Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bone Marrow Transplant Update

We are 74 days post transplant and so far, we are doing very well.  At least as well as can be expected. The transplant itself is rather anticlimactic.  You spend months waiting, and waiting, then when you arrived they pump you full of toxins that literally bring you to deaths door before giving you the stem cells, a process that takes all of 10 minutes.  Then still you have to wait and wait and feel like crap till one day, you finally start to feel slightly better.  I have heard a lot of patience explain it like you literally wake up and you physically and mentally sort of snap back into the present, and though you feel better you still feel pretty bad.  Once you get that feeling and know that the cells took to your body and you start the long recovery.  
In the beginning, I honestly couldn't figure out why we would have to be here so long.  It seemed rather straight forward when described to me in layman's terms, but now having been here for nearly four months and having met dozens of fellow patients and caregivers as well as the many Attending, Fellows, Dietitians, Pharmacists, Nurses, and many more, I can appreciate just how complicated and delicate this process is.  

I have come to realize how a compliant patient like my dad goes a long way to moving forward in our recovery and also the consequences of ignoring what the doctors say.  Many people here are patients who did not listen to the doctors and now are paying the consequences by returning to Seattle with more severe cases of Grafts versus Hosts Disease (GVHD). 

Being someone who feels that rules are usually made to be broken, and someone who also views a doctors order not to do something as a personal challenge.  If I ever get something as deadly as cancer, I hope that I will be able to make myself be compliant or at least hope that there are people around that me that will force me to be compliant.  I have been raised on herbs and alternate methods or healing, and I am someone who prefers to just give my body nutrients and simply let it take care of itself.  But I have also spent much time in the hospital being healed by modern medicine and have had many surgeries.  There is a time where alternate methods are fine, but there are also times where the doctors are right and the hospital is the place to get taken care of.  There was a lady in here (a caregiver for her brother) who was talking about trying alternate methods while going though this process.  It was something that I understood, but I also know that you just don't mess with what the doctors are already doing; it is such a delicate process as it is.

Seeing things from a caregivers side and not a patients side is also fairly new to me.  Also the fact that my parent is the patient and me, the child, is the caregiver, is also a little new, though I suppose this is probably part of why couples have kids, so when they need help being taken care of they can call in a favor that they very much earned.  Most of the patients here are between 45 and 65, so most of the caregivers are fairly older ladies with the exception of a 29-year-old guy who I talk with a lot and another older man.  I always crack up when they include me when they say we or try to include me in their gossip or try to set me up with the dietitian.  

In the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit we have our own family room that we all hang out in while waiting to be finished for the day.  I am social for at least a little while every day, but I generally end up at one of the other family rooms where no one else is so I can read, watch a movie or just have some quiet.  However, when I do finally get time on my own in one of the ICU family rooms, there always seems to be other visitors who come in to talk.  We exchange greetings and then before I can get back to reading, I hear that there is a terminally ill family member that they are here to visit and I feel heartless if I got back to reading so I end up talking with them for a bit.  Though Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is extremely dangerous and my dad has nearly died twice since we arrived, I forget how easy we really have it.  My dad was extremely healthy before he got here so he has handled the treatment slightly better than expected and seems to be able to bounce back from these crazy toxins amazingly fast.  We are actually doing so well and we have it much better than lots of people in this very hospital.  Since we have been here, I know of 3 people that were sent home so they can be comfortable, as there is nothing more that can be done about their condition.  In many cases, if the transplant doesn't take, the cancer comes back with a vengeance. 

I remember talking with my mom while I was recovering from my first Aorta Valve replacement about how we can use our experience to help other parents and patents get through their difficult experiences in the hospital.  In fact, while I was in the hospital recovering, my mom told me that the patient next door to me was a 4 year old who was getting an Aorta Valve replacement like did and that he and his parents were a little freaked out.  So we went over and talked to them for a while and them seeing me having already gone through it only the day before and them being able to ask us questions was something that really helped them a lot.  

We have talked about writing a book, or starting an organization and several other ideas.  I don't know if it will even become something that big, but I think that those ideas are something I would like to put into practice. With our experience in hospitals as patents and as caregivers, we feel like there are things we can do to help people that are alone or scared.  

