I can think of no better way to start out the New Year than with good… no, fantastic news!! One week ago, The Outdoors Guy had labs and a CT scan for his three-month check in his pancreatic cancer battle. During his appointment with oncologist Dr. Paula Gill in October, she commented, “Bob has been a miracle man since the first day he walked into my office!” The miracle continued when he met with Dr. Gill this week. Bob’s scan proved to be consistent with his previous one… "No significant interval change from the prior exams without evidence of progressed tumor.” Could “The Miracle Man” and our family be given more splendid news? Actually… YES!!! Because furthermore, his three liver tests revealed his liver count is now within normal range. This is a “first” since his diagnosis 32 months ago, May 8, 2015!!! Finally, The Outdoors Guy’s tumor marker dropped to nine. He is well within the 35 range, the highest number accepted as normal for cancer patients. Because Bob has exceeded all expectations, he and Dr. Gill discussed a time frame for his next battery of tests. Both feel comfortable with another 3-month check. Then, pending another excellent report, Dr. Gill will extend testing to six months. She told Bob, "You are amazing!!!" Additionally, we are elated because The Outdoors Guy has fully recovered from the stroke he suffered Labor Day Weekend at our son’s and daughter-in-law’s cabin near Hayward, WI. There is nothing good about a stroke. Well… almost nothing! For me, one fun consequence has come to the surface… Bob laughs a lot more at my lame jokes!!! I cannot end this blog without giving credit where credit is due. Matthew 17:20 says: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Yet, the mountain isn’t a physical one figuratively speaking. It is embracing the faith that trusts God will work things out for our good. The mountain that is moved is the one within us!!! Bob and I set our minds on this simple, yet unfathomable truth after the first weekend of his diagnosis. It was when we took his illness out of our hands and put it into God’s hands. This life-changing experience taught us to never underestimate what the power of faith in God will accomplish. Our family is ecstatic and feel beyond blessed with our news!!! What a spectacular way to start the New Year!! May you and yours also be abundantly blessed in 2018!!!
Our Greatest Heritage!!!
When learning about our American history and the heroes who helped form our country, do you believe those heroes lived? And, when you think about your own heritage, do you trust your ancestors existed? Of course you do!!! From the moment we are born, we all have a lineage on this earth. Whether we are happy or not with what ours represents, whether we claim it or reject it, this pedigree is ours. Our heritage is all about those who lived before us and died. And we believe it. When you look across the room at a loved one, are you sure he or she exists? When you hold a precious, crying newborn, are you certain the baby is alive? Of course you are! The proof is right before your very eyes! Like seeing that loved one or newborn, we can also see the proof right before our very eyes that our holy heritage exists. Sadly, many reject it when all they need do is open and read the historical accounts in The Holy Bible. Within those pages, we read how, when, and why the world and mankind came into existence. We learn about man’s downfall into sin. We discover that God so lovedmankind that He provided salvation for us through His son, Jesus Christ. How did He do that? Jesus reigned in heaven, but came to earth as a babe (Christmas) and lived a perfect life in our place. Then, He suffered and died on a cross and descended into hell to pay for the sins of the whole world (Good Friday). After three days He rose from the dead (Easter), assuring us that if we believe in Him, when we die, we will be with Him in heaven forever. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. Jesus tells us in the book of John, chapter 14, verse 6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The reason is because Jesus is our mediator, the One who paid for our sins. No amount of good deeds can pay the price. How many good deeds are ever enough? Not only that, good deeds mean we are depending upon ourselves for our salvation rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us to fulfill His Father’s demands. Something we cannot do. Many believe the stories about their ancestors. Yet, they doubt the recorded existence of God, the original ancestor, and His greatest gift of all, that of His son, and the brother we have in Jesus Christ. His love for us knows no boundaries!!! We are not worthy of that love or the sacrifice Jesus made in our place. But, through the account of The Holy Bible, we can be certain that His words, and His life, death and resurrection are true. Armed with that faith, we are brought into the family of believers. God’s Word is our greatestheritage!!! Heaven is not a fairy tale. Believe it and you, too, will know the true meaning of Christmas!!!
