February Update

Grab a cup of coffee…got lots to talk about today! This is largely written by Michelle, with some stuff from Mark as well.

Many of you have so kindly been asking how Samantha (and our family) have been doing these past few weeks and so we thought it best to make a new post.

As some of you know, Samantha has been in and out of the Emergency Room as well as a 3 day stay in the hospital this past month. After this past year of stomach, head and other various physical problems, over Christmas Samantha was diagnosed with a Dysautonomic condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (http://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/page.php?ID=34) (ironically, after 10 years of struggle Michelle, too, was diagnosed by Mayo Clinic with a similar condition last November). Samantha experienced a significant flare up in January resulting in increased tachycardia/blood pressure issues, a month long migraine type headache as well as chronic nausea and light headedness along with a host of other issues. This has been very debilitating at times, and we are working with 4 different doctors to try to come up with a treatment plan. This condition has many girls her age bed ridden. While Samantha has been very strong during this, she had just started up at her new school and has had to miss a great deal of days so naturally this has been very discouraging and frustrating, not to mention exhausting. Her symptoms can wax and wane depending on various factors, many of which we have no control over. We are so grateful to each of you for your prayers, visits and encouragement you have given us over this time. What an incredible blessing her school, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, has also been and we are so grateful for her teachers and the administration for how they have supported and worked with us.

As if that weren’t enough in and of itself, I had my 3 month oncology checkup last week, and it looks like the cancer may have returned. My initial CT scan showed an area of lymph nodes that concerned the PA, and it was followed up with a PET scan that confirmed something is up in that region (near where my original cancerous nodes were located). It “appears” that two lymph nodes may be cancerous (they’re “lighting up”), but we can’t know for sure until a biopsy is done. And, because there’s no real easy way to do a biopsy of these nodes, another round of surgery is needed to remove them completely (and then check them out).  I meet with my surgeon, Dr. Schluender this Wednesday to understand more about the operation and to schedule it as well. Suffice to say, my oncologist wants it done sooner than later (like real soon!), so that could happen before the end of the month. Jeesh! Successful removal of the lymph nodes…or whatever turns out needs to be removed…will likely be followed up with some sort of chemotherapy. The doctor thinks it could be a pill version of chemo, but he’s uncertain until he knows exactly what we’re dealing with this time.

This all comes at a time when our family is deep in the valley of uncertainty in so many areas. Michelle continues to struggle with her health but has been referred to a surgeon that may have a procedure which could help her chronic nausea and possibly even get her eating a bit more types of food! While we are grateful for this hopeful news, she faces another issue which came very unexpectedly. After a breast biopsy, she was diagnosed with atypical ductal hyperplasia and will be undergoing surgery in March to remove the tissue around the hyperplasia for further testing. With a significant family history of breast cancer, the doctor will closely monitor this and may perhaps treat things a bit more aggressively.

We also are seeing how these past couple of years are taking a significant toll on Alex emotionally. He is our quiet, brave warrior who puts on such a strong front, but, that front has been shattered and the true impact of all of this is now coming to full light. We are trying to deal with some very difficult issues with him that come not only with being a 13 year old boy but entrenched in a very stressful family situation on top of it. Much prayer, discernment and faith is needed for us to help him deal with all of this.

While we would love to tell you we are handling all of this with grace and poise, we are now truly feeling the full impact of these past few years on our family – emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. It’s a mess. We’re a mess. We have days where we feel the peace, hope and mercy of our very faithful God and then there are the dark days where we beg for mercy and rest but instead feel filled with despair and exhaustion. We desperately cling to the promises of God, especially Romans 8:28…

And we know that in all things God works
for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

We can’t see it a lot of the days. Many days, as it is for all you too, it’s just a struggle to get through each moment. But God, in all of His goodness and mercy, gives us strength beyond our own. He shows us some majestic glimpses into His perfect plan and allows us to be a part of helping to share with others the comfort, hope and mercy He has shown us. This world is not all there is and it certainly is not about us or what we are going through. The sufferings of today are nothing compared to the promise of the eternal life we have with Him in paradise and we want everyone we know to experience that hope too.

