Day 3

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Day 3 182lbs

Welcome back!  Today was a day of differences.  I was a little head-achy, my tinnitus was a little louder, but I woke up and was grateful to begin another one. (even though it was 5am)  I know I’m supposed to be eating but I never thought that I would have to force down food!  I have been eating between 2500 and 2800 calories a day high in protein, drinking at least one Pedialyte  and 2 liters of water.  Between peeing and rubbing my belly I use up half the day. Then there are the every 2 hour baking soda rinses for the mouth and after radiation icing down for 15 minutes and an aloe vera rubdown.  But I feel good.  I wish that I could get out to the shop – I have been working on a table that is turning out very nice, but I was on the phone with insurance, finances and doctors all day.  I did take some time to talk to my  friends Mac Brown in the morning and Jeanie Theirault in the afternoon.

The center waiting area is light and airy and full of life. Casey, the receptionist, greets

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Reception and waiting room

you with a smile and your name.  There are art projects, kid’s play room, kitchen, coffee and plenty of families and patients to talk to.  I partook of the weekly lunch for patients, families and caregivers.  It was very cool.  It is catered by different restaurants and today was Zoe’s Kitchen.  There were beef, chicken and spinach, wraps, rice, fresh fruit and a complete salad bar….top that off with chocolate cake-

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lunch

delicious calories plus! When we settled down at our tables they went over activities that are available to patients; dinner at Indochine, a tour of the Federal Reserve, a cocktail hour another night, reduced tickets to the Icemen, and the free events around town.  Next they had a doctor come up and explain his specialty for about 15 minutes, then went around the room letting alumni, and graduating patients share their experience strength and hope to the newcomers.  Then we got to introduce ourselves talking about where we were from, our cancer and treatment.  As I’ve probably told you, we

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chime ringing

Jacksonville residents are few and far between.  In the room of about 40, only two of us were from here.  I made it a point to run down some folks to let them know if they wanted to know where to go or what to do please ask or call….I’m going to have to start carrying more cards! I even sent one guy over to the Dreamette, he was jonesing  for good soft-serve.  When the lunch was over we all gathered in the lobby where to graduates rang the chimes in the lobby to signify hope and completion and had their pictures taken.  It was touching to watch these families say goodbye to the friends that they had shared so much with and the gratitude they had for a new beginning.  Next it was off to treatment with Hanna and Jennifer who tied me down and gave me a sunburn……it is one expensive tanning bed!

Today was very reminiscent of early sobriety.  You come into the rooms a broken person thinking it is the end and you are sentenced to a glum existence.  I was accepted with open arms into a community of experience strength, hope and fellowship. Before I knew it I was getting out of myself and helping others,  I just had to show up and be willing to do some new things.  I came home smiling, happy and filled with love and gratitude.  Who knew so much good could thrive in a place filled with so much tragedy.  Thank you for letting me share – it means so much.

Don

LESSON OF THE DAY – Be willing and take action, you won’t be sorry.

 

September 3rd – September 13

The last 4 years have been an amazing journey.  Kat and I got married 3 years ago in a small ceremony with my Mom Charlene, brother Joe, my niece Sarah and Jan and2014-08-22 13.16.55 Albert my sister and brother-in-law.  We surprised everyone with a secret ceremony set up in advance with the help of the Staff at Treyton Oaks, the place my Mom lives.  The family thought it was a tour until we went into the dining room and Brian Ebel, Joe and Mom’s minister, was standing in the room.  Jan and Albert were transformed into the best man and maid of honor and the rest is history.  It was a lavish affair with the rehearsal dinner held at White Castle, for you southerners that’s the northern version of Krystal, and an exciting afternoon of zip lining in the Mega Cavern. The cavern is an old underground limestone cavern that has about 15 mines of arteries under a suburb of the city – very cool! And dinner at Café Lou Lou provided by my long term brother and friend Coleman Hulette.  Kat and I have explored, paddled, put on roofs, taken classes, raise children, laughed, cried, struggled and triumphed.  God blessed me when he put this woman in my life.

Okay, so we left off at Labor Day.  The following Tuesday the 3 of us sat with Doc Ilene and discussed the diagnosis and possible treatment and she was in agreement and hopeful.  I felt pretty good until she ended the appointment with a flu shot to help protect me during treatment.  The surgery with Dr. Moy was scheduled for Wednesday September 13th with a pre-op exam on that Friday the 8th.

Oh by the way….that was the weekend that a chick named Irma came to party!  We spent Friday afternoon burning the burn piles from Matthew and getting the house ready for 2017-09-24 16.57.08the storm.  Jan and Albert had previously scheduled a trip to New York so we ended up with Finn the wonder dog and the three of us settled in for a stormy weekend.  Finn is the ultimate ball chaser and we laughed our asses off Sunday as he chased the ball through 8 inches of rain!

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Finn

Monday morning, we lost power about 2am and were awakened at 6 am by our Sister-In-Love Amy McCall and her husband Keoni Switzer.  Their house off Halsema Road had flooded from McGirk’s creek and when they left the bathroom was 4 feet deep and the rest of the house was about a foot deep.  They had their 4 dogs a great dane Kalua, golden doodle Koda, presa canario Lena and a pres -doodle mix, Tonka not to mention Lucy the pig!  We ended up with another 7 inches of rain that night bringing the total to 15 inches.  Monday Keoni and I spent the day moving 3 horses and a 700-pound pig to a dry farm and gathering up some of their belongings.

