Home Is Where The Comfy Bed Is!

Well, there’s more to a great home than that, like an amazingly beautiful wife (and just amazing in general), two awesome kids, and a couple of cute cats. But I will admit, we have the most comfortable bed in the universe!

The trip to Houston rocked! I so enjoy hanging out with my team and getting lots of face-to-face time with other people in the department. The people on the FlashSystem team at IBM are second to none…they are true rock stars. I got a lot done (depending on how you look at it) during the week, working late into the evening. And for those of you who expressed concern about my over doing it…I came straight back to the hotel and chilled each night. No exploring the city or going to Galveston like I usually do!

I’m already looking forward to my next trip out there. I miss my family and friends in Tucson a ton when I’m gone, but I truly do get a lot of work done when I’m there.

The flight back home was awesome. Had an aisle seat behind the first class bulkhead on the way to Phoenix, giving me plenty of arm and leg room. I dare say it was actually somewhat comfortable. From Phoenix to Tucson I had a windows seat, and while it wasn’t the most comfortable seat in the world, the flight was only 20 minutes, so it wasn’t too bad. Thank you, God, for providing me a better experience this time around!

I listened to my “God Rocks” playlist on the way, and a couple of songs spoke to me. I’ll let you listen and draw conclusions for yourself. If any of you are on Spotify, and want me to share the playlist, just let me know!

Speak Life by Toby Mac:

There Will Be A Day by Jeremy Camp:

I hope everybody had a great week like me, and you’re having a great weekend! Many thanks to all the people who encouraged me this week to take things easy and get some rest. I very much appreciate that!

Mark

The Sun Is Out!

Hello,

The sun came out in Houston today after a couple days of rain. Personally, I’d rather have the rain, but it was actually pretty nice out, so I can’t complain too much. Hopefully I’ll get to walk to work tomorrow…had to drive today because it was drizzling just a bit too much for me to make it to work dry.

Life is good these past couple of days. Getting stuff done at work, things are kinda coming together at home with respect to selling the house, and the family is hanging in there. I’m constantly amazed at how incredibly blessed we are, even in the midst of all the crazy things going on in our lives. Sure, we have bad and trying days just like everybody else, but we’re often reminded during those days how blessed we really are. Work…friends…family…care givers…I just can’t say enough about all them! Thank you God for providing so much to us! From the dark days follows sunny days!

Spent some time on Pinterest the other day (don’t do that very often) looking at cancer boards. Found a few images that I kinda like:

I think this one is particularly cool. We all watch people who are going through trials in their lives, and often try to learn from them. I know my wife, Michelle, inspires me on a daily basis with how she handles all that goes on with her. She’s an absolutely beautiful, amazing woman!

This one’s tough because we have no idea what an “extraordinary destiny” might be, if there’s one at all. This requires huge faith in Him.

Too true! Sometimes knowing you’re going to face the same thing tomorrow that you did today requires a lot of courage to get up again in the morning. But, with God, all things are possible!

I love this one! Again, all things are possible with God on your side!

Finally, if Super Grumpy Man were to turn into an actual super hero, this is what he might look like. I made this online one night at the Marvel Comics site! If being injected with super poisonous chemo drugs will give me muscles like that…then bring it on!

To wrap things up, a verse from the Bible to sum up life. We’re looking at Jeremiah 29:11.

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 to be so true. While I can’t fathom what some of those plans are, I already feel like we’ve prospered in so many ways; that even with cancer, I’ve managed to escape serious harm that could have happened had it not been treated; and that there is much hope for the future of the Fleming family. With our continued faith in God, we can overcome anything that comes our way, and at the end of each day, we can count our blessings and be happy!

Hope you’re having an amazing week!

Mark

 

There Are Dark Days

Howdy!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably realized that yesterday (Monday) was a chemo day, and that I didn’t blog about it in real time…or at all…like I normally do. The reason for that was because I just didn’t have it in me to write anything positive.

Sunday night was a night filled with basically no sleep…maybe an hour, but not much more. Both kids had one or another sickness that had to be dealt with, and it caused Michelle and I to stay awake most of the night. When we weren’t dealing with the kids, both of us were kept awake with thoughts of our massive medical debts (way more than you can probably even imagine), the house sale falling through, the kids’ general health, our health, and a host of other issues. Basically, life came crashing down on us at the time we were supposed to be getting rest and rejuvenation.

