The Stronghold

Welcome to the Hold. "The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble." Psalm 37:39

Blog Owner: [ Gregolas Maximus 4GC ]
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Blog Started 04/26/07
Total entries 104
Blog Age 5389 days
Total replies 1032
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2 months post-surgery

Wed Jan 05, 11 10:04 am

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[  Mood: Sick ]

It's been 8 weeks since my surgery now. The first four post-op went fairly well and I seemed to gain a little each day, and was ready to return to work. Not so in the month since. It's honestly been more of a regression, with increased pain and nausea, a 4-day hospital stay, and a once again very-limited diet of clear liquids (barely any) and TPN. I'm basically back to where I was pre-surgery except I feel worse.

This last week I got a patch to help control the pain, since my stomach has been rejecting most pills, including pain pills. After a few days, it's seemed to help but I might need a higher dose. Keeping the pain under control will make a big difference in how I feel, I'm sure. The nausea/vomiting have been pretty bad ever since my Christmas hospital stay. My stomach really balks at anything but the smallest sips of water or Gatorade. This is frustrating.

I'm resuming my relationship with my local oncologist, for convenience, as he helps me manage pain and blood-thinners. This will be welcome versus the 4-5hr drives to Zion.

Life seems stuck on replay for me right now. Each day is fairly a repeat of the crummy day preceding it. I try to share encouragement and be thankful where I can, but today and lately I'm just feeling down. But it's okay. There's a time to be sick, a time to be well. A time to laugh and a time to cry.

12 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

in the hospital again

Mon Dec 27, 10 3:35 am

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[  Mood: Sick ]

As some of you already know, I've been in the hospital again the last few days, this time (thankfully), close to home. But this has been no way to spend Christmas.

The admitting diagnoses were colitis and aspirated pneumonia. I had some acid reflux the other day (caused by reaction to pain pills), and sucked some of that down my lungs. That did NOT feel good, and has obviously irritated my lungs, giving me slight pneumonia. As for the "colitis", my colon is almost completely gone, so I guess that refers to my small intestines being inflamed.

The fever is under control now, but the pain continues. It seems more in my lower ribs than guts, actually, and has been an increasing problem over the last two-plus weeks.

I'm on antibiotics, pain medication and fluids. Other than that, they're just watching me and letting nature take its course. Hopefully we'll get this under control and I'll have less pain when I leave the hospital than I was enduring in the weeks prior.

4 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

post-op follow-up, week of 12/6/10

Fri Dec 10, 10 2:54 am

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This week's trip to Zion was a fairly routine post-op follow-up. The incision is healing perfectly and I'm feeling better, which are two good things, of course. But, though I've been simultaneously on IV nutrition and eating, I have not gained much weight as of the appointment. My main take-away from this visit was that I need to do all I can to control my fluid/nutrition loss. This is accomplished by supplementing with Benefiber and taking imodium to slow things down, and I need to be religious about it. Once I start gaining ground, then maybe next appointment (in 2 weeks), they will consider taking me off the IV nutrition, aka TPN. While helpful and at times a live-giver, the stuff is 70% dextrose (sugar!), which as you might know feeds cancer. The sooner I can get off of it, the better.

Next visit I will get a CT scan and see the oncologist, and I'll be curious to see what she suggests. Unless what she presents sounds extremely promising, with minimal toxicity and impact on quality of life, I suspect I am all done with chemo, because it simply has not worked. I have been and continue to be willing to suffer - a lot - if a treatment is effective, but so far chemotherapy has only offered the suffering.

I am still digging and learning, looking for a treatment path for me. I acquired a high-quality juicer and am adding fresh juice to my diet. My mom has helped me some with the reading and research - which is a big help, as there is so much to sift through. I have been leaning toward following a certain nutritional therapy, but what we're learning is that my body's limitations are a major factor in what treatments might be helpful. Toxicity from chemo, the loss of my colon, and loss of nutrition by my compromised small intestines are big, big challenges. The way is daunting.

