May 19, 2007

Mark chases and catches an armadillo,brings it home, and shows it to neighbor Sierra and friend (Click on pictures to enlarge them)

Mark spotted four young armadillos on one of his walks around the block; walks he does to build up strength and endurance for his battle against cancer. After a wild chase and catching one which got away and had to be caught again, Mark brought an armadillo home, put it in a box, and showed it to Sierra and her friend. He wanted a picture of himself and the girls with the armadillo. When he attempted to take the armadillo out of the box, it got away again, which led to a chase down the hill in our yard and through an opening in the pool fence and through the garden and up the deck and down the deck and under the deck and finally another catch and pictures. Quite a show for a sick man. He claimed he was worn out after all this. Mark did take the armadillo back around the block to the hole in the side of the hill; a home he shares with the other three or so armadillos. It is never dull when Mark is around.
Story from the past: When Mark was in junior high school, I was driving him and his sister from town to our home in the country. On the edge of town he spotted a mink running in someone's yard. He yelled for me to stop the car. He jumped out and chased the mink and caught it by hand and put it in a paper sack in the car. Of course it got loose in the car. I was driving somewhat wildly expecting the mink to run across my body any minute and a state police trooper stopped us to see what the problem was. By this time Mark had caught the mink again and the trooper was amazed and let us go on. We put the mink in a cage. Mark caught a frog in our pond and fed it to the mink who ate the frog reducing it bones and all to the consistency of chewing gum. Minks have very sharp teeth. After a few weeks, Mark turned the mink loose in the country.
People from 52 countries have seen the blog - It was 51 for a long time and somehow Stephanie got someone from Panama to log on last night. People have logged on from: Austria, Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, China, Czech republic, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, India, Italy, Israel, Japan, So Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Madagascar,Morocco, Myanmar, Northern Marianas Islands, Mexico, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Singapore, El Salvador, Thailand, Turkey, USA, Serbia, and So. Africa.
Addendum: May 20, 2007 A friend Dies - just this morning we got an e-mail that Mike Walter died. About two years ago, he went to Bumrungrad Hospital for a heart problem and surgery. which had to be delayed because the doctors routinely run cancer markers and check for cancer at Bumrungrad. They found Mike's cancer which had been overlooked in the states. He was treated in the same Bumrungrad Cancer Center in Bangkok Thailand that Mark was treated in. Mark, Mom. and Stephanie spent time with Mike and his wife Sam. After many treatments Mike and Sam came back to the states. In order for Mike to get affordable treatment in the states, he and Sam had to divorce, but she still took care of him. Mike was blessed with Sam's good care and further blessed with a quiet death at a time he was actually feeling better and visiting his sister. He was greatly loved by family and friends and even those who knew him a short time.
MOM's Column in Austin Family (newsmagazine) Don't forget to read mom's articles in Austin Family. See link on right hand side under links. click on the words Austin Family to go to a picture of the cover of the newsmagazine. Click on Family Matters.You will be asked to sign up as a user or give your e-mail address but there is no cost. Mom has writen a monthly column in this paper for over 15 years. Another way to see Austin Family is to click on this link

Mark's niece Alyssa plays soccer (Alyssa on the right -click on picture to enlarge it)
Soccer has caught on in the USA and lots of young people play soccer these days. Alyssa is 7 years old and plays on the Bearcats team in San Antonio where she lives with brother Nathan and mom Linzey. Mr. Mark did not go to this game, but when he heard from mom that the family went out to a restaurant where you get all the snow crab claws you want, he decided he might go the next time. Mark is very fond of crab meat; not only the snowcrab claws but other kinds of crabs too (and lobsters and oysters too).

Mark stayed home from the game on San Antonio because he does not like to ride in the car that far and because the air conditioner repairman was expected. Mark took care of having our air conditioner repaired. It was not working for 24 hours or so. After not sleeping for a few days, Mark slept nearly the entire 24 hours the air conditioner was out. I thought about the times Mark and I volunteered with MEDICO in Honduras and Nicaragua in the Moskito Coast and slept through heat and rain awakening in sweat or lying in a puddle and bathing in lakes and rivers and even one trip drinking river water with government supplied chlorine drops added. A few days without air conditioning is not so bad when you think of people all over the world living in places as hot as or hotter than Austin Texas and not having air conditioning.

