I have started a new blog in Dave's Memory.
Go to
for more recent info, photos, articles, and learn about
the Dave Richards Memorial Award.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A week has passed and I feel obliged to enter another post.

There was a great article in today's London Free Press about Dave. (Click here to read the article.) I wasn't aware this was being done but am really touched and amazed at how far reaching an effect Dave had in others lives.

The visitation on Wednesday evening was supposed to go from 5-9, but people were lined up early, so we started at 4:45 and they didn't stop until 9:45. (5 hours non-stop) The line up to get in went out the door and was almost an hour long wait at times. We had a lot of photo collage boards set up and a photo slide show on a big screen while people were waiting during the visitations. I had also made a music CD for Dave for our anniversary 3 years ago, so I had them play that during both visitations.

The 2nd visitation on Thursday had to be stopped short to start the service. The service was beautiful. One of the teachers had written a song for him that a few of them sang, and the school choir sang amazingly. (A few of the kids were crying so hard they couldn't sing.) Another friend who is a pianist played the piano immediately before and after the service. 5 friends spoke as well as one of Dave's uncles and the pastor. The speeches were touching and all gave different glimpses into the man Dave was. (If I'm able I'll try to get copies of the speeches to post here sometime in the near future.) There was a reception afterward that friends organized and I am still amazed at how quickly it was pulled together and how so many people helped out to bring food and at how much food there was. (I'm guessing at numbers here, but I think there were about 500 people through on Wednesday evening, and 900 people at the service on Thursday.) I can't even begin to thank everybody that helped out with this.

I haven't been able to read the posts on all the facebook pages for Dave yet..., but I know that at this point he seems larger than life. You know Dave was a pretty simple guy. He loved sports, was very sociable, and lived to play baseball! He also had issues and struggles, just like the rest of us, however, he felt strongly compelled to help a lot of the youth around him that he saw struggling. Even after bad first impressions, he was always willing to give kids a second chance. He liked making kids smile and feel good, because it made him feel good. Dave had a rough childhood but was given a second chance. His foster parents invested in his life and helped shape the man he became. He wanted to pay it forward. We've had a few foster sons of our own and hope we've made an impact in their lives. When visiting friends and family, Dave would always make an effort to connect with the kids - whether it be to just make them laugh, teach them how to swim, or help them get over their fear of dogs. Dave was truly a kid at heart, the biggest kid I knew. He was just as happy hanging around kids as adults. When our son Cale was a teenager, he would load up our van full of family & friends teens and take them to Galilean Bible Camp - 10 hours north, for a few weeks each summer. Dave would help out with maintenance around the camp then drive them all home. He also loaded up the van in the winter to take the family teens on ski trips to Vermont. He managed to keep them all in control and still have a great time that they still laugh about.

Dave and I, have had our struggles over the years but always planned on growing old together. Even while fighting cancer, we still dreamed about our future. Cale & I are heartbroken and will be struggling to come to terms with the loss for a long time. The reality is that we have been mourning 'healthy' Dave for months now. I'm still waiting for him to run in the door, grab his ball bag, give me a quick kiss, and run out the door because he's late for a game. I try not to question, but it's hard to comprehend the loss.

I do know that our lives are inextricably knit together. God has a plan - I just don't fully see it yet.
Thank you for being a part of our journey and cheering us on. I hope this blog has helped you as much as it helped us.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obituary Information

Richards, David

June 14th, 2010

RICHARDS, David – Peacefully at LHSC Victoria Hospital on Monday, June 14th, 2010, David Richards of London at the age of 45. Beloved husband of Valerie Richards. Dearest father of Cale Richards. Beloved son of Diane McKillop. Will be missed by his sister Cairine Domzella (Perry) and by his brothers: Sean McKillop (Kathryn), Daniel McKillop and A.J. McKillop (Michelle). Survived by his uncles George Richards (Janet) and Paul Richards. Also, survived by many cousins, nieces and nephews from the Richards, McKillop and Abusow families.

Visitation is on Wednesday, June 16th from 5:00 - 9:00 p.m. at the Westview Funeral Chapel, 709 Wonderland Road North.

Visitation is on Thursday, June 17th from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Forest City Community Church, 3725 Bostwick Road.

The Funeral Service is Thursday, June 17th from 3:30 p.m. at Forest City Community Church, 3725 Bostwick Road.  A reception wil follow at the Church.

The Interment is Friday, June 18th, at 11am at St. James Cemetery, Watford for family and friends.
In lieu of flowers, donations to London Abused Women's Centre would be appreciated.

E-mail condolences accepted at westview@execulink.com

Monday, June 14, 2010


Posting again on Val's behalf. Dave passed away about 3 this morning and went home to be with  his Lord and Saviour.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Please keep Val, Cale and the family in your prayers.


Mark Walker doing a brief update at Val's request. Dave has had a difficult day. He went to the washroom earlier in the evening with assistance, then passed out in his seat coming back. When they got him back in his bed, he did quit breathing briefly, but came to on his own. The hospital felt it best to get him his own room, so later this evening he was moved to the oncology section on C 7th floor. He is receiving oxygen and a low dose of pain medication to keep him comfortable.
Val has been at the hospital since Saturday other than a very brief trip home late this evening. She does not have the internet access at this time as she did when Dave was on the fifth floor.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

So, they hooked Dave's pain pump back up this morning at about 8am. They were going to cut the dosage in half. I thought about the amount he was initially receiving Monday and Tuesday and went and asked the doctor to use 1/4 the amount as a baseline. (This is what he was originally receiving on Monday & Tuesday and was much better. He had pain relief that he was happy about and he was lucid.) He can always push the 'dose' button for a hit if he needs more.

He hasn't been in any pain but was still not waking up. At about 1pm the doctor came back to check. I already thought about asking them to stop the pump altogether again and then the doctor mentioned that as an option and I agreed. (He can get a needle for instant pain relief when it's required.) I just wanted him to wake back up again. The doctor said I was free to stay or take him home - whatever I wanted at this point. I said that I can't take him home like this as he's not moving. I would like to wait for him to wake up and ask to go home, and then take him home. The doctor also thought that it was progression of the disease more than the narcotics. I said that I'd like to get the narcotics out of his system and then determine that. So the pump was removed again at 1:00 pm.

It's 4:30ish now and he's just starting to be a little more responsive.

So, it looks like we'll be staying another night unless Dave suddenly becomes a little more mobile very shortly.


Sunday am

I'm still at the hospital and Dave is resting now. (They're still letting me use the computer in the hall outside Dave's room.) He started to move around in the middle of the night and was restless. The nurse came in to give him on pain shot at 5:30 am and when she told me the amount she was about to inject I told her to cut the dose in half. I spoke with the doctor at 7:30 this morning and discussed my concerns that I feel he is being over-medicated and was stoned last night. I explained that Dave was mobile and pretty much taking care of himself until I brought him into Emerg on Monday am. On Wednesday evening he still walked a fair distance and now he can't even walk to the bathroom. I explained that his pain med dose was increased on Thursday and I'm not sure why. After talking it through a little more the doctor realized that the pain meds they were giving him Tuesday pm til Thursday am were being crushed and put through his feeding tube. He said they likely weren't being absorbed properly. This messed up their dosing amount and they were using that information to calculate the dose. (So the problem occurred because the dosing calculations were based on the amount of pain pills he requested - but wasn't absorbing. And when he received it in the pure form through the pump it's a much stronger amount.) I suggested they use the amounts he was receiving on Monday & Tuesday via needle as a better guide.

Dave is resting well now with very little pain meds. I'm hoping that the rest of the day goes well and we're still able to take him home this afternoon. (It's not ideal that he leave in this state, but he really wants to go home, and I don't want to be here either.)


Saturday, June 12, 2010


Still here in the hospital.

This morning we had a new doctor. He said Dave could go home tomorrow (Sunday) and they would contact CCAC to arrange for a bed to be delivered. He also suggested Dave be put on a Pain Pump instead of the patch + pills at home. The patch maintains a steady dose, and the pills would be for breakthrough pain. The problem is that the pills are not fast acting and might be a problem at home if Dave needs instant relief. The pump would do the some thing - maintain a steady dose, and then you can self medicate for immediate relief if necessary - but you can't overdose because of it's programming. I think this makes more sense. Dave prefers to be in control and if he knows he can get almost instant relief, he won't overmedicate because he thinks he 'might' be in pain in half an hour.

I went home this afternoon to clear out our bedroom to make room for the hospital bed. Friends were doing gardening in the back yard (which looks awesome!) and they came in to move out some furniture for me. Cale stuck around and CCAC apparently delivered the bed at 7pm. So, we're set there.

