Remission

My scan was clear of any masses and I’m in remission. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of your support.  God bless.

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Climb

This week my daughter Katie and I attended a meeting at my local hospital called CLIMB (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery).  The program is designed for children who have a parent or family member with cancer.  The program focuses on emotional support for the child by utilizing a group format.

Prior to my last scan, Janie and I noticed Katie’s behaviors changing surrounding the scan date.  We didn’t realize the change in behaviors were related to my scan.  Once we were able to connect the dots, we were shocked and worried.  We try to act “normal”, but Katie is very observant and can pick up on our stress.  Anabel is four years old and my sickness is all she knows and she’s unaware of the importance of scans.  Anabel believes everyone’s daddy goes to the doctor weekly and takes medicine.  She often tells me, “You put on lotion because of your boo-boos”.   She is aware I have boo-boos but can’t comprehend the severity of cancer.  However, Katie knows.

I am excited about Katie participating in this group, but I also feel guilty and sad.  As a parent, I want to protect her and Anabel from physical and emotional pain.  Seeing her emotionally hurt because she worries about me, crushes me.  I struggle with being the source of the problem.  I want to put them in a protective bubble.  The reality is, Katie and Anabel will have to learn to cope with my diagnosis and Katie is now riding the cancer roller coaster with Janie and me. Trying to look at this situation positively, I know personal growth comes from struggles and my children will learn to deal with adversity at a young age.

In the CLIMB group, I’m the “veteran” cancer patient.  Most of the participants are newly diagnosed and struggling with the reality of having cancer and raising kids.  My children were too young to participate when I was first diagnosed.  Katie, even though she’s the youngest in the group, is a “veteran” herself.  She’s seen me through colon surgery, brain surgery, five lung surgeries, multiple radiation treatments and chemo over the past four years.  Katie was telling me after the group, “most of the parents had only one surgery or none” and when it was her turn she told them about all my surgeries.  It’s funny because she was not acting as a victim, but was proud of all my treatments.  I explained to her that less is better in this circumstance, but honestly, I’m ok with her pride.  We talked about how through her own experiences, she can help others in the group.  So I believe the CLIMB program will be a great match for both of us.

Another example of the beauty of cancer was this past weekend.  My college roommate invited me to go to Dallas for the FCS National Championship football game in which James Madison University was playing.  After graduating from college, my college roommate and I drifted apart while we grew into our families and jobs.  Following my cancer diagnosis, we got back in touch.  The weekend and the game were awesome.  It was fun reliving our college days and talking about our current stage-of-life issues (i.e. having daughters and what are we going to do when they are teenagers?).  I was smiling and/or laughing the entire trip.  Thank you Yann Phung for helping me go on this trip.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you to Claiborne Johnston for organizing the suite and orchestrating an awesome day.

This weekend is the four-year anniversary of my diagnosis.  I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without God, all of your prayers, support, and your acts of kindness.  Keep them coming because on Monday the 23rd I have my body scan and get the results on Tuesday the 24th.

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Yann, me and Craig enjoying the JMU victory

 

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Me with the only five time Super Bowl Champion and JMU alum, Charles Haley

 

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Celebrating the JMU victory

Joy and Peace

A large number of the people who walk into my office during the holidays don’t look forward to the holiday season.  Usually the holidays bring up memories of a loved one who has passed away.  The void left by their loss hurts and the frequent reminders of Christmas smothers the individual in grief.  Typically their holiday memories always start positive, but within seconds they spiral downward once the individual remembers the loved one that has passed away.  I often hear, I wish I could close my eyes and wake up in January.  I’m fortunate that I haven’t experienced that type of void.  But I can’t help but be aware of the thought that in the future, I may be the void my family experiences.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas I think, will this be my last Christmas?  And even if it is, I plan on enjoying every moment.  I love this time of year.  I’m a big kid counting down to Christmas just like my kids.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family in Newport, Rhode Island.  It was great visiting family and watching my daughters play with my brother’s daughter.  After Thanksgiving we came home and set up our Christmas tree and decorations.  Anabel woke up the next day, ran to the tree, and was upset that Santa hadn’t visited.  I tried to explain to her that Santa wasn’t coming until next month.  But again the next morning when she woke up, she ran to the tree expecting presents and experienced the same let down.  I tried my best not to laugh as she looked at me through her tears, and explained to her that Santa was coming next month.  I was relieved when December rolled around because at least now we could count down to Christmas using an advent calendar.

