Friday, December 23, 2011

the journey.

After we returned home to the Vespa's from Barnes Hospital on Tuesday night, Prosecco in hand around the fireplace, I asked "Janice, where are we on the journey now???"  Janice has been ready with great word pictures along MikesLongRide to both prepare and amuse us with what lays ahead.  Right before Mike's first big surgery she said "that we were perched on the edge of the grand canyon ready to head down into some rough terrain".  When radiation came on the radar she cleverly stated "that the coastline was in sight but the path turned us back for much more riding."

I was eager to hear where we were now!  After a thoughtful pause Janice said "I think Mike is walking his bike - like pushing it - because the bike is rickety and beat up.  The front wheel is bent.  Mike is maneuvering the weathered bicycle up the steps... because he is home.  And he is in the market for a new bike."

Well said, my friend.

good emotions.

When we returned home on Wednesday night I ran to The Little House to tie up some loose ends before Emily arrived home for the holidays the next morning.  I popped in my new Amy Grant "A Christmas to Remember" CD and busied myself... until Gabriel's Oboe came on.  If you have seen the movie The Mission, you know this moving instrumental... I stood in the kitchen and wept.  Good tears.  Deep tears.  Good emotions moving out and Up... Amen.

(If you don't want a scene, it would be best to keep me out of the public eye while Highland Cathedral or Gabriel's Oboe are playing.)

another finishing line.

When we left Dr. Haughey's office on Tuesday afternoon it felt different.  We left lighter... overwhelmed with praise and thanksgiving... also numb... and everything felt a little different.

On Wednesday morning we headed back to the Siteman Cancer Center, 3rd Floor Radiology, for a CT chest scan.  Only this was a happy scan.  A scan that will be our baseline for Dr. Haughey's watchful eye over the coming years.   They do not expect anything to show up on the scan - and we certainly pray that nothing like another cancer cell ever shows up again, but continued care involves a yearly CT scan of the chest.  Dr. H will not scan Mike's head and neck routinely because he can see and feel everything he needs to with a scope of his neck and physical examination of his neck.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"squeaky clean" report!

After Dr. Haughey examined and scoped Mike and then stated "Everything is 100%. There is nothing that I am concerned about" - you cannot imagine the rush of relief that swept over us.   I think that the news seemed even bigger and sweeter because I had no idea that Dr. Haughey would be telling us today that - and I quote - "your treatment is completed."  I know that he actually used the words "squeaky clean" when conveying the report.

I have stated that I felt starved for his watchful eye and comprehensive care.  After an examination of the exterior tissues on Mike's neck, Dr. H said that Mike's tissues are getting supple, the way you want them to become. (He mentioned that sometimes after that kind of damage the tissues can get hard.) This was the first good thing.

Then he put the mini-lighted scope down the back of his throat through his nasal passage to view and access the interior tissues.  After expressing the situation in medical terms to Nurse Nicole at the computer, he then told us that everything was 100%.   Any side effects were the result of radiation - and NOT cancer.  You wanted to ask him to say it again and again!  He said there was still some slight swelling on the left side, which was to be expected and which is why Mike still has considerable pain.  He explained how radiated tissues are susceptible to trauma, even chewing.  Even this was spoken in a 'everything looks great' tone.

Our next step is to get a chest CT scan in the morning as our "baseline".  It is standard protocol to have all their patients get one because it is something that they will check every year.  While they rarely see any future cancer outbreaks for Mike's type & kind of cancer, this would be the typical place for it to go - so that is where they will be watching.

Then we made an appointment to see Dr. Haughey in four months.  We made it for April 3, 2012 which would be just two days short of the anniversary of our first surgery. 

The amazing, thrilling, hard-to-even-process thing is that OUR CANCER TREATMENT IS COMPLETED.  Thanks be to God.

Monday, December 19, 2011

dr. haughey.

We have an appointment with Dr. Bruce Haughey in St. Louis tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, December 20th.  He wanted to see us again eight weeks after Mike completed his radiation treatments.  To say we are eager to have Dr. H check Mike over after our gruelling radiation warfare would be an understatement.  Dr. Haughey provides  very comprehensive care and I am very eager to him to view Mike's throat which continues to be very painful.  I am very excited for him to lay his medical expertise over our case again.

Did I mention that I am eager for Mike to see Dr. Haughey??

Sunday, December 11, 2011

159... and holding.

Many of you have asked for regular updates... and sometimes it helps me to just "say some things".   Mike has not been able to turn a corner and put on any weight yet which has been hard.   And if you asked me, it seems like he is continuing to shed pounds.

Let me give you a picture of why this is happening by telling you about his day yesterday:  He got up at 4am to do chores and participate in a study at work (ie very physical labor.)  After meeting Mollie for breakfast at Memories Cafe he spent the entire afternoon chopping firewood with Scotty Gatewood.  Then he did afternoon chores at work (it is his chore weekend) and got home at 8:30pm.  Since he still has pain in swallowing, his 1500 calorie diet cannot keep up with the 8000 calories he expended!  The good part is that he feels good enough to do all of this.

After waking up in the night to worry about it, I decided that my best plan of action is to PRAY his weight back on... while making sure there is lots of good & healthy food in front of him to eat.  I would love to have you PRAY for his rebuilding and strengthening with me.

There.  I feel better.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


We found a practical advantage to Mike's massive weight loss:  Easier access through the tiny hole in the wall for insulating the exterior closet walls.  Yes, Mike crawled in and out of that tiny hole for 8 hours yesterday to complete his insulation project on the new house.  (For more details see

Such an arduous, labor intensive project probably inhibited any weight gain over the weekend, but it did result in a big weight off his shoulders for completing this project!

Friday, December 2, 2011

new perspective.

This cancer journey has enlarged my perspective on many things, large and small.  One thing that is different for me is that when I notice the 'soft stuff' at the top of my jeans, instead of being irritated it registers as HEALTH to me now.  While I am not condoning obesity in any form, it is another thing for healthy, active people to appreciate that healthy layer of fat.  A thin layer of that is there for a reason!  Poor Mike is cold 24/7.  We have been on a hunt for warm pajama pants and 'ski liner' leggings for under his jeans.  I just purchased a couple more silk Cattle Kate neck scarves for layering with his outer wear.  We keep the portable heaters handy around the house. And when we are travelling in a car together, I make sure I can strip down to a tank top for the heat level in the vehicle! 

Be thankful for some of your "soft stuff".  It looks like HEALTH to me.

158.5 and dr. zhen.

On Wednesday Mike had his four-week-post-radiation check with Dr. Ken Zhen at UNMC.  While it was actually emotionally painful to walk through the doors again, it was good to see the smiles of the dear people who work there and are so very caring.  (How do they do it day in and day out? The faces of the weary and radiated people in the waiting room is enough to send you into a downward spiral.  Our hats go off to the wonderful staff there.)

