December 30, 2005

A January Valentine's Celebration
(Stephanie's words) Just got back from Bangkok - it was a great trip, Mark looked really good, though it is still obvious he is very sick and is in pain much of the time. We relaxed on the island while there, and Mark and I got to relive some of our childhood memories; it was interesting to see how two different viewpoints of memory can still both be correct. We checked our views with mom and she had a third viewpoint! The picture is of Mark and me having fun on the beach with an English elementary teacher from Japan who had his hair done in an interesting style for the holidays. He had to cut the hair off before returning to "normalcy" in Japan.

Mom has a great new idea: she's been working hard to keep Mark healthy and shops for his fresh food daily, preparing meals at home and trying to get him to eat a small amount every 4-5 hours. We know that Mark does better when he can eat (he suffers from nausea frequently, though) and we also know he loves adventures and even the spark of a thought of going somewhere perks him up. Mom's thought: we're going to ask everyone we know to send a Valentine's card to Mark, NOW through Feb. 14. Just before Valentine's day will mark the anniversary of his diagnosis (see archives of blog for Feb. 05 postings) so Valentine's cards now will cheer him up and help him work towards that next month and big anniversary. Many people have sent him cards of encouragement, and he truly does appreciate them- he has the cards displayed nicely on the bookcase in his living room. It is wonderful to see how many people have him in their thoughts. So, friends- please take a moment to send a Valentine's card or note or even postcard. Anyone who has happened onto this blog and is interested in doing this, no problem - send my mom an email (see link in profile) and she can tell you the address. We welcome new friends.

A Happy New Year to all of you.

December 25, 2005

Christmas On the Island of Koh Tao
Mark's sister, Stephanie, came to Bangkok, to join our family trip to the island of Koh Tao for Christmas. Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan are where Mark wants his ashes spred when he dies and we wanted to bring him here at least one more time alive and hopefully many more times if he can hold this cancer in check. Koh Tao means turtle island as it is shaped like a turtle.

On Dec. 21st We flew to Koh Samui on Bangkok Airlines. This airline gives you free food and drink in the airport lounge and free internet, not for VIPs only but for all passengers. When we arrived in Koh Samui, we bought tickets to go on the High Speed boat to Koh Tao and were taken by van to the waiting area near the boat dock, where we sat in the sand in plastic chairs under a canopy in the rain with an international group of people waiting to go scuba diving or just vacationing on Kah Tao. I spent 30 minutes talking in Spanish to a woman from France and we exchanged e-mail addresses. For an extra dollar or so we rode in the VIP lounge on the high speed boat to Koh Tao. Almost everyone barfed except Mark and me, and I was very close to barfing most of the trip. It was the roughest crossing I have ever made. It has rained so much and the seas are so rough that some days the boats have been unable to ferry people from Koh Samui and at one point the Navy took some people off Koh Tao so they could fly back home as they had been stranded. The weather has cleared up today and there is promise of great weather for the rest of our trip.

When we arrived in Koh Tao, Mark was energized and laughing and talking and excited. Instead of needing a wheelchair like he usually does in airports, he outpaced the rest of us and arranged a truck to take us to our bungalos on the beach. We all jumped in the bed of the truck with the luggage.

This is a low budget trip to places Mark stayed when he was here before. Stephanie and I are in a bungalo without hot water but we have TV and airconditioning for about 35 dollars a night. Mark was in one of these until he got extremely cold and we moved him to a nicer room with heat and hot water as well as air conditioning. He lets us come down for daily showers so Steph and I are back to hot showers.

There are many wonderful places to eat here and food is extremely cheap, though Mark has been on a pizza kick, so we've eaten twice already at "Gringos", perhaps the best pizza in Thailand. The beach is beautiful and each morning Steph and I get up early and eat our soup-breakfast at a hut-style restaurant on the water; we take our reading materials and just relax leisurely.

Christmas eve dinner was on the beach. Mark had been sick all day but recovered by evening. We went to the place where all the young divers were gathering to celebrate. We had a buffet with lots of different foods including turkey and gravy (Mark loved it) at Ban's Dive Restarant. Our table was on the beach and we saw fireworks as we ate.

It will be a different Christmas but experiencing Mark laughing and smiling makes it a very good one for Stephanie and me. This is like "Make a Wish" time. Stephanie and I are fullfilling Mark's wish before he dies, instead of a foundation fullfilling it. We are the make a wish team in Thailand although it is actually less expensive being here than being in Bangkok, but don't tell anyone because the more Americans and Europeans that come here, the higher the real estate and tourist prices will soar.

