March 28, 2007

Stephanie (Mark's sister) is in Austin for two days. She lives and works in Yokosuka, Japan. A big excitement for Steph and Mom was seeing Sandra Bullock and her husband Jesse James and their son Jessie Jr. in the airport waiting for luggage. The next excitement was heading for Artz Rib House for baby back ribs and music. Art visited with us. He guessed that Sandra Bullock was in Austin for new Quentin Tarrantino film opening. Breakfast at Dan's Hamburgers on Lamar and a look at the tile wall being created by Jean Graham and the people of two Austin neighborhoods were the next adventures. Steph is squeezing in a lot of Austin things to do in a short time before heading to Chicago to present at an educator's conference.

Steph and Mark put a special homemade dry rub on a beef brisket and slow smoked it. Steph values this time with Mark, not knowing if he will survive cancer for two more days, two years, or twenty.

Steph's childhood friend, Kathy Lacey, from high school came up from the Woodlands in Houston and brought her mom, Norma, from Jacksonville, Illinois to eat brisket with us.

Betty, Kathy, Stephanie, Mark, and Norma

Dave,Dorie, and Mark: friends who came for bar-b-que and a visit (Dave's birthday is April 17 and Mark's is April 20
March 23, 2007
Tell (Mark's Mom) Betty Lou
HAPPY BIRTHDAY tomorrow or anytime in the next two weeks. She celebrates for a long time!!! And pass the address for this blog on to everyone you know; Mom loves to see the number counter and flag board change...!
(Stephanie, logged in as Mom)

Mom got a birthday cake surprise after a meeting of the staff from all shifts at the drug study clinic (CCRI) where she works part time. Even the subjects got cake (except for those in one study where the diet is tightly regulated). Bright and early on the 24th, 5 year old neighbor Jack was at the door with a great birthday card he had made. The birthday afternoon was spent at the Bob Bullock Museum volunteering to help children make a cartouche i.e. write their names in Egyptian hierglyphics, within an oval, using stamp pads with caracters for the letters.

Mark is resting for his trip to Thailand and he will be there for his birthday April 20th (3rd birthday since he was given 3 months to live. His arm where chemo medicine apparently leaked out into the tissues is much better. Pray that Mark is able to get to Thailand and back safely one more time. Mark got a hair cut after James threatened to mow it with a lawn mower and warned Mark that birds were going to nest in it any day.

Friend Frank reports he is recovering from surgery for similar esophogeal gastric tumor as Mark's - after chemo, radiation, then surgery removing part of his stomach and esophagus and some lymph nodes with anastamosis of the stomach and eophagus. This is a common approach to treating esophageal gastric tumors in major cancer treatment centers today. Frank says it takes a surprisingly long time to regain strength from the surgery, but that he is doing very well now. Mark had the chemo and radiation but not the surgery. Had Mark had insurance, he probably would have gotten surgery too.

Durrel (husband of Pam who taught with Stephanie in Japan) died of cancer at his home in Cloudcroft just days after leaving Houston where the medical centers could do no more for him. While teaching in Japan, Pam had gotten a dream assignment in Italy and she and her husband had moved there. Then Durrel was diagnosed with cancer in January of this year, returned to the states, was in Houston about a month, to Cloudcroft for days, then gone to a final resting place. Durrel will be missed; we were fortunate to have known him.
Keep praying for a cancer vaccine, preventative, and cure.

March 11, 2007

Another Trip to VA, Mr Really Nice Guy and Mr. Fussy, and the answer to whether Mark will go to Bangkok one more time or not, and the latest buzz in cancer research.
The Accommodations and Trip to VA to Get Chemo and Cat Scan
Mark and I went to Houston for his chemo the week before last and returned home without chemo because Mark's WBC's were too low. On Sunday, the guys had to drive down to Houston again and they shared a room in the courtesy quarters at the VA Hospital on the 4th floor. Two double rooms share a bathroom and Mark reports that he and James were locked out of the bathroom from 4 pm until 10 pm. Mark reports a fight breaking out on the floor which James did not even hear. They could only get this VA room for one night due to heavy demand so they went to the only motel that seemed to have vacant rooms for Monday and Tuesday nights. Houston Rodeo people still have all the rooms booked. The guys report that the ceiling in their rooms was falling in and a car had run into one room and it was left caved in, and the motel did not really have internet except one computer in the lobby which was used by neighbors and nearby schoolchildren and seldom available to guests of the motel, but otherwise it was ok. James went with Mark to Houston as Mom had a National League of Nursing assignment in Pine Bluff Arkansas from Monday until Thursday night.

