Friday, February 17, 2012

In My Mind, I'm Gone to Carolina.....

Valentine's dinner at Miss Saigon Restaurant

And tomorrow,  I will be actually on my way to Carolina....this is a very special day - we got a call from our nurse at about 12:30 letting us know that my CT scan from yesterday was clean;  the small features that they were re-checking were not even there(!)  Also, my former tumor, now demoted to 'lesion' because it is not active, has shrunk again.  That could be due to residual effects of the chemo, but it could also be due to the beginning of "host vs. tumor effect", the miracle of transplants - where the new immune system attacks the cancer....time will tell.  In any case, after over 3 months in Houston, we are homeward bound.  Praise God in the Highest!

My leukemia nurse, Alice, said she had never heard of a patient going home on day 58.  How wonderful is that?

Friends, just a reminder that there are many challenges and milestones ahead that I will be depending on the Lord to get me through.  I am not 'cancer-free' yet - the 5% remaining CLL needs to be dealt with and hopefully will be gone when I come back for my 100 day re-staging.  Graft-vs-host-disease is always a threat, even years after transplant.  And of course, during the first 5 years after transplant (once full remission is established), the possibility of relapse is a shadow that most survivors live with.

I need to run - lots of packing to do!  We'll be on the road Saturday and Sunday, hoping to arrive home Sunday evening.  Will update you soon.....thanks thanks thanks thanks again for your prayers and support.  God has been merciful and answered many prayers!!   Dan and Renee

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Flatrock Middle Schoolers jazzed about raising money for Cancer research

Hello friends, and a Happy Valentine's Day to you!  Today's blog is dedicated to Mrs. McElrath's class at Flatrock Middle School in Hendersonville, NC.  These young people are participating in the school's cancer research giving drive - there is a contest among the classes to see who can raise the most money for the school's donation, and they are determined to win!  The charity they are donating to is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - the class has taken a special interest in me (poster child, perhaps?) and actually texted this photo (and the one below) to me this morning.  The aforementioned Mrs. McElrath is my sister-in-law and teaches science at FRMS.  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society ( is a wonderful organization that supports patients (they give us $100 per year for treatment-related expenses) and also funds research into new treatments.  So all in all, this project is a fantastic way for youngsters to gain awareness of cancer and related issues through participation and fund raising.  As you can see, they are really excited about it!

Close-up of their poster (that's my likeness in the lower right)

Meanwhile, back in Houston.....I'll introduce some new terms to you today - these are some blood chemistry parameters that have always been measured in my blood draws, but have never been issues....representing liver function, we have Alkaline Phosphatase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, and Alanine Aminotransferase.  Representing Kidney function, we have Creatinine Serum.  We've been watching these this past week as they have all ticked above the normal ranges, but now the "kidney number"- this is what I call it - is back to normal and the "liver numbers" are trending back down also.  The doctor says these anomalies are likely caused by medications.  Also the virus I mentioned in my last entry was not present in my last blood draw, so that seems to be resolving as well.

However, my sinuses continue to be an issue - I had a CT scan last Friday evening that showed increasing inflammation and blockage up there, so the doc wants me to get checked out again by the infectious disease (ID) team (today) and the eye, ear, nose, throat (E&T) team (to be scheduled).  This will delay our departure from Houston until next week sometime - hopefully mid-week.  The good news (there's always good news if you look for it!!) is that I was put back on an anti-biotic starting last Thursday (at my request) and the sinuses are definitely improving.  The Lord is in control and we trust Him completely.  We know we'll head home in His timing.  He has been so faithful with us.  In a little while we are going out for ice cream with Bud and Nancy Simpson, a couple from the First Presbyterian Church who have been supporting us with prayer and anything else we have needed since we arrived here.  

Renee and I are trying to hit the 'best of the rest' eateries here in our final days in Houston - yesterday we hit this absolutely excellent Greek diner - very famous in Houston since 1977 (  Here is a pic:

Niko Niko's
That's all for today.....grace and peace to you.  Dan and Renee

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sister Jill and I celebrating her birthday on February 1

Hello's hard to believe it's been a week since my last post - I'd like to say that it's because the week has been uneventful, but I'm not sure that will fly.  I'll take things a step at a time, and you can be the judge.  As you can see above, Jill and I made the drive out to Galveston on her birthday, Wednesday of last week.  We had a very "gulf coast" type dinner and it was excellent.  One of Jill's student's family gave her a gift card, a 'love offering', for her trip to visit me and we used it to pay for our dinner - more love from the body of Christ.  Jill headed back to Illinois on Sunday - we had a great time together for the week - what a blessing Jill was to us!  She cooked and cleaned and took care of me with that great servant's heart, and enabled Renee to get that well-deserved week off.  That's giving of oneself.  I am generally avoiding crowds, so it was a quiet week - we did a lot of reading, watched a little TV, and had many long discussions about family and faith.    I have two truly wonderful sisters!

I got the results of the bone marrow biopsy, and they were in line with expectations - 5% lymphocytes remaining.  As I forecasted last week, this is the typical result (minimal disease) at this stage.  The idea now is that my new immune system cleans up the remaining leukemia - The next biopsy will be at about 100 days, or April 1.  Dr. Hosing said this was a good result, but I'll be honest - I don't ever like to hear that there's still some cancer!  Still, I trust Dr. Hosing and we are praising God for the fact that it's almost gone.  Technically I am not in remission until there's zero cancer, which we will hopefully verify at my day 100 re-staging.

I have felt very well in the last few days, thought I've felt a little nauseous in the last 12 hours.  That's been brief and easily controlled with an anti-nausea pill.  I just mention it to demonstrate again how quickly things can change - I haven't felt any nausea for weeks until today.  GVHD can present with upper GI symptoms, so it needs to be watched.  Dr. Hosing is planning to discharge me next Thursday(!), but I have to caution myself and everyone that there are still a lot of things that can happen - another example is that I have some virus that has been activated - again, it's common to transplant patients - and I'm getting another medication for that - Dr. Hosing said that the medication can disrupt bone marrow function which can affect blood counts.  So, I'm not counting on anything until we are in the car and approaching Baton Rouge :-)

First Presbyterian Church of Houston this past Sunday

An update on the young man that Anne Marie wanted me to visit - A-M asked me to visit him Tuesday evening - the first good day for me to do so was Friday - I called the hospital and asked for his room - they said there was no one admitted by that name - when I checked back with Anne Marie, she shared with me that Scott had had a miraculous recovery from surgery starting on Wednesday, which resulted in him being discharged that very day (Friday) and allowed him to head back to California with his parents.  So, I did not get to meet him this time, but praise God for His work in Scott's life!

It's great to have my main squeeze (Renee of course!) back in Houston.  We're starting to plan our exodus, though we know the plans can change any time.  Another good time to put my faith in the Lord and trust Him, getting my mind ready for whatever His plans turn out to be.  I want to share a video with's very moving to me, and it's the closest thing I've seen on this earth to what I think worship in Heaven will be like.  The passion of the worshipers and the musicians/choir is remarkable and challenges me and my relatively sober worship style.  The second half of the video is the most inspiring.  I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks and glory be to the Lord who has delivered me through the valley!  There may be more valleys ahead but I know He will see me through anything, and I also know that whatever comes my way, He has a divine and eternal purpose for it, which will be revealed to me in glory.  I know that my redeemer lives!  God bless you - I am eternally grateful for your prayers and support!  Dan and Renee