Day One!

Yesterday, Monday, is what I’m calling Day One with respect to my cancer! I’m officially over two weeks away from my last chemo treatment, and that’s the longest I’ve gone without having those nasty drugs in me! How did I celebrate? Well, I flew to Houston to be with my team and get some work done, and I did an hour on the treadmill at the hotel. Oh, and I had a pizza!

Why call it Day One? Because it’s a new, fresh beginning! I’m feeling stronger, less fatigued, and ready to take on the world! I’m super motivated to get back into shape so I can be very active this summer. In fact, today during lunch, I climbed 12 flights of stairs in our building! Totally kicked my behind, but it was good to do!

I suspect going forward there will be less entries in this blog, at least related to cancer. I may post some pictures from time to time, or report any cancer related progress. More specifically, lack of cancer milestones! I appreciate everybody who followed this blog during my battle with cancer, and I and my family very much appreciate all the support from everybody during the last 6 or so months. You guys rock!

To close, here are some lyrics from Matthew West’s “Day One” that seem appropriate!

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

Well, every single day Your grace reminds me
That my best days are not behind me
Wherever my yesterday may find me
Well, I don’t have to stay there

Have a great week!

Mark

No Mo Chemo! The Party!

Hello!

Monday was my last chemo treatment as I mention in a previous post. It was a great day for many reasons! To start, the nurses at Arizona Oncology had a special sendoff for me! It was truly cool! (Click the image to see the video).

After treatment, and after having an AMAZING lunch with my BEAUTIFUL wife Michelle at Firebirds, using a gift card from my mom (Thanks, Mom!), I got back to work. I had to work from the Oro Valley Public Library because I’m having connection problems where we’re staying…not a big deal at all. After work, I picked up Alex from track and headed to the Irwin’s house because Michelle told me they wanted to BBQ for us. As I walked in the door, I was literally surprised to see many of my dear, close friends there! It was a actual surprise party for me! Complete with a No Mo Chemo poster and people jumping out from hiding spots!

We had a great meal provided by everybody (awesome hamburgers, Kent!), and spent some time watching the NCAA Championship Game between Wisconsin and Duke. Wisconsin was soooooooo close to winning that game! But, aside from that, it was an excellent evening!

I am so very appreciative of everybody who has helped me through this unique time in my life. I’m not at all kidding when I say this was a team effort. I watched a lot of the single chemo patients that would come in for treatment, and it strikes me each time how going at something like this alone is virtually impossible. Not only do you need the prayers and thoughts of everybody, but the constant encouragement and asking how I’m doing is a true source of inspiration. It’s amazing to know that so many people truly, deeply care for me. It’s both humbling and exciting at the same time. I COULD NOT have done this without all of you…so I offer my many thanks!

Blessings to all of you! Have a great week!

Mark

 

Links Of Hope #12 – LAST ONE!

Hello!

Today is MY LAST CHEMO TREATMENT! And, unfortunately, this is also the last of the Links Of Hope, from the Vonk’s, which I have valued tremendously during this process. Here is the Link Of Hope for today, which is Psalm 16:8:

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

This has literally been the cornerstone of my battle with cancer, which I don’t feel has been a huge battle because of focusing on God. This whole ordeal has brought me much closer to Him, and closer to His word. For that alone, having cancer has been worthwhile.

Thank you, Vonk’s, for the constant reminder of God’s great word, and the weekly encouragement your Links Of Hope provided me! I cannot thank you enough!

So, not much to report with respect to treatment. We got in super quick, and even the pharmacy got my treatment drugs to me super quick! And I got a visit from my sister-in-law, Magel Bagel (my nickname for her), bearing gifts of a chocolate shake and some popcorn from Starbucks. If you haven’t tried it…it rocks! By the time you read this, I’ll be done and heading to lunch!

Main side effects these days : super fatigued (was way tired last week in Houston), loss of appetite (I rarely want to eat), and my hands are super sensitive to cold (not pins and needles, but it just hurts). And, major chemo brain…which is frustrating my wife for sure! Can’t wait for that to clear up.

I thank ALL  OF YOU for your thoughts, prayers, well wishes, gifts, and everything else. This has been a HUGE team effort, and I’m glad to have you all on my team! Now that I’m done with chemo treatments, I’m not sure the direction this blog will take, but I’ll for sure keep you up to date on my progress!

LOVE YOU ALL!

Mark

Photo Apr 06, 9 55 49 AMMy usual chemo pic!

Me and Magel Bagel!

Me and my wonderful, beautiful wife!

Happy Easter!

Hello!

I hope everybody had a great Easter! I know we did! Here’s how things unrolled for the Fleming Family during the day:

Up very early (5AM) for Sunrise Service at Riverfront Park. It was a beautiful morning for sure, but it was also very early!

