December 15, 2008
Mark is now on the beach, Jomtien Beach, Thailand - Mark arrived just in time for a party at the guest house where he stays. He plans to walk the beach for exercise then read and rest under a beach umbrella. See the picture of his Christmas stocking that we hung by the chimney for him in his absence. We had the tree up for three weeks before Mark left so he could get the feel of Christmas. If you think we have a lot of gifts, many are gift bags for people who are mentally ill living in group homes. The contents are donated by Rotary friends, our neighbors and other friends.
Mark got his eyeglasses in Thailand the day after he arrived . He used his old frames and got prescription lenses for 25 dollars.
Mark's cancer is said to be in remission by the doctors at the VA hospital in Houston although they are watching a small mass in the left kidney which has not enlarged in recent cat scans.
For those of you with cancer or caring for someone with cancer who are interested in the treatment aspect: the last chemo Mark received was in June 2007 (18 months ago) at the VA hospital in Houston. It was a 3 day regimen of Carboplatin (paraplatin) 517 mg in 250 cc normal saline over 30 minutes on day one only, Fluorouracil 1000 mg IV push days 1-3, and Leucoverin Ca 600 mg in 100 ml. normal saline infused over 30 minutes days 1-3. We stayed in a Best Western in Houston for three days and three nights going to the hospital each day for Mark's chemo. Mark wanted to stay on chemo...his goal to stay alive no matter how sick but the docs were concerned about his quality of life. Granted life has better quality when not on chemo but quality is a mute point if you are not alive.
Mark's initial chemo in Thailand was somewhat different. I will look it up and report it here later. At that time, he got a lot more IV fluid with his chemo and had to stay overnight in the hospital at least one night of each chemo round. He was a lot sicker. He was followed very closely as he was just a 50 cent Taxi ride from the hospital. At that time he was fighting ongoing nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss, periodically low white counts, low red blood cells, tremendous chills, a tendency to over heat, weakness, low blood pressure, foot and hand neurasthenia, feeling weak and exhausted and many other symptoms as well. Mark was also getting radiation initially and again later when he developed a chest wall tumor. While others thought he would surely die within months, Mark tells me he never ever thought he would die. Maybe that helped keep him alive along with your cards and prayers. Being in remission and on the beach is like night and day compared to his first two years of treatment in and out of Bumrumgrad Hospital. A good Christmas present would be for Mark to stay in remission.
November 22, 2008
Mark Has Five Whirlwind Days After Resting a Week To Get Ready.
Mark seemed a little down and not his usual positive funny self, so James and I got him a ticket to go to Reno to meet up with his former co-worker Allan and Allan's friend Mike.
The guys managed to get in some skiing on Mt Rose in Tahoe. They went Scuba Diving in California, watched a Football Game, and ate seafood at the Atlantis Hotel in Reno.
Mark came home in a great mood; all psyched up. Right now he is resting up by reading a lot so he can be ready to go to Thailand soon.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I know Mark is thankful to have good friends like Alan, Mike, and others who are too many to name here. Everyone reading the blog is a friend to Mark.
Addendum December 5th 2008. Mark leaves for Thailand on Tuesday the 9th. Our friends Barry Nowland and Pinetop Perkins the 95 year old Blues piano player are headed to Washington DC. and will go in a limo in tuxes to the White House this weekend. Pinetop is nominated for another Grammy. We know Barry doesn't have the big head yet cause he dropped by with a hamburger for mom at work and went out with Mark and friend Frank on Thursday night. See earlier blogs for pictures of Pinetop.
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November 09, 2008
The Christmas season has begun. Two Christmas parties last Sunday. Austin Family Magazine Christmas card shoot and right after that we went to a cast Christmas party and shoot for the
movie Mark is in called Ten Little Santas. I am seriously thinking about putting our Christmas tree up.
Picture above and left - Mark top left, Frank Seccuro top middle, Jerry Barrett top right (click on any picture to enlarge it).
We squeeze trips to the VA around our shoots and parties. Mark had a headache at the base of his skull for three days so he took a trip to the local VA clinic. They sent him immediately to the VA in Temple Texas to get a cat scan of his brain. The next day Mark decided the pain had gone into his ear. He had an appointment to get an admission history the next day at our local VA and mentioned his ear. It turned out that his pain is probably due to an ear infection so he is on antibiotics. Two appointments coming up in Houston at the VA; a urology appointment on the 10th and an oncology appointment on the 21st.
October 21, 2008
Kenny moved to Mississippi to help take care of his mother. Last year Mark went to Mississippi to visit Kenny and rocked with him on the porch of his home. Not too long ago we learned that Kenny had an illness which he was fighting, adult onset acute leukemia . Today Mark learned in a letter from Kenny's brother that Kenny took a turn for the worse, went into ICU, and his heart gave out. Mark was supposed to die more than three years ago from his cancer. He wonders why he is still alive and several young friends are dead. His only conclusion: "God obviously has work for me and I wonder what it is."