As we go through these next few months, we are facing many difficult decisions. The financial ramifications of this have been devastating. Emotionally, we all struggle with leaning into each other when none of us have the strength to give any more. Physically, we are completely worn out. But God in all of his goodness has given us the most amazing support network, which we continue to be so incredibly blessed to have. Our family, friends, and church are truly life giving to us and have come along side us in prayer, support and very tangible help in more ways than we can count. Samantha and Alex’s school, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy has been so incredibly supportive, kind and understanding. That in and of itself blesses us every day. Many of you have designated your state tax funds to the kids for their school (see previous blog post) and because of your support in this way, the kids are able to receive this amazing education. My employer, IBM, has been beyond amazing, giving me the time I need to recover, and continuing to provide an amazing job with great people that I absolutely love! I feel incredibly blessed to be part of the FlashSystem team.

Sorry that was so long but there was much to catch you all up on. Thanks so much for your unending support. Our family is so blessed by each one of you and we continue to hope we can, in turn, bless you the way you have blessed us. There is still so much joy that we see and so many blessings being poured out.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

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,
YET – I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

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

Have an amazing week!

Mark and Michelle

How You Can Help

From our guest blogger, Michelle!

It is hard to believe this crazy year is almost over! It’s definitely been the most challenging couple of years of our lives but we feel we are in the process of seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel, catching our breath and adjusting to lots of new normal. In all that our family has faced, the things that have gotten us through is leaning into God and trusting Him with it all as well as all of you! Our friends and family have supported us in so many ways we cannot even begin to express our gratitude.

Many of you continue to ask what you can do to help. The greatest gift we continue to ask for is prayer and all the words of compassion you have shared. However, we actually do have a way for all of you who live in Arizona to help, that won’t cost you a thing!

As you may know, after much prayer and tax credit scholarships, Alex started up at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy last Fall and we truly could not be happier. It has been such a blessing and we feel like he is finally, after 8 years of schooling, finding his place. He likes it so much, in fact, that his sister now wants to attend! So, after much more prayer and applying for scholarships, Samantha will be starting at Pusch Ridge in January. We are so grateful to God for opening up this door for our kids and we are excited to see what He has for them.

The ONLY reason (and we mean that very, very literally) they are both able to attend is through the Arizona tax credit. If you are already designating your tax funds to a student, thank you! We love how people support in this way to every student. However, if you are giving to only the original tax credit and not the PLUS, you can designate even more funds! Below is an explanation of how the tax credit works. It literally has made a HUGE impact on so many families and you can bless us with it costing you nothing in the end.

Here is a very brief summary…

What’s a tax credit? A donation that reduces what you owe in Arizona state taxes up to $2,134 (filing married) or $1,067 (filing single) for 2015.

You can recommend Samantha and Alex directly when you make a private school tax credit donation!

This “donation” is a re-direction of tax dollars owed. You can either pay the state, or use the money to benefit private school students like ours.
Ninety percent or more of your donation goes directly to tuition scholarships.
You may also take a federal deduction for the calendar year
in which your tax-credit donation is made.

So, this is where we are asking you both to partner with us in designating your Arizona taxes to scholarship Samantha and Alex at Pusch Ridge. You may already know that Arizona residents can provide scholarships to students enrolled in private schools while receiving a dollar-for-dollar tax credit against their state income tax liability. Since you would otherwise owe this money to the state, making a tax credit donation will cost you nothing extra in the end. These donations can be made for a specific school and student through certified organizations such as Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO). We are happy to get info in your hands, but here is the website too:

http://www.acsto.org/for-donors/how-it-works/

And, feel free to ask me questions too and definitely pass this by your tax accountant who should be very familiar with this. As a married couple you can designate up to $2,134 to go directly to Samantha and Alex at Pusch Ridge for their tuition. (For 2015 the original tax credit is $1,070 and Overflow/PLUS is $1064 – the Overflow is because they have been to public school in the past). If you are already doing this for someone but aren’t doing the Overflow/Plus, you can do that just for our kids and the regular for someone else. This can be divided up and also the full amount does not have to be given. And, don’t feel like if you do this you are obligated every year…We are taking this one school year at a time.

