January 20, 2007

January 29, 2007
We made a fast trip to the VA in Houston and back. I didn't realize how fast the car could accelerate from a dead stop to 80 until riding with Mark at the wheel. He has a sense of urgency to his life and tries to do lots of things fast as if running out of time and he could be. We just don't know how long he has. His sister asked me why I said on the blog that he was bored. "Didn't he just get back from a trip (see trip in blog below?" I explained to Stephanie that the person with cancer has a different perspective. Never knowing if he will get extremely sick or die in the next 20 minutes, 20 days or 20 weeks, Mark wants to cram in everything fun that he can. He feels better when he has some trip or event planned to look forward to. We were to stay in Houston until Wednesday late, but the chemotherapy was cancelled as Mark's white cell count was too low. His doctor this week was very easy to talk to (remember a different doctor each visit at the VA oncology unit). The doctor was Dr. Breene (spelling? It starts with a B and rhymes with Greene). On the way home Mark appologized for being cranky due to being in pain and expressed concern it was a wasted trip because he could not have chemo, but I encouraged him to think otherwise. Why was this trip not a waste of time? Mark learned his wbcs were down. He got a shot of neupogen to help bring them back up. He had a good talk with the doctor and with his favorite nurse Abraham Ferrer (see story and picture below about nurse Ferrer). We ate a lot of seafood again and I enjoyed the process and I suspect Mark did too the way he attacked those king crab claws and crawfish gumbo.

January 20, 2007
Mr. Mark Gets Time off from Chemo; Takes Solo Trip To Jackson Mississippi and to Antones in Austin to Hear Pinetop Perkins; a Music Legend

Jackson, Mississippi
Surprise of all surprises. Mark was scheduled for chemotherapy three weeks in a row at the VA hospital, but unexpectedly the plan changed and he was given two weeks off. Mark and Mom planned a trip to Jacksonville, Illinois to visit friends and relatives, flying into nearby Springfield; a weekend last minute special cheap fare.This plan was changed because an ice storm was expected in the midwest. Mom found Mark a bargain ticket to Jackson Mississippi to visit his friend Ken and Ken's brother Gary. The guys sat in rockers on Ken's cabin porch out in the country, visited Ken's mother, checked out the casino food, rode motorcycles, and fished. Austin got an ice storm too. Mom worked 26 hours straight at the drug study clinic because relief staff could not make it in. Mark stayed two extra days in Jackson because of the likelihood of cancelled flights or not being able to get home from the Austin airport due to road closures. Sleeping in airports would be too much for someone with cancer. Mom came home from the 26 hour work experience and slept 15 hours straight.
Mr. Mark is lucky so many people love and care about him and he wants to live every minute he can. Loving kindness makes all the difference in the world to Mark and to others who are seriously ill and those who care for them.

Pinetop Perkins - Mark and Mom got an invitation from Barry Nowlin Friday night to hear music legend Pinetop Perkins at Antones, a famous music club in Austin. . At age 93 Pinetop plays great piano and has a wonderful singing voice. Unfortunately mom had to work but Mark was able to go and enjoy Pinetop's presentation for a couple of hours. Thank-you Barry! Mom worked 3-11 and Mark beat her home. He was fast asleep in his bed when Mom came home. Mark requires lots of rest, but miracle of miracles he is getting out and about. Check out Pinetop's concert dates accross the USA at http://www.pinetopperkins.com/index.htm Did you know that Pinetop was the piano player for Muddy Waters Band for 12 years? In addition to being a blues man he plays boggie woogie which is something mom loves.

Mark is lucky to have people wanting to spent time with him and share special events with him and even luckier for being able to do this. Think back to a few weeks ago when he could not get out of bed long due to pain and had trouble riding in a car to Houston. Now he is up more, much less pain, and he is able to drive to Houston. Mark still has to pace himself. After the two hour visit to Antones, he did some major resting.

Addendum January 22
We are getting e-mails from folks who volunteered with MEDICO in remote areas of Honduras and Nicaragua at the same time Mark and Mom did in the past. We think about the astounding things our teams did in bringing medical, eye, and dental care to people in the Moskito Coast and other isolated areas and the wonderful adventures we had. Mark and Mom can't go to remote areas far removed from modern medicine now, but would love to hear from more MEDICO volunteers and maybe you would like to learn more about MEDICO http://www.medico.org/ or more about some of our adventures in remote areas of the world .
Addendum January 27, o7
Today Mark is bored and has been bored most of this week. He has energy to use and can't come up with anything to do other than work on the computer. He bought some new software and hardware for the computer and is playing with it. This morning he advised me that he needs something to look forward to and asked when was his mom getting around to planning a trip or something. We head to Houston tomorrow in preparation for three days of chemotherapy. This is not what he had in mind.
If you click on any picture on the blog it will enlarge and you can see the details; for example click on the picture of Mark and his nurse in the next blog and you can see their faces. There are links throughout the blog that you can click on such as MEDICO and that webpage will come up.

