Home on the Range:
The official blog of the Creers in Salina, Kansas
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Thank you for your overwhelming response to my support letter! I am continuing to thank God for His goodness and for providing for my needs through you. I am currently at $5,900! I'm leaving August 28th. Thanks again! Hope to post again soon.
This is the statement by my oncologist said after my checkup today. Also after looking at my labs he said "Man these are good!" His final quotable statement was "You have been incredible since Day 1." That last statement refers to the fact that my indicators were the highest he had seen in his career. He's about my age so that would be a long time. It also refers to the incredible turnaround we have been experiencing. Now to get a little technical, he also said that we will see if I am on the flat part of the curve. Multiple myeloma is a rare cancer and there is still a lot to learn about it. Because of this no one is ever declared "cured". Usually, right after treatment, the numbers start creeping up and eventually another bone marrow transplant (BMT) is needed. this usually happens in 5-15 years. Occasionally some people stay on the flat part of the curve. Basically there is no change in the indicators since the BMT. He's being very cautious but so far there is a possibility that I'm on the flat part of the curve. If that is true he said he will be kicking me out of the clinic. It is the closest thing he can say to being cured. We praise God for this and also for the incredible amount of support from all of you.
As part of my post cancer regimen I get a checkup periodically. After I was taken off chemotherapy pills the checkups were scheduled every month to watch me closely. One checkup was before Thanksgiving and another was after Christmas. Each checkup includes recording my weight. Somehow I gained 10 pounds from before Thanksgiving till after Christmas. As a result I set a New Year's goal of losing 2 pounds a month with hopes of trimming 20 pounds by the end of October. That way if I gain 10 pounds over next holiday season I will have a net loss of 10 pounds for the year. Gary McClure, a friend who teaches at Southeast of Salina High School, inspired me when he shared that he had started walking at lunch. I now walk for about a mile at lunch in a little over 15 minutes. Last Sunday Michaela (my eldest) decided to see how I was doing. We walked to the YMCA on Sunday (2/19) and found that I had already lost 6 pounds in less than 2 months! I celebrated by having 2 pieces of cake when we got back home. After all I have 2 discretionary pounds that I can use before March 1st.
Since I have been in remission I have been on a regimen of a small dose of chemotherapy in the form of a pill as a safeguard against the cancer recurring. During this time I have been praying that I could stop taking pills. I told my oncologist that my first desire is to maintain best practice but a second desire was to stop taking pills. A factor about the chemotherapy is that it suppresses my immune system causing me to get sick frequently. I asked him how long I would be taking the chemotherapy and he said "Indefinitely". I accepted that but the next check up he did a reversal and suggested that I try a season off the pills. He said one of three things would happen: 1) I would stay in remission and my immune system would return to normal 2) I would stay in remission and my immune system would not change making its compromised state my new normal 3) My cancer would come out of remission. He didn't think #3 was likely which is why he removed the chemotherapy from my regimen. That was started in October last year and it looks like option #1 is what I'm experiencing. I feel great and am experiencing fewer bouts with viruses and bacteria that would keep from school and occasionally landed me in the ER. I apologize for not keeping you up to date. I will try to do better in the future.
For those of you that have doubted the validity of the title of this blog when referring to me, I now have documented proof. I have just had my latest check up and my oncologist used the word "normal" for a few of my indicators! Not all the indicators are normal but the two that are in the normal range are huge when considering the state of my remission. One cancer indicator is actually deeper in the normal range than the last checkup 4 months ago. My hemoglobin and immune system are the ones that are below what they should be. My hemoglobin is normal for a woman so I should be able to do about the same amount of work as Velda, which means a lot. I'm riding my bike to school (3+ miles one way) and have also started walking 1.25 miles in the evening (~19 minutes and quite sweaty when done). The doctor describes the hemoglobin as "swell" and the immune system as "adequate". The small dose of chemotherapy that I'm taking is the reason these last two haven't reached the normal range. I was hoping to stop the pills after this checkup but things are going so well that it was decided to keep up the present regimen. We are slaying the fatted calf (a figurative way saying "Woo Hoo!") over this news and are grateful to God and to you for your prayers.