We will be thinking of you where ever you are and wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

December 17, 2005

Another day at the hospital. Dr. Theera Umsawadee said that Mark was the bright spot in his day as Mark is his patient who is doing the best. Mark looked great as usual with a tan sport shirt, dress black slacks, belt, and new black shoes from Austin trip. Best dressed and healthiest looking patient in the waiting room. Although he looked great, Mark complained of feeling VERY bad today and he was eager to get back home. Today there were patients of all ages and nationalities in the waiting room There were several little kids in the waiting room who have cancer. The kids come from all over the world.
Dr. Theera is waiting for results of tests for folate and intrinsic factor, but reported Mark's CBC is good today. His CAT scan report indicated all abdominal systems are functioning well and the tumors are no worse..maybe slightly improved but certainly no bigger and no evidence of further metastasis. His endoscopy showed improvement in the GE tumor and the walls of the esophagus. Chemo on the 28th again.
Our Sunday school class has collected the money for Mark's chemotherapy this month. Dr. Larry Lake our teacher is collecting funds for Mark and you can contact Dr. Lake about how and where to send a contribution that is tax deductible.
Mark is worried he will be too sick to go to the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao on Wednesday. He wants his ashes spread there when he dies. Stephanie and I are determined to get him there one more time while he is alive and hopefully many more times.

December 16, 2005

December 16, 2005 The Sights and Sounds of Bangkok

I wish I could share the sights and sounds of Bangkok with you in person. Some things here are beautiful beyond belief. The flowers are arranged so beautifully and there are flowers everywhere.The Thai people are very artistic and creative. On the other hand, the sidewalks and roads are treacherous. You must watch your step every minute.

There is food to buy everywhere. There are huge markets all over the city where you can go to purchase fruits, vegetables, curries, eggs, dried foods, seafood and meats of every kind cut before your eyes. There are fruits and vegetables that I have seen no where else but in Thailand. I am now going to one of these markets just one subway stop from the condo. Jin and I buy all we can carry and it costs about 200 Baht or less (about 5 dollars), unless I buy huge shrimp and then it would be about 400 Baht.I get a cooking lesson from Jin who takes good care of Mark and me too.

There are also street carts with food being prepared on them everywhere all over Bangkok. You select ingredients from the cart and buy food cooked before your eyes. No one ever seems to get sick from either food carts or restaurants. The people are very clean and remember they don't shake hands...They do what is called Wai (pronounced like the letter Y) and that is to put the palms together and bow the head slightly. It is much more sanitary than coughing and sneezing on your hands and then shaking someone's hand. They are also very good about hand washing.

Yesterday I sat and watched a woman preparing food on one of the street carts. Every afternoon people go on the street to get soups, salads, and fruits, from street carts, to take home.The Thai people eat very healthy diets. Many never cook, but just buy food from the street carts. Some homes do not even have a stove because it is not needed. No matter how hot it gets, people eat soup. Some I can eat, but not the one that is made from chicken entrails.The entrails are sold in a plastic bag along with several egg yolks. The woman chops the entrails up and puts them in a hot broth and cooks them along with green vegetables and possibly some mushrooms to go into the soup and of course lots of small red peppers that are hand ground before your eyes. Every ingredient is fresh. Mexicans and Texans cannot hold a candle to the Thais when it comes to eating spicy hot foods. They eat hot red peppers every day, virtually every meal, and in nearly every dish. If you were here, maybe you would like some fried bugs? There is also the bug cart where you can buy fried bugs of every kind to eat. There is also food prepared on the Soi (pronounced Soy which means street) that we Westerners can eat. Check the blog later and I will tell you more about Mark and about Thailand.

December 13, 2005

Things Get Moving When Miss Betty The Mom Goes to Bangkok - Endoscopy and Cat Scan ..the works and we didn't even have an appointment.

It's been a whirlwind last four days and even before that. I worked a few days at the drug study clinic then stayed up all night on Sat. wrapping presents for kids and grandkids who will be in Austin Texas for holidays with James, cleaning bedrooms, and finishing packing for the trip to Bangkok and tying up loose ends..then it was off to the airport where I learned that American Airlines now has a limit of 50 pounds per bag...less than United or N. W. Airlines so when the agent weighed the first suitcase and it was 35 pounds, james took off for the x-ray machine that then loads it on the conveyor belt...The agent weighed the second bag and it was 55 pounds. I had to yell like crazy accross the airport to get james to stop as he was at the x-ray machine ready to put the bag on...I stopped him at the last minute and made him bring the bag back and on the floor in front of the agent I repacked...This saved 25 dollars in over weight charges as it is a hard and fast rule of 50 per bag and not 100 total for two bags. One bag could weigh 5 pounds and if the other is 55 then it is an extra charge.