It was almost 5pm before they hooked Dave up to the pain pump and removed the pain patch at the same time. By 7pm I was concerned, because Dave was non-responsive and I couldn't wake him up for more than 10 seconds. After discussing it with a few nurses, they agreed that he didn't seem right. (Part of the problem is that he's in the cardiac unit, because there are no beds available in the oncology unit. So they're unfamiliar with the pump and cancer patients in general.) After contacting the on-call doctor that prescribed it this morning, he told her to take him off the pump entirely, and to just give meds as needed. Dave is still heavily sedated - too sedated. I believe they should have removed the patch 12 hours before starting him on the pump. He is stoned and now needs to come down. I am staying in his room overnight as I'm worried about him waking up totally confused and in pain and not knowing what to do. The nurses have let me use a staff computer in the hall right outside his room so that's where I'm posting this blog. I'm hoping that this doesn't affect him coming home tomorrow, but as it stands right now, in the state he is in at this moment, there is no way I could take him home.

Pray that the rest of Dave's evening goes well.


Another tough day with a twist

Hi all.

Dave is still in the hospital. Although they're happy that they think the blockage has cleared, they would still like his pain situation to be better under control. (He had 2 episodes today where he was in excruciating back pain while laying out flat and needed the almost instant pain relief from you get through a needle. If he were at home and that happened, we would be unable to get his pain under control fast enough with pills.)

Also, Dave does seem to be a little worse and less mobile each day I come in. At this point I think I'll need to bring in a hospital bed etc.. to bring him home safely. (Laying on a flat bed or couch will only make his back feel worse.) There will be more discussion tomorrow but it's difficult to get anything done over the weekend because of staff changes.

This afternoon we met with his radiation oncologist again regarding some spot radiation on his spine to alleviate some of his main causes of back pain. (This is different than the radiation we rejected for his esophagus, which was 6 weeks of radiation, another minimum 6 weeks of recovery, guaranteed pain and discomfort from side effects for the full 3 months, no guarantee of any substantial tumor shrinkage, and real risk of serious complications because they would be radiating around vital organs.) This would be a much shorter dose for pain management, few side effects, and little risk. If his pain meds can be reduced because of it, he will be much more like himself as well. 

So, he had an additional catscan this afternoon for radiation purposes as well as 3 radiation tattoo's. (They tattoo their pinpoint targets on him for accuracy purposes.) The radiation will start Monday. If he's at home by then, I'll be bringing him back and forth for short sessions for about 5 days.

On a different note, I have to share something that is a little confusing and can't be explained.
A few weeks ago Dave strongly felt that something was changing with the main tumor in his esophagus. He tried to drink a little water, but it didn't go down past the tumor, and it came back up. On Tuesday morning in his room in Emerg, he tried again, but the same thing happened. On Wednesday he kept telling me that he was close and that he would be drinking on Friday. He was insistent actually and I thought it was just the pain meds talking. On Wednesday he asked everybody to pray that he could drink some water. On Thursday he told me that he would drink tomorrow (Friday). Again, I'm thinking to myself - "pain meds talking...". 

Dave's mom is down for a few days, and this morning (Friday) we both walked into the room and he wanted to show us something. He picked up his glass of water, and took a few big gulps and he drank it! (It was followed by a somewhat amusing little burp, but he drank it and it stayed down no problem.) I was, and still am, in a bit of shock. He insisted for 2 days that he was going to drink on Friday and he did. I'm confused that this good news is happening in conjunction with such dire news that we just received. I don't get it.

That being said... I don't understand how God works. I'm just glad He's working! I'm going to go out on a limb and share some more stuff. (This is me stepping out of the boat.) Despite being so hopped on on serious pain meds and irrational most of the time this week, when Dave talks about God and Jesus Christ this week, he's calm, and the things he's saying are clear. I don't remember what day it was, or if it was before or after we got our bad news on Wednesday, but he said that is between him alone and God now and that traditional (chemo) and alternative therapies had failed so that when he was healed, it could only be attributed to God. I feel a need to share this.

I won't kid you. Dave isn't well this week. He has a lot of fluids accumulating throughout his body and it's worse each day. He's lost a lot of weight, even more so this week after no food for 4 days (doctors orders) and does not look good. His body is fighting hard but right now the cancer seems to be winning. I have been going through a lot of turmoil this week (every week actually), but am pretty calm right now. This blog has become more for me than you guys anymore.

I don't really know what else to say. That's a lot of personal info out there online - I know. But that didn't seem to bother Dave from the start of this blog. All I can say, is keep praying. Praise God, that he can drink as that has boosted Dave's spirits tremendously!

Good night.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Hospital Day 4

Just a quick update as it's late and I'm finding myself falling asleep at this computer.

Dave is still in the hospital but it's looking like they might discharge him tomorrow (Friday). (He really wants to get home.) He's comfortable, but still really loopy from the pain meds. (He hates it when I say that, but he is.) They started him on a pain patch this evening, but I guess it takes a few days to fully kick in, and so he gets other pain meds as needed for now. 

Thanks everybody for your prayers and encouragement. Although we have our moments, we are still hanging in there and are praying strong along with you guys.


Thursday, June 10, 2010


Hi All.

I just wanted to give an update, even though it's not an update I like. Dave had a lower abdominal catscan yesterday and the doctor gave us the results today. Dave's cancer is still spreading. Since the last scan in February, the spot on his liver has gone from 3 cm to 11 cm. There is further spread in the lymph nodes, and other spots within his abdomen, including near the pancreas. There is also a spot on his lower spine which is likely the cause of his back pain. (Which is why he started on the T3's a few weeks ago, which bunged him up so much that he's in the hospital now.) They didn't do a scan of his chest, so we don't know what exactly is going on up there, although I guess they made note of his esophagus and that part of the middle of that tumor is necrotic - meaning that there is some die-off in it. The doctor said that this can happen with recent chemo that might kill it off (which Dave hasn't had for 4 months) or just naturally with older tumors. There are no measurements etc regarding the main tumor growth - just a comment by the catscan 'operator' I guess.

This is obviously crushing to us right now, as we felt so positive.

Dave will still be coming home soon (in the next day or two), as soon as they're happy that the blockage in his bowels has cleared. (It's coming slowly.) I believe they're planning on doing another Xray in the morning.

The pain med that Dave is on, is making him pretty loopy, drowsy, as well as severely drying out his mouth. He is very parched, which just exacerbates the problem that he can't drink because of the main tumor. He is asking for everybody to pray that he can somehow be able to drink again. He just wants to drink a refreshing glass of water, which is just breaking my heart.

There is also a small problem with the pain med they initially intended to put him on. Because it's time release - it won't work by going through a feeding tube. (It needs to be whole - not crushed and mixed in water.) That might delay him coming home as well. We had briefly discussed different pain meds last week with his family doctor. He actually suggested the same med that they've put him on this week. I asked about a patch, and he said that they're heavier duty, and people usually work their way up to that. I'll ask the doctor tomorrow about it, but regardless I'm sure they'll come up with something.

This evening we went for a walk down to the front of the hospital to sit outside. Dave was too tired to walk back, so I grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled him back. We stopped briefly in the waiting room to see what was going on in the game tonight. Dave was tired and was overdue for meds so we went back to his room. He'll be sad in the morning to hear that the Hawks beat Philly.

Also, I apologize to those of you that have emailed me or left messages on our machine recently and I haven't replied. I'm only checking messages on the machine, and emails on the computer very briefly in the late evening (early morning) right now. However, I do read them and they're really positive, and uplifting, and I thank you for them. I obviously won't be giving the # out online, but for those of you that have my cell #, there is cell service in Dave's room, and you can call me or text me if you like. I'm more likely to reply as I'm sitting around in there.

And I just want to thank everybody that's been doing so much yardwork and clean up around our house. I haven't had a chance to thank everybody properly, but I just want to let you know that it's very appreciated and just feels better to look around and not feel overwhelmed by everything that should be done. It's looking great! Some of you have still offered to do some work and asked what's left. I haven't forgotten and will let you know.

Please pray for us. To keep our minds focused on Jesus Christ and not dwell in self pity. We know that He can still turn this around if that is His will.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hospital Day 2

Good evening (or morning).

Today was a long, but fairly uneventful day in the hospital. Dave spent most of the day in the ER, until a room opened up at around 5pm. It was a beautiful day, and so in the afternoon we walked out of emerg to sit outside in the sun. Dave is feeling much better. It's obvious that the T3's weren't working well at all, and they gave him a different pain med which gave him so much better relief. He was feeling much better today than he has for many weeks. He said he got a great night's sleep last night, even though he was sleeping on a stretcher in emerg.

