March 30, 2006

Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok Thailand is Joint Commission International Accredited.

Mr. Mark Tickles the Doctor Over a Cat Scan and a funny Cat story after that. Mark wrote that he had been to see Dr. T., his chemotherapy doctor at Horizon Cancer Center, Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok. The doctor suggested Mark get another CAT scan to see if the liver tumors are responding to chemo, whether the esophageal tumor is still gone, and what else may be happening in his body. Mark fears bad news and often postpones tests due to this. Mark says he told Dr. T. that he wanted to wait until his mom came to Thailand on April 11th and he would ask her to give him a CAT scan for his birthday present. Mark says that this struck Dr. T. as funny and he laughed so hard that the nurses came and shut the office door. He says Dr. T. pretended to listen to his lungs, but was laughing so hard he could not have heard anything.

March 29, 2006


The Black Cat Gets A White Butt (Temporarily)
Some of you may not know that Mark's father died of Cancer some years ago. There are many interesting things to tell about his Father. His hobby was collecting and selling diamonds, antique gun locks, Ruger pistols, and antique firearms. He was also a gun maker and made some beautiful muzzel loading and flint lock guns. There will be more about Mark's father in a later blog. Mark's step-father figure is James, a slow talking Texan from the Panhandle of Texas. Mark loves James' cowboy cooking and claims that early on in his cancer battle, when James visited Bangkok, the cowboy cooking helped keep him alive. James is an Aggie (graduated from Texas A and M). Aggies are notorius for doing things in a strange fashion: often backwards. When it started to rain recently, James decided to paint the door trim on the front door. The mom did not realize the threshold was painted until she looked down and saw her footprint in the wet paint. James pointed out that she was not the first to get into the paint. The cat had earlier sat in it and slid off the threshold onto the porch. The curious black cat named "Baby" then had a white butt.

Is leprosy contageous? Mark cracks the mom up. Mark e-mailed that he was entertaining two small children from a village near Laos, a little boy named "Boy" and a little girl named "Baylee". They were watching cartoons and eating lemon popsickles with Mark. This was a big adventure for them. They told Mark that no one in the village would believe them when they went back to school and said they had been up high in a building where a "farang" (foreigner) lived and ate popsickles and watched TV on their holiday from school. The nurse in the mom cautioned Mark about entertaining people, telling him to be certain none of the children or adults had a cold or anything contageous since his immunity is down due to chemo. Mark wrote back saying: "Okay I will try to screen out sick people from my social calender. I can't remember if leprosy is contagious though. " This cracked the mom up and she nearly fell out of her chair laughing. It is good to laugh about the things surrounding cancer that are so hard to manage and Mark always seems to have a good grip on life with his keene sense of humor .

March 21, 2006

Mark's Sister, Stephanie at this year's Nagoya Fertility festival

How we will entertain ourselves in Bangkok
The one without the mask is Stephanie. Mark is still in Bangkok and resting up for the visit from Stephanie and "The Mom" in April. He says he is very excited about seeing us. We want to take him on another adventure, but he thinks he may not be able to go far, although he will try to be in good shape and inbetween chemo treatments when we arrive. If he is unable to go very far, we will of course enjoy the Songkran festival and shoot water at people on the streets and get powder put on our faces. In addition, I am thinking about starting our novel and maybe entertaining ourselves by writing our obituaries. The newspapers in Austin, Texas, and Bangkok, Thailand, let you write just about anything you want and charge you by the size of the obituary. In some places such as my old home town Jacksonville, Illinois an obituary is free, but it is prescribed and perhaps not quite as imaginative or creative as those in Austin, Texas. Austin's moto is "Keep Austin Wierd", and sometimes this is revealed in the obituaries. Seldom do people in Austin die..They cross the great divide to play golf with God or dance their way up into heaven or ride their motorbike on the golden streets. It is a challenge to write an obit when you can write just about anything you want.