They weighed Mike.  He dropped another half pound this week to 158.5.  We learned that he actually lost more weight in the four weeks post radiation than during the six weeks of radiation - which makes sense since he was sicker and his pain levels were higher, especially in weeks 7-8.  Nurse Cindy gave a great pep talk about doing the hard work of eating - and making your calories count.  Dr. Zhen said "it took a long time to feel bad and it will take a long time to heal completely" - but everything looks as expected.  He assured Mike that when he comes back in 3 months that he will feel much better!  We refilled Mike's prescription for the codeine mouth rinse stuff that makes it possible for him to eat with the pain in his throat.  They had all seen Mike's article in the Omaha World Herald which was fun.  We appreciate these people dearly but are glad we do not have to come back here on a daily basis.  Duh.

Our next Dr. Haughey appointment is December 20th at 1:30pm, as he wants to see Mike six weeks post radiation.  We are looking forward to that very much.

Speaking of St. Louis, please join us in praying for Janice (as in our home-way-from-home Tom & Janice) as she has surgery on Monday for breast cancer.  They caught it small and early... we are praying that Monday's surgery starts and ends their journey.  Like a day-trip cancer ride.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

mike and scotty made the paper.

The Omaha World Herald ran an article today about "good Samaritans" which featured the story of Mike and friend Scotty Gatewood from the blog.  Margaret Buswell faithfully reads Mike's blog and especially liked the story about Scott because of her long history knowing him.  After reading our post about how Scott ran a mile "for Mike" every day for six weeks during his radiation treatments, she told us about a blurb in the World Herald that asked readers "to share stories of benefiting from the generosity of another or how they performed an act of kindness for someone else"... and encouraged us to send in their story.

It showed up in the paper today. Read it for yourself if you like:

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to say "thanks" for the person who was your lifesaver.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


This was Mike's weight when he was a Freshman in high school.  (When I dated him as a Senior he weighed about 174 and wrestled at 167.)  159 is also his weight this week.  Yes, he lost another 6 pounds.  Almost 30 pounds total.  (He has been going to the attic to find Baker's clothes that fit better than his!)

How does this happen now that he has started on real food, you ask? Answer: Now that he does feel better he has started putting in regular work hours and doing his regular (hard) work.  Since it is still very painful to eat and move anything down his throat, he has not been able to keep his calorie intake higher than his calorie output.

He was shocked when he stepped on a scale at work two days ago and saw the low number.  I wasn't surprised when he told me because I saw it coming.  There was marital stress in this equation because I spent considerable time & energy encouraging Mike to "snack" and "eat something now" which all sounded like nagging to him.  I saw him working long hours on oatmeal for breakfast and bird-sized portions at meals - since I am guessing that his stomach was the size of a walnut.

I am thankful to write on this Thanksgiving Day that Mike has been able to increase his portions and also eat more regularly around the clock.   I am also thankful to say that when I suggest a snack he respects the suggestion and usually says yes.  He has a true respect for the importance of caloric intake.

I am mostly thankful for him... and that I still have him around to blog about.    Thank You Lord for your loving care and provision for such excellent care for Mike... and for all the loving friends and family who are journeying with us. Amen

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

we turned a corner.

At dinner last night I looked at Mike and announced "Your color is coming back".  This replaces what I call the POW grey.  I think we can finally say we have turned the corner!  Mike's ability to swallow has greatly improved.  He still cannot eat because of the large burn / sore on the side of his tongue and the pain that results from anything touching it, but the Orgain Protein drinks are going down easier.  We are bumping the intake to 6 per day.

Mike gets an effort medal for "trying" some real food every day this week.  Last night I made a 12 Bean Soup thinking that the broth would be comforting (and nutritious.)  With every bite Mike's whole body contorted in pain until I said "Stop! Not worth it. Your mouth isn't ready!"

I would say we peaked on the pain and discomfort scale this past weekend - and I could not post the photo of Mike's neck burn then. The Blogger police would report the gore and creepy factor.  But by today his outer "wound" looks tamer and it would reason that the inside injuries are turning toward healing now too. 

Mike is trying to put in his normal hours at work already.  I know that he is so very appreciative of all the support he has gotten from everybody at work.

The eleven days from Friday October 28th (his last radiation treatment) to November 8th went slowly.  We were told he could get worse, and he did... but it seems like we are rounding a corner.  Finally. Halleujah.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

new mantra.

Jennifer Henson,  from Virginia just sent me this perfect Marine chant for Mike:
(Said in your best rah-rah voice...)
4 & 3 that's all you need
To get you outta those skinny jeans!
Go Mike!!
(A reference to Mike's daily need for a minimum of 4 protein drinks and 3 bottles of water!)
One of the best perks of my wonderful job with Creative Memories is all the friends we have made around the country.  David & Jennifer Henson and their sweet kids have prayed for us regularly and kept us encouraged in cyberspace.  We got to meet their whole family at DisneyWorld in 2010.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

new marching orders.

Mike agreed to go up to the Oakland Medical Clinic today to have his vitals taken.  (He has dropped down to 165.5 pounds which by the way is less than he weighed when I dated him in high school - and his blood pressure was a little off.)  I was concerned when I realized how little Mike ate and drank yesterday, and as a result how rotten he felt. Dehydration is a huge issue at times like this.  Without a plan, it is easy to eat and drink too little especially when it hurts to do it.

Dr. Martin gave us a realistic goal for baseline survival for the next 5 days while Mike will still be in the "burned throat and mouth condition".  She explained that the MINIMUM number of calories he can input is 1000 - because any lower and your body will start feeding on itself. (Not good.)  We also learned that the MINIMUM fluid intake is 2000ml (or 66 ounces) before dehydration and all its nasty effects kick in.

Our goal for SURVIVAL MODE is 4 protein drinks and 3 bottles of water per day until Mike's mouth and throat are healed enough to eat more.  This is a great plan for the next week or so to "get out of radiation without being in too deep a hole."
Later: Our goal for OPTIMAL HEALING MODE will be 2500 calories per day when the effects of radiation stop taking their toll.

Mike already feels better later today after focusing on his fluid intake.  And I already feel better knowing we can make a calorie chart and focus on getting 1000 per day for now.  It might sound dumb but I have been worried that too little food / calorie intake could take its toll in other nasty ways.

For the umpteenth time, Dr. Tracie Martin has brought sound medical advice to the table - and we are so thankful for her.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

a picture of true friendship.

