Monday, December 31, 2012

Sickness

Last night, Derek came down with a fever and vomited once.  We assume it is whatever has been going around.  So we had to cancel Avastin treatment this morning and the physical and speech therapy appointments we were going to have this afternoon.  Please pray he can recover.  He is resting comfortably.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Temodar

Well, I finally got the temodar today and took the first dose at lunch.  Within a few hours I started feeling a tad sick and threw up by 4:30.  A couple fortunate things.  One, I was working from home this afternoon and that's a better place to be sick.  Second, I had some of my anti-nausea medicine around from when I took radiation so I took one of those and am feeling better.  Tomorrow I'll try the anti-nausea an hour before the chemo and that is supposed to help.

We also went this morning to a chiropractor to evaluate my walking/lower back.  He said my best bet is more of a physical therapy approach that might be able to improve my gait.  So later next week I have a referral for that.

For prayer requests, right now if feels like we have so many needs.  That I not get too sick, that the temodar works and my chewing and swallowing improves, and mostly that I can keep an upbeat attitude.

I was reminded again this week as I sat getting my chemo on Monday that I wouldn't trade places with anyone.  A couple older ladies there who had been fighting cancer for years, telling me some of their life experiences.  Lets just suffice it to say that I'm thankful for the parents God gave me.

Thanks again for all your prayers,
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Picture

I'll start with the easy part.  In past years we've often sent out a Christmas card or picture and some details of what's been happening.  We figured this year that there's too much to report from the year, and most of you have been following it anyway, so we don't need a letter.  We decided to post a picture on the blog of our family that we just took Sunday.  Hopefully that will suffice for everyone.  I'm sure a few won't see it, but if we were to send out cards, it would take many hundreds of them to reach everyone we know and the many new friends we made this year.


On the health front, I'm still waiting to get in with the local doctor and get started on the Temodar.  I call every day to see if they've received the info, etc.  You know how local medicine goes, it's not the same as Mayo.

I wanted to share with everyone what a blessing it was on Sunday to spend time in church.  The last couple weeks has been hard.  I feel myself wear out more quickly, and I'm less able to do things around the house for Leann.  It's hard on me, I'm used to working hard and getting a lot done.  Once again I realized (for the umpteenth time) that I was focusing on the future instead of the day at hand.  I was violating Christ's instruction "don't worry".  As I talked with others Sunday, I was open and just shared what I had been feeling, and I just felt a lot of encouragement from others.  The minister mentioned being in a meeting with someone using crutches who had a small cross on his belt.  He asked the man why he wore the cross and was told it was to remind him that he needed God more than the crutches, and he should give thanks for God  giving him cancer.  This just really touched me.  I'm still walking without a walker or cane but I'll have to admit I've thought about getting one a time or two.  I could just identify with this man.  And I realized, yes, I do have much to be thankful for.  I can sit and lay down without pain.  I can sleep through the night.  I can still be with my family and go to work.  So even though it's slow eating and slow walking, I still have lots to be thankful for

Thanks to everyone for the prayers we have felt in the last week.  It is really appreciated and has given us much strength.

Derek & Leann

What I'm Learning from Cancer #10
Share – be willing to open up.  This might find you disagreeing with me, as this one seems to be culturally difficult for many around us.  But, I think there are a couple reasons why we have felt so much support and so many prayers for so long.  First, I am young, I have a young family, so I understand others will worry about us more than they would an older person in need.  The second reason I feel is that we have been very open about what we are going through both medically, as well as spiritually and emotionally.  Because of this, others know what to pray for very specifically.  It is more difficult to pray for someone when you know very little of what to pray for.  So I think because we shared on our blog what was happening, we received more prayers.  The other reason I say to be open is that when I look back at my life, how I responded to Leann or the kids at different times, I wish I had close friends that I could have asked for detailed advice.  We had rough spots in our marriage that could have been easier if I had been more humble, willing to share a few details, and ask for some help.  James 5:16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  We’ve been open with the world.  How many people you are open with will depend upon the situation at hand. Some problems are harder to share, and maybe not appropriate to share.  But at least be really open with a few people who will be able to help you.  And in general, be open with more people than you are today.  I think we are too private of a people in general.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mayo results

First of all, thanks for your prayers this week, we could really feel them.  It was quite a process getting ready to leave as Wesley was throwing up tues night, and Whitley was throwing up we morning, and Lexi threw up at M&D Stollers after we left.  I feel a little funny today myself but thankfully made it through the scans without issue.

The scans look good.  The tumors are either stable or slightly shrinking from the last scans.  The unexplainable thing is the symptoms I am having.  In the lumbar area of the scan, Dr Hammack sees a very faint shadow on the nerve roots.  She's wondering if this could be causing the walking problem.

The last week I'm having symptoms in my tongue as well, it's harder to chew and I've bit my tongue every now and then.  She doesn't see anything on the scans that would suggest this.  She is wondering if there is microscopic disease that she can't see on the scan.

She is suggesting that I start on a second drug in addition to the Avastin.  Temodar is the name of it, and it is an oral pill.  Supposedly it is low in side effects.  We haven't talked about it specifically yet but I assume we will do that.

Interestingly, a couple weeks ago when we scheduled this appt, I had a dream that we were meeting with a group of doctors and they recommended that I start on Temodar.  I don't have many dreams so it must not have been a coincidence.

We could tell that dr Hammack is really surprised by how well I am doing.  She again called it a miracle.  Thanks to all of you for your prayers, theres nothing else to attribute it to.

So while it's definitely not the best news we could have hoped for, it was better than we expected and we are thankful for that.

Derek & Leann

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wild Honey

I thought of this title last week when I was going to post, so sorry it's a bit later than I wanted.  On the family front, the excitement of last week was the Thanksgiving holiday.  We had Wed-Fri off work, so on Wed we did a Sauder family wood cutting/splitting day at the timber.  One of the trees we dropped last winter had a hive of honey bees in it this summer, so we left it alone then.  I decided to cut into it as only a few bees were flying.  Of course the furthest one away from the action got stung (Leann), but it was really fun for the kids.  We just got into the very end of it but you could scoop out honeycomb, and then chew it and spit out the wax.  The taste was really good, and of course the kids were going wild on the pure sugar.

On the health front, I continue to be plagued by poor balance when walking.  Some days are up, some down, but on the whole I have had a harder time keeping my spirits up.  It's hard to be as cheerful when you feel your body declining.  But overall I'm still really thankful that I can still enjoy being with my family.  And when I'm sitting or sleeping I have next to no pain or discomfort.  Looking back to last spring, I didn't know if I'd even be here, let alone going to work and cutting wood.  Next Wed/Thurs we are going to Mayo.  Wed afternoon is a couple scans, a couple more Thurs morning, then meet with the oncologist on Thurs afternoon and hopefully come home that evening.

As for prayer requests, I'll ask for the obvious that my walking will get better again.  But if it's not God's will to heal me, then pray that I can keep the right attitude.  And please be prayerful that we have wisdom next week if there's any decisions to make when we are at Mayo.

Thanks so much for your prayers & support.  I continue to be amazed at how many are praying for us, often daily.
Derek & Leann

What I'm Learning from Cancer #9

1.      There is Power in prayer – I have always known that prayer made a difference, but it was a blind faith.  Now I know for a fact, and am convinced of it.  I have felt so many times where I could just feel that Leann and I and our family were being carried along by prayer.  I have come to learn as well that it helps when others tell you they are praying for you.  As I knew so many were praying for me, any time I was tempted to be discouraged, I knew that I would be letting those people down as well if I did not have faith.  It’s like a sort of accountability.  If someone says they are praying for you, and then you remain discouraged, it’s like saying you don’t have faith in God’s power.  Let me encourage you in something here.  If you are praying for someone regularly, it will help them if you tell them that.  It will bind you together as brothers or sisters in the Lord.  It will encourage them and keep them going.  Don’t brag all about that you have a huge prayer list, or who all it includes.  But to that person you are praying for, be open.  They will then share more specifically what they need prayer for, and it makes it easier for you to continue praying.  The rest of you have probably been on the right track for years, but this is definitely something I see now as a major omission of mine in the first 18 years of my Christian walk.





