Thursday, January 20, 2011

The first day of the rest of my life

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011, Durham VAMC.

The unconditional love of my daughter:
I love you because you're my father,But you're really so much more;You're a guide and a companion;You and I have great rapport.You pay attention to me;You listen to what I say.You pass on words of wisdom,Helping me along the way.Whenever I'm in trouble,You always have a plan.You are the perfect father,And I'm your biggest fan!

  • John W. Myers There is only one perfect father and he gave his perfect son a ransom for this sin-cursed world, of which I am one. But the most perfect daughter a father ever had is my darling Layla who loves me as Dad. She loves me with all her heart, soul, and mind, and would gladly lay down her life for mine. Greater love has no daughter than this. Her love covers over the multitude of my sins.
Amanda Haywood
Lord Jesus, it is not Your will that Your people should suffer. Yet, I remember so well how You took on suffering for us all. Keep Layla now from losing hope as her Daddy faces once again his infirmity. I feel the pain and ask of God, "Let this cup pass from me."

As Layla and John kneel with You in the garden, may they welcome another with a prayer that echoes yours: "Not my wil but Thine be done." Let Layla never forget how to laugh, for laughter is Your gift to her to undo depression and heal the hurt of a sickness she cannot control. Take Layla and John into Your gentle embrace, for I know that whatever this day brings, You have paved their way with Your tears and redeemed them with Your victory. Amen.

For those who came in late, here's a daily review since my last post.

Sunday, January 16, 2011  8am

     Turn TV on for first time to look for preaching, a jillion channels but no preaching. As sent from the Lord, first visitor sticks his head in the door, a young chaplain named Denis from the Congo who loves the Lord. Catholic, but I've learned to look past labels unto the heart, with his first few words of introduction, we hit a Holy Ghost accord, a brother in Christ. He shared his experiences and I told him of my faith journey, particularly my 1979 trip to the Holy Land with my mother and her older brother, Uncle Walton an Army Chaplain. I told him of my baptism in the Jordan River with a black Presbyterian minister from New York who was saved as a result of missionaries in Africa. I bonded with him and a black couple from Hattiesburg, Mississippi and their son, both men were ministers. Of the entire tour group, Peter (the nickname we gave the minister) and I were the only two who wanted to be baptized so he baptized me and I baptized him.

Monday, January 17, 2011  MLK Day

     Awakened after the first good night's sleep since my journey began, my daughter spent the night with me. Got out of bed to recliner for the first time, young Nigerian nurse Ogo, came in with a hug and reports I had been on her mind since 4am, we had connected earlier. She presented me with a Bible question, wanted me to read some verses from the book of James while she took report on her patients and would come back to discuss the verses. She returns sometime later and we had our short Bible study. I explained the verses to the best of my knowledge and she soaked up the knowledge like a little bird. I then called a friend to take care of some gun show business. Guided him through copying some files from my computer onto a flash drive so he could pick up some of the slack from me not working. Then, to my delight there was a Pawn Stars marathon on TV, watched a couple of episodes and then my first visitor came for the day, Joey Martin, a Holy Ghost Baptist, another instant bond with a man who loves the Lord. Good conversation then he prayed with and for me and my daughter and he moved along once my preacher arrived with three other dear friends. Shortly thereafter, my older brother George and his wife arrived as well as my sweet wife. My preacher stayed and prayed with all of us in our prayer circle. I am especially thankful for this illness because it gives me a chance to reconnect with my older brother George, we live only 30 miles apart but seldom ever get time together, alone. George had volunteered to be my driver for outpatient treatments following my discharge and I greatly look forward to our time together as we travel. We lost our younger brother in 1994 and George and I have seen very little of each other since that shared tragedy. After the preacher's prayer, George and I had a quiet talk alone to begin these arrangements. I deeply regret not taking the time to spend with George but I greatly look forward to making up for lost time. My son Robby and my brother outlaw, Jan Richardson, my ex wife's youngest brother showed up just as George left. Glad to see Jan, one of the pleasures of my life is though my first marriage ended in divorce, I never divorced my first wife's family. I have remained close to her father, the preacher and all of the rest of her family. Next news, moving to a private room, just in perfect timing with all the manly help to get the move done. My sister Rebecca arrives late afternoon and once the move was completed, we all visited into the evening hours. Get settled into new room, Robby, Layla, Nicholas, Rebecca and Jan all leave for the night and the sweet wife and I settle in for the night. First night with CPAP from home, another good night's sleep.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

