October 27, 2012

                                Enjoying Life In a Time of Uncertainty: Catching the Big One 

Even though life is uncertain with having battled hard and long against stage IV cancer and a second unrelated cancer of the kidney and not being sure if cancer will come back for another siege, Mark manages to enjoy his life.  His friend and former co-worker Alan visited Mark in Thailand last week. There was scuba diving in the waters off Pattaya and there was fishing by Alan, Mark, and Mark's friend Ann. The big one was caught and released. Alan is back in Reno probably working, watching football, or skiing  When I talked to Mark yesterday. he was cooking something Thai and preparing a series of Thai food recipes complete with pictures. To those of you battling cancer or those caring for someone with cancer, take a few deep breaths and relax as much as you can, savor the moment free of worry. Worry-free moments fortify us to do what we have to do to win out over cancer and other challenges in life.

August 26, 2012

Mark is still in Thailand. He reports he is feeling fine and is now six and a half years from diagnosis. He and I discussed this week how it felt to be told "You have three months or less to live. Go home and get your affairs in order. Here is a bottle of liquid morphine to help with the pain of your esophageal tumor. So sorry." His response at the time he says was "No, I'm going to get treatment somewhere and I am going to do everything I can to live." And so he did do everything he could think of including: treatment in Bangkok, staying away from people as much as possible (harboring germs), living  in a very clean environment, having oncologist provide injectible medication for low RBCs and another medicine for low WBCs for mom to inject at doc's direction, staying on top of dehydration and fighting nausea and weight loss and a million other things.  In modern day treatment in the USA most people have a port put in place for injections. Mark did not have one so he was stuck with a needle for all chemo, scans requiring meds, IVs for dehydration, etc. He did not have a feeding tube of any kind. Six years ago there was no PET scan in all of Thailand so there were no PET scans.   A fighting spirit, support and prayers from around the world, good docs (Theera Umsawadee and later VA docs), supportive friends and family, luck and who knows what else kept him alive these good years. Today you can find him checking out a temple or on a Thai beach. He deserves every enjoyable and peaceful moment he can get.

August 23, 2012

Mark and the Hydra: A Beast With Characteristics of Esophageal Cancer 

Note: You can click on this picture or any picture in the blog to make it bigger. The Hydra which is found in the literature and depicted in statues in many places in Asia is an ancient mythical beast  unlike esophageal cancer which is a real modern day beast.
The Lernaean Hydra was pictured as a reptillian like water beast having many heads. If one head was cut off then two more grew back. The breath of the Hydra was extremely poisonous. Hercules killed the Hydra of Lerna who lived in the lake of Lerna.   Under this lake was said to be  an entrance to the Underworld which was guarded by the Hydra.Sometimes it feels like we cut off the head of esophageal cancer and two grow back but then again like Hercules sometimes our oncologists with great help from the ones who have EC and their friends and caregivers manage to kill the beast.

June 12, 2012

Mark is in Thailand.
Why does Mark often stay in Thailand when not getting treatment in the USA? When asked, he's mentioned the tranquility of the people  and the calm way of life. Mark loves the way people accept what you do and who you are. Thai people are not intrusive and don't ask things like "why did you do this instead of that?". They seem to assume you made a good decision and are on the path you want to be on or will find that path. There is a less stressful way of life. Keeping stress low helps fight cancer and/or it's reoccurance. Mark eats healthier if not eating red meat is healthy for you. Most Thai people don't eat beef and it is not something as readily available as in America. Mark eats lighter meals and walks the beach daily to keep his weight under control. Mark has a few health problems which probably are related to his chemo and radiation treatments and the shadow of cancer is always there. Mark has an e-reader that his sister gave him and he uses it every day. Reading a lot keeps his mind off worries. He has a good hospital he can go to when he needs medical care.  So far Mark is staying alive and others with esophageal cancer with metastasis are writing to say that his staying alive and enjoying life is providing them hope. Mark is most grateful that people have prayed for him and some continue praying for him. He is so happy that people care about him. He is amazed and  pleased when he hears his story gave someone hope. I'll try to post some pictures and talk about Thai culture and mythology.

April 28, 2012

Mark's Eighth Birthday Since Given Three Months to Live

To celebrate Mark's birthday this year we joined our friends and co-workers from Austin Family News magazine at the Dell Diamond to party on the private patio and watch baseball. The owners of Austin Family provided a chocolate birthday cake for Mark as well as hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, cookies and adult and children's beverages.. We did a second celebration after volunteering at MEDICO (Medical, Eye, Dental International Care Organization a day or two later. We packaged pills for upcoming MEDICO trips to Honduras and Nicaragua. We swapped stories with other volunteers telling about drinking river water purified with a few drops of chlorine solution and traveling into the Moskito Coast in WWII army planes and going scuba diving on Roatan after MEDICO trips. After volunteering we headed to Steiner Ranch Steakhouse which sits up on a hill overlooking Lake Travis. We celebrated Mark's birthday again outside on the patio. Mark only lets us celebrate his birthday for about a week. I celebrate mine for a month.

February 26, 2012

Mark Celebrates 7 Years since Prognosis of 3 Months, or less, to Live
In 2005 when diagnosed with esophageal cancer with metastasis to the liver, Mark was just 44 years old. He was a little over three months from his 45th birthday and we were pretty sure, from what the doctors told us, that he wouldn't see his 45th birthday. Mark is now 51 with that 52nd birthday coming up in April. Like so many people who celebrate surviving a diagnosis or an accident, Mark celebrated 7 years of survivor ship to a greater extent that he normally celebrates his birthday although that can be a big adventure too.

Mark is recently back from a ski trip with his long time friend and former co-worker Alan. They celebrated his anniversary of diagnosis and 3 month prognosis. Mark and Alan rented a car in Reno and traveled through 4 States skiing at 6 ski resorts. They were in California, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming. They enjoyed the slopes in Tahoe, Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley and other places. Mark doesn't keep this pace up all the time. He paces himself and has days of rest between adventures.

Since coming back from skiing, Mark has been making his appointments at the VA in Houston and sticking to smaller adventures such as a trip to the boardwalk at Kemah, Texas.

A word of advice from Mark: "Have as many adventures and all the fun you can and do as many nice things for others and the environment as you can." You never know how long you really have so make the most of it.