Kenny Walker is loved and missed. We will write more about him and put a picture on the blog when we get ourselves pulled together.
Mark had an MRI last Wed. and saw the Doctor on Friday. We stayed overnight in Houston Tuesday for the Wednesday MRI and made a flying one day trip down in the car on Friday. We know little more than before the test. The doctors are watching a spot on Mark's left kidney. He was doing poorly last week, not eating, not drinking, dehydrated, lost 12 pounds, sleeping nearly around the clock, mood depressed, complaining of excess saliva a symptom he had when first diagnosed and this worried him. By Saturday night he perked up and was making lists of things he wanted from the grocery store. Mark went to our neighborhood block party (BBQ and a band) at the end of the block for a little while Sat. night. This was called a recession buster party and it set a new standard for neighborhood parties. Mark didn't stay too long, conserving his energy for a film shoot this morning (Sunday) which lasted about two and a half hours in which he had several scenes including a couple of running scenes and one scene in which he discovers a dead girl.
Mark's step dad James and I played hosts/docents to 650 American Bar Association members and guests who came to the Bob Bullock museum Thursday night for dinner (prime rib), music performances, dancing and the three floors of exhibits. 12 buses brought the attendees. There were museum staff and catering staff but I believe we were the only two docents. Amazingly, the museum can accommodate 650 guests quite well. James and I did get to eat prime rib and dance a little.
We went to the museum again today to help with activities for the children in connection with a new exhibit called Cowboy Presidents. We also got to hear Ben Sargent, our local Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist, speak. We felt OK leaving Mark. He was feeling better but not well enough to go with us. My hat is off to Mark for all the common sense he has gained and how he paces himself to have strength to battle cancer and do a few interesting things.
October 08, 2008
Mark helps host our neighborhood watch party- Each year in Austin Texas neighborhoods are encouraged to have neighborhood parties so neighbors can get together and get to know each other and find ways to make neighborhoods safer. This year our neighbors were invited to meet in our yard and eat hot dogs and visit. We ended up visiting on the driveway as well as the yard. People brought food and drink to share so we had pizza, appetizers, slaw, chips, salsa, health drinks, etc. Twenty five people showed up along with children and two special dogs. Mark is upper left in the garage in the top picture talking to neighbor Troy who works for Dell Computers. Mark is on the left in the middle picture where he is visiting with Pete (center) who is a pilot flying ultra-lites and larger planes and Dagmir (right) who along with his wife Rose own a travel agency specializing in cruises. To find out about their travel deals go to www.Sterling Vacations.com or call toll free 1-866-345-7755,
Click on any picture on this blog to enlarge it and get greater detail.
Events and activities take Mark's mind off his cancer and worry that his esophageal cancer is back or his liver cancer is growing or his chest wall tumor is coming back. He has been depressed at times recently. He always rallys himself and fights off his depression by taking on an adventure or a chore. Yesterday Mark cleaned, organized, and cooked for the neighborhood party. Today Mark cleaned James' truck and did a great job. Tonight Mark is being filmed for the movie Ten little Santas.
Mark will get an MRI this coming week at the VA in Houston. If the MRI report is good, Mark will head for Thailand next month.
Sister Stephanie sent an e-mail this morning and said: "I'm on the crossing from Calais to Dover right now and they have wireless... so thought I'd check in.". She heads to Turkey for eye surgery on Saturday; her second and hopefully last eye surgery.
Below: Yuki from Japan married to Troy who is in top picture talking to Mark. Their little girl is in the middle picture playing with a neighbor doggie. click on the picture to get more detail.
October 01, 2008
Below: Elke (right) and Betty (Mark's Mom)
Hinrich and Elke
Sometimes the blog is about friends who need prayers (not always about Mark)
Today Elke wrote to say that Hinrich is fighting for his life. He has bone cancer and is undergoing treatment. I hope all of you who read this blog will say prayers for Hinrich and Elke.
You can read a little about our day with them May 11, 2005 in Emden, Germany and some little Ostfriesland villages by going to the archives May 12, 2005. Ostfriesland is an area in the north of Germany very near the North Sea. Much of the land was reclaimed from the sea. Elke's husband Hinrich is a boat builder in Emden and he is a great genealogist. He helped me immensely with finding some ancestors in Ostfriesland and living cousins there. When Mark was his sickest and we were in Amsterdam, Hinrich and Elke talked Mark and I into riding the train to Groningen and they picked us up there, drove us to Emden, let Mark rest, fed us lunch, spent the day with us at our cousins' house and drove us back to Groningen to catch the train. Even though I was not sure at the time whether Mark would live through the day everyday that we were in Europe and wasn't sure if I would get him back to Bangkok alive, he went and had a memorable time....thanks to Hinrich and Elke.
You can read a little about our day with Elke, Hinrich, and our cousins (Werner Gerdes and his family) May 11, 2005 by going to the archives dated May 12, 2005 (see archives in right hand column).