I had a checkup today and the results were as follows. In the words of my doctor "No evidence of multiple myeloma". My remission numbers "remain the same". Everything looks "very good". I have been taking a small dosage of chemotherapy since the bone marrow transplant two years ago. At the last checkup in April he hinted at taking me off the pills completely. Today he decided for me to continue taking them because they prevent the cancer from returning. He is also going to consult the doctors at KU Medical Center as well with respect to the pills so there is a possibility that I might stop them. We are rejoicing in the results and thank God for all His goodness.
I haven't updated for awhile because the news has been the same. Let me put your mind at ease by saying no news has meant good news and that is still the case. Today I saw my oncologist and as far as the cancer he said I looked very good! I asked for a translation and he said that the indicators for cancer continue to show no evidence of activity. I haven't done a bone marrow biopsy because he said that multiple myeloma is patchy and a biopsy could come up clean (all of mine have) but there could be a spots in other places. Conversely a biopsy could show some cancer and it could be the only place. He is using the indicators as his primary source for evaluation. Thank God! On another front, I am taking maintenance chemotherapy to encourage the cancer to stay in remission. The side effect of this chemotherapy is that it depresses my autoimmune system. I have been getting sick more often than usual and the episodes are of greater severity than normal. The plan is to remove me from the chemotherapy completely this summer to see if my body can suppress the cancer on its own before school starts. Another reason to get off the chemotherapy is that it has a chance of causing other types of cancer the longer it is in my body. So here is how you can pray for me. That I get sick less often and that my body will fight the cancer effectively without chemotherapy. Thanks for praying and I will update this summer.
I sleepily open my eyes around eight; the ground is covered with a light coating of snow. It's at least in single digits. This is the perfect Christmas setting! The only problem is, it's technically not Christmas. Since Joshua had to work on Christmas day and the rest of us were in Dallas, we decided to have our family Christmas on December 30th. After I did my devotions, I rushed downstairs to help with the preparation of breakfast. My dad outdid himself this time. The menu was country style eggs, (complete with potatoes, onions, peppers, and bacon) pancakes, and hash browns. Remember the hash browns they come in later. By the time I made it to the kitchen, Michaela and Daddy had already made the pancake batter and were partway through assembling ingredients for the eggs. I don't even want to think about how early they must have gotten up. Nonetheless, I did make it in time to scour the house for mild peppers, and to observe our new vegetable chopper at work. There was a general air of rush in the kitchen because my father had a doctor's appointment at ten 'o clock. We wanted to put everything together and then cook and eat it when he returned. Around 8:45 Joshua texted that he was heading home. When my dad double-checked his appointment time, he realized that it was at elven not ten 'o clock. Now we were in a quandary: should we continue with our original plan or try to squeeze breakfast in before my parents left? We went with the latter plan and the bustle in our already small kitchen increased considerably. I feel I should mention at this point that while most of the aforementioned was occurring, my mother was snuggled up in bed, with coffee provided for her by her husband. Since Daddy was busy with the eggs, he appointed me to make the hash browns, no simple task. Apparently, the trick is to press out as much water from the shredded potatoes as you can. Unfortunately, we did not have the tool the website suggested so we had to make do with pressing them in between paper towels. The hash browns did not go exactly as planned and ended up almost burnt in some places and mushy in others. Yet, my family declared them delicious, and I decided with lots of ketchup they tasted fine. Just as we were sitting down to eat, Joshua walked through the door. We greedily consumed the pancakes as soon as Michaela brought them out. She and I were afraid that we didn't have enough food and considered making another batch of pancakes. However, there were just enough, with no extras. Now came the hard part: waiting. Once my parents left and we finished cleaning the kitchen, we three kids just sat around in the living room. Joshua took a nap, but I just sat there, waiting for my parents to come home so we could open our gifts. An hour and thirty minutes later, my parents came back! We opened our gifts and played games the rest of the afternoon. Reflecting on our day, it definitely was not a traditional Christmas, in fact, some might even call the day "crazy." But the fact is, our traditions and expectations aren't as important as the fact that Christ was born. Truth be told, Jesus might not have even been born on December 25th (gasp), and that's ok. Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ's birth, something that's a whole lot of fun to do with your family. From that perspective, I'd say we had a great Christmas!
