August 14, 2017

Mark's Cancer-battle ended this week, 

... Mark died peacefully and unexpectedly in the presence of family this week, at home in Austin, Texas. He had fought Stage IV esophageal cancer and kicked its butt for more than 12 years, and had fought a second battle against a non-related cancer and totally kicked that one to the curb. Mark had initially, in 2005, been given a prognosis of "you'll be lucky if you live 3 more months", yet not only lived 12 more years but continued to squeeze as much living into those years as possible.

During his battle, as you can read on this blog, he lived in Thailand part of every year and travelled the world, getting every bit out of life that he was able. Each year Mom and Mark would take their "Glad to be Alive" trip; among the destinations were Vietnam, The Netherlands, Cuba, and Cambodia. Mark spent time visiting the small islands of Thailand with his sister and mother, enjoying the chance to show them some of his favorite places from his younger years, when he would ski and SCUBA dive. 

Mark's death was likely not directly a result of his cancer, though the long fight with this had left Mark with battle scars. In July, Mark fell quite hard at his home in Thailand and, after consulting with the hospital in Thailand, flew home to Texas (to Mom and) to have surgery in Houston for a burst vertebrae. The back surgery was successful, but it took a toll on Mark's health and vitality. He was feeling better post-surgery, and then died suddenly.

Mark's obituary can be found online at Mark Richardson Obituary -please leave a condolence. Mom would love to hear from everyone, so please feel free to just say "hi" or leave a note.

We, his family, and his friends are devastated. But Mark prepared us for this many years ago, when he was at his sickest: 

          "I'm fortunate, actually. People die unexpectedly all the time, step out and get hit by a bus on the way to work or whatever. I know I have very little time, and that it's coming. I get to say goodbye, and live a little more." 

I (this is Stephanie, Mark's sister) would ask that you hug your family a little closer and longer today. Tell them you love them. Call someone you haven't spoken to for a while and let them know you are thinking of them. We all will go, eventually, but for now we get to say what we need to say to them, and we get to live a little more.

January 07, 2017

Oops It's this year that is the 12 year anniversary of prognosis of 3 months or less to live

Mark Richardson is still alive and he claims he is doing ok. His diagnosis and prognosis were in Jan.-Feb 2005 so in last year's post when I said he had 12 and 1/2 years out from prognosis of 3 months or less to live, I had miscounted.  Mark is still living in Thailand just a very short walk on a private walkway to the beach.
We had been doing annual thank-God I'm alive trips in January each year with the last two to Cuba and to Vietnam. This year I couldn't go in January due to my own medical treatments so I planned a trip to India in the spring. Mark has no interest in India and wants his delayed Thank God I'm alive trip to be to Bali. He has been before but I have not. Hopefully we will get a delayed trip to Bali.

I looked at old blogs and Mark's formerly thick dark blond hair turned white and thin in the first 3 months of treatment. I see it in pictures of when we went to Amsterdam. Some of you may recall Mark was depressed and when I asked him about it he said he was sad that he would die and never get to travel. I asked him where he would like to go and he said Amsterdam. He was very sick and had no appetite. I wasn't sure he would survive the trip but a few visits to the coffee shops (for special smokes found in such shops) he was able to go to museums and out to eat and he had an appetite.  Mark's hair after chemo was finally finished turned from white to a dark gray and is once again thick.

Mark not only survived this cancer of the esophagus with metastasis to liver and bone but a separate unrelated kidney cancer that was small and slow growing and cored out at the VA in Houston several years after he was treated with a lot of chemo and radiation in Bangkok in 2005 and 2006 for his esophageal tumor with mets to liver and bone..

There are so many variables in cancers which affect who will live and who will not. No one's cancer is exactly like Mark's and there are so many different  treatment options now that we didn't have in 2005.  At that time people with stage 4 like Mark's often did not get treatment. In fact initially he was told here is some liquid morphine, go and get your affairs in order, you will die soon.  He couldn't find a doctor in Hawaii or the Philapines to treat him. He was a dead man walking...barely walking. Remember he was working on the island of Saipan when diagnosed. A call to MD. Anderson was made. They could get around to evaluating him in a month which would have been six weeks into his poor prognosis and he probably could not have handled the flights from Saipan to Guam to Japan to California to Houston to Austin and later back by car to Houston  He decided on his own to go to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok which was much closer to Saipan than Houston. Treatment began as soon as he presented himself to the Horizon Cancer Center at Bumrungrad.  He got lots of chemo and lots of radiation.   The fact he is living is mostly due to Bumrungrad Hospital and Dr. Thera Umsawadee as both were willing to treat a man with stage 4 cancer.

So many decisions and so many variables but Mark gave it his best attitude and took all the treatments without complaining. He took strength in the prayers and letters and pictures and poems and kool aid and licorice people sent him.

I write this blog to help people gather strength to deal with the treatments for cancer and to give it their all just in case the treatments work and survival and remission or cancer free is the result. Some people decide they would rather die than go through the treatments. We're all different and make decisions differently based on our own unique needs and wants.