Monday morning came and it was back to the grind. Got the kids off to school (more or less), and Michelle started her job of looking after a couple of the kids in our neighborhood. I left for chemo at 9:10 by myself for the first time since we started the treatments. It was all good, though…I don’t mind spending time alone (and there were offers from people to meet me there). And Michelle did end up meeting me there later.

Chemo was uneventful. I didn’t even have to get labs this time…just once a month now since I’m not on the Oxaliplatin. But my numbers did look good from last week. I didn’t meet with a doctor or PA or anything…just got my vitals, got situated in my chemo chair, and they started the 90 minute IV and then finished with the 5FU push. I was out the door around noon, and I headed home for a few minutes before I left for the airport.

Yep, the airport. Another trip to Houston (which I truly do enjoy, because I get to hang with my peeps). Check-in a the airport was good – somehow I seem to be on the Pre-Verify list so I didn’t have to remove my laptop, shoes, or anything else! That was nice. The flight from Tucson to Dallas, however, was not. I was in the middle seat between two people who spilled over into my space. They also forgot the cardinal rule that the middle person gets both arm rests. So, I spent the two hour flight with my arms crossed. Totally crazy.

By the time I reached Dallas, I was less than enthused about life. The three hour layover in Dallas didn’t help much either, but I made it OK, and eventually got to Houston. Of course, once there I spent an extra long time waiting for my luggage. Then I got my car, but by then it was too late (almost 11PM) to get anything good to eat. Finally made it to my hotel around midnight. By then, I was completely exhausted, out of energy, out of good attitude, and ready to just watch sleep.

The reason I’m providing all this detail is to let you know that, while I’m able to maintain a pretty positive attitude with respect to my cancer and chemo treatments, sometimes the rest of my life sneaks in and lots of realities come crashing down. I try to remain positive about that as well, but sometimes it’s just to much (especially the financial stuff). But, even in the midst of all that, I feel super blessed for all the amazing friends and family who have helped me and my family out through all this. You are ALL AMAZING!

I hope everybody is having a great week! I’m getting stuff done in Houston…it’s been raining all day…I finally found some decent Mexican food…so life is good again!

Love you all!

Mark

My selfie from chemo day…can’t you tell how happy I am! ;-)

Amazing Prayer Shawl!

The other day I received an amazing gift from an amazing group of women at Grace Community Church. There’s a group there that does Prayer Shawl Knitting. Basically, they knit a shawl for people in medical and spiritual need, and pray over that shawl while they’re knitting it. And they knit one for me! It’s absolutely beautiful!

I am constantly humbled by the things people are doing for me during this time in my life. I cannot thank these women enough for taking the time to knit this shawl for me, and especially for praying over it while they were doing it. There is no doubt in my mind that the constant stream of prayers I am receiving from literally around the world have contributed greatly to my recovery and how I’m dealing with the chemo. I cannot thank you all enough for that!

This shawl will stay with me for the rest of my life as a constant source of inspiration, a reminder of the great people in my life, and, of course, a source of warmth and comfort.

Thank you!

Mark

My Brother In Chemo…Literally!

Hello,

This evening I’d like to introduce you to Paul Fleming, my half-brother on my dad’s side who lives in Barcelona, Spain. He was very recently diagnosed with lymphoma in his small intestine, and last week he started his rounds of chemo and radiation to deal with it. So, two brothers literally going through cancer treatment at the same time!

Paul has a DEEP faith in the Lord, and has for a long time…longer than me for sure! But he can absolutely use the same amount of prayer that I have received during my treatments. So I would like to ask that you include Paul in your prayers when you are praying for me. Pray for a quick recovery, tolerance for the treatment, and continued faith in the Lord. I’m sure that he’ll beat this just as I do!

Please also pray for his family – his mother and sister (Michelle, who is also my half-sister, and lives in Seattle), and all the people who are behind him in this new trial.

Many thanks! I love you all!

Mark

Links Of Hope #6

Hello!

I hope everybody had a great weekend, and are looking towards a great week! I had a very productive time in Houston (worked about 56 hours in 4.5 days) last week, and a nice relaxing weekend!

Today starts my new chemo regimen of three weeks on and one week off, for a four week cycle. No more pump! We also got hit with our bill for chemo today…wow! No idea how we’re going to swing it all, but we trust that God will provide! The ladies in the finance department are both Christian women, and we had a nice talk with them. They rock!