I most likely will end up with a hybrid approach of diet and supplementation. Maybe this will only extend my days as opposed to reversing the cancer. Only God knows. I seek to be thankful, though, for what blessings I am still granted, the good things I yet have the fortune to experience, and remembering that my destiny is secure.
"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." - Hebrews 12:28-29

Until later,

6 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

In everything, give thanks.

Wed Nov 24, 10 5:34 am

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I thought I would list out some things I'm thankful for in this past year.

The love and support of my family in the midst of my illness.
A girlfriend whose love, encouragement and devotion equal that of a wife's. Is it any surprise I want to marry her?
A job that's waiting for me once I'm able to return. An understanding and supportive employer.
Prayers, financial gifts and other blessings from friends and even people I barely know.
A comfortable home in which to rest and recuperate.
My needs throughout the year - though incredible - have always been met.
Safety while traveling many, many miles on multiple trips to doctors and hospitals.
God's peace in the midst of trials.

5 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Going home soon

Thu Nov 18, 10 3:40 pm

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Tomorrow, Friday, I should likely be headed home. Praise the Lord for my recovery to this point. I am thankful for my youthful vigor in this regard.

Your continued prayers are coveted deeply, not just for surgery recovery, but my ongoing fight against the cancer. There is still significant disease left in my abdomen, and finding something to halt its progress - soon - is critical. Without that, the possibility of another intestinal blockage in the near future is very real.

I'm very much looking forward to home! Family, warmth, comfort, and next week is Thanksgiving.

3 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Recovery, Day 6

Mon Nov 15, 10 8:15 pm

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Since I last posted, some more ground has been gained and a few steps taken forward. I was going to get another tube removed today, but no show on whoever was supposed to make that happen. Hopefully tomorrow!

I've moved from clear liquids to full liquids to regular diet in the last two days. It's been good to eat again, but I can tell digestion is challenging to my guts. Pray that things go smoothly and there's no backups. My energy has started to wain some today. It's probably the nights of minimal sleep catching up, plus the tapering dosage on steroids.

This evening Melody Hemmer and Faith Hemmer headed home, after spending some days here. They've been such a help and encouragement, easing the burden on my parents in keeping an eye on me. And it's just fun to have somebody else to talk to and be with. I feel sorry for the patients who have no visitors, or none to stay with them the first few nights when it's so difficult and full of pain.

I've had some good time for prayer and thought here, and conversation dealing with my situation. I don't remember if it's from a song or Billy Graham or something, but "While I don't know what the future holds, I know Who holds the future." My trust remains in the Lord, no matter the trial, no matter the destination.

Tomorrow I get to see a cousin of mine and am looking forward to that. Good night for now.

2 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Surgery recovery, day 4 - 11/13/2010

Sat Nov 13, 10 1:45 pm

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[  Mood: Happy ]

Yesterday was another strong step forward. There are sounds in my bowels and more output, so things are waking up. Because of that, the Nasal-Gastric tube came out (no more elephant nose) and today I got to eat & drink some clear liquids at lunch. That included some broth Melody made and brought with her. Chicken, rice & veggies, and then Beef, tomato & veggies for supper. It's just broth, but it's food and I haven't had any in over a week. I'm still receiving IV nutrition, too, until they're sure my guts are doing the job. I can't wait til *solid* food reenters my diet. When that happens, it will have been about a month! I walked several times again, and without a walker. I was also able to walk to the elevators and to my new room, so I'm doing great with mobility and increasing abdominal strength.

I also had the EKG monitors removed (no wires!), and the night before, the arterial blood pressure line. I'm down to 2 tubes, 1 IV, an epidural (should be out soon), and my port, so I've lost about half and am enjoying the freedom. Yay! After these removals, I was transferred in the evening out of ICU and to a regular hospital room, at 315B. It's got it's plusses and minuses. ICU offers bigger, quieter rooms, and you get it all to yourself, plus there's the personal service of nurses with only one or two patients. I guess if one ends up in the hospital, you should aim for the ICU? Smile

I had a nice visit with Melody & Faith for about a day, and am looking forward to more visitors over the weekend. It's actually going to be a bit crowded here on Sunday, with 10! I'm planning on staging them in the waiting room where they can talk with one another, then they can visit me in shifts. Laughing

While on steroids, one's mind is amped up and you can do a lot more than your body really should. I've used this time for reading and research, so otherwise downtime has been profitable. I've learned more about some protocols and diets, researched some interesting supplements, and located some products that will help my body be more comfortable in its post-operative condition.

