Bud went to Memorial Sloan Kettering last week for scans and reports.
We are grateful to report to you the following:
From the oncologist – everything looks good and and we will keep the three-month check up cycle. Continue with the targeted therapy medicine–no changes at this time.
From the radiation oncologist – things look really good; even evidence of the bone in the spine regrowing. They gave him an osteoporosis shot to help boost that activity of growth. No need to go back to this doctor for six months.
How great to display for you the works of God! We are thankful for the great report and we are humbly thankful for each one of you who is praying for Bud’s health. Whenever you share that you’ve been praying, we are reminded of the wonderful love that God shares with us through His dear children.
So, many of you know that I have been pursuing getting my funeral director’s license. At the end of the course, in order to be eligible to graduate, a student must pass the Comprehensive Exams. I have been studying diligently for this; yet in the two weeks prior to the test, I had very little time to actually concentrate on those studies.
But on Sunday night, I drove down to Pittsburgh to take the exam on Monday. The process is that the test is divided into two sections with six tests making up each section. The test taker has to pass all the tests with a score of at least 80%. If all the tests are passed on Monday, then the tester is done. If they are not all passed on Monday, the tester returns on Wednesday to retake those not passed at the stated percentage. On Friday, the tester has opportunity to take the test once again to finish the week by taking any remaining parts that were not previously passed.
Each half of the test runs in the neighborhood of 200 questions with a two-hour window to take the test.
So on Monday, I took the test. There were several “administrative” bumps that caused me angst in the way the test was proctored; but that was manageable. All the same, when the test was over, I would have to describe myself in a state of test-shock. I considered staying in Pittsburgh just a bit to get something to eat. However, given the time of day and the fact that I needed to get some media prepared for a funeral service the next day, I was not comfortable with remaining.
And then I remembered! Chik-fil-A, in Erie, is half-way home. So, off I went — happy to be getting out of the city before traffic would be any sort of an issue! It was only two hours to Erie, yet my stomach was not happy with this decision. So I kept myself going with the thought of a chocolate milkshake and chicken tenders and a chocolate milkshake. Did I mention that chocolate milkshake?
The stress of that test had really taken its toll and I was so looking forward to a nice meal, oh, and a chocolate milkshake–LARGE. Just a little further–almost there!
As I pulled into the parking lot, there was a huge sign–CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION. WHAT?!?!?! How could they do this to me? And the letdown was almost too much…yes, really, I almost cried.
But then I pulled myself together by reminding myself that it’s not Chik-fil-A, or their chocolate milkshake, that sustains me. God is bigger than a fast food chain and He’s bigger than a Comprehensive Exam. He reminded me that He is Enough, no matter what.
For the record — I passed seven of the twelve parts that day and on Wednesday, I passed the remaining five.
They’re popping up all over the village, town, county….those reminders of an upcoming election! The “Vote For . . . ” signs are also a reminder to us to say . . .
You have elected Bud for three terms as County Coroner! He is on the ballot once again this year and we are thankful for those who choose to vote for him. He appears under his “stodgy name” — Maynard Baker.
Every county needs coroners; it is a vital function that serves the people of our county on a very personal level. In case you didn’t know, our county has four coroner positions.
So thank you again …
And from Bud — It is always an honor to serve the people of our county. I am thankful for all who fill in the “Maynard Baker” circle when they cast their votes!
We learned on June 7, that there is a bit of new cancer growth on Bud’s spine. The Rochester doctor gave us her plan. Friday, we went to NYC, Memorial Sloan Kettering, for their opinion and plan.
Yes, there is a little bit of new growth, which the radiation oncologist wants to radiate. (Correction: a previous site — the spine — shows additional growth. This is not a “new site.” Sites radiated with “curative doses” of radiation rarely have additional growth. Bud’s original dose was a palliative dose, to alleviate his severe back pain.) He is confident that it can be eradicated without a great deal of risk to the spine, even though that location has been radiated once before. So we will proceed with making plans for a biopsy of that growth and radiating it at the curative dose level.
Earlier in the month, there was some evidence of something unusual happening in the brain. The Rochester doctor believes it is radiation effect and not new cancer. The NYC radiation oncologist also thinks this may be the case. There is a specialized MRI that can tell him for sure. Bud will be having that done on July 2. Given the level of confidence that both doctors have that this is not new cancer, and given how the symptoms have subsided after initiating steroids, we are believing this too unless the coming scan shows otherwise.
And likely, we will stay on the current medication for some time longer. It has a typical “shelf life” of 12 months. It has worked for Bud for about 20 months. (The NYC doctor feels that the new cancer growth is a result of radiation failure, not med failure.) Even if it was med failure, once the location is radiated, then there is no rush to change meds if the activity in his brain is not cancer.