Anabel turned four in September and I believe this is one of the best Christmas ages. Anabel is so excited about Christmas, she can’t sleep at night.  She has been falling asleep around eleven o’clock every night because she can’t stop thinking about Christmas.  All of her thoughts are consumed with Christmas.  She constantly wants to see pictures of herself or her sister sitting on Santa’s lap.  At night I often I find her talking to different ornaments on the Christmas tree. On the way to daycare last week, she told me, “Dad I like you, but I love presents” (I know I can’t compete with Barbie, but at least she likes me).  Her mindset is contagious and I love it.  I wish I could bottle it up and give it away.  

My faith has also filled my heart with joy and peace.  This joy and peace leads me to meditate more on the birth of Jesus and what his birth means to me.  Through all my joyful Christmas experiences, I understand how a loss of a loved one can turn joy to pain.  Please hold those who struggle during the holidays in your prayers and thoughts.  May you experience joy and peace in your heart this season and may it last throughout the new year.    

This past weekend I went to Philadelphia with Matt Leslie and his daughter Eliza to attend our annual father/daughter Eagles game. (Kirk, you and your girls were missed. Like every year, next year will be the Eagles year)  Despite the Eagles loss, it was a great weekend.  I laugh to myself when I think of the two people I channel for inspiration…Jesus and Rocky

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Katie and I in front of the Rocky statue.

Here we are running up the steps.  A boy began playing the Rocky theme song while we ran up the steps.

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Eliza, Katie and I after running up the Rocky steps.

 

 

Good News!

My scan came back clear of cancer.  It’s been a long couple of days, but I will sleep good tonight.  I’ll also enjoy the holidays more knowing I’m in remission.   Thank you for the prayers, kind words, positive vibes and support.  Now we’ll do this again in three months. God bless.

What is Normal?

Throughout my cancer experience, I always wanted to be “normal”.  Over the past couple months, I’ve felt and lived more “normal” than ever.  But I recently realized, even though I’ve been feeling and acting “normal”,  my life has not been fulfilling.  For example, the other day while paying bills, I was looking out the window thinking about bills.  This never would have happened last year. Previously I would look out a window and admire the majesty of nature, and not be preoccupied with any another thought.  Trying so hard to bring normalcy to my life, I lost what fulfilled my soul.  I realized I lost my mental discipline to focus truly on what is important.   

I found myself going through the motions, which I used to want, but now see it’s time wasted.  For example, some evenings I would browse the internet, Janie would be doing the same thing and the kids would be watching something on TV.  We are in the same room, but not really interacting. I kick myself because I will never get those moments back.  Another example is when I’m thinking about if a football player will start for my fantasy football team in the upcoming week.  I find it absurd, yet I still do it.

I need to stop focusing on trying to be “normal” because “normal” isn’t fulfilling me.  I have a grace to see beauty in everything and everyone and I don’t want to lose it.  I know the only way for me to regain my mental discipline is silence.

I was taught in school that silence is uncomfortable for many people.  In my practice, I often will sit in silence with a client knowing the individual will feel the urge to fill the silent void. Usually the client will continue the conversation or say what they believe I want to hear.  At times, I too am uncomfortable with silence.  Sometimes I surround myself with noise or stay busy doing mindless and needless tasks to occupy my time and brain.  I may go by myself and find some alone time, but during my alone time, I still feel the need to browse some form of media.  At home it is challenging for me to sit alone in silence, but the car is a different story.