So, basically they have him on a saline IV for fluids and don't want him to have any food or liquids for now. They're giving him heavy duty stool softeners and once he's 'cleared' the blockage, they should send him home. He's a little loopy on this new pain med and so very entertaining. He told the first friend that showed up this morning to visit, that 'Basically, I'm full of shit.' Hahaha! (Sorry. That may not be blog appropriate, but it was pretty funny.)
Dave had a steady stream of visitors throughout the day, and they were all great visits and always uplifting

A friend has taken Brady for a day, so things were pretty quiet when I got home this evening.

That's the short version, and hopefully Dave is back home tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday morning.

Good night and thanks to all you friends and family that have been praying for us!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Emerg again

Hi all.

I know some of you know that I was taking Dave to emerg this afternoon, so I feel obliged to give a quick update.

Dave has had a lot of abdominal fluid. I noticed it starting last weekend and pointed it out to the doctor during his transfusion a week ago. This weekend it was looking much worse. (He gained 10 lbs in a week, and it certainly wasn't from eating more - it was all fluid in his abdomen.) I called at the cancer clinic first this morning and the oncologist called me in the afternoon and said that they wouldn't be able to see him until Wednesday at the earliest - maybe later. I told her I was taking him to emerg and wasn't willing to wait that long. He was uncomfortable, and I don't know if it was OK to wait or not.

So they did an ultrasound and xray and said that he had fluid buildup but not enough that they would drain it. However his bowels were becoming impacted - and they agreed that it was likely from the T3's. (He started taking them about 3 weeks ago - mainly for back pain. In the last 4 or 5 days he was taking a lot more.) They said there are a number of meds he would need to take to clear it. He could do it at home if he preferred but he would have to keep in daily contact, and the doctor said he would prefer it if he was admitted for a few days. The risk of bowel perforation, if it didn't resolve, is a serious and deadly complication. Dave decided he wanted to stay in and make sure things were cleared.

So, Dave will be in the hospital for about 48 hours. It's possible that if they don't locate a room for him, that he will stay in Emerg the whole time. At least he was in a private room.

Friends came in to visit this evening. (I didn't know they let visitors into Emerg.) We felt calm despite being in there. The doctors and nurses were all great in the ER.

That's where we're at today. I've gone home to sleep and will be back there tomorrow morning.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hi everyone.

Just wanted to check in.

I'd like to thank everybody that's been coming around to do yard work for us. It's really touching. It's overwhelming actually the way so many people have jumped in to help out. Thanks so much.

This weekend is the Stephanie & Ashley Daub's Memorial 3on3 Basketball Tournament. Dave has always been a supporter of this event. The proceeds from this event go to the London Abused Women's Centre. This morning London West MPP Chris Bentley presented Dave with the 2010 Frances Marion Beyon Award for Strength and Courage at the opening ceremonies for the tournament. Dave was really tired, but he really wanted to be there. He couldn't stay long, but I'm really happy we could make it.

Right now, Dave's not feeling well at all. I'm sure the blood transfusion has helped somewhat, but he still has a lot going on. He hasn't slept much at all overnight for the past few days. He seems to have back pain all the time now, but it's worse in the evenings.

We're trying hard to stay positive, and are hanging in right now!
Thanks everybody for your prayers and words of encouragement. You don't know how much they're appreciated.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thank you!

Yesterday Dave still wasn't feeling well. (Exhaustion, back pain, & abdominal pain.) He was feeling well in the morning, but when he 'ate' late morning he said the wheels fell off and the rest of the day got no better. He had a rough evening and wasn't able to sleep all night. He also had a pretty rough morning and was pretty upset.

Today he had a massage mid-afternoon, and by this evening was feeling pretty good. Some friends dropped by this evening, and he was fine. On another positive note, his feeding tube pain that started bothering him a few weeks ago seems to be OK today. (It was really painful when he changes the dressing and moved the tube around.)

So, we're obviously hoping that this blood transfusion has kicked in and he keeps feeling well!

Two different groups of people came yesterday & today to do yardwork for us. Things are shaping up and looking good. Thanks everybody that has come by and expressed a desire to help out. It removes a big burden from our shoulders! There is still plenty to do and I apologize for not getting back to a few of you that have offered as well. I will re-assess and let you know.

I also want to thank everybody that has been praying for us. It helped today!

Tomorrow morning we have an appointment with our GP. I'm hoping to discuss some of Dave's digestive problems and other concerns. (We haven't been to see him since March.) I'm hoping he can shed some light on Dave's digestive problem. Although the oncologist prescribed a motility drug last week, it worked for only a few days and made no difference yesterday. Here's hoping we're pleasantly surprised tomorrow and he can see past the cancer and look at the patient.

Take care!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Give Blood

Hi everyone.

The blood transfusion went fine and was uneventful for the most part. Dave was so weak this morning I had to wheel him in and out of the cancer clinic. We asked the nurse how long it takes to kick in, and she said that it's usually a day or two but that he might start feeling a little better even by the evening. (She said that some people insist that they feel better right away, but she thought it might just be in their heads.)

I'm going to share this next part that is a little depressing and still makes me mad. I asked to speak with the oncologist, because she didn't call me back on Wednesday to discuss the blood tests like she said she would, and I had questions. She made the time to come and see us and answered my questions as best she could. (Like many medical conditions, doctors aren't always sure why things are caused and make their best guess.) She felt the anemia is likely caused by a number of factors and referred to it as 'Anemia of Chronic Disease'. She also said that if the low hemoglobin count was the cause of Dave's fatigue and weakness, that he should feel better in one or two days. And if he didn't, then the cause is something else - namely the cancer specifically. I asked if it could be caused by the chemo drugs he was on, and she said not at this point - that they're out of your system in 4 weeks. Quite frankly, I don't buy it and strongly feel that chemo is at least partly responsible for the anemia. (All 3 chemo meds he was on (cisplatin, epirubicin, & 5FU) are known to cause anemia, with the cisplatin (a platinum based agent) being the worst. I don't believe the body can recover in 4 weeks.)

Here's where it gets depressing. Again. On our visit last Wednesday, she pushed the need for Dave to get his affairs in order - which has already been drilled into us by the other 3 doctors we've already seen at the cancer clinic during our early visits back in December. Then she briefly explained how to access a palliative bed in one of the hospitals and then said we'd need to decide if he wanted a DNR (do not resuscitate) order or not when admitted. We sat there a little stunned again, thanked her for her time, and tried not to cry when she walked away. At this point I'm feeling the need to say that we'd just like some medical attention without the constant reminder that they think he's going to die. We get it already! THEY can't cure his cancer. We still believe that Hope is a pretty powerful medicine and apparently they're not willing to prescribe that med. Thankfully our Hope isn't in men, but in God.

We got home just after 3pm and the afternoon's steady onslaught of thunderstorms seemed to mirror our mood. Thank God for silver linings! Storms always pass and we seem to get over these depressing hospital visits a little more quickly each time.

This evening Dave said he wasn't feeling like Superman yet and was wondering who's blood he had received. I think he is feeling a little better and we'll see what Tuesday and Wednesday hold.

Keep prayin'!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Back to the Cancer Clinic on Monday

Hi all.

I wanted to let you guys know about this yesterday, and just ran out of time. This post is a little brief but just wanted to fill you in.

Wednesday's visit with the new oncologist was OK. She was much more approachable than the previous doctors we've encountered and spent a lot of time with us. I asked her to do a blood test because Dave has all the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency. (This is possible with vegans as this is the only nutrient that you can't get from a plant based diet. It usually takes a while to manifest but I thought it was worth checking.) She agreed to do it and said she'd check some other stuff as well.

Thursday morning they called me and said that the blood test came back and Dave's red blood cell count is low (anemia) and he needs a blood transfusion to receive 2 units of blood. The soonest they could do it is Monday at 9 and it takes about 6 hours. Dave has been extremely fatigued, and yesterday and today were worse. (He is absolutely exhausted, and just wants to sleep. Going out for even a 5 minute walk right now is out of the question.) If I had realized how quickly he would feel so bad, I would have tried to push for it to be done today. Although Dave isn't keen on receiving blood, (hates needles and blood) he should feel much better after the transfusion. It should make a big difference in his overall wellness.

Anemia is apparently pretty common in cancer patients, and can be caused by a number of things or a combination of things. It can be from the cancer, chemotherapy also causes anemia, and it can be caused by a B12 deficiency. I asked about the test result for that and the nurse said it hadn't come back yet. Apparently they only do those test once a week, and so it will be a while. As I research a little more I'm wondering why they wouldn't automatically check for anemia in cancer patients, especially after we told the other oncologist three weeks ago, and the surgeon last week, about how poorly Dave was feeling. All the symptoms we described to both of them are anemia symptoms, and it's common in cancer patients. ??? And even more common in patients that have received the chemotherapy drugs that Dave did. ???

