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 4904 days
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Wednesday Wordplay

Wed Jul 28, 10 9:43 am

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[  Mood: Amused ]
[ Eating belated breakfast Currently: Eating belated breakfast ]

A random word mash; don't ask me where it came from:

Fudge + Lard = "Extra Lardge"
+ =
My mind works in mysterious ways...

5 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

CT scan news - mixed

Sat Jul 24, 10 1:52 pm

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This last Monday I was at the Cancer Treatment Center to see my doctor, expecting to discuss the CT scan of a week prior and then formulate the plan for following treatments. Well, my local hospital dropped the ball horribly, and despite that we called them multiple times the prior week, the disc containing the images had not yet arrived. My appointment then had minimal content, but the truth is my body needed an extra week off treatment anyway, so this last week has been a good breather.

Thursday the doctor received the disc and gave me a call to explain things. Most masses have remained approximately stable, so that is good. But one grew by a couple millimeters and another appeared to be more dense than before. I was of course hoping to hear that the cancer had regressed visibly. I asked, and the doctor said that "yes, sometimes this is too early to expect that."

I have treatment 3 on Monday the 26th, and dosages will be adjusted as we seek to lessen the side effects which I experienced to a much higher level than is normal. Pray for that goal to be achieved, while continuing maximum effectiveness against the cancer.

In other news, I enjoyed my first days back to work these last two weeks. This week I finally had everything I needed - computer, power cord, accounts, security badge, etc, so I had a productive couple of days. I've had opportunity to talk to a number of old friends and colleagues and I've really liked that. A few have mentioned they would add my healing to their prayers. When obviously sincere, that's certainly appreciated! After next week off, I will look forward to getting back to work again.

Sunday evening the 25th is the benefit in Dixon, IL. I'm looking forward to seeing a number of you there! It will be a great time and God will bless you there as well as me, I'm sure of that.

Thankful for each day.

7 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Under Wings of Gold and Silver

Sat Jul 17, 10 11:07 am

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This week has ended up being my toughest yet while on chemo, which is a bit unexpected.

The dose of one of the infused drugs was considerably less this cycle, so week one wasn't so bad. But late in week 2, all through this 3rd week has been difficult to miserable. The weight I've lost, I've not regained one bit since mouth and lip sores have made it nearly impossible to eat, besides dealing with diarrhea and incomplete digestion. I now have a number of sores (mouth to foot and in-between) which are open or infected and simply won't heal because my body is run down by the chemo. Yesterday was the worst of it, as I experienced some bleeding and very sharp pains.

I broke down. I cried. Not so much from the pain - I've soldiered through considerably worse - but from frustration and despair. My body is at the end of itself in some respects and I need relief.

Psalm 91:4
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 68:13
Even while you sleep among the campfires, the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shining gold.

These above verses tie in with a song I'm linking to below. The concept is pretty simple: we're small and often can't understand. Almighty, infinite God is big, so we can take shelter under His wings. The song starts slowly but builds, with a crescendo of genuine passion. Passion, I think, is what separates that which might be technically good music, from that which has real impact. Passionate music stirs the soul.

Stavesacre - "Gold and Silver"
from the album Speakeasy

Do I see God in all of this, maybe all along
It's just that we're so small, and simply not as strong
Strong like wings of silver, and feathers made of gold
To carry heavy hearts, to cover all our helpless souls

To cover all of us

Under wings of Gold and Silver sometimes we have to hide
For shelter from this bitter winter at least tonight

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Eventful week

Tue Jul 13, 10 8:30 pm

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This Monday I had a CT scan to check the effectiveness of the first two rounds of chemo. Next week before my 3rd treatment, I will hear the results. Pray that this brutal method is causing visible damage to the cancer.

My feet, hands and mouth are incredibly sensitive right now. Mouth sores, throat sores, and my lips are peeling and scabbing. I got foot blisters Monday just from walking around the office. I have small infections at the corners of fingers and toenails. I bought white cotton gloves today so that my hands can cope with being red and super-sensitive. After describing these things to my doctor, they agreed my side-effects are more severe than what is acceptable. There is a good chance I'll receive a lower dose of my chemo pill this next round. They also prescribed a pharmacy cocktail that helps some with the pain of the mouth sores.

I also started back to work on Monday, which is a good thing but will be challenging. I don't have the energy and drive I normally do, but hopefully enough for a couple part-time weeks during each treatment cycle. It was great to see old friends and catch up, even if the bulk of that was me telling my story. I'm trying to keep my ears open for opportunity to witness for Christ, and not just bemoan the trials I'm enduring. I've managed to a couple times, but wish I could say more. I plan to have lunch with one Jehovah's Witness friend sometime. We've known each other for 13 years now, and he's one of the few I clicked with from the start. So I'm looking forward to that conversation.

