Sunday, January 13, 2008

Starting My Climb Up the Mountain

They say that when dealing with cancer you'll go through peaks and valleys. This past week epitomized this experience.

Deb returned to work on Monday and the kids went back into daycare. Since they were off early in the morning (and I was still in bed), Morgan and Landon decided to come upstairs and give me a hug and kiss before they left. To my delight, they have made this part of every morning before leaving for school with Deb.

When I got up from bed on Monday, I felt an aching pain in my chest that was eerily similar to that before I was admitted to the hospital (although at a lower intensity and without the lower back pain). The last thing I wanted to have happen this week was to be re-admitted to the hospital to drain fluid from my chest, since this could impact my first chemo treatment scheduled for Friday.

When diagnosed with cancer, it is always in the back of your mind, but I have found that when I'm feeling well or when I have family/friends with me life is much more enjoyable. On Monday morning, I suddenly had neither of these positive influences. Then I noticed that I had a voicemail from my Dad that I missed from Sunday night, saying he wanted to come down and spend some time with me. It is amazing to me how the Lord recognizes and supplies our needs, before we even know we need them. Luke 1:49-50 (NIV)

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.


Dad and I only spent about 3 hours together that afternoon, but in that short time we continued work in the kitchen (including the final fitments and hookups of the dishwasher) and had memorable conversations involving God, life, and family.

Late Monday afternoon, I had a follow up appointment with my pulmonary doctor. I had my early morning concerns about fluid build up in my left lung verified. Fortunately, the doctor didn't consider the amount of fluid necessary for immediate drainage, but he gave me the warning sign for when I should return to the hospital (shortness of breath at rest). At the time, his diagnostic tests showed my lungs at about 75% capacity of normal.

Sleep on Monday and Tuesday night was restless and alternating hot and cold sweats. My oncologist has said that this is a common occurrence with my form of cancer. On Wednesday, I experienced the chest pain again in the morning when getting out of bed, but I was feeling better once getting up and about.

I decided to install the last major piece of the kitchen remodel, the sink. Fortunately my friends and family had already assembled the plumbing, fixtures, and disposal, so all I needed to do was drop the sink into the square hole in the counter. After solving some minor fitting issues and putting down a bead of caulk, the sink was ready to go in. After all of the under-sink fasteners were secured, we finally had a functional kitchen. All that is left now is some minor trim work. Here are some pictures of the original to near finished project.

1950's original tile counter with painted cabinets

You can't find stuff like this anymore, unless you go to the Habitat Re-store in Detroit ;), where it is surely still sitting on a shelf.

Demo finished, beginning of prep (approximately 1 week before I went to the hospital)

The project near completion

My thanks goes out to all of you who helped us with this project (Derrick, Dan, Mike, John, Ben, Deb's Dad and Mom, Jim, Jorge, my Dad and Mom, Steve, Em, and anyone else I may have missed).

My Mom watched the kids Wednesday evening so Deb and I could meet with an estate planning lawyer. By the time we returned home, I was completely exhausted from the hour of driving and 2 hours of discussion. My temperature was running about 1 deg above normal. I had a difficult night, but for some reason I felt pretty good when I woke up.

Thursday was a milestone day for me. After 18 months with upper and lower braces, my dentist had them removed, giving me a mouth full of straight teeth. It was important to get this done before chemotherapy, fortunately the timing worked out perfectly. I'll be required to wear retainers most of the time the next 6 months as my teeth lock into their final position. It is funny to hear me talk with a lisp. In a few weeks I should be adjusted to the retainers in my mouth. On Thursday night Deb took the kids up to my parents for the weekend.