When Scotty Gatewood found out that Mike had to do a radiation treatment every day for six weeks, he decided he would do something he hated everyday for six weeks.  Scotty hates running.  But every single day since September 19th Scotty has run one mile "for Mike".  People who know Scott know what a big deal this is because he really hates to run.  Scotty even said that at the beginning he prayed that God would transfer Mike's pain to his calves, but it got so painful he had to quit praying that.  Smile. Scotty has taken Mike's weekend chores for him and been a super sweet support during this whole treatment period. And people who know Scott know this is a big deal too!

On Mike's last day of treatment they had their own little celebration.  Mike told me he was going to run Scotty's "last mile" with him - to which I said "no, you're not".  Duh.  But I did say he could ride his bike along side of Scotty while he ran which would fit the MikesLongRide theme and hopefully not deplete more energy than he had.

This little ceremony was what Mike looked forward to more than anything.

good things.

What would we do without friends?  One friend said it well this morning "When you don't have hope, you let the hope of friends carry you."  Nancy gave a good analogy that tied right in with Melinda's wonderful Cancer Clde poetry :  It is like you were in a huge boxing match in which you max-ed out all your energy & resources.  YOU WON the match, but you are still going to be sore and achey for maybe months after.  Good analogy. She also said (about the two more weeks of cell death):  It is like you are pregnant and expecting your baby to come two weeks early.  Mark your calendar for two more weeks so you have realistic expectations.  (I don't want to... but I will.    November 11 - Veterans Day.)

The House.
Did I already tell you that the painters finished the exterior painting of the Thomas house just as Mike was finishing his last treatment?  We started these "projects" toegther and ended up finishing them together.  Abby and I added the pumpkins yesterday for our first official decoration!

The Surprise.
As previously stated, this past weekend was rough.  An amazing boost was having Abby bound into the house on Saturday afternoon! She drove from Minneapolis to surprise us and to spend my birthday weekend with me. (I almost cry writing this it was such a huge blessing.)  She even took Monday off work to be with me... I soaked up every minute.  She brought a care package of my favorite snacks foods, my favorite Dr. L reisling and movies.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Much to be thankful for...

Monday, October 31, 2011

this is hard.

If this post sounds depressing and dreary it is not because I am trying to make a Halloween statement... but because this is just a very hard part of this stinkin' cancer journey.  Mike has only gotten more sick and weak since our last treatment on Friday... his throat and mouth sores are more sore (what an understatement!) and he can eat less than ever.  When they told us "cell death for 2 more weeks" I guess I just didn't want to believe it.  It has been a slow progress from bad to worse for so long that I cannot even imagine it getting better at this point.  That probably sounds dumb and lacks faith & hope, but I cannot imagine what it will be like for Mike to start eating again.

He does not realize how weak he has gotten.  He is still strong in spirit... but I am the one losing steam. I am the one who sees the pain on his face throughout the day & night.  I am the one who sees how much weight he has lost under his baggy clothes (like someone who is starving from the effects of pancreatic cancer.)  I am the one who hears him gag on the food he tries to eat. I am the one who puts ointment on that nasty neck burn that keeps draining and changing. I am the one trying to be clever enough to make something he can eat - to no avail.

I miss Mike too. I miss having a glass of wine with him at the end of the day.  I miss his boundless energy and stamina. And even though it is very hard, I am glad we get to walk through this hard place together.  I was going to say that it was like being with the 80 year old Mike over the weekend, but he will be much more spry and bright-eyed at 80 than this.  This is way worse than recovering from surgery in the hospital because the effects drag out 4 times longer.  He is more weary.  I am more weary.  I long for the time when he can put healthy nutrients and fresh food into his body for re-building.  Maybe I am down because I can't help very much at this stage... because any food I try to feed him "doesn't work."

Sorry to be Debbie-Downer but I am ready for the turn-around and I don't see it coming.  I know this is where faith comes in.  I know the Lord is walking with us.  I know the Lord is sovereign over even this.  I know His plan is good.  Thanks for letting me be honest... and down... It is comforting to come to the blog and know that you are praying for us...

Friday, October 28, 2011

crossing the finish line.

Today was a big day! Mike completed his LAST DAY of radiation treatments. He rang the bell loud and hard.  We were surprised and delighted that our dear waiting room friends, John & Jan Sheehan, drove all the way from Sioux City to be there for Mike on his last day - even though John's treatment ended yesterday! In John's words "he was there for me and we are going to be there for him." 

We were blessed by the way the staff hung out in the hallway to watch and cheer Mike on.  We were blessed that daughter Mallory and best friend Devyn came from Lincoln complete with balloons and party hats.  We are relieved to be done.

It was a bit sobering when Nurse Cindy had to pull us aside at the end and remind us that "we will have cell death for two more weeks before regeneration starts" and "the next four weeks are as important for nutrition and rest as these six weeks".  Ugh.  The last three days of radiation has been so painful that Mike has had tears even trying to eat ice cream through the rest of the day and night.  His mouth sores are high on the pain scale.  (We take Alleve around the clock and are starting on what they call "miracle mouthwash" which will deaden his mouth sores.)  We compared this to finishing Graduate School but still having your thesis to write.  Don't get us wrong - we are super duper thankful to be done with these stinkin' radiation treatments.  The journey is still very taxing and wearying.

Thank you for riding with us.

the bell.

On the last day of your radiation treatment the patients at UNMC get to ring this bell to signify the completion of their treatment... so when you walk down this hall for the last time there is something different, something celebratory!

Mike has been eye-balling this bell from day one. Today is his day.

yesterday's party.

Like I said before, John and Jan Sheehan have been a huge blessing in our lives these past six weeks.  They drive from Sioux City every day and arrive just after us.  They made the scary waiting room a friendly place. John had a benign tumor on his brain radiated - and yesterday was his last day.  What a joy it was to celebrate with them!  I made a little banner and some of their kids and grand kids surprised them. (We grew fond of son Chad too!)

Wow. We will truly miss seeing these dear people.  We got to be there for each other during a very hard time.  (We have some after-parties planned when Mike can eat again!)

waiting room helper.

I have done my share of waiting room sitting this year.  When Mike's initial surgery was scheduled for early April, I got to work on a needlepoint project to protect my sanity.  (I do not like to 'sit and wait' without using the time in some constructive way.)  I painted a needlepoint stocking for Mike and me using a Mary Beale pattern.  I only painted the top half for starters - and that is just about how much I have stitched to date.

During our hospital stay in St. Louis I spend most of my 'waiting' time with you on this blog! But at the UNMC Radiation Center Waiting Room, this piece of needlework has been a huge comfort.

Cancer Clyde.