If anyone does decide to do this, we would be so incredibly blessed and grateful. You can mail it in or do it directly online. Just pay the amount to ACSTO, then claim it on your taxes and then get it back. You can also do this all the way until April 15th and even on the day you submit your taxes, whichever comes first. If you do this on the day you file your taxes, by the time you get your refund you can pay the credit card bill for the ACSTO charge. Also, this is separate from the public school tax credit so you can do both, as long as you do not exceed your state tax liability.

The most important thing to remember when you do this is to specify Samantha Fleming AND Alex Fleming along with Pusch Ridge Christian Academy in the space provided. If you don’t specify, it will just go in the general fund.

We want you all to pray about this and we don’t want you to do this if you don’t feel comfortable. We know this is where God wants them and He will provide in whatever ways we need through the partnership with others.

Also, this is anonymous so unless you tell us we won’t ever know who did and did not give so you don’t owe us a bit of explanation either way. If you do decide to give and want to tell us, we would love to know so we can thank you guys.

I cannot thank you enough for considering this. Having Alex at Pusch Ridge these past few months has literally changed him in ways that bring me to joy-filled tears and Samantha is SO excited to start. God is good…all the time.

Michelle and Mark

Amazon

Hello!

For the past 10+ years I’ve had an Amazon Associates account where I make a very small percentage off of what people spend. I used to have that added to my Outdoor Resources (http://www.outdoor-resources.com) website, but that’s pretty much been neglected for some number of years now. However…given that we’re on the verge of the holiday season, I thought I’d publish a few links here. If you click on one, and buy something, I get like 1%, which would be helpful towards medical bills and the like. Absolutely no obligation, of course, just figured if you’re already going to be buying something at Amazon, you may as well start here!



Happy shopping!

Mark

Which FitBit Is Right For You?

Hello,

After my post yesterday to @FitBit, I had a few people ask me about which FitBit would be right for them. I’m super happy that they’re considering becoming Fitbitters, and I figure rather than answering everybody individually, it would be easier to just put together a post on it. So, here goes!

We’ve been very fortunate to own and/or gift most of the FitBit models. All but two of them, the Flex and the Surge, have come via my company wellness program, or because I got some awards at work that I was able to translate into FitBits. We’ve learned a few things along the way, so hopefully this will help anybody who’s looking to purchase their own.

  • FitBit One ($99.95). Of the two clip-on versions of FitBit, this is the only one I’ve owned, and probably the only one that I would recommend. The One tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed and sleep. It’s also shows the time, the current battery level, and is easy to recharge. I’ve worn it clipped to my pants pocket, my waistband, and some people I know clip it to their underwear when other options aren’t practical. I’ve found it gives pretty accurate results. If you don’t care about tracking your heart rate, tracking different exercises, GPS, or the other price points are too expensive, this is a great way to get into the FitBit game. It does what the whole thing is about – getting you moving by tracking steps – very well.
  • FitBit Flex ($99.95). This is the first model that you wear on your wrist, and quite frankly, I think they should discontinue it. It tracks steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes and sleep. The problem I have with this one is the display. While every other model of FitBit provides actual numbers, this one gives you dots. There are 5 of them, each representing 20% of your goal. The problem is knowing how close or how far you are from your goal! Let’s say you’re goal is the standard 10,000 steps, and you see three dots. Does that mean you’re at 6001 steps, or 7999 steps? It’s impossible to tell. This is the only FitBit we’ve bought (got it on Craigslist in Houston), and we got it for Alex. He very quickly lost interest because it’s about as motivating as…well…nothing. So, I’d advise you skip this one, unless you find the price just to hard to resist.
  • FitBit Charge ($129.95). A big step up from the Flex, the Charge tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes and sleep. Includes Caller ID. Yep…you can configure it to let you know who’s calling while you’re working out! The Charge has a nice display (tap twice to get it going), and, unlike the Flex, gives you three sizes of bands to choose from (but you have to know your wrist size when ordering). It gives you all the information you’re looking for with a double-tap and a few swipes. The display is pretty easy to read, and the battery life is good. If you’re wanting a wrist unit, and you aren’t interested in heart rate tracking or GPS, I’d recommend this one. It’s attractive, functional, and gets you in the game at a decent price point.
  • FitBit Charge HR ($149.95). Twenty bucks extra gets you the FitBit Charge with the ability to continuously track your heart rate. There are many reasons you might want to do this, from medical conditions to simply enhancing your training. I believe the Charge HR also provides some more granular statistics than the basic Charge. But, the real upgrade here is the heart rate stuff. Here’s some more information about how they capture your life force. Personally, if I didn’t have the Surge, I’d get this one. It gives you lots of good data, keeps you motivated, and helps you stay fit. For the extra twenty bucks, if you can afford it, the upgrade is nice.
  • FitBit Surge ($249.95). The Surge should only be purchased by serious, high performance athletes who want to track every stat about their workouts so they can reach their goal of competing in the highest echelons of their sport. Or…data nerds, like myself, who want every statistic tracked and who like the GPS aspect because they love maps, will find this unit to be pretty awesome. This is the one I have, and it was obtained through the diligent saving of various Amazon gift certificates. I love this puppy! It’s like the Charge HR on steroids! It tracks GPS, continuous heart rate, all-day activity stats and sleep. Includes smart notifications and music control. It’s got a fun interface, lets me know who’s calling and lets me read my texts while I’m working out. It’s obviously super expensive, and not for every budget, but it’s the Cadillac of smart exercise devices in the market. You wouldn’t be disappointed if you got this one.