All in all, I've felt pretty low and weak the last couple days. Hopefully the rest of the week will be steady improvement, as I cycle off the chemo pill.

Thanks for your continued prayers and the generous donations I've already received.

10 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

New do, New job, and doing okay, considering

Sat Jul 03, 10 8:27 pm

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[  Mood: Happy ]

Since my hair began falling our rapidly due to chemo, I decided to have some fun with it as it went bye-bye. Those of you also on Facebook have already seen this, so here I present for the rest of you to, uh... enjoy Twisted Evil

Melody did her hair up with streaks and made some combined shots, too. Very Happy

I'm really digging this, actually, and hope I can hang onto what's left for a week or so, at least until I start my new job. Very Happy

Yes! New job. A few weeks ago I contacted a couple previous supervisors, just to see what the work situation was at their places of business. One said there weren't any company openings, but they were thinking about bringing in some consultants, and he'd make some phone calls. Well, he basically turned around and made a requisition for me, and put me in contact with the appropriate agency to get the ball rolling. Today I mailed off the paperwork, and barring any unforeseen issues, I will start on July 12th. Very Happy This is pretty amazing, folks. I'll be working in an environment I'm comfortable in, with people I know, doing work I'm familiar with, near enough to home that I need not move, and getting paid even a little better than before to do it! They also know the scoop with my health, and are apparently willing to be flexible with me over the coming months as I go through treatments.

God has provided exactly what I needed, exactly when I need it. Praise Him!

This last Monday I received my 2nd chemotherapy treatment out of a planned 12. It wasn't easy, it never will be, but this one went better than the previous. Unbeknownst to me, the first treatment had a "loading" dose of one drug, i.e. a much higher level, so this 2nd and the following treatments have less of that. This has meant the side-effects are not as harsh, and while the treatment still knocked the wind out of my sails for the most of this week, I didn't feel completely flattened like 3 weeks ago. I expect things will get tougher over the coming months before they get easy, but still this has felt like a breather in comparison.

15 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Looking for work

Thu Jun 17, 10 1:10 pm

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After being laid off last fall, I had a number of other things on my plate, including a trip to Asia and then the return of my cancer. For a time, it was a good thing to not be burdened with the stress of work, but lately my savings have just about dried up, and that can bring stress, too!

So, I've been putting out some feelers lately, trying to find some decent-paying work close to home, as I am quite sure that moving and living on my own would be unwise during chemo, no matter how nice the job.

Today I sent my resumé to an agency that might be able to find a position for me locally, doing what I know best (CAD, example above). If this worked out - and they were understanding about my absences for treatments and associated illness - that would be pretty amazing. Please pray that this will work out, or that I can find something else in the near future.

12 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

One foot in front of the other

Fri Jun 11, 10 5:05 pm

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I just got back from a warm, blustery evening walk. Our two dogs with me were being their normal annoying selves and not staying out of the way as vehicles came down our country road. Smile Still, it's nice to have company, even if it's furry and not highly conversational. Normally this time of year it's still quite bright out, but it's been hazy these last few hours, with storms threatening.

Four days ago I had my first chemo treatment in about a year and a half. You'd think going through it before, I'd never forget how hard it was, but memory fades and after a mostly healthy 2009 I guess my mind was moving on. The side-effects this time are a little different, but the themes are the same. Physically, I have less energy, less appetite, less desire for much of anything. It's difficult to concentrate, or to even come up with the right word in conversation.

It's almost like the drugs wound your spirit. It's harder to smile. It's easier to be irritable or feel on the verge of crying. Once again I'm reminded how God made us of the dust of the ground. We are both body and spirit and the two are intertwined.

As I finished my walk, I realized how low my energy was, and that I was just placing one foot in front of the other, trudging my way home. That seems figuratively true of my life now, as well.

I'm not here to moan or ask for a head-pat, but just to share.

13 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

Chemo, v2010.1.0 over

Tue Jun 08, 10 4:50 pm

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I survived round one of chemo yesterday, version 2010 (having been through this previously 2 years ago). I'm feeling a bit blah and out of it, but not terrible at this point. Eleven more three-week cycles are slated, which will take me into late January. The road goes ever on... And God's got me in His hands as I continue.

Many who read this were already praying for me. For that I thank you.

This is a different set of drugs than I was on previously, but side effects are similar. One that I am thankfully not taking this time causes neuropathy - tingling/numbness in extremeties and extreme cold sensitivity. None of that this time.

