February 24, 2006

Mark Feeling Bad After Chemo. A Major Difference in Thai Hospitals Compared to Those in USA
Mr. Mark is e-mailing every day : a major feat for a guy with cancer who felt so bad much of 2005 that he e-mailed only a few times when he felt an urgent need to check on close friends or to try to deal with finances. Mark is sick after chemotherapy early this week. He may be over the major vomiting and is eating only "small bits of food" as his digestive tract hurts.
Mark had a chest x-ray this week because he had a strange bump on his chest after coughing bouts and is having pain in that area. His x-ray showed 7 old rib fractures which he attributes to a skiing accident from hitting a moguol at a high speed and doing some involuntary acrobatics. "It hurt a lot at the time, but I just kept going", he says. I recall skiing with Mark one time when although he had brought his own skis, he rented high performance skis. We even bought some tire chains for our car because the road was closed to the slopes to anyone without tire chains. We were determined to get some skiing in.
I wonder if Mark might have broken one or more of these ribs when he was into sky diving and broke his leg. Speaking of injuries, Mr. Ron Cruzan one of Mark's friends from Junior High and High School called tonight. My uncle Bob had tracked Ron down to tell him about Mark. Ron relates that he was recently in a serious multi rotational roll over accident as a passenger, and had to be cut from the car and taken by helicoptor to the hospital. He is back to work, but it looked like he was trying to beat Mr. Mark to the pearly gates.
Mark is concerned about the cost of treatment After one year of chemotherapy and radiation, Mark and I have passed the $100,000 mark in spending for his treatment out of our pockets. He has run through his life insurance and I am into my retirement fund. Early in his bout with cancer, some people from his work on Saipan donated money and sick time. After that we received a check from Dr. Brown and his wife Kris and some money from a special fund at our church and from our sunday school class and some family and friends for a total of 2,400 dollars. This really helped. Some people sent money in cards and letters. A stranger from Hollywood sent talking books and a cassette player. Mark wants everyone to be thanked. He does not want to miss anyone. Every gift, big or small is very important to keep him in treatment and to keep him believing that people care.
One big difference between hospitals in Thailand and the USA is that you do not run up a bill and not pay in Thailand. Mark pays everytime he gets treatment. If he does not pay then no more treatment. A friend in the USA who has cancer lost a spouse about 5 years ago to cancer. The spouse died in the hospital and my friend has not paid the spouse's hospital bill yet. There are some extenuating circumstances in this case, but circumstances or not, this does not happen in Thailand. Friend Ian could not get the hospital to release Pui's body until he went back to his hotel and got information to use on the web to download proof he had wired money from his bank to the hospital to cover the entire bill and the finance supervisor reluctantly gave approval to release the body. Pui died in the afternoon and it was very late at night before the finances could be taken care of and the body released so her family could make a long trip home from Bangkok to their village.
Advice today: You may sit on someones tombstone after they die and talk to them and they may hear you and appreciate it, but why take a chance? Call everyone important to you or go see them or write a note today. Take a look at what is really important in life. No one knows if they will be here tomorrow. Do more hugging and enjoying and less complaining.

February 21, 2006

Mark on right and friend in Bangkok on left...now I ask you this: Whose hair sticks out more, Mark's after chemo or his friends??

Chemotherapy Makes for Strange New Hair When it Falls Out and Comes Back In.
Mark's tells me his hair has come in coarse and it sticks out, particularly at the temples, in strange ways and he has not found any products that keep it down. His hair came in kind of salt and pepper after it fell out from chemo. My friend Audrey's reddish blond hair fell out and came back snow white with not a grey hair and it is also coarse but not as curly. These changes are worrisome to those who experience them. This may not seem big to you or I but it would if it was our hair. I think Mark's Hair and Audrey's hair is beautiful but it is not what I think, but what they think that is important. Here is what Mark said about his hair in an e-mail entitled "Hair I am" ..."My hair is stiff and coarse on the sides, it sticks out and makes me look like an aeroplane trying to take off. Nothing seems to make it stay down, so I am growing it longer and maybe it will help to stay down. I took a pair of scissors and tried to cut it a bit but now I have a hole in my hair on the right side. If anyone says anything I tell them its the chemo and a patch fell out on that side."
Report on Kuhn Petey (Mr. Petey Bird) - Mr. Mark is concerned that his pet Mr. Petey bird does not seem comfortable around people and thinks he is to old to learn new tricks. He is thinking of getting a baby bird. He can't give up his Mr. Petey the miracle bird so guess he will have to have two birds in one cage if they get along or two birds in two cages if they don't. Does anyone have some bird advice for Mr. Mark? Chirp if you do.
Pui's Brother Shaves His Head and Becomes a Monk - Look up the story in an earlier blog about our young friend Pui's death. I learned from Ian that a picture of a single Monk standing by Pui's casket that I sent him by e-mail is a picture of her brother. He shaved his head and became a monk when she died.

