Friday, February 1, 2008

Cautious Optimism...

As I write this entry, I am getting my 2nd chemo treatment at Karmanos. Since some time has passed since my last entry, I won't get to the meaning of the entry title until the end...

After being on medical leave for almost 2 months, I returned to the office the previous Tuesday (22-Jan). I had been in contact with my boss and a number of colleagues during my time away from work, so it felt like much less than 2 months had passed since I last stepped into the building. My first day back went better than I expected, particularly since I didn't know how fatigued I would be over a full working day. Many of my colleagues were glad to see me back in the office, interested in knowing how I was doing, and offered words of encouragement for my "climb."

I had enough energy after my first day of work to practice with my band, Inline5. For those of you who have not seen us perform (i.e. most of you), we are 5 engineers in Ford Research that don't mind embarrassing ourselves in public (everyone has lead vocals on at least 1 song). All kidding aside, we have a lot of fun practicing weekly and performing a few times a year. I have been the drummer in the band for 18 months, on an instrument I hadn't played since the 9th grade. Fortunately drumming is like riding a bike; no matter how long you are away from it, you can pick it back up quickly.

I thank the Lord that my side effects from the treatment have been relatively minor. When I went back to work I had developed a rash on the back of both of my hands. At my Thursday doctor appointment we found that it MAY BE due to the clinical trial drug I am taking. One of the common side effects of the drug is dry and itching skin. My oncologist's assistant had seen similar looking rashes before. She recommended an appropriate moisturizing agent and the rash cleared up by the weekend. My blood work showed that the platelets (blot clotting component) were in the normal range but the white blood cell count was low and would have to come up before my next chemo treatment.

Every morning since my first chemo treatment I have looked at my pillow and tugged at my hair to see if it was falling out. On Wednesday (23-Jan), 12 days after my first treatment, I was able to pull strands out easily. In my case, my hair didn't just fall out at once, but by Friday my hair was thinning out rapidly. 10 minutes after returning home from work on Friday I put the clippers on the lowest setting and removed what was left of my hair. It is a little ironic that this hair(less)style was the one that Deb didn't want me to do (before I started treatments, of course). My mother, who tells it like it is, prefers the bald look.

Deb's mom came to visit over the weekend. On Saturday I woke up with some pain in my upper left back that felt like a muscle strain. Deep breathing was difficult since I had acute pain in my back. Fortunately it did not feel like there was fluid in my lung. Deb and her mom took the kids sledding in the morning and shopping in the afternoon. I took it easy on the couch.

On Sunday our pastor at Genesis preached on being under pressure (Acts 16:16-32). Paul and Silas were preaching in Philippi. A slave girl, who was a fortuneteller (and money maker for her owners), pestered Paul to the point where he commanded the evil spirit out of her. Her owners, upset since they no longer had their profitable business, roughed up Paul and Silas and riled up others against them in the market square. The judges took the side of the mob and ordered that Paul and Silas be stripped and severely lashed in public. After the beating they were put in a cell that was the most secure in the prison. Clearly Paul and Silas were under pressure, more pressure than most of us will ever face in our lifetime. Instead of groaning or complaining about their situation, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns, which shocked the other prisoners. An earthquake caused all of the cell doors to open, releasing all of the prisoners. The guard who was supposed to prevent Paul and Silas from escape feared what would happen to him and prepared to commit suicide. Paul stopped him and led him and his family to salvation. I understand that prayer and singing hymns won't necessarily save you from pressure in your life, but Paul and Silas didn't know that the doors would swing open either.

On Monday I was back at work for my second week, getting settled into my office, and making progress on assignments that had been on the backburner since I went into the hospital. My back pain had subsided by Thursday and my breathing returned to normal. I also resumed exercising this week, a brisk walk for 30 minutes each morning on the treadmill.

And that brings us to today and "cautious optimism"... Before I could get my second chemo infusion, my oncologist had to ensure that my blood work met the requirements of the protocol. My white cell count climbed back to normal over the past week. This means that my bone marrow is healthy, important for me fighting infection. In addition, the enzyme level associated with the activity of melanoma in my liver dropped when compared to my initial visit before starting treatment. These findings, in addition to how much better I have felt the last 2 weeks, are positive results. I'm not through the woods yet, closer to just entering the forest. We won't have another CT scan done until mid-February, but we were warned that the scans might not respond in the same manner as the blood work. It is a long road ahead, but I'm hoping days like this outnumber the alternative.


Anonymous said...

Nate and Deb,

It was SO GOOD to read you blog tonight. We are so thrilled that you are feeling well most of the time, and that you can resume your normal activies.

It was great spending time with you last weekend and your church service was really great. Your minister doesn't preach a candy coated gospel that if one is a Christian, works hard, and has faith - then everything will be wonderful. There will be struggles and trials, but God will walk with us through it all. It was very uplifting and helpful.

Have a great time with your parents and siblings as you host the Superbowl Party on Sunday. I hope the Patriots win, since I know you are all Patriot fans.

Thanks for keeping up with the blog. It is terrific.

Love, Marge and Jim

janetjoy said...

Nate and Deb, Though we have been praying for you ever since Marge shared your story I have not taken the time to check in. Now I must figure out how to leave messages so I can comment more often. We know that we don't get miracles if we don't need them, but when there is a need, a miracle comes so we pray for that miracle in your life. What beautiful children you have. You are truly blessed! And we too will be cheering for the Patriots!! So while you are watching in the cold north, we will be watching the same game in the sunny south! Loving you, Janet

Tracy said...

