Sunday, April 19, 2009

The past month

The last four weeks of my battle with cancer has been exceptionally difficult. After receiving the third IV injection of my clinical trial drug, I elected to get a permanent pain block procedure on my back near the bottom of my left ribs. This surgery was on 25-Mar. The evening upon returning home from surgery I felt significant pain in my left lung area, ran a 102+ fever, and had uncontrolled sweating. When I went in for my fourth IV injection on 27-Mar I was in so much pain that Deb had to slow to a near stop over every bump and pot-hole on the road (which was quite frequent in mid-town Detroit).

The doctors were concerned about my pain, so a full array of tests were ordered. Deb and I were really anxious when the physicians assistant thought she heard a "gallop" in my heartbeat, so we went to another part of the hospital to get a heart echo. This test looked at the efficiency of my heart and thankfully it showed that my heart was still in great shape. A wonderful technician did this test and to pass the time we talked about faith and the wonder of life, uplifting my spirits on my difficult day. Chest x-rays were clear. The blood tests came back negative for a bacterial infection but due to a specific liver enzyme (and my pain), it was decided that I would not receive my scheduled treatment.

That weekend at home I was just miserable. I prayed constantly to the Lord for mercy (the pain medication wasn't doing anything). When I went in for treatment the week of 30-Mar my liver enzymes were still to elevated to receive treatment and my oncologist determined that I had picked up a nasty virus that was overworking my liver. Thankfully, it looked like the enzyme numbers were coming down and I was experiencing less pain, fevers, and sweats. We agreed that I would resume treatment on 13-Apr and fortunately the pharmaceutical company allowed me to stay in the trial (even though my results could not be used in the analysis of the drug).

We went up to Port Huron for Easter weekend (11,12-Apr) to spend time with my folks, my sisters Meg and Emily, and my brother Steve. My brother Charley and his wife Melissa had spent the first part of the week with us in Dearborn. Deb's mom also came out for a few days this week to help us during the kids Easter break week.
It was great to be able to spend time with family, especially since we are so spread out.

I went in for treatment on 13-Apr and felt relatively well. My spirits were high and my liver enzymes were low. I received my IV injection and went home. On Wednesday I began to feel a new source of sharp pain in my left side. When I went in for treatment on 16-Apr the doctors found that my hemoglobin (red blood cells) had fallen again. Unfortunately this may mean that I am bleeding internally, which is fairly common with Metastatic Melanoma tumors. I am going back in for treatment on Monday (20-Apr) and will also get a blood transfusion (two units). It will be a 10 hour day for us a Karmanos.

Deb and I appreciate all of the wonderful people that have prayed for and encouraged us through this journey. My primary prayer need right now is pain relief, so I can interact more with Deb, Morgan, and Landon. We don't know how much time I have left and every moment I can spend with my family is more valuable to me than gold.

God Bless you all.



Margaret and Bob said...

Nate and Deb, may each moment be precious. May God grant you mercy with your pain. You have lead your family as an example of how we should all live. We pray for mercies and miracles.

Love, Mom and Dad

Anonymous said...

Your zest for life and your family are an inspiration to us. We will pray for pain relief and for many more precious moments with Deb, Morgan, Landon and all of us who love you so much!
With all our love,
Nancy, Ben and kids

Laurie & Nick said...

Don't know if you guys remember me, we met at Carol & John's house, but Nick & I are praying. Your courage is passionate pursuit of the Lord is such an encouragement.

Nick & Laurie Monterosso

Anonymous said...

Dear Nate, We love you so much and it hurts to know you have so much pain! We pray our God will give you relief!! May you enjoy happy time with your precious family. We are grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves you, too! Grandpa and Grandma VR

Anonymous said...

Dear Nate & Deb--Rebecca updated me yesterday and we will pray for relief for you. I watch way to much "House" but let me say that I hope that you have learned to be always proactive in your care. If the pain relief is not working please do not be satisfied until you have complained your way through the system! Hoping to hear better news soon. Love, Rose & Cal Van Reken

Glenn said...

