Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Clean and Clear for Christmas!

We recently went back in to the Huntsman to undergo an entire day of tests and exams.They started out by getting an IV going first thing in the morning. They took some blood labs and then sent me off for my MRI. Because of their scheduling I had to walk down to the University Hospital to have the scan done. When I got there I ended up waiting for over an hour beyond the scheduled time for me to get in. Luckily I had already had an IV started and left in so they didn't have to stick me again for the contrast solution they gave me during the scan. Once they got me in I had a Cervical spine and Thoracic spine scan. A single scan takes forever but having both done sequentially was an eternity. After laying in the "tube"(on an unpadded board) for over an hour and a half, my backside was dead asleep, and my arms had gone in and out of that tingling feeling, and my body was aching. The only positive thing about it was I got to listen to an hour and a half of "The Dave Matthews Band" on the head set.

I of course was behind schedule for my appointment with Dr. Schmidt, my neurosurgeon, when I got up there they had me fill out the paper work and got me in for X-rays. At this time Amy had come up to meet me in the Neurosciences building. X-rays were uneventful as usual, however I always enjoy meeting with the Technician. His Name is Ralph. He is so easy to talk to and makes the whole experience rather fun. The best way to describe him is, he is a fun loving, graying, ponytailed, mustache wearing hippy. I have the highest regard for this guy, He is so knowledgeable and loves to tell you stories about how the X-ray business has evolved. He has been doing this for decades. He started his career out as an X-ray tech in the Army. Anyways I guess he recently had gotten an offer to work somewhere else much closer to his home so he won't be there for my next X-rays. Bummer. I'll miss him.

The visit with Dr. Schmidt went well and because the scans had just been done, and the final report had not been submitted to the system, he didn't have anything revealing he could tell us. The X-rays looked good and we were in and out before we knew it.

While we were in the office with Dr. Schmidt and were looking at the scans on the screen, I tried to see if there was anything blatantly wrong. I am not a radiology tech but I have seen enough of my own scans to know kind of what my spine should look like. Other than what he explained to be scar tissue, to my untrained eye things looked OK. I was however still very nervous. There are the smallest things that could be present that could come back as being more tumor forming. Only the Final report would be able to tell us the real story. We just had to wait.

After the visit with Dr. Schmidt we drove over to the Research park, where they have another Scan center. Because we were trying to fit all of this in one day, they had us running everywhere due to scheduling. I had a CT scan scheduled that wasn't supposed to take very long. We ended up waiting in the lobby longer than it took for me to have the scan. About 20 mins. waiting and about 2 mins for the scan. I sure wish they could advance MRI scan technology to where it would take minutes for the scan instead of hours. Oh well, maybe one day.

We headed over to a small bakery/deli on the corner for some late lunch and Amy sat and talked for a while. I was still anxious and she seemed to be as calm as she has ever been. The Lord seems to have blessed me with such a wonderful wife, we balance each other so well. When I am freaking out she seems to be calm and when she freaks out (she never does) I am calm and relaxed. It sure makes things like this more manageable. At least one of us always has our head on straight.

We spoke of all the things we had been through in the last two years, and how if they did find something again , we would handle it. She reminded me that the Lord would take care of us. He has always been there for us and would continue to be.

The time had come for us to go and visit with my Medical Oncologist. My heart was racing. Inside I knew something was wrong, I was having all sorts of aches and pains over the last few weeks. I was trying to prepare myself for the worst. I was trying to think of where I would get the energy and willpower to go through more surgery or chemo. I knew we could do it, I just didn't know how. I was tired of it all, we had come so far, I wanted to get back to some sort of "normalcy" what ever that meant.

I had been praying more frequently than in the past, I found myself pleading, and at times almost begging to receive good news and good health. It is funny how when things go bad for us we seem to pray more often, and when life is great it gets put on the back burner and we tend to forget to pray always. All of this has given me perspective on how I need to pray. I find myself having more meaningful prayers, I pray with more gratitude, and I thank the Lord for the health that I DO have. I thank the Lord for each day I am here. I especially thank Him for My Family.

We went in and waited for the Oncologist team to come in and give us the news. I sat there with thoughts racing through my head...was it going to be all good, or would we have to get ready for harder times ahead? I felt my heart almost skip a beat when the door suddenly opened. They came in and chatted with us about how I was feeling and how things were going. They then gave me the news I needed to hear.

No visible changes, no new growth!!

I was in shock. I almost wanted to ask the Docs if they were sure. I was overwhelmed. I broke down into tears. I was so grateful to my Heavenly Father for this wonderful gift. Christmas would be so great this year! The issues that I have been noticing are due to extensive amounts of scar tissue, 2 surgeries and 30 treatments of Radiation seem to create lots of it. Some good physical therapy should help relieve the symptoms I am feeling.