Sunday, November 11, 2012

November update

Time continues to fly by.  I've been relatively busy at work with a couple day trips each week so it feels like I'm spending less time with the kids on their school.  The last week or two I've noticed my balance getting worse.  When I'm in a crowd, I feel less stable and like I'm going to bump into someone.  Walking takes more effort and I feel myself thinking about it.  We're not really sure what to attribute this to.  It could be tumor growth around my brain, or it could just be a long term effect of the whole brain radiation.  I haven't been in much pain, and even have pretty much stopped taking ibuprofen or tylenol, so I'm thankful for that.  I've been fighting congestion/sore throat/etc. so I have felt wiped out the last few days and spent more time taking naps or resting on the couch.

As for prayer requests, just pray that my sense of balance can improve.  It has slowed me down enough that honestly it's easy to be discouraged at times.

I just finished making a list of all the teachings of Jesus, and #1 by a factor of 2:1 is "fear not"  The thing Jesus taught the most was not to worry about the future.  He must have said this so many times because he knew that would be my nature.

Thanks for all your prayers and support,
Derek & Leann

What I'm Learning From Cancer #8

1.       Communion with God - Trials and hardship give us more desire to read the word & communicate with God. At times of ease we can lose that desire pretty easily.  I don’t know that I necessarily read the word a lot more, but I spent many hours lying in my hospital bed and on nights when I couldn’t sleep just talking with God.  Praying for others.  Praying about how I should live in the future.  If you feel like you are just floating or drifting through life, I encourage you to pray for enough hardship that you will be drawn closer to God.  You don't have to pray for cancer like mine, but pray that God will give you something tough enough to draw you close, but something that is still bearable (and He has promised that it will be).  I am reminded daily of my weakness.  Hardly an hour goes by where I don't think of the cancer.  It's not all bad to have that reminder of how weak we truly are and how much we need God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Better couple weeks

Hello,

Another two weeks has flown by!  In general I've been feeling better.  I don't know whether it's due to extra prayers from all of you, or whether it's just a mental thing with knowing the tumors are smaller.  Either way, we are just thanking God that I'm feeling better and for each good day.

Last weekend we cut down a big, dead hickory tree in our yard.  In case you can't tell, cutting & splitting wood is one of the things I really enjoy doing just for "fun".  I was a bit sore after that but nothing painful, and the actual work went good.  I was able to run my saw for a few hours, and I'm really thankful for that.

Lainey is still a really good baby, but she's had her moments when she cries.  We aren't going to complain, because she's still the best we've ever had.  But we have found out that she is actually a baby and knows how to cry with some volume.

Chemo again next Monday morning and then it's a busy week at Precision.  Leann and I are in the process of planning our 10 year anniversary trip, which is coming up next March.  That is my next milestone I have my mind set on.

Thanks again for all your prayers that we can feel,
Derek & Leann

What I'm Learning from Cancer #7
Being willing to accept help.  This one I believe is harder than helping others, at least for me.  We’re proud to be German-Americans who can take care of ourselves right?  Wrong.  Let’s just call it what it is, pride.  James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  Or if it’s not pride, maybe it is too strong a trust in our own strength.  There are numerous scriptures that tell us to love one another.  They give me a picture of a mutually dependent group of believers, not many lone soldiers living their own secluded life.  I think back to the olden days, the idea of a barn raising or threshing bee, where all the neighbors would get together to help the other.  We need to re-institute this in our community and church.  We have become too affluent and self-dependent and therefore I think we have lost a lot of the connections amongst our church family.  If we helped each other and worked together more, we would have better relationships with each other, we would know what was happening in others’ lives, we could be a true help to each other.  When’s the last time I spent an evening or Saturday at someone else’s house or farm, just helping them with a project or even just the normal duties of life?  Maybe Leann and I feel this so much because we are forced to come to grips with the fact that I can’t do all the physical work I used to.  I’ve had to ask for help on things I would have done myself before.  It’s been hard but I think in the end I have a much better appreciation for others and know them better.  Please don’t hesitate to ask us if you have a need that we can help with.  I can’t move heavy furniture but anything less intense physically, we would love to help.  My conclusion is that we must fight against our desire to be independent and work towards being more involved in each other’s lives.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dr McDonald followup

Since we were out in Indiana anyway, we set up an appt to drop off our scans for dr McDonald and touch bases with him.  He showed us the scans and it was truly amazing.  The tumors have shrunk and it is unmistakeable.  The spine tumors are probably about half the size they were previously.  The brain tumor is smaller as well, but not quite as much so.  This was really encouraging to actually see. He is surprised and says this is very good news.

He can't explain why I have had more stiffness and pain, but at least it is not due to growth of the cancer.  We are needless to say for thankful that we stopped to see him.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mayo conclusion

The last week has been harder on us.  I continue to feel more stiff in my neck and back and it reminds me of after surgery.  It was harder to pull my socks on, harder to move around.  But then yesterday we heard from the surgeon and oncologist at Mayo.  "We both think that things look good and there has been definite improvement in many areas of the brain and spine"  So I guess we are unsure why I don't feel as good when the scans don't really show any problems.  We are thankful though that it is not the tumors growing.  I have to keep my situation in perspective.  While I'm not able to work physically all day like a 20 year old, I probably have less handicaps than some around me.  I can lift things when I need to, I can drive, I can go to work, I can pick up and hold Lainey.

We are leaving this afternoon for Indiana and spending the weekend out there seeing friends from the last year's treatment.

Keep praying for us above all that we can have the right attitudes, and continue trusting in God.  I think some of the afflictions I feel may be just that, to keep me from thinking I'm going to live forever.

Derek & Leann

What I'm Learning From Cancer #6
Encourage others - I used to be really self-conscious about writing a card or saying a kind word to someone in need.  I feared that my words wouldn’t come out right, or I would say the wrong thing.  Let me tell you that we received many hundreds of cards.  Some had 2 pages of writing, some had 2 lines.  But I never thought that what anyone said was weird or dumb.  Don’t let that fear inhibit you being a witness and encouragement to others.  It’s not as hard as you might think.  Just get in the habit of encouraging others and sending a card when you hear of someone who is sick.  The same goes for visiting someone in the hospital or who is confined to their home.  I appreciated everyone who came.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Time Flies

Wow, the summer flew by!  I realize now it's been about two months since I last posted.  Sorry it went so long.  I know it's easier to keep praying when you know what's happening.  It's not my intent to keep you in the dark.  Thanks for those of you who have asked how I'm doing.

On the home front, we are back into our school year routine for about a month now.  We started a bit early so we'd have more flexibility with days off here and there.  Lexi is in 3rd grade, and does most of her school on her own.  Wesley is in 1st grade and is making a lot of progress.  I still need to read instructions now and then and do some motivating here and there but he's starting to be able to read the instructions and do the work on his own.

We've had a lot going since I last updated.  Lainey has not really slowed us down much.  She's a really good baby and only in the last couple weeks have we really heard her cry much at all.  It's a little harder for her to go to sleep sometimes now, we have to use the swing more.  But still, she is really the best baby we've ever had by a long ways.  So we've kept a busy schedule, gone a lot of places, etc.  I spent a week in Iowa at the  farm show and Leann and girls came out for a couple days.  We went with the Sauder family to Galena for a couple nights a few weeks ago.  Next weekend we are going back to Indy to visit for a couple days.  I've been going to work,typically just the afternoons, but some days it ends up closer to a full day.  I even split wood last week and hope to do some more today.

