Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wild Montana Skies

Wiith Kenyon at Rock Creek Tuesfay 
On the Clark Fork Friday 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lung Follow-Up

Kenyon and (Joliet) Jake in my hospital room on June 11

Hello, and my apologies for keeping you in suspense for a month and a half, but it has taken a long time to solve the mystery of what caused my lung (choose your favorite word: infiltrate, nodule, mass, granuloma) _________.  I suppose now we can add "infection" to the list of choices, because the infectious disease (ID) docs have determined that that is what caused the mass to form.  By the time it was taken out, it was a bacterial infection surrounded by scar tissue and inflammation.  It took weeks to grow cultures from the tissue samples and identify the culprit - which is mycobacterium avium complex, or MAC.
The quick facts on this bacteria are that it is found everywhere and most of us carry it;  that only immuno-suppressed people like cancer, transplant, and HIV patients develop disease from it;  that it is in the tuberculosis family but is not contagious;  that it attacks the lungs by forming nodules;  that it is not easy to get rid of;  that it is curable in about 70% of patients;  that those who are cured relapse at about a 50% rate;  and that the development of nodules and other symptoms (bronchitis, shortness of breath, etc.) varies a lot from patient to patient.
The treatment is a very lengthy course of a 3-antibiotic combination which I will start soon.  When I say lengthy, think 1 to 1.5 years.  I think Dr. Kritz put the whole thing in perspective very well:  "THIS IS GOOD.  It's not cancer.  It's not tuberculosis or some other contagious disease.  It's not a particularly virulent disease.  And it's curable."
Since my surgery I have returned to my maximum intensity workouts on the Stairmaster and I am up to a 50 mile bike ride, so my health continues to be good despite all this, for which I am grateful to the Lord, from whom all blessings flow.  And you know, whatever our health situation, the Lord holds our futures - tomorrow, next year, eternity - in His hands - yours and mine.  That gives me peace - and not like the peace the world gives.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fletcher Flyer Inspiration Dinner Speech

Hello, it's been a long time since I spent a Saturday morning at home - I've been either playing golf or cycling each and every Saturday since February.  One of the things I wanted to get done today is to get the video of my speech from the FF Inspiration dinner up on the web and I've done it - here you go:

Some have asked me this question, so as a footnote, when I gave that talk, I knew I had a mass in my lung.  Thanks to Rachel for shooting.  My incisions are healing nicely.  Taking it easy at home for a few days.   Happy Father's Day to HLR III and all the dads out there.  Dan

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Post Op Report

Hello everyone, this pic at left is of me and my brother-from-another-mother, Keith McElrath at the Hasentree Member-Guest, taken Saturday.  That day I had a "mystery mass" in my upper right lung.  Today that mass is in a lab and I have about 10% less lung capacity today, but I'll get that capacity back.  The mass is identified as an  infection surrounded by a cocoon of inflammation and scar tissue called a granuloma ...but NOT lymphoma!!  The operation to get the biopsy was more involved than we first thought.  Dr. Chang had to put a breathing tube in my left lung, then collapse the right lung so he could work on it - "wedge out" the infected and inflamed tissue, staple the lung together, and exit the diseased tissue.  He left a tube in my chest cavity - actually in my side - to drain fluid out after the
Kenyon and Buddy Jake mugging with their masks on in my room at Rex
operation.  I am hoping to be discharged from the hospital today.  Of course I have some pain at the two incision sites (one still has the tube in it) but still today is the target for going home.  All in all, we believe by faith that the Lord answered all the prayers of His people, out of His abundance of love and grace.  I simply stand in awe of His work in my life and I want to use these trials to bring Him honor and Glory.  Thanks everyone for your support, prayers, positive thoughts, and note/FB posts, etc…..I'll update when I get home - Dan

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fletcher Flyer Weekend and Upcoming

 ** Don't miss the medical update at the bottom **

Start of the ride - 1,000 cyclists

Greetings friends and family.  Well, Renee and I (and Rachel) had a stupendous weekend in the mountains of western NC.  After 5 months of training, I completed the 100 mile Fletcher Flyer bike ride!!  I went 17 miles further than  I had gone in any previous training ride, and finished strong and sore.  I raised $5,000 for LLS in the process, good enough for 2nd place among the 50+ TNT riders - and my thanks go out again to all those who donated to the cause!
On the Course with the Triad Team

After driving out to Asheville on Saturday, we checked in to our hotel and got ready for the inspiration dinner, a gathering of all the Team in Training (TNT) participants and their families.  I was asked by the TNT staff to give the survivor's perspective and I will have the video up soon if you want to check it out.  It's about 22 minutes in length.