Note: Mark was diagnosed in Feb. 2005 and given three months or less to live...He was loosing weight rapidly and extremely ill when we started the trip to Europe but he returned looking much better. He looked so bad in pictures taken in Germany that I can't post one of him as he would kill me or at least be mad at me.
At one time early on Mark had bone cancer as well as esophageal cancer with metastasis to the liver. I often fail to mention his bone cancer as it responded early on to treatment. Let's hope and pray that Hinrich's bone cancer responds to treatment and disappears.
September 28, 2008
Mark and his Mom suited up for the University of Texas-U of Arkansas Game
Yesterday Mark and I went to the Texas-Arkansas game. Kickoff was at 2:30. We were excited to have a parking pass and parked close to the stadium. The day was real hot and we were in the lower section of the upper deck at the stadium. We had a great view. I had packed a large baggie with ice cubes and two washcloths. The ice melted and we put the cold wet cloths on our necks. We had bandannas, sunscreen, hats, a fan and cold drinks. Before the game and at half time, we went across the street to the Alumni Center where there was shade, dark rooms with big screen TVs, food and drink. It was great fun. Mark having cancer and many many days in the recent past when he could not get out of bed or the condo in Bangkok because of low white counts, low red counts, nausea, vomiting, no energy, and other complications has driven the point home that it is important to have fun when you can.
Mom's purse springs a leak - Mark noticed that my purse was seriously dripping water by the time we got to the Alumni Center. The zip lock did not hold on that baggie with melted ice mentioned above. A few things got wet including a zillion business cards which are now separated and drying out on the kitchen counters. A minor casualty of our fun day.
September 24, 2008
1. No biopsy. He was prepared for the biopsy. The IV was running and the anesthetist ready when the doc decided not to do the biopsy. The mass is small and the doc decided to wait and see what happens. If Mark is in more pain or pees red or the mass grows, the biopsy can be on again.
2. The pain clinic staff was happy with Mark's gradual self imposed reduction in pain med over the past year or so. He has cut his pain med to a fourth of what it was in the past.
3. All motels/hotels in Houston on 290 or 620 seem to be full. Repair crews staying at these places. Mark and James were lucky to find a room. Our usual motel one half block from Reliant Stadium and a few blocks from the VA was full but the guys were assigned a suite because we are steady customers there.
4. There was damage by the hurricane in areas of Houston and 20% of Houston does not have electricity now.
Message 9/24 Mark is in Houston and will have a kidney biopsy in the morning - For a long time Mark has had a mass on his left kidney. A biopsy about three years ago found it to be non malignant. The biopsy is being repeated at the Veterans' Hospital in Houston tomorrow morning at 8 am. There is some thought that the tumor on the kidney will be removed. When? We don't know. Mark had to cancel being filmed for the role of playboy/boyfriend tonight and tomorrow night due to the biopsy which he had hoped to reschedule but was unsuccessful at doing this. Mark called from the motel in Houston tonight and he was in good spirits. Mark's step father James is a good sport and drove Mark to Houston while Mark's Mom is taking care of the mentally ill in Austin. Pray for Mark getting good news from his biopsy tomorrow morning.
September 10, 2008
Mark is home after a trip to Reno and California with his friend Alan. I have yet to get a report on his trip or the filming as I am in Downham, England visiting Mark's sister Stephanie and won't return home until late Sunday. Awaiting pictures from Mark of his trip.
Upcoming renal biopsy
Mark's appointment with a renal surgeon at the VA on the 10th of Sept. was cancelled. The doctors now want to biopsy his left kidney rather than proceding with surgery. Mark has a report that he had a renal biopsy in Thailand and it was negative. One problem is that he does not recall that biopsy and it was two years or so ago and no one at the hospital talked about it. We just found the report in his files when we got copies of all his files.
Mark's Mom and Sister Stephanie in England
Mom at the Sandringham Estate of Queen Elizabeth (click on any picture to enlarge it)
We went to the Queen's estate called Sandringham last weekend. This is a fabulous estate. I greatly enjoyed touring the house and the museum. The royal family spends Christmas each year at Sandringham and the place is full of history. Not only do royals live in historic places. Stephanie is living in a historic house in Downham Market. Her house is called The Old School. It was a school for the poor in the 1800's then a hospital in WWI and later a Montesorri School and finally it was restored to a gorgeous home.
Sign on Stephanie's house
I am not going far from Downham Market yet i am going to some interesting places including Cambridge. Last evening I was visiting the large University of Cambridge Hospital.
August 25, 2008
Mark starts his role in a new film by Jerry Barrett
Last night began the shooting for a new film called Ten Little Santas. Mark is in the background thinking about his lines. In spite of going through the symptoms that come from cutting his pain medicine in half so he can have more energy, he looked great and did a great job. He got to be shot and die three times in three takes of one scene last night. Everyone did a great job. The filming last night was on an estate outside a mansion; the perfect place to shoot the film.
