Monday, June 30, 2008

Oh, What a Night!

The rain and thunderstorms missed us as we gathered at Wisconsin Heights High School for our first "Relay for Life!" (Sabine is holding a sign which acknowledges St Peter's Church for their rummage sale contribution of $1,000!)

The Relay was held on the track and infield of Wisconsin Heights High School and was a combined Relay for the communities of Mazomanie, Black Earth and Cross Plains. I think this is their second year and they raised over $60K for cancer research.

The Relay was to have a movie theme. And we selected "The Wizard of Ox." You could find our tent by the bright rainbows -- and bluebirds flying.

The poster on the left says "ding-dong the cancer's dead" with the protruding socks and feet of the wicked witch clearly visible.

The green carpet has yellow bricks -- so folks can find the Emerald City (the screen tent in back that is ringed with green lights.

Our niece, Teak, showed up with her children (Seger and Malea) as "Munchkins," along with Sabine's mom as the Tin Man. I was the Lion (grrrr!) and Sabine, was, of course, Dorothy (check out the red sequined shoes!).

We also want to thank folks for their appearances, support that night: Bill, Gail, Sheri, Sue, Mitch, Deb, John, Kim, Heather, Ben, and Ginny. And we also thank all of you who sent Sabine checks made out to the American Cancer Society.

Now you know that some of the scariest characters in the Wizard story are those mean flying monkeys. Well, we decided to redeem them and made them smiling, flying monkeys!

On Saturday, daughters Sumi and Yumi (and Sumi's husband, Scott, and (yes!) our youngest granddaughter, Taylor!) came for a visit. Lt. Yumi is on leave from the Army and expecting a transfer to the Medical Branch.

We also had tickets to Eugene O'Neil's comedy, "Ah, Wilderness," at the American Players Theater in nearby Spring Green. It was a great weekend!

Here's a shot showing the outdoor stage. Thunderstorms also thankfully missed us that afternoon.

On Sunday, Sabine, her mom, and Yumi, joined me for my monthly celebration of the Eucharist at St Andrew's parish in Monroe.

Next week, after the Fourth of July, we begin three weeks of schooling on home dialysis and Sabine gets a pre-surgical workup on getting a fistual planted in her forearm.

Again, thanks for all your love and support!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tonight's the Night!

Okay, tonight's the night to join Sabine at Wisconsin Heights High School and follow the yellow brick road with her and sing our theme song with us: "Ding-dong, the wicked cancer's dead!"

The American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" begins at 6 p.m.

[Can't make it? Well there's a second Relay at Grundahl Park in Mt. Horeb on July 25th. We'll be there, too! Same theme: THE WIZARD OF OZ!]

Monday, June 23, 2008

Report from the frontlines...

This week has been another restful one and a good week. We got our washed-out driveway re-graveled and some re-ditching of the run-off water so that it went into the culvert and NOT down our driveway making a new whitewater kayak run to Highway K!
Sabine has been out running and I gave her this Sunday off as I drove to Trinity Episcopal Church in Janesville and celebrated at two services -- 8 am and 9:30. That meant an early rise and departure. Sabine got to sleep in and went to church with her mother in Barneveld.
When I arrived at Trinity I was surprised to see that I had some "billing" there -- a sermon and a "talk-back" was the announcement. It had been a while since I had led worship at a large congregation (but thankfully my internship during seminary at Grace Episcopal in Madison prepared me for this!).
As many of you know, the Midwest has been plagued by huge downpours. It seems most of Iowa is underwater and locally is no exception. You can see by this picture that the Rock River is on a rampage and yet to crest. It flows through downtown Janesville with an unimagineable power. In the foreground, life goes on as thousands of carp (you can see their fins in the water) still continue to do what comes naturally to them -- spawn!).
As you can imagine, we are very excited and thankful about getting on OK from our health care provider regarding the home dialysis. On July 7, we begin three weeks of training for home dialysis, four hours each day, Monday through Friday!
Next week is our first of two "Relays for Life" to help raise money for cancer research. If you are able we would sure like to see you on this coming Friday night at 6 p.m. Look for "Dorothy" and some of the Wizard of Oz characters on the track at the Wisconsin Heights High School (located on Highway 14 between Black Earth and Mazomanie).
On another positive note, our dear friend, Herman Goldstein, found this article in the New York Times and forwarded it to us. Here's part of that article.
Cancer as a Disease, Not a Death Sentence
Published: June 17, 2008

"To see Barry Cooper working out at the Y.M.C.A. in Brooklyn every morning before going to work as a patent lawyer, you would be unlikely to guess that he has cancer. Mr. Cooper, 63 and a grandfather of two, is one of a small but growing number of patients for whom once-fatal cancer has become a chronic disease.

