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August
7
2020

Birthday!

On August 7, 1937, somebody pretty special to a lot of people was born. 83 years later, he's special to even more people. If you think about my dad today, maybe send him a happy birthday wish. He loves keeping in touch with people from all parts of his life, and internet has GREATLY increased his ability to do that. 

We're happy Dad is still with us, and we're thankful for the prayers you have prayed that have allowed for his body to continue fighting the cancer. We're continuing to pray and trust that God will take care of my parents through this. He is the great Healer, and no matter what His timeline is, we are thankful that He is at His work and on His throne.

So here you go, Dad, may this birthday be one of the best ones yet! We love you!

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June
22
2020

Chiming In

I have been shamefully remiss in keeping everyone up-to-date with Dad's health. My only excuse is that my grad classes for the summer have started, and I have been nearly literally buried beneath a pile of homework. I would take a picture of the pile of textbooks and paraphernalia I have stacked on my "desk," but my phone is buried somewhere underneath it all, so... I won't bother. :)

Dad's treatment continues, but it seems like things change minute by minute, depending on how he's doing. For instance, the doctor had decided to put him back on chemo pills for another three-week stretch, but again, he cut that short by a week, because Dad's hemoglobin levels suddenly dropped a good bit below what they needed to be. So they took him back off the chemo pill regime after two weeks, and scheduled him for a blood transfusion (which happened last week). He says he feels somewhat better after the transfusion, and I'd guess his renewed energy is also due to being off the chemo pill again for another week or two. It continues to be a roller-coaster for us, but if that's the way we feel, I'm sure it's much worse for my parents. Flexibility has continued to be a key concept for all of us.

Coming up, we are planning an extended-family get-together. Every year, we do a week-long camp-out. This year, because of Covid and Dad's health situation, we are planning to drop the camping aspect and meet instead at my brother's house for a week. There are plenty of places to be outdoors there and room to spread out a little in the interest of "being careful." We are all excited for a chance to reconnect and get to know what each other looks like off-screen again.

I remain very thankful for my parents' church in Asheville, and those who have taken the lead on taking "extra-special" care of my parents while Greg and I are at a distance. The community there is such a gift, we are very blessed. :)

That's it for this time. I'll try to do a better job of keeping people updated as my classes peter out in a few more weeks. Please contact me with any questions; I'll do my best to answer them! :)

Blessings!
Tamara (for the family)

May
27
2020

Fresh Strength

Dad had been on the oral chemo pill for two weeks before his checkup with the doctor last week. The chemo pill severely affects his appetite, so he was still struggling to eat anything and was losing weight. The doctor had originally planned for him to be three weeks on the pill and one week off, cycling the same pattern over the next few months, but seeing how profoundly Dad was struggling to eat, the doctor went ahead and took him off the pill at his appointment.

This entire last week, Dad has been eating the pantry clean. Mom said it's like living with a teenager again. :) We were anxious to see how the week off affected Dad's plasma cell numbers, and it was good news! At his appointment on Tuesday, Dad's numbers were much improved, and the doctor was very pleased. The doctor is letting him have one more week off the chemo pill. When he goes back on the pill next week, his dosage will be lower.

Such an answer to prayer! The battle isn't over, but thank you so very much for the efforts you've been making to pray for him! We appreciate it!

May
21
2020

Short and Sweet

My brother and I have joked about how -- IF Dad ever had to use a cane -- we'd like to see a good ol' Gandalf cane. Granted, it should be a Gandalf cane, complete with waist-length beard and poky hat and robes that would be best, but let's just start small, shall we?

Anyway, yesterday, the doctor insisted my dad start using a cane, so a friend from their church delivered a Gandalf-cane to Dad today! I think it looks fantastic, and I only wish I could be so cool. The friend told my dad: "God made the cane; I just helped to shine it up."

So there we have it. Dad has a cane made by the King of kings. No wonder it looks so awesome.

