Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seattle, Week Four. Alternately, The Boy's Gone Preachy

Good morning my family and my friends. I certainly hope that this finds you well, safe and dry. What a week it has been what with all the flooding along the Mississippi River then tornadoes galore just a little west, not to mention that crazy cousin of mine on the west coast ranting on about his cancer... Oh wait, that's me!

So week four was rather eventful here in Seattle. Last Thursday I started a rather aggressive chemo regimen, six days straight! Boy am I glad THAT'S over! Today is a day off with another medication to be infused over the course of the day to make final preparations for... The new marrow! As I lay here sleeping I awoke with a start, call it the "voice of God" if you like but I'm not saying that I hear voices... Anywho, I've been telling people all along how inconsequential my thanks sound to me. For things like your prayers, the little postcards and the CrAzY hats, right on up to the really big things (that we won't get into here)... I simply cannot thank each of you enough. I'm not working and barely get by as it is, so money is out. Sure I could come up with a creative way to send a postcard back, maybe gift-recycle the hats, and praying for others doesn't cost a man naught but his time and a little effort, I can do that too. But it just seems to me that a man ought to leave something BETTER than he found it, to give back more than what he has received and that maybe in doing so this world, crazy as it may seem, might just become a better place than I found it...

And then there's that "voice"... Telling me in the middle of the night that you didn't do ALL those things for me so that you'd get any "credit" or recognition for your deeds. That my debts, like those of my debtors are forgiven. Sound familiar? Yeah, it sounded familiar to me too. I think in a world where we are taught from a very early age to keep score against one another, against the world, it's easy to forget. I worked hard all my life - ALL of it, and I lost a good many job because of greedy men who had forgotten how and why they got to where they were, only that laying off some guy was a means to balance the checkbook this week, month, or quarter. I worked hard, yet I still had to file bankruptcy twice, losing a house and a truck along the way. And yet I was forgiven... I'm STILL loved... even though the "rapture" came and Tracy is STILL writing this crap... It's going to be alright.

As my second birthday fast approaches I am mindful of just what that means. I firmly believe in second chances, Lord knows I've had a few. So I'm going to do something just a little different to celebrate my second birthday, I'm going to donate it. Going to make more of it than just another day. Maybe serve soup in a homeless shelter or care for animals at the pound, maybe pick up trash at local parks or raise money for those in need... Something larger than myself.

I'm told, and I believe that all things happen for a reason, even the things we can't explain. So all of this, the bankruptcies, the hard work, even something as terrible as this cancer has happened for a reason. I don't yet fully understand what that may be, but I swear to you all now that from the MOMENT I leave this place, I intend to make the MOST of whatever life throws at me! To be THE best Tracy that I CAN be! And to forgive my debtors, eat my vegetables, putout the trash, walk the dog... And to tell Sarah every day what an INCREDIBLE woman she is.
Take care of yourselves, and take care of one another. It's what Jesus would do...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seattle, week three.

Well gorilla warriors, week three is in the books. Monday saw the Hickman line placed in my chest. It was a little sore the first day and a half or so but will make things a LOT easier on me as far as blood transfusions, blood draws and medicinal infusions. It's essentially a larger, more durable version of an IV line and can stay in much longer. Anything they need to infuse me with or draw from me comes/goes through this line and I don't have to get poked anymore, or at least until I'm done.

I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the past, not by choice, it just sort of happens. All good memories thankfully, maybe my life flashing before my eyes in slow motion? It has been a long strange trip and I thank you all for joining me along the way. As I look back over the years there have been an awful lot of good times... Rest assured I look forward to making a LOT more good memories with ALL of you!!!

So, where does that put me now? Well Sarah and I had a conference with two of the doctors and the head nurse. The lead doctor basically went over a synopsis of what will transpire over the next month, and what COULD happen. Not to scare us or give us a sense of dread, more their “legal obligation” to warn us of the potential risks. I was surprised at how well I took it all in until he got to the end and said something to the effect of “All of this could also lead to you being cured.” It was at that point that I felt the gorilla wince and if he weren't metaphorical I am quite certain he would have shrunk back into the corner. That was the single best thing I have heard in three and a half years. Yes I have heard other doctors mention it but somehow now it seems so much more tangible, so close to being in my grip... Eyes on the prize I march onward undaunted by the posturing and chest thumping of that infernal gorilla in the corner. Tomorrow morning I'll be going back to the MTU for a month long stay. Chemotherapy starts tomorrow with the transplant taking place just a week later. The three weeks after that will be waiting for the new cells to “engraft” and monitoring my progress, treating the various side effects with a laundry list of medications. After that I should be allowed to come back to the apartment with daily return visits, then every other day, then every three days etc. until they deem I am healthy enough to go HOME!!!

I greatly appreciate all that you have done, each and every one of you has had a large part to play in my struggle and I have no way of ever repaying you all save one, that I continue to fight and beat this, living out the rest of my days until I am old and gray. To BE the very best Tracy that I can be each and every day. This next month will be THE hardest trial I have ever faced and I will need your support now more than at any other time. I'd like to ask you all, if you can, to send postcards from any places that you visit or from wherever you happen to be. Also, if you have any crazy hats feel free to send them my way and I'll wear them in the MTU and wherever else I happen to go and I'll have someone take photos which I'll post here of me wearing them. The crazier the better but remember, I have a BIG head (I wear a size 7-1/2). Please keep them hats, sorry Jen., no tiaras. Remember that I'll have no hair and will need them to ward off the sun as I'll be especially sensitive to it's burning rays.