The Team then spoke to me about possibly doing some new preventative measures. There is a new treatment that they have been giving to patients with osteoporosis that is meant to help the bones become more dense and harder. This has proven successful in patients with bone cancers. It almost makes it harder for the cancer to take root. They used the analogy of changing the soil for a seed. If you change the composition of the soil the seed has a harder time growing. It is a 15 minute infusion that I will probably do on my next appointment. They said that side effects might include fatigue for a few days, some minor body aches and that was about it. If this will help to give me better chances of keeping the cancer from growing again, then I'm all for it.

Man I am so grateful to be doing as good as I am. There were times where I really wondered if this might be the thing that would take me from this world. I spent lots of time thinking about death, I know its not healthy to do that, but it seemed to be a constant stone around my shoulders. I tried so hard to be positive. It is difficult to have faith that all will be well when you are physically feeling otherwise. I had to rely on Amy's faith at times. She knew that things would be OK, and they were.

I have learned that faith and the proper actions can bring about miracles!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Life and Thanksgiving.....

Well it sure has been a while since I last updated this blog. I guess I have been caught up in getting back to normal. I finished my radiation treatments and things have been going very well. I have been grateful for the opportunity to have been treated by the best methods available. I have enjoyed getting back to work and back to a normal routine. My strength is back up to par and I was even in shape enough to go out hunting this year. I didn't bring home anything but I had an incredible time being out in the mountains with awesome friends, who were good enough to show a rookie hunter the ropes. This was my first year out hunting big game, I drew out on the Utah Northern region Buck/Bull combo tag. It was such a great experience. It has been something I have been meaning to do for a few years but haven't been able to.

I have really gained a new perspective on life. Through all of this I seem to have been taught the importance of Family, Faith, and life. Each day is a gift. I guess there is nothing better to teach you how blessed you are than experiencing an illness that has taken countless lives. I consider myself blessed and fortunate to still be here. I have come so far from the first few days after my first surgery. Not being able to walk, balance, or even go to the bathroom for that matter. Now I can run, hike, work, stand on one foot and even go to the bathroom ;) I truly have seen the power of God in my life. I must still have something important to do in this life to still be here. I have learned but am still learning that time on the floor playing with my boys is some of the most precious time I have. Making memories is what it is all about. Losing yourself in the service of others is so rewarding, I almost feel selfish because of how I feel after lending a hand. I feel like I have so much more to learn and I know I fall short in so many ways. One thing I have learned is that we can't do anything without the help from God. He is in total control and we need to learn to trust in and follow His commandments, they are the true path to real happiness.

I am so grateful for all of my Family and Friends who uplift and enrich my life.

Thanks to all, and Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 9, 2010

First week of Radiation

I have made it through my first week of Radiation therapy. So far it has been a good experience. Compared to Chemo, this is much better. I am starting to feel a little irritation in my throat and I can tell I don't have as much energy through out the day as I am used to. The tumors I have had are in the very upper part of my back, the esophagus is near the spine where they are radiating so it does get minimal doses of radiation, causing a sort of sunburn and hence the irritation. However the chemo from last year absolutely knocked me out. I was so drained I didn't have the energy to do anything but sleep. It caused me hair loss, severe heart burn and throat, stomach and bowel irritation. I really didn't enjoy chemo at all. I know it sounds kind of twisted but Radiation is a welcomed change, so far....

I have been molded, or positioned so that I will be in the same spot every time I go in for a treatment. The blue pad is a large bean bag that has been molded around me laying down and all of the air has been sucked out so it retains its shape. The mask is molded around my face so that my head is always in the same place. It is all quite interesting laying there confined and having your head "bolted" to the table. I am then targeted by lasers to calibrate the table position, and minor adjustments are made so that things are precise. The table then moves me back into the tube and I receive my radiation dose. In about 15 mins I am out and on my way. Total time from when I go in to when I leave is about 20-25 mins. The worst part is just having to go in every day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back to Work and getting back to normal

For the last two months I have been home from the hospital and recovering very well. Within the first week of being home I got off my pain meds. I found that They were making me quite dizzy and groggy, Tylenol gave me almost the same amount of pain relief but no dizziness or grogginess. So I went from prescriptions to Tylenol. After about a week and a half I was off the Tylenol too.

I was in for some intense Physical therapy as well. I got worked good and I could feel that my muscles were on their way back. I also felt that my muscles were really sore too. It did hurt at times and I got really tired but I kept thinking back to a quote that was up in large letters in the Physical therapy office.