March 19, 2006

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards has esophageal cancer, a different type than Mr. Mark's esophogeal cancer was.
Ann Richards has squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer attributed to effects of smoking and drinking which she admits to doing years ago in a difficult period of life. Ann Richards was the 45th Texas Governor from 91-95. Miss Betty took some student nurses to see the legislature in action during Governor Richard's term in office. One of the students had a wish to get her picture taken with the governor, so Betty asked governor Ann if she would mind posing for a picture. The governor talked with the students and posed for the picture. Not every governor has been as accessible as governor Richards was.
Mark did not have squamous cell cancer of the esophagus like Ann Richards. Mark had an adenocarcinoma of the esophagus at the junction of the stomach: a type of cancer associated with acid refux and not associated with smoking and drinking, although Mark comes from a line of smokers and drinkers. His grandmother smoked Raleigh cigarettes and saved the coupons in shoe boxes to get prizes. She turned the ceiling black with smoke and the plastic flowers always were covered with gum from the nicotine. When told "Mom, you will die from cancer if you keep smoking", she replied: "Lot's of people have cancer and don't smoke." and sure enough she was correct. She did not die of cancer and there are cancers not caused by smoking or drinking. Mark's grandmother also said she would not die from cancer because she had taken out cancer insurance and although the logic was faulty, sure enough she was correct in that she did not die from cancer.
Mr. Mark's type of esophageal cancer, adenocarcinoma, is often diagnosed late because doctors try to treat the symptoms with antiacids then more and stronger antiacids until they finally decide to scope the esophagus and by this time, the cancer is often metastasized. Mark's cancer had metastacized to the liver. Although Chemo and radiation caused Mark's esophageal tumor to disappear, the five liver tumors are still there and that is why he still gets chemo. In the right column are links to some cancer sites. Click on the one that says treatment for liver cancer if you want to know the various treatment options for liver cancer. Let's pray that Ann Richards does not have any metastasis to the liver or elsewhere. She is seeking treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston.
Strangers Become Friends
George Wolff, from Ontario sent Mr. Mark a large package of licorice. He is a kind man that Miss Betty the mom talked to on an airplane crossing the Pacific Ocean Once more a stranger becomes a friend to Mr. Mark. The kindness of strangers, as well as that of friends, is again truly amazing.
Cancer Surrounds Us
Talking about strangers becoming friends, Miss Betty met Olga in water aerobics class. In a short conversation, it was revealed that Olga's father was a pathologist in Springfield, Illinois where Betty had worked for Dr. Tom Masters, an internist who specialized in diabetes, some 30 plus years ago. Olga's family had been friends with Dr. Masters. Olga had a brother die with cancer. She has a living brother, a psychiatrist, who is now waging a battle with cancer. Weeks and months after Olga and Betty met, Olga found out that she has cancer and she began her chemotherapy just two days ago. Cancer surrounds us. As we age, our chances of cancer increases. Get regular check-ups, so cancer can be caught quickly before it spreads. Eat lots of those vegetables and some fruit and keep your stress to a minimum. Giving up smoking and avoiding alcohol or keeping it to a minimum is best for putting the body in the optimum shape for fighting cancer, but we have to keep in mind that giving up smoking and drinking isn't the whole answer as some cancers are not attributed to smoking and drinking while others are.

March 09, 2006

Mark's weight fluctuates and he continues nausea off and on. He was thin and ill last year when he posed with the tiny car of the Amsterdam Fire Chief
Mr. Mark is either up and down in the roller coaster ride of cancer or "sugar-coating" news to his sister so she won't worry. His mom is in charge of all worrying. I beg him to tell me the true news, as it is, so I can better help him. He has been telling me for a week that he is nauseated and vomiting. He reports that he is in between his largest waist pants and his smallest waist pants and has one pair that fits. He tells me that he rests a lot, feels great, gets up and goes to water the plants or goes a block or two to buy food and is exhausted. Hopefully he will bounce back like he has before. This is definately chemo at work. My friend Audrey experienced the same loss of energy when she was on chemo. I went to pick her up one time for a cancer support group and she could barely walk from her house to the street to get into the car. She desperately wanted to go but she decided she was too weak and could not go. There is a temptation to stop chemo in order to stop the weakness and the nausea and vomiting. My hat is off to Audry for finishing all her rounds of chemo. My admiration for Mark and his continuing to stick with chemo in spite of all its side effects, so he can stay alive, increases.
Mark called today desperate for licorice as the only thing that he can keep down and occasionally it helps so he can eat something else. If you can send him some licorice it would be wonderful. Both Stephanie and I have individually sent some, but neither batch has arrived yet. We need some more mailings to keep it coming in. Send birthday cards and/or licorice to: Mr. Mark Richardson
Condo 6/11
Las Colinas Condominiums
6 Sukhumvit 21 (Asoke Road)
Wattana Bangkok
Thailand 10110