January 09, 2007

Mr. Mark gets Chemotherapy at the VA, eats wonderful seafood, takes mom car shopping, and visits the Blanton Art Museum

Mark looks and says he feels the best he has for a real long time. He drove me to Houston, for his chemo appointments, partly because he likes to drive and felt good and partly because mom was tired having worked 12 hours, slept 4 and worked 5 more hours at the drug study clinic just before leaving on our Houston trip. We left Austin about 3 pm and had a pleasant drive on a warm sunny Sunday. During the drive, we talked about stopping and renting an RV and running away from home and chemo to tour the USA or go to the international airport in Houston and begin our around the world trip. It was tempting for Mark to skip chemo and avoid its awful side effects; however we stuck to our plans to go to the Veteran's Hospital Cancer Center on Monday. Mark's doctor for chemotherapy, under the supervision of Dr. Eppner, is Sira Hussan. She is very polite and wants to help. Mark's nurse today was Abraham Ferrer. His family comes from the Philippine islands and many of his family work as nurses in various health care facilities in the Houston area. Nurse Ferrer seems caring and does his best to understand Mark and others under his care.
Mark gets around and people remark on his hair. Mark had chemotherapy three days (Monday thru Wed). He pushed his IV stand around to socialize with other patients and their families and mom. One man who comes for chemo looked at Mark's thick head of hair and said: Your hair is going to fall out" and Mark replied that it had all fallen out already and even the hair under and on his arms fell out, but then it grew back in. This man said: " I hope mine grows back too." Mark hopes his does not fall out again.
We are a long way from understanding how the VA system works. We thought the clinic was only open on Monday and Friday, because those were the only options given to us for appointments before chemo started, but now we see clients for chemotherapy are here during the week and other patients too. The nurses and docs do seem to be close to some patients who have come here for awhile to get chemotherapy. We saw a warmer caring side of the nurses with patients receiving chemotherapy. Patient for chemo don't seem to wait as long as other patients, but everyone waits; some with early morning appointments wait all day thinking any minute they will be seen and finally in late afternoon they are seen. Most often, no amount of checking to see if one is forgotten elicits anything more than.."It won't be long."Hours and hours of waiting by patients and their families. I read that a researcher is studying the cost to patients and families who sit long hours in the waiting room.
Mark is enjoying his food. Two days in a row, Mark and I ate supper at the Baytown Seafood Market and Restaurant on South Main. The food is excellent. We've eaten gumbo, small lobster tails, fried oysters and shrimp. The price is good. The waitresses remembered us the second time we appeared. This is now my favorite restaurant in Houston. Mark's favorite in Austin is Austin's Pizza. He orders an Austin's pizza every two or three days. Even if he is nauseated and/or has no appetite, he somehow can eat Austin's Pizza. Maybe this pizza has some anti-cancer properties; could this be why Mark is feeling so good these days and feeling like he is in remission? Or is it support and prayers from all over the world; perhaps both pizza and prayers?
CARS Today after chemo, we looked in the hospital parking lot to find cars we liked and then went to several car dealerhsips where Mark and I test drove some new and used cars including his favorite one; the Toyota FJ with 4 wheel drive. We fear my 12 year old Honda will die on a trip to Houston or back. Mark used a good many arguments for mom buying a new car and we had a good bit of fun looking at cars.
Many nice things happened to Mark and me today and we feel the many prayers and nice thoughts people have for Mark and I are bringing us many blessings and we feel our burden lightened because of this. We feel not only blessed but supported and loved.
Plans change often without warning at the VA. We were given written instructions for Mark to have chemo three weeks in a row but just before we left the VA, we learned no chemo this coming week and we got a new schedule with two weeks off. We debate going on a small adventure.
Addendum 1/11/07 Today Mark and I went to the Blanton Museum of Art accross from the Bob Bullock Museum. For people all over the world contemplating a visit to Austin, the Blanton museum is free on Thursday. You only pay to park. The Luca Cambiaso (1527-1585) exhibit ends on Sunday. The Blanton owns 7 of Cambiaso's paintings, which is more than half of his paintings found in the USA. Many more of Cambiaso's paintings and his drawings are on loan and display now. Few of these paintings have been displayed outside of Italy. Cambiaso worked on the frescoes in the Escorial, an important monastery where much of Spain's Royalty has been entombed over centuries. Cambiasco died at Escorial in 1586. James I visited Escorial in the mid '80s and loved it. After this exhibit there are many more exhibits to come and the permanent collections are wonderful.Mark really enjoyed his trip to the Blanton.