     No breakfast, fasting since midnight pending procedure. Picked me up at 0830 for the bronchoscopy/biopsy. The young med student arrives just before the procedure. He is usually the first doctor in the room since the long talk we had during the nightmares sessions on Saturday due to the steroids. We connected that night, he reported my symptoms to the intern and they agreed to cut down the steroids. Then after the reduction, he returned to the room that night and sat down and said, "now where were we" and we talked some more. Since that night, he has been the first member of the doctor team in my room every day. Leave for the procedure, ready to get it over with. I and my former father in law, the preacher had prayed and agreed together that the pulmonologist would find NOTHING and I asked the pulmonologist if he would tell me after the procedure what he saw. We were all praying for a miracle. After the procedure, he described in fairly clear but clinical terms the mass which everyone is now agreed is in fact a lung cancer. Some much for that prayer. Sometimes God chooses to answer and sometimes He does not, God has His own purposes and His own plan and never explains Himself to anyone. After a lengthy stay in the recovery area, I returned to my room around 11am. Fasting now over, my sweet wife fed me 3 ripe bananas which I greatly enjoyed. I am so glad I didn't let Layla throw them out the night before because of one pesky gnat! They were delicious! Before lunch is delivered, nurses arrive with news that I am wanted immediately in radiology for a consultation. This was the first I'd heard of any radiation consult, placed skinny butt in wheel chair with iron bar across buttocks and wheeled down to basement radiology dept. If I'd only known that wheel chair would be my home for the next 4 hours, I would've placed a pillow or two in it before leaving my room! In radiology, sweet wife is left waiting room while I am ushered into office with radiologist who asked for my complete history, again for the umpth teenth time. I tell it as best I can without the sweet wife's notes which she so painstakingly complied. I later learned that during this lengthy interview, my sweet wife out in the waiting room dissolved into tears. Kind people in the waiting room gathered around her, held her hand, prayed and comforted her while telling her their stories of treatment and recovery, giving her much needed hope and comfort at just the right time. The kind people alerted the nurse and she allowed the sweet wife to come join me in the radiology office. The five day consecutive radiation plan was explained at length and was to begin the next day. Then I was fitted for a mask on the scan table, laid on table for 30min without moving and came very close to having a hissy fit but managed to gut it out. Finally the mask is finished, back to the waiting room to await transport person. Sweet wife assisted me to a real chair, with real cushions until the transport attendant came. Finally the radiology nurse volunteers to take me back to my room, we meet the transporter at the elevator and he finished the transport back to the room. I finally return to my room to my supper that is past cold and thankfully they call for me a new meal tray. Enjoyed my supper, early bedtime. I am exhausted.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