Cutting Pain Medicine in Half - Withdrawal from pain medicine is not for sissies.
After a couple of years of serious pain medicine for cancer of the esophagus with mets to bone, liver, possibly kidney, it takes a lot of determination to stick it out through the symptoms of withdrawal. Should I write more about this? Anyone interested? Mark is my role model and hero in regard to doing what needs to be done even when the going gets tough. Remember the phrase "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Mark Will Get a Urology Consult Sept. 10 - Mark's new doctor has a thought to have the tumor on Mark's kidney surgically removed to reduce some of his pain. Mark heads to Reno on Wednesday for some fishing with Allen before considering surgery. His flight is at 7 and my (mom;s) flight is one hour earlier. I am headed to England to visit Mark's sister for her birthday.
August 20, 2008
Results of Cat Scan - The doc at the Veteran's Hospital in Houston reported no change in liver tumors which is good. They are still there but unchanged. The chest looked good (remember Mark had a chest wall tumor that was radiated). Left kidney has a cyst or tumor and it is to be evaluated for possible surgery but that will probably not happen until 1. Mark completes a trip to Reno to see his former co-worker Alan and they go camping and fishing in California 2. He finishes being in another movie in which he gets to play the boyfriend. Right now Mark has just cut his pain medication in half after cutting it in half last year. Less pain medication and he does not sleep as much and he has more energy. The trade off is break through pain and withdrawal symptoms. During the period he was tapering off he was hallucinatory and miserable. I won't go into this as he is sensitive about it, but someday I will put it in the book to be written because it might help someone else or interest people.
Aren't the olymphics great? Mark's sister and mother were in China a few years ago and mom was in Bejing about 6 months ago and got an olymphic t-shirt and spent the Chinese money left from the previous trip...the money was now worth more.
Mark's sister Stephanie and Mom (with short hair) at Tinniman Square
Mark gets a trip as described above and his mom gets two trips - August 27 to September 14 I will be in England visiting Mark's sister Stephanie who is having a birthday September 1st. I will be flying American on air miles. The second trip is to Peoria Illinois and it is from Sept 29 until October 5th. The purpose of this trip is to evaluate a nursing school for the National League of Nursing plus personal business which is driving down to Jacksonville to visit family and friends.
Stephanie and fellow teachers on the Great Wall of China
August 05, 2008
It is a small world Mark's sister, Stephanie, notified me early this week that she was on her way to Istanbul, Turkey to have surgery on her eyes. I e-mailed Murat Numan, a former University of Texas law school student who lives in Istanbul. We mentored Murat when he was in Austin. He e-mailed back from Argentina where he is on vacation. He is headed back to Istanbul tomorrow. He informed me that his Aunt is a part time doc in the small hospital where Stephanie will have surgery and he knows the places she will be staying in the week she is there.
Friend Jerry is making another film called Ten Little Santas and Mark will have a good part in it. I will be one of the producers again. The premier showing of the last film Mark was in is this Sunday and then we will have copies of the movie to share.
Mark and I went boating last Friday on Lake Austin with friend Mark and his friend Mark so it was three Marks and Mom. We swam and pretended like we were kids again. It was great fun.
This Saturday Mark gets his cat scan. We learned he was not to see the doctor to learn the results until September 2. We are trying to get an earlier appointment.
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July 25, 2008
Mark came back to Austin, Texas after about 9 months in Thailand. He was devastated by the death of his good friend and caregiver Jin. He and I (Mark's mom) think about Jin every day. It is so sad to lose someone so vivacious and young and after such a valiant fight to hang onto life. Such a strange twist of fate that Mark, with his cancer battle, has managed to outlive his prognosis by more than three years while several friends have died. Mark and I are doing our best to stay alive and to have as many adventures as possible.
Last week we went to Jacksonville, Illinois for four days. Jacksonville is famous for being the home of the Ferris wheel, built by the Eli Bridge Company. Jacksonville has two liberal arts colleges (Illinois College and MacMurray College), a school for the blind and a school for the deaf. It used to have a state hospital for the mentally ill but that closed and the buildings were all demolished. The grounds of the old state hospital became a park with a working Ferris wheel, operated by the local Rotary club.
Jacksonville is also where Mark graduated from high school. Mark visited with a lot of his classmates and relived wild and crazy times from high school. We visited with Uncle Bob and Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Eileen and with our cousins. Uncle Bob was on a submarine in the China Sea in WWII and we love to talk with him about his adventures and about family stuff.
Two Navy Vets: Uncle Bob Kehl and his nephew Mark Richardson
I got a body glow massage, had a motorcycle ride, and ate catfish at a restaurant near the Illinois River. Being such a small world, I met Josh who works at the new Super Walmart in Jacksonville when I took Sierra, a young cousin, shopping. Josh is the son of my nephew Ronnie's wife; Ronnie and his wife live in Denver. If you get to the Walmart in Jacksonville, say hello to Josh in the deli section.
