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

Rough Weekend

Hello!

Wow, what a rough weekend. Seems I picked up some sort of stomach bug on Thursday. I was feeling great before I went to lunch with some friends, and then a few hours after I got home, I started heading downhill fast. Felt extremely, extremely tired, was having stomach cramps, and some nausea. By the time Friday arrived, it was all I could do to stay awake! But as soon as I finished my work day (8:30PM because I made a mistake that had me rebuild my configuration), I was in my pajamas and off to bed!

Yep, you read correctly – 8:30PM on a Friday night and I was in bed, literally in a dead sleep. And I didn’t fully wake up until 11:30AM on Saturday! Crazy!

Saturday was mostly sleep as well, with continued pretty painful stomach cramps. I felt well enough on Sunday to hit church and make it to The Blender, but I literally had to take a long nap in between. I’m pretty sure this is a standard stomach bug made worse by chemo.

Speaking of which…today is another treatment day. Only three left after this one! I cannot wait for this all to be done. Target is the Monday after Easter.

I hope everybody had a much better weekend than I! I am, however, super grateful for an amazing wife and family who just let me sleep and held down the fort while I was down. I am so grateful for my family and all the friends who expressed concern for me and prayed for me! Thank you!

Have an awesome week! Links of Hope to come later today!

Mark

Blessed Beyond Belief!

Hello,

So, I’m sure most of you know that yesterday was my birthday! I say that because I got a tremendous number of “Happy Birthday” messages via Facebook! I’m not lying when I say that in my entire 47 years of existence, I have NEVER (that is NOT an exaggeration) had so many people wish me Happy Birthday! I feel so blessed to have so many friends that care about me enough to take time from their day for well wishes and prayers. That, to me, is the best birthday present ever! You all truly made my day!

I had a great birthday! Michelle and the kids did a great job of decorating the house for the occasion:

Later in the evening, Samantha and I went to see the movie The Drop Box. I would highly recommend seeing it if you can. It’s on through Saturday at the movie theater in Oro Valley (it may be playing elsewhere as well). It’s about a man, Pastor Lee, in Seoul, South Korea, who built a drop box for abandoned kids at his orphanage. It’s a very, very powerful story.

After the movie, we came home and enjoyed the amazing gluten free cake that Michelle made! If we presented you with two cakes – one “normal” and the other the gluten free one she made – you could not tell the difference. It’s that good! And for those of you who have known me for a long time, you know how much I like my cake!

Thank you all again for an amazing birthday! I truly feel blessed beyond belief, and am looking forward to a great year!

Have a wonderful day!

Mark

Links Of Hope #8

Hello,

So, today I start my birthday week (saving for a camera at Amazon, in case you’re interested!) with another chemo treatment. After this one is done, I’ll only have four more remaining, which is a good thing, because I’m seriously getting tired of all this. It takes more and more to keep up the positivity as this drags on!

Last week we had a bit of a “concern” regarding the state of things. My last blood test had revealed an elevated LFT (Liver Function Test) which could, among other things, indicate a return of some cancer of some sort. Karen, the PA, did some research after my chemo, and decided that the culprit may be the Fluconazol that I was taking for my consistent thrush condition. So she had me get off that drug and take another blood test soon after. I had my own theory about it all, after doing some research…it appears that heavy exercise can cause elevated LFTs. I did the Romero Pools hike the Saturday before my treatment, and I cannot convey enough how much that did me in. So, my hypothesis is that a combination of that severe activity, and no doubt a level of residual dehydration, contributed to the elevated levels. In any event, I came in last Friday with Samantha (she actually got to go back behind the scenes) to get blood drawn so Karen could check the results today. The good news is that my LFT levels are now normal again! Given that I was only off the Fluconazol for 24 hrs at the time of my blood draw, it seems unlikely to me that it was the issue. But, I’m not a doctor, so you never know! I’m just happy that concern has passed.

Today we have another adorable Link of Hope from the Vonk family. It’s Isaiah 41:10, which reads:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I bank on that passage everyday. There is so much going on in our lives at the moment, that the only way we can get through it all is embracing the above passage. God is good, and he will indeed strengthen us during this time.