Anyway, that's what's going on right now. For those of you that are of the praying kind, please pray that Dave doesn't feel too badly this weekend as we wait for treatment. And of course, keep praying that the cancer is being destroyed..

Touch base later.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Work List

This is the list I mentioned earlier in the week. (A few people have offered to help out and even organize a 'work day'. I think a work day might be a little too chaotic, so I've come up with a list instead.)

This is all outdoor yard work.
If you want to help with something, please give me a call in the evenings or weekends so I can organize it. Also, please don’t feel obliged. Most of this stuff is manual labour and will require a strong back!

1) A very small amount of weeding is required on the gardens in the front, and then some mulch needs to be spread.
I need to order about 3 yards of mulch and have it dumped it in our driveway turnaround for this. The remaining mulch will need to be wheelbarrowed to the backyard for future use.

2) The garden in our backyard is a bit of a mess. (I'm the gardener around here, but last spring I had ankle surgery, and the previous spring I had knee surgery after 2 sports injuries. Because of this, the garden in the back has been very neglected for over 2 years now.) The grass is growing into the garden, and it needs to be edged, and cleaned up. There is A LOT of weeding to be done back there, and then it needs to be mulched. (If you want to help with this, don’t feel obliged to do the whole garden, or spend a whole day or anything! It is a big job and can obviously just be spread out and done over a period of time, by different people.) I have limited gardening tools so if you have tools, it might be best to bring your own. 

3) The Boston Ivy on the side of our house growing up the chimney is outta control. Dave usually drastically cuts it back every three years or so – this would be the year and it’s pretty overdue. This is a 2 person job, as the ivy grows up 2 full stories, so somebody needs to spot the person the ladder and hold it steady. (We have a big ladder to use.) The clippings from this task will either need to be hauled away, or bundled & tied up and we’ll store them somewhere until the next yard waste pickup.

4) We have fabric awnings that need to be put up on 5 windows for the summer. This is a 2 person job as well. Three windows are on the 2nd story which will require a spotter for person on the ladder. Also, the ivy mentioned above needs to be removed before 2 of these awnings can be put up.

5) We’d like to open the pool in the next few weeks.
(I might already have somebody to do this, but thought I'd mention it here, just in case.) We will have to drain the water from the pool cover first. (We have an old pump we use for this, and it’s a slow process of just letting the water drain for hours, so we’ll find the time to take care of this on our own.) Once this is done then the ‘helpers’ could come over another day to remove the remaining ‘crud’ from the top of the cover. The crud (leaves and bugs etc) get scooped with a net into a wheelbarrow, and added to the compost. Then 2 or 3 people need to carefully pull the cover off, folding it accordion style as you go, and then lift it over the pool fence. The cover then needs to be hauled to the driveway to be laid out, hosed down, scrubbed clean, left to air dry, and then folded up and stored for the summer. (It’s put in a rubbermaid container and taken back down to the pool shed.) After the cover is off the pool, it’s not a big deal for us to top it up with water, add the necessary chemicals, and start it up.

6) Pool shed. Last fall Dave started ‘renovating’ our old pool shed. He put a new roof on and re-sided it. The siding still needs to be stained and will require 2 coats of a dark stain (which I still need to pick out and purchase). Also the doors need to be re-hung first, but I believe Dave has arranged for a past student to do that for us.

7) We have 2 smallish trees (one out front at the street, and one in the backyard) that died this winter and need to be removed. I also have a small mulberry tree in a bad spot that I've tried to kill numerous times, but it just won't die. It needs to be hacked back again. Again, they need to be hauled away, or cut into smaller pieces & bundled so they're ready for the next yard waste pickup.

8) We have a small boxwood hedge out front that needs to be trimmed, as well as a larger privet hedge in the front.

Dave does have a few other things, like moving firewood & cleaning up our wood pile, but that's not pressing and can wait. I think this is plenty and would be great if even a few of things could be taken care of.

Thanks in advance!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Longish Update

It’s been a week since our visit with the surgeon in the cancer clinic last Wednesday. As I suspected, there was really no reason for the visit. The radiation oncologist back on May 1st requested a referral – which wasn’t necessary. However, since we were there, and waited 3 hours to see him, we did talk with him.

He asked how Dave was, and we explained briefly where we're at, and we asked him about the tumor. I explained how at the end of March it was really stinking - like it was dying when Dave coughed or gagged up some gunk. He nodded. I explained that it no longer smells like that. I said that he had coughed up some chunks of stuff and he just nodded some more. He said that the tumor could possibly have some die off of it’s own, and although it's not common, it can happen that he could cough up chunks.

I also explained how something has changed, that Dave started vomiting around the same time (end of March) and it was brutally violent and painful because of the force it took to get the contents of his stomach past the tumor. I said that about 3 or 4 weeks ago, they stopped being violent, and if he vomits it actually passes by the tumor quite easily. He said he didn't know why that would be and so had no explanation.

It was obvious that he saw us as desperate patients grasping at straws.

He then proceeded to push Dave to get the stent put in to make his life easier. He was concerned, and really just wanted to help I'm sure, but it wasn’t helping. He asked why Dave didn’t want it. We explained that we're doing alternative therapy, and we're still intent on healing, so Dave doesn't want to have to deal with a stent for the rest of his life. Also, if there were complications or if it were uncomfortable, it would put Dave over the edge after the feeding tube difficulties.

Dave had no intention of putting the stent in as that is the same as giving up, or admitting defeat. (He's pretty stubborn when he wants to be!) As usual visiting another doctor temporarily threw some doubt on the possibility of survival. It's sad that a place that should always offer hope can be so bleak. (I will mention that this surgeon was still 100 times more pleasant to deal with than our previous oncologist.)

We also asked about just getting a scope done to check on the cancer, and he said he wouldn't want to do it unless the intent were to put a stent in. I mentioned again, that we’re wondering why when he’s sick, it seems to pass by the tumor a lot easier than in the past – which is why Dave would like another scope. Again he didn’t know. I said, “And if Dave were able to eat on his own again....?” He said he would be delighted to see that, but this is a progressive disease. It doesn’t regress. So, we went home, and tried to screw our heads back into a positive state again, which is difficult when the doctors insist you’re going to die. It takes a couple of days to get that outta your head. Here's the thing. I KNOW and believe that people beat 'incurable' disease - AND they beat them with alternative treatments other than chemo & radiation. I have the feeling that many run from their oncologists when they start getting better, especially after their oncologist has already given up on them.

We got the results of the swab around his feeding tube. There is no infection, which is good! But we still don’t know why it’s hurting him so much all of the sudden. He called again last Thursday to say that it’s still very painful when he changes the dressing and moves the tube around. They don’t know what the problem is and said to give it a week or so, and if it still hurts to go back in to see them. I guess they’ll try removing the tube and putting in a new one to see if that helps. Although it’s a ‘simple’ procedure, it will still be painful so hopefully that can be avoided.

Last Wednesday evening he had acupuncture. Unfortunately he found it very uncomfortable, and not nearly as effective as it had been in the past. (His back muscles have been extremely tight.) He decided that he wanted to try massage therapy. Last Thursday I was able to get him into a place that I’ve used in the past, and although they were booked into June, they just had a cancellation if he could get in within the hour. Thankfully a friend was able to quickly pick Dave up and take him there. Thanks Frank! (Dave has far too many friends, which I used to complain about in the past. We couldn’t go anywhere without him running into people he knew. It’s coming in handy now.) The massage was great and she said he was full of knots. He was able to get back in today. I gives him some relief so it's worth it.

Last Thursday evening we went out to watch Dave’s men’s baseball team play. He’s been playing with these guys for a long time. They had a team shirt for him! He felt OK and stayed for well over an hour. Normally something like that would wipe him out once he got home, but he was still OK for the rest in the evening. It's kind of up and down though, as Friday evening wasn't a very good one for him. (Back pain.) Saturday morning he got up and felt quite good. He drove and picked himself up a newspaper. Sunday morning however, he felt bad. He still wanted to head to church, but he really wasn't feeling well while we were there. It was hard for him to walk home. (We only live a few houses away.) He came home and had a nap, and then felt OK. A friend came in from up north with his son and spent the afternoon cleaning up our garage while Dave sat and 'directed'. It was good to get some things cleared up in there.

Yesterday we enjoyed most of the day sitting out in the backyard. His brother and niece came in from out of town for a bit. Dave also still goes for a short walk pretty much every day.