The ride itself traces out a labyrinth of roads that generally criss-cross through beautiful river bottomland and the towns of Brevard, Mills River, Etowah, Horsehoe, and, of course, Fletcher.  The course had a total elevation gain of something like 4,300 feet, but over 100 miles, that's not too heinous.    4 other riders came out from the Raleigh team with me, and on the ride I met a bunch of great TNT folks from Greensboro, Winston Salem, Georgia, and Northern Ohio.  The team spirit and camaraderie were outstanding.  There were 6 rest stops along the way, each equipped with porta-johns, fresh and packaged foods, water and gatorade, a first aid station, and a bike mechanic tent.  Since we were not 'racing', we made good use of the rest areas!
Finishing Strong with David, Wendy, Liz, Beth, Rob, and Singh from the Triad Team

At mile 49, the course passed the gravel road that goes to my sister-in-law Karen's house.  Renee, Rachel, and Karen were out there to cheer us on (link to clip --->  HERE )

After the ride, Renee and I spent Sunday evening with Karen and Scott (Rachel had to motor back to Raleigh to be ready for her first day of work on Monday) at their cozy mountain cabin in Mills River.  Then Monday morning we drove up the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway to Blowing Rock, NC to spend another lovely evening with Bill and Michelle Joyce at their mountain retreat.  Wonderful views, wonderful friends, fabulous food, and great wine.  A blessed time.  Back to Raleigh on Tuesday to face new challenges.

On the Thursday before Memorial Day, I had my 6-month CT scan.  On the tuesday following, Dr. Kritz called - which is never a good omen, because when the tests are negative he has a staff nurse make the calls - and let me know that the CT showed an anomaly in my right lung.  Since I am not showing any signs of pneumonia, that can be ruled out as an explanation, but there are innumerable viruses and bacteria that can cause infections of different types, some which carry little or no symptoms.  So, it's likely either a lymphoma relapse or an odd infection.  We are going with a surgical biopsy so that there are no mistakes or indeterminate results this time.  We will have a consultation with Dr. Albert Chang tomorrow (June 5) and schedule the biopsy from there.  Dr. Chang is the same doc who performed the operation in September 2011 that ultimately determined that I had lymphoma, not lung cancer.  ---->  Update today, June 9:  after a PET scan this morning, we consulted again with Dr. Chang and will proceed with the biopsy, tentatively schedule for tomorrow, June 10th, pending insurance approval.

As we face another time of uncertainty and stress, we are "battle ready" - we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is with us, He is for us, and He has everything under control.  He wants us to trust Him completely with this life and the next, and we do.  Until my next update, we are wishing you God's best….Dan

Sunday, May 25, 2014

One Week From Today

Fletcher Flyer Donation Page         <------CLICK HERE

On the Summit of Mt. Whitney with Mike Nix - 9/5/13

Greetings once again friends and family… is Sunday the 25th of May…one week from right now I will be laboring along the Fletcher Flyer route.  We have a full weekend planned in Asheville, and Renee and I will be driving up to Blowing Rock on Monday to visit some dear friends.

The fund raising is going well, and as always I want to thank all of you who have been supporting me financially and with encouragement and prayers.  I feel like I am ready to do the 100 miles, though I know the weather will be an important factor.  If it's hot or rainy,  that will make the ride more of a struggle.  Last Sunday was my last training ride with the TNT, and I made it 83 miles…..the weather was great, temps in the 60s and some overcast.

I got my 6-month CT scan check on Thursday and I am waiting to hear from Dr. Kritz next week if all is clear.

I want to thank Todd Spain and Elaine Tarkington for their great coaching and encouragement - but also a shout-out goes to the whole team including our Sag team Suzanne and David, Ruth, our long distance specialist, Bill, Cathy, Pam, Tisha, Deidre and everyone - it really is a TEAM and I am blessed and proud to be a part of it!!  GO TEAM!!!

Peace - Dan

Saturday, April 19, 2014

6 Weeks to Go

Fletcher Flyer Donations - Save Lives HERE

Hello friends and family, it's a rainy Saturday morning and I would have been on the golf course now - but it's a good opportunity to catch you up with things.  My weekends have been very busy and active lately as I have tried to keep up my weekly golf game and also do a long training ride on the bike.  Last weekend started with a drive down to Augusta on Thursday afternoon, followed by a day Friday walking the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, watching the Masters.  It was my 5th time to experience in person what I think is the finest sporting event in the world.  I was a guest in a house overlooking the Savannah river.  This photo was taken from the back deck.  The accommodation (in North Augusta) was almost as beautiful as the golf course!

Well, my plan was to ride with my TNT mates on Saturday but I didn't want to drive all evening Friday after being on the golf course all day at the Masters.  So, I slept there until 3 am Saturday, got up and drove 4.5 hours straight to the meet up point in Apex, with my bike and all my cycling stuff in the car, then rode with the team 50 miles.  It was 10 miles farther than any other ride I had done.  Every week now we are riding farther, pushing the mileage up little by little (well maybe 10 miles isn't a little).  Each practice, I get to know team members better - and the bonds of being together in a battle grow stronger.  Team in Training is just a fantastic organization…with each event, I see more and more what being a part of the team is all about. I'm looking forward to June 1st, which is the date of our Fletcher Flyer Century, but as soon as it is over I will be thinking about the next event.  This photo was taken that Saturday, about 5 miles from the finish, with Jordan Lake in the background.
SO, back to my weekend schedules - I'm playing golf and riding on alternate Saturdays and Sundays, and we've been attending the Summit Church on Saturday afternoons at 4 pm.  Work is very busy but going well and my health continues to be excellent.  This winter has been much, much better than last winter in terms of viruses, infections, and the like.  For this I thank God.  We are celebrating Easter this weekend - the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus - he was crushed for our iniquities, pierced for our transgressions - by his stripes, we are healed….awesome!