I've realized it seems like we've slipped back into that "going to live forever" mode.  It's hard to keep the perspective that my time is short and I should only focus on the really important things.  But my pain and stiffness has been increasing in recent weeks, so I think life will come back into the proper focus again.  People ask me how I'm doing and I say "not as good".  I feel like my attitude is staying pretty good overall, but I am not feeling nearly as good as I did around the time Lainey was born.  I think God just answered our prayers and gave us some really good weeks around that time.  Now I feel more stiff and at times during the day will have pain in my back and neck.  But to keep it in perspective, it's probably no worse than what Leann has with a sore back (which has plagued her for some time) and the afflictions that almost everyone have of one sort or another.

I had another set of followup MRI scans done a couple weeks ago.  In some areas the tumor is shrinking, in some areas it appears to be growing slightly.  The oncologist here asked we send it to the surgeon at Mayo's for a little better interpretation but we haven't heard back yet. I'm still taking the chemo drug Avastin every other week, and the plan is to stay on that until I reach the point where my quality of life has declined significantly.

In conclusion, thanks for all your prayers through the past couple months, and please continue to pray for us.  Above all that our attitudes and hearts can be right, and then as much as God grants that I could have healing and reduced pain.

Love,
Derek & Leann
Lexi, Wesley, Whitley, and Lainey

What I'm Learning from Cancer #5

        People that don’t look like me, act like me, or have my personality really care about me.  Many whom I would not have expected to care about my situation showed us great love.  While I brag about our church (we have really felt a lot of love from our church family), there were also cards from a lot of people we didn’t know, from other states, from other churches, etc.  Even in our own church, in the past there are people I have been close to and those I have not really.  This has drawn me close to everyone.  Even those that I would not normally talk with I have had good conversations with, I have received cards from, and they ask how I am doing.  I think that what I am trying to say is even if you don’t feel real close to someone, realize that they most likely care about you more than you realize.  If we listen to the news too much, we probably begin to think that there aren't many good people in the world anymore, but the reality is that there are still a lot of caring people around.



Monday, July 30, 2012

Peace & Quiet

We finally got home from the hospital yesterday (Sunday) at noon.  We had to stay 48 hours since Leann tested positive for the Group B strep bacteria and they only had time to get one dose of antibiotic in her IV before Lainey was born.  We had hoped to come home sooner, but if that's the price to pay for a fast labor, I guess it's worth it.

Things are pretty quiet around here.  We took the kids to Eureka at bedtime last night.  Lexi & Wesley left this morning for Colorado with Aunt Cindy.  They will be gone a little more than a week.  Whitley will be back tomorrow evening, she just got a short trip to Grandma's house.  With the 3 older ones gone, there are periods of total silence that I haven't heard in this house in a long time.  Lainey still hasn't got her days and nights totally straightened out, but we did get a 4 1/2 hour stretch of sleep last night, so can't complain too much.

As for me, I continue to feel pretty good, and am very thankful for the health God has given me to enjoy this special time as a family.

What I'm Learning from Cancer #4
I appreciate our church more.  I always knew that others loved me, but I guess I didn’t realize how much they did.  So many have done so much for us around our home, prayed for us without ceasing for months, and given to us financially.  When I saw how many cards we got each day in Indiana, compared to the other patients there, I knew that we have a much larger support group.  Not that we take pride in numbers, God can work with just a few people praying.  But in our human mind there is something more reassuring and uplifting when we have many people telling us that they are praying for us.  At times we might be tempted to be frustrated with someone, or focus on the differences we might have.  But I think we would be wise to not lightly disregard the great heritage we have been given.


Love,
Derek & Leann





Friday, July 27, 2012

Lainey Lea

I feel like the most blessed man on the face of the earth and this feels like one of the best days of my life.

We are the proud parents of Lainey Lea Sauder, born 9:23am this morning (July 27, 2012).  She weighed 8 lbs, 2 oz and was 20 1/2 inches long.  The labor and delivery couldn't have gone any smoother.  Contractions started about 5:30 this morning and we got the hospital about 8:45, which is a tad closer to cut it than I like.  Thanks everyone for your prayers, I'm sure that's why things went so well.

Love,
Derek & Leann, Lexi, Wesley, Whitley, & Lainey




Friday, July 20, 2012

Due date!

Wow, it's been a week and a half since I last wrote.  Time is flying by!  Today's the official due date of our baby, but no imminent signs at this point.  We are very thankful that the baby is no longer breach.  Our doctor did what's called an "external version" two weeks ago.  Anyone who wants details can ask Leann sometime.

Thanks everyone for all the prayers lately.  I know everyone has been praying all along, but I'm suspecting there has maybe been a little extra fervency with chemo, the baby, etc.  This week I have felt the best of any week since radiation ended.  I'm still taking some pain meds but only a couple times a day.  I even spent one morning cleaning out the garage, getting the leftover wood & tools from the doghouse project put away.  And so far, I haven't felt any ill effects from that.

What I'm Learning from Cancer #3

1.       God will help you through things that look too hard for you to bear now.  When do you get the boarding pass to go on a plane?  Just right before you need it.  (We were listening to Corrie Ten Boom on one of the Mayo’s trips)  God gives grace in the same timing.  So many of you comment that you couldn’t go through what we are or wouldn’t have the same attitude.  Actually I’m convinced you’d have the same attitude and be able to handle it just as well once thousands of people started praying for you.   Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”  Romans 5:20 “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  II Cor 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  God gives grace to the humble, and so many times it’s hard to be humble when things are going well.  So the trials humble us, which then brings God’s grace to strengthen us and help us through them.  I’m struggling to find a scripture that really point blank says this, but I believe we would agree that God gives grace just as we need it, not weeks or months before.

  The Gospel Hymns #403 says it best probably,
 “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;
 He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
  To added afflictions He addeth His mercy;
 To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

[Chorus]  His love has no limit; His grace has no measure;
 His power has no boundary known unto men.
  For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
 He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

 When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
 When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
 When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
 Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 [Chorus]


I'm just thankful for each of the good days God has given me over the last couple weeks, and pray that it can continue and I can serve him with all my heart each day.  And if you have time to say a prayer for us, pray that the baby can arrive soon and safely.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Monday, July 9, 2012

MRI Results

What a week!  Seems like a lot to report tonight.  The last week has really been going much better and I'm feeling more upbeat.  I've continued the tylenol / ibuprofen regimen and have felt much less pain and stiffness.  I'm really thankful for that.

Today I went at 7:30 for blood draws, and all that tested fine.  Then we met with Dr Gomez's Nurse Practioner.  She said that the MRIs show no change in the tumor since the 1st of May.  This was really suprising to me since I had felt like symptom wise it was probably growing.  Her feeling about the pain I had a week ago is that it was an initial reaction or agitation of the tumor by the Avastin that caused this.  She doesn't expect it to happen this week.  I got my second treatment without any problems, just worked on my laptop while the IV ran in.  Less drama this time from the other patients in the room.

Then tonight we had a surprise (for me) family outing.  A Tremont family took our family to the Herman lake for an evening of grilled tuna, fishing, and water slides.  The kids had an absolutely awesome evening, and we all had the best fishing we've ever had in Illinois.  I don't normally like surprises, but it was even kind of fun to know I had to leave work early for some surprise.

What I'm Learning from Cancer #2
Take One Day at a Time.  We all seem to say this often.  But now I really know that this is true.  For the first few weeks after I found out the cancer was back, every time I found myself discouraged or afraid, I realized that I was thinking about the end of treatment, what my long term abilities would be, etc.  I finally had to realize I couldn’t let myself dwell on things down the road.  As I just focused on the decisions or treatment of that day, it got much easier and didn’t seem so hard after all.  I think this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:34 when he said “Take no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”  Not that my situation is evil, but just that when the future days get here, we will know what we need to worry about.  There is no point in worrying about them sooner as they might not come or might be different than we think anyway.  A month or so ago I was worried when I thought about the decision as to whether we should do chemo.  And I really suspected that when we got to the decision, it would be easier, so I tried just not to think about it too much.  And when we got to the decision, sure enough it seemed easy to make.  I think this is something I really never understood much at all before.  But God just really wants us to trust Him and only worry about the challenges of today, not tomorrow or next week

As for prayer requests - please thank God for the good report and that I'm feeling better, and then just pray that I can keep a good attitude if things don't go so well.  We really have felt your prayers and support the last couple weeks and appreciate it so much.