I sit in silence whenever I drive by myself.  (Now when my children are in the car there is usually some pop music or, more recently, Rocky theme music blaring in the car.)  But I use this silent time to pray and meditate. When in silence, the thoughts that come into my head are sometimes funny, sometimes sad and other times joyful.  Usually it’s people faces and past experiences that come to mind.  Whoever’s face pops into my mind, I pray for them.  I also use this time to focus on my life and God.  This helps me obtain the mental discipline I need to be fulfilled spiritually. I ask all of you to try to sit in silence for 20-30 minutes and notice your thoughts.  It usually is interesting seeing what comes to mind.

I also had some awesome moments over the past few months.  I played in Katie’s school’s annual golf tournament.  I went to Chicago to see the Philadelphia Eagles play the Chicago Bears.  We celebrated Anabel’s 4th birthday and my 40th birthday. This week I spent a day in Washington D.C. with Katie and went on a field trip to a pumpkin and apple farm with Anabel.  Today I also began my 2 week chemo cycle.       
I notice when scans are approaching, my thoughts are filled with angst.  I know I will always feel this way before scans.  This upcoming scan is no different.  Monday I have my quarterly chest, abdomen and pelvis scan.  So please send positive vibes, thoughts, and prayers my way on Monday.  I will learn of the results on Wednesday.

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Matt Leslie, Kevin Gladstone, and Garret Keeler.  Team Merica golf team.

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At the Bears Eagles game in Chicago with Tom Michaels and Roger Nouer.  It was the best 40th birthday present. (There’s still room to hop on the Wentz Wagon)  

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Anabel picking pumpkins.

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Katie learned the Washington Monument wasn’t that tall.

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Katie and I stopped by the White House for some milk and cookies.

A Beautiful Summer

I haven’t updated my blog over the summer because I’ve been busy. I went on a pilgrimage to Rome, Italy and Lourdes, France and spent some time in Barcelona, Spain.  I also went on a family vacation to Georgia and Florida and had a mancation in San Diego.  Each of them were special in their own way.

I’ve had a beautiful summer traveling overseas and across America.  The trip to Spain, Italy and France was a spiritual pilgrimage.  The trip to Florida and Georgia was our family vacation to see family.  I recently returned from a solo trip to San Diego, California, where I spent time with my childhood friends.  All of them different and all of them beautiful.

My trip to Europe was for spiritual and physical healing.  This was my third to trip to Rome since being diagnosed.  It is my favorite city in the world.  Janie and I have it down now.  We stay in a great neighborhood and have our favorite places to eat and visit.  Even though I love the culture and history of Rome, the purpose of the trip is to visit St. Peter’s and other major basilicas.  I went this summer specifically to go through the Holy Doors, because you experience certain graces during this year of Mercy.  I also wanted to show my daughter Katie how important spirituality is in my life and to give her perspective of how “cool” spirituality can be in different parts of the world.  

While I did enjoy the pizza, gelato, and red wine of Rome (I love being off my diet), I spent most of my days praying at different basilicas.   I would pray for healing. I would pray for all of you.  It’s ironic because I pray for the cure of cancer, but I also pray about being thankful of my cancer experience.   Cancer has given me a perspective I never would have had unless I was sick.  I’ve been able to travel the world.  I’ve experienced love and support from family, friends, and strangers.  I’m able to connect with others who have suffered.  These are all blessings from cancer.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to be cured more than anything, but I also have learned a lot from my cancer journey.

Another major part of the trip was to visit Lourdes, France.  There have been many recorded healings in Lourdes after bathing in the water and drinking the water of Lourdes. Lourdes is famous because in 1858 a girl saw an apparition of Mary.  Mary asked the girl to dig in a spot and water began coming from the ground.  This spring water has led to many spiritual and physical healings.  I went to be healed by drinking and bathing in the water.  