I have been looking into getting a dog for a while and being the animal fanatic that I am, I kinda became obsessed with the idea of having lots of pets.  My dad tells me, after freaking out when I see a dog or any animal, that I am having animal withdrawals because I haven't been able to hold my snakes and only am able to pet animals infrequently Okay, moving on dogs, right. Katelyn and I have been looking at different breeds.  I want a German Shepherd, she wants a Golden Retriever.  Both of us grew up with the dog we want and constantly point out to each other why the breed we want is awesomeso I think we are going to end up getting both, once I get back to FL. I really want to get the Golden Retriever trained as a therapy dog so we can take him with us to hospitals to visit people. I remember people doing that while I was a patent and I see people bringing dogs into this hospital all the time for the same reason, though not in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. They are really careful about germs here because everyone is on immunosuppressants.   But there are places where you can bring them.  I brought up maybe even bringing my snakes to visit people too, but my mom and Katelyn were both skeptical as to whether that would be allowed :) 

Things definitely get a little lonely here at times. As you all know, I am a man not known for is endless supply of patience but I am known for doing crazy things and staying very active.  Well, the only places to be active are a volleyball court (I played once a week that is now finished for the season) and at a gym. Fishing is crazy awesome up here, but I left all my fishing stuff down in FL. There is a rock climbing gym not far from me, but it costs a bit of money that I am not willing to spend.  I did manage to catch deal at a gym about 2 miles from me, so I am starting to workout there as an outlet. 

Up here, we all are out of state, so we constantly talk about what we next have to do to get closer to going home. I find myself doing the same, but that just brings me to think about the stress of going back to FL and having to find a place to live and my worries about my lack of income here and how my life is on hold until this is over and more inconveniences in general.  In retrospect I can see how dumb I was being and how loose of a hold I kept of my tongue and how much I was looking at practical things and leaving God out of the picture. I didnt realize this until my dad told me, very humbly, that he was in a stable enough condition that if I wanted to go back to FL and start working on getting my feet back under me, he could ask his family in Utah if they could go to plan B and each of them come up in 2 week increments to care for him until this was over. I was dumbstruck. I felt horrible that I would even say things that even resembled dropped hints anywhere near my dad that I didn't want to be with him during this trying time. I had called home to a few people just to vent and get my thoughts out, but I didn't realize just how far I had let it go. I would never leave in the middle of this, unless there was a medical emergency that required my attention in which case we could have someone else cover me here until I could return.  I felt horrible that I would be more worried about getting home for me and not my dad, who's life is going to be changed forever now since this treatment.  

That was a humbling conversation and as I already knew and Paul had to remind me, this is what I signed up for. I knew it was going to be a long time up here and that this would become another one of my homes. I knew that it was going to be hard for Katelyn and mines relationship. Our entire relationship has been long distance; one of us is always out of town.  I knew all of this, and I hope to avoid putting someone in that awkward position in the future and just trust my situation to God.  Thank you all for your prayers and support though this adventure.  I really cant thank you enough.