Mark and I flew into and out of St Louis and drove to Jacksonville. We grazed our way there and back eating at interesting places we don't have in Texas. It was a great adventure and I believe it helped Mark begin to recover some from the shock of Jin's death.
Next Step in Cancer Battle - Mark has an appointment for an MRI August 9 at the VA in Houston. This will help determine if he is still in remission or not. Life is uncertain. Have all the adventures you can and do lots of good deeds.
Proving the uncertainty of life - a few months ago we stumbled onto The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. Like Mark, Randy had been given "three months, max" to live. Randy gave the lecture of a lifetime to an audience at Carnegie-Mellon, an awe-inspiring, feel-great, appreciate what you have and keep your humor lecture. It is INCREDIBLE, and if you haven't seen it, check it out at http://www.thelastlecture.com/ . Today in the news I see that Randy Pausch has died; his death is also a loss for all of us, but the inspriation he gave to us immeasurable.
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June 15, 2008
32 years of life
Jin enjoyed the widest range of experiences in life- it was a pleasure eating with her at an excellent restaurant or eating our favorite noodle soup at a stand on the street. She loved the trip to Chang Mai to see the King's International Floral Show (Royal Flora Ratchaphruck 2006), where Mark nearly fainted among the thousands of beautiful orchids, as he was very sick, but tried his best to go anyway to share the adventure with Jin. She loved the Christmas season spent on Koh Tau with Mark, his sister Stephanie and myself; especially the beautiful Christmas supper on the beach and we loved her enthusiasm at every new adventure she shared with us. She shared her village with us in trips we took there, near Korat, Thailand.
Jin had so many skills. She had the ability to make a feast for a half dozen people or a hundred people out of what would look to us like not nearly enough ingredients. It was fun to go to the market with her and to cook with her. It was fun to ride on the back of her motor bike through the city of Bangkok. It was fun to celebrate Thai holidays and customs with her. Every minute with Jin was treasured in life and now that she is gone, the treasure of time with her seems even more valuable. Jin was a fun person to be around, with every experience seeming wondrous as you experienced it with her, but more than that she was a friend to all and family to a lucky few.
June 10, 2008
Just talked to Mark on the telephone. He reported he was on a bus going back to Chonburi, Thailand from the coast where he had gone scuba diving once more; this seems like a miracle when I recall how sick he has been with cancer and cancer treatments. Another minor miracle seems to be my telephone conversations once or twice a day with Mark. We talk via Yahoo Messinger; my computer to his cell phone at a cost of 5 cents a minute.
If you are new to the blog, read the posts below and you can see that Mark has been going to the hospital in Chonburi three times a day to visit his friend and former caregiver Jin who has clung to life by a thread and the help of a ventilator and lots of medical and nursing care as well as Mark's great decisions about care and his knowledge of respiratory therapy. Mark got a day off to go scuba diving with Alan a former co-worker from the Reno area and a great friend. How did Mark get a day off? Arri (pronounced R-eee) the manager of the Angel's Guest House came from Pattaya with Alan and kindly stayed with Jin while the guys went scuba diving. Mark needed this break from his commitment to make sure Jin makes it through this health crisis. Arri deserves a huge thank-you and I will soon try to post her picture too.
May 24, 2008
Addendum 6/5/08 to note below: Mark is still staying in Chonburi which is half way between Bangkok and Pattaya. This is the city where the tiger zoo is located. The zoo has many live tigers and you can pet an adolescent tiger while it sucks on a baby bottle. These young tigers are a challenge to hold and as soon as the bottle is finished you want the zoo keeper to be taking the young tiger away. This is the zoo where the tiger moms will nurse the baby pigs in tiger suits and the momma pigs nurse baby tigers. Mark is spending his days taking care of Jin in intensive care. Yes Jin is still in intensive care. Mark may delay his June 17 trip home but will come soon after that as he has to get a checkup at the veteran's hospital in Houston, Texas.
Mark's Friend and Caregiver for a long time is in the hospital - Jin (Yuwanit) cared for Mark when he was at his sickest. Now Mark is caring for her. Jin had a cold which progressed into pneumonia. She saw a doctor who comes to see patients at a nearby pharmacy. He prescribed an antibiotic. She got worse and Mark took her to a government hospital and she got a different antibiotic. Within a couple of days, she suddenly got very short of breath and ashen and looked near death's door. Mark took her to Bangkok Hospital in Pattaya where she was admitted to ICU. She spent a few days in ICU and then on the regular floor. Jin has been moved to a government hospital in Chonburi which is about one half way between Pattaya and Bangkok. This hospital has a pulmonologist. Had Mark left Jin at the first hospital anymore days, the cost of care would be astronomical at this point. Jin is on a ventilator (5/24/08) She could use a lot of prayers. Mark was riding a motorbike back to the guest house to sleep but since Jin was moved to Chonburi, he is staying in an inexpensive hotel in Chonburi. One friend told Jin it was lucky she had Mark looking after her or otherwise she would be dead. Perhaps it is good Karma.