Today’s Link of Hope from the Vonk family is super cute as ever! It’s Isaiah 40:31.

It reads:

31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

This is particularly relevant today because I’ve been experiencing a lot of muscle weakness in my legs and chest lately. I actually took quite a tumble in Houston while trying to step up on a 2 foot wall on my way back to my hotel – something I’ve done tons of times in my life without any issues! I know it’ll all go away once chemo is done, and I trust the Lord to continue to give us strength to make it through the treatments and the financial challenges.

Here’s how things are going today:

12 Noon : Done! Heading out to lunch with Susan and her husband. Many thanks to Hannah Mason for graciously offering to bring me some Boba Tea!

11:30AMish : Got a visit from a fellow Buzztouch user, Susan Metoxen! It was great catching up with her and getting some geek talk in. I also finally got the treatment rolling, so 90 minutes until we can call it a day…and I WON’T be leaving with a pump! Yeah baby!

11:10AM : Still waiting to start tx!

10:20AMish : Back in the treatment area to get hooked up, labs done, and start treatment. At the time of this writing, I’m still waiting for labs, but I am hooked up to the IV and ready to go!

10:00AMish : Went back and chatted with Karen like we usually do. Mentioned all the things that have been going one, but no huge concerns to speak of. So far, despite the fatigue, muscle weakness, and some potential residual neuropathy, I feel like I’m doing outstanding!

9:25AM : Arrived a few minutes late…not a big deal. Checked in, started my assessment of how I’m doing, and then got called back to the finance department to deal with payment, since we haven’t met out deductible yet. While it was less than we thought it was, it’s still quite a hefty payment. We’re certainly going to have to trust God in how this will all get paid for!

The reference on my shirt is 2 Timothy 4:7, which states:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

This is my goal…faith to the very end!

Photo Jan 26, 10 30 15 AM

 

Worship Music Rocks!

I’m in Houston this week for work, and traveled on Sunday to get here. It was a direct flight, which was nice, as it gave me a solid two hours to listen to music and contemplate life while being situated right next to the stinky lavatory on the plane. I thought about a lot of stuff, and literally came to tears many times. And I listened to a lot of worship music, which I really like. There were a few songs in particular that I wanted to share, in case you haven’t already heard them. The lyrics of many worship songs often really speak to me, and sometimes it’s not an easy message!

The first song I’ll present is from Alex’s Spotify playlist, and is called Fix My Eyes by For King and Country. I love this song because I think it speaks to how we as Christians, and even as humans in general, should approach life. Here are some of the lyrics:

Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I’m supposed to walk,

That last three lines are a kicker for me, and it’s probably the hardest thing in the world. I often feel like I know what God is calling me to do, but for whatever reason…fear, pride, who knows…I don’t do what I know I’m supposed to do. But I’m working on it. But the first set of lyrics…that’s basic humanity in my opinion.

Here’s the official audio “video” of the song :

The next song I really liked on my flight was from Samantha’s Spotify playlist, and it’s called Brokenness Aside from All Sons & Daughters. Basically, I just like the message, the harmonies, and the music. Here’s their official video:

The next song comes again from Alex’s playlist. It’s How He Loves by The David Crowder Band. The passion in this song gets me every time. Here’s the official video:

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy these selections. They give me lots to think about, and speak to me in many ways. I hope the same is true for you.

Mark

Seven Down!

Got my pump disconnected today, so we’re officially done with 7 of 12 chemo treatments! Over half way done now!

Despite the lack of the Oxaliplatin, this treatment was a bit rough. I experienced more fatigue than usual, and basically had the runs for three days (yeah, TMI, I know). My tongue is starting to get a bit raw again, which happens near the end of the treatment each time. And my taste buds are still shot…everything is so bland tasting. The worst thing, I think, and my family would agree, was a huge increase in irritability and general grumpiness. I truly hate that side effect.

Michelle’s nephew, Luke, has a theory about my chemo treatments. He reasons that since so many super hero’s become such as a result of exposure to some toxic substance – like Spiderman getting bit by a radioactive spider or the Hulk being exposed to radiation – I’m going to turn into a mega super hero because I’m getting the toxic stuff injected directly into me! Sounds like a cool theory! Unfortunately, I think this week I was turned into Super Grumpy Man!