I'm now taking more daily drugs and yet more supplements, which means I need to expand my spreadsheet so I can remember what to take when! Razz I really liked the naturopathic advice I received at CTCA. They know what works with the chemotherapy to make it more effective, as well as what herbs interfere, and what supplements to recommend as support to the body as it is enduring the chemo. This is what I wasn't getting locally and I think totally justifies the drive. The extra kind staff there, plus the hotel hot tub are worth something, too. Very Happy

My folks were with me, so they were a help doing all the driving and little things associated with travel (Zion being 4 hours from home). Plus having family there is just a comfort that isn't replaceable with just anyone. My girlfriend Melody has been and continues to be such an amazing encouragement to me at this time. During a pause in my treatment, while feeling particularly bad, we were able to talk on the phone for a bit, and boy was that nice. How quickly I have come to count on her strength! Prior to seeing each other this last weekend, she had written a note for me to read later, while I was in treatment, with the kindest words of encouragement and love. God bless you, especially, girl. Smile

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Upcoming treatment

Sun May 30, 10 11:39 am

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Monday, a week following Memorial Day, I will once again begin chemotherapy treatments. It will involve different drugs than last time, but the side effects will be similar. I've chosen to receive this through Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, at least at this time, as I was really impressed with their level of care and friendly attitudes in my orientation visit two weeks ago.

Realize this is just the next step in my ongoing effort to eradicate or at least gain control over the cancer. Unfortunately, conventional chemotherapy does not offer a cure for metastatic cancer, so my search for health will continue beyond the confines of this treatment. I expect to be on chemo for 6-9 months, with periodic scans to check for progress.

Pray that the treatments are effective at shrinking the cancer, and that I also endure them and regain some of the weight and strength I've lost in recent months. I want and need to work again very soon, just to pay bills and meet my needs, let alone plan for the future.

This last week I received help on that front *3* times:
*I got my federal tax refund and it included an additional amount!
*Travel expenses to and from CTCA reimbursed. Very nice! They actually do this every time.
*A completely anonymous donation of a significant amount.

Add it all up and that really gave me a boost, after doing my bills a week ago and feeling a touch of desperation. God continues to be good and meets my needs. Smile

12 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

At CTCA in Zion 05-12-2010

Wed May 12, 10 10:34 am

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This week I'm at Canter Treatment Centers of America in Zion, IL near Chicago, to see what they have to offer. It's a blessing that this is just 4.5 hours from my home.

I've met a number of kind patients and workers here, and it's been encouraging to hear their stories. It sounds like, for essentially conventional treatment, that this is one of the best places in the US to come. There are people here from all 50 states. There's a dry erase board on the lower level showing the number from each, and folks write their names on it, and sometimes little inspirational messages - often with Scripture or praise to God. When life gets hard, people turn to Him, don't they?

The first two days I had blood work and CT scans done, and heard the results this morning. My B12 is a little low (no surprise for having lost some small intestine to surgery), so I will get a shot for that. Otherwise, my blood counts were very normal. The CT showed additional growth in the 3 tumors, so that was not good to hear and indicates that treatment might be more urgent than we thought a few months ago. But, I still don't want to rush into a treatment if it's not the best choice. There's already a "placeholder" for chemo this evening, should they recommend and I so choose.

This afternoon I meet with the various doctors: oncologist, naturopath and nutritionist, to hear their recommendations. The screening doctor indicated it would likely include chemo, with a goal of surgical removal after shrinkage. I was hoping to avoid that, but we'll see. They help you support your body well during your treatment, with nutrition advice and smart supplementation of vitamins and herbs. I'm not a "religious" fan of either conventional or natural medicines, as I welcome answers from whatever their source - whatever is best for my body, especially long term. But I have to survive the short term to get to the long term.

Pray for me as I take in more info and make hard decisions, decisions that will impact me and those I love for some time.

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2, 3, 4

Sat May 01, 10 12:28 am

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[  Mood: Happy ]
[ Listening to Julian Bream on classical guitar Currently: Listening to Julian Bream on classical guitar ]

2. Exactly 2 years ago I was coming out of a surgery which saved my life. When admitted to the ER, I had a bowel obstruction which wouldn't move, and my heart rate was at a life-threateningly elevated 147. God spared me, and though the following two years have obviously been most difficult in light of my cancer diagnosis, they have also truly been the most rewarding and blessing-filled. In His providence, big needs have been met, windows of opportunity for special experiences have been provided, and unexpected blessings have been mine.
Psalm 16:1 Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."
5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,

3. Just over 3 years ago I joined and it didn't take long for me to realize that it's actually about my fellow homeschool graduates -- real people living real lives -- not just a I initially joined so I could have my own profile to use for arguing, debating, in the forums Smile and my post count shows that has remained an interest. But I did not anticipate the real world impact that joining HSA would have. The people I have met through this community, the friendships I've formed, have been life-changing. Some of you, I honestly expect to stay in touch with for many years to come.