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”
-Lance Armstrong

One thing I have found for myself is that when it gets tough and things suck, just realize that it will pass, it lasts for a little while, but it will get better. You need to think forward to better times. Visualize yourself doing something you love, being where you want to be, and realize that soon you will be there looking back and all the hardship you are trying to endure will be over with. It will be a memory and you will have conquered. It is such a tough mental game though. It isn't easy to think that way, but if you accompany that mindset with the power of prayer, you will witness your own little miracle of relief, and strength to push through the hard times. I am so greatful for the many little miracles I have been a part of and those I know the Lord will bless me with.

I was able to start back at work on the 1st of July. It felt good to be productive again. Don't get me wrong I loved spending more time with my little family and watching my boys grow. But I know that I probably got on Amy's nerves a little bit too often. It was good for all of us to get back to a normal daily routine. I need to thank Amy though for what she has done for me through all of this. She honestly takes care of three boys, me being the third. She does a great job and I will forever be grateful for the compassion she has shown me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Recovery at the hospital

When I woke up from surgery I guess I was really loopy. My family told me of all sorts of funny things I was saying and doing. I really don't remember much, by the time I do remember, I had already been in the ICU for a while. I remember laying there in bed looking at the ceiling tiles. One thing I have noticed is that in every hospital I have ever been in, the ceiling tiles look exactly the same! You think they could put different patterns in there, or throw an occasional picture up there. I have been told that in places at the Primary Children's Hospital they have painted murals on the ceiling. I bet the kids appreciate it. I know I would. Looking around the room I noticed all sorts of equipment, wires, and monitoring stuff. I remember feeling heavy, and groggy. I can barely remember any conversation with visiting family, it is all kind of a blur. I know that my parents and siblings came and took turns staying overnight with me, I don't remember who was there and when though.

After the surgery I noticed that I had some strange numbing in certain areas. My Left pinky and back side of my left hand were numb. My right Forearm had no feeling, and the top left part of my thigh was numb. It was kind of uneasy feeling, why was I numb? Did something go wrong during surgery? Did they nick any nerves while they were in there? I didn't get answers right away but was told eventually that due to the way I was positioned on the operating table, I had some surface nerves pinched. Laying on my stomach my arms were positioned below me hanging naturally yet my elbows were resting on a hard surface, right where the nerve runs across the elbow is where they were resting. This pinched the nerves to the point of putting my arms to sleep. They were pinched in just the right way to effect the specific areas they did. You also have a nerve running over the front of your hip. The pressure of me laying on it for a few hours caused my left thigh to go numb. It feels like when you fall asleep on your arm, you wake up and can't feel a thing. I have that feeling in the specific places I mentioned. I was told that 95% of the time the feeling will come back. The worst part about it is that the whole process of waking up your arm isn't pleasant.

Think about the last time you fell asleep on your arm. It is annoying, then when the feeling starts to come back it tingles. Then comes the painful pins and needles, and the hyper sensitivity, where it hurts to touch it. After wards your feeling comes back and all is well. This usually happens over about 5 mins at most. Mine has been happening over the last 2weeks_so far! Right now I am at the hyper sensitivity stage. It hurts really bad. It is however least in my pinky and left thigh. My right forearm isn't doing much other than staying numb. There are times where I wonder if the pain in my pinky and thigh are worse than the pain in my back.

We were very pleased to find out that the surgery went much better than expected. Here is an excerpt from an email my mom sent out;
Chad went in this morning around 6:00 AM. We were told to expect a 5-9 hour operation with all they planned to do. They actually started operating after all the preparations about 8:50. By 10:50 AM we were told they were removing his Titanium rods from his last operation. Shortly aft 1:00 PM the Surgeon came out and met Amy and Debbie who were in the waiting room. Amy was shocked to see him so soon. He was beaming from ear to ear. After removing the rods, they inspected the T-3 vertebrae and the growth did not look like the previous cancer they had taken out last year. They scraped the growth off the bone, replaced it with some cadaver bones, replaced the rods and sewed him back up. The previous cages placed in the location of the T-2 vertebrae removed last year are fusing well and did not need to be removed. The T-3 was not removed.

They re-opened my initial scar and apparently they were able to get to all of the growth without having to tear into the prior fusion. They did however have to cut the right side rib that connects to the T3, so that they could get around the side of the vertebrae. In doing so I now have a floating rib, and a permanently severed right side T3 nerve root. They did the same thing the first time around. The T2 ribs were cut off from the vertebrae and both right and left side T2 nerve roots were cut and tied off. The T2 was then removed and the cages were placed. I was told that the T2-3 nerve roots are mainly supplying sensory nerves under my arms and across my chest. With out them I lack feeling in my armpits and across small portions of my chest. With the Addition of the right side T3 root being severed, I think I have my answer to why my right forearm is still numb without much progression towards any feeling. So total I have 3 floating ribs and 3 severed nerve roots! Oh and I guess I ended up with a small hole in my right Lung too, they weren't too worried about that though. Cool Huh?