This treatment marks the last time I get hooked up to the pump…yay! Starting with the next round, I’ll be on a four week cycle – three on and one off. Each week I have to come in for a two hour IV session. Hopefully this will reduce my grumpiness a bit. it’s going to interfere with travel, but I think it’ll beat having the pump. We shall see.

I hope everybody is having a great week!

Mark

Links Of Hope #5

Hello!

Today begins my 7th of 12 treatments. I’m looking at this at the start of the downhill part of this, strictly in terms of the number of treatments left. To me, the end is in sight!

Today is also the fifth Links Of Hope from the Vonk family. As usual, we have a very cute link of the paper chain to share:

The verse is Psalm 41:2-3, and it is as follows (including the previous verse for context as well):

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
    the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
The Lord protects and preserves them—
    they are counted among the blessed in the land—
    he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
    and restores them from their bed of illness.

Thank you Vonk Family, for these continued blessings each treatment day!

So, I think there is some good news to share today! After talking with the Karen, Dr. Rosenberg’s PA, and sharing all the little things that have been going on with my body, it looks like we’re going to permanently discontinue the Oxaliplatin! There are just too many indications that the neuropathy is hanging around still, that he doesn’t want to risk any permanent injury. While this reduces my chances of being cancer free in five years by about 10%, I think this is an acceptable risk. I truly believe this is God looking out for me, and I also feel like I’m 100% cancer free, so I don’t think this will be an issue.

One other weird thing…I’m either loosing hair, or it’s not growing back as quickly. I last had a haircut about three weeks ago, and I only have about a weeks or two’s growth going on. And, it seems much thinner than usual. Fortunately, I don’t give a hoot about my hair, so it could all fall out and I wouldn’t care. But it’s just another symptom or effect that was worth mentioning to Karen.

After this weeks treatment, we’re also going to transition to a four week cycle, where I come in three weeks in a row for the 5FU, and I no longer have to use the pump! And each visit will be shorter…like two hours instead of the longer time I spend here now. I am very glad to be ditching the pump!

Well, here we go! Here’s how things are rolling today:

12:40PM : 5FU drip done, waiting to get pump connected and then I’m outta here! See you again on Wednesday for pump disconnect!

12:00PM : Lunch from Chick-fil-A, courtesy of Meta! Thank you very much…it was tasty (especially the chocolate shake!)!

11:35AM : This place is nuts today. They are down two nurses, and the person who does the Stat Lab (getting quick bloodwork results so people can start their treatments). So, lots of people sitting around not able to start their treatments until they get their bloodwork back! All chairs are filled, but only a fraction of the people are getting treatment. Fortunately, Karen approved my treatment based on previous results, so I was able to get things moving.

10:40AM : In the chair, Saline drip already started, 5FU (Leucovorin) flowing. Two hours from now I’ll be done!

10:00AM : Back to Karen to discuss how things are going. We had a good talk, ended up nixing the Oxaliplatin. I really enjoy the doctors and PA’s here…I’ve never felt rushed, and I feel like they truly listen to what I have to say, and take everything into consideration. The staff at Arizona Oncology is second to none!

9:40AM : Went back to have my vitals taken and my blood drawn. Apparently the person who does the bloodwork is out today, so they’re talking a two hour wait to get blood results.

9:20AM : Arrived and checked in.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is Showing!

Tomorrow I start my 7th treatment out of 12….assuming I don’t have to make up a treatment or two for all the Oxaliplatin I’ve missed. That means I’m on the downhill slope, and the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to show. Sweet!

I want everybody to know that if you get a hankering to visit me during my treatments, that’s totally cool and encouraged (especially if you bring chocolate shakes or hot chocolate)!. There’s nothing weird about having visitors…lots of people do (though it would be nice to see more people with visitors…so many people do it solo). We can only have one person back at a time, but Michelle is totally fine with having to take a break. The starting times of my treatments vary, but I’m generally back and hooked up to an IV by 10:30 or 11ish, and am usually there until at least 1PMish. You can always call or text Michelle or myself to check the status. My fun takes place at Arizona Oncology which is on the northeast corner of La Cholla and Rudasill. I’m totally serious…this isn’t a private activity that I’m not willing to share!

Alrighty…I hope everybody had a great weekend, and that you have a good week. I’ll be blogging my treatment tomorrow as usual…I think I’ll be back on the Oxaliplatin again since my wound has just about healed fully. So, that should make for some interesting blogging!

Love you all!

Mark