Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Preserving New Year's Memories

Several years ago I discovered some old video tapes. For you younger ones out there who are unaware, these were widely used in the 1980's to mid 1990's. It was the high tech method to record and later play back video things on your television (also an invention in the '40's and still used by older adults today). Like many of us I had amassed a large collection of TV recordings, movies and family videos made when the kids were very young. 

The VHS (Video) camera was also a popular gadget that seemed to replace the "old school" movie cameras of the day. I had both and was always at or ahead of the video technology of the times. So about 20 months ago I purchased a connector device that enabled me to connect a VCR player to my iMac computer. With software included, I began to transfer many of these family video tapes to digital format and store these on the computer.  This was a way to preserve these wonderful old images forever. 

The bad thing about tapes was how quickly these will deteriorate over time when not properly stored and cared for. My old collection was located in a few cardboard storage boxes in my outside storage shed. Extreme heat and cold for several years began to make these tapes loose their quality. Luckily I discovered this box of tapes before it was two late to digitize them. The process was very time consuming but quite rewarding because I began to reminisce about long forgotten events. I even discovered a small collection of 8mm and super 8mm movie reels I had made in the mid to late 70's also stored in the boxes along with the other video tapes. So I was able to rescue these treasures and digitize and transfer them to my computer also.

One of my favorite discoveries was two tapes from 1988 to 1992 that contained a few New Year's Eve parties Janine and I attended with about 10 to 15 good friends/couples.  Some of them had long since moved to other cities and a few are no longer with us, today.  It's not that we were big partiers back then. In fact neither of us drank alcoholic beverages except that I would enjoy a beer or glass of wine on such occasions. When the "ball dropped" over Times Square Janine and I were always sober. Since it was only 11:00pm in Jackson trying to stay awake another hour until our New Year rolled in was difficult for us because we rarely stayed up that late. But we thoroughly enjoyed these times with good friends ringing in the New Year.  These old videos showed our fun and also revealed how, with the passage of time, we had changed much like the old recordings had begun to deteriorate.

As we approach yet another New Year's tonight, I will probably be in bed asleep by 9:30 or 10:00pm at the latest.  The body and mind want let me "party" like I once did. But the memories of ringing in past New Years still holds a fond place in my heart. May you all have a fun, safe night whether with friends or family. Preserve your memories and look forward to a better year in 2015 for us all.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Family Makes A Big Difference

I have felt better today than I have in a very long time. My sinus crud has just about stopped. My appetite steadily improves each day. Having Grandchildren around lifts my spirits.  James, Taylor, Helmi and Mo arrived last night after their long trip from South Carolina where they picked up Helmi.  Immediately our house was once again transformed into to a "home" with all the warmth of the Christmas holidays. After opening gifts, I went to bed about 10:30 pm.

This morning we went to worship services and took Helmi and Mo with us. They were the stars at church and the only two children who participated in the Children's Time with our associate pastor. We were once again greeted by many well wishers who we had not seen in a long time. It was so good to make our third straight worship service.

After being able to spend Christmas with Sarah and her family we now have had a complete Christmas by being with all our children, grandchildren and spouses. While we could not all be together at the same time this year it was still a great Christmas. Six months ago I wasn't sure if I would see another Christmas so this was wonderful to behold.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Yesterday I had blood test on day 15 of cycle 3 of the AG-221 test drug protocol. For the first time in several months my White Cell count rose to a very good level. That count had been slowly trending upward for several of my last tests over the past two weeks. This time it jumped up very quickly to 3.5. It is still below normal but so much better than before.

The White blood cells are the ones that fight infections. Because my counts have been so low for so long, my doctors have me taking several strong antibiotics, antiviral and anti fungus medications. While this helps to prevent infections, the side effects often make me sick in different ways. Hopefully, I may be able to get off of, or at least lower some of the dosages in the near future. We already know that my bone marrow "blast" are in remission. This latest blood test results means my "factory" is producing good cells again. With that my healing should continue.

On this evening before Christmas I am filled with the Joy of the season.  We attended the Candlelight worship service at The Woodlands United Methodist Church with Ryan, Sarah and Cason Paul. It was a beautiful, contemporary service with over 2,500 people in attendance. That many people hearing God's message, singing Christmas hymns, and sharing the light of Christ was truly amazing. 