Tomorrow morning we have the appointment with a different oncologist. (This is mainly because I complained that they insist we see our family doctor at this point.) Dave has a number of issues that I'd like to discuss with her. (His ever changing back pain - it seems to be muscle pain, but it's seems to move around into different spots every day. He also still has a stomach difficulties, like feeling full, nausea, and occasional vomiting.) I have a few thoughts about this that I'd like to discuss with her. I'm really hoping she's helpful. (Dave really doesn't want to go, but I have a good feeling this time. Let's hope I'm right.)

Thanks everybody for your positive feedback and prayers! It's important for us to have this kind of support. It has been tough for us lately. With summer weather, it's hard for Dave to sit home so much. (He would take off if he felt up to it.) It does get depressing. It's hard for both of us not to miss our usual life.


FYI. I have the 'list' almost ready to post. I hope to have it posted tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quick update

Had the feeding tube checked out in the radiology department on Monday morning. They agreed that the site itself looks great on the outside, and were at a loss as to why it is suddenly a source of so much pain for Dave. They did a scan of some sort to see if they could see anything wrong on the inside -but everything looked fine. They took a swab of the site to check for an infection and said to call back in 2 days to find out the results. (And they gave us a prescription for antibiotics to fill if necessary.)

Oddly enough a few hours later I got a call from the surgeon's office yesterday that Dave has an appointment Wednesday (tomorrow) morning. (The surgeon did the endoscope and biopsy back in December, and arranged for the feeding tube to be put in. I also spoke with him months ago when I was trying to get laser therapy or PDT for Dave.) I asked what the appointment was for, and they said it was a referral from the radiation oncologist from back at the beginning of March. We don't know what the purpose of the visit is, and I think it might be a mistake since we didn't do radiation, but we'll go anyway. Hopefully it's not too much of a downer and maybe it'll even be positive somehow.

Dave has been taking T3's for a few days now and so is finally getting some sleep because of them.
We went for a short walk this evening.
Dave is tired and weak, and we could both use some encouraging right about now.

Thanks everybody for your concerns and prayers.

Oh. And a lot of people have asked how they can help out, and some have even offered to arrange for a 'work day' of sorts. I think it would be easier and less stressful (for me) if I just post a list of what we could use help with and if you're able to take on one of the tasks just let us know. I hope to get that together later this week.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Groundhog days

Hi All.

The weeks are passing by very quickly at this point and our lives seem to have taken on a kind of groundhog day feel. Things seem pretty routine but are very boring - especially for Dave. I have the distraction of going to work Monday to Friday, but Dave is at home. He just doesn't feel up to going out much and prefers to be home where he can rest.

Yesterday was a good day for Dave, but for the most of the week he had it pretty rough. He's had a lot of lower back pain (same pain that he had 10 years ago after injuring his back). On Friday evening he didn't sleep at all because his sciatic nerve (another old injury) was really bothering him - but interestingly he decided to go down and let the dog out himself when I was busy Saturday morning, and then when he came back up the stairs his sciatic wasn't bothering him anymore. (He normally doesn't do the stairs unless I get him to do it for exercise when the weather is crappy.)

Saturday morning he had a lot of pain from his feeding tube area. Although it looks great on the outside, it's very tender when he moves the tube itself. So, when he changed the dressing Saturday it was excruciating for him. I decided to contact the hospital radiology unit to ask them about it. (When they put his feeding tube in they said to call them directly with problems - not the family doctor, or emerg.) They`re closed on the weekends, but a radiology nurse called me back. (She remembered Dave from all his earlier issues and she was really nice.) She made an appointment for him to go in early Monday morning to get it checked out. 

Dave took some pain meds for the feeding tube pain in the morning and felt pretty good all day. We went for a walk later in the day and in typical form he wanted to walk much farther than we normally do because he was feeling good, but I wouldn`t let him. We walked a little farther, but you never know how he`ll feel coming back. Anyway he felt good after the walk - which isn`t usually the case. A few hours later after he ate, he started getting abdominal cramps and it became very painful. It kept him up all night on the couch. So unfortunately he hasn`t slept for 2 nights. I`m not sure if the abdominal cramps are related to the feeding tube pain. We`ll see what they say tomorrow morning.

This past week we`ve had a Cardinal nesting in a potted tree on our front porch. It`s pretty neat. The male comes around and sings out front. Yesterday 2 of the 3 eggs had hatched and the 3rd egg was rolling around in the nest! I`m sure it`s only a day or two before we hear the fledglings chirping out asking for food! (This one has it`s mouth open, but it`s not making any noise yet.)

Anyway, that`s our week.

Take care,

Friday, May 7, 2010

TVDSB Award Night

 I apologize for all of you that have been hoping for an update sooner than this. It’s just been a very busy few days, and I had no time on Wednesday or Thursday to write this.

On Wednesday we had an appointment with Dave's oncologist. The doctor in the ER last week strongly suggested we set up an appointment to check in with him, as it had been a few months since we'd been in there. Going in we felt the purpose was just to discuss symptoms that Dave's been dealing with and see where he thought the cancer was at. (The symptoms being pretty much constant nausea, occasional vomiting, occasional headaches, chest pain around the feeding tube, back pain, extreme fatigue, hands tingling & feet falling asleep. We also wanted to ask about symptoms that we think are encouraging like the ‘chunks’ of things Dave brings up and the fact that recently when he’s brought up some of his dinner, it’s not violent anymore at all. It seems to pass easily by the tumor now, when in the past the force required to make it past the tumor was very violent.) Again, I apologize for the graphic detail – but that’s where we’re at and we have no shame anymore.He seemed at a total loss as to why we would want to speak to him - as he had no test results to review and no chemo to prescribe. Apparently he doesn't just 'see' his patients. I explained that after being in the ER last week for dehydration, the doctor there strongly suggested we follow up with our oncologist because it had been a few months. He very sarcastically said’, “What a wise ER doctor.” - like “I’ll have to track him down and tell him never to do that again”.

I also mentioned my displeasure at being told on more than one occasion that we should be seeing our family doctor at this point. I don't feel that's right - as GP's refer patients to specialists for a reason. He told me that it's because of the way the hospital receives their funding, they receive more money for new patients, - so there is a lot of support for new patients but very little support for patients like Dave. (My growing suspicions that chemotherapy & radiation are a lucrative business are being reinforced at this point.) I pointed out that I didn't believe that he or anybody that worked there would send a loved one to their GP, and he said they'd be in dire straits if all cancer patients insisted on seeing an oncologist. ??? Really? It's unreasonable for a cancer patient to want to see an oncologist?

We talked about some of the symptoms Dave was having, like constant nausea, occasional vomiting, occasional headaches, chest pain mainly around the feeding tube, back pain, extreme fatigue, hands tingling & feet falling asleep. A few of these are apparently residual effects of chemotherapy, and for the remainder they suggest pain meds and/or anti-nausea meds. (I was hoping to find the source of the nausea, not mask it.)  We also wanted to ask about symptoms that we think are encouraging like the ‘stinky chunks’ of things Dave brings up and the fact that recently when he’s brought up some of his dinner, it seems to pass easily by the tumor now, when in the past the force required to make it past the tumor was very violent and extremely painful. (Again, I apologize for the graphic detail – but that’s where we’re at and we have no shame anymore.) He can’t be sure, but thinks the chunks are likely bacterial secretions, and the fact that the contents of his stomach going up past the tumor more easily are likely just the digestive system adapting. ???

At this point Dave doesn’t want to do another catscan because he said he feels like a toxic soup after it’s done with all the chemicals they inject you with, and the doctor didn’t think a catscan was necessary either. The bottom line is that until Dave is able to drink again on his own, nobody will take notice – which is understandable.

The only good thing that came out of it was that he referred us to another oncologist for future visits, likely because I complained about being sent to our GP for follow up. We had her once, when he (our regular oncologist) was away, and I really liked her. (Much younger than him, and obviously less jaded.) We’re supposed to see her in 3 weeks, but I’m sure Dave won’t want to go. He didn’t want to go to this appointment either, but I pushed him. As a caregiver, thought it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately being there is depressing and it takes days to screw your head back on to get in a positive state when you’re done.

On Wednesday he also had acupuncture session, which went very well. He fell asleep through it again, and said that his back felt much better. In addition to sticking pins in him (I’m sure there’s a better term for that), she has used a ‘moon car’ to quickly massage his back first.  It’s a funny little device with magnets in each wheel and he said it felt great. (I’m not even going to attempt to explain the purpose of it and how the magnets help.)  I apparently need to locate and buy one of these things. He also asked her to show me this funny technique of rolling the skin up along his spine with your fingers that feels good, but hits painful points as well, yet this is a good thing somehow. It’s easy and seems to really help him. I think I’m finding a new vocation. Somehow we've crossed over from being a couple of ibuprofen lovin' junkies to alternative therapy seeking vegans.

