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