Myself, I want to live to be 100 and have a lot of candles to blow out and get a letter or a tweet from the president at the time. It's a challenge. I've just come thru chemo and radiation for breast cancer and my hair is short, curly and white.  We just had a 97 year old Aunt die from infection in her leg. She was given the option to have her leg amputated or die of the infection. She said she's die rather than undergo a leg amputation. We're all different. I can't say that enough. It's very true.

June 29, 2016

12 and a Half Years After A Prognosis of 3 months or less to live With Stage IV Cancer

Some people get a miracle and live through that terminal cancer talk of "get a quality of life" and "get your affairs in order, no treatment for you" or maybe some palliative treatment with no hope of recovery.  Mark was not yet 45 and 3 months and a few days shy of his 45th birthday. Would he live to celebrate it? With a lot of treatment at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand not only did he survive for that birthday but every sweet birthday thereafter. Currently Mark is in Austin with Mom. He is looking good. He paces himself carefully. His gout is under  seizures (he had a few really bad seizures after someone robbed him and hit him in the head a few months ago).  He enjoys life and especially cooking. He often volunteers to cook supper and one of this favorite activities is to bake a fruit pie.  He's been here about 2 months to get checked up at the VA. Is he cancer free? Who knows? The VA here is just clinics. He was not referred for any scans. Next visit, maybe we can get Mark to Temple or to Houston and hopefully get him a scan.

Mark returns to Thailand on July 4 where he is found most of the year. His sister comes from Okinawa on July 2 so we have a tiny overlap in their visits which calls for a celebration.

If you are new to the blog, read prior blogs to see more about the adventures of Mark Richardson in battling cancer and life after cancer battles. If you have cancer I hope you make decisions that feel right to you and bring peace to your life. Some people go all out for treatment and some opt for no treatment. We are not all alike in our decisions and whatever you want to do, that's of course really ok.

Mom recently discovered a lump in the breast. Now mom has no hair and is getting chemo post lumpectomy. I have it easier than Mark did.  I have a port and I have chemo then a break and then radiation. Mark had chemo and radiation concurrently and he had a whole lot more of each than I will have. If curious: my cancer was triple negative and no lymph node goes on hopefully with lots more adventures.

October 18, 2015

Mark Richardson is alive and visiting Alaska

Mark Richardson is alive and in Alaska getting some VA medical help

In January 2016 Mark will be 11 years out from a diagnosis of stage IV cancer (adenocarcinoma of esophagus with mets to liver). His prognosis of 3 months to live (or less) long outlived. He endured many months of traditional chemo without a port so being needle stuck many many times and lots of radiation. About 5 years ago he had a kidney tumor removed and it was not connected to his original cancer. He has peripheral neuropathy, frequent episodes of electrolytes off balance. His energy is low but he is alive and still has a fine tuned sense of humor which he springs on us frequently.

At the present time Mark and mom are in Alaska visiting Marks best friend Alan who works and lives in Alaska. We have celebrated Al's birthday in grand style camping out and cooking over the camp fire with friends and telling all the old stories.  The mountains and waters here are magnificent. We've seen the Mendenhall Glacier and it is quite a sight.

Mark is recovering from falling down the escalator in the airport and from injuries to his brain from being mugged and robbed in Thailand. He's been in the ER here in Juneau twice for medication reactions but we think his meds are ok now. We fly out today for 2 more days of fishing in Peterson, Alaska. Maybe we will catch some big ones.

In 2 weeks Mark will be back in Thailand looking forward to his next adventure.

April 09, 2015

Is it possible to live 10 years and more after a diagnosis of stage IV cancer and a prognosis of 3 months or less to live?

Is it possible to live 10 years and more after a diagnosis of stage IV cancer and a prognosis of 3 months or less to live? Yes it is. The middle picture is Mark at his sickest. Notice his hair is thin and white. He looked like my grandpa instead of my son. He was depressed that he might be dying and would never get to travel again so I arranged this trip to Amsterdam. He was very sick and I wasn't sure I would get him back to Thailand alive. We were in Amsterdam just 3 months after diagnosis. The top picture is Mark at Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand where he got most of his treatment which consisted of chemotherapy and radiation. This picture looks like he is getting better. His hair is darker and he looks better.  Mark did not have a port. It was a new needle stick for every IV and blood test. No matter how sick he felt he went to the hospital to get every treatment scheduled. He endured whatever came his way in order to live. In the bottom picture Mark is getting chemotherapy at the VA in Houston. He had a short course of treatment at the VA after about 2 and a half years of treatment in Thailand. The VA turned him loose to "get some quality of life" only to call him back for a small kidney cancer that was growing.  The kidney cancer was cored out using the DiVinci Arm. You can read all about Mark's battle with cancer in the following blogs. If you or one of your loved ones has stage IV esophageal cancer, Mark and I wish you success in your cancer battle. 