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McSwitzer House

We ended the day bumming showers and handing off Finn to Will, Jan’s son to get him out of the kennel because we had no power and our house that means no water due to the well.  It was a comical couple of days, Tuesday our friend and lawn guy Tony Twing, got power and gave us his generator to use and as a result didn’t lose the refrigerator and freezer.  It was kinda nice being disconnected living on the patio with friends enjoying the sounds of nature if you

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Our Yard

could ignore the hum of the generator.  Phone calls were exchanged, friends checking on each other and help was given and received. It was heartwarming to see people coming together to help each other any way they could.  Generators showed up, Keoni and Amy got loaned a 5th wheel, trees were cut up, animals sheltered, families fed, love and caring were shown by most.  Kat and I are so blessed to be surrounded by a community of friends who truly care about each other.

Wednesday morning came before we knew it, so we packed up and headed to Jan’s to clean up before surgery.  While we were there Dr. Terk called to check on me and to schedule a consultation after we got the results from the biopsy. The biopsy went well, hell I guess it did I was so whacked out I barely knew who I was!  Dr. Moy took 20 biopsies from the tonsil area and base of the tongue.  Afterwards, Kat dropped me off at my sister’s house, who had power, under the care of Will my nephew and Jessa his wife the nurse.   Friends and neighbors, it only took one night under the influence of severe pain killers to bring me back to the reality of why I surrendered my right to consume alcohol 19 years ago.  I wanted to drive, make drunk phone calls, and eat ramen noodles and peanut butter.  I jabbered incessantly and probably drove Will and Jessa to drink!  They did admit the next morning that I was pretty comical, but I don’t miss it one bit!   Oh, and by the way I found out my wife was having me held hostage until we got power and she got things picked up because she knows me so much!  Told you I love that girl!

LESSON OF THE DAY – Thank you is a perfect response, nothing else is needed.

Here We Go Again!

It’s a semi-true story
Believe it or not
I made up a few things
And there’s some I forgot.
But the life and the tellin’
Are both real to me
And they all run tog
ether and turn out to be
A semi-true story.

Jimmy Buffett – Semi-True Stories

 

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Welcome back my old friends and hello to new ones.  As you all carried me through wood school I need you by my side again!

Imagine my surprise when a healthy guy, other than having a year filled with some injuries and a bout of pneumonia, got a call from my Internist stating that she needed to see me that morning.  You guessed it, CANCER!  It was a shock to say the least, especially because at that time all we knew that it was in 3 lymph nodes on the left side of my neck.  Dr. Ilene Levinson, from now referred to as Doc Ilene, is one of the most knowledgeable, compassionate, caring and intelligent internists that I have ever had the privilege of knowing and being treated by.  She cares about her patients.  She was by my side and directed the treatment of Sally for the last 10 years of her life and I have grown to love and respect her.  As only she can do, she looked me in the eye and assured me that we have been through tougher battles and in the end, it would be ok.

So, let me catch you up, this all started in April when I had an accident in the shop. I know, ME AN ACCIDENT?  I was cutting 4x4s on the table saw and had a kick back that hit me in the mouth causing a split lip and 4 loose teeth.  22 sutures later and a couple of dental visits I was good as new – or so I thought.  The trauma left me           physically down and susceptible to pneumonia that decided to attack in May.  During the diagnosis stage Dr. Levinson and I noted some enlarged lymph nodes and she ran bloodwork to check them out. When I returned in June for a follow-up they were still enlarged so she ordered a sonogram.  Good news – I wasn’t pregnant!   But, no other definitive information.  Next step was a biopsy in mid-August and diagnosis of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma in the left cervical lymph node with a P16 marker on Friday August 18th.

Well, after the initial shock wore off, Doc Ilene scheduled a PET scan for the next day and the journey began.  She also texted and scheduled a consultation at MD Anderson with Dr. John Vu, medical oncologist. The PET scan showed 3 affected nodes and a confirmation was made that it was a cancer caused by the MPV virus, but no point of origin was seen.

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Being faced with this dilemma I assembled the two women in my life that I could trust to be by side at every appointment and treatment and have the balls to tell me that I was wrong.  Kathy Lynn, my rock, confidant, my supporter, my wife and best friend.  Jan Carol, has been my closest friend since the age of 18 and my sister.  I moved to Jacksonville because I needed to be close to her and her family. So, the three of us began this journey of education, frustration and a little bit of joy.

I want to share my journey with you guys because of the love and support that you showed me when I jumped ship and ran off to be a woodturner.  It has been a bittersweet joy to talk to all of you who care so much, the outreach of callers has been humbling and I know that I am loved.  At the end of the day, I just run out of time to call all of you.  Please use this blog knowing I love each and every one of you and want to keep up with what is going on.  I can only hope that the journey brings you the desire and strength to face your fears and move on with your life, no matter what that obstacle is.  If I have learned nothing else in this life, it is that God is good and will provide for you – If you get the hell out of the way and let Him (or Her or It)!  It may not always be what you think you want, but in the end, it will be better than your dreams.

LESSON OF THE DAY – God has a plan!  It may not be what we dreamed about, but something wonderful is going to come from this journey