May
12
2020

Transfusion

Many of you saw our request for prayer last evening on Facebook. Dad had began running a fever later in the afternoon, and the doctor had warned them that there was a possibility that such a thing might happen on his new chemo medication. However, we understand that in his condition, a fever spells trouble. About the time my parents discovered the fever, the doctors' offices were closing for the day. The fever steadily climbed throughout the evening, and had reached 101 degrees. They talked to the doctor, who told them that if the fever went any higher (above 101), a trip to the emergency room would be necessary.  With my parents' permission, I sent out a plea on Facebook for prayer, and so many people delivered! Very soon after, Dad's fever dropped to normal and stayed there for several hours (and never went above 101 throughout the night). Praise God!

Thank you, friends, not only for coming through during a tension-filled situation, but also serving as a reminder to me that God does indeed hear our prayers and answers them. We felt your love and the love of the Father last evening.

This morning, then, Dad's fever was still low, just under 100. They went in to the doctor's office, and since he had blood work scheduled for tomorrow anyway, they decided to do it today. Here's the gist: Dad has been anemic for a while now, but we think the medicine has not helped the anemia, possibly the reverse, and the lab work they did today determined that he is so very anemic that he needs a blood transfusion.

So on Thursday of this week, he will be heading to the hospital for the transfusion, which, we've been told, will take around six hours.

I was just thinking, it might be helpful to have a few specific things to pray about, if you're so inclined. These are some things that came to mind:

Pray, first of all, against fear. There is so much we don't know or understand about what's happening in Dad's body, and of course we all dread "the worst," if and when it happens. Pray for a peace-filled journey through this for all of us.

Pray for some nights of good sleep for my dad. He's been awake and tossing and turning most nights and cat-napping throughout the days. 

Pray for lack of stress for my mom. She hasn't complained, but there are a lot of things that need to be kept straight and handled, and definitely a lot more running into town to and from doctor visits. 

Pray for continued protection from the CoronaVirus as they're navigating all their appointments. Of all the things to complicate an already delicate situation, that would be a doozy.

Pray for Dad's doctors, for wisdom and insight as they figure out what's happening.

And of course, pray for complete healing. We still believe that miracles happen, so we're asking for one here.

Thank you for all support and prayer; we have so appreciated it!

May
7
2020

Treatment

Over the last weeks, I've learned so much new information that my brain is on overload. Most of the new information is long, medical-sounding terminology, some of it is names of medicines that I still can't properly form into coherent speech. So here's my very summarized, very amateurish effort to explain my dad's new treatment.

From what I gather, Dad's doctor has ordered "Immunotherapy" for him, which is NOT the same as a normal chemotherapy routine. Yesterday, he began this procedure, which involved him going to the doctor's office, settling comfortably into a (heated) armchair for approximately eight hours, and submitting to an "infusion" of a medicine that begins with a D that was put into his port. This D-Medicine (if you really want to know the actual name, message me and I'll look it up) is supposed to work more naturally in that it "encourages" Dad's immune system to... uh... get-up-and-fight. (And here you see why I went into English instead of Pre-Med; my professors would have loved to have seen that phrase in scholastic research.)

Dad won't be completely free of chemo; he will begin taking a weekly chemo pill that will actively kill cancer cells. On the bright side, the doctor has assured my parents that Dad won't lose his beautiful silver hair. 

The D-Medicine affects all patients differently, so the doctor wasn't certain how Dad would react. In our FaceTime last evening, though, he seemed energetic and cheerful, which was encouraging. Mom said that the drugs did make him a bit loopy, as not everything he said made sense. Think about any post-wisdom-tooth-removal video you may have seen, and put Dad in that place. It gave us all a good chuckle.

Today, Dad has another treatment, and then will go back to the doctor next week for bloodwork. The chemo pills were supposed to arrive at the beginning of the week, but were held up by tech-outages at their parent company. He will begin taking those as soon as they come. From what it sounds like, he will continue much the same routine for a couple of months, and it will be mostly a waiting game to see how these measures affect him. 

So this is our new normal: quarantine + FaceTime + treatments/labs + wondering + praying. Psalm 23 has been on my mind a lot recently, and I wonder how Jesus is using his rod and his staff to comfort me. What table is he preparing? Just how long is this valley of the shadow of death? I'm so thankful I can fear no evil, for He is with me, that He makes me lie down in green pastures, that the still waters restore my soul.

Thank you for praying! It means so much.