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
The Lambs are happy campers these days! Last Wednesday, Oct. 4, The Outdoors Guy and I met with cardiologist Dr. Tahir Tak for the first time since his stroke Sept. 2. Dr. Tak was shocked to learn Bob is still alive after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 29 months ago. I didn’t hesitate to tell him, “It’s a miracle!!” Dr. Tak completely agreed. He also was amazed Bob had a stroke and how well he is doing so soon afterward. After a thorough checkup, Dr. Tak told Bob, “You don’t really need to see me again unless things change.” The next day was The Outdoors Guy’s 3-month checkup with oncologist Dr. Paula Gill. The appointment was one month late because of the stroke Bob suffered Labor Day Weekend due to atrial fibrillation. His CT scan and labs had been done the day before. Dr. Gill began the appointment by telling us, in an almost matter-of-fact tone, that Bob’s CT scan was totally clean… AGAIN!! YES!!!! Not only was there no evidence of the pancreatic cancer tumor, his tumor marker also remains low at 17. Our family never could have guessed on May 8, 2015, that The Outdoors Guy would still be here and, for the most part, doing very well. After his crushing diagnosis, he received 37 chemotherapy treatments and radiation 25 times. It pummeled the cancer while also beating up on his body. Yet, he persevered. We happily relayed to Dr. Gill the miracle we talked about with Dr. Tak. Dr. Gill didn’t miss a beat when she said, “Bob has been a miracle man since the first day he walked into my office!” But wait!!!! There’s more good news!!! Yesterday, The Outdoors Guy met with neurologist Dr. Harsh Aggarwal. He was shocked Bob not only had a stroke, but that it had been so recent. After performing a battery of tests on Bob, Dr. Aggarwal declared him to be fully recovered from the stroke!! He recommended Bob see his speech and occupational therapists one more time to get their final recommendations as well. People we meet when we’re out and about are surprised when we tell them The Outdoors Guy had a stroke. They think we’re joking. No, we would never joke about something as serious as a stroke... or cancer. We are grateful to the fine medical facilities and care he received along the way. It included a two-week program of acute care inpatient therapy resulting in a tremendous boost in his phenomenal outcome. Can you guess what the best news is for The Outdoors Guy? Dr. Aggarwal cleared him to drive again! For him, the worst side effect of the stroke was being sidelined from the driver’s seat, resulting in his loss of independence. Personally, I can think of a dozen worse things that could have happened!! Getting pancreatic cancer was not good. Neither was having a stroke. As one friend put it, “God has the master plan. But, wouldn’t it be nice if he let us in on it?” Yes, in one way it would. Yet, having insight into the details of what will happen in our future could make us shudder in despair, all the while not realizing that along the path we walk, we’ll learn and grow as we go. By then, our faith will also have been strengthened to help us through our darkest hours. Bob and I have experienced the depths of those dark hours. Yet, we have been joyfully uplifted through our faith and trust in God. The Outdoors Guy may be a miracle man, but only through the One who has provided the miracle!!!
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. Acts 3:16
A time for celebration
Today, Nov. 8, is yet another milestone in the life of The Outdoors Guy… and our family. The operative words here are “in the life of.” Yes, it is the 2½-year anniversary of LIFE since Bob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and with what we were sure was a death sentence. Not only is he a survivor, he is also just over two months into an excellent recovery since a stroke on Sept. 2, caused by atrial fibrillation. On both counts, Bob has been a fighter, like a soldier unwilling to give an inch in either battle!! When The Outdoors Guy’s pancreatic cancer was diagnosed May 8, 2015, and his fight began, we hoped and prayed he would be able to defeat it. Yet, there was self-doubt. It was more than lurking in the corners of our minds. It was attacking like a swarm of angry bees. We wondered if he could survive six months, let alone 2½ years? It wasn’t even on our radar!!!! It didn’t take long, though, before the crippling doubts that consumed us drifted away like the days of our youth. Why the change to a positive attitude from those self-limiting thoughts? It wasn’t why we changed as much as Who changed us. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4. Faith in God and Jesus our Savior have always been a part of who we are. But, Bob and I had never had a life or death situation grab hold of us with so much force it felt like the breath was literally being sucked out of us. If you followed Kathy’s Korner blogs during Bob’s battle, you may remember I always ended the blog with a Bible verse that gave us great comfort during a particular phase in his/our journey. We hold tight to those promises as much today as when chemo was punishing The Outdoors Guy’s body and draining his energy. I cannot neglect to thank you for your part in the heavy lifting through your prayers for Bob and our family. We are forever grateful!!! There were days when it felt like an uphill climb. Yet, there were times when Bob would receive exhilarating news that his latest CT scan showed the tumor was shrinking. Or, his tumor marker was no worse. We read 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” And, Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Are you or a loved one struggling with health issues or other concerns? Read Job 5:8-9, “But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” A friend suggested to me that, “God can do anything He wants.” It was a straightforward statement stating a simple truth. So, whether good news or bad, Bob and I have learned to trust His master plan for our lives. Yes, the plan includes our days on this earth, but it also speaks to the days when it will end for each one of us. And, it WILL end because life on earth is short. Then, through faith, we will be with Him forever in eternity where: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9. Seriously! What more could we wish for ourselves and our loved ones? To be together forever in eternal bliss? Now, that’s what I call absolutely, positively heavenly!!!