We then headed to church where we helped during the three services that were conducted. This is Samantha hiding eggs for the first egg hunt of the day.

And this is Alex helping with the kids and their art projects! Michelle and I spent the time helping out where we could…me taking pictures of course!

After service, we headed home to change and head over to the Tuck’s house. I stayed behind for an hour to take a nap…I was dog tired. But so was the rest of the family, so I feel bad. But I fell asleep almost instantly!

Once we hit the Tuck’s, we enjoyed some awesome food, and then began to do Eastery things.

What would Easter be without dying eggs?

And of course you need an egg hunt! This is Samantha finding one of the easier ones. They’re plastic eggs filled with candy she couldn’t eat because of her braces! Ah, the cruelty of it all!

And Alex literally jumping for one of his eggs! What a great vertical leap!

After egg hunting, we engaged in another tradition of ours….egg tossing! We buy a whole bunch of eggs, or use some slightly expired eggs, have the kids line up in the desert behind the house, and basically throw eggs at them. If they catch them without them breaking, they can throw them back at us. Needless to say, they get quite eggy by the end of the day!

This one ended up breaking, but it was a valiant effort.

I’m not sure how Samantha can catch them with her eyes closed! We’ll have to work on that before Softball in the fall.

And here’s Hanaa about to get either totally eggy or catching it…I can’t remember which!

After the egg toss, we move on to another one of our traditions….Peep burning!

Yes, it’s cruel and unusual punishment, but probably better than being eaten. You’s be surprised how flammable they are once they catch on fire!

Sometimes we need a little help in getting things moving. Nobody was hurt in this endeavor!

We capped off the time at the Tuck’s with some eggs full of confetti. That was fun!

Overall it was an awesome time hanging with friends and family!

After the Tuck’s, we went down to visit my mom and our cats, as she’s watching them for us. We brought her some food, and spent a bit of time with her. But, being as how we all work up so early, we didn’t stay long. But, we had a good time!

All in all a great day! Hope you’re Easter was a special one! It’s easy to forget what the meaning of the day is…the day Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, just as was promised. What an amazing thing!

Next post – MY LAST CHEMO TREATMENT!

Mark

Tuition Assistance

Hello from Houston!

Howdy from the big state of Texas! So far things are going well here. Getting lots done as usual, but much more tired than usual also. I pretty much go from work to my hotel, where I end up doing some more work but also just chilling. For some reason I’ve lost my appetite, so I’ve actually been getting stuff from the local Krogers and making it in my room, versus going out to eat all the time. Crazy, as one of the things I typically enjoy about traveling is eating out!

The main purpose of this blog post is a call for assistance of any Arizona resident who thinks they might be able to help. We’ve decided that we’d like to send Alex to Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (PRCA) next year if at all possible. We very much love the Christian approach they take, and we think the school will be a much better fit for Alex than Wilson Elementary, which he is currently attending. The major hurdle in getting him there, though, is tuition, which is quite expensive.

Fortunately, Arizona has a tax credit program in place where you can donate money to the school/child of your choice, and get that money back at the end of the tax year. Basically, it costs you absolutely nothing, because whatever you donate you get back. It just takes until you file your taxes to get the money back. But the assistance it provides is invaluable.

PRCA uses Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization to handle these transactions. You can click the link for more information, or contact Michelle to get more details.

If you haven’t filed your taxes yet this year, it’s not too late to make a donation, which you would get back with your current tax return. If you’ve already filed taxes, you could donate for next year, which would be awesome as well! Either way, if you feel compelled to help, that would be just amazing. Michelle can provide all the details you need…and I think most of you have her contact information.

Thank you for considering this proposal. A Christian-based education is priceless, and we’d love to have Alex get one if at all possible (and potentially Samantha as well, but she seems to like IRHS). Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions!

Thanks!

Mark

Links Of Hope #11

Hello,

Today marks my second to last chemo treatment! At this time next Monday…the day after Easter…I should be done!

Today I’m joined at chemo by my father-in-law Harry, as well as Michelle. The place is fairly empty today, which is kinda nice!

Two links on the Links Of Hope Left. I wasn’t 100% sure which one was supposed to come next, so I left the most decorated link for the last one. Today’s verse is Psalm 30:2, which states:

Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.

I feel that’s exactly where I sit at this very moment. God put together an amazing team that has contributed to my diagnosis, surgery, and chemo treatments, as well as the absolutely most amazing support team (that’s you guys!) that I could ever have dreamed of having. In my mind…I’m 100% cured of cancer. And that’s all due to your prayers, and the Grace of God!

Treatment today is the usual. Wait in the lobby a bit…get vitals and blood work…start the IV drip…then start the main drugs. Then it’s over! Easy peasy!

Heading to Houston for the week right after treatment. Looking forward to seeing the team again…it’s been over a month! Downside is that I have a middle seat on the way from Phoenix to Houston. But I’ll just plug in my phone and listen to my “God Rocks!” playlist!