While Mark has cancer of the liver metastasized from esophageal cancer, he has lived long enough to care for his caregiver. Who would have thought it three years ago when he first called home and said he had been given three months or less to live. He has good karma too and is building karma with more with good deeds and thoughts everyday.
The Thailand Border With Cambodia. Click on picture above to enlarge it.
Before Jin got so sick, Mark recently went on a one day trip to Cambodia to get his visa renewed. Mark described being lucky that the visa run van he went in was not full so he could be comfortable. When he was very sick and getting chemo and radiation, Bumrungrad hospital staff went to the embassy and made arrangements for Mark's visa to be extended when it was expiring. Now he leaves the country and comes back and he gets 30 more days. He can physically do this now. He could not when he was the sickest.
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May 06, 2008
Spiderbite - Mark has been worried about a spider bite under his arm. The bite resulted in a red area hanging down that was huge, went down ever so gradually and then was the size of a roll of dimes for like forever. Just as he was ready to go on the bus from Pattaya to Bangkok to see a specialist, it started going down again. Here is a picture of a really big spider outside my room when Mark, Jin, and I (Mark's mom) went to South Thailand to the beach.
It is raining everyday in Thailand. It is the rainy season. Mark's friend and former co-worker Alan will be in Thailand in late May for another adventure; this time to Koh Chang. Mark has himself on a strict budget so he can go to Koh Chang. He will be back in Austin June 17 thanks to air miles.
It isn't always about Mark - Mark is blessed with many prayers and he is doing well for now. There are many people today who have more difficulties than Mark and have a need for our prayers.
Mark's sister Stephanie relayed this request today from Mary Leonhart in Germany. Jen, who we ask you keep in your thoughts, is a peer of Stephanie's
Please keep Jen S in your prayers today. She is an outstanding German teacher at the middle school here, who found love late in life, married two years ago, and is scheduled to have labor induced today. At 4:30 this morning, her husband died; they think it was a massive coronary.Jen has been so happy with her husband and excited about baby Dane. She needs us to lift her up in prayer! I cannot even imagine having your greatest sadness and your greatest joy happen in one day.
Update: Jen gave birth to a healthy 9 lb. baby boy.
April 20, 2008
I talked to Mark on his birthday (4-20) and he reported he has had several birthday parties and cakes over the past week. He was awakened the morning of his birthday by friends from Bangkok singing happy birthday and bringing a cake before having to return home in the city. Mark reports he has added some weight on to provide some excess stores in case he gets an exacerbation of cancer.
The Thai New Year Songkran is also currently being celebrated and Mark reports he has done his part to help celebrate. Songkran means crowds of people laughing and shooting water at anyone coming near and putting powder on people's faces. Click on picture below to enlarge it. This scene from Songkran is on the beach road, Jomtien Beach, where Mark stays.
Mark is receiving a number of birthday cards from people around the world ; his response "Amazing! Getting these birthday cards and messages is exciting!" It is not too late to send a card. See the next blog for the address. Mark is enjoying every card and every day; the fact that he has fought esophageal gastric adenocarcinoma, with metastasis to the liver, is pushed to the back of his mind, but creeps up to the front of his thoughts periodically causing him to reflect on an uncertain future.
All of us have uncertain futures, however it seems like those who have the diagnosis of cancer looming over them find time to worry a bit more about how long they will have to enjoy life and when the pain will go away or when it will return as well as when energy or nausea or appetite will return or go away. Staying positive and getting support from friends, family, and strangers is just as important as medicine. To all of you who are sending cards to Mark whether you know him or not or providing support to Mark in any way or to anyone who has cancer or illness of any kind or need for help, may you be truly blessed with riches of the heart. I wish the same riches for those fighting cancer or any illness.
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March 16, 2008
Mark and his friend Jin went to a wedding up in the Thai city of Korat this weekend. Mark is 100% better than he was three or even one or two years ago. At that time, he could not stand to ride in a car for very long and there were a lot of days with lack of appetite and nausea and pain. He is not without problems, but you will see as you read/scan the blog how much better he is.
Send a birthday message in the mail to Mark ! April 20th, Mark celebrates his 4th birthday since his diagnosis of cancer and being told he had three months or less to live. In Feb. 2005 Mark did not know if he would live to celebrate his birthday in April, but thanks to doctors, nurses, and staff at Bumrungrad Hospital and the VA in Houston, support and prayers from friends and strangers, he is soon to celebrate his 4th bonus birthday. You can mail a homemade card include pictures of you, your dog or cat, or kids or the kid's art work. The address is: Angel's Guest House Jomtien Beach Road 131/23-24 Moo 12, Nongprue, Banglamung, Chonburi Thailand 20150. The cost to mail a letter or regular card from the US to Thailand is 90 cents postage. You can buy a 90 cent stamp at the Post Office counter or put the equivalent of 90 Cents in stamps on the envelope.