The trip took about 28 hours and was fairly uneventful except for not getting aisle seats. One leg of trip I sat next to a young man from Brazil who was going to soccer matches in Japan. I was second in from the aisle. When he fell sound asleep I crawled over 5 people to go to the bathroom. On the last leg of the trip I sat next to a very very old couple who coughed and sneezed their way from Tokyo to Bangkok. I had the window seat so had to crawl over both of them to go to the bathroom and not only over them but the woman had a suitcase on the floor...not under the seat but on the floor with her feet on it, so I did an imitation of a Russian Ballerina doing a cross between a lateral arabesque and a pirroette to sail accross two people and a suitcase.

When I got thru the long passport check and visa lines and down to baggage, it was past midnight in Bangkok. I was wondering around looking dazed when a Japanese Airlines Agent chased me down and asked me what flight i was on and said my luggage was not put on the plane. I filled out paper work for an hour and just as I finished, someone found my suitcase. It was good since I had two HEB cooked briskets in one suitcase. If lost for a week they might smell bad.

The taxi line was long as usual even though it was after midnight...(most flights get in at 11:30 pm.) I got to Mark's condo at 2:30 am. Word had been left at the outside security desk that the Farang (Foreigner) Madame (not is all in the pronunciation) was to be expected and helped with luggage.

By 10 am Mark had decided he was feeling bad and wanted to see Dr. Theera but Dr T's was not in the clinic today and there were no patients there..I think it was a government holiday. The staff told him on the phone that the doctor had no clinic today, but Mark held in there and Dr. T. said he would see Mark if he came right away. Dr. Theera was very kind and acted as if he would give us all day if we needed it...He examined Mark and after a chat it was decided Mark would have endoscopy and a CAT scan. The doctor arranged the endoscopy to occur nearly immediately. At 2:30 PM Mark was having an endoscopy after an evaluation by the endoscopy doc...He was out of recovery at 6 pm and we headed home after taking a couple of pictures by one of the many decorated trees at the hospital.

Tomorrow at 8 am Mark has an appointment for a CAT scan and then he will see Dr. Theera again. I think Mark has been scared to schedule this endoscopy and CAT SCAN earlier and has been putting it off. He was a tad nervous before the endoscopy, but it happened so fast and was over fast so he had little opportunity to delay it.

By midnight today which is less than 24 hours after my arrival, Mark has had a visit to the doctor, seen a specialist, had endoscopy, eaten supper, arranged a dinner party, instructed me in various tasks, and is on his second load of clothes that he is personally washing. We will be at the hospital tomorrow at 8 am prompt.

The saga will continue and you will learn about the results of the CAT scan and the endoscopy.
Tune in again.

December 11, 2005

Mom and I are on the way to Bangkok for Christmas. (Stephanie's words) Mom left yesterday (Sunday am Austin time) and makes about 3 stops before landing in Bankok a day or so later. My vacation starts in a week, so I will follow then. Mark called a few days ago and was very excited that we might get to spend a few days on one of the islands in Thailand... that's been the goal since he moved there for treatment, but something else has always come up. Mom's packed brisket again and I stocked up on Mark's favorite snack foods that he can't get there... the number one request was for Pizza Rolls (they have some in BKK, but it's $30 a bag!) so I am working on how to keep them from melting on the plane. We plan to have a nice holiday, wherever we are, and Mom has packed our childhood stockings, and I have bought a Texas cowgirl-boot stocking for Mom. Santa, if you're reading this - we'll be leaving some yummy Thai goodies out for you!

December 10, 2005

Mr. Mark's Alien Baby Hat Knited by Friend Jin In an earlier blog, Mr. Mark shared that his friend Jin was knitting a neon green ski type hat that Mark claimed looked like it was suited for an alien baby and he told Jin to keep it in case they saw some aliens. Mark has chills at times and wears a ski hat and wraps up in a blanket on the balcony in the hot Bangkok sun to counteract the chills. He has taken to wearing the Alien Baby Hat and decided he likes it. He has suggested that Stephanie and I get one too in the same color and if we ever get to go skiing again like we used to that we will be able to spot each other easier on the slopes. The visability distance of this hat, according to Mark, is in the 100 yard range. He claims that if you are caught in an avalanche, the hat might stick up out of the snow and be visable by a passing helicopter. This hat is a potential life-saver. Mr Mark's days are tough most of the time. He says he can take it if he has a good meal once in awhile and cards and letters. Mr. Mark claims to have made the perfect Caesar Salad this week, making the dressing from fresh ingredients. He also fixed one of the briskets I took him in my suitcase this last trip over and claims this helps his quality of life too . He will have another round of chemotherapy on Monday.