So, cancer really sucks. A lady, Kimberly, just came through the area, meeting with each person in a chair. She’s a patient as well, and she said she has stage 4 colon cancer that has now progressed to many other parts of her body, and she walks around trying to make the environment a bit more cheery. I heard her say to another patient that her prognosis is three years, and that she has a 9 year old son. That totally sucks. She’s also reminding people that March is Colon Cancer Awareness month, which I had totally forgotten. So, please keep in your prayers anybody who has/had colon cancer, as well as all the people working on a cure.

Today’s treatment is pretty much the same as usual. Arrived at 9:30AM, and of course got hit with a “there appears to be a balance on your account.” So, Michelle being the amazing family manager she is, went to take care of that while I waited to be called back for treatment. At about 10:00AM I finally made it back to the chair after getting my vitals checked, which were all normal. Waited around for about 30 minutes while they gave me saline and got my drugs in order. Started my Leucovorin drip at 10:30AM, which should be finished by noon! Then I’ll be off to my weekly lunch date at Gluten Free Girls with my beautiful wife!

By the way, this week’s t-shirt is courtesy of a good friend of mine from the Buzztouch community, Tony Kristo. He’s a police officer for the Hazlewood Police Department near St. Louis, and was very much involved in the stuff that went on in Ferguson, MO last year. His department was only a few miles from the scene, so he got lots of exposure to the unrest that ensued. He’s also an amazing Christian brother, and we’ve worked on an app for his church together. I very much appreciate the t-shirt he sent me!

I hope everybody is having a great day!

Mark

Yee Haw, Rodeo Break!

Hello,

So, last week most Tucson schools were off for Rodeo Break. This is the time of the year when the Rodeo comes to town, and it’s a huge deal. When Scott and I were kids, we always went to see the rodeo parade, which is the longest running non-mechanized parade around, and sometimes we made it to the actual rodeo. It’s a pretty big deal around here for some people. Samantha and Alex have been to both the parade and the rodeo itself, but this year elected to stay home and relax (which was well deserved).

On Thursday, it was a normal work day for me, but when I got home, Samantha and her friend Hanna wanted to practice softball! This was huge because we haven’t done that for at least over a year. It’s been almost two years since either of them have played or I have coached. We headed over to the fields at CDO, and had a great night throwing, batting, and catching grounders and flyballs. I have to say…they haven’t lost much in the time we’ve taken off. And there’s talk about Fall Ball, which would be awesome! But I also have to say, I’ve never been so exhausted with such little effort on my part! Chemo sucks!

Friday I took the day off and we pretty much relaxed, which was nice. We didn’t do much of anything, but we did manage to see the movie Interstellar, which I have to say was exceptionally good, yet sad at the same time. If you haven’t seen it, I would greatly encourage you to!

Saturday saw me having to work for much of the day. After work, we all headed to the University of Arizona to watch some softball! Arizona was hosting a tournament, and we managed to catch a game and a half. Both games ended 10-2 in favor of the UA. While Samantha and I were catching the end of the last game, Michelle and Alex headed to the Flandrau Planetarium. They had a great time there, and overall it was a wonderful, beautiful night!

Sunday was a great day as well. After a good time at church, with an awesome message on leaving your legacy (it involves investing in people, not things), Samantha and I got some lunch at Rubios (Mmmmmm), while Michelle and Alex went to pick up his friend Logan for some gaming time at home.

After Logan left, Samantha had to work on a project for school, so Michelle, Alex and I went to Pima Canyon for a hike. It was a beautiful day for a hike, and we had a great time. It’s been way too long since I’ve been there, and I’d totally forgotten what a excellent hike it really is. And, not being as strenuous as the Romero Pools hike, I had a much easier time of it. Michelle also got to try out her new hiking boots, which performed admirably!

Here’s some shots I got of the hike, all taken with my phone.

This is a shot up into the canyon. There is a phenomenal number of saguaro cactus’ in this area. It’s quite amazing, and very beautiful. We also had some very blue skies with some great cloud cover to add depth to the scene.