Praise the Lord for my speedy recovery so far, and pray that each step of adding to my diet will go smoothly. It's critical that I'm sustaining myself on real food on my way out of here. There is a distinct possibility I will be out in less than the 10 days estimated. Very Happy

4 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Recovering, day two

Thu Nov 11, 10 1:01 pm

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Since I'm up and feeling better, I figured you all would appreciate a note from me directly.

First, thank you all for praying. It amazes me, the number of people who take some time out of their day to do so, because they care.

Well, it's not been all good news, but I am recovering my strength pretty rapidly, considering how big the surgery was. It was about a 6 hour job. There remains cancer in my abdomen that could not be removed, so my battle continues. That said, this surgery should hopefully benefit me and buy me some time to pursue other treatment options, so for that I'm thankful.

The night after surgery and into the next morning were pretty rough. My pain has been under control since mid-day yesterday, and that's made all the difference. My heart rate is in a reasonable range again, my body is not anxious, and I rested a bit more last night than previously. Today my energy level is quite good, and I plan on walking at least 3 times. I cleaned up this morning and shaved and that's always nice, not feeling like a scuzz. Razz I'm still in ICU, but will probably be moved in a day or two, as long as there's room on the floor I'm headed to.

My whole family has been here the last day, with my brother just heading home. There are a number of people who will be visiting over the next several days, plus I've already received some cards here. I certainly appreciate the well-wishes!

3 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

My surgery is tomorrow

Mon Nov 08, 10 9:36 pm

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Today at the Cancer Treatment Center here in Zion I had final consultations and tests done, as well as insertion of a filter to prevent possible clots from traveling to my heart and lungs. Tonight I have some final preparations yet to ready myself for tomorrow.

We will be checking into the hospital about 7am, surgery will begin at 9am, and is expected to last 8-10 hours. After that I will be in ICU, and I will remain sedated for a total of about 24 hours. I basically won't know that Tuesday happened. In the interim, though, my parents who are here with me, my siblings at home, and so many more who are praying for me, will be the ones who are worried. Bring your burdens to the Lord, because He hears and will give you peace.

Evening and morning, and at noon, I will pray and cry aloud; and He shall hear my voice. - Psalm 55:17

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

The surgeon Dr. Brown will have big decisions to make when he is in there. On Wednesday we had a great consultation with him, and he was very good at both listening and explaining, so that I could make the best choice and give him clear direction with my preferences. He is reputed to be very thorough in his approach and that is a very good thing. Pray that he is able to discern what to remove and what to leave. This is really my number one concern about this surgery.

I will be incommunicado for the next several days, so expect updates to the Facebook group (Pray for Greg Wallace) via my sister Jill as she has time. I brought my laptop with me, and once I'm up to it, will email you all again to let you know how I'm doing.

Thank you all once again for your persistent prayers. I have really been touched by the number of people encouraging me & my family and praying regularly, including friends of friends and people I do not even know. Tomorrow is a big day in my search for health, and I know that hundreds, possibly into the thousands, are interceding on my behalf. Blessings to you all.

In God's hands,

The hospital's address:
Midwestern Regional Medical Center, A Facility of Cancer Treatment Centers of America
2520 Elisha Ave.
Zion, IL 60099

4 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Headed home, with surgery upcoming

Thu Oct 28, 10 9:46 pm

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Many of you know, but some do not, that I have been at the Cancer Treatment Center's hospital in Zion, IL since Monday the 15th. I had a major intestinal blockage similar to what I experienced in April 2008, but thankfully emergency surgery was avoided this occasion and it resolved itself through time. I am going home tomorrow, the 29th.