February 17, 2006

Mark gets another round of Chemotherapy at Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand
Mark in front of Bumrungrad International Hospital., Bangkok

Thanks From Mr. Mark to Everyone Who Sent Valentine's Cards. If you missed the Valentine's Cards, You Can still Send a Card for his Birthday. Send it Now.
On this recent Valentine's Day, Mr Mark passed the one year mark after a diagnosis of Cancer of the esophageal-gastric junction with metastasis to the liver and being told he had less than three months to live. Many of you sent him Valentine's day cards and he is in the process of making a list of the cards he received, which he has on display to reassure himself that people do care about him.
Here is a special thanks for the Valentines day cards that Mr. Mark: "I received lots and lots of cards in the last month. I will try to sort them out and let you know who they were all from. Received cards from relatives, neighbors in Austin, people from Jacksonville, Illinois where we used to live and still have friends and relatives, Austin Family magazine (mom writes a monthly column for this newsmagazine), people I used to work with, old nurse friends of mom, the Highland Park Baptist Church and Sunday School people, Rotary Club people, and my sister's students and former students , including a poem that jennifer Toffler sent that I want , to be at the end of the blog when I kick the bucket (slang for pass on to cook brisket in paradise or the more common term "die"). Thanks a million for all the cards, letters and pictures. "
Your cards and letters mean a lot to Mr. Mark as you can see from his note. Every card, picture, note, drawing, poem is on display in his home away from home in Bangkok, Thailand where he is still getting treatment for cancer.
Mr. Mark's birthday is coming soon. Last year he thought he wouldn't live to see another birthday, but he did, and now it looks like he will soon be enjoying another one. Let's all send him a birthday card. If you want to send him a present, he is really wanting some licorice (both black and red) as there is none to be bought in Thailand.
Mr. Mark, his sister Stephanie and I are very interested in other people who have cancer or have a family member with cancer. Please write and share your story with us. We realize we are exceedingly fortunate that Mr. Mark is still alive and we can enjoy his humor and being with him. Our hearts go out to people who are not so fortunate and whose loved one has died of cancer. Our hearts go out to all who still live with a diagnosis of cancer and who are suffering from the pain, nausea, vomiting, uncertainty, fear, and emotional and financial stess that goes with this diagnosis.
Our friend Ian recently lost a friend Neil to cancer after just loosing his
young wife, Pui.
You will recall reading earlier in the blog about our friend Ian who married the golden girl with the wonderful laugh: Pui, our Thailand friend, and about her untimely death at a young age shortly after their marriage. After her death, you will recall my telling you that he named a star for her. He also had a butterly tatoo with the name Pui in Thai put on his arm in honor and memory of Pui. Ian is an engineer from the UK, living in Switzerland, and working now temporarily in Taiwan. Ian had told me about his friend Neil in the United Kingdom, who was diagnosed at Christmas time with Liver, lung, and kidney cancer, which later turned out to be adrenal cancer. Ian was most fortunate to see his friend at Christmas time, when he was home visiting his mother. It was the last time he would see Neil. Ian received word just this week that his friend Neil has died...Like Mark, Neil was given a short prognosis and unlike Mark, Neil left his family and friends quickly...far too quickly and far too young. Somehow, we hope this blog could honor and comfort his wife, family, and friends who miss him greatly.

February 05, 2006

Mom is back in Austin. After months of being too sick to e-mail, Mr. Mark (this is what he is called at Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok) began e-mailing me when I came home. He still has liver cancer even though his primary Gastro-Esophageal juncture tumor is gone after ten months of radiation and chemotherapy. He is still getting chemotherapy in Bangkok and riding the roller coaster of cancer with all its ups and downs.
It has been a challenge for Mr Mark to stay positive since fighting cancer is difficult and takes a hefty toll physically and financially, but he has done it and sets an example for us all. He recently purchased some inexpensive classic books: Dicken's Great Expectations, Doskiveski's Crime and Punishment, and Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Mr. Mark has always been an avid reader and it provides a great diversion from his worries about cancer, nausea, vomiting, pain, money, and the future. He hopes to stay positive by reading books to help him gain insight and he tells me he is setting small goals and a big goal for each day. If he makes even his small goal, it makes him happy. I miss the face to face heart to heart talks and the laughter that we have each day when I am in Bangkok, however we are e-mailing about important things on our minds. News on Mr. Petey Bird The miracle bird Kuhn Petey (Mr. Petey) shares the beautiful Bangkok sunset every night with Mr. Mark, from his balcony. See story of Mr. Petey Bird in the archives (check right hand column).
Mark Thanks You all for Your Cards, Letters, Gifts, Prayers, and Most of All for Caring
Mark enjoys your cards and letters and prayers. He tells me to thank everyone who has helped him in any way (e.g. taking valuable time out of your day to pray or write a note and/or taking money out of your pocket to help him in any way, or helping his mom). You are all special to him. Support makes all the difference in the world in how long a person with cancer survives and how successful they are in dealing with it. His sister has some of her students, who don't know Mark but know about him, writing lengthy notes to him to break up some of his monotony and take his mind off his pain.
Anyone who wants to help Mark financially, in any amount, can send tax free donations through Dr. Larry Lake (email: petroprof@aol.com) or send a check directly to Highland Park Baptist Church 5206 Balcones Drive, Austin, Texas 78731 with a notation on the check: For Mark Richardson Medical Fund. If you want to read all the blogs, you can go back to the first one by clicking on the oldest one you find and it will pull up with older ones after it.

February 01, 2006

Yokosuka Japan and Miss Stephanie (Mr. Mark's sister)

I stopped in Yokosuka to visit with Stephanie on my way back to Austin, from Bangkok. The morning after we arrived in Yokosuka, I awoke to a winter wonderland of of snow on the ground, trees, house, car, and everywhere. It was beautiful.

I have spent a lot of time with Stephanie in her classroom on the base where she teaches Japanese and English. We have exercised in the gym overlooking the bay and the ships.

One Saturday we went driving along the coast looking not only at the ocean with windsurfers and surfers and sail boats on our left, but also seeing a clear view of Mt Fuji in the distance coming closer as we moved into the mountains. We went to the hot springs and spent the day in a variety of hot spring baths: in doors and outdoors, a bath of coffee, one of tea, and one of sake, one of Dead Sea salt to float in, large ones and small ones, clothed in the tubs and pools for both genders and in our birthday suits in the tubs and pools for women. What a fun day! I return to Austin, Texas Friday. Tonight we had a pretty strong earthquake. The house really shook. We have had snow, rain, cold, warm, and now an earthquake. I think it is time to return to Austin.