So, I hope that was helpful. If I had to sum things up, it would be like this: if you just want to get into the FitBit game, and you’re really just looking for some motivation to get out and exercise, the then FitBit One is a great choice. It’s accurate, tracks many statistics, and there are even after market bands you can use to attach it to your wrist. For the price, it’s a great unit (did I mention we washed one in the washing machine once, and it survived!?). If you want to get a bit more serious, and track different activities, or maybe monitor your heart rate, then the Charge or Charge HR is a great choice. Whatever you choose, though, I think you can’t go wrong by going with FitBit!

If you do end up getting one, please send me a friend request (mrkfleming@gmail.com), and we’ll add you to our weekly challenges!

Happy Stepping!

Mark

Dear FitBit…

Dear @FitBit,

This is just an open letter with suggestions I’ve brainstormed over the almost two years I’ve been using your products.

I absolutely love your products and your company! We’ve owned or still use a FitBit One, Flex, Charge, Charge HR and Surge (most of them acquired through my company wellness program). We participate in challenges almost weekly (even when I was recovering from surgery!). Most of our family are FitBitters (is that a real word?) as well, and we love helping keep each other accountable for getting in shape.

Your support (@FitBitSupport) is absolutely amazing! I’ve had the pleasure of working with them three times, and each time my issue has been resolved better and quicker than I could have hoped for. Your support team is courteous, humorous, and super quick. They get the job done better than almost any other company I’ve worked with. Super props to them!

All this leads to me being a customer for life! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking while walking, hiking or doing cardio, about how to make FitBit even more amazing than it is now. Here are some of my ideas….for better or worse.