10/28/11-----Friday Morning-----1 Treatment to go...
This is it---the end is here
    "Our Champion is Mike", we cheer!
The ref raises his hand in the the center of the ring,
    And Mike shares a victory with Christ our King!
Mike fought hard to win the fight,
   And we consider it pure joy and delight....
For perseverance was produced by the testing of his faith
    This was a trial which Mike's Long Ride boldy faced.
Our prayers will continue for Mike each day,
    But today we shout and say HOORAY!!!!!!
Today's Bible Verse:  2 Corinthians 4:16-18  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  (you gotta LOVE this verse!)
10/27/11----Thursday Morning-----2 Treatments to go......
Cancer Clyde can sure throw a blow
    Mike's neck looks like red, wormy dough!
But Mike fights back and puts up his dukes;
    Look out Cancer, Mike vehemently rebukes!
The Champion of this fight, Mike will reign;
    He will endure and push through the pain.
Friday will be a joyous day for all
    Mike will succeed; it's written on the wall.
Today's Bible Verse: 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.   Isaiah 40:31

10/26/11-----Wednesday Morning-----3 Treatments to go...
No way will Cancer Clyde win this time,
    I will place a bet of 1,000 dimes.
When Cancer Clyde jabs, it certainly stings;
    But Mike's Long Ride rules this boxing ring.
Mike will soon finish this fight,
    And he'll tell Cancer to "go fly a kite!"
Despite the ups and downs of each round,
    Mike's Long Ride will be crowned!
P.S.....maybe I am not as talented as I thought I was!!!  :)
Today's Bible Verse:  3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 4 I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Psalm 3:3, 4.

10/25/11-----Tuesday Morning-----4 Treatments to go...
The countdown is on, like anticipating Christmas Morn
    Come Friday, Mike's Long Ride will toot his horn!
Friday will be a glorious day, indeed;
    Mike's Long Ride will definitely succeed!
Only Mike knows how tough this fight has been,   
    But all of us know that he is sure to win!
Yes, he's a fighter and never backing down;
    It's Mike's Long Ride who will wear the crown!
Today's Bible Verse:  18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Ephesians 5:18-21
10/24/11-----Monday Morning-----5 Treatments to go...
Wowwwwwza....we are winding down the clock!
    And Mike's Long Ride is sure to ROCK!
Ya----Cancer Clyde will be defeated -
    Once this fight is completed!
For sure it's been a battle--much too long;
    But Mike's Long Ride is finishing strong!
So move over Cancer, get outta town--
    Mike's Long Ride is taking you down!
Today's Bible Verse:  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10  (as posted on Evan Sharp's CaringBride blogsite.....he is the 10 year old son of one of my Gamma Phi sorority sisters...he has been battling a cancerous brain tumor since May 2010.....he is God's miracle and a fighter)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

sweet words.

I received this card today and it blessed me. Janice wrote inside "Somehow, this seemed like the perfect message this year as you journey with Mike."

(Mike and I don't look nearly this cute at the end of this part of the ride.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I know I said I wasn't going to post the photo of Mike's neck... but I changed my mind.  It is a reality of the journey.  Plus this is the horrible Halloween season where scary scenes abound - which is why I celebrate Reformation Day instead!
Dr. Zhen and the staff at UNMC say compassionately "That is very bad... but that is normal." The real scary part would be the burn effects on the inside that Mike is feeling.

And in the spirit of Halloween and "dressing up" check out Mike wearing one of the girl's skinny jeans. Really.  We were talking about how much weight Mike has lost and the girls handed over a pair of their jeans - and they fit! We thought it was especially funny because after many , many years in military fatigues Mike cannot stand wearing anything tight on his thighs. He walked around the kitchen table while we laughed and realized in spades that Mike is fast approaching his high school wrestling weight of 167.

After treatments this week Mike's mouth is so sore in the evenings that he can only manage ice cream and a protein drink for supper. Poor guy.  Tonight he is baking bread for the UNMC staff who have helped him these past six weeks.  (He is excited to be able to eat his own bread again.)

Sorry to scare you with the photos... TWO TREATMENTS TO GO!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

4 more!

WE ARE ELATED TO BE IN THE LAST WEEK OF TREATMENT.  I can see that Mike has a resolve to gut out the pain with a smile because the finish line is in sight!  When I opened up the blog today and saw the pic of Mike's neck I thought "that looks great"... that is in comparison to how it looks now.  I could not post a picture of it this week in good conscience because it looks so nasty & gruesome.  The skin broke open in several spots complete with yellow drainage in spider like lines which is the body's attempt to heal itself.  I would say it is pleading 'stop with the radiation burns, would you?'.  We are applying antibiotic ointment around the clock with the moisturizers.

Mike said a good thing is that the pain inside his mouth and throat distracts him from the pain on his neck - and the pain on his neck distracts him from the pain in his mouth.  He is a trooper!

A delightful blessing to our week is that Evian and Bella are staying with us all week.  Andrew was out of town, and Evian is the photographer for our church's new pictorial directory and is doing photo sittings all week.  Evian's presence is amazingly peaceful and comforting and it is a delight having Bella around.

Party at Storz Radiation Center at UNMC Friday, October 28th at 2:30pm!  Mike will be crossing this finish line with tired lines on a thin face - but that face will be beaming.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

war wounds.

At the end of week 5 of radiation, the treatment is leaving its mark.  It is easy to see the "radiation field" by his deep red skin color and torched skin texture.  And the bottom photo shows the "radiation hair styling".  (We don't recommend Mr. Radiation as a barber.)  Mike is sure a trooper through it all.  Fortunately he said he does not have pain with his burned skin, even where the skin has started to crack.

Mike reminds me that he can manage the treatments and the mask - and the burned exterior skin surfaces - but it is the torched taste buds and swollen throat that make this a struggle.  Eating is just plain HARD.  We were very disappointed to learn that Mike lost another two pounds today.  That is nine pounds since we started with another full week of treatment to go.  (To put a little more positive twist on that - ONLY 6 TREATMENTS TO GO!)  I would call today the low point for both of us.  The rather large one-day weight loss makes me feel like a failure of a caretaker - who can't come up with nutritious high caloric foods "that work". What works one day doesn't go down the next... I feel like I am always encouraging Mike to eat something (because I am)... and remember, favorite foods aren't favorites anymore and sweets almost always turn paste-y in a non-taste bud mouth.  It is hard.  And trying.  And frustrating.

But like I said yesterday - God gives grace - everyday.  In the midst of this yucky, icky day we listened to the final chapters of our book Unbroken.  Oh my.  What a beautiful, amazing finale awaited us.  We would like to encourage all of you to read these true life stories of Louis Zamperini and his WWII comrades.  It was also fun to see the wonderful new paint colors go on the front of the house - and the painters loved the pizza we treated them to at lunch.

Six treatments to go.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

God gives grace.