Mark picked Mom up at the airport on Thursday looking like he was going to surf a wave in Hawaii. He has been boating on Lake Austin with his friend David the last three evenings. They boat down to the Hula Hut and get a bite to eat. What a life! Mark has gotten in all the boating he could as he anticipates being really sick from chemotherapy three days after chemo. Mark is trying to squeeze in all the fun and enjoyment in life that he can and not let cancer treatment consume all the time he has left. He plans to go to Bangkok for one more trip April 3 to May 3. He talked Dr. Breene, his doctor this week, into thinking it was ok: a small sabbatical from chemotherapy.
Mr. Fussy and Mr Nice Guy
There is somewhat of a pattern in which anywhere from one day to three days after chemo until several days before time for chemo again, Mark gradually becomes Mr. Fussy, until he is not happy with anyone or anything, slumped over, depressed, sick, dying, irritable, and worse. Several days before time for chemo again he gradually becomes Mr Really Nice Guy so thoughtful and full of energy, washing and cleaning up the car, cooking, cleaning the house, doing fun things, and positive about everything. Chemo is very crazy making.
Kris Brown's Father who has cancer and is at Sloan Kettering
Kris' father is doing better. He was accumulating fluid in his chest and having to have it drained. Some innovative doc in the ER found a way to fix the problem. no more fluid accumulation. Thanks to Kris I learned that the big thing at Sloan Kettering and many other places seems to be immunotherapy. That is the buzz in research today. Check immunotherapy for adenocarcinoma (type Mark has) .Note: if you click on the words "immunotherapy for adenocarcinoma" above you will go to an interesting article on the latest research.

March 03, 2007

Mark (center Right) and Allen his friend center left: the two guys with hook em horns signs: the UT sign representing the horns of the Longhorn steer. UT vs A&M mens basketball
Busy Week
Mark and mom returned from the VA hospital in Houston on Tuesday night. Mark's friend Allen from Reno arrived on Wed around 4 p.m.My boss Dr. Brown had given me 2 tickets for the University of Texas vs Texas A and M men's basketball game. I had promised to take our own Aggie James (A and M grad X3) to the game for his birthday. Through a stroke of luck and possibly devine intervention, co-worker Leon gave me his tickets for Mark and Allen (both big UT fans). It was the best game I'd ever seen going into double overtime before A and M got outscored by two points (James says Aggies don't loose..they just get out scored). The game was sold out and scalpers were buying tickets and not selling except in rare instances. I saw 2 tickets selling for $500 which was the going price.
Dr. Eppner would probably get upset with Mark and me if he knew Mark was at a sold out basketball game crowd with his low WBCs and impaired immunity. I do worry some myself, but mark is determined to live life to the fullest. I rationalize that the arena is probably not as dangerous as the hospital waiting room where sick people cough on you.
Mark was on a natural high after the game. Mark and Allen have been alternating sleep and boating on Lake Austin these past two days and Mom has been alternating working three part-time jobs and social and business secretary to Mark with some other fun too.
Not living too high. Least you mistakenly think we are living too high, I am still driving my 10 year old Honda, using my tea bag twice and the guys are staying at no frills places on the quest for a cat scan and chemo in Houston.
Mark and mom in Houston This Past Week
Mark's doctor at the VA in Houston this past Monday: Dr. Chaiyarat Walailuk
This past Sunday when we went to Houston, we were concerned that we couldn't find a hotel room to reserve for Tuesday night due to the Rodeo being at Reliant Stadium and rodeo folks having booked up all rooms anywhere near the Medical Complex. Our hotel is full of cowboys and cowgirls in boots and cowboy hats(jeans and shirts too) .
Click on newspaper to make it big enough to read
We feared we might be homeless under a bridge tomorrow night, but it turned out we won't need a room Tuesday night. Mark's white blood count was too low today to get chemo so we'll go home Tues. after his bone scan rather than Wed. Maybe some of Mark's depressed mood, extreme irritability, and exhaustion is explained by his very low white blood count. Mark's doctor today is from Thailand and knows the doctor who cared for Mark in Thailand. She says Dr. Theera is famous and she was one of his students at the University in Bangkok. She was very professional and yet caring. She and Dr. Eppner are concerned that Mark wants to go to Thailand for a couple of months. They (we) are concerned about his compromised immune system and the risks of traveling with ill passengers and the stress of the long trip. They do not want to be caring for Mark, then not caring for him, and then caring again; viewing this as fragmented care at best. Mom understands their position and on the other hand understands Mark's love of Thailand and people there and his love of adventure and feeling mortal after years of feeling invincible. Could the trip to Thailand be delayed some and possibly shortened to facilitate his treatment for cancer and hopefully keep him alive longer or should he hasten to lie on the beaches of Thailand in case he has only a very short time to live regardless of treatment? The decision is Mark's and it is a tough decision for him.
And It's Not All About Mark - Mark often says "It's not all about me" so I am careful to add important information about other people.