It doesn't matter if Mark has met you or not. Mail a birthday message as he seems to perk up when he knows people care what happens to him.
Mark's Mom just got back from a trip into Mexico to see the Monarch butterflies in the sanctuary near Anganguero, Mexico. The trip also included a tour of Lake Pazquarro and Janitzio Island and visits to several colonial cities of Mexico.
February 22, 2008
Good News from Dr. Theera and Cat Scan
I just talked to Mark by phone. He was on a bus returning from his appointment with Dr. T.in Bangkok. Mark relayed that everything on the CAT scan looked good enough that he won't have to have chemo right now apparently. There are a couple of spots to watch with a repeat CAT Scan in three months together with a Pet Scan if possible financially in Thailand or at the VA in the USA if possible to get a VA doc in our area to order it. These tests are being done at the same time as a standard in some cancer centers. I will add an explanation later. Dr. T. reportedly said he is going to write Mark's case up in a Medical Journal. Do you suppose that, along with the medical treatment, it was all those prayers, cards, letter's, children's drawings, kool-aide, licorice, and other kinds of support that everyone, old friends and new, provided Mark that kept the cancer under control? He wants to thank everyone for anything and everything they did for him as he felt very much that people cared what happened to him and this was very important to him.
PET Scans in Thailand Are New
Having a PET scan in Thailand is new in the last year. Patients used to have to go to Hongkong or Shanghai to get a PET Scan. The king's sister has cancer and she facilitated the purchase of the equipment for PET scans which I think are done at some hospital in Bangkok.
The Bus From Bangkok to Jomtien Beach, Pattaya, Thailand We used to take the taxi from Bangkok to Pattaya which is about a two and a half hour ride in good traffic and it only costs 1200 baht which is 36 dollars but now Mark is riding the bus which is about $3.50 to keep the budget in control. When he was getting radiation and chemo he was too sick to ride the bus and even a one hour car ride was more than he could stand, so riding the bus may be another symbol of progress in the cancer battle.
Picture Above Mark's friend Jin (4th from left) cooked a meal for Mark and Stephanie and some guests at the guest house. Mark is 3rd from left. Click on picture to enlarge it. So far we count Mark lucky that he did not have the Ivor Lewis surgery on his esophagus (removal of part or most of the esophagus and bringing the stomach up and reattaching it). This surgery has been a standard if esophageal cancer has no metastasis. The surgery brings many eating problems to overcome but provides a sense of security that the cancer was cut out . With stage 4 metastasis the standard is not to do the surgery. Without the surgery and only chemo and radiation, Mark's esophageal tumor seems to be gone and mark was able to eat a good portion of steak, salad and cream brulee when his sister Stephanie treated him to supper this week. She has returned to England.
February 14, 2008
Scuba Dive Gives Mark New Confidence When Mark was diagnosed with cancer and told he had three months or less to live, he sold or gave away nearly every possession he had including his scuba gear. For two years he was very sick with cancer, side effects of radiation and chemo, and believed he would never do many things again including scuba diving. When he got a chest wall tumor that was eventually radiated , he feared for some time that he had cancer invading critical chest structures and possibly the cancer would invade a major vessel and kill him. Every chest pain fueled his fear. Some days he needed a lot of reassurance that he did not need to go to the emergency room because of symptoms that worried him. When I would tell him that I was sure he did not need to go to the ER, he would say: "Mom it will be your fault if I die because you wouldn't take me to the ER ." I would respond: "I'll take the responsibility" and reassure him that he was o.k. Thank God he did not up and die and blame mom from the great beyond. He has survived to go scuba diving with his friend Alan in some islands not too far from Pattaya, Thailand. He called yesterday to tell me how excited he was to have successfully made a dive. Every step toward a normal life in spite of cancer is to be celebrated.
Go Cart Track - Another adventure was driving go carts. See picture (Mark on the left). Click on any picture to enlarge it.
Mark goes to get his CAT scan on the 18th. His sister Stephanie who lives and works in England has scheduled her check up at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok on the same day. Mark and his sister will hang out together for a few days before Mark gets his CAT scan report after which she will head back to England.
Passed an anniversary date: Three years have passed since on Feb 6, 2005 Mark left a message on my answering machine: "Mom I have a bit of bad news. Please call me." I thought maybe he had been in an accident or needed bail money. The thought never crossed my mind that he would soon tell me he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
February 01, 2008
Mark reports he is doing alright in Thailand. He asked me to let people know or remind them that he is living very frugally. "My beach room rent is 300 a month, food is cheap and I am traveling on air miles earned when I was traveling as a respiratory therapist to patients from the Saipan hospital being transported to the USA and other places, as well as miles from my trip home when I was so sick, Mom was afraid we could not pay the bill if I went into the hospital." Remember that health care for foreigners in Thailand is cash as you go. The Thai citizens have a type of universal health care that is very little expense to them, for example a doctor visit is 30 baht or the equivalent of one dollar.
