologist where we learned that she has a bacterial infection which was most certainly causing the stomach issues. Grrrr.  They figure maybe the Xeloda pill weakened her stomach's resistance to the bacteria.  Going into the appointment were ready to say we were done with the Xeloda pill, but after discussing the infection situation we all decided to get her stomach healed and try the pill at half dosage.  So Debbie will start again on March 4, assuming her strength is back up.  It turns out about 30% of people who take this pill cannot tolerate full dosage and 20% cannot tolerate it all so have to stop it all together.  We're hoping that she can manage half-dosage, with close watch by the oncologist.  All this based on clinical trial results that suggest people who take this pill have a 10% reception in cancer recurrence.  So it's worth one more try.

We went to a hockey game last night with our kids and grandkids and had a fun time.  Thanks for the chicken noodle soup, cookies, prayers and positive thoughts/well-wishes...  We're looking forward to our next post that says her reactions to the half dosage are mild... :-)



Post-Radiation and the "Chemo Pill"...

This is Frank.  I can't believe we haven't posted anything since before Christmas.  We did enjoy a lot of family time over the holidays then spent some time in Richland, Seattle, and a week in San Diego visiting Amanda's family and enjoyed Maya's first birthday party (all BEFORE the snowmageddon).

I noticed that the last post said effects of radiation will hang around for "several months".  Well, we're still in the "several month" window, I guess.  Debbie has not recovered to the point she can sustain activity.  She tries, but gets tired out quickly and still has bouts of extreme exhaustion, headaches, and some stomach pain.  She also has some other residual side effects from chemo, like pain in her feet.  We are most certainly waiting for the radiation impacts to run its course.  Debbie's radiologist had Debbie do a head CT because of the frequency of her headaches.  We were rewarded with news that her brain looks good, but they do not know why she's been getting the headaches. 

In the meantime, Debbie began her chemo pill (Xeloda) the first of the month.  She is taking this pill as a precaution, as there is no evidence of cancer remaining in her.  Studies suggest that taking the pill will reduce the chance of cancer returning by 10%.  At first she did not notice any ill effects, which was cause for celebration, but in the last few days Debbie has been experiencing a sore throat, mouth sores, and mild stomach discomfort.  So, we are back to eating soft, mild foods.  She is supposed to take this chemo pill regimen for six months.  We are hopeful that the effects from the pill, radiation, and chemo start dissipating.  So, your words of encouragement and prayer would be most welcome.

Thank you again for following along in our journey.  There is an end in sight and we remain encouraged by God's faithfulness, our family's love, and your continued support.



C A N C E R F R E E ! ! !

(This is Frank)

YEP!  Debbie finished her final radiation treatment yesterday.  During her final visit with Dr. Fairbanks, he told her that she should consider herself cancer-free.  What absolutely glorious words to hear after ten months of battle as we move into Christmas.  Speaking of which, this is a perfect time to reflect and be thankful for all that Christ has done in our lives and with our family.  Debbie's co-workers held a pre-Christmas gathering and Debbie showed up after her doctor's visit.  One of her colleagues stood up and announced that Debbie had been battling since the beginning of the year and was just announced cancer-free.  The whole place erupted in applause.  So cool.... I wish I had been there.

Debbie will still feel the effects of the radiation for several months.  Pain has improved, but she still has some bouts of exhaustion.  She will begin her six-month chemo pill "just-in-case" regimen starting after the 1st.  This will be two weeks on, one weeks off, until June.  The word is that people generally tolerate this pill MUCH better than IV chemo.  We're certainly hoping this is the case for Debbie.

Thank you all for your prayers, well-wishes, and support.  Merry Christmas to you and your families.  Enjoy this season!



Radiation Pain

We were warned that radiation would be painful.  Please pray for Deb and send her some words of encouragement, as she is experiencing pretty regular pain and her radiated skin is starting to get extremely sensitive. Debbie will finish radiation on the 13th, but they say it really doesn't start healing for several weeks, probably after Christmas.  

She's got some drugs that are helping and her spirits remain high.
My hon is a trooper and I love her.