May
5
2020

(Semi-)Distant Togetherness

This past weekend was a small miracle. I didn't expect to be able to get to Asheville to visit my parents, not in such a pandemic situation as we find ourselves. I expected at best to talk to them through the medium of Facebook video or take part in a good old-fashioned phone call.

But Saturday and Sunday found us in Asheville, passing the time with my parents and my brother's family in a shaded yard, which allowed for lawn chairs and visiting, or working around the perimeter of the house. We had masks to wear if anyone had to go indoors for a bathroom visit, but beyond that, we socially distanced in the yard. It wasn't perfect; there were times we got closer than the requisite six feet, but overall, we were very good. :) My parents put us all to work, and we powerwashed the house siding and patio and sidewalk and painted the porch and shutters and cleaned and debugged screens and washed vans and planted flowers. The cousins rolled down the hill in the back yard and rode bicycles and climbed trees and decorated the patio with sidewalk chalk and made things out of playdough and wove bracelets out of rubber bands. The wonderful people of my parents' church provided us with (several) feasts, and we laughed and prayed and ate together and sometimes cried. I am so very thankful to have had that time.

My dad begins chemotherapy tomorrow, or what we have been calling chemotherapy. It's a new treatment, apparently, not your "typical" chemo experience, and we will find out more about it this coming week as my parents go over the details with the doctors. Dad also has another treatment Wednesday and Thursday, and then once a week for the next several weeks. We're all waiting out the unknowns, mainly how my dad's body will handle this treatment. He tires incredibly easily, and it was startling to see in person the weight he's lost (although since he wears a thousand layers, it did help to bulk him up a bit). :) There are still many unanswered questions that will depend greatly on the results of these treatments, and I will keep you updated here to let you know how things are progressing.

We were talking this weekend about the vast number of people praying for Dad, many of them people who don't even know him personally. I think God smiles when he sees so many people in unity, single-minded, and fervent in one thing. So thank you, yes, you, for praying, for your faithfulness in continued prayer. 

Please enjoy the pictures. This format only allows five photos per journal entry, so I will post more on my Facebook page, so feel free to check there for more of our fun weekend adventures. :)
May
1
2020

An Update

I wanted to stop in and say a heartfelt THANK YOU for all the messages of support and promises of prayer on Facebook, via text and email, and here at Caring Bridge for my dad. It has meant so much to me and to my family. 

A quick medical update: my dad had his port placed on Wednesday for his plasma exchange. They went ahead and cleaned his blood of extra protein as soon as they placed the port and were preparing to send him home again, when his heart stuttered a bit. So, for observation, he ended up spending the night in the heart tower at the hospital. The next afternoon, my mom picked him up and he went straight to another appointment to have some blood drawn, and then was finally able to go home last evening. He says he feels great, that he could "walk a mile" after his blood-cleansing procedure. That was encouraging, considering my mom's descriptions of nearly dragging him along on their daily walks due to his lack of energy and strength.

Chemotherapy begins Tuesday. Meanwhile, my dad has been trotting all over Asheville from doctor's office to hospital to another doctor's office for a multitude of tests and appointments. I had sent them homemade masks a few weeks ago, but only two that I had hurriedly stuffed in an envelope and mailed to them thinking that in the odd event that they may have to leave their home, they'd at least have something semi-protective.

Now circumstances (or our knowledge of circumstances) have changed, so I spent a good bit of time yesterday sewing more masks, and will deliver them in person.

I don't know how to say how much Tim and I struggled with the pros and cons of making a trip down. There were so many pros, but on the con side, there was "Covid," which easily erases all pros. However, we discussed it, prayed about it, and sought out my dad's doctor's opinion and permission, which he heartily gave... "as long as they don't bring Covid with them." So, taking all the precautions we possibly can (hotel stays, outdoor gathering, NO indoor anything at my parents, masks, Purell, distance, distance, distance), we are going down to spend some family time together. 

We are so blessed by my parents' church, who are providing some meals for us (and had offered lodging, as well, but we thought perhaps that might break our very careful distancing preparations). I wish this visit were under better circumstances, but I'm glad that our view of my parents won't be framed by a laptop screen this time.

Please keep our whole family in your prayers, for safety, especially, as well as some good memory-making. We love and appreciate you all. :)