"Through a better understanding of factors that distinguish cancer cells from normal ones and the development of more specific treatments that capitalize on those differences, cancers that just a decade ago would have been rapidly fatal are now being controlled for years while the patients conduct near-normal lives.

"Although these cancers may never be curable, they can often be controlled for long periods by a succession of treatments. When one therapeutic approach no longer works, another one that has come along in the meantime might stop the disease from progressing, at least for a while.

Even patients whose cancers were already metastatic — spread beyond the site of origin — at the time of diagnosis are benefiting from this sequential approach. Others like Mr. Cooper have cancers of blood-forming organs that previously had a limited response to available therapies.

“'We’re seeing people being periodically treated and living year after year with advanced disease, with cancers that have spread to the lung, liver, brain or bone,' Dr. Michael Fisch, director of the general oncology program at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in an interview. 'In 1997, we wouldn’t have guessed this would be possible.'

"In March 2007, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential hopeful John Edwards, joined this group of chronic cancer patients when she disclosed that the breast cancer she was treated for in 2004 had spread to her bones and, possibly, lung. Mr. Edwards described the disease as 'no longer curable but completely treatable' and likened the situation to living with diabetes.

"Speaking generally, Dr. Francisco J. Esteva, a breast cancer specialist at the Anderson center, said in an interview: 'Our ultimate goal is not to make this a chronic disease, but to keep patients alive long enough until we can find the right treatment for the right patient and cure the disease. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, but meanwhile we try to keep patients alive with a good quality of life for as long as possible.'
This sure sounded good!! Love and blessing to all of you!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Home Dialysis Approved!

Hurrah! We were just notified late yesterday that our health care provider has approved home dialysis for us. We begin our training the first part of next month and are very excited about this new program! Thanks for all your prayers. (Don't forget the "Relay for Life" -- if you can join us do come. Sabine is already making sequined red shoes!).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer Visitors

Sabine logged in a three-mile run this week with her trusty companion, Mocha (while I have been hitting the hills and dales on my bike).

Our efforts are now being directed at trying to arrange home dialysis. We are scheduled to begin our three-week training course right after the 4th of July. And Sabine is already scheduled for a pre-surgical analysis of her arm veins.

There are some good reasons for doing home dialysis (especially for a cancer that affects one's immune system). First of all, it is a better dialysis. Doing daily dialysis (they tell us) is better than doing every other day dialysis. Secondly, the home environment is a cleaner environment with regard to infection than a clinical or hospital environment. And the third reason is that we can program the machine to better accommodate Sabine's chemotherapy which will be part of our life for sometime to come. Now, all we have to do is convince our health care provider -- Group Health Cooperative. Home dialysis is a new program and we are told is about the same cost as dialysis in the clinic. So we are waiting for their decision and in the meantime we have asked Sabine's primary care physician and nurse case manager from GHC to do what they can do to help us. (An area for prayer!)

You might wonder who these birds are -- they are not Sabine and me strolling along the prairie with Mocha; no, they are our new guests who have taken up residence across the highway from our farm -- a pair of Sandhill Cranes and their young chick (you can see the chick on the right side of the picture).

The other summer visitor we wish to note are the Ladyslipper flowers that we found growing last year on our south trail. They only last about two weeks but are beautiful wildflowers.

So that's the report from New Journey Farm. Next Sunday we go down to Janesville and fill in at Trinity Episcopal Church while the priest takes a needed vacation. We are also going to help out at New Heights Lutheran Church (Mazomanie and Black Earth) at the end of August while that pastor takes a well-earned vacation.

The pool is warm [80 degrees] (using only the sun to heat it this year!), the woods a rich green, and Charlotte's flowers and vegetable garden are doing their thing.

Don't forget to come and visit during one of the Relays this summer: JUNE 27 AT WISCONSIN HEIGHTS HIGH SCHOOL and JULY 25 IN MOUNT HOREB!

Love and blessings to all of you!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rain, rain and more rain...

The sump pump has been running continually in our old farm basement. The good news is that the cottage is dry as a bone! We have springs springing up everywhere. The only folks that seem to enjoy all this rain and water and new found springs is our geese. They are having a heyday

I enclosed this picture of our driveway wash-out -- the second time this year! Even though we have 2 foot deep ruts, it is still passable. Not so for our friends, the Bradley's in Portage who live in the Baraboo bluffs -- their driveway is not passable and has nearly 4 foot gullies in it due to the 12 inches of rain they received one night.

Sabine and I were at St Peter's this past Sunday and it was great to see old friends. They presented us with a beautiful watercolor of their beloved church. It is a picture we will treasure. They also did something with their "rumage" (Fr.) sale and raised over $1,000 for Sabine to give toward cancer research. What a generous and needed gift! We thank you all so very much! Your love is palatable!