I was very much looking forward to keeping any hardware they replaced, but It all stayed right where they put it the first time. I was truly blessed. I know that because they only scraped the growth off the bone instead of removing the vertebrae all together, my recovery will be as miraculous and as quick as was the surgery.

The Nurses needed me to get up and move, not only to get me going but I had to go down and get x-rays. The first time I stood up my legs started shaking violently, and I had to lay back down after just a of seconds of standing. Talk about painful. They then wheeled me down to X-ray and got me up again, they had me stand up by myself so I could get the x-rays done. I didn't think I was going to make it but somehow it all just happened, during the x-rays only a little while after I had first stood, I didn't shake or pass out, The Lord gave me the strength I needed.

The following days were no fun. I didn't feel like eating anything, Amy did get some Apple sauce in me though. She was so sweet. You just don't feel good and I apparently can't do narcotics very well either. If they are given through an IV, I seem to be able to handle it, at least my stomach can. My lower digestive tract just seems to shut down regardless if it is IV or tablet form. The minute they give me pills and take me off the IV's over! I tend to get SO SO sick! The nausea is unbearable and there seems to be no relief. They can give me all sorts of nausea meds and it won't help. Trust me they have tons of different ones, I think during chemotherapy last year they gave me every nausea med they had. Regardless, with the Narcotics nothing seemed to help.

Once again experience from the first time came back. The same thing happened last year. After many days of nausea the Doctors finally decided to change my meds from narcotics to prescription strength Tylenol derivatives. It was all sunshine and flowers after that. So this time we told the Doctors the same thing, and even gave them the name of the pain killer that worked for me last year. Of course Doctors always seem to know better and shrugged it off. We got to the point this time where we almost demanded to have my meds switched. I couldn't take it anymore. The doctor said the pain killer I was telling them about wouldn't be strong enough. We again told him of how well it worked last time. I can tell you, there is a surprising amount of pain you can stand when you feel OK. As soon as you are nauseated you turn into a big baby and everything is miserable. I would rather feel more pain taking the "lighter" pain killer, but having no nausea, than be out of pain but sicker than a dog.

Thankfully the pain killer was finally switched and I started to feel better. I say "finally" because we had a slight communication issue with the nursing staff. As good as the nursing staff was, and they were good, English was a second language to the majority of them. The last thing you want to have problems with when you feel like crap is communication. The Nurse didn't quite get what we were trying to tell her, when we asked to have my meds switched. She being the intermediate voice between me and the doctor, I guess things got lost in between. So the switch in my meds didn't happen for many hours, the majority of the day actually. Last year when the Doctors decided to switch my pain meds it took all of about 30 minutes and I was on the lighter stuff.

The next obstacle I ran into was trying to get my lower digestive tract back to normal. Anyone who has been through a big surgery knows that being immobile for days and having the narcotics do their number on you, you end up well.... plugged. There is no sugar coating here, it is not fun. They give you all sorts of stool softeners for days in hopes that it will make things easier to pass. All it does is turn the upper half of your digestive tract into a churning belly ache while the bottom end is blocked. Excuse the analogy here but it's like having a bullet train trying to pass an old steam locomotive. After about 5 days it gets so painful you will do anything to find relief. In my case a 4:00 am nasty concoction of milk of magnesia and something else, had me feeling much better by about 6:30 am. I'll leave it at that.

Monday after the surgery I found myself going crazy. A hospital stay is such a mental game. You have to try your hardest to keep it together. You can honestly watch only so much TV. You are stuck in a small room looking at the ceiling, trying to keep you mind busy so you don't stare at the clock for hours. There are times when that clock doesn't move! It stares back at you almost in a mocking manner, trying to push you to see if you will break. The worst is when you doze off and think you have slept for hours, when in reality you have been out for about 25 mins! You really have to learn patience. Maybe the Lord knew I needed to exercise my patience a little more. I remember the talk given by Deiter F. Uchtdorf, in the most recent General Conference about patience. He spoke of how it wasn't merely waiting. Here is what he said;

Patience Isn’t Merely Waiting

... I learned that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen—patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn’t appear instantly or without effort.

There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

I had to learn how to endure it well. This seemed much harder to actually do than to just read about it. Yet through hope, faith and constant conversation with the Lord, he finally gave me what I wanted most; my ticket out of there!

The doctor came in and asked me how I would feel about going home today or tomorrow. I was shocked! I had my surgery on Thursday and Monday they were asking me when I wanted to go home. I was dying to get out of there but I wasn't sure I was physically ready. I got to thinking. OK I can either lay in bed here or I can lay in bed at HOME! It didn't take me long to make up my mind. I was going Home.