Cancer is a strange thing and so too are the effects of chemotherapy. One or the other of these along with the pain medication and regulating it seems to affect the heat regulating system of the body. Mark is sometimes chilled when it is scorching hot and hot when the house air conditioner is set to frostbite conditions. He sometimes can't sleep for days and then hibernates for days.

Marlin had a birthday. He is now 7 years old like Alyssa in story above. See story of Marlin below.

Mom's "girl friends" and Mark
Mom invited some women friends to come for an evening meal and a trip to the ballet. Mark helped James prepare the food, waited on everyone, and had his picture taken with Mom's friends. After the ballet, some of the women came back to talk to Mark. Quoting Mark: "Mom, I like your girl friends." Mark thrives on being social and having friends over, even mom's friends and their grown children, who are now his friends too.

Mark has taken over the kitchen ensuring that it is sparkling clean at all times. He waters and cares for all the plants. He has fed the squirrels each day and now we have a multitude of squirrels calling on us every day. Our trees and decks are often full of squirrels playing and looking for food. Our neighbor Keith had to have his kitty, Miss Ginger Fluffy, put to sleep. Mark visited Keith and offered his condolences.

Saturday May 12 was very busy. We picked up Marlin age 6 (almost 7) whom we are mentoring and took him to Dan's restaurant for pancakes. He was such a gentleman opening the doors for everyone. We bought toys for his little brother at a church fund raiser, made cookies, and went to a children's play, and went swimming. He showed Mark how good he is at putting puzzles together. Marlin volunteered to help Mark wash the car, water the plants, clean the pool. Mark was impressed with how good a kid Marlin is. "Yes, Marlin we do like you!"

Mark and neighbor on our porch having a wake for Keith''s cat (click on picture to enlarge it)

After we took Marlin home, we had a memorial service (wake) for neighbor Keith's cat. His 15 year old cat stopped eating and nothing the vet did would cause her to rally so Keith's veterinarian gave Keith's cat a transfer to the Eternal Care Unit (Heaven). Several neighbors attended the wake and several people spoke about Miss Ginger Fluffy and how she will be missed. Some neighbors competed in a quest to find Keith a new cat (one or more of their cats) but Keith is still grieving for his Miss Fluffy.

May 09, 2007

May 9 Mark and Mom returned from the Houston Veteran's Hospital. Mark expected three days of chemotherapy, but as usual on Monday we saw a doctor new to us, Dr. Xiou (Shoe)who was very personable. Dr. Xiou ordered another CAT scan which Mark had on Tuesday. He said he is thinking Mark's cancer could be fairly stable and he could stop chemotherapy for awhile since Mark has had so many days of chemotherapy over the past two years and concern about the effects of so much chemotherapy. The doc found some expiratory wheezing in Mark's lower left lobe of his lung but prescribed nothing for it. I could hear the wheezing with my naked ear i.e. without a stethoscope. Cause? Unknown. As certainty that Mark is better or worse or the same. Life is very uncertain, but when unaffected by cancer, most of us don't worry about it. People with cancer do worry and those around them worry and uncertainty is their constant companion.

After a year and a half of chemotherapy and lab tests requiring access to veins in Thailand, Mark's veins were in very good shape. After a half a year of VA personnel trying to get venous access on Mark, the veins in his arms are in bad shape. He often wants to tell people at the VA, stop you are going about that all wrong and he wants to gather them and give them some instruction like he had in the Navy as a corpsman and then as a respiratory therapist. The lab work this trip was from a vein in his thumb and the cat scan venous access was through a small vein on the inside of his wrist. How painful is that? Answer: Very if you are the one getting the needle. Not so bad if you are the one inserting the needle.