As my recovery progresses and my healing increases I am mindful of the gift of prayer and the light of Jesus shared by so many.  Thanks for giving me the strength to join in this beautiful time with you, oh God. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Wishes

Dear Briarwood Church Family,

Janine and I are grateful for the numerous cards, phone calls, emails, letters, gifts, visits and especially your continuous prayers.  We miss being in worship, Sunday school, Wednesday night fellowship, circle meetings (especially Robert) and all that we love about being with you in person. You have kept us on the top of your concerns far longer than you or us ever imagined would be necessary. Yet, you continue to show us your unconditional love.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are our partners in our health struggles and without you, we would be lost. God has blessed Briarwood with an abundance of Saints and Angels who care for the sick and weary with grace and dignity.  We are so fortunate to be a part of such a loving, caring congregation.

Likewise, He has blessed us abundantly and continues to watch over us, love us and care for our daily needs. You are true disciples of God’s love, power and grace.

We love you all,

December 20, 2014

I recently sent the above letter to our beloved church family.  However, I know that it could just as well have been penned to everyone who knows us and has been part of my healing improvement. Your  love and prayers do matter so very, very much to us.  Yes, we are fortunate to be a part of such a loving, caring family.  God has showered us with friends who refuse to forsake us in our hours of darkest despair just like when you were with us during the times of great joy in our lives.

2014 has been a difficult year for our family.  From my awful diagnosis of MDS to the tragic death of Fran and Amelia's dear sister Susan Mayfield, from the loss of her beloved husband Bill to the terrible news of our cousin Johnny Watts' death in his house fire we have felt the anguish of misery.  Yet as we approach the celebration of Christmas I am thankful that we have such a loving God who provides as much goodness in our lives as we can likewise deserve.  From the miracle of Christ's birth to the terrible death he experienced on the cross, for his life on Earth that filled so many of his followers with hope and love to the salvation of his resurrected power we rejoice in this season of Christmas love and joy and giving.

My prayer is that we will see a brighter New Year in 2015.  May we then sing and dance with praise and wonder and joy even though our hearts are filled with sadness.  We are called to minister to those whom Christ loved and served during his short time on Earth.  We carry his Cross now and God loves us more than ever before.  May your gifts be to the lowliest of his people to the greatest.  Let us give hope where there is hopelessness, love where there is hate, laughter where there are tears of sadness, peace where there is war and the abiding power and goodness of God's love and grace shared to all we come in contact with on a daily basis.  

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cycle 3

We had a great check up at MD Anderson today. Though Dad has been battling a cold/sinus crud since Thanksgiving, he's been feeling better and better this week (I think Texas suits him well).

His lab work and most recent bone marrow tests show that the drug he is on is WORKING and his MDS is still in "remission". Most of his blood counts have been steady rising since he started the drug. His white counts and the others that we all really watch for infection jumped right after the protocol started but had been steadily sinking. They appear to finally be on the rise again which, we were told, is what they expect to see and what we hope to continue to see.

The doctor was very pleased and said he doesn't have many (any?) patients with counts as good as Dads. He told us that the drug Dad is on is still very much the topic of conversation at their big conference that he attended this week.  They are seeing 30-40% response and while that may sound low, for a cancer with no cure, this is great. 

Mom and Dad will head home tomorrow for a few days then return again the week of Christmas for their last "day 15" check up.  Starting in Cycle 4, its just a monthly visit so we all are looking forward to less time at MD Anderson (though what an amazing place, and it does sort of feel a bit like home to Mom and Dad now).


Monday, December 8, 2014

Hoping for Better Days

Since we got home last month my expectations of getting back to a more normal routine just didn't happen.  Instead of being able to get out and see friends and attend church services, it was more of the same periods of home bound isolation.  I developed a lingering period of nasal congestion with an ugly cough and the yucky feeling of having the winter crud. To make matters worse, my old ingrown toe nail got infected again so I had to have more treatment on it. Recovery is taking very long with daily Epsom Salt foot (toe) soaks and wound dressing changes.  (Janine's workload never ends.)

The positive side was that we were home for Thanksgiving. Janine prepared a wonderful, traditional meal with turkey and our favorite dishes.  James, Taylor and Mo came up from Hattiesburg and spent several delightful days with us, adding family warmth and love to our home for the holidays. Even though I was under the weather, their presence was so special and enjoyable.

Today, marks the first time I have felt somewhat better in over a month. I apologize for not keeping this blog up to date lately. Maybe I can do better as I start to feel better.

As for my MDS condition, things are progressing well with the treatment.  I just completed the 28th day of the second cycle of the experimental drug.  My routinely monitored diagnostic test have been good, even though my red and white blood cell counts were not as high as we had hoped. We will be back at MD Anderson midweek through Friday for more testing and begin the 3rd cycle of treatment if my results are still good.