Stay strong and keep the faith, your support makes this so much easier.

All my love and gratitude, Tracy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Seattle, week two.

Hello again Gorilla Warriors, I trust this finds you all safe and dry, as spring seems to have sprung with a vengeance across the great United States. Week two here has been rather uneventful. Several dental appointments and now my choppers are squeaky clean and fillings, that I just had done, are fixed to the VA's satisfaction. On Monday I go in for the installation (like it's a light fixture or new window) of the Hickman Line or more commonly a “port”. It's essentially a semi-permanent version of an IV line and it gets installed in one of the big veins/arteries in the chest. I'm not really looking forward to it but I trust it will be better than the biopsy... Then Thursday I start the chemo, and the transplant will happen on the 26th (I believe).

The closer this all gets to becoming a reality the more anxious I become, and having a week and a half to sit around “thinking” about things doesn't really help much. I have done a lot of reflecting on the past and it seems to have focused on my childhood. Things weren't always perfect but there sure are an awful lot of really good memories there. I have been thinking a lot about people that are no longer with us too, Grandma Hagerty, Grandpa Luegge, Uncle Ray, Uncle Forrest, Uncle Harold... and a host of friends that have left me wondering what ever happened to them. I know, believe me I KNOW, that all the family members that have entered my thoughts are here with me now, wrapping their arms around me (even if such was not their way while here on earth) and comforting me, maybe even guiding my thoughts and dreams, almost letting me know they are here with me now and that regardless of the outcome everything will be ok. Yes, you read that right... “regardless of the outcome”. Honestly none of us knows for sure, except God Himself, and he has yet to tell me personally...

You know, when this all first began I asked myself (and eventually God) what I could have possibly done to deserve this. How could people commit such horrible crimes against other people, GOOD people, and nothing like this happens to them? Well, in all that reflecting over the past week I realized that deserving what has happened to me has little if anything to do with it. The things I have done throughout my life, and that I continue to do, have earned me a place in Heaven... of that I have NO doubt. So regardless of how this all plays out, what I have earned will be granted me when the time is right and not a minute before. So what do I get here, now? I get all of you wonderful people by my side, physically or emotionally connected to me each in your own way. I get people telling me how I have inspired them to work through something in their life, to find courage and strength where they thought none existed. I get people saying to me “I can't believe with all you're going through that you still find it in you to help me...” and all of that drives away the darkness, keeps the gorilla at bay for just one more day. For a long while now that is all I have asked God for, just one more day... one more chance to live my life as He intended, in the service to my fellow man - to you!

Whatever lies ahead, you'll never make it there if you don't focus on what is right in front of you. Live in the here and now and enjoy every moment of every day, even the not so good moments.

With love, Tracy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Seattle:week one.

Hello from soggy Seattle. This being my first update of the transplant process there really isn't much to tell. We have both had a lot of appointments this week and there are still more to come followed by a week of pretty much nothing. For my part I generally like Seattle, though it's residents could use some driving lessons and it is in desperate need of some street widening! Other than that it a very pleasant city. Tons of fresh sea food, lots of people walking and riding bikes (this has GOT to be THE fittest city in the country!) up and down tons of hills. We have seen some of the local sights and I have a bunch of photos on my FaceBook page.

The apartment is small but serves it's purpose, it's just missing three kids (plus or minus a few neighbor kids) and two huge dogs. The furniture is spartan and functional as one would expect from your Uncle Sam. Not that I'm complaining, he IS taking very good care of me... The VA hospital here is undergoing some remodeling and expansion and as such they have valet parking for patients. That certainly makes one feel "special"! All of the doctors and nurses are very kind as well as extremely knowledgeable, perhaps a bit too much so in one Drs. Case but he IS the best that money can buy with a proven track record so I guess a little "God complex" is acceptable. He does have a sense of humor, I tested that on the first day! In short, I am well cared for, most of all by my lovely wife who is waiting on me hand and foot and has really stepped up to the challenges dealt her. I should think there is no greater test of ones marriage vows than "in sickness..." and really meaning it.

I have to tip my hat to my "support group", you all have really brought your A game. With all the well wishes, emails, FaceBook posts and even a custom set of one of a kind Tracy vs. the Gorilla prints... Well, a fella couldn't ask for a better group of people to have his back. The worst is yet to come to be certain but with you all by my side cheering me on there's no WAY I can fail!!! Please keep the prayers and good vibes coming and if you'd like to send any cards or care packages, you should have the address already. I'd ask that if you feel the need to send a care package, no cut or fresh flowers, nothing perishable, and perhaps some Best Buy or iTunes gift cards so I can buy some dvd's to watch (they would fit in a card and be less to ship anyway).

Thanks again for all that you do, I couldn't do this without you.
Eternally yours,