Actually we decided to stay one night at Mom and Dad Hirschi's in the Salt Lake Valley before heading up to our place in Riverdale. The best part was walking through that door to see my two little boys and having them scream Daddy! Talk about medicine, that was a huge dose of "get better quick". The following days hearing their giggles just mended my heart and soul so much more. It was good to be home, I needed to be home.

When I think about it, my hospital stay last year was from the 3rd of Feb until the 17th of Feb, with my surgery on the 7th. It was so much longer than this time. However this stay seemed to get to me a little more even though it was much shorter. Maybe it was because I had already done it once before and I knew how much fun it WASN'T. I mean really...who wants to be a human pin cushion?

I know that because of all the thoughts and prayers that have gone out on our behalf, this surgery was truly a miracle. It is amazing and comforting to me that the power of prayer can have such a great effect on the lives of all of us. Thank you all for the prayers and support you have given me and my family. I know God answers prayers. I am walking proof of it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Surgery Day

I will try to remember all that has happened since the surgery. I will try to recount how it all happened. Obviously since I was fairly drugged up I don't remember it all but there are bits and pieces I do remember.
The morning of the surgery was one of anxiety and excitement, I wanted to get it all over with but I didn't want to go through with it. We left my in-laws around 5:30 am. On the drive up to the University hospital I started getting more nervous, my bowels weren't feeling very good either. We arrived at the hospital and went up to the third floor to the neuro pre-surgery check in. We spoke to the lady at the desk then sat down in the waiting room.

It was filled with a surprising number of people, for this early in the morning. In groups of about 3 families each the lady called patients in and took them to their prep rooms. These little rooms were barely big enough for a bed and a chair. This is where I got dressed into my flattering gown, or should I say undressed. Little by little people started coming in and giving us the rundown on what would happen. We met with doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, assistants, and nurses. Surprisingly my surgeon was one of the first to come in. He greeted us and said he was confident things would go well. Mom and Dad showed up shortly after and we talked, they let us know of all the prayers being offered for us. One of the assistant surgeons came in and let us know all the doom and gloom that could come from this surgery. For legal reasons they have to. It appeared to be a little hard to take in for Mom. We all knew that we wouldn't have to worry about any of this but the reality was there.

IV's were then started and I was given a dose of "liquid courage" as the Anesthesiologist called it. I Shortly after started to fade. Still conscious to what was going on around me I said my good byes and remember being wheeled out of the tiny room. I remember being wheeled into the OR. I then remember asking the surgeons If I could say a prayer for all of us. I began my prayer and remember asking the Lord to bless the surgeons and myself. My speech was slurred but I was getting it out. I said amen and they put a mask over my nose and mouth.....and that is all I remember.

A Benefit on my behalf

What an amazing night. Amy and I showed up and met lots of great friends. The building that was donated was such a nice place. Check it out here. Take some time to browse their site and even go visit them. They have pictures of the benefit on their site too. The Codi Jordan Band was awesome, great music, just my type of chill music too.

There were lots of things set out on tables for the silent auction as well as great food Donated by Roosters There were many other people who came and donated items and time. It really took my mind off of the next days events. Many people drove very long distances to come and support us that night. It was such a boost to feel all the love.

Amber Goldsberry headed up the whole thing. She was amazing. With the little amount of time she had, she pulled off a night to never forget. By the end of the night a bidding war had commenced and it actually got really competitive. When the bidding ended some people even gave more than what their final bids were. It really touched us to see all the support and selflessness. We were able to give our thanks and say our good-byes. We were shocked at the amount of money that was raised to help us out!

All we can say is THANK YOU EVERYONE

Thursday, May 27, 2010

This is it!

Thanks to all, here we go!!! See you on the flip side!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time with Family, Friends and support from Loved ones.

The last few days have been busy ones. Trying to cram everything into the allotted time frame we have before the surgery. I have tried to make time fore everyone, but more touching to me is that everyone has been trying to make time for me. Saturday I spent time up at the Gun range blowing off steam with my brother Mike and great friends. It was a much needed release. That evening we went to Amy's dance recital, where all of her students did very well. At the recital Ethan performed for the first time, he did great, I was such a proud pop! We were also honored by the Dance studio with a gift that they had for us, It was very touching. Something we are forever grateful for.

After the visit with the Doctors on Monday, before I went back to work, I was able to take Amy on a lunch date. It was so good to get out just the two of us. Today we had a little BBQ in the back yard with the boys, just the 4 of us. These are memories we won't soon forget.

The outpouring of love and support from everyone has been unbelievable. We got a Stairway full of yellow flowers one morning, email and facebook comments have been pouring in, and a longtime great friend of mine Amber, has organized a benefit on my behalf.

Honestly with all the support we have received, I am at a loss for words.

All I can say is Thank you all so much!