We met some extremely nice people at the VA and elsewhere. In addition to Dr. Xiou I think that Bill in X-ray was one of the nicest people I have run into at the VA. I talked to him on the phone about getting Mark scheduled for a stat CAT scan rather than having us make a special trip back to Houston. He said he would talk to staff about that and get back to me. He called me back and gave me the affirmative and instructions for the prep and how and when it could be picked up. For once I did not have to guess or know the questions to ask. When I went to pick Mark up, I had to wait in line to ask if he was still back in the scan room or if he was done. I could hear this man at the desk being nice to everyone...It was Bill. He is now one of my role models.

We stay at the Best Western Reliant Park which gives a medical discount. Most of the people staying there seem to be patients or relatives of patients at the various medical facilities in the Medical Complex which includes MD Anderson and many more hospitals and treatment centers. We met two ladies from Oklahoma at breakfast in the motel, one has a daughter Debbie who has adrenal cancer. You may know that the adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and affect many functions of the body. I gave her the blog address. I hope she will write and tell me about this adrenal cancer and its treatment and let us know how she is doing.

May 6 Mark did not sleep for 48 hours or so after arriving home from his month in Thailand Was this due to the 12 hour difference in time, for example when it is midnight here, it is noon in Thailand? Or was it due to something else...thoughts on his mind perhaps. Maybe thoughts about cancer and death or perhaps other fears. He has a fear people will break into our house and this could be due to the mysterious death of a friend's father some years ago in which the father was apparently killed with an axe by an intruder. It could be due to multiple car vandalism on our street twice in recent years. When we moved into our current house 20 some years ago, we felt safe even if we forgot to lock the door or left the garage door up. Not anymore. Doors must be closed and locked. I used to dream of buying a convertible again but I changed my dream to a sun roof after vandals slashed my neighbor's cloth convertible top and stole his new music/radio system, given to him just days earlier by his wife. Finally Mark fell asleep in the middle of the night last night.

May 4 Latest News: Mark is back in Austin. Arrived Thursday evening after 26 hours on planes: Bangkok to Narita (Tokyo) to San Francisco to Denver to Austin.
He looked great on arrival, which he attributes to no chemotherapy for two months and a month on a Thai Beach. Friday and Saturday are days of rest for Mark then Sunday we head to the Veteran's Hospital in Houston for blood tests and chemotherapy. This weekend in Austin (May 5-6) is the Pecan Street Festival which has several blocks of booths with artists showing their wares and some live music and food.

May2 Last day in Bangkok and Mark is on his way back to Austin
Mark e-mailed that he was sitting in a dentist's office in Bangkok and e-mailing from there. Reminds me of a time I went to a beauty shop in South Korea and there were free computers to use while waiting for service or waiting for someone. The East is ahead of us in using technology in a number of ways.

April 28-29 While Mark is taking a break from cancer treatment in
Thailand, -Mom and James Checked
Out Festivals in and Around Austin

James and Mom went to two festivals in Austin in one day: the dragon boat races on town lake and the German Heritage Maifest. The Asian population and Asian food were evident at the dragon boat races while descendants of German immigrants to Texas and German food and beer were at the German festival. We were surprised to learn that there is a German Heritage Society in a beautiful old building with lovely grounds on a hill on 10th street in the heart of Austin. This was the home of John C. Meusebach (1812-1897) He was called Baron Von Meuselbach by the Texas pioneers, El Sol Coronado by the Indians because of his red hair and beard, and Senator by the Governor. He is said to have founded Fredricksburg.

Read about Meusebach above by double clicking or the left hand picture twice to enlarge it. In the Society's garden, one musician was playing the accordian and the other was playing a garden rake on a wooden bench using salt.

We ran into the young men from Austin Community College where they are studying German. The house is built sideways on a hill which was fascinating to Mom. There are several interesting activities in and around Austin Texas every weekend. We will try to keep Mark going to some of these fun things as we take his mind off of cancer.

If you are new to the blog, be aware you can read about medical care in Bangkok and about Thailand and Saipan in back issues of the blog by clicking archived entries listed on the right hand side.