Friday was chemo day. We arrived at Karmanos around 7:30am, first stop being the lab for bloodwork. Unfortunately, there was a mix up with our paperwork and we waited 90 minutes before finding out that we had already missed our 8:40am appointment with Dr. Flaherty. Everything was eventually sorted out, but we were essentially running 1 hour behind schedule. My bloodwork came back OK for chemo treatment and we had a good discussion with Dr. Flaherty regarding the chemo and clinical trial drug treatment. My chemo drugs were Paclitaxel (often called Taxol) and Carboplatin (the nurses referred to it as Carbo). These chemo drugs are considered to be low on the toxicity scale, with side effects being relatively mild. The most common side effect of the clinical trial drug (BAY 43-9006) is dryness or a mild rash on the skin. Dr. Flaherty felt that the overall treatment would potentially reduce my lung fluid issue, as a very small tumor (smaller than can be detected on a CT scan) could be causing irritation resulting in fluid collection in my chest cavity.

We settled into our private chemo room at 12:30pm, and finally started the brigade of intravenous drugs at 1pm. The first 3 drugs (~60 minutes) were pre-chemo concoctions that included anti-nausea and steroid medications. Taxol was the first chemo treatment, which took 3.5 hours. Carbo was next, which took about 45 minutes. I didn't have any negative side effects to either of these drugs during the infusion. We finally exited Karmanos at 6:45pm, a long day but thankfully I was feeling well enough to drive us home.

Deb's mom arrived at our place late Friday night for a weekend visit. I slept well and felt just a slight amount of chest pain when getting up from bed (due to the fluid in the left lung). After taking my pill medications on Saturday morning, I felt like going out for breakfast. We stopped in at our local IHOP and found out that Doug Savant (one of the stars from Desperate Housewives and brother of the IHOP owner) would be at the restaurant from 1-4pm. Deb and her mom were quite excited and decided to return later to get a picture with Tom. I decided that I had enough of IHOP for one day ;).


On Sunday morning I got out of bed with no chest pain, which meant that most of the fluid in my chest was gone. My appetite has been great and I'm feeling energetic. I haven't experienced any of the negative side effects. I'm hoping that this will continue over the next few weeks as the drugs battle my cancer. Note that I'll probably lose what's left of my hair in the next 2 weeks ;).

Please continue to pray for my healing, specifically that I avoid infection due to my weakened immune system, that my lungs would stay clear of fluid, and that the chemo and clinical drugs would shrink my tumor.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate,
I'm Carolyn and Ron's daughter. I wanted to tell you that we pray for you and your family every night. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Shelly

dclundblad said...

Good evening Nate,

Your dad gave me your blog address and I want you to know that I'm praying that God will be your faithful companion during these weeks of treatments. Your dad is a good friend, for whom I have a lot of respect.

Great job on your kitchen remodeling. Did I see some blue Danish plates on your "old" soffet? There must be some Scandanavian blood in your family?
If so, we have similar plates in our kitchen.

Thanks for keeping us updated.

Sincerely,

Dan Lundblad

Nate said...

Thanks Shelly and Dan for keeping us in your prayers.

Yes those are blue Bing & Grondahl Christmas Jubilee Danish plates. My parents have given us one for each wedding anniversary.

Whenever my grandmother sees me, she thinks there may be some Viking blood in the family.

Nate

Anonymous said...

Nate,
We are so thankful that you're 1st chemo went well. We are continuing to pray!! Keep trusting in our FAITHFUL God!
We love you guys!
Love, Katie, Scott, Grace and Gavin

Anonymous said...

Nate,

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your spirit, your hope, and your resolve to "Climb that Mountain.: You are a source of encouragement to me and I hope I will have the same courage, fortitude and guts you have when I need them. Proud of you and Deb. Isn't it wonderful when we know the Lord is in command.

Grandfather Chas

Tocayo said...

Hey Nate,

Tocayo here (the other Nate). You're an inspiration to me with your positive attitude and upbeat spirit!!

So glad your first Chemo went well! We're praying for you.

May God shrivel this cancer up by its roots and keep you healthy and strong!

Looking forward to seeing you Thur. God bless you and keep you and fill you with all peace!
Blessings in Jesus' name over you and your family!
Your friend, "Tocayo" Garland

The_Machine said...

Nate,

Just read this blog and it's really great that you're keeping it. In all of the chaos, uncertainty, and general misery of being sick, your desire to trust God and to keep positive is showing up in these posts.

