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 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
In the 'eye' of the storm
The La Crosse County Amateur Golf Championships get especially hectic a couple of weeks beforehand with entries pouring in and final preparations. This year, in the midst of laying the groundwork, we also experienced the severe thunderstorms that rolled through portions of Iowa, Minnesota and Western Wisconsin July 19-20, causing flooding and property damage. Power in our area was knocked out for 20 hours. Because we are on well water, having no power translated into us having no running water. Loss of power also meant our sump pump couldn’t run. Consequently, we had a catch-22 dilemma. Where we needed water, we had none. Yet, where we didn’t want it, the water was running in like an open faucet! Bob and I slaved from dusk until dawn bailing rainwater as it poured into the sump pump. Throughout the night, we only had a flashlight to show us the way as we hauled buckets and buckets of dirty water upstairs, and dumped them outside in the pouring rain with lightning flashing all around us. It was a night where we only rested for two,-20 minute breaks between storms. Our hard labor paid off, though, as we managed to keep our lower level from flooding. Others in our area weren’t as fortunate. Mr. Outdoors did just fine throughout the stress of those busy couple of weeks… or so we thought. Shortly thereafter, trouble started brewing. A visit to his ophthalmologist, Dr. Jerald Cundiff, confirmed Bob’s suspicions. The shingles virus was worse again. The Outdoors Guy had been doing so well and was close to having his shingles resolved back in January. Then they intensified after he had cataract surgery in March. Unfortunately, this latest obstacle pushed him back to square one for the third time! Dr. Cundiff explained that all the stress, plus lack of sleep during that two-week period is what brought on another round of shingles. The Outdoors Guy has been battling this nasty virus in his left eye since early October. It is a result of low immunity from chemotherapy. Bob went back to four eye drops per day, plus Acyclovir pills, used to treat viruses, including shingles. Things are somewhat improved as now he is down to three drops a day and two Acyclovir. Dr. Cundiff told him, “We need to remain vigilant. If not, this could result into glaucoma, although it is rare.” Most people don’t enjoy doctor visits. Yet, if this is what it takes to keep his eyesight, we both say, “Bring on the appointments!” Meanwhile, Mr. Outdoors took advantage of the cloudy weather the past couple of days for a different kind of visit… to his favorite streams for trout fishing. Did he have success? He told me he had so much fun that he knew he would be dreaming about it all night!!!! Often, it’s the little things in life that make life worth living!!!
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!!!
Let the competition begin thanks to Jackie and Bruce Kaiser
Things are heating up in the Coulee Region. And, I’m not just referring to the warm and humid July weather. Yup, the La Crosse County Amateur Golf Championships are once again on the horizon, and on the minds of perennial golf competitors in La Crosse County. This year the Seniors' is Saturday, July 29 at Forest Hills Golf Course in La Crosse. The Women’s tournament is also July 29 at The Golf Club at Cedar Creek in Onalaska. The Men’s County Am, a two-day event, is scheduled Saturday, Aug. 5 at The Golf Club at Cedar Creek. The final round is set for Sunday, Aug. 6 at Drugan’s Castle Mound Country Club in Holmen. Every year is special in Tournament Director Bob’s eyes as he prepares for the tournaments (Men’s, Women’s and Seniors'), and the field of competitors he enjoys being involved with. This year marks the fifth year since the County Am lost it’s signature sponsor, the La Crosse Tribune. However, Pepsi-Cola Bottling of La Crosse quickly stepped in and picked up the slack. It has proven to be a winning combination as the County Am continues to be as popular and strong as ever! On May 8, 2015, Bob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The 2015 tournaments were difficult for him. He was battling cancer with the strongest chemotherapy available, making him very weak. On Saturday morning of the men’s tourney, he took a tumble and had to miss the morning tee times. He rested and felt well enough to attend both Saturday afternoon and Sunday’s competition.
Then, there was another cancer-related crisis last year in mid-July. After a 911 call where Bob was taken to emergency by ambulance, we learned he had developed a large ulcer caused by chemo and the effects it has on the body. Again, things were testy because it was at the height of prepping for the County Am. But in a strange twist of fate, Jackie Kaiser, County Am board member, was admitted to the same hospital as Bob. Not only were they at the same facility, they were there at the same time, on the same floor, and in the same wing! While Bob was being treated for the ulcer, Jackie was there for an eye disorder. It was downright convenient for Jackie to cross the hall to Bob's room where the two of them worked on County Am preparations...a definite first in the County Am books! LOL!! Jackie commented, “Frankly, I look back on it and giggle ... we didn't need matching County Am shirts ... we had matching hospital gowns instead!” With the steadfast backing of the board, including Jackie and Bruce Kaiser, who are also the official score keepers, the 2015 and 2016 tournaments went off without a hitch.
Hats off to Jackie and Bruce, who have been an integral part of the County Am since it’s revival in 1991. Their support throughout Bob’s cancer battle has been nothing short of exemplary and unwavering. For these reasons, Bob recently named the couple associate directors, as they continue to do what they do best in keeping the Co Am Championships first class. County Am 2017 brings with it a stronger, healthier director, who is excited for the challenges and rewards this year’s tournaments promise. Don’t forget to fill out your entry form, ensuring a tee time to experience the thrill of competing in the challenging 2017 La Crosse County Amateur Golf Championships!! Deadline for Seniors and Women is midnight, July 17. The Men’s deadline is midnight, July 24. For thrill-seekers who love golf but are not into the competition aspect of the game, make plans to be a part of the 2017 County Am gallery. The crowd gets the players’ adrenalin flowing and puts them on top of their game. It’s fun and it’s free to follow your favorite local celebs and cheer for a winner!