Every day and at every turn God gives us grace to do this.  A couple weeks ago on an especially rough day it was a phone call from Ann in St. Louis right before we arrived at UNMC... and that morning an encouraging email from Nile & Leigh in California. Every week it was caring voice messages from Nancy in Dallas.  Today it was wise and caring words from Janice & Tom in St. Louis.  Or the reminders from friends too numerous to count that "we pray for you every day"...

This week it was compassion from Dr. Zhen who had one nasty canker sore in his mouth and voiced sympathetically that he wasn't sure he could endure the treatments that his patients weather... 

And this week it was the joy of a new grandchild in the family when Buck and Holly had their first child - Harper Francis Blanc - on Monday, October 17th.  We were able to go straight from our radiation treatment to see the beautiful, tiny little girl - and it was even more fun to see the wonder in the new parents' eyes. 
Holding babies is one of Mike's most comforting activities so it was perfect after his treatment. 

Mike reached a low point last night when (I don't know how to say this delicately) his broth and tofu noodles didn't stay in when he tried an avocado chaser.  Fortunately we can laugh about it today.  (You have to laugh...)  Speaking of, regarding his neck I heard him say to Kiley today "Yeah, my neck is getting really burned by this week and the skin kind of broke down in a couple places... you know, like when you are roasting a pig and the skin cracks".  It sounds more gross than funny when I type it...  But even with this, he said he doesn't have pain.  His complaint is with the lack of any working taste buds.  I think we will both have a renewed appreciation for the simple pleasure of TASTE.  So much to be thankful for...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

two pounds.

We found out yesterday that Mike lost two pounds over the weekend.  I was out of town.  And I am sure he was delighted to NOT have me there offering snacks around the clock - "time for a protein drink... how about a scrambled egg?... I'll cut an avocado for you... how much Greek yogurt did you eat? "  Absolutely nothing tastes good, and everything feels "like plaster of paris" in his mouth.

Before radiation was on our radar we bought tickets to see a live performance of A Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul, Minnesota.  When Mike wasn't up for the trip, he encouraged me to go and take Hannah with me (who happened to be on fall break). I came home revived for my Cancer Coordinator role and empowered to help keep Mike's weight up.  He will recover faster at the end of this if his body does not have to rebuild pounds along with his cellular regeneration.

I feel like I do not have brain space or time to write well right now, but did want to ask for "help" prayers on the diet front.  Sending love to everyone out there...

hannah and the kids.

All the kids have been so supportive during the journey.  They all pray with devotion, give dad a weekly gift to encourage him, and leave regular notes, texts and messages.  Dr. Zhen was on the blog (which blessed us) and he said that the blog didn't say anything about our big blended family of ten kids - so I included a favorite family photo from 2008.

It was special to have Hannah with us for our treatment yesterday and she took a tour of the radiation room before Mike's treatment.  I like this photo because you can see a smile on Mike's face even in the mask. No, Hannah's teeth are not being radiated with the eery green light.  That is just the laser light that they use to get Mike lined up on the table exactly and correctly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

prayer power.

At the beginning of our 4th week of treatment, Mike is feeling better than he has for weeks and we are both feeling stronger.  It does not really make sense but we are so very thankful.  For those of  you who have been praying for Mike's salivary gland production and his ability to eat, your prayers are being answered.  For those of you praying for our physical and emotional strength, your prayers are being answered.  Week 4 is where Mike's pain and mouth sores are suppose to peak and plateau.  Dr. Zhen keeps asking Mike if he needs pain medication yet.  We are bracing ourselves... but today we also told the doctor that many, many people are praying for Mike.

We just wanted to encourage you faithful pray-ers out there.  It is amazing. It is grace.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

high fat cooking.

We made some major breakthroughs on the diet scene this weekend - and I have a new appreciation for Kvam Family Farm just outside of town...
 It started with massage therapist Tara Currier's wise counsel to focus on healthy high fat foods when she noticed Mike's weight loss.  Then on Friday Dr. Zhen's Nurse Cindy gave Mike another mini-lecture on the importance of  getting sufficient calorie intake.  (She reminds Mike of a Gunnery Sargent - and she is good. ) She has a way of getting the point across in a powerful way.  "OK, so how many calories are you getting?" she says in a rough, loud voice. "I'll be happy with 2000 but I would rather it was 2500."  She explains that the reason you limit your activities is so you don't exceed your calorie intake and lose weight, while explaining that as much as possible you want to keep living life.  She found on Friday that Mike was even a little dehydrated and said if he couldn't keep enough liquid down she could arrange for an IV.  She laughed and shared that was one of her 'power tool' lines that tends to keep people eating & drinking. She is stern, but compassionate and regularly says "head & neck radiation is the hardest thing you will ever do".

The diet scene took a good turn over the weekend after a trip to Kvam Family Farm where I purchased farm fresh free-range eggs, local honey, fresh cream and stewing hens.  When I told Mark Kvam that I was coming out for some chickens for broth for Mike, he said that he had stewing hens as well.  He explained that the birds were older and basically had more good fat in the broth.  And boy was he right!  This broth was seriously more substantial - and perfect for Mike!  Can you see the good layer of yummy fat on the soup?  We also realized that Mike can manage eating lightly scrambled eggs now.  This makes getting protein into the boy much easier!  He wasn't able to tolerate them before so I can only attribute the difference to - prayers.  I also purchased some fresh, sweet cream which I add to everything I can.  Last night after broth & scrambled eggs I made a dessert drink.  Into the blender went ice cream, fresh sweet cream and malt powder.  What emerged was a creation that tasted just like our favorite "Sweet Cream Malt" from Cold Stone Creamery.  Go figure.  We are on to a few good things!

dr. zhen.

We have grown to really like Dr. Zhen. He is an exceptionally brilliant man and if radiation is a requirement, we are thankful to have him doing it.  On our weekly visits with him, he has taken the time to tell us bits about himself.  He is Chinese but went to college in Japan, where he learned German as well as English for his Medical School classes.  It is hard to keep track of all his degrees but I think he did an extra internship in Neurology as well.  He is very devoted to is work.  He stays a young looking 52 by running every day by balancing his time for his family and himself after being a confessed work-aholic for many years.  He is a marathon runner and has a goal to run one in as many states as possible.  He has 26 states under his belt so far!  Mike was wearing his St. Louis Marathon T-shirt the other day so Dr. Zhen asked about it.  He ran St. Louis in 2008.

He was away at a Radiation Medical Conference this past week and we were amazed how much we missed his presence at the Med Center.  He was back on Friday and shared that he got to see Dr. Wade Thorstad (our St. Louis radiologist).  They will be working on some research together and co-authoring a chapter in a book.  He said they had some fun banter since Dr. Z told him that "he tried to send us back to him".  He also said that he had not seen Dr. Thorstad in four years and didn't know he was bald already.   (We could have told him that.)  It was heart warming to me when Dr. Zhen commented that it was hard to be away and is hard for him to relax since he is leaving patients during their treatment cycles.  "It is not like a surgeon who finishes their work with the surgical procedure. With radiation the care is on-going."  He won my confidence another increment with that.

more rhymes to cheer.

