Five Down!

Got my pump disconnected today, so I’m officially done with chemo treatment number five! Hard to believe that it’s been that many already, and that I’m almost half-way done. To be honest, I can’t wait until I’m 100% finished!

I have to say, I really hate the pump, which I’m calling my Internal Sanitizing Device (since it sounds like a hand sanitizer, and it’s killing stuff in my body). Hearing that noise every 40 seconds…not being able to shower for two days…wearing that insanely fashionable fanny pack with the razor thin waist strap…all add up to a not-so-exciting experience. But, in talking with the nurses, I hear there are people who have to wear their pumps 24/7, which would just be miserable. So, for not having to do that, I’m intensely grateful.

Minimal side effects this go around. I am a bit more tired, but not disablingly so. The worst side effect this time is that my tongue and mouth are killing me. I have this rawness or something developing on the sides of my gums, and my tongue is raw and super sensitive to any type of spicy stuff. This is an effect of the 5FU (what I get in the pump), and will eventually go away. But it makes for a bummer few days (or week or however long it takes). I love my spicy Mexican food! The good thing is no Oxaliplatin = no neuropathy, though my throat has been feeling like that for a few days. But I think that may be acid reflux related. Man, if it’s not one thing, it’s another!

So, one more treatment this month (the week after Christmas), and I’ll be half way done! Thanks to everybody for their support, kind words, and offers of drinks during my treatment. You have all made this experience very nice! And a huge shout out to all the nurses at Arizona Oncology…they are top notch!

Happy Holidays!

Links Of Hope #3

Hello!

I hope everybody had a great weekend, especially as we get closer to Christmas. I know all the shopping and scurrying about certainly takes a toll on our lives. Hopefully everyone takes time to pause and just be with their families! I returned yesterday from a few days in Houston, and the trip was great! Got lots done, met with my team, gave an executive status update presentation…it was all good!

Today is my fifth chemo treatment, and the third Links Of Hope from the Vonk family. The cuteness, and relevance, never stops!

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 29:11, which reads:

Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I feel this is particularly relevant today, as we’re going one more treatment without the Oxaliplatin, to allow my pyoderma wound to continue healing. That’s three in a row now where I’m not going to have to deal with the neuropathy, which can ultimately be very harmful to my body.

So, here we go with chemo!

12:30PMish : All done! Easy peasy! Sporting my stylish fanny pack with the pump that sounds like a sanitizer dispenser. I figure the whole thing is kinda sanitizing my body from the inside out, so we’ll just go with that analogy! Off to have an amazing lunch (since I’m writing this after the fact) with Michelle at Gluten Free Girls. I had a great hamburger with some amazing Bacon and Blue Cheese Fries!

10:30AMish : Started the Leucovorin drip. Will take the next two hours, then I get hooked up to the pump and I’m out of here! Not having the Oxaliplatin reduces my time here by a good two hours!

9:30AMish : Went back to the chemo area, got my blood drawn and hooked up to the IV. Started with the saline solution.

9:00AM : Went back to meet with Dr. Rosenberg. Talked about lots of stuff, including not doing a round of Oxaliplatin again because of my wound. He “may” want to tack on a few treatments at the end of my cycles to try and get that in. But, he also believes that given how easily the neuropathy popped up during my first couple treatments, he believes he would have had to wean me off it anyways. So, from my perspective, it’s all good!

8:45AM : Arrived, signed in, filled out my “how are you feeling today” form.

Why “InTheBag?”

At this point some of you may be wondering why this blog is called #InTheBag. Well, the story is simple but sorta funny.

Chris and Morgan Roberds were visiting me while I was in the hospital after my surgery. As I recall things, and my memory is a bit fuzzy about all the details of things that happened while I was in the hospital…blame it on the drugs…we were talking about the challenges I was going to face with my new life. Things would be different with my ostomy, chemo, and everything else associated with it. I basically made the statement that I had it all “in the bag,” and we all bust out laughing.

You see, not only do I have it all “in the bag” from the “as good as done” perspective, but everything I eat now is “in the bag!” Get it?! LOL!