  • General Software Features:
    • I would love to see you add a HIKE option to your list of exercises. Currently I use the WALK option when I go hiking, but they’re not quite the same. My walks are generally on mostly flat terrain, and at a much faster pace than I do a hike at. My hikes are usually slower, and on varied terrain, so my pace is much different. Since I like to look at improvements over time, having to manually cull out Hike vs. Walk entries is tedious. Having a separate category for Hikes would make analyzing my data much easier.
    • Adding an Active Minutes challenge would be awesome. Step challenges are fun, but people could meet their 10K goal without hardly raising their heart rate. But, since active minutes takes into account an elevated heart rate, a challenge like that would indicate a whole new level of exercise for the day.
    • Map switching in the app from street to topographical would be cool. Since I do hikes, having the ability to see the terrain I was on would be pretty cool. And then to be able to switch back to streets…nice. You could investigate the use of OpenStreetMaps if licensing Google maps is too expensive.
    • Enhancing the API to provide more granular date would be cool. In particular, I’d love to see my heart rate as granular as possible. I’m assuming you don’t collect HR data on a per minute basis…so, please give me access to ALL the data you record about my sessions!
    • As long as we’re talking about data, having the ability to export with more granularity would be nice. Again, if all the data is there, please let me have everything. I’m a data nerd…I can handle it!
    • Additional workout export options, like to Instagram, would be great. I try not to use Facebook, but I do use Instagram a lot. I don’t see that as an option on my iPhone.
    • Create a Super Surge watch that includes things like a barometer for detecting altitude changes. If I’m hiking, or maybe mountain biking or doing hills on my road bike it would be sweet to be able to track my changes in elevation (though, on closer inspection, maybe this is already included? I’ve never seen elevation changes when I review my Exercise for the day). Perhaps you could also throw in a thermometer and something to contact emergency services with in case there’s an issue, as long as we’re going for broke here.
  • Hardware:
    • One of the things I had to contact support about was the tips on the FitBit One Clip. When those tips come off, you end up with a super sharp end, that essentially has two pointy tips on it, that you have to push against when you clip that puppy on. Suffice to say, it hurts and is very uncomfortable. So, either make the entire clip one piece, or figure out a way to adhere the tips to the clip so they don’t come off. It would be easier on my fingers.
    • This past summer I was doing an adventure race with some kids from our church. We were on a hiking trail, and I took a tumble. I managed to save my camera, but hurt my FitBit Surge in the fall. The face got scratched (not a huge deal, but kinda a bummer), but the band where it starts to bend around my wrist got scratched in several places. Those areas are getting worse the more I wear it (which is almost 24 hours a day). Having the ability to change or repair the band would be nice. I don’t care about colors at all (black works for me), but as things fall apart, I would like to be able to repair them.
    • I was in Europe this summer, and I tried to use the GPS function of my Surge in both England and Spain. I was never able to get a connection to the satellites. Perhaps this is by design, or perhaps I just didn’t wait long enough (though it was a good 5 minutes), but tracking my walks in a foreign country would be cool because I could go back and revisit those memories.
    • Discontinue the FitBit Flex. Simply put…the dots indicating steps are anything but motivating. There’s nothing like seeing actual numbers reflective of how many steps you’ve taken, and being able to figure out how many you need to achieve your goal. I’d rather put a FitBit One in a band to get all the information that it gives, then wear the equivalently priced Flex and only get dots. My son started with the Flex, and quickly lost the desire to wear it because (1) the dot feedback just didn’t do it for him (nor anybody else in the family), and (2) he couldn’t see what time it was (which if you’re going to wear something on your wrist, seems like a nice feature).

I think that’s it! If you’ve read this far, I appreciate it very much. I love your products, and can’t wait to see what the future brings with them. If you have any questions, want to send me some swag, or simply want to tell me to mind my own business, you know where to find me!

Thanks!

Mark

Grace 30th Anniversary Party

Hello!

On Friday, October 23rd, Grace Community Church celebrated it’s 30th anniversary! It was an amazing party, with several hundred in attendance, and many of the previous pastors came back to celebrate with us.

Here are the pictures I took during the event, if you’re interested:

https://goo.gl/photos/5h9TaiHMbLYTUUbw9

Thanks!

Mark

[Edit : Made the link clickable…sorry about that! Also, feel free to download any pictures you want, or contact me to get higher resolution versions. Thanks!]

The Real Heroes Of My Story

I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog talking about all the amazing people who have helped us during my medical journey the past year plus – doctors, nurses, church family, friends, co-workers – but I’m truly ashamed to say I’ve neglected three of the most important people who have been part of my recovery, healing, spiritual growth, and who have gone to extreme measures to help me cope with the changes in my/our lives. Those people are Michelle, my beautiful wife, and Samantha and Alex, our children.

I truly can’t say enough about what an absolute blessing Michelle has been to me during this time. She has been an absolute rock, taking on everything from arranging rides for the kids, making sure they have places to go after school, being there for all my appointments and hanging with me in the hospital, and doing most of that without having eaten for longer than you or I could handle. She’s put on my socks, tied my shoes, changed my dressings, made sure I remember appointments, and prayed with me before just about every appointment, procedure, and rough period we’ve experienced. And she did it, and continues to do it, with a smile on her face and love in her heart. She is truly the cornerstone of our family, the rock on which we’ve built our family, and the place of refuge in the many storms we’ve encountered. There’s nothing I can say that really expresses the love I have for her, and the gratitude I have for everything she’s done for me, our kids, and everybody else involved in this whole thing. Thank you, Michelle, from the bottom of my heart.

