Unusual Thanksgiving Blessings

I had a nasty gall bladder attack very early last Wednesday morning. I was directed to the ER where they found a 6mm gall stone in the neck of the gallbladder. I was admitted to the hospital with surgery to remove my gall bladder on Thursday, which was truly a Thanksgiving blessing, if an unusual one. I certainly don’t want another attack! One friend noted that I was like the Thanksgiving turkey with its giblets being removed.

While I was in the ER, I did my phone appointment with Dr. Mashru, my oncologist. He officially confirmed that I am done with immunotherapy and both cancers (bladder and melanoma). I will continue blood tests and periodic CT scans for a while. One very happy result is that I am no longer on the blood thinner which a couple of small blood clots in my lungs necessitated, so the all to common bruises on my forearms will be a thing of the past – I hope!

I am doing well, by God’s good grace. All my systems are functioning normally. My only discomfort is where they punched the four holes in me and that is minimal. I opted out of preaching at Grace last Sunday which made Sherry very happy. I went back to normal life, traveling to Boise on Tuesday for the last session of that cohort and to visit grandkids. Then I returned home Wednesday for all day classes Thursday and Friday, hosted 5 cohorrt students, went to the children’s musical at Grace Friday and Handel’s Messiah on Saturday.

The other Thanksgiving event was that my niece and nephew, Rashelle and Mike McKim were waiting for their son, Connor, to get home from his station in Corpus Christi. They didn’t get to greet him – he was killed in a head on crash. Sherry and I will go to Austin this weekend for his memorial which will be the family reunion we’ve been wanting but for a very different reason. He was an outstanding young man, baptized as a young adult, an academy graduate, a marine, committed to his family and his girlfriedn, full of life and hope. Connor’s obituary is here.

October Updates

The end of my immunotherapy treatment is in sight! Dr. Mashru has confirmed that he expects to finish infusions as of November 29. The big step between now and then is a PET/CT scan on November 2. Assuming that comes out as he expects, we will stop at the end of two years.

The Nivolumab has been effective to stop the melanoma. We are praying and hoping that it is dead and the nodules in my lungs are just clumps of cells. I will have monthly blood tests and scans every 3 or 4 months after treatment ends.

Men’s Round-Up

David and I have made Men’s Round-Up at Camp Tadmor a father-son event for the last decade. It is a very special place for him since that’s where he met and courted Samantha. This spring, Joy married Nathaniel and Nicole married Colton so this year I was very proud to add two new grandsons-in-law to the event. We had a great time with stories, sessions, disk golf (not me), and lots of food.

After the Saturday morning session, David and Colton were in deep conversation so Nathaniel and I joined them. It turned out Colton was pondering joining in the Sunday morning baptisms! We explored options and he committed. So at 8:30 they were at the lake (sadly, I was teaching my workshop to another 100 men) and David baptized Colton. You can watch the video here.

David sent the video to Nicole, saying “take a look at this.” She opened it expecting some disk golf event only to realize it was her new husband being baptized and promptly burst into sobs of joy. We all joined together for lunch an hour later.

Spring Family Events

Our 55th anniversary was the beginning of a series of epic family events. Joy and Nathaniel were married on April 29. David did double duty as the “officiant” as as the Father of the bride. Nicole, soon to become Colton’s wife, was maid of honor (who cried tears of joy through most of the ceremony). I got to do a grandfather’s blessing after they had the first kiss of their marriage.

Donn and Elizabeth flew in from Kansas City to join Cyndee, Sherry and me in the trek to Hermiston. We did a family picture after the cermony, but somehow Joy was a bit occupied. I delighted in their first dance. The videos are here and here

Michael’s baptism was next on May 21 in Kansas City. David joined Sherry and me for the quick trip to join the celebration. Elizabeth partnered with another girl doing the call to worship (video here) and I did the invocation and the baptism was the focus of the rest of the service. The baptism video is here.

It was wonderful to see Michael responding with joy and also with appropriate reverence in the service before returning to a playful 9 year old at the potluch following the service. He made the rounds of the tables greeting everyone and sharing his enthusiasm. The hightlight of the afternoon was a very competitive Mario Cart game! The challenge was to the airport on time for our 7am departure!

Grandpa-Granddaughter trip to Paris and Nicole-Colton wedding posted soon

Commencement & Cancer Update

I had an in office appointment with Dr. Mashru, my medical oncologist today. That’s the first time we have been in the same room in many months. My blood work has been fine for all those months which is wonderful. My recent scans showed one new small melanoma nodule in my lung. That new nodule prompted him to change from pausing immunotherapy after Wednesday’s session to continuing them through the end of June. Then there will be another scan and another consultation.