Love,
Derek & Leann

Monday, July 2, 2012

Better days

Quick update to thank everyone for their prayers over the recent days.  Thanks to my wife reminding me vigilantly, I've been taking Ibuprofen/Tylenol regularly the last two days.  The pain has been much less.  I'm still somewhat stiff but I can get up out of bed without the intense pain.

Love, Derek & Leann

Thursday, June 28, 2012

MRI done

I finally got through the two MRI sessions.  During last Friday's scan, the machine broke down so that was rescheduled for today.  It was a long session, took 2 1/2 hours for the brain and neck scan.  I'm glad that I have no pain when laying on the table and am content laying in a confined space for long times.  Getting up off the table took some help and was painful.

The last few days have been the roughest yet of the journey.  All the other times I had pain or stiffness, I had more hope that it would get better.  When you are recovering from surgery, you have hope you will heal and things will get better.  The worst pain is when I sit up after laying down on the couch or being in bed.  I haven't really got on a good routine of pain med yet, which I need to do, so maybe that will help some.  It's about all I can do to bend over and get my socks on or off.  I even notice that my walking is going a bit slower, I just can't take as long a stride as before.

I'm not trying to complain.  I want you all to know that I would not trade places with anyone.  But as before I find it hard not to be open and share what is going on.  Pray most of all for my attitude, and that I can remain upbeat and smiling.

What I'm Learning from Cancer #1

Our Faith is the “Real Deal”.  What we have been taught about salvation is true.  When I come to the edge of life, I can see the peace in my heart and the confidence that I am ready to die.  I guess another way of saying this is that when I look back at my decision 19 years ago to put my faith in Jesus Christ and repent for my sins, I don’t regret that decision.  It has been worth it, and any short-term “sacrifices” were worth it.  If you are “sitting on the fence”, let me assure you that our faith is one that you can die by.  I gave this analogy to the Sunday School kids.  When you decide you want to be a fireman, you probably have a little nervousness of whether you would really be able to put out a true house fire or not.  So you train every week, the chief sets practice fires, and you learn how to put out a fire.  But you still don’t really know if you’ve been taught properly until you have a real fire call.  And then you are able to put out the fire, and see that the things you were taught about fighting fires were correct.  So it’s like I’ve been to the fire call now, I know what we have been taught about salvation is able to give me peace as I face death.  I don’t wish the pain and anguish on any of you, but there is a certain comfort in being tested in this way and being more convinced in my mind that what we believe of salvation is true.


Love,
Derek & Leann

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

1st Treatment

Just a quick update, as I'm sure there are a few wondering what it was like yesterday.  It is in Pekin where I will get my treatment, every other Monday morning.  they have a room with 10-12 chairs in it, and there were probably 5 other patients plus some family members in there at the same time.  The Avastin is mixed in to an IV bag, the nurse starts the IV, and I sit there for 30-35 min while it drips in.  Total time there was about an hour.  I didn't feel anything, other than my arm getting cool from all the fluid.  No side effects in any way that I could feel now.

The biggest shock was the culture shock.  I guess I must live a pretty sheltered life.  I have said before and will say again that I would not trade places with anyone in life.  A couple grandmas were talking about their grandkids, what kind of home life they have, etc.  I won't give you any details, but let me just say I have a hard time relating to them and I'm thankful for how I grew up and how I'm trying to raise my children.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Monday, June 25, 2012

Avastin Starts Today

Thanks everyone for your prayers over the last couple weeks.  I feel myself needing them more each day.  The last week was a bit rougher for me.  My back has been hurting more, and the stiffness and pain has moved to my lower back and upper legs.  There were a couple days where I was pretty discouraged, but this weekend seems to have revived me somewhat.  Just pray that I can keep a good attitude as I feel my body slowly declining in ability.  Leann was playing the piano Sunday after church and it just made me cry.  Something about the hymns just seems to do so much good for my spirit.

In a few hours I go for my first Avastin treatment.  It will be by IV, supposed to take about an hour.  I had an MRI scheduled Friday but a little bit into it the machine broke, so now I have to go both Tuesday and Thursday.  It takes 4 different scans to do my whole brain and spine, and they can only do two of them in a single day.  So, this will be a busy week as far as medical appts go.

On the home front, we are getting anxious for our little baby to arrive.  July 20th is the due date.  Leann had an appt Friday and found out the baby is breach, so we are praying that we can turn the baby soon.

More than once I’ve been asked, “What have you learned by going through this battle with cancer?” So I decided to try and capture for my own thinking what my conclusions were.  As I started typing, I originally used the title “What I Learned from Cancer”. As we moved back home and I tried to get back into the swing of life, I realized that it is present tense, not past, so now it is titled “What I Am Learning from Cancer”.  Why I say that is I found that I thought I had learned a few things, and then the normal pressures of life started pulling at me again, and I found that I maybe had not fully learned my lesson.  For example, I will still find myself worrying about the distant future and have to remind myself to take one day at a time.  So some of these lessons I have not learned 100% yet myself.    Please don’t misunderstand me here.  I am not trying to be overly preachy.  It just seems that God has brought me through experiences which bring life into a different focus, and give me a different credibility upon which to speak.  I don’t want to abuse or waste it.  So when you read my thoughts, if you feel God’s Spirit pricking you, then listen.  If you feel Derek just rambling, then ignore it.  There are approximately a dozen “things” I am learning, and my plan is just to share one a week with you over time so it’s not so much to read.  They will come in no particular order, as I really haven’t been able to put them in order of importance.
   
      Love,
      Derek & Leann


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oncologist Meeting


Thanks everyone for your prayers this week.  Over the last couple months, the decision about any further treatment such as chemo looked like a hard decision, but I believed that when the time came, God would meet us there and make the decision easy.
Thursday we met with Dr Gomez, a local oncologist.  He has not had experience with Grade 3 Meningiomas like mine, since it is so rare.  The Mayo oncologist had recommended starting on Avastin.  Dr Gomez has experience with Avastin and has used it for treating glioblastomas, which are a more common type of brain tumor.  The main focus of our visit with him was trying to understand the severity of side effects relative to benefit from Avastin.  He said he expects very few if any side effects to putting me on Avastin.  There are a few potentially serious side effects but he doesn’t expect them in my case because other than the cancer I have no health issues.  He said I won’t be sick or really even notice any difference once I start it.  The way Avastin works is that it prevents the formation of new blood vessels, thereby slowing the tumor’s ability to grow.  We asked if he expects that it would have a significant effect on growth of the tumor.  He said with glioblastomas he notices a significant difference in how long patients who are on it live compared to those who do nothing.  The treatment regimen is every 2 weeks, about an hour long, and it is delivered by IV.  He would plan to continue giving it until scans show it is no longer being effective at slowing the tumor.  So in summary, he seemed convinced that it would extend my life and not cause me to have worse quality of life during that time.
We’ve decided to go ahead with the treatment.  The first one will be a week from Monday, the 25th.  Next Friday and the following Tuesday I’m scheduled for MRI’s in Morton, which will coincide with the start of Avastin so he can tell how it is working in the future.
The other thing helping make our decision is that my back pain has been getting worse, not better.  I took it pretty easy this week and still it did not subside.  It’s not unbearable, but just seems to be generally present.  A tightness and soreness in the center of my back is the best way to describe it.  Ibuprofen helps quite a bit, which I take once in a while.   In general I feel like I’m doing ok, but I’ll confess at times I’ve been more discouraged.  I haven’t had as much energy for tackling projects around the house, and that is discouraging to me.
Pray that I can keep up the good attitude I’ve had till now.  Pray that my back pain would be controllable.  We appreciate so much all of you that pray for us regularly.  As I said at the beginning, God gives us grace as we need it, so I know when I look to the future, there is no reason to worry or fear.  God will be there with us whatever we have to face.
One last encouraging note.  We went out for breakfast Friday morning in Morton.  When we went to pay, our meal had already been paid for.  There were two different people we saw there that we know, so I'm not sure who it was.  The waitress said "This happens all the time in Morton".  So to whomever it was - Thanks.  And by far this is not the only example of generosity that has been showed to us.  We appreciate it greatly.
Love,
Derek & Leann

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mtg this week with oncologist

Not a lot to say today, but just wanted to thank everyone for their prayers and ask that you pray this week for our meeting with the oncologist on Thursday afternoon.  I have been in more pain the last week in my back.  The last few days it is painful when I get up out of bed.  It's funny, the pain is not when I stand up, but about 5 seconds after and it only lasts a few seconds.  I've also been much more sleepy and less energetic.  I've been doing more physically since I don't really have any pain when lifting or working.  It seems like my back might be getting stronger as it relates to all the surgical areas.