Final Details

Monday Morning the 24th we headed up towards the Huntsman to visit with the Radiation Oncologist, and my surgeon, so we could find out the details of what would take place this coming week. At the first appointment we spoke with the team in charge of recommending what will happen in regards to Radiation treatments. Interestingly enough they hadn't gotten the info from the surgeon about my upcoming operation. They were under the impression that we would be starting Radiation treatments by the end of the week. Just a little communication gap. Once we had gotten everything sorted out they informed us that we would still do radiation after the surgery. We are not sure right now as to what kind of radiation they will do, whether a targeted pin point radiation or a more broad area treatment.

If we do the area treatment they will require that I go in every week day, Monday through Friday for about 4-5 weeks. The radiation will only be administered for about 1-5 mins. and then I would go home, Total time at the hospital for radiation would be about 30 mins each day. In preparation for the radiation they will do a series of CT scans to get all the measurements and do all the planning. A mold of my back will be created, an impression of sorts ,so when I lay down on it I will be in the same exact position every time, so as to not "fry" anything they weren't planning on frying. I would be getting 3 small tattoos probably the size of freckles, one on each side of my rib cage and one on my sternum as reference points for the lasers to align themselves on my body. Proper alignment is crucial so they don't damage anything they are not targeting. Side effects include fatigue, irritated throat, and irritated skin. Other than that I should be able to carry out my life as normal, Much different that the chemo I had the first time around where I was literally in bed for 2-3 days after each round, the exhaustion was incredible, and the side effects much worse. If this is the route we go with it sounds like it will be a... can I say, better experience, than the chemo.

As far as the surgery goes, we spoke to the surgeon and were told that after consulting with their team of doctors, they decided that we would just go in through the back, and not the front too. I was relieved!! They felt very confident that they could get the job done that way. He mentioned that the procedure would still be very risky because this time they would try to remove everything they could find in there, Including the remaining parts of the first tumor that they thought to be too risky to remove the first time. The risk will come with the fact that they will be digging around scar tissue and peeling tumor off from my Aorta which is up against my spine. This is also where they thought the tumor originated from, before it moved into T2 and T3. Leiomyosarcoma is a soft muscle tissue cancer. It usually infects muscle tissue that we can't control, such as organs and involuntary muscles. Mine was believed to have started in my Aorta and then metastasized into the spine. An extremely rare circumstance.

They will remove the rods I have in place and then cut out the cages in the T2 location. They will then cut out T3 and probably put 2 more screws into T6, one vertebrae lower that the bottom of my current fusion to add a little more stability. A larger spacer or cage will be placed to span the T2 and T3 locations, and longer rods will be attached to the new and existing screws. The amazing thing is that they don't plan on putting me into a cervical thoracic brace. With my existing screws already being well established in my back they should provide enough support. Pretty crazy when you think about it. They will just unbolt me and do their thing then bolt me back together! Now that is my kind of work!! I guess you can never have enough hardware. I always tend to come home from the local hardware store with a little extra then what I had planned. I guess it applies here too! ;)

We were also told that the tissue healing would take longer this time because it always does the second time you go digging in the same location. I am just elated to not have to use the neck brace, it was such a pain in the...well, neck! (heavy sarcasm there) Things will go well and with the help of the Lord I will heal quickly. I have received many blessings that have given me comfort and whatever the outcome of this will be, we are at peace.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Painful Reminders

The whole idea that I have another tumor growing in my spine hasn't really hit home yet. What I mean by that is, I haven't really noticed any extra pain, that is until just the last few days. I remember back to the first time that all of this happened. I had discomfort in my back first, then it moved to actual pain, after which it started to cause numbing sensations in the lower extremities of my body. By that Time the pain was unbearable. I think that with this tumor being in the "newer" stages of growth the pain won't get nearly as bad as the first time, before the Surgeons remove it. The thing I have on my side right now is that after the first surgery most of my upper back was completely numb. To this day, most of it is still numb. Some sensations have grown back over time, but I mostly feel pressure if touched on my back. With all the surface nerves that they cut through as well as the T2 nerve roots that were cut, I really don't feel much back there at all. If you cant feel it then it doesn't hurt right!? Well for the most part at least.

For the last few days I have noticed that numbing sensation around my mid section, or "Love handles" (yeah I do have them). The numbing is slight but noticeable. I have also noticed that I tend to get what feels like muscle cramps that don't go away, in my mid back. I wake up in the morning and feel OK, that makes sense, I have been laying down all night. The pressure from standing all day has been relieved during a nights sleep. At work things are great up until about noon, I then start to feel that cramping feeling. I guess the day is already catching up to me. If you think about it I have the weight of two arms and a large head bearing down onto that part of my spine. I then try to ignore it as best I can. By the time I get home it has already been bothering me for a while, I sadly tend to be a little more "short" with those I love most.