December 13, 2014

2015 "Thank God We are Alive Tour"

This year in January Mark and I (Mom) will take a trip to Vietnam with Friendly Planet. I will meet Mark in Thailand,  spend a few days with him, and then we will fly to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon). Our tour starts in the south of Thailand and moves up the country flying to other cities and ends in Hanoi the capital of Vietnam. There we will see Ha Long Bay where some of the James Bond scenes were filmed. Hopefully we will both be well enough to start the tour and continue through until our return. I am having eye surgery and eyelid surgery before we leave and Mark is having difficulty with Gout and with his legs. Mark will be on his 10th anniversary of his stage IV diagnosis although not free of cancer for 10 years since he had an unrelated kidney tumor removed several years after diagnosis. I am about 21 months out from breaking my leg and ankle climbing in the mountains of Turkey and 18 months out from a heart attack. Is it any wonder that we have an annual Thank God We are Alive tour?

My apologies for not posting more often and encouraging people who are just learning of a stage IV diagnosis or going through chemo and radiation and wondering if all the side effects are worth it. Well I for one am glad Mark went through all the treatment and lived now 10 years instead of 3 months or less and I definitely know his is glad too. I thank all the people who contributed big or small to Mark's being able to still be around.

May 07, 2014

Monks receiving alms (offering of food) , photo by Mark

In Thailand there are more than 300,000 monks and 80,000 novices. The Thai tradition supports laymen to go into a monastery, dress and act as monks, and study while there. The time line is based on threes, staying as a monk for three days, or three weeks, or three months or three years, or example of three weeks and three days. This retreat is expected of all male Thai, rich or poor, and often is scheduled after high school. Such retreat brings honor to the family and blessings (merit) to the young man. Monks must follow 227 rules of conduct; once they are ordained they begin a new life and the past does not count, even if the monk was married.

May 02, 2014

Miniature Rex Rabbit named "Suleman the Magnificent"Brightens Mark's Days
        Mark has corresponded that his girlfriend Ann bought a miniture rex rabbit the size of a baseball. The rabit is described by Mark as having lots of personality and is apparently an extrovert as "he doesn't hide and stays close.
       Mark says that when Suleman "poops" it is the size of half a tic tac. I think Suleman the Magnificent could join Mark in his traveling circus.  Some time ago Mark put his occupation on  Linked in as "taster in Mark's traveling circus." He hasn't been able to figure out how to delete this and put something real under occupation. I rather like the idea of him being in a traveling circus. Sometimes with all our travels it feels like we are in a traveling circus and we are always interested in tasting something good.
        Mark reports he is feeling good even with some health problems that he watches and he paces himself so he can have energy for what he thinks is important to do. A long long time of chemo and radiation does have some residual effects. But wonder of wonders, Mark looks perfectly healthy and handsome as always. He still has a marvelous sense of humor and he gets a lot of enjoyment out of every day.

February 06, 2014

Mark at Cojimar Cuba - A place where Hemingway fished and not far from his home.
 Celebration of Being Alive - Mark and his mother made a trip to Cuba with Friendly Planet and a post Cuba stay in Miami.
Mark is now 9 years past his prognosis of 3 months or less to live from stage 4 cancer (esophageal and liver) with later chest wall tumor and an excised kidney cancer unrelated to his primary cancer. If you go back and read the blog you will discover that he was diagnosed on the island of Saipan where he was working as a respiratory therapist and that he took himself to Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bangkok for treatment. I (his mom) broke 2 bones in my lower leg and my ankle climbing in the mountains of Turkey last April then I had a heart attack a couple of months later. At the same time I had a small basil cell tumor on my face. It seemed like the wheels were falling off and I was no longer invincible. All those problems have been fixed. Both Mark and I wake up every day thankful to be alive and to have a chance to do something worthwhile.
Cuba is a wonderful place to celebrate being alive. We were with 21 people, two guides, and a driver none of whom we had met before and we discovered we really liked these people during our trip.We went a lot of interesting places and learned of the history and culture. For example: education including university is free in Cuba.If you are bright it is not a financial burden to become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or other professional like it is in the USA. After graduating from college there is a 3 year obligatory service in a government placed job. Our tour guide had majored in languages and one of her choices of a government placed job was tour guide. Service in the Cuban military cuts the after college service to two years. I discovered on the trip that one of the men who is just a few months older than Mark was born in the hospital where I worked on the maternity ward when I was a young nurse pregnant and expecting a baby which turned out to be Mark. I probably took care of our fellow traveler's  mother in labor and/or him in the nursery. We discovered many other small world coincidences among our fellow travelers. 

We toured schools, after school programs, an elder day care, an organic vegetable and fruit farm, a community of relocated persons, local artists famous in and out of Cuba and actually met the artists, dance groups, musical groups, learned of religions and off tour we went to a Cuban baseball game and ate out some on our own. In Miami we stayed in a hotel at the beach, toured the city, went to Little Havana for lunch, took a cruise to see the homes of the rich and famous on various Miami islands, drove to the Everglades and ate stone crabs at a seafood market. It was a great celebration. All those days and months and even years of chemo, radiation, and every side effect that you can imagine faded a little further back in memory as we enjoyed our celebration of being alive. We may have to do this every January.