The Water Gun Story
In April 2005, I was in Bangkok for Songkran, which is the New Year's festival in Thailand. All over Thailand the Thai New Year is celebrated by spraying people with your water gun or a hose or bucket and putting talcom powder on people's faces. If you walk on the street you expect to get wet and have powder on your face. I bought the largest water guns I could find for Mark, Jin, Steph, a couple of friends, and myself. After Songkran, I decided to carry back to the USA one unused water gun in the package and one slightly used one. When I got to the airport in Bangkok, security was tighter than usual as the Miss World Contest was in town and there were bombings in the South of Thailand. Security had been tightened in the big department stores and the airport. I had to have my suitcases examined thoroughly before I could go to the counter to check in. Everyone entering airport had this extra check with several tables and lines set up. During my turn for check, the young man went through all my underwear and dirty laundry and then got real excited when he came to the guns. I explained they were water guns for Songkran. He got more excited and yelled for a supervisor who came running and made me fill out a form that my guns were unloaded: a flurescent orange sticker that went on the outside of my suitcase. There was another check at the line to go to the ticket counter and I went through one more round of gun hysteria until they sorted it out and let me pass. All these checks before checking in are not taking taking place at the airport now...just extra safety during the Miss World Contest...and to think I did not even get to enter the contest. This year, I don't think I will bring any water guns home.

March 02, 2006

3/1Phone Call from Mark...
Last night I was typing an e-mail to Mark to tell him I'd sent some magazines and Gatorade mix, when the phone rang. It was Mark! He sounded good...He's finished this round of chemo a week ago and didn't have too hard of a time with it, but the docs are talking about adding a new chemical in with the next round. The Thai medical system is wonderful for someone like Mark, because they aren't afraid to try various methods. Are other doctors like this, or are they too afraid of being sued? At any rate, the mix that they gave Mark the first time a year ago seems to have done well- he's lived almost a year beyond expectations.
Mark was happy that he had some friends coming over for dinner tonight. One British-Japanese friend is called "Retro" for his 70s-style attire. Another friend is going to help Mark get some form of internet at his apartment... again, people's kindnesses and thoughts mean all the world.
Apparently Petey-bird is not learning his whistling as fast as the lesson plans forecast. Mark says he stays on the balcony sometimes, and that he enjoys it, but apparently he has two bird-friends who come to visit him everyday, and one sports a bald head with a few feathers sticking up "like a punk-rock bird", Mark commented. He sounded a little like our parents, back in the day, when we would wear something that didn't meet with their ideas of suitable. Mark is thinking of adding a baby bird to the mix, in the hopes that the baby would wear off on Petey, rather than the other way around. Ah, the woes of trying to parent!
I'm planning to return to Bangkok for spring break, which will be Thai New Year again (see last April's blogs)... this time I will be prepared, with ski goggles, plastic shoes, and throwaway clothes! I probably won't take any water pistols with me - after hearing Mom's tales of the misunderstanding at the BKK airport, whereupon she had to have a flourescant sticker put on her suitcase because it held "unloaded WEAPONS" in it (call them water toys, NOT water guns!) I'm looking forward to celebrating the milestone of the one year past-expectations with Mark, and his second birthday after diagnosis will be April 20th. Again, he'd love it if y'all would take a moment to send a card or note. Stephanie