So, that’s the short but true story of how this blog got named! Throw a hashtag in front of it to be #InTheBag, and people all over the world can experience the tales of my journey.

Have a great day!

Mark

On The Road Again

Hello from Houston! This is my final trip of the year, and I’m very glad I’m here. I’ve already been involved in a couple meetings that have been much more beneficial face to face. And I’ll be here for an executive review on Friday, so that’s a bonus! To top it off, I’m feeling super good, and full of energy!

Shot a few pics on the way in from my awesome window seat! As you can tell, I love clouds!

Arizona has some very cool mountain ranges!

And now on to the clouds!

Photo Dec 10, 10 51 18 AAnd my home away from home!

I hope everybody is having an awesome week!

Mark

4,140

4,140 – that’s how many times in the 46 hour period that I have my chemo pump that it makes a sound as it pushes more drugs into my body. Every 40 seconds for 46 hours!

On Monday when I picked up Alex from school, he heard the sound and asked if I had just gotten some hand sanitizer. He nailed it on the head…the sound is exactly like a mechanical hand sanitizer device! Hear for yourself :

[If you don’t see the Play arrow, just click in the black area on the left side…you’ll see the mouse cursor change]

Fortunately most of the time I totally don’t hear it, which makes me pause to figure out if it’s still working or not. And at night, when it’s under the covers, you can’t hear it at all, which makes sleeping good!

Only thirteen more hours until this round of chemo is over!

Links Of Hope #2

Hello!

I hope everybody had an amazing Thanksgiving! I know I have a ton to be thankful for, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with friends and family.

Today begins my fourth chemo treatment, and the second Link Of Hope from the Vonk Family. It’s as cute as ever!

The verse is 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (ESV), which reads:

God of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

I feel like this verse really speaks to why I do this blog. I know that my experience is unique, but there may be some aspect of it that comforts others who are going through the same thing. And I know the blog provides some comfort to those who care about me and are interested in how things are going. And I do feel as though God provides quite a bit of comfort to me during this time.

Thanks, Vonk Family, for this great verse!

On to a running account of my day…

1:30PM : Pump connected and I’ve been released into the wild! Back on Thursday for pump disconnect. Without the Oxaliplatin, this was easy peasy!

1:15PM : Leucovorin drip all done! Orders in for the infamous pump.

11:45AM : Started my 90 minute drip of the Leucovorin. After that, they’ll hook me up to the pump, and I’ll be done!

11:30ishAM : Made it back to the treatment area. Got plugged into my PowerPort, and IV started, and settled in.

10:30AM : Made it back to see Karen. Talked for a while about how things are going, the pyoderma wound (which is healing nicely), and how I’m feeling overall. We decided that, due to the wound, we’ll skip another round of the Oxaliplatin. I’m super grateful for that, because it means no neuropaty for at least two weeks. But, it also means we might have to extend my treatments for another couple rounds to make up for lost time. We’ll have to see how it goes. Other than that, all appears to be well!

10:00AM : Just got my blood drawn for labs!

9:40AM : Arrived at Arizona Oncology for labs before my 10AM appointment with Karen, the PA.

 

 

 

 

So Incredibly Thankful!

Well, the Thanksgiving weekend is just about over, and I had a great time just being with the family. It was a weekend full of rest, work (decorating the house for Christmas), and just being with friends and family.

There is so much I’m thankful for that I can’t even begin to mention everything and everyone. First and foremost, I’m thankful to God for basically everything. While my cancer is not something I would ever have asked to have happen, it has changed my life significantly for the positive. I no longer have to worry about Ulcerative Colitis, and you can’t even begin to imagine how great that makes me feel! My energy level is through the roof these days (when I’m not having chemo), and I feel so free to pursue activities that it’s just plain exciting. And, even though I’m having to do chemotherapy, the great thing is that we’re not targeting a known cancer cluster. It’s like insurance to make sure that everything we believe is gone actually is.