Your brother in Christ,


Saturday, June 29, 2013


To my wonderful supporters,
The last two months have been very eventful.  I have procrastinated in writing this post to you all, but now, I have no excuse to not write it and every reason to write it.   If I were to tell you everything that has happened in the past couple months, this post would be a long one indeed, however, I do plan to do my best to convey to you where I am at and how I got here.  There were many huge decisions that I had to make, all of which affected my life in larger than normal ways.  I do not feel that I have missed God in any of them, He has brought me here and has directed my steps in each instance.
I do not work at I-TEC anymore, I now work for a company called Slack Construction.  I met the owner of Slack Construction through I-TEC, he is good friends with Steve.  He was here this last time helping with the plans for this new big addition for I-TEC.  I actually met him around the first couple months after starting to work with   I-TEC.  Slack Construction is a very versatile construction company,  we do almost everything from digging footers, to roofing, to drywall, to airplane hangars and more.  He also started a side company that is actually surprisingly booming.  We make corian window sills and the occasional countertop. Im kinda the rover who swaps between the two companies depending on where the most help is needed.  I’ve been there for a couple weeks and though I have had some rough days, I am really enjoying it.
So how did I leave I-TEC, a ministry organization that God definitely sent me here to work, grow, and serve with, to working with a bunch of guys that, though I love them, curse like sailors and smoke a frightening number of cigarettes a day?  Well, it was not an easy decision, by any means.  There were many sleepless nights, talking with many people from home and here at this church and at I-TEC to finally come to it.  What it really comes down to though, is I want to get married.  Katelyn and I have known it for a while now, but we are waiting until she graduates.  Basically, that gives me two years to be stable financially, and have enough saved to pay for a wedding and honeymoon and in general, money for us to get started with our life together.
It took a while for me to realize that I would have to work somewhere other than I-TEC to make this happen.  I tried to make deals or figure out ways to stay there and still make enough for us, but really it just couldn’t really happen unless I raised more support.  The support I have had for the past nearly 3 years has been awesome and there is no way I could have done anything I’ve done without it.  But that was just for me.  It was perfect for me living on my own, I was able to pay my bills, buy food, put gas in the car and even give a little.  The only money I was able to save was from side work that I picked up here and there,  those funded my fun trips and savings.  But as I said before, that was good for me by myself.  Katelyn’s parents have also been sure that they didn’t want their daughter marrying someone whose sole source of income was other peoples’ donations.  I did not make this the basis of my reasoning; I know that God will provide (I’ve seen him do it over and over) but it was a factor I needed to consider.  Many of the men I talked to were very understanding of that point of view, seeing as they had daughters themselves.
Someone who works at I-TEC told me that the only reason he was able to work there full time was because he had everything paid for.  He already bought his cars and house and had worked at companies before I-TEC and was able to save.  He didn’t see how it was possible for me to get married and stay at I-TEC.  Then there was another talk I had, also with someone from I-TEC, a father of 4 daughters, that also encouraged me to probably find a job and start working full time. I was starting to get the feeling that the managers had already talked about the idea.  In fact, I found out later that it was discussed a little while they were down in Ecuador this last time and they seemed to think it was a good choice.  
I had considered the possibility of leaving I-TEC before, but dismissed it every time because I liked working at there and I knew that God had lead me there.  But there are times when it is just time to move on to something different, there are people that have left I-TEC while I was there, and you knew, though it was hard to see them go, that it was time.  Missionaries will usually take a furlough every few years to raise support or simply to take a break and recharge.  I feel that my time in ministry is far from over, I still want to fly and I-TEC has given me permission to still use their plane to train in when I get my medical.  I still want to give to ministry and help them when I can.  But in all humility and in all unselfishness, I feel like I need rest.  I feel so drained, emotionally, physically, and most of all spiritually. I think I will get that rest when I go to Seattle to care for my dad. There will be quite a bit of free time and also time to get to know my dad a lot better than I do at the moment. But getting that alone time away from everything is going to be good for me, I think.
My plan was to wait till I got back from Seattle to quit because I assumed that I would need to vacate the room I lived in, but when I told Steve I was going to quit, he said I could stay in the house, so I decided to start working for Slack Construction now. I will move either to Gainesville or closer to Ocala when I return from Seattle. The truck I was driving belonged to I-TEC, though it was in my name, so I signed it over to Paul and bought myself a little ’02 Mazda protege with all the cash I had managed to save.  No car loan. I also paid the insurance through the rest of the year.  
So I started working for Slack construction and the hope is to pay off my only debt which is medical bills.  This is not me being foolish with money debt. (I listen to the Dave Ramsey Show everyday)  I have had that debt and paid it off several months ago, this is “changing health insurance companies and still going to the doctor” debt.  It comes to about $4,800 and though I know I’ll have to put my plan on hold once I get to Seattle, i should be able to pay $600 or $800 before heading up there. I want to get as much of it paid off as possible before heading that way, so we will see.  That is my reason for leaving so quickly.  Living off support, I was only able to make enough to put minimum payments or a little more, so the only way to pay it was from side work.  The plan is to knock it out as fast as possible, then save all that money I’m currently paying to on this medical debt.  
As for the support that Rose Creek Village has been sending me, I think it would be great to continue sending it to I-TEC to support Paul and Tipharah.  They will continue on at I-TEC for now, but we plan to try to stick close together as far as living goes. We have already talked about trying to make sure we schedule time to see each other several times a month depending where I decide to move to.  But what they do for I-TEC in caring for the guest house and taking up all the construction and maintenance around I-TEC is a lot of work and they are doing amazing.  They certainly could not do it without your support.
If any of you have any questions or anything, please feel free to call me or email me, I will do my best to get back with you as soon as possible.  I feel like I covered everything, but if I failed to answer anything don’t hesitate to contact me.  Once again, thanks so much for all the support, both financially and spiritually, that you have given me for the past 3 years. I truly am blessed blessed.

Your brother in Christ,


Monday, April 1, 2013

Projects Beginning

March draws to a close and there are several new things under way.  The big news is that the new I-TEC hangar addition is finally underway.  We have been planning for quite some time, and after all the trouble that we have run into with the permits and stuff, we are finally starting!  There are several trees that have to taken down and asphalt to be torn up as well as a DRA to dig, just to start.  This is my first large project as Site Manager, and I am looking forward to the learning experience.  