The desert threw some love our way with a heart-shaped prickly pear cactus!

There was quite a bit of water around the area. We had a lot of fun exploring the wash, hopping from rock to rock. I actually think that Samantha would probably have enjoyed this hike as well.

At one point there were the most amazing clouds in the sky. For some reason, this scene reminds me of what astronauts see when they look down on the earth. It was very, very beautiful!

Again, lots of water flowing all over the place! Fortunately both Michelle and I have waterproof boots. Alex…not so much.

Alex led us on an adventure down the river. We hopped across a lot of rocks and water, and even got to traverse a log! We eventually ended up where the trail intersected the river, and made our way back to the parking lot. Three miles in two hours…a very nice day!

Not having The Blender this evening, which I truly missed, we spent the remainder of the evening doing homework and projects. We ended our night with a devotion from The Joshua Code, and then called it a night. Looking forward to a great night’s sleep, and hopefully waking up to some rain tomorrow morning (that’s not wishful thinking…it’s actually in the forecast)!

I hope everybody had a great weekend, and that you have a wonderful week!

Mark

More Links Of Hope!

I got a nice visit from the Vonks and their completely adorable kids yesterday. They brought me two more links for my chemo treatments! So I no longer have to worry about spacing the remaining ones out…I have a link for each treatment. And the last two have some incredibly cute decorations on them…I can’t wait to share them with you (especially since it’ll mean I’m down to my last two treatments!).

Thanks, Vonk Family, for the continued inspiration and prayers during my treatments!

Links Of Hope #7

Hello!

Well, today is another chemo day. Including today, I have 6 sessions left over eight weeks. Looks like I’ll be done the Monday after Easter, if all goes well! Very much looking forward to that.

Because I have a different treatment schedule now, I have more sessions left than Links of Hope to show! So, I’ll do one every other week until the last two, and then two in a row.

Today’s amazing Link of Hope from the equally amazing Vonk family is Psalm 23:4, which reads:

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Every time Michelle and I come here for a treatment, I wear a t-shirt with a Christian related message on it. That’s very intentional on my part, and almost every time we’re here, we have some faith-based discussion with somebody. It’s actually quite amazing. But the common denominator is exactly what it says above, that God is with us through any walk we may take. Every person I’ve talked to here says they couldn’t make it through this process without God and lots of prayer!

Today’s treatment is pretty basic. Got here at 9:40AM, and about 10AM went back to get my blood drawn from my port. For some reason, they just couldn’t get the blood flowing, and we had to try all kinds of things : laying down, moving my head from side to side, touching my toes, and moving my head back. Eventually she was able to get what she needed. This sometimes happens, she says, when people are dehydrated. And despite all the water I drank during my hike on Saturday, I suspect I’m still quite dehydrated. But, it all worked out.

After getting blood drawn, we saw Karen, and we talked about what’ s been going on. The biggest thing is that lately I’ve been gaining a lot of weight, and it’s not all related to my terrible diet. My legs and hands are super puffy, so I was concerned about fluid retention. Karen agreed, and it looks like I’ll be on a diuretic for a bit. The thought is that between my steroids and the general treatment, fluid retention is occurring. So, I guess I’ll be spending some good time in the bathroom in the near future! We also talked about hair loss, which is absolutely occurring. Ask to see my legs sometime!

After that, we headed into the treatment area, got hooked up, and as of this writing, I have about 15 minutes left. Easy peasy!

Life is good these days, but very stressful! Between all that we have going on with the kids, the monumental amount of debt we’re in because of this, the house on the verge of being sold, and just general life, we’re doing a fair job of keeping our heads above water! Looking forward to some time with the kids over Rodeo break and then during Spring Break.

Many thanks for the continued prayers, thoughts, help, and general support you’ve given me and my family during this time. We couldn’t do it without you all, and of course not without God!

Have an awesome day!

Mark

Spring Weekends Rock!

Hello!