I hope everybody is having a great day, and looking forward to Easter Sunday. I know I am! Have an awesome week, and the next post from chemo should be my chemo post!

Rock on!

Mark

PS – Don’t be worried about the bruises on my legs…those are just from moving. I bruise super easily these days!

Links Of Hope #10

Hello!

Well, today was supposed to be the last day of treatment, and the last Link of Hope. But, I actually have two more treatments (the next two Monday’s), then I’m all done. Fortunately the Vonk’s provided me with another two links to take me all the way through the end.

Today’s Link Of Hope is Psalm 27:1, which reads:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

This is a very appropriate passage for this week, given chemo (which there is much to be afraid of, if you really think about it) and the fact that we’ve sold our house, need to be out by Thursday night, and literally have no place to go yet (but we’re close, I think, on getting a rental). Plenty to be afraid of, but we’re handing all that over to the Lord, completely trusting in him to work everything out. And it will happen!

Chemo today was pretty much uneventful…with the exception of my blood draw being more difficult than usual. For some reason, the blood just wouldn’t flow until I did some arm rotations and some toe touches! Other than that, we did meet with Karen and discussed the normal things, including what life will look like after my treatments are done. Basically, lots of follow up blood draws and PET scans to ensure that the cancer hasn’t returned. I think I’ll be doing that for most of the rest of my life, but after 5 years, I’m considered a “survivor,” so that will be cool!

As far the the treatment itself…nothing interesting to report. I was in and out of the treatment part itself in about 2 hours. Joshua came to spend some time with me, so Michelle and I spent the better part of treatment time just talking with him. As soon as we knew it, treatment was done!

Wish I had more interesting stuff to report this time, but I think the fact that I don’t is also a good thing. Two more left, and this portion of my life experience will be wrapped up! So grateful to God for making it much easier to tolerate than I thought it would be. And I’m very much looking forward to having all the side effects wear off after treatment is done. I’m tired of my legs looking like giant sausage links! And I would love to have my eyelashes back as well!

As an aside, if you’re a parent at Grace who has a child attending The Blender, or you are somebody who wants to know more about The Blender youth ministry at Grace, the official Blender app is now available! You can find more about it by going to http://www.gracetucson.org/blenderapp.  Any suggestions for content or improvements would be greatly appreciated!

Well, that’s it for this update! Hope all is well with everybody, and that you all have an amazing week!

Mark

Spring Break Rocks!

Hello,

We returned from California this afternoon, so it’s time for a Spring Break report! All in all we had a great time! Neither cancer nor the lack of a colon held me personally back from doing anything at all. In fact, in one area, it actually enabled me to do more than usual, for some reason. Typically, I’m not one for roller coasters because they kinda make my stomach a bit queasy. However, this time, I didn’t experience ANY of that! I was able to go on rides that I would never have attempted in the past. Not sure if it’s the lack of a colon, which has tons of nerve endings in it, or something else. Either way…it helped me have an excellent time!

In a nutshell, we did this: Michelle and I spent three days in San Diego “alone” (we ended up spending a lot of time with Harry and Cheryl, and the kids, which was good) while Alex and Samantha spent time camping at Santee Lakes outside San Diego with Michelle’s parents. Michelle and I were fortunate enough to stay downtown right on the harbor. It was nice! After San Diego, we all headed to LA for a day at Knott’s Berry Farm, which totally rocked. Along the way we did some tide pooling in Carlsbad. Saturday we hit the road to Tucson so Samantha could make it to a party at 5PM.

Of course, I took LOTS of pictures, some of which are below. It’s a long post, so get comfortable if you want to read the whole thing!

Below is the view from Michelle and my room on the 24th floor of the hotel. See that large yacht down there? It costs $50 Million, and is the largest single mast boat in the world. Crazy! It’s owned by some oil tycoon dude in Texas.

One night we hooked up with the rest of the family and spent some time walking along the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter. Samantha loved it because it was St. Patrick’s Day and it was party central!

One of the things I was looking forward to was a chocolate shake at Ghiradelli’s. I had promised the Mason’s I wouldn’t get one without them, but they said it was OK. It was tasty!

The kids and Michelle’s parents took the trolly into the Seaport Village station where we picked them up.

We also saw some cool sculptures and fountains along the walk to the trolley station.

This bridge separates our hotel, which is in the background, from Petco Park and Gaslamp Quarter. It’s pretty cool!

Michelle and I did a lot of walking along the boardwalk in the Seaport Village area. Over a couple of days, we easily put in about 15 miles of walking. Saw some cool stuff along the way.

Kinda looks like real people, doesn’t it? To give you some perspective, here’s another photo of the same thing.