Hi Nate & Deb,
I am so glad that I ran into you at church this morning. I hadn't heard about your diagnosis until Deb shared with me this morning. Sometimes word spreads fast and other times it's like molasses - especially when folks are talking about cancer. I want to leave you with a note of encouragement. Cancer rocked the world of many folks in my family as well my closest friend. It can be really scary. I worked at Karmanos for the Clincal Trials Department in Bone Marrow/PBSC Transplant from 1996 - 2001 and had the awesome opportunity to meet hundreds of survivors. (ps. you've got a great doc!) Through my experiences I have seen people's lives transform and point right toward God and His Love like a huge spotlight. From reading your blog I can already tell that that is what you are doing. He will be Your Rock!!! It would be an honor for me to pray for you and your whole family as you journey through this leg of life.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nate and Deb,

We look forward to your blogs like waiting to read the next chapter of a book...a great one. Thanks for keeping us updated with such honesty and insight. Your faith is teaching us a lot about life and the challenges that do and will come our way. It is so great to hear that you are feeling well and responding to your chemo treatments with minimal side effects. Your blood work results are very encouraging. We will continue to pray that your CT results are consistant with the bood results.

We had a little Superbowl party tonight and we were all cheering for the Patriots in your honor...bummer outcome, but exciting game even though I usually just watch for the commercials and the company.:)

We look forward to seeing you in the next couple weeks.

Love you,
Nancy and Ben

wschoenherr said...

Nate and Deb,

You continue to be in our prayers. Keep up the good fight. We appreciate the blog and passing the information along to all.

Sorry for the Patriots loss last night. I screamed at the TV several times in the last quarter to no avail, but I felt better after getting it out of my system. I hope you had a lot of fun and fellowship with the family.

I have been listening to Rob Bell and he has been teaching on Philippians in the month of January. Your comments reminded me of Rob's teaching and Paul's words to this church. Living is tough work. Keep singing.

Love, Bill and Janie

Anonymous said...

Nate, Imagine my suprise when I got the monthly St. Albans newsletter with your name in it!! I thought what the heck has Fran been drinking, is this a misprint?? I cant say as though I know what your going through, but that I will pray for you, and your family. Your family was of great help to me and my family at the passing of my dad and we will never forget that.
You sure have a couple of good looking kiddos'...I can see that they got their good looks from their mom (HA).
Unlike your family I was happy to see the Pats lose, but wish they would have been playing the Pack instead. At least you have not become a Lions fan!! Your perserverance is inspiring and we wish you the best in your road to recovery. Great idea with the will be a great help for you and all of us in keeping up with your recovery process. Now hurry up and get this thing beat...Winter Park is calling your name!!

Love Tom, Kristie, Sydney, and Gabe Randel

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate and Deb,
I am not sure if your remember me and/or my family, (Jeff and Kathy Lowry), Jennifer, Ryan, Stephanie from Saint Alban's in McCook, NE. This was about 12 to 15 years ago.

We always felt very welcome to be part of this Saint Alban's family, and that was because of your families involvement. I have thought about your family many times through the years.

I want to express my sincere thanks to your parents and our prayers will be with you and your family, as you go through this time to heal and strenghten, as I know you will be fine.

God bless you and your famly, I will follow this blog and stay in touch.

Jeff Lowry

Anonymous said...

Nate, We just want you to know that we are all praying for you and will have "Cautious Optimism" with you. Thanks for the blog so we can know what's happening and can pray with knowledge. Love, Judy Ellefsen and family

Dale said...

Hi Nate, I'm glad to read your updates, sounds good for you to be back at work. If it helps, I get that deer in the headlights feeling if I have to get the kids ready & out the door. You're in our thoughts and prayers, Alice has even asked about you once or twice and has included you in her bedtime prayers.

Anonymous said...

Deal or no deal - hey the bald look is in! I've considered it myself! So good to hear things are getting back to normal and you are kickin' this thing in the butt!!! Sorry about your Patriots, maybe next year you'll get to lose to my Buccaneers... LOL!!! (maybe not!)

Not sure if my words encourage you, but your words sure encourage me! Not sure what else to say, except keep up the great work and thanks for keeping us posted!!!

Your bud from FL, Charles "Chuck"

Anonymous said...

I left a comment before and I forgot to tell you that my whole class is praying for you not just my family. I know how much the prayers of God's people helps so I hope this encourages you too. Love, Judy Ellefsen

Anonymous said...

Nate and Deb,
Thanks so much for keeping us all posted. Even Rebecca in New Zealand can keep up with your progress!

I like the bald look. I've always thought it would be great to have such an easy haircut, but with generous hips and a pin-sized head, I would not look like Demi Moore. Instead my hairdresser has given me a great haircut that I don't need to blow-dry (still can't get that right arm up that high). It does make it easier to get out of the house. My PT is going well and each week I add more functions to the right arm. John and I are planning to visit Rebecca in New Zealand for 2 weeks in March. We're definitely looking foward to the visit.

We keep you in our prayers and know the Lord is keeping all of you in the palm of his hand.

Leslie and John

JSchoenherr said...


Thanks for inviting us all to be part of your life during this difficult time. Your blog has been a window into the challenges facing you, and it has given us an opportunity to share in the faith the binds us. Your faithfulness and trust in the Lord has been an inspiration, and the prayers from the many surrounding you give testimony to the strength of that commitment. I too pray for you and the family, and through everything that God may be glorified.

Here’s a short poem from Ella Wilcox (1916). Perhaps you’re familiar with it:

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
'Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Love, John

P.S. How about those Red Sox!

Anonymous said...


Love the pictures and was sick like dogs and didn't make it to church....please update me on your latest CT scan....we have been praying for you and are anxiously waiting for miracles from God our Father above on your behalf!!!

Peace, grace and blessings on your whole family!