Picture of entrance to modern Bumrungrad Hospital - Joint Commission International accredited
Mark will go to Bumrungrad Hospital for a CAT scan in mid February and get the results on Feb. 21. The hospital gave us an estimated cost in writing when we scheduled the scan. The estimate is now 1,200 dollars. We used to pay 500 or so but health care costs are rising everywhere. Why are we going to pay this? It was a big debate, but we would like to know how Mark compares now to the Cat scan he had last about a year ago at Bumrungrad Hospital. I would like him to get a Pet scan but we can not afford one in Thailand and the VA in Houston always says CAT scan. Not even sure they have a PET scan. It will be stressful for Mark up until the results are in and hopefully he will not be more worried when he gets the results. At present we are trying to figure out what to do, if anything, about his liver tumors. Google something called SIR-spheres and you will find that an Australian drug company is making radioactive beads smaller than the diameter of a hair. These are being used in metastatic tumors including liver tumors with success. The process is an outpatient one but the price is said to be very high. Maybe it will go down?
Mark's former co-worker and friend Alan is headed for Thailand - Alan arrives in Thailand Feb. 4 or 5. Watch this site for more adventures when Alan arrives.
A picture from 2005 when Mark was sick from chemo and had no appetite and we went to Amsterdam to resurrect his appetite. Mark was very sick and sure he was dying soon. I was worried he was losing weight and was so sick.. When we left I was not sure he would make it back alive from that trip. He had lost his hair and it looks thin and very light here. Mom had short hair then...now very long and straightened permanently. Picture coming soon
January 12, 2008
We went to see Mark's doctors at the cancer center in Bumrungrad Hospital last week. They had not seen Mark for about a year since we had brought him home for treatment at the VA in Houston to get a financial break from the cost of treatment on a cash as you go basis at Bumrungrad. Dr. Theera asked Mark to get a CAT scan to compare with earlier scans. The price of a CAT scan at Bumrungrad has gone up to nearly a thousand dollars. Dr. Theera wants Mark to resume chemotherapy which we don't think we can afford again here in Thailand. We paid cash for chemo and radiation and many other medical bills for over two years from Feb. 05- Jan 07 and it was quite an ordeal, but we credit Dr.Theera Umsawadee (Oncologist) and Dr. Dr. Sunantha Srisubut-Ploysongsang (radiation specialist) with saving Mark's life and giving him a gift of time to live.
We are back from a week's vacation in Krabi in the south of Thailand. This is the area where the Tsunami was so now there are signs showing the evacation route in case of another big wave. There was a Thai airlines special promotion to go to Krabi and we lucked out and got it. We took a public ferry to Koh Phi Phi which is a neat island and saw many islands that are famous like the James Bond Island and Chicken Island. Mark has an affinity for snakes. One dropped out of the tree on Aonang Beach and scared everyone. Mark picked it up and put it in the jungle. Was it poisonous? No one knows, but Mark claimed he was not going to let the snake bite him and that it seemed like a nice little snake. There are lots of wild monkeys in the trees and clifts between Aonang Beach and the 5 star hotel on the other side of the clifts. They are gentle and take fruit nicely out of your hands. They also love to drink water from water bottles.
I took a side trip to Malaysia to get my visa to Thailand extended to cover my stay. Mark claimed I would get kidnapped and/or in some monsoon and the van would fall off the road in Malaysia but I managed to get there and back safely.
We are again staying a half block from the beach in Pattaya at the guest house of Mr. George Richardson from England and his Thai wife Angel. Yesterday Mr. George showed me his liver x-rays and he has tumors in both lobes of his liver just like Mark. He was treated at the Royal Marsden Hosp. in London by professor Cunningham for colon cancer and then turned loose with his liver tumors without further treatment. George just got out of the hospital after being treated for Dengue fever. The mosquitoes carrying Dengue are here in Thailand and we hope not to be bitten by any of them.
Friend Jerry Barrett, who directed the movie Mark had a role in and which is mentioned in earlier blogs, has had a mild stroke and come from India to Bangkok to Bumrungrad Hospital for outpatient check-ups and treatment. Jerry was on a trip to India to film the Budha Gaya ceremonies. Mark and I were earlier planning to go with Jerry and his wife Christine but they decided it was too dangerous for Mark and I and Jerry cancelled Mark's and my accompanying him and his wife Christine on the trip from Katmandu to India. Jerry tells us that it was a very hard trip and then he had a mild stroke and had to abort the trip anyway.
Someone wrote to say they had heard this blog is a hoax. How crazy is that? Mark wishes he didn't have cancer. I wish he did not have cancer but he does. We are thankful for the gift of each day that he has.