Our plan for Thursday's meeting is to discuss our Dr's experience with Avastin, ask a lot of questions, and then pray for direction on what we should do.  If I knew the pain meant the tumor was growing, I'd probably be inclined to do the chemo, but it's still hard to know.  I guess I'm more concerned about my quality of life than the exact length.  I don't want to go through a lot of pain just to add a few weeks or months.

Thanks again for all your love and prayers.  We feel unworthy and thankful for all the support we feel.
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May update


Sorry that it has gone so long since I wrote.  The month of May really flew by.  I know many of you have been wondering how things are going for us.  In general it has been a pretty calm month with not much happening medically.  I have been going to work about ½ time, and working on little projects around home the rest of the time.  The kids finished their school for the year about the first of May. We went to Mayo’s May 1st and then the next week we went to Florida for a week on vacation.  We had good weather there and a relaxing time.  Since returning, we are in full-blown "nesting" phase as we prepare for the late July arrival of our baby girl.

My Mayo oncologist had recommended that I begin chemo (Avastin) when we were there the first of May.  She said the side effects of it are pretty benign and it’s really not that bad of a chemo drug.  I did a little research online to see what comments patients who have used it had.  The general consensus seemed to be that it gave them some really good months.  But then it seemed there’s a belief that if you stop using it, the tumor grows really fast after that.  I talked yesterday with the IU oncologist, and she said that Avastin can affect MRI scans so tumors look smaller than they really are, and suspects that is the cause of the supposed “fast growth” after stopping chemo.  As for tumor testing from Boston, that turned out to be fruitless.  For some reason they didn’t have enough tumor sample to get the test completed.  They won’t know anything for several more months, so we won’t be waiting on them to make our decision. We decided it would be worth talking to an oncologist in Peoria to learn more and try to decide what we should do.  We have an appointment set up for June 14 with Dr Gomez.  As far as how I feel, in general I have not felt too bad the last month, but it seems like I’m having more pain in my back lately.  I don’t know for sure whether it’s because I’m more active, or if it’s because the tumor is growing.  Pray that I won’t have too much fear or worry, and that when we meet with Dr Gomez we can have a peace about what our plan should be with chemo.

Thanks to so many of you who have continued to pray for us daily.  We definitely don’t feel worthy of it, but know it makes a difference and appreciate it.

Derek & Leann, Lexi, Wesley, & Whitley

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mayo follow up visit

Thanks for all your prayers over the last couple days. The radiologist report said the tumors looked the same as January before surgery. The oncologist Dr Hammack feels like they are slightly larger now than in January. I agree with her assessment seeing the images myself. None of this is perfectly definitive because each scan is not positioned identically. We felt better though in that Dr Hammack seemed very positive that we were in the boat of trying to decide if it grew. There was almost a month between the January scans and the start of radiation, so the growth we see now could have happened before radiation. She even used the word miracle in regards to my status. She recommends that I start chemo soon, particularly since I have felt more pain and stiffness the last couple of weeks. The drug Avastin she is recommending has very low side effects, and doesn't sound unbearable. We want to wait until we have the testing results from Boston before we decide for sure. From the surgeons standpoint, he feels like everything has healed remarkably well. I will always have to fight some level of weakness and pain in my back as a result of the surgery they have done. We are coming home encouraged. It is obviously good to be reminded that this cancer is still with me, and I still have to depend on God for each day here. Love, Derek & Leann

Monday, April 30, 2012

1st MRI done

We had a good trip up, Mom Sauder came with Leann and I.  The kids are in Eureka.  My first MRI only took about an hour tonight, and I was expecting a 2 hour deal so that was a good surprise.  Tomorrow is another MRI, some blood tests, and a hearing test.  Then on Wednesday we meet with the oncologist and surgeon, so we won't really know anything until Wed morning.

Thanks for your prayers this week,
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Be prayerful for next week

Time keeps flying by.  We had a good time last week.  My cousin and her family was here from Texas and we have a lot of good memories of summers when we were kids.  It was good to see her kids doing some of the same things with ours.  Sunday we had invite-a-couple at church.  It was good to have so many visitors, a wonderful singing Sunday evening, it was just a good weekend.

I went to the eye dr yesterday, everything looks fine to him in my eye.  The shingles are mostly over, a few scabs left yet, but not much pain if any at all.  My right eye is still a bit puffy though.

Monday we leave for Mayo's for followup with my surgeon and oncologist.  I have MRI scans Monday afternoon and Tuesday, and then we meet with the doctors on Wednesday.  The hardest part about this is thinking ahead to if they would recommend chemo.  It's just a decision I've never wanted to have to make.  I see so many people suffer through it with poor quality of life with questionable benefit.  But then some people have gone through it and lived a long time.  Just pray that we can ask the right questions, understand the options, and have wisdom to make good decisions.  And then maybe they won't even recommend it and we won't have any hard decisions at all.

Thanks again for your loving support and prayers,
Derek & Leann

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shingles update

Just a quick update on the shingles.  Yesterday I noticed some of the blisters had dried up, this morning I woke up and all but a small one are scabby and dry now.  I'm hoping it will be less itchy now.  The pain and itching would come and go, some times I hardly noticed it, sometimes it was rather painful.

Looking forward to my cousing and her family coming for a visit late this week, and then we have a family we got to know in Indy coming for an invite-a-family weekend we are having at church.  So it will be busy the next few days but lots of fun for us and the kids.

Thanks for all your prayers,
Derek & Leann

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shingles!

Well, seems like there are always some unexpected turn of events!  I got a rash over the weekend on my forehead and my eye was somewhat swollen this morning.  Thanks to my wife for worrying about things sooner rather than later.  We emailed a picture to my radiation doc and he said we should get to the eye doctor soon as it looked like shingles to him.  Sure enough, it is, and now I'm on some medicine that should take care of it.  They don't make too much of it.  Guess it is the chickenpox virus that shows up in adults with weakened immune systems.

So far it's mildly painful, and like a burning itch on my forehead and right eyelid.  It should become less painful over the next couple days.

Thanks again for your loving support,
Derek & Leann

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2nd Week

The second week at home went relatively smoothly.  I went in to work 4 afternoons this week.  That adjustment is going really well.  As far as knowing whether to live as if I only have days or as if I have years, it seemed easier this week.  I know I have to be prepared at any moment to go.  I don't have any scripture for this but I believe God built within us the need for dreams and things to look forward to.  But we don't dream and plan in a selfish way for our own pursuits, but rather we are making sure our dreams are things God would be pleased with.  At the homeschool convention this weekend, we met a sister who told us a little about her fight against cancer.  10 years ago she thought she was attending her last conference, and was trying to pick out curriculum that would ease the childrens' transition to private school.  Her cancer had spread to her liver.  What a miracle!  Ten years later she is telling us about it!  And yet she still never forgets what the medical community told her and lives with the realization it could come back again.  It as really encouraging for us to hear, and that alone was worth going.