I am still trying to assess my reaction to this new nodule. It doesn’t really concern me, but any new growth must get serious attention, which Dr. Mashru is giving it.

At Sherry’s request I had Dr. Mashru take a look at a rough spot on my back. He looked carefully, gave a initial suggestion that the skin lesion was a skin cancer of some kind (not melanoma), took a picture and sent it to my Dermatologist. She soon messaged me saying it looks like a “seborrheic keratosis” which is a scary phrase. But she also noted that Dermatologists refer to these benign growths as “barnacles” 😊 So I laughed, thanked her, telling her I am looking forward to my July appointment where she will give me a complet skin check.

I have to admit my bigger emotion is toward Joy Love’s Saturday wedding in Stanfield with Donn and Elizabeth coming from Kansas City and Cyndee coming from Cannon Beach.

My 42nd Western Seminary commencement on Friday and Saturday was a wonderful event. As MABL program founding director, I get to hood all the graduates in the program. There are so many stories in this group of men and women, including two babies born to students this semester. Very productive time.

Year-end update and prognosis

Three doctor report

Dr. Frager, my radio-oncologist, released me from care since the melanoma in my brain is gone.  I remember the Green Mask and the multi-member team controlling the CyberKnife that did the ultra-precise zap on the two nodules.

Dr. Burt, my urologist, removed the bladder cancer with “ordinary surgery” a year ago. He just took another look and showed me the inside of my bladder: no sign of cancer visually. The urine cytology lab test confirmed: “Negative for High Grade Urothelial Carcinoma”

Dr. Mashru, my medical oncologist, after reviewing my last CT scan and blood tests explained that the infusions of Nivolumab every four weeks for treating the melanoma that metastasized into my lungs. The good news is that he expects to end those treatments in April, which is a year after they began.

I asked for clarification, and he confirmed that since there has been no activity in the cancer over the last 15 months of treatment, he expects it is dead. Follow up CT scans will monitor to confirm

No cancer?? I will admit that it is hard to wrap my mind around that prognosis. But with prayers of thousands and cutting-edge treatment, that seems likely.

UPDATE: I had my pre-infusion blood tests (all good) and conversation with the Nurse Practitioner. She was pleased to hear how well I was doing which led me to do a bit of research on response to nivolumab treatment for Melanoma, If I read this article correctly, the overall survival rate is 42% and the disease progression-free survival rate is 36%. Mine was detected early and even more importnatly covered with prayers of many.  

New News

Nicole & Colton are engaged!

Colton formally proposed and slid the ring on Nicole’s finger. This means two upcoming weddings: Joy and Nathaniel in late April and Nicole and Colton on July 1.

We had a Thanksgiving celebration – at Red Robin, of course!

Christmas in Kansas City

We are spending a week with Donn, Susan, Elizabeth and Michael through Christmas Day. We got a blizzard to highlight our time! You can see Michael’s sled trip in sub-zero weather here. Michael also went high to top the Christmas tree decorations as you can see here

Our visit will include a Saturday Chiefs game. With temperature in the low teens, wind chill in low single digits, Donn purchased Mobile Warming Heated Wool Socks. I get to use Elizabeth’s pair!

The visit will culminate with Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services at their church. I am excited that Elizabeth will be doing readings on Christmas Eve, but a bit disappointed that their children’s Christmas program occurred last week.

Visit to Spring Branch Cemetary & Wheatland

Sherry and I traveled to Spring Branch Cemetary, outside the church I grew up in and where we will be gathered to our fathers, to introduce Michael to his ancestors, going back to grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents!

His great grandparents
It was cold!
His great-great-grandmother
His great-great-great-grandfather

Then we drove south to Wheatland and had a marvelous lunch at Gigi’s Cafe.

Infusions and Scans – November

The results of my Wednesday CT scan are back and the news is very good: (1) No evidence of disease progression. (2) Stable to slightly smaller pulmonary nodules. There is a lot of detail but that’s the bottom line.

I will continue having Opdivo (Nivolumab) infusions every 4 weeks and scans every three months, the next in January and another in April. The only side effects is an itchy back so Sherry anoints it each evening. But next week I will be in Denver for Evangelical Theological Society National Meetings Monday-Friday and then at Grace Pointe Church in Las Vegas for the week end. I may ask Andrew, my roomie, to do some unusual duty

I have been at all the national meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society will be since 1977. This will be the first time since 1986 that I will be I will have no leadership role. It’s going to feel very strange! But I will enjoy meeting many old and new friends as well has hearing some fine papers.

The NEW news is that Joy sprouted an engagement ring thanks to Nathanael! He joined the Dojo where Samantha teaches. After a couple of sessions, Sam asked Joy to come “help” her. The rest to the story is summed up in “happily ever after”!