The longest Labor Day Weekend… EVER!!!
Labor Day Weekend passed quickly, with most people returning to work or school the following Tuesday. But, for our family, and The Outdoors Guy in particular, it morphed into an almost three-week chaotic medical emergency with residual effects. The holiday weekend began for Bob and me on Thursday when we traveled to the cabin of son and daughter-in-law, Jon and Sara, 30 minutes north of Hayward. We had a joyful reunion when “The Kids” and grandsons, Jackson and Bryson, and family dog, Guinness, arrived Friday evening. After a leisurely Saturday morning, the guys left for an afternoon of golf. Sara and I drove to Hayward to run a few errands and have some girl time. When we returned late afternoon, Jackson and Bryson came racing down the long gravel driveway to tell us Grampa wasn’t feeling well. Bob was in a lawn chair, not looking well at all. Jon crouched next to him with a very concerned look on his face. Jon said Grampa suddenly got weak. At first we thought he could be tired from golfing, combined with the possibility he could be low on potassium or sodium, which still happens occasionally as a result of chemo. We gave him foods which should have helped, but didn’t. Grampa wasn’t talking and had an angry look on his face. We thought he was upset with us for wanting to take him to the hospital. Jon, Sara and I tried to get him into the vehicle, but couldn’t. Wasting no more time, we called 911. I rode with Bob in the ambulance where things did not improve. Hayward Memorial Hospital sent a medic to meet us halfway there. We stopped along the highway as the medic made a U-turn, climbed on board and immediately took charge. When we reached the hospital, M.D. Dayle Quigley met us. She asked a few quick questions as The Outdoors Guy was brought in. We gave her our take on what was wrong. Well, let’s just say she would have none of it!!! Dr. Quigley had already ordered a CT scan, done within minutes of Bob’s arrival. The scan showed his heart had thrown a blood clot from atrial fibrillation, which Bob has had for years without a problem. The clot traveled to the frontal part of his brain, resulting in an ischemic stroke. According to a guide given to us on strokes, “Ischemic stroke occurs when (in Bob’s case) pieces of blood clot (called emboli) break off in the bloodstream and are carried along by the blood until they get stuck in a blood vessel in the brain. With the artery blocked, the flow of blood is slowed or stopped, damaging brain cells.” Dr Quigley wasted no time. She had already started him on Alteplase IV (also called t-PA) given through an IV in the arm. It is used to help dissolve the clot quickly and return blood flow to that part of the brain. Not only that, a helicopter was ordered to airlift Bob to United Hospital in St. Paul. "It will be here in 20 minutes,” she told us. Jon and I looked at each other in disbelief! Yet, we were extremely grateful and impressed with her take-charge stance. Dr. Quigley explained, “If the clot does not dissolve, Hayward Memorial does not have the necessary facilities to perform surgery to remove it.” Too soon, and yet not soon enough, we said our goodbyes to Grampa as he was rushed to the chopper. Jackson and Bryson had been in the waiting room with Sara. We told them Grampa was going to a bigger hospital that could help him more. As darkness closed in, our little family huddled in the parking lot listening to the beating blades and then watching the chopper lift off from behind the hospital. Ten-year-old Jackson cried out in agony, not knowing what would happen to his beloved Grampa. After they disappeared over the trees and into the darkening sky, we rushed back to the cabin to close things up. I rode in back with the boys, explaining that Grampa was in God’s care. Then, we said a prayer for him. Jackson calmed down. Our normally chatty, almost 8-year-old Bryson was uncharacteristically quiet. Meanwhile, Jon phoned son, Evan, who was unable to be with us for the weekend, to alert him. When we reached the cabin, each one of