     Awake at 2am, wide eyed and bushy tailed, ready to write on the computer. Worked for a couple of hours, accomplished virtually nothing except frustration with tiny laptop keyboard/mouse. Called daughter at Oh-
dark:30 requesting wireless USB keyboard. my latest unreasonable demand, and she agrees without complaint.
Sister strolls in at 720am chattering about the ball game she stayed up until 3am watching. She brought me as requested, Bo Jangles biscuit and coffee, however abdomen CT scan is scheduled and no one seems to know if I am supposed to be fasting. As usual, the young med student is first to arrive, he goes off to find out if I can eat, meanwhile the nurses come in for morning rounds, I ask them and they say we have no orders for a fast so that was good enough for me so I ate my biscuit and enjoyed my coffee. Daughter and grandson Nicholas arrive at 745am, still no breakfast tray appears. Sister departs shortly after daughter arrives. Daughter requested breakfast tray, it arrived late but I did enjoy my gravy biscuit. Wrote dedication for Bible for grandson, misspelled two words to my great chagrin, more evidence of my cognitive losses. I have been a champion speller since the 3rd grade, at least I recognized the misspellings after I wrote them and corrected them. Knock on the door, lovely, young Oriental cancer doctor comes in and sits down. Says, I have news. We had not been expecting any definitive news on my condition until after the Thursday evening interdisciplinary meeting of the specialists. In the kindest, most compassionate way I could ever imagine, she is the first one who didn't beat around the bush but came out straight and told us what we were facing. Brain cancer, lung cancer, some evidence from the images of bone cancer in my ribs. Stage 4. I don't know what you know about cancer stages, but there is no stage five. As she finished telling me, she reached out and held my hand. My daughter comments after she leaves that she must have the toughest job in the world to tell people such crushing news. After it sinks in a moment, my next question, what's the prognosis? She replies that nobody knows but best guess is one year IF we aggressively treat the cancers with a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy. We talk for a few more minutes, I ask a few more questions and she leaves to let us absorb the news. Present are my daughter, Layla and grandson Nicholas. After the doctor leaves, we have a good cry. Then I decide, if I only have a year left, we are going to enjoy it to the fullest. I don't think I am able to talk to my sweet wife who had left early that morning to go to school but I tell Layla to call her and tell her to drop everything and get here. Reluctantly Layla called her and she complied with my request. Within a few minutes, Ogo, the beautiful Nigerian nurse, whom I had connected with so strongly appeared like an angel like a smile on her face. It was her day off but she came by to check on me. I could barely speak but we told her the news and she smiled anyway and kept a brave face, I am sure it broke her heart also. Next messenger on God's appointed schedule followed Ogo immediately, Joey Martin, the chaplain. We share the news with him, he offers words of comfort and prays with us. Before we had time to even consider what's next, nurses show up for the long delayed abdomen CT with no warning. Back to the same room with the same technician who started the process on Saturday at 4am with the CT chest scan. Kind, compassionate, gentle young lady who repeated the same process and even remembered me. I shared nothing with her, feeling the burden was more than she was suited to bear. She sees enough sick people without adding to her burdens. Besides, she knows, she has seen the scans. Back to room around 1 pm, lunch was waiting, it looked good but my appetite was gone. My daughter, unknowing to me, finds two former sailors in the hallway who work here in house keeping. Tall, skinny kid that I had previously met was a Boatswain's Mate pronounced," bo'sun's mate" . Later promoted to damage controlman. We shared a few sea stories, I love talking about my Navy days. For those of you who don't know, the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is that a fairy tale begins with "once upon a time"; a sea story begins with "this is no shit"...... Chatting with "Boats" raised my spirits immeasurably, we laughed, we smiled, we had a good time. At that point, my daughter got me out of bed, I took a sponge bath, she washed and cut my hair with bandage scissors and changed my linens. She told me we had exercised my body and we would exercise my mind later. She stood at the foot of my bed and said, "it is what it is and we deal with it. No more crying. If you cry, I cry and then Nicholas cries so no more." We started making plans for this best pool party season EVER! My sweet wife arrives and Layla and Nicholas leave to give us time alone and to get me some Chinese as my appetite has returned. We talk awhile, ex wife's sister appears, once again, I am thankful that I am still a member of the Richardson family and they still care about me, as I still care for them. Shortly thereafter, my oldest childhood friend arrives, Ron Franklin, a supposedly retired psychologist and vineyard owner who retired to the family farm. He was working in the area and took time to come over and see me. These are old and dear friends and I share everything with them. They take the news well and I managed to get it out without crying. No more crying. Sister in law called and after Layla returned with supper and we had our Chinese take out party. Shortly after, again, unbeknownst to me, Layla met two former Marines in the elevator earlier. They both served in Vietnam and were here with their oldest brother who over one year ago was sent home with a three week prognosis and was told to go home and make a will. His illness reunited the three brothers who had drifted apart over the years. Another amazing story of good coming out of bad circumstances. Through this experience, all three brothers are saved and on fire for the Lord. As they were leaving, in walks a VFW veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, who hands my grandson $2 from his bingo winnings and to thank me for my service, instead, I thank him for his service. My son, Robby arrives with his wife Cindy and we play Trivial Pursuit and I roll first and the question is "whose garage was the first catalog shipped from?"  The first thing that popped in my mind was that everybody knows who Jeff Bezos is.....BINGO! The brain still works! In my 63 years, I have developed a fount of useless trivial information and I love that game! A small victory but an encouraging one. The sweet wife and I settle in for another good night's sleep.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