Kitty Worley - All around us people have cancer. Our friend Fred Worley's mother Kitty Worley died of pancreatic cancer. She died a month after diagnosis. Eighty-three years young, she had taught Spanish in the high school at College Station, Texas for 32 years; a ray of sunshine and enthusiasm always. Mom and Stephanie were lucky to meet her and work with her on medical mission trips to Mexico. There were so many people at her service that when we arrived 15 minutes early, the very large church parking lot was full and we had to park 5 blocks away to arrive just after the service began. People were hiking in from greater distances for some time after us with standing room only
Kris Brown's Father - I work part time as a nurse for Dr. Brown and his wife Kris at their drug research facility. Kris is always so kind to ask about Mark and to tell me her family prays for Mark each night. Yesterday Kris reminded me that her father has cancer and is being treated at Sloan Kettering. She has a second family member with cancer. I must ask Kris for more information. It isn't all about Mark. Some of it is about all of you and the struggles you have with your own health problems and those you care for too.
If you have cancer or someone you know has cancer and you would like people to think kind thoughts or pray for you or someone else, let me know and I will write a little something for you.
Bush Presidential Library-Bryan College Station
We went to the Bush Presidential Library while we were in Bryan College Station. Unlike the LBJ Library which is free on the University of Texas Campus, the Bush Library at Texas A and M University has an entrance fee of 5 dollars for seniors and a bit more for younger upward mobile types. I like the LBJ library best because I find it interesting and being free, I am motivated to take visitors to Austin there and I go there often.
It is about you too! Internet Hoax and How to Find Out if Something is a Hoax!
Yesterday a friend sent out a plea to all her friends including me: a plea from someone claiming to have a missing 13 year old daughter and wanting everyone to circulate the message and picture of the beautiful young girl to all our acquaintences. I posted it on the blog then discovered the e-mail address for the mother would not work. Daughter Stephanie went to and found out this particular missing girl plea was a hoax so we took the plea and picture off this blog. You can use the to find out about hoaxes that are circulating.
A tad of additional information on Mark - About a week ago, Mark, his friend Bruce, James, Marisela and her sister and brother, Tomas a pastor on the East side and his wife Connie and I all went to see Sharks: a 3-D IMAX. Wow! The fish and sharks swam out in the audience and it was educational and not scarey at all. After the movie Mark told me that he was going to Las Vegas and asked: "Mom could you take me to the airport to catch a 6 am flight?" So I did. He had been telling Bruce he wasn't going to Vegas because he was not feeling well, but gave in when he found a cheap ticket and hotel combination. He came back Sat. and arrived at the airport at 3:45 am. He may have spent most of this time in Vegas in bed, but it was a different bed.
Mark is itching to spend some time in Bangkok. He continues to ride the roller coaster of cancer; feels good for awhile, sick for awhile, fears he is dying any minute then acts like he feels he is immortal, too sick to go somewhere, anxious to get moving while he still feels good enough to travel, joking and showing his sense of humor, irritable and Mr. Fussy.
A strange side effect of chemo: Remember Mark's face getting beet red for a few days before he went to Vegas? His face peeled like a sunburn.
Last Saturday night Mark was feeling so bad he didn't go with James and Mom to hear Pinetop Perkins at Ms B's Restaurant on East 11th. A real upscale place. Pinetop came to support some young piano students from the East side who were playing tonight. He and the band from Antone's played after the young pianists. It was great!
See picture of the world famous blues piano player and community treasure Mr Pinetop Perkins, in his chartreuse Hat, and mom. Taken outside Ms B's