Hi Nate....please know that you continue to be in our prayers right now. I know that when pain is not being managed, it can make life so difficult and spill over into every part of our being. God bless you Nate on this journey as your faith speaks to all of us.

Glenn (Stone)

Anonymous said...

Nate, Keith had lunch with your dad today,and I am going to see your mom for a chat on Thursday. I can not tell you how truly sad we are for you and your family that you are experiencing this pain. I pray daily for you,Deb,Morgan,Landon and your folks. I will contine to pray for mercy to relieve your pain,and for God to grant you time with Deb and your children. Your example is a lesson in faith for all of us.C

Anonymous said...

Please know that there are so many praying for you now. We pray that the pain will subside, that you will be able to spend wonderful moments with your family and that you will feel the presence of your Savior during this time. Hang in there Nate!

Anonymous said...


I'm sorry to hear you have been in so much pain. You and your family are in my prayers as always. Please know that you're faith and strength through all of this have been truely inspirational to me, and you have helped renew my faith in God.

Love, Jason

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I want to read many, many more months. You and yours are in our prayers, please remember us in yours.

Joe & Kim

Chris said...


It's hard to hear you're in so much pain. I will pray that it gets better. Thanks for sharing everything with us, even though it must be difficult. I'm hoping for a miracle.


Kelly said...

Hello - I went to Timothy with Deb and found your blog through Karin's. I just want you to know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...


I know your wonderful dad from church work as priests, and at the same time I am a Registered Nurse. I was a Hospice nurse for 5 1/2years up north, in the upper peninsula, and on Mackinac Island.

I am glad for you to learn that you are with Karmanos for treatments, because that is a great and compassionate organization/company of people as you know from the technician who sees you as more than a patient. At times Karmanos would refer clients to us for the Hospice option as well as consult with us because palliative care is a "both-and" view: somewhere between or among hospice care and curative treatments.

I understand your passion about triathlons. Although as a competitor you may not win the whole tri every time, you can win by with your own improved times in one part or the other, how you feel after finishing one segment, how your endurance increases, muscular development occurs, and how you feel when your family, friends, & even the other competitors applaud your performance in the race.

I think that you voice the importance of those other kinds victories regarding your illness when you write about wanting pain relief and enjoying whatever time you have remaining with your kids and spouse, which are just as real to clients/patients as being cured.

I encourage you to pursue all options of medical regimen, experimental treatment, holistic with scientific basis, palliative & hospice care.

I know and can see that you are pursuing the spiritual ones from the blog posts with a ton of super support. I and we will continue that at our parish for you and your family. Thank you for continuing to enrich all of our lives who come to know you through the postings on the blog.
God is with you.

Michael Herman

Anonymous said...

Nate: I know you dad from Diocesan affairs and I have been following your blog for some time. You and your family are in my prayers, especially in that you find relief from your pain enabling you to enjoy precious time with your family and friends. God Bless you. Carol Moggo

Anonymous said...

You have such a BIG heart! You are in my prayers and I hate to hear about all the pain. We DO have a powerful God and I just known He can help you through this. Thanks for keeping us updated - you certainly are an inspiration - keep your chin up! Take care,

Charles aka Chuck in Sarasota

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate and Deb,

We hope and pray that you have discovered a method to get rid of the pain. We love you so much and hate to see you suffer.

Nate, it is a joy to see you interact so lovingly with Morgan and Landon. I saw the devotional book "The Gentle Warrior" by your bedside, and that is how I think of you.

We can come any time you need us, just let us know.

Love,Jim and Marge

Shirley said...

jualsqueNate, you are an inspiration to me. Your faith through this time is a true example of God in your life. I do not know you, but I know your father, and you are remembered daily in prayer. The congregation at St. Paul's Port Huron has you on our prayer list, and we are praying for pain relief and good times with your family.

Love to you and your family,

Shirley Seely

Anonymous said...

Nat, Deb and the greater family. You all have been in our prayer and will continue as your journey in Christ continues. We pray for management of your pain and strength for you all.

In Christ's Love, Ed and Ira Leidel