Love,
Derek & Leann, Lexi, Wesley, & Whitley

Friday, April 6, 2012

First week home

We've already been back a week!  It's been an adjustment, maybe more for me than for Leann and the kids.  Overall it's gone pretty good.  I went in to work 3 afternoons, and that went pretty well for me.  Didn't really wear me out or anything.  We did school in the mornings.  Some mornings go better than others, but I've enjoyed the chance to be with the kids more.  My birthday (38) was Wednesday so Leann invited a couple families over for supper and we had a really nice evening.  In general I'm feeling pretty good, headaches have been non-existent lately.  I do have some pain in my back at times.  It's not constant, and it's not sharp.  I just sometimes get dull pain and sort of a tired feeling in my back and neck.

Yesterday was the hardest day for me.  After I got home from work Leann was helping me clean out and organize the tool room in the basement.  The combination of pitching some stuff, and thinking about how much work to put into making this room nice was hard on me.  On one hand I could totally get rid of everything thinking I don't have much time to live so I'll never need it again.  Or I could make plans to use my tools for the next 15 years, in which case I would do things differently.  Add to this that at work we've been discussing what my role is and how we organize the group as we plan that I am not there forever.  I don't know why, but all of this just really affected me yesterday, was really hard on me, and made me cry quite a bit.  I think what I realized is that even though we know we might not live to see tomorrow, and God can take us home at any time, in reality we all live as though we are going to be here for many more years.

So I think this will be the hardest part for me of being back home, and the biggest struggle I have for this next phase of life.  How to have the right perspective.  As an engineer, I'm trained to think logically.  So I think about my medical situation, and it seems like I should plan for the likely future.  And at work we can plan for me to not be there.  But at home, they can't replace me, so there's no sense in living like I'm not going to be there in the future.

Romans 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Philippians 1:21-23 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

James 4:15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

So this morning I'm reading the above verses, trying to decide how these apply to my life, and what attitude and outlook I should have.  I'm not discouraged, just trying to sort things out.

Thanks again for your prayers & love that you have all shown to us,
Derek & Leann

Friday, March 30, 2012

Home!!

We got home Thursday afternoon about 2 pm.  It is good to all be home together and be able to sleep in our own beds again.  We are having Leann's family here Sunday (they're bringing the food) and a few sisters cleaned our house and got things pretty much ready while we were gone.  (Thanks for doing that).

I read this morning from St Luke 19:12-27, the parable of the pounds (talents).  This just seemed to address my current situation it seemed.  Up till now, in some ways, I have had it easier than most of you.  I only had one thing to worry about each day, and many demands were kept away from me.  Now I'm back home, trying to get back to "normal" life.  So the struggle begins of having to focus and ask God daily to keep my priorities on the right things each day.  I think if we are honest this is probably a struggle to some extent for each of us.  I think this parable is speaking to more than just financial things, but also any spiritual  gifts that God has given us.  We need to be bearing fruit, multiplying our gifts, working for the Lord!  We don't want to be like the servant who came and said "...which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man;..."  We shouldn't be afraid to share the gospel or minister to someone's needs because we are afraid we will say something wrong, be rejected, or not be "good enough" at it.  So I pray that I can get "back to normal" without the "normal" fixation on all the business and forgetting to do the important things that are eternal.

Today we have a Dr. appt, then next week I plan to start going back to work a few afternoons.  My hope is to continue to do school with the kids in the mornings.  I also have some projects to get done at home while my health and strength are still good.

God Bless Your Day!
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Radiation Done!

I had my last treatment this morning!  We are glad to be done.  We finished packing up and then drove up to Indianapolis, where we went to church one last time to say goodby to everyone.  It was kind of emotional for us, as we really felt at home here.  Tomorrow morning we will head home.  Friday we have a Dr. appt, and hope to find out if our baby is a boy or girl.

I have felt pretty good this week, and didn't even take any Ibuprofen today at all.  Thanks to everyone for your prayers, we praise God for making it through treatment this well.

Next step is a followup MRI at Mayo's the first week of May.  We are also waiting to hear back from Boston on their genetic testing of the tumor, but that may be another month yet till they have that completed.

In the meantime, pray that we can make the adjustment back home and keep the correct priorities as multiple demands start to pull on us.  We are looking forward to being back home but in some ways it won't be as easy.  Up till now we only had one thing to focus on, so in some ways it was easier.

Thanks for your love and prayers,
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

1 Week Left

Time continues to fly by.  I'm thankful to report that my skin is doing much better.  It's still itchy and scratchy, but my ears are looking a lot better, the swelling is gone, and I'm feeling like it's going to go away without getting worse.  My skin is still really sore around my eyes but I think in a few days that will have recovered as well.

Thanks to everyone who sent us anniversary cards.  It was really neat to get so many.  By the way, if things stay on plan, next Tuesday will be our last night here.  Mail general seems to take 2 days, so probably this Friday is the last day to send us mail in Indiana.

We had a good weekend, some friends from college days visited us in Indy.  One of the church families had us over after church and for dinner.  The kids even got a canoe ride and did some wading in the creek.  We just really appreciate the good fellowship we've had here.

My nausea has been better, but there's still a tinge of it at times.  For some reason now, as I contemplate going to treatment in 10 minutes, I start to feel funny in my stomach.  And it's still really hard to eat some things.  But I'm really glad I haven't had to take medicine and most of the day I feel good.

We are really looking forward to getting home.  The kids (#2) are really needing more work to do to keep them occupied.  There's getting to be more squabbling this week.  Today Leann took the girls up to Indy to play at a park with some other church families.

My back is getting a bit more sore for some reason.  I have more mobility in my neck and in general, but it seems like there is just more dull ache.  I feel like it's from the surgery, but not for sure yet.

As for prayer requests, pray for us to all have patience with each other for one more week, and that the kids can be obedient and get along with each other.  Then pray that my back can continue to recover it's strength.  And finally that I'll have wisdom in knowing what to tackle and how to adjust to the return home.

Thanks for your prayers,
Derek & Leann, Lexi, Wesley, & Whitley

Friday, March 16, 2012

9th Anniversary

Thursday was one of the harder days I’ve had.  The skin on my ear continued to get worse.  The main thing though was that I just felt tired all day.  I’ve had a hard time sleeping very long at night lately.  I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, but still feel tired all day.  This is somewhat common with radiation.  I have to admit I was getting a little discouraged.  Leann’s parents got here before supper, and we went out to eat together.  Then they kept the kids at their motel and gave Leann and I a night off.  That was nice as we could sleep in.

Today I rode the exercise bike when I got up, and stayed more active through the day.  I felt a lot better and less fatigued.  We went fishing and caught a few little ones, nothing great.  Whitley even enjoyed reeling in her pink princess fishing pole.  After treatment today I noticed quite a bit of difference in how I felt, the smells didn’t seem as bad and I didn’t feel as nauseated.  So this excited me quite a bit.

Thanks to everyone who sent anniversary cards.  Today is our 9th wedding anniversary.  The best gift was last night as we were laying in bed, Leann started recounting many of the memories of 9 years.   Places we’ve gone on vacations and things we’ve done  together.  She was saying it out of appreciation for all the memories.  It just made me cry to think of all the good times.  Of course, there were times that were not easy and some times that were even hard, at the time, but looking back now, we really are thankful for a bunch of good memories.  Tonight we went out for dinner together while Leann’s parents watched the kids.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2/3rds done!

Time is flying by and I've gotten behind on my updates.

We had a wonderful weekend at home in Tremont. It was good to sleep in our own beds again and have space for everyone to run around. We were blessed to have baptisms in Tremont church this weekend. One thought that has really stuck with me. The converts were a couple who are grandparent age and she said that she had gone through life thinking that "believing there was a God was good enough and she would go to heaven". Then she found there was more required, as the Bible says in Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven". So even if you believe there is a God, if you have not put your faith in His Son Jesus Christ and are not serving Him each day, you will be turned away from Heaven.