For those of you who are still with me, I have a video link to the talk that I gave at the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church several weeks ago.  It is 37 minutes long, but gives a full perspective on my life's journey and the valley of cancer.  Here is the link:

Dan at RCCC

The Rookers wish you a happy and blessed Easter weekend.  Dan

Monday, March 10, 2014

March Training Update

Speaking at the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church, Sunday, March 9th. 

Click here for Team in Training Fund Raising Site

(this text is also at my TNT site)
         Hi Friends and Family...well, I actually thought a 100 mile bike ride would not be that big of a challenge.  I WAS WRONG.  For a person who has never ridden a bicycle for more than 37 miles, it is a HUGE challenge.  Over the past 3 weekends, I have done training rides of 30, 39, and 36 miles, with an average speed of 15 miles per hour.  My coach, Todd Spain (and his able partner, Elaine Tarkington) say I'm doing great, but I don't think it's a positive sign when I am out there 20 miles from home thinking about whether I can get a decent price for my bike when I sell it on Craigslist!!

         Then, I think about the children who are still battling leukemia and lymphoma, and I grind out the miles....I literally think about the promising treatments that LLS is funding as I struggle up the hills, and the stories like Emily Whitehead's - her life was saved by an experimental treatment funded in part by LLS (see "Fire with Fire" video on Youtube).  This past weekend I spoke at the LLS "Mission Day" about my cancer experience - how miraculous my treatment was, how statistically unlikely it is that I am alive today.  I told the team, it's hard to know the mind of God, but there's no doubt that one of the main reasons that I was spared and given a new "lease on life" was to be there that day, with that team, fighting this fight together.  

        Sunday I spoke to 100 people at the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church - photo attached - I like this photo because over my shoulder to the left there was a screenshow playing photos from my blog - the team at the church did this and didn't tell me in advance - but it was a beautiful backdrop to my story of God's love, mercy, and the mission He has given me.  I am grateful to everyone who has donated and especially those precious few who have already donated to all 3 of my endurance events.  Please consider a gift, no matter how small, to LLS and these children and their parents who so desperately need your help.

PS - in the background photo, it's me with Alice Lynn - my main medical nurse in Dr. Keating's clinic and Coy (on the right), the happiest, most joy-filled lady you would ever want to meet in a cancer clinic.  Both are treasures to me - photo was taken in November 2012.  The photo with me and a microphone was taken Sunday at the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Check Out Fletcher Flyer Fundraising Page Update

FF FR Page Latest - CLICK HERE

Folks, I also wanted to update you on my fledgling speaking ministry - one of my close friends who is an elder at Providence Baptist here in Raleigh invited me to speak to his adult sunday school class, in two sessions - the men on Saturday morning, where I shared the story of how I became a Christian, and Sunday morning in the couples' class, where I shared the role my faith played in my walk through the valley of cancer.  Renee and I had a great time at Providence, including the worship service before the adult SS class.  Thanks to our beloved friends Jeff and JoEllen for the invitation.  This is a pic of me at the Saturday morning coffee with the men.  More soon, lots of exciting stuff going on!!  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hello 2014!!

Dan's Fletcher Flyer Fund Raising Page

Salutations to everyone and I guess I should add Happy New Year!, since this is my first post of 2014.  It's not that there hasn't been a lot happening, I've just been delinquent in making updates.

On the health front, all the tests that were done in Houston in late October were negative.  I posted on Oct. 27th that all was well, but that there were a few results that had yet to come in - it actually took almost 4 weeks before I got the final "all clear", which was again, a great relief.  As far as how my winter is going in terms of general health, it didn't start too well, as I contracted sinusitis right on time just before Thanksgiving, which required 3 different antibiotics over a 5 week period to get rid of.  Just before Christmas, I developed shingles in my mouth, face and nose….probably sounds worse that it was, but it was no fun, and there's no treatment.  Once that cleared up, things settled down and (knock on wood), January has been malady-free.

Renee and I spent the Christmas holiday in the Chicago area with my parents and my sister Jill and her family - here we are at my folks' house:

Bottom row, L to R - Joseph's fiancee Natalie, Renee, Mom, Jill.  Back row: Jill's sons Joseph and Philip, my son Kenyon, me, my Dad, and Jill's husband Mark DiCicco
  I am planning a fundraising event this year, in the form of a 100 mile bike ride, the "Fletcher Flyer", which takes place in Asheville in June.  There is a link at the top of this page to my fundraising page.  As with most Team in Training events (TNT is the endurance-race fund raising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society), we will TRAIN for this race - while it is still cold, we are meeting weekly and doing a one hour spin workout.  Once it warms up, we will hit the road together.

There are a few more things I want to share with you, but I will save them for another post, coming to you soon.  I appreciate any and all donations to my 2014 event, as I continue to do what I can, with your help, to fight blood cancers.  God bless you….