The workers running the excavator have had some issues with one of the tracks and it has slowed us down 2 days.  To be honest, it is kind of annoying to be slowed by something right off the bat, but it is beyond any of our control.  Any prayer that could be sent that direction would be very much appreciated by I-TEC as well as me.

The other big news is that one of our planes is going to be flown to Ecuador on Friday.  It is going to be a 3 to 4 day flight, and there are several dangers along the way.  Galo flew up here from Ecuador on Sunday and is leaving with Jesse in the Cessna 182 to Ecuador on Friday.  The plane has been completely rebuilt by Jesse, Ethan, and Galo and has had no problems on the flights.  However, that is a long trip in a little plane.  Please pray for them!

My sister just returned from Utah and being with my dad, who just finished round one of Chemo and is starting round two.  The plan at this point is for me to go with him to Seattle as soon as a donor is found for his bone marrow transplant.  I will be with him for 4 months and be trained by the hospital as a "caretaker".  I am looking forward to the time with my dad, getting to know him more and just getting to be with him.  There are many challenges ahead, but I look forward to them.  

My dad is fairly optimistic that a donor will be found quickly and we will be in Seattle by the beginning of May, but it could take longer.  The truth is, we really don’t know when they will find a donor, but we will roll with it, no matter what happens. I’ll definitely have some free time on my hands, but it will be good to have that free time. Maybe I’ll get to see some of Seattle. Neither of us have been to Seattle before.

Thank you all for your support, both financially and prayerfully.  I couldn’t do what I do without your help.

Your brother in Christ,


Thursday, February 28, 2013


It has been a while since I last wrote, things have been pretty busy this past couple months.  Since Paul’s arrival, things have been pretty non-stop, in fact, as soon as we got Paul moved into the guest house it has been slammed with guests!  looks like we got him moved right in time.  

During the month of January, we had a team in Bolivia. They had a great success in training students the I-Med, I-See, and I-Dent programs.  We even had someone from Ecuador meet us there.  His name is Ralondo, he was one of the first students to graduate from the I-Dent program in Ecuador and now continues to do dentistry and teach it to others as well as spreading the gospel.  I had the pleasure of meeting and going into the jungle with him while I was in Ecuador.  He is a very good teacher and a very humble man.

Speaking of Ecuador, we have a team headed down there during the 2nd and 3rd week of March, I believe.  Please keep the team in your prayers.  They will be at the training center I built last year training the Ecuadorians in most of our programs.  It has been very successful in the past, we are praying for another success this year too.

Brian, our video guy, made a video of their trip to Bolivia and we got all of I-TEC together today before lunch and watched it.  I was not on this trip and had heard very little about it.  It is often difficult to realize that you are making a difference when you work day to day on simple construction projects or running errands or whatever. I have, more than once, looked at what I originally came here to do and then look at how much has changed, both in my view of missions my priorities and personal life with God.

So I say all of that to emphasize that seeing the video of Bolivia and seeing all the tools that I have helped organize and put together being used and people’s lives being touched was extremely encouraging!  Way too often, all this turns into just work, but then you get little reminders of what you are really doing. I am not belittling anyone or their job.  No matter what job you have, you have the ability to touch lives, it is up to us to realize this and use that ability for the good.

Just recently I was informed that my dad has Leukemia.  I’m sure it was certainly more of a shock to him than it was for me, but it did take me aback.  I love my dad, and the fact that he is 2 time zones and a couple thousand miles away has been difficult. I’m honestly used to being the victim when medical/hospital stuff is involved, and now being on the other side of things, I feel rather helpless.  The distance isn’t helping. 

We have not been as close as I, or he for that matter, would have liked, seeing as we have lived so far apart for all of my double-digit years.  But that doesn’t change the fact that we are father and son.  We had planned on doing a mountain biking trip this year out in Utah, and we still plan on doing it at some point, but it looks like I will be trying to go out there before we get that chance.  In fact, the first thing my dad said to me when I was telling him I was going to come out there was, “You are supposed to be coming out so we can go mountain biking, not to see me in the hospital!!”  Anyway, any prayers you can send my dad’s way would be very much appreciated.

I would like most people’s prayer to be toward my dad, but the only other prayer request I have is for discernment in when to go out there. I feel like I need to time it perfectly so that I will be of some help and not a hinderance.  From what everyone I have spoken to has told me, it is extremely unpredictable to say when that would be.

As ever, I am extremely grateful for your support, financially, yes, but more importantly, spiritually.  There isn’t any way at all that it would be possible for me to be here doing what I do without such a great family supporting me.  Your prayers are felt, and I am grateful.

Your brother in Christ,