On a positive note, last night  was the award ceremony for the TVDSB Award of Distinction. It was a long evening for Dave as his limit for heading out somewhere is  usually only about an hour long, and this was over 3 hours. We're happy that he felt up to going and that he was able to stay for the whole evening without much discomfort. When we got home he had a lot of back pain though. He had a rough night and is still spent today. The evening was special and we’re so happy that he was able to go. He had a large number of fans (co-workers, family) that showed up and cheered for him when he got up to receive his award. We stayed afterwards and Dave chatted with his friends. It was good to get out.

This is the paragraph they read about Dave as he received his reward:
"Dave's effect on Clarke Road is like the ripples of a stone dropped into a pond. The ripple effect is far reaching into the community of students, staff and families." - A colleague
"Dave's personal life and teaching career truly embody the Board's Vision of a "Caring, Learning Community." His passion for teaching not only the curriculum but also life's lessons in the classroom, on the sports field, and in the halls during those teachable moments make him a positive role model for both students and staff. Dave is a teacher who has a special touch with students who are "hard to reach," listening to them and offering helpful advice. Students just seem comfortable talking to Dave about what is going on in their lives. Outside of the classroom, Dave uses coaching as another opportunity to encourage students to develop good character traits such as discipline, teamwork and perseverance. He leads by example in promoting compassion, trust, loyalty and mutual respect. Everyone at the school remembers when he gave a developmentally challenged student the opportunity to participate on the Clarke Road hockey team. Though the student could not play, Dave made him a member of the coaching staff. When the student later died of his medical condition, Dave built a cabinet to mount the boy's hockey sweater in the school foyer. The depth of concern he holds for all youth is remarkable. He continuously raises the bar for himself, his colleagues and his students through his personal quest to engage, support and challenge everyone to reach their full potential."

Right now it’s a little easier for Dave to be upbeat when he’s not feeling too badly, but when he’s uncomfortable for days it really wears on him physically & mentally. He really just wants to start feeling better again. 

Thanks to everybody for your encouragement, support, and prayers. It’s all so important right now.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Emerg last night

I tried to write a quick update yesterday evening, and then got sidetracked by the night's event.

Dave hasn't felt well for the last 3 or 4 days - VERY nauseous, and it doesn't seem to come and go anymore - it just stays. It's really discouraging for him, as he actually had 2 pretty good weeks with just a few sporadic bad days or hours, but he's been very bad for a few days now. It's a lot of mid back pain, constant nausea, and headaches that come and go. He's bored, and wishes he felt good enough to get out regularly. He had another acupuncture treatment on Wednesday, but it didn't seem as effective as last week. (He felt pretty bad going in, and wasn't able to relax at all, which I think plays a big part in the treatment.) We went for a short walk afterward but he ended up feeling awful by the time we made it back.

Yesterday morning he was as upset as I've ever seen him and at lunch time I was trying to talk him into going to emerg. I thought he might be dehydrated. (The VON nurse comes every Tuesday to check his feeding tube, and his blood pressure was very low again. She had mentioned to Dave once before that he could be dehydrated when his blood pressure was low.) I knew this could be causing a lot of his discomfort, but I've been having difficulty convincing him that he needed to get more fluids in. (He agreed, but felt soooo bad and nauseous, that he insisted that he couldn't put any more in his stomach.) Since things seemed to be getting worse over the course of a few days I was getting worried. I truly thought that getting some IV fluids in him could help him get through a bad spot.

He finally agreed to go to Emerg at about 9pm last night. I explained what he was going through and told them I thought he was dehydrated. They gave him a chest x-ray, blood & urine tests, and monitored his heart rate. After the lab tests came back, they said that yes, he was dehydrated and going in was the right thing to do. They gave him 2 Litres of IV fluid, an anti-nausea med, and the doctor suggested we contact the cancer clinic again to discuss side effects, and maybe monitor the progress of the cancer again with them. (It's been 2 months since we were there.) The anti-nausea meds didn't seem to help him at all, and he was still pretty weak when we walked out of there. We got home at about 3:30 am. And I was pretty late for work today...

I contacted the LRCP (cancer clinic) this morning and although they still insist that because he's not doing chemo or radiation, that his family doctor is qualified to treat him, they agreed to make an appointment to see the oncologist. (I explained that the ER doctor strongly suggested it.) So, this coming Wednesday we'll meet with his oncologist again mainly to discuss what he's been going through.

Dave is A LOT better today. He still doesn't feel great yet, but he's much better than yesterday. He got out a bit, went to Hermes Sports with a friend, and also went to visit family across town briefly. He's pretty tired this evening, which is more than understandable.

When Dave was feeling better a week or so ago, he made plans to go to the Swift Canoe & Kayak Spring Sale at the Guelph Conservation Area with a friend. Yesterday after feeling so crappy he said there was no way he could go. But he's had a fairly good day today and has decided that he thinks he can do it again. (He was really looking forward to it, and he will be bringing lots of fluids with him!) It's about an hour and a half drive each way, plus a few hours at the Conservation Area.

We are still praying that the tumor is breaking down, and that Dave will be able to drink liquids again very soon! Also, although our visit to the hospital last night went fine, and they were very nice and understanding there, I'm  not really looking forward to meeting with his oncologist again on Wednesday. It's not been a great place for us, as they just seem to deliver bad news after bad news, up until now. Please pray that he is somehow encouraging.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

good needles?

 Just thought it was time for an update.

Dave has been having more good days than bad days over the last few weeks – which is great! (Although when he’s having a bad day or two, it’s pretty discouraging for him and brings him down somewhat.) As hard as this might be for some to believe, we still firmly believe that Dave’s main tumor in his esophagus is breaking down and he that is why he is still coughing up some pretty stinky, gunky, and occasionally weird stuff.

Last week Dave started acupuncture sessions on the advice of a friend. I was actually a little surprised when he agreed to try it, as I thought his aversion to needles might be an issue. When he said yes, I made a mental note that he wasn’t making the connection to acupuncture and needles, but decided not to bring it up. So, he’s laying there on the table with pins sticking out of his ankles, wrists and stomach and he says, “I DID NOT think this through. I HHHHAAAATE needles.” I started laughing at him. He wasn’t upset, just wondering how he ever agreed to this! When it was done his back and overall discomfort was better, but it didn’t last long. We went again last night for a 2nd treatment and he actually fell asleep at the end of it. (The needles can’t be that bad!) He actually felt and seems much better afterwards, but it just doesn’t seem to be that long lasting so far.

When we got home from acupuncture, he had his obligatory shots of freshly juiced wheat grass, and then he wanted to go for a walk. He hasn’t really gone for a walk (except from the bed to the couch) since Good Friday, so I said “Sure”, of course. It was a short 15 minute walk and Dave’s not walking very quickly these days, but it was still good for him. (Brady’s not used to walking that slowly, so I was fighting with a pulling dog.) About halfway through the effects of acupuncture wore off but it was still good for Dave to be out and moving. I give him a back massage almost every evening which also seems to help relieve muscle tension.

One of the reasons Dave wanted to go for a walk was because of something I read out loud to him at the acupuncturist’s office as he was being treated. She had a book there called “Nutritional Immunology”, written by a Chinese doctor, that I picked up and started reading. There was a paragraph about lymph nodes which was something we’d also learned about at CHI in Michigan. (They, and many other health experts, encourage rebounding (on a mini-trampoline) for your lymphatic system and overall health.) We each have 500-600 lymph nodes throughout our bodies that are responsible for filtering and draining bacteria and cancer cells. We have 4 times the amount of lymph fluid in our bodies than blood. Unlike blood, that is pumped through our bodies by our heart, lymph fluid has no pumping system and relies on muscle action from general activity (ie walking, rebounding) for it’s movement through the body. All cancer therapies recommend getting outside and staying active to help fight cancer.

Dave had been gently rebounding every morning for 15 minutes, up until a few weeks ago, when he just felt awful and thought it was making him feel more nauseous. He did start up again a few days ago though, and last night decided that he was going to try to get outside more to try to build up his strength no matter how badly he feels. (Previously when he felt really bad, he just didn’t want to go for a walk, and when he felt OK he didn’t want to go for a walk because he was worried that it might make him feel bad!)

This evening we drove out to 'Dreamers' and walked out to Diamond 12 to watch his men's baseball team practice. This is the first summer he hasn't played baseball since he was 11 years old. It was a cool night and a little windier out there, so we didn't stay long, but it was good for him to get out briefly and see the guys.