We are enjoying the "no-chemo" period. Sabine is out running and despite the rain, there have been wonderfully warm, sunny days (aha, a metaphor for this life!).
We are anxiously waiting to start our training for home dialysis next month and Sabine has her first preparatory consultation which will "map" and check her veins for the surgery (hopefully some time this month) that will implant a button "fistula" in her arm and make the dialysis more aseptic and give her the freedom to swim again (the "button," as I understand it, is actually skin that will grow over the fistula and permit dialysis through it by a needle. The button hole will be just like the opening one has in a pierced ear.

So, that's our life to date. We have a number of "dates" this summer to supply our liturgical services to area churches and look forward to these visits and worshipping in different congregations. My friend, Jerry, who is a U.C.C. pastor has invited me this summer to preach at the First Congregational Church in Madison (we are looking forward to this bit of ecumenism!).

Celebrate life every day. Enjoy one another. Be thankful!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lest we forget...

Lest I forget... What's that old prayer? "Lord, you have given me so much. Just give me one more thing now -- a thankful heart!"

death valley
drove through it once
below sea level
emerged on a beach
in corona del mar

death valley – the other one
our cancer
fiery hot
thirst crazy
yet emerged on a beach

in my heart
joy entangles us

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Round 6? Not yet!

Here's the report from our meeting with Dr Sheehan yesterday. As we mentioned earlier, it seems that this last round of chemotherapy held the "light chain" to the same level. They may not get lower, but they are GREATLY reduced from a beginning level of 10,800 down to 100.

So, Dr Sheehan's recommendation is that we stop the chemotherapy for 6 weeks and see what happens. In the meantime, Sabine can go through the preliminary tests and day surgery to get a "button fistula" implanted in her arm for dialysis purposes that will greatly reduce her chance of infection and permit her to go swimming and kayaking as well.

We will begin her surgical preparation and training on home dialysis next month and we are excited about this new-found freedom that a home dialysis program will give us.

Thanks for you prayers and keep them coming to specifically repress those light chain proteins from causing problems. Sabine's energy is up, she is looking forward to seeing many of you at one of the two "Relay for Life" dates (see below). Follow the yellow brick road!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Home Dialysis

I know this is Wednesday and many of you are axiously awaiting the results of our visit to Dr Sheehan this afternoon.
But first a report from our meeting yesterday with the home dialysis staff.

It looks like we are good candidates for home dialysis! What this means is that starting mid-July we will be going to home dialysis class five days a week for three weeks.
We will be trained on how to use this fantastic machine (see picture) and how to handle any malfunctions. The machine weighs about 70 pounds and it transportable (yes, that means would could vacation with it!). The filtering supplies are all in self-contained sets that will be mailed to us at home.

Home dialysis means "dialysizing" six days a week for two hours (versus our current scheduled of driving to Madison three times a week for four-hour sessons). We need a room to be set aside for the machine and a comfortable chair and take reasonable germ precautions.

We learned something new. As soon as we are certified we can begin home dialysis even if Sabine doesn't have her arm fistula in; that is, we can use the tunnel catheter in her neck for dialysis until the fistula "button" is surgically implanted and heals over. The benefits of having a fistula are great: less chance of infection, and swimming!

So we are waiting for Sabine's surgery to be completed sometime this summer and getting trained on this machine. The staff has been wonderful. They not only have a 24/7 tech support number for us, but one of the nurses are always on-call if we should need help at home.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cottage Weekend

There are two additonal new blogs beside this one. Scroll below and take a look!

This weekend we did a trial run at our cottage. Everything has finally been completed except for the phone service (another long story of struggle with a "public" utility). Nevertheless, it was a wonderfully warm and grand weekend as we have a two week intermission between cancer therapies.

This coming Wednesday we meet with our oncologist and see how things are. (Those dreaded Lambda Light Chains seem to be holding their own. I just got the blood test back today and it was 116 (last time it was 100) but much better than the 10,800 we started with. We will see what Dr Sheehan has to say and what the next step is. Stay tuned.

These two pictures are taken at Indian Lake which is about 10 miles northwest of the cottage and has a free-run dog trail that Mocha great enjoys (well, so do we!).

I think I mentioned at Sabine has been running up to two miles. The research shows that excercise is of great benefit to cancer patients. Most everyone agrees exercise has great psychological benefits and so think that there are physiological benefits as well. Sabine thought back in January that she would never be able to run again, so this is a great leap forward for her.
This weekend niece Teak and her two children, Seger and Malea, joined Kim Lobitz and her kids from the Chicago area, Jared and Jackson for a visit with Grandma Buddy and some romping at the pool that is a very comfortable 78 degrees without benefit of fossil fuels! We joined them on Sunday after church.
This Sunday I "supplied" at St Andrew's Episcopal Church in Monroe. It is a very tiny (I think the tiniest) church in the diocese. We enjoy the congregation and look forward to our monthly visits.