It’s a HUGE sculpture downtown along the boardwalk. It’s from that iconic image at the end of World War II. Very, very cool!

We of course spent some time at the beach. I was a bit concerned about boogie boarding with my bag, but my current setup is totally bombproof it seems! I was able to boogie board without a single problem (aside from the lack of any decent waves).

And I had fun chasing the kids with seaweed.

And, of course, getting buried in the sand. Samantha made me up to be a pregnant woman, with a kelp bikini and all!

Samantha got buried as well!

As did Alex! We buried him super deep in a hole he had dug, and he had a hard time getting free.

Even Harry and Cheryl’s dog, Maggie, had a great day at the beach!

All in all, our day at Ocean Beach was great, the weather was perfect (in my opinion), and we had a great time!

Soon we were on the road to LA for a couple days. But, we stopped in Carlsbad for some tide pool action. It was awesome!

Got some nice shots of Alex, Samantha and Michelle.

As well as one of the girls!

And some crazy sand that had TONS of “gold” flecks in it. Literally looked like we were in a gold mine.

We eventually made it to LA, and on to Knott’s Berry Farm. We got an excellent deal on tickets, which made the place super affordable.

Like I said, I didn’t have any problems with roller coasters, like this one, which goes from 0 to 38mph in 3 seconds!

Nor this crazy one, which had some super G forces.

Or the swings, which I love (that’s me behind Samantha, to the right).

But you’ll likely NEVER catch me on this one!

Those people are upside down at the TOP of the loop! Crazy! But we did spend some time cooling off…Michelle catching the brunt of the waves.

And Samantha and I took a ride on the Ferris wheel.

It goes much slower than the picture suggests! We also got to spend some time with Peanut’s characters.

And the kids spend some time “talking.”

That pretty much sums it up! I have, of course, hundreds of pictures, but these should give you a taste of how the week went. I can’t imagine having a week like this prior to my colon being removed…it would just be pictures of bathrooms and other people on rides. I am so thankful to God for providing us the means to afford this vacation, and for making me healthy enough to enjoy it. We had a great time!

Tomorrow (Monday) starts my LAST cycle of chemo! Three more treatments, and I’ll be done on April 6th, the day after Easter. So excited!

Thanks!

Mark

 

Links Of Hope #9

Hello!

So, as you may recall from yesterday’s post, chemo was delayed a day. But we’re here now, and after waiting an hour in the waiting room, finally made it to to a chair! This place is packed in the afternoons. Sad sign that so many people need cancer treatment.

Today’s beautiful Link of Hope from the super cute Vonk kids is Joshua 1:9.This passage states:

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This is actually super relevant to us today, for many reasons. First, It’s pretty easy to get discouraged this long into chemo. Not so much because there aren’t any visible results to see, but because the whole thing gets kinda wearisome, and the side affects start to get a bit old.  But knowing that God, and Michelle, are literally by my side each treatment, makes it easier to handle.

It’s also relevant because, as Michelle tells me, it’s related to when the Hebrews are about to enter into the promised land. They have to take their land according to God’s instructions. Basically, it boils down to them having to believe in God’s word, following His instructions, and knowing that everything will work out. That’s kinda where we are with our house. It’s basically sold, we have to be out on the 27th, and we have no new house to move to. But, we’re trusting that God has led us to this point, that he will provide what we need, when we need it. We just have to be strong and courageous in the face of this massive uncertainty!

On to chemo for today. Got here at 11:15AM, was taken back for vitals after about 15 minutes. Then we had to go back to the waiting room for a good 45 minutes before a chair was available that would accommodate both of us (I don’t do chemo without my beautiful wife!). Then we waited about another 30 minutes, and finally got hooked up. Looks like we’ll be done around 2:30PM at the current rate. Crazy long to be here! But, aside from the wait, nothing unusual about this particular treatment. Only three more after this!

I ran across this on Instagram yesterday, and though it was also very appropriate to the circumstances in our life:

Last weekend I had zero energy, and was more tired that I have been in a long, long time. I think it was a case of the stomach bug that’s been going around, and it’s what delayed my treatment until today. But, as of today, I’m basically feeling 100% better (maybe still not totally hungry), and have tons of energy! God rocks!

That’s pretty much it for today! We could use continued prayer from people on things like improved health for the family…patience in waiting for God’s plan on where we’re moving to…and opportunities to open up at the exact right time! Lots of craziness in our family these days…but at least we have spring break next week!

Have a great day!

Mark

Treatment Delayed Today

Howdy!

So, it looks like no chemo today. After I told Karen about my weekend, she wanted to run some comprehensive labs, and get some fluids in me. So, today it’s just 500ml of fluids, and I’ll be back tomorrow for the normal treatment, assuming I feel better and that my labs come back OK.

Thanks to everybody who was praying for my treatment today!

Have a great day!

Mark