Monday we drove back in time for my treatment. Tuesday we drove up to Indy and met a couple who is in a battle with cancer for breakfast. Then we went to a park with another family from church. It's nearly 80 out here this week, quite nice.

Today (Wed) was my last brain radiation treatment. I'm now done with 20 of 30 treatments. The last 10 will be just of the spine and the very rear of my brain. The doctor expects symptoms to be lessened from here on, but fatigue could hit me up to a month from now. Over the weekend I noticed a rash on my ear that reminded me of last summer. Tuesday my left ear swelled up quite a bit, is very itchy, and a rash took over most of my head. I'm really thankful the radiation to my head is over, as the doctor isn't really sure why I have these reactions to the radiation.

After treatment we drove up to Indy and ate supper with one of my college roommates who was in Indiana on business. Then we were able to go to Wednesday night church for the first time this stay. I was a little more tired today but I'm really glad we came up for church.

Tomorrow should be a quiet day, and then Leann's parents come tomorrow night for a couple days. Wesley is hoping to do a little fishing with grandpa.

The headaches have been better lately, I still get them occasionally but not too bad. Please pray that the skin reaction on my scalp & ears goes away over the next few days. Thanks for all you prayers so far, we really appreciate all the support we feel.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Friday, March 9, 2012

Home for the weekend

We are almost home, another 20 minutes to go. Today was treatment 17 of 30. I'm really thankful how it's been going. Other than the elevator at Jill's house, The foyer at treatment center, and the few hours after each treatment, I haven't felt too sick. My stomach is rarely 100 percent but it's been a lot better than last summer. It must be everyone's prayers.

This week flew by again. On Wednesday we went to the zoo in Indy. It was 70 and sunny. On Thursday I got a tour of the Beck's seed company from one of the brothers in Indy church. Leann went shopping without the kids, as we've had a number of offers from ladies from church to help out with babysitting. Then today we cleaned our room and got a few things put together for the weekend home and my 3 pm treatment rolled around before we knew it.

As long as I sleep and rest with my head up, I've been feeling pretty good, and the stiffness and pain in my back is pretty low. One day I laid down flat for about 1/2 an hour and I was surprised how quickly the headache and pain came back. Next wednesday is my last whole brain treatment, and I will go from 7 to 3 fields for my treatments. The dr said that the headaches should decrease in severity at that point. They are caused by swelling of the brain from the radiation, and that's coming to an end.

Thanks again for all your prayers. Looking forward to seeing everyone in Tremont.
Love,
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Psalm 1

I've been reading and re-reading Psalm 1 this week, I guess I was just struck by the difference between a tree planted near a stream whose roots can always have water and who is anchored well, vs the chaff which blows wherever the wind wants to take it.  Kind of like a tumbleweed blowing across the fields.

Psalm 1
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so; but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

The first couple days of this week have gone fairly well.  Yesterday it was in the upper 60's so we went to a nearby nature preserve and did a short hike on one of the trails.  I had quite a headache though during our hike.  If I take Ibuprofen often enough, it helps a fair amount.  My hair (what short little bit was left) has continued coming out, so now it pretty much looks totally bare.

Thanks for your prayers, just continue to pray that the headaches would be endurable.  I really would rather not go back on the steroid (which is the plan if they get worse).

Derek & Leann

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Forgot the best part

With all that happened last week, I forgot to mention the best part of our week. Someone gave us a gift certificate for a night at the cornerstone inn in Nashville. Nashville is the touristic town in brown county, about half an hour from Bloomington. So Mom and Dad offered to watch the kids for the night while we got away just the two of us. So I got my treatment Friday scheduled for 1:45, hoping to get over there in good time. Sure enough, the beam went down due to a power flicker with two fields left to go in my treatment. So it was 6:00 until I got done with my treatment. But we still had a really great time. It was our first B&B experience and a really good one.

On our way to church now.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shaved Head

Wow, the week flew by.  I didn't realize it had been Monday since I last updated the blog.  Had a couple visitors again this week and Mom & Dad came Thursday night and will go to church with us tomorrow.

Tuesday night the nausea got worse and I threw up during supper.  In general though I've felt better than I did last summer.  But I have to be careful what I eat and only certain things really sound good.  It seems like it has to be really simple or really salty or spicy.  Complex foods don't sound very good to me.  I've been careful how fast I eat and how much how quickly after treatments and haven't thrown up again the rest of the week.

I found out Wednesday in my weekly meeting with the Dr that the whole brain radiation is only for the first 20 treatments, then that part will be done.  The back of my brain and spine will continue on for the last 10 treatments.  So right now I have 12 of 30 treatments done.  I'm really glad with how fast it is going.

Thursday and Friday I had really bad headaches.  This isn't totally unexpected, and can be caused by swelling of the brain due to the radiation.  The Dr suggested that I sleep with my head elevated on pillows, which I did last night, and that seemed to help quite a bit.  Today was not nearly as bad.

We had talked to another patient with whole brain radiation who said their hair fell out at treatment 12.  That was Friday for me, and sure enough this morning I could start to pull it out in bunches.  So I shaved it all off today, didn't want to have to deal with it looking real spotty and having it all over my pillow.  I noticed tonight when we went out to eat that my head is colder now, so I might have to wear a stocking cap more often.

The last few days I feel like my mobility has been improving and the pain has been getting less, so I'm thankful for that.  As I start to feel better, I think it's going to be harder to keep the right perspective of taking one day at a time.  I've started to think more about the long term, what I want to do this summer once we get home, what I'll do once I go back to work.  I think this is going to be the most challenging thing for me in the future, to just keep the right perspective.  I've noticed as we talk to other patients here, that they all seem to have an unusual perspective.  One man's wife had lost her job a couple months before they found her cancer, so she didn't have insurance at the time.  He has a couple rental houses and if he loses one, he won't even be upset as long as the radiation cures her.  Another mom we talked to has a son in college and if it takes him 5 or 6 years to get through college because he has had to stop a couple times for treatment, they won't care a bit.  So one of my goals is just to keep the big picture in mind and the "one day at a time" perspective even if the urgency of the situation fades.

Thanks for all your prayers, we appreciate them so much. My request for the next week is that you pray that my headaches & nausea would be bearable.
Love,
Derek & Leann

Monday, February 27, 2012

Overwhelmed (good way)

I don't know what to say tonight other than that I am overwhelmed by the love and prayers we feel. We just got done opening the pile of cards we received again today. So many from people that I have never met or hardly know. I lay here in bed just sobbing as I try to comprehend it all. I'm really blessed. I guess maybe its just starting to sink in to me how God has intended that we bear each other's burdens as brothers and sisters in Him. Even though this doesn't seem sufficient, we say thanks.

We enjoyed another good Sunday in indy and were blessed with a family watching the kids while Leann and I had a supper date.

Today was pretty quiet, we have a visitor tomorrow and then my parents this weekend. Today I felt a bit better strength-wise and am really thankful for how the treatments are going. Leann talked to the mom of a patient also getting whole brain radiation who lost her hair at treatment 12 so we are expecting this weekend is when it will fall out.

Love,
Derek & Leann, Lexi, Wesley, & Whitley

Friday, February 24, 2012

The week flew by

For those who are counting (I am!), I now have 7 of 30 treatments behind me. I'm really thankful that I'm still feeling pretty good. At times I have slight feelings of naseau but so far it's been less than I expected. The main challenge has been the pain in my back as I work off the steroids. Today is the first day completely off and the pain is worse.

Doug's came last night and left around noon today. The kids had a lot of fun playing together. Doug and I even got in a couple hours of strategic brainstorming on some future Precision products. That was a lot of fun for me.