A looming possibility for which my Salina doctor was continually watching initially (but eventually relaxed his watchfulness) was shingles. Well shingles manifested themselves on me this past Wednesday. My family insisted that I blog about it. I was reluctant which is why the post is 4 days past the onset of the attack. Shingles are caused by the same virus as the chicken pox. They can be very painful causing severe burning and itching. On a scale of 1-10, I would my set my discomfort lever has been about 2 at the max and much of the day I don't realize that I have the shingles. So why the push to post? Location. Because of the possibility of underage readers I will describe placement my using the digestive process. We will call the mouth as the front end of the digestive process. My shingles have appeared on the back end of the selfsame process. So even though the discomfort is incredibly low, the discomfort is at the most inopportune times. This is not life threatening nor an emergency. So if you want to remember me in prayer over this I will gladly accept it. You guys have a great track record as far as prayer. If you need a reminder simply fold your hands and bow your head during a corresponding bodily function and remember me. If you feel the need to chuckle or laugh over this, I don't mind. If this were a sitcom or comedy movie it would hilarious. Unfortunately for me it is real life. I did rejoice over this just like the initial announcement of my cancer to be obedient and to release God's power and strength in my life either for healing or to endure to the (dare I say it?) end. Thanks for everything.
Joshua has been hired as a firefighter/EMT with the Great Bend Fire Department. This is the culmination of 21 years of work/prayer/spankings/encouragement/warnings/teaching/etc. Great Bend obviously saw all that we put into him. He starts July 21 with approximately 3 weeks of training. He has a 6 month probationary period and if all goes as planned he will be fully instated as a part of the force. He is required to live either in Great Bend or no farther than 7 miles outside the city limits. He has a 6 month grace period before the location requirement is enforced. He will probably stay with some friends in Ellsworth (45 minutes from Great Bend) until the relocation is complete. His first interview was Liberal (over 4 hours from Salina), Cherryvale (about 3.5 hours), Dodge City (about 3 hours) and then Great Bend (about 1.5 hours). His first preference was to work in Salina and then maybe up to an hour away but nothing opened up within that range. 90 minutes away is quite doable. He can easily come to Salina on days off and holidays. Notice that Joshua is an EMT not a paramedic. A huge perk is that the department will pay for Joshua's paramedic training if he stays 2 years after completing it. The classes are offered at Barton County Community College which is in Great Bend. That is a double bonus. That's because they are not only paying about $10,000 for the training but he will also get a pay raise when done. Sounds like a great place to work. Emotion: Much Elation.
Wait. I am feeling something else inside. Joshua is moving to Great Bend. He will no longer be a Salina resident nor stay in his room on a regular basis. He won't be a regular attendee/contributor at family devotions. I won't see him praying and reading his Bible in the mornings. He won't be able to update me on what is the latest workout he is doing at the Y. We won't able to kid each other on the frequent faux pas's that are a regular part of each of our lives. Velda's biggest rule is that everyone must be home for supper. Joshua is now exempt. In case you didn't know we home schooled our children so Joshua has spent a majority of his time growing up in educational activities that centered around the family. So until he went to Texas to school we rarely experienced long separations. (2 weeks max at summer camps) Going to Texas for school was a dress rehearsal but he still put his home address as our house in Salina. All these things are coming to an end for the foreseeable future. Besides, none of us can think of a single person in Great Bend that we know for which he could make a connection. Emotion: A noticeable amount of melancholy.
Wait. There is another emotion lurking in the shadows. Shall we ferret it out? Velda runs the house in a very organized way. Everyone has chores. Early on we were all trained that if chores weren't done in a timely fashion; heads would roll. Joshua, as well as his siblings, has been very faithful in performing his duties. He even will do those impromptu jobs that come up without (much) extraneous commenting. Who is going to take up the slack?!?! Emotion: PANIC!
All said and done. Pray for Joshua and his family as we make this transition.
P.S. Joshua will probably never see this entry in the near future. He very rarely reads the family blog and even though he has a Facebook account, he is on Facebook about as often as he is on this blog. His only hope is if someone says to him something like "Your dad put an interesting entry about your leaving on your blog/Facebook" at which point the probability will go up slightly that he might navigate to this entry and read it.