CT and other imaging revealed that chemotherapy is not meeting my goals, and the cancer has continued to gain ground in my abdomen and is severely impeding the function of my intestines at multiple locations. Without surgery to relieve this, it's only a matter of time before another blockage occurs. In light of this, I have a surgery scheduled for Tuesday November 9th, here at CTCA's Midwestern Regional Medical Center. Surgical oncologist Dr. Brown will be performing it. During surgery, he will decide if I may be a candidate for a procedure that involves in-operation targeted chemo. The surgery itself will be major as well, as I may be giving up nearly half of my small intestines, and might require an ileostomy, be it temporary or permanent. There are many unknowns until the surgeons can see with their own eyes.

This next week at home I will remain on clear liquids and IV nutrition, to avoid any risk prior to the surgery. I'm thankful that there are even such options, and that I will get the time at home instead of waiting my turn in the hospital. Judging by past experience, the surgery will knock me out of any normal routine for at least a month, and that is Lord willing, with no complications.

Pray that the doctors might remove as much disease as possible.
Pray that they have skillful hands and that no complications arise, like infection.
Pray that I might retain as much of a functioning bowel as possible, as this will be critical to my ongoing battle for health.
Pray for my fortitude and patience, especially the first few difficult weeks.
Pray for financial provision as I will not be able to work again for a time.
Pray for my family and loved ones as they support me and meet my needs and bear a burden of concern.
Pray to the Lord Almighty Jehovah, who made me and alone knows fully what holds us together and how we heal.

God has preserved my life for 3 years in the face of this illness, and difficult as these times have been, I remain thankful for the breath of life I've been granted. And I trust that there remains a long road ahead yet.

I look forward to hearing from my HSA friends especially. Blessings to you all,

13 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

from hospital in Zion 10/23/10

Sun Oct 24, 10 5:42 am

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Well, I'm still in the hospital and boy has it been a long week! If not for the visiting of family and friends, I think I would be a basketcase. Even Melody and her sister came for 3+ days and her dad for a day. Tomorrow my sister will be coming again, riding with some dear family friends.

While I feel better than when admitted - namely not in pain - my guts still have not moved and there is essentially no sound of bowel activity as of yesterday. Until that changes, I can't eat, and I need to eat before they can release me. It's looking like Monday is an optmistic date at this point.

The cause, though not a surprise, is the bigger deal. The cancer has continued to spread in my abdomen and certain spots are now binding loops of bowel, impeding their normal movement & fluctuations. This makes peristalsis and digestion more difficult and apprently this time was enough that my guts gave up & shut down. Pray that things will work okay again & that the trauma of surgery can be avoided. I want to fight this cancer but longterm it will likely be some way other than surgery & chemo.

Thanks for taking the time to read & petition our Father. God bless you for it.

23 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

In the Hospital

Mon Oct 18, 10 11:35 pm

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[  Mood: Sick ]

I was scheduled for chemo treatment #7 of 2010 yesterday, but that is being put off for unexpected reasons. That day I experienced an intestinal blockage much like I have had before, but of serious intensity unlike any since my surgery 2.5 years ago.

I've been admitted to the hospital here in Zion (away from home Sad), and will spend several days being observed as the blockage hopefully clears on its own. They are also helping with the pain, which is majorly important.

This is the lowest I've felt in a while. Pray that the bad pain would be short-lived, my guts would simmer down, and we would have wisdom for how to proceed against the cancer. Pray also for those who love me and do what they can to care for me. It's draining for them as well.

18 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

health update 09/10/10

Fri Sep 10, 10 11:01 am

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This week I heard the results from the latest CT scan and received my 5th treatment of 2010. The original plan was for 12 treatments, but considering we're still making adjustments, I doubt that number means much. I might have more, or less.

