December 13, 2014

2015 "Thank God We are Alive Tour"

This year in January Mark and I (Mom) will take a trip to Vietnam with Friendly Planet. I will meet Mark in Thailand,  spend a few days with him, and then we will fly to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon). Our tour starts in the south of Thailand and moves up the country flying to other cities and ends in Hanoi the capital of Vietnam. There we will see Ha Long Bay where some of the James Bond scenes were filmed. Hopefully we will both be well enough to start the tour and continue through until our return. I am having eye surgery and eyelid surgery before we leave and Mark is having difficulty with Gout and with his legs. Mark will be on his 10th anniversary of his stage IV diagnosis although not free of cancer for 10 years since he had an unrelated kidney tumor removed several years after diagnosis. I am about 21 months out from breaking my leg and ankle climbing in the mountains of Turkey and 18 months out from a heart attack. Is it any wonder that we have an annual Thank God We are Alive tour?

My apologies for not posting more often and encouraging people who are just learning of a stage IV diagnosis or going through chemo and radiation and wondering if all the side effects are worth it. Well I for one am glad Mark went through all the treatment and lived now 10 years instead of 3 months or less and I definitely know his is glad too. I thank all the people who contributed big or small to Mark's being able to still be around.

May 07, 2014

Monks receiving alms (offering of food) , photo by Mark

In Thailand there are more than 300,000 monks and 80,000 novices. The Thai tradition supports laymen to go into a monastery, dress and act as monks, and study while there. The time line is based on threes, staying as a monk for three days, or three weeks, or three months or three years, or example of three weeks and three days. This retreat is expected of all male Thai, rich or poor, and often is scheduled after high school. Such retreat brings honor to the family and blessings (merit) to the young man. Monks must follow 227 rules of conduct; once they are ordained they begin a new life and the past does not count, even if the monk was married.

May 02, 2014

Miniature Rex Rabbit named "Suleman the Magnificent"Brightens Mark's Days
        Mark has corresponded that his girlfriend Ann bought a miniture rex rabbit the size of a baseball. The rabit is described by Mark as having lots of personality and is apparently an extrovert as "he doesn't hide and stays close.
       Mark says that when Suleman "poops" it is the size of half a tic tac. I think Suleman the Magnificent could join Mark in his traveling circus.  Some time ago Mark put his occupation on  Linked in as "taster in Mark's traveling circus." He hasn't been able to figure out how to delete this and put something real under occupation. I rather like the idea of him being in a traveling circus. Sometimes with all our travels it feels like we are in a traveling circus and we are always interested in tasting something good.
        Mark reports he is feeling good even with some health problems that he watches and he paces himself so he can have energy for what he thinks is important to do. A long long time of chemo and radiation does have some residual effects. But wonder of wonders, Mark looks perfectly healthy and handsome as always. He still has a marvelous sense of humor and he gets a lot of enjoyment out of every day.

February 06, 2014

Mark at Cojimar Cuba - A place where Hemingway fished and not far from his home.
 Celebration of Being Alive - Mark and his mother made a trip to Cuba with Friendly Planet and a post Cuba stay in Miami.
Mark is now 9 years past his prognosis of 3 months or less to live from stage 4 cancer (esophageal and liver) with later chest wall tumor and an excised kidney cancer unrelated to his primary cancer. If you go back and read the blog you will discover that he was diagnosed on the island of Saipan where he was working as a respiratory therapist and that he took himself to Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bangkok for treatment. I (his mom) broke 2 bones in my lower leg and my ankle climbing in the mountains of Turkey last April then I had a heart attack a couple of months later. At the same time I had a small basil cell tumor on my face. It seemed like the wheels were falling off and I was no longer invincible. All those problems have been fixed. Both Mark and I wake up every day thankful to be alive and to have a chance to do something worthwhile.
Cuba is a wonderful place to celebrate being alive. We were with 21 people, two guides, and a driver none of whom we had met before and we discovered we really liked these people during our trip.We went a lot of interesting places and learned of the history and culture. For example: education including university is free in Cuba.If you are bright it is not a financial burden to become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or other professional like it is in the USA. After graduating from college there is a 3 year obligatory service in a government placed job. Our tour guide had majored in languages and one of her choices of a government placed job was tour guide. Service in the Cuban military cuts the after college service to two years. I discovered on the trip that one of the men who is just a few months older than Mark was born in the hospital where I worked on the maternity ward when I was a young nurse pregnant and expecting a baby which turned out to be Mark. I probably took care of our fellow traveler's  mother in labor and/or him in the nursery. We discovered many other small world coincidences among our fellow travelers. 

We toured schools, after school programs, an elder day care, an organic vegetable and fruit farm, a community of relocated persons, local artists famous in and out of Cuba and actually met the artists, dance groups, musical groups, learned of religions and off tour we went to a Cuban baseball game and ate out some on our own. In Miami we stayed in a hotel at the beach, toured the city, went to Little Havana for lunch, took a cruise to see the homes of the rich and famous on various Miami islands, drove to the Everglades and ate stone crabs at a seafood market. It was a great celebration. All those days and months and even years of chemo, radiation, and every side effect that you can imagine faded a little further back in memory as we enjoyed our celebration of being alive. We may have to do this every January.