As long as the current medication is working, we are advised to stay with it. Another consideration is that each med has a “shelf life” and we don’t want to start the clock on a new one prematurely.
In this cancer journey, we can see God writing a story and molding lives. Along the way, we think of so many things for which to be thankful. One of the foundational things is advice from a family member early in the process. She encouraged us to go to the best hospital in our region for a second opinion. It was excellent advice two years ago; and it proved to be excellent advice at this crossroad as well.
Originally, Bud thought that we would just go with the advice of our nearby doctors and not incur the expense for second opinions. But it is amazing what different doctors will see, know, and suggest. This was well worth the effort and money involved.
The second opinion infused new hope into our journey, as I’m sure some of you can understand. If you don’t already know, “hope” is a powerful word.
I am currently on “break” from school. My courses run in eight-week sessions with a two week break between. I had grandiose plans of getting so much done, but today is the last “official” day. And nothing is done.
No laundry, no changing my textbook/study center, no closet cleaning, no swapping out winter clothes, no basement hoeing, no plant planting. No “thing” is done. I didn’t actually hope to accomplish all of that, but I thought I would get to one or two things on the list.
Even though I sound discouraged, because I do like a tidy home and a lovely yard, I am not. All these things will get done when they are supposed to, if they are supposed to. You might be walking up my porch steps as I put away the last pair of underwear or wash that last pan, but “just in time” works. If November comes and I pull a sweater out of the dresser in my bedroom, where it has been for the entire summer and fall, then I’d say I’m ahead of the game.
So if I accomplished none of these “things” — where did my break go?
Two events come to mind. One event was a “must do.” Our lives are made up of those. Not because others dictate to us, but because we understand the importance for ourselves of doing them. This “must do” was attending my uncle’s funeral. Nearly all of us understand the “must do” component — while you want to support your family and be there for the event, the “must” part comes because no one likes facing death. But it is part of our lives and it is a fact of our history.
The other event was only a “must do” in that it was time for us to get away. But this was mostly spontaneous, especially in that we didn’t actually plan where we were going and just decided along the way. We didn’t actually book hotel rooms, either. Well, I guess that’s not so unusual for us. We just “hope” it works out and we might find a deal. My poor kids can tell you how this usually worked when traveling long distances!
So we ended up enjoying four nights and five days of spontaneity. Each night, the hotel room hunt was successful. The capstone night was finding the Common Man Hotel and Restaurant in Claremont, New Hampshire. What a lovely place. And we were offered a discounted rate, besides!
We didn’t have any particular agenda; no schedule to keep; no people to meet. So we drove, relaxed and rested.
But always present was one extra visitor that we didn’t invite. It was “that guy,” Cancer. He’s always with us these days. Though the doctors have indicated he is not active, neither do they say he is gone. And sometimes, we are reminded that he invaded our lives because of treatment side effects.
So in our wanderings, he was there. But because we were able to cut out other stresses, the time together was refreshing and brought us closer together. I recently heard a friend say that she is “living” with cancer — we are still learning how to do that. It is a challenge to teach yourself to live in the moment; knowing that cancer wants to limit the moments. Our journey has been somewhat calm, so far, compared to others we have known. We are thankful for that and it reminds us to pray for those who face very hard treatments and prognosis. Our long weekend resulted in some much needed rest, introspection, conversation and rejuvenation.
So those things that I thought I’d get done during break don’t matter. Life isn’t about “things” — it is about moments. Our wonderful, happy, spontaneous moments this past week — that was living.
Here’s what we got to do!
Friday morning – rescheduled MRI in Rochester;
Friday night – Syracuse (NY) Mets ball game – Tim Tebow at bat x3 ; https://www.milb.com/syracuse
From here I thought we were going to Boston, but the traffic dissuaded us.
Saturday afternoon – stopped in to see Bud’s Dad;
Saturday night – Dinner at Lizzie Keays (Bud’s sister’s restaurant in Warrensburg, NY) http://www.lizziekeays.com/
Visit with friends in Thurman, NY;
Sunday morning – church at New Hope Church – Queensbury, NY; http://www.sharingnewhope.org/ — excellent place to worship!
Sunday – Lunch with Bud’s Dad – Bud’s locally famous spaghetti;
Sunday afternoon – Andover, VT;
Sunday night — The Common Man Inn and Restaurant in New Hampshire https://thecmaninn.com/ – a must do for you!;
Earlier this month, Bud and I were asked to share some of our experiences at the annual Sweetheart Dinner. The idea that the organizers wanted to convey is that marriage is not about living a fairy tale. It is the concept of two broken people living this relationship together and desiring to do it God’s way. I have attached a recording of the talk. I apologize for the “tin” sound you hear occasionally as the lectern I was using was wobbly. I didn’t realize it would make such an awful sound in the recording. After our talk, we showed a video (using photos from our church family) that highlighted the song “Broken Together.”