Whitley's "My Cindy & My Connie" (aunts) are here tonight and then tomorrow afternoon Brent's are coming. It's been great to have so many visitors. We aren't wearing out yet and it's keeping us busy.

Thanks again for your prayers, we appreciate them so much,
Derek & Leann

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Settling In

Well another week is flying by.  In general it seems like we are getting pretty settled now.  We've had so many visitors already that we have really kept pretty busy and the time is going by pretty quickly.

Sunday was a really nice day.  We were really blessed as we could hear the word and it just seemed to come so alive to me.  Sunday morning's service we read Ezekiel 3 and I guess it really convicted me.  God was speaking to Ezekiel that he needed to speak and warn the people, and if he did not, God would lay it to his charge.  But if he would warn the people to turn from their wicked ways, then he would be innocent.  I've just been thinking about this since, why have I always been so slow to speak the truth?  When we see evil around us, we need to be quick to warn souls of the danger and speak the truth.  So if you happen to be one who has not yet found your salvation in Jesus Christ, know that today salvation is available and God is calling to you to seek Him in repentance.

I've really enjoyed being able to do school with Wesley the last few days.  He's progressed a lot since I last did school with him during the fall.  We've been able to get done in about an hour each day.  I've been taking naps in the afternoon, which is a new thing for me.  Treatments have typically been around supper time, and so far are running right about an hour long.  I'm pretty comfortable during the treatments, and thankful for that.  I'm trying to get totally off the steroids that I had been on since before surgery, and that is making things a bit more painful for me.  I think they were helping quite a bit.  This morning was actually a bit easier than the past few mornings have been but in general I'm in a bit more pain.  The Dr doesn't want me on steroids for more than a month since he says I'll lose a lot of muscle strength.

No planned visitors today, so we'll probably go to the library once we get school done today.  Tomorrow we are looking forward to Doug & Brooke coming.

Thanks again for your prayers,
Derek & Leann

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday morning

We are on our way up to Indy church this morning and looking forward to seeing everyone there again. We have many special memories and friendships from last summer.

Leann shared with me this morning some thoughts she had last night and I'll try to relate them to you. Through our marriage there have been little things about me that she would have liked to change. She realized now that she has all of them, but not in the way she would have expected. She wanted me to sleep more and not be such a morning riser. Now I'm sleeping 10 hours at night plus taking a nap in the afternoon. She wanted me to spend less time at work and spend more time with her, and to help with schooling the children. She also wanted me to be more interested in relationships and spiritual connections to other people around us. So now she realizes she has everything she wanted all along, but much of it came as a result of God having to wake us up in a big way.

So we wonder what should we have done years ago? What should our attitudes have been? Leann feels like she should have been more focused on becoming more Christlike herself rather than trying to pressure me to change. We don't view our trials just as punishment from God, but we know in the big picture they will work a refining in all of us. It is really out of God's love for us that he allows tribulation in our lives in order that we can be drawn more close to him.

Physically, I'm feeling a little worse each morning. It just seems my back and neck is a bit more stiff and painful each morning. Once I get going the days are pretty good and I'm thankful I sleep really well. I started feeling a little nausea on Friday and Saturday but it is better now today. Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement. We continue to be humbled by all the cards and emails we receive and appreciate them so much.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Friday, February 17, 2012

Today's Verse

Just thought I'd share a couple verses I read this morning.  I think they capture some of the thoughts that have been on my heart the last few weeks.  The pharisees were trying to tempt Jesus, and catch him with questions he couldn't answer.  So they asked him what the greatest commandment was in all the law.  The simplicity of his answer is worth pondering.

St. Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord the God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

So many times in our frame of mind, we can make situations, decisions, conflicts, and life out to be so complicated.  In reality, everything we face can be boiled down to loving God and then loving those around us, rather than being selfish in our thoughts and motives.  As we draw closer to heaven, it seems like the answers become more simple.  My heart's prayer for each one of you reading this today is that your love for God can be stronger today than it was yesterday.

My treatment tonight is at 7:30.  Leann's sister's family is planning to come out tonight and tomorrow, so we are looking forward to time with them.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Treatment Start

Sorry it's been a couple days, but I'm finally getting a chance to update everyone.

Wednesday afternoon I met with Dr McDonald and it turned out they were not ready to actually start the treatment Wednesday but did do a "dry-run" through all the positioning and such in the treatment room.  Tonight (Thursday) I had my first treatment.  They told me to expect an hour and half but it was more like only 50 minutes.  I'm really pretty comfortable during the treatment, laying on my back on a table in a cradle setup they made for me and so it's not too bad.  I'm one of their more difficult cases from a planning standpoint, and it took them a bit to figure out all the treatment field geometry so that they can get the current tumor fully treated without getting too much radiation in the area where I had radiation last summer.  Dr McDonald is really satisfied with how it turned out, it just took them more work than they thought.

Physically I'm not feeling as good this week as I had been last week.  It's really hard in the mornings to get out of bed and I'm pretty stiff and sore.  I think yesterday got me down a bit again as I was talking with the Dr. and thinking about the future.  When I remember to just focus on the day at hand, my attitude is better.  The kids did really good today and Leann was feeling pretty good too.  We slept in and then I did school with Wesley after breakfast.  He did a really good job today and it's amazing to me how much he has learned since I last did school with him back at the beginning of the school year.

Leann's uncle & cousins stopped by this afternoon for a quick visit on their way to the Louisville farm show, so that was nice.  The next week and half we have visitors coming almost every day, so that will help to pass the time.  We spent time today opening all the cards that have already made it out here.  It is very encouraging to us.  Isaiah 43:2-3  "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, they Saviour:..."

Thanks again for all your loving prayers,
Derek & Leann

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Almost to Indiana

We're almost to "Jill's House" where we'll be staying the next 6 weeks. Just stopped for supper and now we have another half hour. My first treatment is at 3 tomorrow afternoon. Please pray for us that we can adjust to the new location and routine the next few days. I'm not sure exactly why but it just seems to be hard on everyone when we make this move. We just have to make the extra effort to be loving and kind towards each other.

Sunday and Monday were busy days. Monday I went out to work for a few hours to see the guys, and that was really special. I really am blessed with a great place to work. Monday night did some work around the house with help of my dads and others. I think I pushed myself a bit too far. I've been more wiped out today.

I've been thinking a lot about all the other people with problems and struggles who don't have the huge group of people supporting and praying for them. I just wouldn't trade places with anyone. The kids without two loving parents, those who are fighting issues of sin, those who are lonely, and on the list goes. So don't stop praying for us but please pray for and help all the others who need it more than we do.

Thanks again for your prayers and just pray for us for good attitudes, smiles, and loving hearts through the next day.

Love,
Derek & Leann

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Morning

Nothing profound to report today.  We had a really nice day yesterday.  I was able to spend time with my potlock men yesterday morning, and then worked on some office work around home during the day.  Mom & Dad dropped by for a bit and we caught up on their week.  Then spent a few hours with my brothers before going to Leann's parents for supper with her family.

In general my early mornings have been a bit rougher getting up.  I feel really stiff and somewhat pained for the first hour or so.  It's hard to know what is due to tumor continuing to grow vs trying to ramp down steroids and medications after surgery.  Once I get going I feel pretty good and am able to sit up function "normally" for longer stretches now.  I did get overwhelmed yesterday late afternoon, but we got a little carried away with a lot of planning and details for next week.  Just pray I can have wisdom to not take on too many things at once here.

Hoping to see many of you in church today.  Right now I'm enjoying Leann's piano playing and sitting in front of the fire.  We both got up early this morning and just enjoyed the time sitting together, reading from Isaiah, and just talking about the future.  Even when the future is uncertain, it is still refreshing to talk about dreams we have and how we would like to spend our future energies.

We just continued to be humbled by the prayers and support and encouragement we feel from so many of you, and I don't really know how to thank you, but please rest assured that we can feel it, and it does help so much.

Love,
Derek & Leann