October 3, 2011 --- Monday Morning --- 20 Treatments to go...
Round 3 Ding-Ding.
Mike's Long Ride comes out strong, ready to fight
And now Cancer Clyde is scared of his bite!
They begin this round, same as the last,
But Mike's mouth is sore from rounds past.
Mike's Long Ride never gives up, and never gives in,
Because it's this dog fight, Mike is sure to win!
This round will be tough, it'll really test his will
But it's Cancer Clyde which Mike is out to kill!
Mike's Long Ride fans are cherrin' so loud,
They are all here, yellin' in the crowd.
xxoo, Melinda
"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. " Galations 2:20

October 4, 2011 --- Tuesday Morning --- 19 Treatments to go...
Mike's Long Ride is tougher than nails,
Cancer keeps coming back but each time fails!!
Mike can beat cancer, there's no doubt
Yes, Cancer-free is the desired route!
So we cheer loud and strong for Mike's Long Ride,
While we boo and hiss for evil Cancer Clyde.
We cheer until this battle Mike has won,
And Cancer Clyde will turn and run!
xxoo, Melinda
"But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." Malachi 4:2

October 5, 2011 --- Wednesday Morning --- 18 Treatments to go...
The two duke it out , as the fight carries on,
But that Cancer Clyde is an artist of con.
But Mike's Long Ride doesn't take Cancer's guff,
And Mike's proved to us, he's really tough.
Through the rounds, Mike has stood his ground,
With Cancer Clyde they go round and round.
Mike's Long Ride is looking so good and strong
This fight will soon be over, it won't be long!
xxoo, Melinda
"Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security."  Jeremiah 33:6

October 6, 2011 --- Thursday Morning --- 17 Treatments to go...
A turn for the worse, Cancer Clyde is kickin' butt,
And Mike's Long Ride feels he's in a rut.
As they break to the corners, Mike still can't spit
And his veggie shakes taste like .........*#@**!
His Nazi coach finds a soothing drink to make is mouth froth;
Who would have guessed, it's Japanese Chicken Broth!
This will sustain him and help him through the worst,
Mike will lead this round, yes he will be first!
xxoo, Melinda
"Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal."  Isaiah 26:4

October 7, 2011 --- Friday Morning --- 16 Treatments to go...
Hallelujah! We are ending Round 3!
And we thank God in heaven on bended knee!
Mike's Long Ride is halfway through this match...
He just needs some food to go down the hatch.
He will finish strong and come out the winner
In no time at all, he'll eat a steak dinner!
During this weekend, Mike will enjoy his break,
You may find him 'livin' it up' on a Protein Shake!
xxoo, Melinda
Quote from Smith Wigglesworth: "Faith is such a divine establishment of courage in you that courage sweeps you through every condition: You cannot come into the divine order, except on the line of being soaked in the word of God."

the radiation room.

OK. I know these are kind of creepy but this is what Mike does every day Monday through Friday at 2:15pm.  One day this week he said "Why don't you come on back with me?"  "Oh. OK. Sure."

He sets up his Bose iPod port and selects the music that will comfort and distract him. He puts in his bottom retainer (which supposedly helps to deflect the radiation coming off his metal filling) and he crawls up on the table.  After he is lined up and in position they snap on the mask which holds his head in place (and perfectly still) during the 20 minutes of treatment where radiation beams work the area at risk for cancer cells.  I kiss him and tell him how brave he is.  I go back to the waiting room and prayer for him... and needlepoint.

our radiation friends.

We have grown to enjoy our travel time to and from Omaha. Some days we talk most of the way there and back... and some days we enjoy our travel companions, Jane and Lou.  Last week we finished the marvelous story of Jane Eyre (Book-On-Tape) and this past week we started Unbroken, the amazing survival stories of Olympic runner and WWII survivor, Louis Zamperini. Mike says that if Louis can survive ship wrecked at sea for 40-some days eating only seagulls, he can survive six weeks of mouth radiation.

We have also enjoyed our waiting room friends, John and Janice Sheehan. They drive everyday from Sioux City for radiation treatments for a non-cancerous tumor on John's brain. We have grown to anticipate crossing paths with them in the waiting room and are sad if we miss them. John and Mike share mask sympathy and daily check up on each other with simple guy banter. It is encouraging to have such healthy looking people in the waiting room with us because quite honestly some of the people in the waiting room look like they don't have the strength to utter even a greeting.  We are thankful for these new friends.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

rough stuff.

Yesterday was definitely one of the low points of our journey. Mike is officially limited to a liquid diet only. The pain (from the burn sores inside his mouth) and dryness (from left salivary gland fatality) make the texture of most foods unbearable and chewing out of the question. And did I forget to mention that his taste buds are toast as well? We are told they will return, but for now the stuff that goes into Mike's mouth feels more like sawdust than food. With our new Vita-Mix Pro blender I set out to create pureed foods to delight Mike's palette. That is not what happened... Almost any kind of texture (except something that resembles a creamy vanilla malt) is highly distasteful. The rub came when Nutrition Nazi Karen wanted Mike to get the nutrients he needs to rebuild his healthy cells. NNK created a liquid beverage of some fresh vegetables from the garden in chicken broth. I thought it was delicious. Mike thought it was unbearable. After some tears and some gagging (both from Mike), at the end of the day we decided that clear broths and fruit smoothies (with protein powder) will be his main staples. My massage therapist did some research and brought us shitake and reishi mushrooms, and dried sea weed. I slowly cooked them in a chicken broth stock and came up with a broth that Mike absolutely loved and that he even found comforting. (His many tours in Okinawa instilled a love for these flavors - and fortunately all three items are used to prevent & fight cancer in Japan.) Tonight I am cooking fresh vegetables I bought at the Farmers Market and picked from my garden, and feeding him the broth that I cook them in. He will probably be as tiny as a little Japanese man at the end of this month. Please pray for all the nutrients Mike needs to heal and recover, and for no weight loss.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

the good, the bad and the little.

We just finished week two of our six week regimen of radiation treatments. It seems like a huge milestone.
Some good things are: We are enjoying the couple time that the car trips provide. We love sharing a Coldstone Creamery Sweet Cream Malt (with double malt) on the way home about 3 times a week. We finished the book Jane Eyre on CD in the car. (Highly recommend.) We have been able to pick up the paint for the new house on our trips into Omaha. Mike is making progress with his shoulder in physical therapy. People's concern and support have continued to bless us deeply. We are thankful that Mike has been able to work from 7-noon everyday so far, and we are thankful for how flexible my wonderful businesses are so I can accompany Mike.