Our family is praying for your recovery.

I hope to see you this Thurs. w/ Marc and the Genesis Men's Group gang!

God bless brother,


~Alex Watson

Anonymous said...

Hey Nate-

Glad to hear your feeling well! Can't wait to see ya' next weekend for the AFC championship. Steve and I plan to leave Saturday morning. Go Pats!

-Meg

Stef said...

Hi Nate.
I'm so glad to hear that the first treatment went well! Know that I and the rest of my small group continue to pray for and with you and your family. We're here.

-Stefanie

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate,

I'm not sure if you'll remember me or not, I was Em's best friend from McCook, Shannon McCorkle (Moore). I just wanted to let you know my family & I are praying for your recovery, and the the Lord will comfort you & your family during this time.

Your kids are ADORABLE! Em has sent me pictures of everyone from time to time, we all enjoy the updates of everyone!

wschoenherr said...

Nate,

Thanks for the update. Janie and I have been praying for you, Deb, and the kids every day, especially as you started your chemo. We're glad to hear that the first round went well and you are feeling better. We will continue to pray God's blessing on you in the days to come.

I didn't know you and your dad had carpentry and plumbing skills. The kitchen looks great! I know all of you will enjoy the remodel.

Bill and Janie

Anonymous said...

Nate:

Maria, Jonah and I are praying for you. I look forward to seeing you soon with the boys from Genesis. Still think about that butt kicking you gave me this summer in hoops during family camp.........

Brian

Claudia Flemingloss said...

Nate, I am so glad that you are so upbeat after your first treatment. I talked to your mom on Sunday night after she and your dad had returned Morgan and Landon to you. I told her that we need some snow when your kiddos are here in PH.We have some primo Flexible Flyers and plastic snow toys that would be great for Palmer Park. We plan to attend the Celtic Concert on Saturday.Keith will wear his kilt and we will continue to bug your dad to do the same.You,Deb and your twins are in my prayers each morning.Claudia

Apoorv said...

Hi Nate,

We were thinking of you at the team holiday lunch yesterday. We are sure that your faith, the love and good wishes of your family & friends and the wonders of modern medicine will help you make a full recovery very soon.

Best wishes,
Your friends at Ford

JC said...

Nate,

I bet if feels good to finally be taking some action to fight this thing. Your attitude and resilience are an inspiration to me.

I really miss our conversations at work. Stay strong and know that you are in my prayers.

Your Friend,

Jason

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate,

Charles here - aka Chuck from Sarasota, FL. You are a great writer (I am impressed!) You seem to have a great attitude, which also impresses me! I will be keeping you in my prayers and I look forward to your next visit to FL (we missed seeing you this year, but we will see you next year!)

Now where is the spell checker on this thing?!?!? I am not a great typist and am challenged with my spelling! LOL!

I will continue to check on ya, thanks for keeping us posted!

Charles Rissler

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate, just wanted you to know we are thinking about you in McCook, and sendng our prayers. That looks like a job in your house but it will be so nice when it's done. Say hello to your family for us. We've been working at the rectory, painteing etc, preparing for a new priest, and John remembers painting outside as Steve crawled on his partner, Larry Mollring's back and wouldn't get off. Also moving your family in and out. Nancy Gumb

Laura said...

Hi Nate and Deb,

Just want you to know that I have been thinking about you since your 1st chemo treatment and I am glad to hear that you have been doing well. Like so many others, we pray for you every night. Jack and Luke go to a Bible Study a couple of times a month with boys from their elementary school. Luke told me he led the group in prayer on Friday...praying for his cousin Nate...that God would heal his body and give him peace.

How about those Patriots? Jack just reported they are winning!

Love and Blessings...

Laura

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate, I am in small group with Marge. I want you to know that we are tracking your progress through Marge and this page. Thank you for keeping us well informed. We are praying for your recovery, strength, and peace. I really have enjoyed the pictures as well as the narative. Hang in there.
Joy