What a great weekend I and the family had! It sorta started on Friday when I flew home from Houston on a morning flight, and got in around 1:30PM. After getting my luggage, I sprinted home to spend 15 minutes with Michelle, grab my camera gear, pick up Alex from school, and head downtown to do photography for a wedding! That was a fun experience, and a great couple tying the knot. After that, I sprinted back home, spent about 20 minutes with the family,  and then headed to the Hillis house for a combined Grace FT/OT meeting. We had some amazing food, and spent some good time making sure the two teams were in sync with a vision and goal for Grace. It was a nice evening!

Saturday began very early, because we had to be at the Applebee’s at the Foothills Mall to do The Blender CHIC Fundraising breakfast. The deal was that Applebee’s would do all the cooking, and the kids would do the serving. Tickets had been sold, and everybody was stoked. But this is what we saw when we arrived.

Apparently whomever closed the evening before, set the alarm but forgot to lock the door! And when Chris arrived, and found literally nobody around, he went inside to investigate (very briefly). The alarm went off, and a bit later the sheriff’s arrived. They did some investigating but found nobody. And by now, it was well after 8, and not a single person from Applebee’s showed up to run the breakfast.

So, in true Grace community fashion, we quickly formulated a plan to move the breakfast to Grace. Several people headed to Walmart for supplies, and the rest of us headed to Grace to get things prepared. In no time flat, we had all hands on deck making pancakes and sausage (that was my assignment). We truly rocked the day!

It was hard work in the kitchen, pumping out all those pancakes, but it was a lot of fun!

And of course I had to do some quality control on the product!

All in all, I think the people who came had a great time. Not sure how much money was raised, but was an amazing example of the Grace community and spirit! You’d be amazed at how many people dropped what they were doing to show up and help!

After the breakfast was over, I felt the need to be outside! I’d spent a lot of time in the office in Houston (and got a lot done, so it was worth it!), but I needed to be on a trail. So, Alex and I headed out to Catalina State Park and hit the trail to Romero Pools. This is roughly a 5.4 mile round trip hike, with lots of elevation gain (over 1000′), and some pretty strenuous hiking, especially for a person undergoing chemo! But not for somebody like Alex, who literally ran up the trail, while I struggled most of the way.

The views were absolutely gorgeous on this fine Spring day! This particular section is like a huge saguaro garden.

After a couple hours of hiking (I was really holding Alex back), we finally made it to Romero Pools. It was super nice!

We took a load off our feet, spent some time hydrating, eating, and cooling our feet in the super cold water (and by that I mean freezing cold).

The water was running in some pretty nice falls!

After we were somewhat rested, we hit the trail to head back home. Along the way I saw this little guy…it’s like he was trying to hold up the huge boulder all by himself!

When we finally made it back, we were exhausted, but in that good way you get after having done something special. Our dogs were barking (“our feet hurt”) big time, and it felt like we almost couldn’t make it to the car, but we did! Once we got home, I absolutely had to take a nap, and Alex had some friends over. Later in the evening, we hit the UA vs. ASU Hockey game! It was Alex’s first, and he and his friends (along with Michelle and I) had a great time! But, we did loose, 2-0, in the last few minutes of the game. :-(

Sunday brought a good message at church, a nice Fleming-Tuck lunch at Chipotle, and The Blender in the evening. The night was beautiful, and prompted some selfies that I managed to photo bomb!

We had breakfast for dinner, much to Brian’s chagrin, because he was out of town. But it sure was tasty (at least the sausage was, which I was in charge of again). God also blessed us with an amazing sunset!

You just don’t see colors like that anywhere else in this amazing country!

That about sums it up! We’re all pretty exhausted, but for good reasons. I have chemo tomorrow, which I’m not much looking forward to, but it brings me one step closer to being done. I hope you all have a great week and I’ll leave you with this parting shot of Alex and I having a super fun hike!

Mark

 

Help A Brother Out!

Good Morning,

I’d like to introduce you this morning to Brian Brinkley, an amazing brother in Christ and a good friend of mine! He’s the guy in red, sporting that incredible beard!

Brian is a superhuman volunteer at Grace Community Church (the church we go to). He puts in 15-18 hours a week at Grace between YouthWav (Youth With A Vision, which he helped found 13 yeas ago), The Blender (ministry for middle and high schoolers), and the Divorce Care Ministry. This is in addition to working full time for AT&T and taking care of his three kids. This man is a serious rock star!