Some of the yucky things are: After this week Mike's taste buds took a hit and his mouth continues to get sorer and dryer. This translates to mealtime being a chore and most often uncomfortable. I try to come up with foods that will appeal and deliver a high nutrition value but feel like I have to sit down with a picky toddler who is not interested in eating. I offer a protein malt "if you eat your cheese and edamame." The burns inside his mouth are expected to turn into solid white sores this week. (Sorry for the details.) The doctor tries to prep us for what is coming and it helps to hear him say that this is temporary, that his taste buds will eventually return, and that his right salivary gland will compensate eventually for the loss of the left one.

The photo shows some of the little things we do to try to bring Mike some relief. Kelp is helpful for absorbing free radicals so we are trying Trader Joe's Wasabi Seaweed Snacks. Yum. My wonderful massage therapist (at The Little House Day Spa) made up a special oil for Mike's neck before & after his treatments made from rose hip oil & vitamin e. The radiation does burn his skin on the outside too so a nourishing moisturizer is a must. The doctor recommended a salt water or baking soda rinse to keep Mike's mouth cleansed, so we are using Himalayan sea salt. The fun part is that we bought it in Ireland at Colin Farrell's dad's vitamin store in Dublin. I had been saving it and it seems special to use it for this. All of these "little things" somehow feel a bit comforting and have became part of our daily routine.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

the rhymes that cheer us.

Mike's youngest sister Melinda Blanc Johnson has been feeding Mike a daily rhyming email. She has boosted our spirits and given us strength with her clever and loving words. Enjoy!

September 22, 2011 --- Thursday Morning --- 27 Treatments to Go...
There once was a guy named Mike
Who loved to ride his bike.
He peddled all the way to the city
For a little radiation-ditty.
Twenty seven treatments to go
But we can have fun, you know...
So as you guessed, this rhyme is not done
I'll be adding to it Until your battle you have won!
xxoo, Melinda

September 23, 2011 --- Friday Morning --- 26 Treatments to Go...
One more treatment down and 26 to go
The laser staff you'll really get to know.
We focus on the great things that happened this week,
Like the weather that's been exceptionally sweet.
It's easy for me to say as I go about my day,
"Hang in there, you'll be okay."
The truth is, it's difficult;
Harder than I think.
But remember James 1;
without it you will sink!
Enjoy your weekend, lift your spirits a-new
And come Monday you'll be ready for Round 2
 xxoo, Melinda

September 26, 2011 --- Monday Morning --- 25 Treatments to Go...
Ding-Ding Round 2
In one corner is the riegning champ, Mike's Long Ride
In the other corner is the contender, Cancer Clyde.
The bell sounds and they dance to the center of the ring.
We know that Mike's gonna whip this Cancer thing.
Cancer throws a blow to the left side
But Mike's right there, no... he won't hide!
Round and round they jab and punch
Mike's gonna win, I have a hunch!
xxoo, Melinda

September 27, 2011 --- Tuesday Morning --- 24 Treatments to Go...
Mike's Long Ride wears a mask to protect his head...
Just so Cancer Clyde won't knock him dead.
The mask may be tight, an uncomfortable fit.
But remember it protects from Cancer's evil hit!
So you don't feel good, in fact you feel like crap...
You must get your rest, so go take a nap!
We know for certain that Cancer doesn't stand a chance -
And soon Mike's Long Ride Fans will be doing a happy dance.
xxoo, Melinda
"But seek first His kingdom and his righteiousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

September 28th, 2011 --- Wednesday Morning --- 23 Treatments to Go...
Mike's Long Ride and Cancer Clyde go at it some more,
But Mike won't quit - not til Cancer hits the floor!
Cancer thinks that he's "all that"
Mike's here to say "I'm up to bat!"
Mike declares that cancer's done
Mike's gonna it a Grand Slam Home Run!
Mike yells "Get out of here and don't come back!"
"Cancer" he screams "you ain't worth Jack!"
xxoo, Melinda

September 29th, 2011 --- Thursday Morning --- 22 Treatments to Go...
Cancer Clyde throws a pretty hard hit,
So Mike heads to the corner to try to spit,
But Cancer Clyde cuts straight to the heart,
Now Mike's mouth is drier than a popcorn fart.
No worries; Mike can handle whatever comes his way,
He'll just keep bottled water with him every day!
Cancer Clde thinks he is sooo very cool,
Especially when Mike can't even drool!
Mike's Long Ride has never for a day felt
That Cancer would win the Championship Belt!
xxoo, Melinda

September 30th, 2011 --- Friday Morning --- 21 Treatments to Go...
Well time is ticking; Round 2 is just about done
And Mike's Long Ride, this round, has won!
Cancer Clyde will no doubt come out strong in Round 3;
But Mike's Long Ride will meet him with glee!
We are to 'consider it pure joy for the trials we face'
'Cuz all this testing really strengthens our faith.
So take a deep breath and finish this round strong -
Come Monday you'll be ready when you hear the ding-dong!
xxoo, Melinda

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

battling cancer.

Mike felt the effects of the radiation by Day Two. By the beginning of Week Two he was officially feeling sick. He has not felt like driving on most of our trips into Omaha and has sometimes laid down in the backseat for a rest during the drive. On Monday he wanted to drive home - not because he was feeling better - but because my driving was bothering him. (When you don't feel well, odd things irritate you. My mother says I am an excellent driver.) It is harder on me when I can tell he doesn't feel good. This week also marked the beginning of the mouth sores and dry mouth. One of the casualties in our battle is Mike's left salivary gland. (We are told that eventually his right salivary gland will pick up the slack.)

In light of all of this, I thought that the calendar that Jackie Shumake made for Mike at work is especially appropriate. Since we are in the middle of a battle with cancer, Jackie found a collection of military stickers. Every day on his way out the door to treatment Jackie hands him a sticker to mark another day in the radiation trenches. (We are so very thankful for the support of all kinds that Mike gets at work.)

This is the first day that I have not accompanied Mike into Omaha. Daughter Evian met him in Fremont and drove in with him so that I could have The Little House Day Spa open today. It is actually very hard not to be there with him. I am trying to use the time well between our appointments. I have been kind of emotional today. It is a unique time. Thank you for your continued prayers as we fight this thing called cancer.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

cancer humor.

While cancer is certainly no laughing matter, we find that the ability to laugh is part of the success. We would like to share some humor from our first week of Health Camp:

On Monday at noon, Mike was getting ready to leave work for UNMC for his first treatment. While he clocked out he was applying some chapstick. Scotty said "That's not going to help." Nephew Cole added "Yeah, you need like SPF 1000."