We’re really hoping that Dave’s at a turning point right now. He thankfully has been having fewer and fewer ‘bad’ days, but he still has some pain each day. (The tumor is blocking the bottom of his esophagus, just above his stomach, and and when he has to cough up the ‘stuff’ that collects there, it’s painful for him. Also the feeding tube is still a pain.) When he has ‘bad’ days, this is usually an overall feeling of sickness, nausea and sometimes headaches still. On a bad day he can't even be bothered to turn the tv on, answer the phone and can barely get his food in. We still feel this is part of the ‘healing crisis’ as his body deals with eliminating cancer waste.

Sometimes Dave does still get down if he's feeling crappy. He’s pretty much sick and tired of being sick and tired. Also, being unable to physically eat is emotionally difficult and draining. Regardless, I am convinced that he is beating this already and remind him of this daily. However he’s the one that has to deal with this 24/7 so it’s understandable that he gets frustrated.

For those of you that haven’t seen Dave in a while, his hair is starting to grow back. It’s about 1/2” now, but is very thinned out from the chemo drugs. (He stopped chemo 2 months ago.) It seems to be fuller at the top than the sides right now, so he he's got a bit of a mohican thing going on. Actually a friend from Toronto shaved his hair off to support Dave. He came down to visit a few days later and already had a very heavy 5 o’clock shadow! I’ll have to ask him how his hair looks now.

Anyway, we truly feel that God has heard our prayers, and your prayers, and has assured us that He is in control and Dave will beat this. We are blessed to have so many people praying and family, friends, students or past students that just call and ask how he's doing, or send him an email or mail a letter. Although this is Dave's fight, he doesn't often feel alone through all of this.

Thanks so much.

Oh. I received another delivery of 200lbs of carrots yesterday. Instead of caregiver, Dave has started calling me his carrot-giver.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

A day in the life

Not a lot going on right now, so I thought I’d show you our little hydroponic wheatgrass grow-op in the basement. :)

We’re actually growing barley grass, not wheatgrass right now. They’re both pretty much equally nutritious, and I was given a 50+ lb bag of barley seed when I purchased the unit. I have also grown some wheatgrass and will likely alternate buying both types of seeds.

This is a flat that's about 11 days old.

This shows you the root mass. 
(No soil!)>

It’s in our laundry room, and has a plumbing and drainage hookup. My brother, Nick, very kindly hooked it up for us and has come back a few times for some initial startup glitches and further maintenance. (There was a part that wasn't functioning properly, then the spray nozzles became clogged once and weren’t spraying very well, and most recently the drainage clogged up.) It sprays water for about 1 minute every hour and needs little attention from me, which is a good thing. We, actually my brother Nick, also installed a whole house water filter system to remove chlorine etc..., for the grass as well as for our drinking water and for showering. Fortunately London’s water is already alkaline, which is a good thing all around.

Every day I put in a new tray of seeds and rotate them up through the unit so the older plants get the light at the top. It holds 9 trays and after 9 days it’s technically ready to ‘harvest’, or juice, at that point. However I like to let it grow for a few more days after I remove it from the unit, and it gets another inch or so taller which produces a better yield. (I requested a few additional trays so that I could do this.) It just needs to be harvested before the grass ‘splits’, or starts to change from a sprout to a plant, because the nutrients drop dramatically at that point. Each tray yields about 4 or 5 ounces of fresh juice for Dave each day. Occasionally I buy an additional flat of fresh wheatgrass to supplement what Dave’s getting and I might have a few ounces then as well. I've also been adding frozen wheatgrass to his juices.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the unit, as I couldn’t imagine having to deal with hauling home organic soil and planting up a tray of dirt every day, then dealing with the used tray of dirt, watering the trays appropriately throughout the day, and possibly dealing with mold. I gotta say this is a LOT easier and pretty low maintenance as far as daily needs are concerned. (Although my brother might not agree...) Also, there is apparently no difference in quality if it’s grown in soil or water which was a determining factor as well.

Dave has been having a few good days (Monday & Tuesday) and then a not so good day yesterday. He just woke up feeling a little off, and just felt unwell & nauseous all day. Thankfully no headache. Today was a better day, but he's weak. He still has lower back pain, which is uncomfortable for him and a little weird. (He says it feels just like it did when he injured it years ago.)

I was very thankful to have the cleaning lady back yesterday. (Paid for by some Clarke Road SS staff. Thanks again you guys!) It's awesome to come home from work and into a clean house. Especially one that I didn't have to clean!

Cale's leg is doing OK but still bothers him if he's been standing all day. It's just an bump below his knee now.

Brady is regularly tormented by the rabbits in our back yard. (I think they heard about my stash of carrots.) They hang out near the back door and he can watch them through a back window. He usually stares at them for a good while then runs through the house trying to convince somebody to let him out so he can chase them.

I'm doing well. When the weather is nice I usually take the dog for a bike ride or walk after work.

Staying strong & positive!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mystery Solved

Well today we finally got closure on the mystery of the 'embedded suture anchor'. Those of you that have been following since December will remember that the VON nurse that came to our home to remove the temporary sutures from Dave's feeding tube, didn't do it correctly. Instead of simply cutting the threads and allowing the small metal anchoring pin to fall into Dave's stomach to be expelled, she tried pulling it out - thinking that it was just a thread. The suture thread broke as she pulled it through his stomach wall, and the pin was left embedded in his chest wall. It was very painful for Dave and has been an ongoing source of pain and grief since then.

So this metal pin has been embedded in his 'innards' somewhere and occasionally and very recently caused him shooting needle-like pains near the site of the feeding tube. This morning when Dave was changing the dressing for the feeding tube, he noticed a bit of blue thread sticking out by the feeding tube. He had actually become so used to discomfort that he had forgotten that the suture anchor was still likely in there. When he realized what it was he grabbed the tweezers, and was able to pull the thread out along with the attached suture anchor pin! Yeah!!! He is extremely relieved and very happy about this. One less thing to worry about and he's actually in a lot less pain today!

Today, and the last few days, Dave's been feeling pretty good. (He felt pretty lousy over the weekend until about Tuesday morning. He actually missed watching a number of the NCAA basketball play-off games over the weekend because he just felt bad and wanted to sleep.) In general, he still usually feels better in the morning and afternoon, and by the evening he's feeling a little rougher. But the last 3 days he's been feeling better than he has for a while.

 I forgot to mention last week that I received my second order of carrots. Yep - for those of you that are curious, 300lbs of juicing carrots lasted less than 5 weeks. I ordered and received 200 lbs last Wednesday and they're stored at my parents. (They live just a few minutes away.) I didn't order as many this time around now that the weather is warming up. I was concerned they wouldn't last as long.

Right now we're very encouraged that Dave's been feeling better over the last three days and that pin is finally gone! It's actually amazing that it's worked it's way a few inches through tissue and that the thread managed to work it's way out for Dave to see it and pull it out. FINALLY!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter = Hope!

Just thought I should drop a line to thank everybody for so much encouragement - and for the cards etc... that are dropped off at our door. They're just another way in which Dave is reminded and touched that people are still thinking about him and praying for him.

Yesterday morning we went to the Good Friday service at our church, although it wasn't actually a service, but a 10 hour drop-in day. There was a 'course' set up throughout the church in which to simulate Christ's journey to the cross. There were 12 stations to stop, read, contemplate, and comment on each message. It took us about an hour to do this. Dave was tired, and walks a little slow lately, so we took plenty of time to stop and meditate at each point. One thing that always hits home is that although the blame for Jesus' crucifixion is placed on the corrupt priests that conspired his death along with Judas' help, the reality is that it was our sin that placed him there. He chose the cross as an atonement for us, to reconcile man and God.

Tomorrow we celebrate Easter, where Jesus broke the chains of death and rose from the grave. The empty tomb is our hope. That no matter what happens here on earth, we will spend eternity with Him! That's reassurance!

I know many of you check in regularly, hoping that there would be posts more often. I just want to say that our days are pretty boring right now - which is actually a good thing. (The past 3+ months have felt like a lifetime of drama. Monotony sounds great right about now!) Rest assured that no news is good news!

I do want to say that Dave is continuing to experience what we believe are side effects of detoxing. (Basically he's on a carrot juice/green smoothie detox diet - along with the wheatgrass juice.) This is purely a cleansing and healing diet. He has lost weight and is 190 lbs now. At 6'3", he looks a lot skinnier than what you're used to seeing. He is still coughing up some nasty stuff, but the actual vomiting episodes happen a lot less frequently. (Once a week maybe.) He still gets headaches, and feels nauseous a lot. He basically doesn't feel great. 