The news was similar to the scan in July, in that the chemo hasn't appeared to noticeably help just yet. The cancer remains active, with some measurable growth, although not that much in the last 2 months. Early dosing was higher than my body could handle, and more recently was much lower, and maybe thus less effective. So we've bumped it up, hopefully to a happy medium. We'll go a few more treatments and then scan again.

Each period of news and resulting adjustments are a bit trying emotionally, as some level of fear and doubt about the process and the decisions is inevitable. God has continued to give me peace even in the midst of this, though. Pray that this comfort would extend to those closest to me, as well, as they too bear a burden of care for my well-being.

Some good news is that the lower dose I had been on allowed me to work more recently. I've been busy and productive for the first time in a while, and that has felt great. We'll see what kind of schedule I can maintain in coming weeks, but so far it's been satisfactory and I've been very thankful for this job opportunity.

13 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

On guarding one's heart

Fri Aug 27, 10 11:12 am

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I think that lone verse in Proverbs about guarding one's heart is far over-used, in the too-narrow application of romantic love.

Prov 4:23
NIV: Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

ESV: Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.

KJV: Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life.

Plenty of chapters in Proverbs provide no context, and thus might be harder to interpret in specific application, as they are simply a collection of wise sayings. This one has a little, though, being framed as a father speaking wise counsel to his son. Yet it's funny how this verse gets quoted in teaching to girls more than any other it seems. Not that it has no application to young women, I'm just sayin...

The key though, here, is defining 'heart'. Looking at other uses of this same word, it's not simply the seat of feelings, where you get the warmies for somebody romantically. And in this particular instance it's defined as the source of the wellspring of your life. That's a LOT more than just romance, and I wonder how little it actually has to do with romance.

I think a more accurate teaching would stress not the avoidance of pain or keeping others from hurting you or affecting you emotionally, but rather maintaining your heart - your innermost being - in the way of the Lord. Because if you let the world gain control of your heart, what springs from you will not be good.
Matthew 15:18 NIV
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'

And while you're busy doing your part, you can rest assured God is doing His:
Philippians 4:7 NIV
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

12 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Health & Life - update 08-18-2010

Wed Aug 18, 10 1:06 am

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It's been a little while since my last substantive update.

Since then, the benefit was held for me on July 25 in Dixon, IL, and raised significant funds - over $16k counting pre- and post-gifts! It was a special night and it was once again moving to see God working through people to help a brother in need. It's an amazing thing, really.

I shared a few words that night that had been on my heart for some time, so I'll recap briefly for those unable to make it. I had been thinking about Paul's statement that "For me to live is Christ; to die is gain." Even for those of us who know God's love and work in Christ first-hand, we rarely live like that. We do it backwards: "For me to live is gain, to die is Christ." We tend to look at God's saving work as something pertaining to our death, and having very little to do with this ife. So we live this life for our own gain. I encourage you to search your heart and think about what you live for and whom you live for. To live foremost for earthly gain is short-sighted, recognizing how brief this life is.

The evening was lots of fun, too, with dancing, a pie-eating contest and colorful antics from our stunningly professional for amateur, highly entertaining auctioneers Cody and Aaron. With about 50(!) HSAers in attendance (200+ total), I felt quite honored indeed. Almost seemed like *the* HSA event of the summer! Cool Near as I could tell, everyone had a great time.

A couple weeks ago I had a brief weekend vacation at the HSA reunion in Indiana with friends and my family. It was was a nice break from routine, and was great to see some good friends.

I've now had treatments 3 and 4, with a reduced dosage which my body has appreciated. My hands and feet have stopped peeling, and mouth sores have healed, enabling me to eat better. I'm hoping to regain some hair, but that's least important. Some more weight is on the agenda first! In 2 weeks I will have a CT scan, prior to treatment 5. I'll be curious to see if this lower dosage has been effective against the cancer.

Work has been going pretty well for me, and I'm very thankful for the opportunity I received. My employer has been understanding thus far of my limited availability. And it's felt rather good to be more productive and busy again!

Thanks for your continued prayers to an Almighty God. The road remains long before me.

10 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key