Samantha and Alex, too, have been amazing during this time. Often they don’t know before they leave for school who’s going to pick them up. Sometimes they leave for school, and end up spending days at a relative’s house (not that it’s a bad thing at all!). Their lives have been turned upside down with my surgeries, appointments, unscheduled hospital visits, the many moods of their dad, and adapting to the new way their dad has to approach life. And during it all, they’ve kept their grades up, done everything asked and expected of them, made me some very nice cards, visited me in the hospital, helped around the house, and many other things I’m sure I’m not even aware of. They are the most amazing, adaptable, caring, sensitive, and spiritual kids I know, and I’m absolutely in love with them. I very often forget the toll that all this may have taken on them, and I’m grateful to so many of you for being there to help process it with them. Thank you, Samantha and Alex, for being just who you are.

As of this writing, I feel like I’m making some good recovery progress. I managed to make it to church and The Blender today and, aside from being a bit tired, I feel good. So, I’m going to use this post to close out this particular adventure in my life. Unless something major happens, you can safely assume that I continue to recover, get stronger, and am resuming life as normal. I won’t update this particular experience anymore unless there is something truly worth communicating. I very much appreciate everybody’s support, thoughts and prayers during this time.

In closing, I’d ask that you say some prayers for the true heroes in my life – Michelle, Samantha and Alex. Pray that they, too, recover well from everything that has happened to me, and let God know what an amazing blessing they are to me. I truly would not have made it to where I am today without them at my side.

Take care,

Mark

Home…Again!

Good Evening!

Well, I’m back home…again! Just took one of the best showers of my life after spending the evening having dinner at home with my family and the Penrod’s and Michelle’s aunt Marge. Good times!

Lab results are in, and it’s basically Staphylococcus aureus, but NOT the MRSA kind that sometimes you pick up in hospitals. Fortunately this particular version of staph is easily treatable, so with all the IV antibiotics I’ve been on the past few days, along with what I’m taking at home, I should be good to go in no time! The good news is that I’m home, feeling great (but pretty tired) and ready to complete this healing thing.

I can’t thank you all enough for your thoughts, prayers, messages, and help you provided our family. I was talking with a nursing student today who was doing a practice assessment on me, and he asked about my support network. I couldn’t have been prouder to tell him about my family, extended family, church family, and the tons and tons of people that I call friends and family! He was quite impressed, and I told him straight up that I couldn’t have made it through all these hard times without you all!

I’d also like to send some serious props to the staff at St. Joseph’s who tended to me during my stay. From the moment we stepped foot in the ER, we were treated with respect and kindness. Everybody, from the guys who wheeled me up to my CT scan and then my room, to the nurses and techs who took care of my daily needs, to the person who took my meal orders…the folks there are the utmost professionals. Please pray for them that they can continue the excellent work they do each and every day.

Hopefully this will be the last post with mention of any recovery problems! I’m praying for smooth sailing from this point forward!

Have a great night!

Mark

Haven’t We Been Here Before?

I’m sure most of you have heard, but I’m back in the hospital. Remember that whole not-feeling well, hot-cold, sleeping all the time thing from last week that I spent three visits to my doctor along with a litany of testing on? Well, it all came to a head on Sunday night. After laying in bed from about 4PM – 8PM, I got up to take a shower. After I was done, I felt absolutely terrible, but I also noticed some blood on my towel. My initial fear was an issue with the sutures “down there,” but upon closer inspection, it turned out that the wound caused by my JP drain placement was leaking some very nasty stuff. And it was leaking bad. Throw onto that a 101 degree temperature, a tortuous headache, and the time to head to the ER was upon us.