A little over a year ago Brian decided to attend Fuller Theological Seminary to obtain his Masters of Theology and Ministry to equip him to pursue ministry vocationally full time. What that means is he wants to spend his remaining days on this earth developing intentional programs and support for raising and equipping this newest generation of Christians. Brian has been working with kids at Grace for over 13 years and is truly loved by everybody he meets.

Brian estimates that each class costs around $1300 each, and he has about 16 classes remaining. At his present pace, he has about 2.5 to 3 years left to complete school. As you can imagine, it’s quite costly to complete these classes, and he’s asking for some financial (as well as prayer) support for his efforts. Until now, Brian has been relying on personal funds and family assistance for tuition. Grace recently set up a scholarship fund (Grace Seminary Fund) for people attending such institutions, and since he’s the only one currently doing so, he’s been the sole recipient!

Brian is asking for either donations to the Grace scholarship fund, or regular monthly donations, which several others have already committed to. Absolutely any amount would be helpful and appreciated. If you are a member of Grace, and have access to Realm, you can arrange donations online via http://onerealm.org/gracetucson/Give. Or you can send donations to Grace Community Church, designating them for the “Grace Seminary Fund”.

I hope you’ll consider helping a fellow brother in Christ out! Brian is an amazing man, a true man of God, and a super positive influence on the youth he comes in contact with. I have no doubts that finishing his masters program will equip him to become a super good and effective influence in the children in our lives. And that, my friends, is an investment in all our futures!!

Here’s to a great week for everybody! I’m in Houston again this week, and am looking forward to getting a lot done. Have a great day!

Mark

 

Flagstaff Rocks!

Howdy!

I hope everybody had a great week, and are starting an awesome weekend. Happy Valentines Day to everybody!

So, I’m having a super fun weekend! Took a half day on Thursday and a full day on Friday off from work. Samantha had a choir competition in Flagstaff this weekend, and Michelle was heading to Pinetop with her peeps, so Alex and I drove up here to watch Samantha’s performance, and then to go skiing! We’ve had an amazing weekend together, bonding as father and son.

Samantha and the Ironwood Ridge Glitz Choir did a superb job at their competition! The morning started super early for them with an 8AM performance at a local church. It was the static portion of their routine…no dancing, just “gorgeous” singing as the judge put it.

Then the moved over to the music school at NAU for their 10:50 performance, where they got to dance the numbers they’ve been rehearsing all year. It was truly beautiful!

The thing that really, really impressed me about this competition was the feedback they got after each performance. The judges came onstage and worked with them for a good 15 minutes, providing some very useful information and actually having then sing and work out what he was saying. It was very impressive! And the girls of Glitz should be super, super proud of their performances.

After Samantha was done, Alex and I booked it up the mountain for a half-day of skiing at the Arizona Snow Bowl. The day was absolutely gorgeous, and the snow was pretty darn good for this late in the season.

And I have to say, for a guy undergoing chemo, I did pretty well with four hours of skiing! To be totally honest, I got more winded putting on my ski boots and walking to and from the car than I did skiing!

And like I said, the day was absolutely beautiful!

After we were done, and returned the skis, Alex and I headed to dinner at Picazzo’s, which is our favorite gluten free restaurant. We happened to be there at Happy Hour, and got all our food half-price! Between us, we finished off 20 baked wings and some gluten free cheesy bread!

After that, we headed to the hotel for a bit, and rested our muscles in the Jacuzzi. Then it was back on the road for 2nd Friday Science Night at the Lowell Observatory. We attended a lecture on basic mechanics (in the physics sense) which was actually quite interesting! I learned that a screw is really a circular wedge. Who knew! We also looked through some telescopes, and saw Jupiter (super cool) and the Orion Nebula (super, super cool!). Then I spent some time trying to take star pictures before my battery died.

The stars are absolutely amazing up there.

Now we’re hanging in the hotel, ready for some sleep. A great end to an awesome day!

Mark