I’m super, super grateful for my family, friends, and everybody who takes time from their day to pray for me and my family. Those prayers mean more to me than you’ll ever know, and I believe they’re the reason things are going so well. I ask that you continue those prayers, and extend them to all members of my family so that they all get/remain healthy. We’ll do the same for you!

Work continues to provide me many things to be grateful for. They have been so understanding of my circumstances and the amount of time I have to be away for doctors appointments. And my team is the best collection of people you could imagine to have. Not only do they have my back, but they have accomplished some excellent work on a very tight and grueling schedule. I am extremely proud to call them teammates and friends.

Finally, and I could actually go on and on, I’m grateful for the amazing care givers that God has assembled for me as I go through all this medical stuff. My gastro doctor, surgeon, oncologist, WOC nurse and every other medical professional I have encountered have been the exact people I need on my care team. Thank you, God, for providing them the amazing skills they have, and for putting them in my life.

Tomorrow is another chemo day, so you’ll have a blow-by-blow post to see how my fourth session goes. We’re a quarter of the way through things now…getting closer to being done!

I’ll close with some pictures of the weekend. First we have Samantha hamming it up for the camera as we decorate our tree.

Next we have Alex enjoying some Sparkling Apple Cider as we spend time decorating the tree.

This is a terrible picture of what our house looks like decorated, but it give you an idea where we’re headed. I’ll post a much better one later.

And here’s Michelle, Samantha and Alex enjoying the last dip in the hot tub for the season. The community pool closed today!

Finally, Samantha and I spent our Thursday evening doing Black Friday stuff. We left at about 6PM, hit a few stores, then decided to watch the new Hunger Games : Mockingjay movie. I have to say I really, really enjoyed it! After that, we hit the Foothills Mall for some midnight shopping, and got home at about 1:30AM. Believe it or not, we, for once, actually picked up some decent gifts! Most of the time we go out just for the experience…it’s a tradition we established a couple years ago. The crowds this time we’re less than previous years for sure.

Photo Nov 28, 1 22 57 AMWe all hope you had a very awesome Thanksgiving, and are looking forward to celebrating the Christmas season with you all!

Homeward Bound!

I’m sitting in the airport, waiting for my plane, reflecting on what a great trip to Houston this was. Staying over the weekend, while making it hard to be away from the family and church, gave me the opportunity to get lots done in the lab. I spent both Saturday and Sunday working on hardware and software projects, and got quite a bit done! I also got to meet a new member of our team, Ravi, and he fits in just perfectly. To make things even better, I’m feeling absolutely great, with no effects of the chemo to drag me down. So, life is good!

Houston is starting to get ready for the holidays, and our building is no different. While I was working on Saturday, they managed to get all this up, and more!

And the first three days I was there, it pretty much rained every day, all day. And if you know anything about me, you know how happy that made me! My hotel is only a mile from work, so I’ve been walking there each day, and it pretty much drizzled on me both ways. We were expecting severe weather on Saturday, with the potential for tornadoes, which got me very excited from a storm chasing perspective. I kept my eye on the radar, but pretty much all the good stuff was north and south of Houston…we were a center of calm. But I’ve never seen so many storm cells on the radar map at one time!

So, good trip, but I’m ready to head home and see Michelle and the kids! I’ll be back again the second week in December…my last trip for the year!

Verse Of The Day

Today’s Verse Of The Day is from Habakkuk 3:17-19. I’ve heard it twice in the past two days…yesterday when listening to Air1 on my phone while working out, and today while attending church at Grace Presbyterian here in Houston (it was the closest Christian church to my hotel). So, it seems as though God wants to make sure I understand this particular message of Hope.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

This is not the first time I’ve heard this passage with respect to the subject of Hope. We heard it at Grace in Tucson, I’ve heard it on the radio, Michelle has mentioned it to me several times, and it just keeps coming around. What it basically means to me is that, no matter what’s going on, no matter what I feel I need or want for, I will take joy in God and get my strength from Him. And that’s exactly my strategy as I fight this cancer battle! I continue to put my faith in him, hold on to Hope for a full recovery, and am joyful for all the people who have surrounded me in prayer and comfort. It truly makes a difference!