Here's some more interesting detox stuff. At the end of last week he started complaining that his right knee was bothering him again. (He had ACL surgery done in 1984 and a recent surgery again on it a few years ago. They told him that he would need a knee replacement, but he was too young.) I didn't think much of it at the time. Then a few days later, he started complaining that his back was really hurting him. (His upper back and chest area has been hurting him for months - I think from the feeding tube, muscle pain around the tumor, and just from being inactive because he's sick.) But this was different.  He said, "It's crazy, but it feels just like it did when I put my lower back out a few years ago!" (He seriously injured his lower back a couple of times over the past 8 years and was bedridden for weeks.)

As soon as he said that, I remembered something I read about this woman's story. (The short version is that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast cancer and given 6 months to live - 8+ years ago. She beat it with raw food, wheatgrass, and a few other things like visualization and stuff.) In her story she talks about a period where an old injury flared up. So I did some more research, and it's very common that during a serious detox, a 'healing crisis' occurs where old injuries and illnesses come back while your body works through them again. (Our bodies are crazy and we don't understand them at all really!) I told Dave this and read him her story, which was reassuring.

Then a few days later, he said, 'This is crazy - now my hernia is bothering me!' (He had hernia surgery exactly a year ago.) I asked him again later, and he said his knee isn't bothering him anymore, but now his right shoulder hurts. He had problems with his shoulder years ago from baseball!!!
It's crazy!

I won't get into it too much, but if you google 'Healing Crisis' it explains a lot, and basically it's a necessary turning point for actual healing. (For those of you that think this is nonsense, trust me - about 6 months ago I would have been in your camp too!) Regardless, despite that fact that Dave really does feel like crap, we're both very encouraged and know that we've chosen the right path here. We don't know how long this will go on for, but there is hope at the end!

Thanks as always for your concern and prayers.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Prisoners of Hope

It's finally the weekend. Another week down, and it's been an interesting week. This evening we watched NCAA basketball in the dark for Earth hour. (Unfortunately the tv did not get turned off, and for the record West Virginia upset Kentucky.)

I'm going to share some info that is encouraging to us, but is a little difficult to write. There are a few reasons for this. If you're anything like me, you're skeptical by nature and might have a hard time believing this. Plus some of this post is more graphic in nature than I'd normally discuss, let alone write about. But we're sharing and we want people to pray effectively so here goes...

I'll have to back up a bit. After Dave had been on the raw food diet for a few weeks we noticed the he had no bad breath, or body odour, and this is silly, but didn't 'pass gas' anymore either. Now this might seem weird, but this is actually something that raw foodists comment on, that they have no bad breath or body odour because of what you're putting in your body - and what you're not putting in. (During initial detox however, you likely will have odours.)

Now fast forward a month and things seem to be changing. We have been trying to figure out why Dave is not starting to feel significantly better after stopping chemotherapy - he's eating the healthiest food around.(Organic raw vegetables and fruit, and juicing.) At his last visit at the cancer clinic a few weeks ago, they said his lungs etc... were clear and he seemed relatively healthy. But he doesn't seem to be getting better or stronger, and in fact things seem to be getting worse. He started vomiting, and the episodes seemed to be increasing in frequency. And when he coughs his breath has become awful. As some of you are aware, Dave hasn't been able to swallow his own saliva for about 3 weeks. (Actually, he CAN swallow, but he tries not to, because it doesn't get past the tumor. It collects, and then makes him sick, so he spits in a cup instead.) To avoid getting too gross, I'll skip some of the side effects. But the short version is that last week we were wondering if the new smell when he coughs and what he's been spitting up had something to do with the tumor changing. (We didn't know if this was changing for better or worse, and when we felt hopeful, we also thought we might be grasping at straws.) Last weekend we were both feeling pretty discouraged. Dave seemed to be doing really poorly. (Hot and cold flashes, bad headaches, nausea, vomiting - and the tumor smelling.) Dave's mom texted me to remind me not to pay attention to the wind and waves or I'd sink, which was very good advice. Monday was a little better and a friend called and asked if we'd go to the healing service at Northpark that night. Dave was feeling well, but still hesitant, especially after feeling so bad from a short trip to a nearby Chapters over the weekend. (I was afraid he was going to pass out and I might need to ask for help to get him back to the car.) Anyway, we decided at the last minute to go to Northpark. It was a good evening and we were there for a few hours and Dave did fine. One woman praying with us, started praying that every time that Dave coughed or spit, he would be spitting out the tumor. (This is what we've been praying for - pretty much every day. How could she really be familiar with this?) On Monday evening Dave woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

Some of you may be wondering why we wouldn't ask our oncologist about this - the bad side effects and the smell. If you recall - the chemo failed halfway through, and we declined radiation because the little benefit it might offer wasn't worth the very serious side effects of radiating around vital organs. (Again, they remind us that they can't cure this - the purpose of chemo & radiation was just try to shrink the tumor and gain a few months. Also the 2nd opinion radiation oncologist we met with at Princess Margaret Hospital told us that if Dave were his  brother, he wouldn't do radiation. He said to stay as healthy as he can for as long as he can.) The week after our appointment with the radiation oncologist, I called the cancer clinic to ask which doctor we should contact with any concerns. The next day they called back to tell us to contact our family doctor if we need medical attention. It doesn't really make a lot of sense to me, as I would think that an oncologist would be better able to deal and treat the symptoms of cancer than a GP. But the reality is that if you're not seeing the Medical Oncologist for chemotherapy, or the Radiation Oncologist for radiation treatment - they have nothing else to offer. Not surprisingly it doesn't really bother us - as they're just a constant reminder that Dave's cancer is incurable. They're depressing and a big part of surviving something like this is optimism. Yesterday, we went to see our GP just to check-in. It's a little less stressful than the cancer clinic. We asked him some questions, about what Dave was going through, but he didn't really know. He said he would just just treat symptoms as they came up.

Back to the positive stuff, on Tuesday I came across some information regarding 'lysing', or 'tumor lysis'. "DETOXIFICATION
This process of the cancer cells breaking down is called "lysing," which is a detoxification process. Some people have fully recovered from their cancer with no outward signs of detoxing at all. People with a lot of cancer or fast-growing cancer will often see mucous like material in their feces and/or urine, or experience a runny nose or crusty eyes in the morning. Sometimes, people will even cough or vomit up mucous like whitish stuff. If any of this happens, it can generally be taken as a good sign that dead cancer cell parts are being ejected out of the body." Dave has been experiencing all of these symptoms for almost 2 weeks now.

I did some more digging and came across a page that described in-depth the side effects of lysing that almost ENTIRELY describe what Dave's been experiencing recently. We had been so discouraged lately, that we'd been praying and begging for something positive to encourage us. After reading this new info, we're were cautiously optimistic that the main tumor might be breaking up. Then late Tuesday evening I came across more encouraging information. I had purchased a book online that arrived Tuesday. ('The Gerson Therapy' - it's an alternative cancer therapy that is very similar to what Dave's doing, but they allow different foods etc...) We went to bed, I prayed for Dave, and then opened the book. And I kid you not, but the VERY FIRST PAGE I opened to was about a 46 year old man giving his survival story. He had cancer of the esophagus and larynx and was given a poor prognosis. He read one of the Gerson books twice, and then decided to do it as he had nothing to lose. He said that after 1 1/2 months, he could tell the tumor was dying as the smell was vile. He said that it was an awful time for him as well. Then he went on to say that after few months had passed, he was walking into a hardware store, and felt the tumor flutter and vibrate and then fall away. He swallowed it without thinking, but then collapsed in a panic. He doesn't remember how but he drove the 20 minutes home, and realized what had happened. In hindsight he said that he should have tried to vomit it up but wasn't thinking clearly. He said that he was violently ill for a week as his body absorbed and then got rid of the toxins from the tumor.

You may not understand how encouraging this is to us, but up until then, I have been unable to find any personal stories of people overcoming Esophageal Cancer. I apologize for how gross this post is, but in order to share what's going on, there was no avoiding it. (And actually, I could go more in depth with other side effects which really seems to make us think this is the tumor starting to break down, but it's a little too gross.) It might be the fact that we're feeling more positive, but Dave seems to be feeling a little better this week. We realize that this is just the beginning, and Dave has a huge uphill battle ahead of him, but we are not giving up. We will prove the doctors wrong.

I have stolen the name of this post from another woman's site. She overcame a very bad terminal cancer in 1990 using an alternative therapy as well. It is very encouraging and "Prisoners of Hope" does aptly describe how we feel.

Although we're by no means out of the woods, this has really encouraged us. The true test will be when Dave is able to swallow liquids again. So for those of you that are of the faith, please continue to pray that the main tumor will just break down, and that the cancer that spread to his lymph nodes and liver would just disappear. Cancer disappearing and healthy cells regrowing has happened before, and we're praying that it will happen again.

God bless!