Mike's favorite thing to say on Tuesday (to anyone who would listen) was "Today is #2... and it feels like #2." Smile. He added that Wednesday would be the 'turd' treatment

Then we have sister Melinda who wrote a poem in honor of today. It is entitled "27 Treatments to Go - 9/21/11"

There once was a guy named Mike... who loved to ride his bike.

He pedaled all the way to the city... for a little radiation-ditty.

Twenty-seven treatments to go... but we can have fun, you know.

So as you guessed, this rhyme is not done. I'll be adding to it until the battle is won!

xxoo, Melinda

day 1

We are well into our first week of Health Camp - and the campers are surviving. We are even doing well. We thank you for your prayers because WE HAVE FELT THEM. Day One was difficult. The stress of the unknown looms large. Making it through the first day was a big accomplishment.

I heard Mike say to his sister on the drive home: "It's freaky. It kind of freaked me out. I had to have them unsnap the mask a couple times to cut a hole to make it bearable." The photo above shows how tight the mask over his face and head is - the marks show for a good 10 minutes after he comes out. I got a little freaked out when I went into the room before he started to bring him a CD and could see a figure on the table covered with a blanket wearing Mike's shoes with his head attached to the table via a white mask. It is unsettling, especially when they make me leave the room and I could not see that he is comfortable.

Within minutes after his treatment started I did feel a blanket of peace that I can only attribute to the prayers of the saints. As I prayed, God gave me words to ask for Warrior Angels to stand beside Mike and filter any harmful thing away from him. When I heard that the mechanisms on the machine that direct the dosage of radiation are called "feathers", I got even more encouraged to pray that the feathered wings of the Mighty Spiritual Warriors would filter and protect Mike from any harmful radiation.For the first week Mike has a CT scan in addition to the radiation (to confirm that everything is lined up correctly) so he is masked for about 30 minutes. It will be slightly less time in the mask starting the second week without the scan. On the first day (and every Monday) we meet with Dr. Zhen. This Monday he reviewed images of Mike's treatment plan with us. The top photo shows that every time a radiation dose is given, it is in five different gradations from heavy (darkest) to light (lightest.) The middle photo shows the location of the radiation dosage from one angle. Believe me, your understanding of all this is about the same as ours. We are comforted that they attempt to be very precise.

Thanks for journeying with us. The encouragement and prayer support are palatable.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

health camp.

On our drive to Minneapolis this weekend we pondered the pending start of radiation treatments on September 19th. As we discussed the importance to the next few weeks we decided to view this upcoming leg of the journey as our 6 week HEALTH CAMP.

We established some simple guidelines:

-Radiation five days a week

-Physical Therapy M-W-F (en route home from Omaha)

-Anytime Fitness Workout 3 times / week

-Massage once a week

-Earlier bedtime

-An even stronger emphasis on healthy diet with concentration of protein shakes, protein snacks (string cheese & Greek yogurt) - and reducing / eliminating coffee intake

We like the focus on health (instead of cell death). It is a good focus to keep Mike's muscle strength up, and diet is critical because losing weight is a concern with mouth radiation. We are writing this on the blog because it strengthens our resolve. And because basically we covet prayers for all of this.

Let's start HEALTH CAMP!

good medicine.

This weekend Mike and I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the season opener of a Prairie Home Companion. The first live performance and radio broadcast of the season are always followed by the Annual Meatloaf Supper & Street Dance. It was the third time we had the privilege of attending these opening festivities and it was wonderful as usual. The music was amazing, the humor & stories were wonderful, the weather was perfect.

At the beginning of each Prairie Home Companion show, guests are encouraged to write comments / greetings to the host and they select some for Garrison Keillor to read aloud on the air during the broadcast. This is the second time they have read Mike's on the air! The first was last October when Mike asked for "God's Speed and protection for Marine son Baker Blanc as he left for Afghanistan" - and if you listened to the broadcast this weekend you heard Garrison read "And Mike & Karen happily welcome our Marine son home after a tour in Afghanistan - thanks for keeping your head down."

I thought I would tell you what I wrote:

"Husband Mike starts radiation treatments on Monday, but I think the best way to cure cancer is a big dose of Prairie Home Companion - so here we are. Mike & Karen Blanc Oakland, Nebraska". Even though GK didn't read it on the air, I thought you could read it on the blog. smile.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

keep praying.

We just got a call from UNMC and Dr. Zhen is still working on Mike's treatment plan and asked if we could postpone starting until Monday, September 19th at 2:15pm.

I cannot help believing that Dr. Zhen is feeling your prayers and guidance for the perfect plan for Mike. I am glad to think much time, energy and thought is being put into Mike's plan. Please keep praying... we are humbled and blessed to know there are prayers being lifted up for us - and guiding the doctors.

Monday, September 12, 2011

embrace what scares you.

If you don't think this is one of the scariest things you have ever seen - we have different buttons. It is scary, but God is there.

On Friday Mike had a CT scan and had his radiation mask made. The CT scan will be used along with the pre-surgery CT scan to map Mike's treatment area. The mask is used to hold his head tightly and securely in place during the radiation treatments (so he doesn't move his head and have radiation shot some random place we wouldn't want it to go.) The bottom photo was taken by the nurse right after the mask was formed around Mike's face and they are cooling it with towels to harden it faster. Mike's comment was comforting to me: "I like the mask for the reason that it will keep my head perfectly still. If they told me to 'hold still' on my own I am not sure I could do it." He did say it was even hard to swallow in it because it is so tight. (I get light headed just writing that.)

We start our treatments this Thursday, September 15th at 2:15pm. And we will have them five days a week for six weeks. The 2:15 time slot was picked because 1.) Mike wants to go to work every morning whenever possible and 2.) there is a certain machine that they want to use that is available at that time. We got to visit the room where Mike's treatments will be administered. The walls and ceiling are painted like it is a tranquil outdoor setting. There is an iPod port so Mike said he is starting with Alan Jackson's Hymns CD to be playing in the background. They said we should plan on about 20 minutes treatment time every day. That allows for getting on the table, and the machine starting, stopping, and changing positions, etc..

Please Pray:

-For the Dosimetrist & Dr. Zhen this week as they design the actual treatment plan. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT. This is what determines exactly what gets radiated and from what angles and for how long. The Dosimetrist is the person who actually designs the plan - the one who avoids the critical structure and targets only the potentially cancer-laden areas. Dr. Zhen works with him and sets up the fractions per day and the total dose. Please join us to pray for these critical decisions.

-And for inner and outer strength for Mike. For effective radiation with as few side effects as possible. For "not a scratch to be found on him" at the end. (Daniel 6:23)