We headed to the St. Joseph’s ER because they would have my records and my doctors has privileges there (going to the Oro Valley ER was oh so tempting!). We got there at about 9:45PM, and actually made it inside to a bed in about 15 minutes. Then the waiting commenced. After all was said and done, I was being checked into St. Joseph’s because it appeared I had a nasty infection related to where my JP drain was. We also did a head to pelvis CT Scan because of my headache and other symptoms. That would eventually reveal a couple of pockets of fluid in my pelvis area, right on the path of the JP drain.

Got to our room at 4AM and the barrage of visits from just about everybody started, about every 15 minutes. Absolutely no sleep that first night, but I’m insanely grateful to everybody in the ER department, CT scan department, patient transportation department, and the staff in our wing for everything they did for us. They made a bad night about as good as it could get. And they even called my doctor, at like midnight, to get her orders, and then back again sometime around 2AM. AND she was in our room checking on me at around 5:30AM! Totally crazy!

So, here I still sit, getting dose after dose of IV antibiotics while we wait for a bacterial culture to grow and reveal the true culprit at work. Once the actual infection is identified, they’ll send me home with some oral antibiotics. That’s very likely to be tomorrow, Wednesday, at the earliest.

Ah, the frailty of the human body. One little bug gets where it shouldn’t be and everything gets thrown into havoc. Hopefully the antibiotics are doing their job (I am feeling much better for sure) and I’m on the mend.

Will update you once I’m back at home again, which I hope to be very soon!

Mark

A Tough Week

Well, this has been one tough week. Let me boil it down

  1. Three visits to my surgeons office, which is literally on the furthest side of town from us
  2. Two trips to Sonora Quest for labs (blood, urine and bag contents)
  3. One chest x-ray
  4. One CT Scan

Basically, I’ve not been feeling well this week…at all. It started pretty much Monday afternoon around 4PM, and I had to take a nap. Three hours later, I knew something was up. I had a fever, was feeling super exhausted, my lungs felt congested, and things didn’t seem great with respect to my stoma output. We had an appointment scheduled with my surgeon to follow up on something from the previous week, so we were set to meet with her on Tuesday morning.

The doctor said things were looking good with respect to the sutures and JP drain, but she was concerned about the other stuff (especially the fever). So, off for chest x-ray to check for pneumonia (turned out negative) and blood draw/urine tests (only showed elevated white count, which is somewhat normal following surgery). Back the next day for follow-up.

Still wasn’t feeling better. Very tired, temp still up. Next follow-up, she decides to schedule a CT scan just to make sure there wasn’t something lurking inside that might be making me sick. All this time, I’m still with my JP drain which is starting to actually hurt, and is beyond annoying (butt hair is painful when tape gets ripped off it!). She had wanted to take it out earlier in the week, but kept it in as that last lifeline to draining out anything bad that might be going on.

CT scan on Thursday. Nasty prep stuff.

Back to doctor today. Everything has come back negative. I tell her that the last couple nights I’ve woken up several times drenched in sweat with a below average temperature instead of a fever! Crazy stuff, but she says she’s had that happen in some of her other patients as well. She finally decides to take the JP drain out (man, you can’t imagine how good that feels to have it gone), but does take a sample of the fluid to do a bacteria test on (it’s looking a little suspect). But she’s confident that all this is just my body’s reaction to the stress of surgery, and that fact that, and I completely own this, I came into the procedure very overweight compared to the one last year. Tie in what the chemo very likely did to my body this year, and it’s no doubt that I should be experiencing a rough time.

Next visit is Monday for abdominal suture (staple) removal and removal of half of the sutures on my bottom (yeah, that should be fun). Then a visit in another week to get the remaining sutures removed. If something positive comes back from the drain sample, I’ll likely have to start antibiotics.

Trying to stay upbeat, but I’ll admit this has been an exhausting week for Michelle and me. Hopefully I can get some rest this weekend and continue to heal!

Asked the doctor when I can start driving…she said probably for at least not another three weeks! That’s crazy! Being home bound is driving me a bit insane, though I do like being with Michelle. I only have one more week off from work, so I’ll be working from home after that I guess. Very much hoping to hook up with the team in Houston sometime in November.

Despite all this, I still feel extremely blessed for everybody who’s helped our family, for our great insurance and a great medical team, for an amazing wife who has to drive me everywhere, and for God who has provided it all! God is good!

Have an awesome weekend!

Mark