us instinctively knew what to do to close the cabin without even discussing it. Then, like a band of thieves in the night, each of us grabbed what we needed to take, including Guinness, and all of Bob’s and my belongings and were on our way. Sara drove our Jeep and Jon had the boys in his truck. On our drive to St. Paul, we stopped in Hinckley, Minn., to drop off the boys and Guinness with Jon and Sara’s friends. Jon, Sara and I finally reached United Hospital about 1 a.m. Sunday. Evan arrived a little later that day. Bob was admitted to United Hospital's ICU. Thankfully, the clot had dissolved so surgery wasn’t necessary. However, he was having residual effects from the stroke. He was weak, especially his left side, where the stroke had affected him the most. Bob could walk, but needed assistance or a walker. We learned the reason he wasn’t talking to us at the cabin wasn’t because he was angry. He was unable to speak. But, by the time he got to United Hospital, Bob could answer simple yes and no questions. When we arrived, he was talking, but not nearly as much as usual. He also showed little expression. Oh, how we were missing Grampa’s usual banter! By Tuesday, Bob had improved enough to be moved to a regular room. We were happy and relieved when his sense of humor and facial expression started to return. It was evident when a nurse asked him to remember three things. He put his index finger up to his temple and said, “Once it’s in the hard drive, I don’t forget!” Laughter erupted from those in the room!! And, he did remember! His personality was returning. He had turned the corner! That same day, discussion progressed toward moving Bob to La Crosse for acute care inpatient therapy. The only facility who specializes in this type of care in La Crosse is Gundersen Hospital. They had a bed available. Wednesday, Sept. 6, Jon and Sara returned to St. Paul from their home in Cloquet, Minn. They transported us back to La Crosse. Jon drove Bob, and I rode with Sara. They stayed for a few hours to help Bob get settled in, leaving at 7 p.m. to return to Cloquet. It was an extra-long day for them, but we so appreciated their help!!! Daily, for two full weeks, Bob underwent three hours of intense physical, occupational, speech and therapeutic recreation therapies. Each session lasted 45 minutes with a break in between. And, daily I saw the strides he was making. It was truly remarkable! Evan visited every couple of days and also was impressed with his dad’s progress. Besides Bob’s difficulty to speak, lack of expression and weakness, especially on his left side, he also had problems with initiating tasks and conversation, and decision making. One physician stated that the frontal part of the brain is like the CEO, and due to the stroke, the CEO was having difficulty telling the other departments what to do. Many of these difficulties are greatly improved or resolved. It’s amazing!!! I asked what would have happened if Bob could not have been admitted to Gundersen’s program. I was told he would have gone to a nursing home, where he would not have received the intense therapy Gundersen offered. Staff told us it would have been a much longer recovery time, with the possibility he would not have improved enough to return home. This past Wednesday, Sept. 20, was a joyful day!! It was the day I was finally able to bring The Outdoors Guy home from the longest Labor Day Weekend ever… 20 days!! In just three days, The Outdoors Guy and I have seen additional improvement. Thursday he and Texas fished off the dock at the boathouse. I couldn’t have imagined it even a week ago! Bob’s healing process will continue with outpatient therapy twice a week. He is now on a blood thinner to help prevent another stroke. The possibility of a pacemaker is in his future. Our family feels incredibly blessed with the excellent care Bob received throughout his ordeal. We know God had a hand in providing the remarkable hospitals and staff who cared for him and our family along the way.
We also know Our Outdoors Guy is one tough, awe-inspiring dude!!!