The best way I can describe it is something like this; Someone tapping you on the shoulder, at first you shrug it off, the tapping doesn't stop, they keep tapping you incessantly and you try to ignore it. Well by this time no matter where you go or what you do that person is right behind you tapping you on the shoulder. The tapping is in the same spot, so you are getting sore, annoyed, and frustrated. It just won't stop. Sooner or later you just can't ignore it any more and you snap. Too many times have my patience run out at the end of the day, when I get home and my little boys just want me to play with them. Instead there have been times where I have found myself brushing them off, trying to find some relief to the relentlessness of the "tapping on my shoulder". I get a little teary eyed just thinking about it. I hate to be that way.

These are the painful reminders of the first time we went through this and the reminder that I still have a bit to go through again. The pain isn't too intense. I can honestly say that it doesn't hurt too bad. However, it's the slight pain that goes on for a long time that wears you down. This is no excuse for being short with my boys or wife. When I am not feeling any discomfort I try to spend good quality time playing with the boys, and I love my time with them. I just need to find it deep down within to push the nagging aches to the back of my mind and not let it get to me. Hopefully that way I can spare my family of my childish moodiness, and lack of patience when I just can't take it any more.

With the Date of my operation moving closer and closer, I have to look for the positive things. I will be able to be home to spend more time with my Little Family. The constant aches and nagging twinges hopefully will be a thing of the past, albeit replaced by major aches and pains but hopefully they will be a more temporary ordeal. I will probably get to watch lots of M*A*S*H reruns too! (yeah I'm am a huge fan) Also the hope that this will be the final chapter of my surgery saga!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Family and Friends

Sunday was a day of incredible support. I was asked by my parents if we were going to go over for Sunday dinner. Thinking nothing of it I said we would be there. The morning went well as we attended Church. The boys did alright although they got very restless and started to show us how tired they really were. I am sure anyone with kids knows exactly what I mean. I feel like I got the peace and rejuvenation I so badly needed after a very emotional week.

We were on our way to Mom and Dad's house and as we rounded the corner onto their street, I realized this wasn't going to be just our regular Sunday dinner. The street was lined with cars, and there were people standing out in the yard. Hanging over the Garage door was a big yellow sign with words of encouragement, there was even chalk writing in the street. I felt overwhelmed and before I got out of the car while in the driveway, the tears began to flow. I knew that the same support system I had the first time around was going to be there for me the second time.

My Brother had organized the whole thing, and had gotten help from my Sisters, Family and Friends. It was such a surprise to me it completely took me off guard. We had tons of food and everyone had brought their own meat to grill. It was so much fun. It really helped me get my mind off of things. I enjoyed seeing everyone who took the time to come out and show their support. It really meant a lot to me. Knowing that everyone there had organized a group fast on our behalf and that they had been praying for us really got the emotions flowing. I am very great full for the people I have surrounding me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The date has been set

We decided that we needed to get as much done around the house and yard before I would be down and out for 6-8 weeks. We headed to the hardware store and picked up a few odds and ends so we could plant our garden. With the little amount of space we have, we've been doing the square foot gardening thing in some boxes we put together a little while back. Made from just some weed barrier cloth tacked to the inside of 2x4 boxes placed on the patio, it makes it very easy to use. We have great drainage for the boxes because excess water just flows out through the cloth and we don't lose any soil. The only problem we were running into was that we thought the boxes could be just a little bit deeper. So we decided to have a family "fix the garden night". We used some more store bought soil and 2x4's added the extra row and filled them up. We had plenty of good help from the boys

As we were finishing up the phone rang and the RN for my Neurosurgeon was on the other end. She said that they had time to discuss my situation with other Doctors and surgeons and that they wanted me to come in on the 17th for some info about what will happen.

A day later we got another call from the RN. We were told that My surgeon had an emergency surgery scheduled on the 17th and that we would have to come it on the 24th. She told us that my surgery had been scheduled for the 27th of this month.

Well at least we have a schedule. I think knowing is better than the anticipation. Now we can squeeze as much into our last week and a half as we can.

Now that we have a date, I was able to get in touch with Human Resources at my new job. We discussed what was going to happen and all I can say is I am so blessed to be working with such an amazing company. Their willingness and understanding has blown me away. I have been there now for a few months and yet they treat me as one of their own, as if I had been there ten years. All I can say is thanks.

I have been given such a wonderful gift, the gift of Friends and Family. Already the outpouring of love and concern from everyone I know and even people I don't know has been overwhelming. I have been filled with gratitude.

Just the other morning I was reading out of the Book of Mormon, I turned a page and a scripture I had previously underlined and for some reason even put a star next to, brought me much comfort. It is in Alma chapter 36 verse 3, on page 298. I'll let you have the experience of reading it yourselves. It helped me again realize that all will be well.