4. Four months ago -- depending on where exactly you draw the line -- Melody started to become a bigger part of my life. It was surprising and unexpected for a couple reasons. First, we had known each other for over 3 years, and while I liked her, I had thought her not my type. Apparently I didn't know her as well as I imagined. Smile Secondly, considering my health and work challenges, I was sure this was not the time to go looking for a serious relationship. Well, as I've observed in the past and now experienced in spades, God has a way of rearranging our priorities and changing our plans. Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." And I'm pretty darn happy He did. Very Happy I gotta trust that God knows what He's doing, 'cause this ain't the order I was expecting to do things! Melody has been a huge encouragement and all-around boost to me, and I feel so undeserving. But then, what blessings of God do we ever really "deserve"?

Yes, some serious challenges lie yet ahead this year, but considering the grace God has shown me these recent months and years, why do I doubt that will continue? I shouldn't even entertain the idea.

15 Entered the gate and left word | Try your key

MRI results

Thu Apr 15, 10 11:21 pm

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Wednesday I had an MRI of my abdomen and pelvis, to see how the cancer has fared these recent months. The good news remains as before: all vitals are clear and "unremarkable". However, the less than good news is that the 3 tumors seen before, while still relatively small, have visibly grown (approximately doubling in size) since the CT scan in November. That is enough that I don't think I can continue on with full faith in the diet I've been following. While it may be beneficial, it might also be too slow and gentle for my body's needs.

I will once again be revisiting my course of treatment. Pray for me as I seek the medical advice I need.

Thank you, friends.

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Quick update - health, work, etc

Wed Apr 07, 10 2:59 pm

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[  Mood: Happy ]

After feeling considerably weaker the month of March, I decided to make some modifications to my diet. For the last week I've added 2 of our own farm-fresh eggs a day, poached in boiling water, and I can feel the difference already. I have more energy, my muscles feel more vibrant. I'm also finally getting over a month-long sinus-infection, for which I got some antibiotic help. Hopefully, in time, this will parlay into some weight regained.

Yesterday I had some blood drawn, and next week I am getting an MRI (Apr 14, results the 15th). Hopefully it's informative enough; if not, a CT or PET scan might be in order. If things look similar to November, that will be encouraging, I think. But obviously, we're praying for even better news than that! The whole doctor visit went better than expected. I was not sure if he would be keen on ordering scans and monitoring a patient whom he's not actively treating, but he was quite cooperative!

Personally, there are some good things going on Smile (details at a later date). I will also be looking for work this month, as my savings are drying up. I'm not sure right now whether I will head back toward my established line of work - CAD - or something totally different. An important thing is how well I can integrate my dietary and health needs with the work. This might prove a challenge, but I'm trusting God will provide, and soon.

As you can see, life has gotten busy, thus fewer blog posts of late. Feel free to PM me anytime. Or, catch me at a live HSA gathering. Smile

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Surprised, by jove!

Thu Feb 11, 10 11:49 pm

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[  Mood: Happy ]

Yesterday I received this package in the mail. It was a manila envelope, from a girl. A girl whose name I didn't recognize. hmmm...

As I cut open the envelope, little red metallic heart confetti proceeded to spill everywhere. hmmm once more...

But as I inspected the contents, I found that NO this was not the usual monthly mailing from my fan club Cool , nor a Valentine's letter from a secret admirer, but rather a number of cards from HSA's illustrious Cheerful Hearts Club, or CHC. I won't name names, and anonymity makes it more special anyhow. Some were funny, some involved handcraft and artwork, some were inspirational and many were simply from the heart. So to those who took the time, THANKS! I seriously appreciate it. Very Happy

God must have known I needed a boost this week, too, because the day before the CHC package, I received not one but TWO surprises in the mail. They were each financial blessings of sorts. One was a refund -- from a doctor's group. Who ever gets refunds from doctors? Well apparently I had overpaid on a bill that insurance picked up, so I got the refund. Yay! Very Happy The other envelope contained a really generous donation, given anonymously through a mutual friend. How cool is that?

I've noticed that receiving things like this, or hearing of others praying serves a number of purposes. The first is obvious -- encouragement. Secondly, though, it also humbles me -- it reminds me that God really does care for me and meet my needs, and He is actively using other people to do that, and just who do I think I am anyway? Do I really hold the keys to my own destiny? I think not. Someone Much Bigger than me does. That sort of a humbling is nice (and needed) from time to time.

Count 'em up, folks, count your blessings. That's 1-2-3 for me, from God, in just a couple days. I bet you have a few that need counting, too. Very Happy

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Travel troubles

Tue Jan 05, 10 5:55 pm

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[  Mood: Amused ]

As you wrap up your holiday and college break travels, I thought you might find the following amusing. Very Happy


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