     Awoke bright and early again this morning around 4am deciding I would be an impatient patient today. My plan for the day is to complete another journal entry, catching everyone up to date. Started writing and quickly discovered my 60 word per minute skills have diminished to hunt and peck. Process interrupted by first radiation treatment at 9am, so sweet wife and I head back down to the basement for my radiation treatment. Transport and treatment time consumed about 90 minutes, back to room around 1130am. My pastor and fellow governing board member arrived shortly after with a "little burden bear" from my church, of Rockoingham, NC. Daughter begins chore of typing my dictation after my pastor prays. Barbeque chicken for lunch and Chaplain Joey Martin returns for his daily visit.
     Dr Lee reappears to talk further about cancer treatments and actually sets up first chemotherapy appointment for February3. She offers more details than I can absorb but daughter takes copious notes and immediately begins researching the chemicalsl on her phone. Thank God for daughter Layla who knows more about this than all of the rest of the family. She is my right arm and my left arm and my legs and my feet and my strength. Sweet wife and Layla ask questions and Dr Lee patiently answers them all. Upon Dr Lee's departure, older brother George and wife Sue arrive, George and I meet in private so I can bring him up to speed while the women took a walk and brought Sue up to speed. We all reunite and supper arrives and shortly after, the pulmonologist arrives to relay that the interdisciplinary team has confirmed what we already know and says that primary care doctor team will begin implementation of said plan in the morning. He gave his good graces in removing oxygen, the oldest IV in my right arm was finally removed with (I am ashamed to admit), a little squealing from me. Two Marine brothers make return visits, then my son's brother in law, Raymond and three preachers arrive and we form prayer circle. Raymond's wife Michelle has been on fire for the Lord since my first journal entry and has written several inspirational responses on facebook. My story touched her and brought her into the light of joy of the Lord. If no one else is touched by my circumstances, Michelle's joy alone makes it worth it. As the day progressed, I feel stronger and capped it off by rising from my chair unassisted and walking with the support of my brother and grandson into the bathroom and I finally peed like a man in the commode and heard that glorious flush for the first time since Friday, finally free  from oxygen and IVs. It's too late for MLK Day but I am FREE AT LAST, thank God almighty, I'm free at last!!


Kansas Scout said...

I am so sad to read the grim news but am so glad to hear of the love and support you have around you. God's love is shown so many ways and it looks like it's falling around you like a waterfall. I stopped and prayed for you last night and I will do so yet many more times.

Will said...

Attitude is everything! Fight the good fight, and know there are a lot of us out here pulling for you. Still in our prayers,


ASM826 said...

Back on Monday, I posted this:

I had been clicking through a couple of times a day and waiting for an update, even though I had a pretty good idea what it would be.

Still, your faith and courage shines through your words. If indeed it is a year, I pray that it is a very blessed year for you and all your family and friends.

Mulliga said...

Whatever time you have left, whether it's one year or one hundred, I know you'll always have faith and family.

Vaya con Dios, John.

netfotoj said...

thanks for prayers and kind comments. all is well.