I thank my Father in Heaven every day for the gift of life and I pray for the strength to not squander it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I knew it was to good to be over.

I feel like I need to start a blog, a way to get out what I feel. No fancy title, no real purpose other than for me to record the things that have been happening in my life. I also want something to look back on, something I can reference, a journal if you will. I really don't know where to start. I just know I need to start writing. What I need to say will come to me.

A year ago in Feb. I was diagnosed with cancer, Leiomyosarcoma. I underwent a surgery that removed 2 discs and a vertebrae. I had 8 screws, two cages and 2 rods implanted. I underwent neuro-rehab and 18 weeks of chemotherapy.

It was an experience to forget, or was it? My wife Amy, kept a blog on the events of the following months. She commented on the joys and the pains, the recovery and the heartache. I got to read about what happened to me from the eyes of my wife. All of this can be found on our family blog site. Feel free to browse the months following Feb 09' up through the current date.

Well after all of the experiences we have had, we have more on the horizon. This morning was a routine 3 month checkup. I go in every 3 months for scans and tests to follow up on the cancer, just to make sure it doesn't spread.

I was feeling nervous just like I had for the previous follow-up visits. I new I was going to be fine. Getting ready for the day, I had the usual butterflies, the anxiety and the desire to get it over with. When we got to the Hunstman Cancer institute, we got the boys out of the car and headed in to the clinic. Sitting in the chair waiting for the Team of oncologists to come in and tell me that everything was alright, I had a different feeling, a fleeting thought of hold on to your hat! One of the Docs. opened the door and came in asking us how we were doing. We were fine, at least for now I thought we were fine. She asked me if I was feeling anything different. I said I was fine other than a slight twinge in my back, which I was told, visits in the past, was probably my body still adjusting to the drastic changes that had been made.

Well it turns out that the slight twinge was nothing more than the tumor making its new home in my T3 vertebrae. One vertebrae below the original tumor. With the News that the cancer had spread to another vertebrae and the thought of having to go through with everything all over again, I cried. I knew that what ever was going to happen, the Lord was going to be there to lift and strengthen us, like he did the first time. I still cried. I wanted so bad to hear good news, I wanted to be one of the success stories of having beaten cancer on the first try. Looks like I didn't get it right the first time.

The options we have are 3. Spot Radiation treatment, Minor surgery or Major surgery. The Radiation therapy as was described to me will basically cook the area and turn it into a "well done steak" Hopefully killing all the cancer in the process. Surgery is looking more and more like it will need to happen again. The tumor has already started to weaken the bone and make it soft. If we kill the tumor off with radiation, the bone is still deteriorated. The damage is already done. The Neurosurgeon said that we will likely go in and open me back up in the same place as before as well as though the front, under my arm between the ribs, weaving around the lungs and heart to get to the front side of the spine. We were told that this would be a much more risky surgery. However doing it this way would give us the chance to take out as much as possible, in terms of the infected tissue and bone surrounding the area. They would also add more titanium hardware to the front of my spine, seeing as how I would be missing now 2 vertebrae.

This all sounded so exciting!!! (can you hear my sarcasm?)

The thoughts I have running through my head are so many that it is hard to fish through them and think about what I want to say.

The one thing I learned from the first experience was that ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING! It will make or break you. Do I get depressed and sulk? Sure. Do I feel like if I go through this again, it will kill me? Yes. Do I feel like my little Family can take more of this? No..... But we will make it through. We have to be positive. We will have hard times, we will have pain, we will have exhausting days. Despite all that will be thrown at us, our Father in Heaven has promised us that he will be there to strengthen us and lift us up. During the first time I was in the hospital, I saw miracles every day, I saw the hand of God in all things. He was there to comfort me, to help me realize that the pain and hurt would be temporary, that all would be well.

The recovery I experienced after my last surgery was remarkable. I was able to get back to doing just about everything I had done before. My family can attest to the fact that I have been a recipient of many miracles. I will forever be great full to my Father in Heaven for such experiences. For the quiet moments of peace, for the added courage I didn't have, for the speedy recovery, for the company of the spirit on sleepless lonely nights, and for the thousands of answered prayers offered on my behalf.

I will forever be great full to My family, who spent hours and hours by my side through the worst parts of this ordeal. They spent time helping my little family. Making sure that we were alright. I love them and appreciate all they have done for me. More than anything I am great full for my loving Wife Amy. She has been a rock. She has had courage and fortitude beyond what I could ever hope for. She traveled up to be with me multiple times a day, she put more miles on her car than I could imagine. Most importantly, she always had something good to say. If I was feeling down she would boost me up, encourage me and show me that "for better or for worse" love. I Love you Babe!

I guess I am recalling all of these memories more for myself to help me remember that as scared as I am to go though it again, I know the same help will be there and God will again be by my side.