Lourdes is my kind of town because there are hundreds of sick people from all over the world who go in hopes of being healed.  You see people in hospital beds and medical rickshaws being wheeled throughout the sanctuary.  It was peaceful because I didn’t have to hide anything.  I could walk with a limp because my feet were hurting.  I could wear my lotion gloves and not be insecure. I could be myself and I felt “normal” for a change.     

While in Lourdes, a friend told me to truly pray from my heart.  I never knew how to pray from my heart until I became sick.  For me, praying from the heart is intense physically and emotionally.  I actually experience pain in my chest, accompanied with tears and I feel the need to scream but words can’t come out.  My prayers are like a to plea to God.  I’m pleading for my life and for more time to be with my children and Janie.  A plea to be cured.  

While waiting in line to bathe in the holy water, I was sitting next to a gentleman who had a terminal illness and was healed after bathing in the water of Lourdes.  He now has been returning to Lourdes for 13 years in thanksgiving of his healing.  When It was my turn, I didn’t know what to expect.  They walked me to a curtain to undress.  Then I was wrapped in a towel and they walked me to the bath.  The bathtub is made out of marble and filled with spring-fed water.  I was asked to pray for Mary’s intercession.  I began to pray from the heart.  Then they lowered me into the tub and quickly lifted me out of the water.  It happened so fast that I wanted to do it another time, but was told it wasn’t necessary.

Today as I type this, my time in Lourdes and Rome seems so long ago.  I would’ve love to spend more time in Lourdes because I really felt comfortable there.  I hope to go back there sometime because it is a special place.

Our family vacation to Florida and Georgia was great.  We saw family, old friends, spent time at the beach, and went to Disney World.  It was wonderful.  My mancation to San Diego was a blast.  I have many childhood and college friends that live there and I’ve been wanting to visit them but haven’t made the time.  Everyone out there has been supportive of me and my family since my diagnosis.  It was great spending time with them and their families.

Well the summer is over for our family.  Janie is back to teaching. Katie is back to school and Anabel is  back to daycare.  I am sad it is over, but it did end with good news.  Today I learned my brain scan came back clear of cancer.  My next body scan will be in October. Pray with hope, pray with faith and pray with love.      

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Cardinal Stafford, Janie, Katie and I in the Vatican Gardens

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Janie , Katie and I praying in front of St. Peter’s tomb.

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This is in Bascilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The picture is of the the Crypt of the Nativity (the wood is from the Holy Crib).  

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These are some of the many medical rickshaws in Lourdes.

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This is the grotto where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette.  The Mary statue is located where the  Marian apparition appeared.

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This is the church they built upon the grotto.

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This is a living statue in Barcelona that Katie and I stood in front of for ten minutes and didn’t know she was a person till we moved away from her.

 

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Oma and Katie enjoying a drink on La Ramblas in Barcelona.  The sangria was not Katie’s.

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Enjoying a fun day on the water in San Diego.  Fortunately we had an experienced Captain who kept us safe in the high seas of the Pacific.  

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The crew ashore at a local watering hole.

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Spending time with Christina and her beautiful family.  Christina started my gofund page which I never would’ve started on my own. Love ya C.  

 

 

 

 

 

Praise God! No Evidence of Disease Part II

I learned today I’m NED (No evidence of disease) again.  Yesterday I returned from my trip to Spain, Italy and France.  The past two weeks have been extraordinary (I will write about my trip later this month).  This morning I had my CT scan to follow up on the effectiveness of the radiation treatment I received on my lung in March.  And praise God, it was clear of cancer.  I will still maintain my chemo regimen, but I can tolerate the pain in my hands and feet for these results.  Thank you all for your love, prayers, and encouraging words.  This will always be a roller-coaster ride for me and my family, thanks for riding it with us.  We will always have faith, hope and love.

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