In the talk, Bud emphasizes how prevalent divorce is in our families. However, there are those marriages who have stood the test of time. I am not going to our “cousin” level as I am looking primarily at those relationships that affected either Bud or me. The last eight couples on the list were distant relatives either in geography or in actuality. Some of those listed here have, indeed, reached their 50th anniversary! So as you see the list, marriage has survived in our families, as the names listed are those relationships that did not end in divorce. In my case, I did not get the benefit of observing a lasting marriage on display as we lived a good distance from most of those who were “making it.”
Bud’s Grandpa and Grandma Baker – Grandpa died when Bud was very young
Uncle Gary and Linda Rounds
Aunt Cynthia and Tom Needham
Uncle Eddie and Herma Baker
Uncle Jim and Barb Baker
Linda’s Grandpa and Grandma Ousley – Grandpa died when Linda was in elementary school
Grandpa and Grandma Miller
Uncle Fred and Sharon Miller
Uncle Dan and Marilyn Miller
Aunt Judy and Elwin Potter
Aunt Rita and Tim Silvey
Aunt Fran and Jim Fear
Uncle Holly and Geri Ousley
Aunt Lois and Emmet Trump
Two of our siblings have weathered the storms of their original marriage: Bud’s sister — Amber and Tom Grace and Linda’s brother — Keith and Cristina Ousley.
This year just needs to be simpler. So I only decorated a short little Big-tree-wanna-be. But the beauty still touches my heart. I placed on an ornament that commemorates our first date, one that is from our wedding, and mainly dough ornaments I made for our first Christmas tree. That first tree also had some tulle from the material for my wedding veil — I have echoed the idea once again in this tree. Our handcrafted (from a dear friend) angel was too weighty for the tree itself, but she’s there at the base.
With no adornment at the top, the tree seemed pretty empty. So I made a simple reminder. It isn’t a star, reminiscent of the Star of Bethlehem. It isn’t an angel to remind me of the account of the angel encouraging the shepherds to “Fear Not.” It is a simple shiny red ribbon, surrounded by a lovely white bow.
” . . . Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; . . . “
And the tree, itself, is a reminder that though Jesus came as a sweet little baby, His destiny was the cross–the tree of Golgotha. It was this tremendous act of love that made possible the transformation of my sin, and yours, from scarlet to white.
Bud and I send Christmas greetings to one and all and we pray that your celebrations will remind you of God’s great love for you. He gave you the greatest gift of all, His Son.
So, here we are at the second Christmas since Bud’s cancer diagnosis.
I think that the word that comes to mind for me now is “aware.” I am a bit more aware of the goodness of the Lord. I am also a bit more attuned to seeing that goodness around me.
Even before the diagnosis, when things seemed huge in our lives it seemed to be my “go to” statement — “God hasn’t brought us this far to just leave us stranded.”
Side note confessional: Okay, so the truth is I actually say “God hasn’t brought us this far to just drop us in a hole.” The first sentence sounded more socially acceptable. The second demonstrates the depth of the anxiety that was involved.
The main point is that usually it took a “huge event” to cause me to state my trust in the goodness of God. As I look at things as they are today, I see how many holes He has drawn us around, eliminated, or bridged over for us. And I understand more fully that each day is fraught with holes. The unfortunate thing is that I allow myself to think that I can handle those “every day holes.” I easily forget that without God, I would plummet every time.
Bud’s medical status is great. All of the locations have been radiated and the scans (as of this week) show no active cancer in these sites and no new cancer anywhere in his body. As a result of a trip to Sloan Kettering in August, an adjustment was made to his medication dosage that has eliminated the vast majority of the side effects of the treatment. He is feeling great and has good energy. We’re back to the lifestyle where I have a hard time keeping up with him.
I want to remember to remember the goodness of God. I want to see it every day and to be aware of it at all times. When I plummet into a hole, for certainly I will, I want the grace of God to draw me out of it and to bridge it over for me and I want to recognize His goodness even then.
God is good, of course all the time. I want to be aware of it, all the time.
Bud had his scans on Tuesday and results appointment on Thursday. The doctor indicated that the scans show NOTHING NEW IS HAPPENING! We are so thankful again and again.
Those of you who have to have regular scans, know what a roller coaster that can be with your emotions; and I’ve even written about that before. But in all of that we never want to lose sight of sharing our gratitude about how God is working in this situation. He is always with us and is ever there to comfort and guide us. Should the news ever come back in a disappointing direction, this truth remains: He will never leave us nor forsake us.
As we remember where our path was just one year ago, the difference is so amazing. We had so few answers and were given such little hope. And even then, God was with us with His special comfort that doesn’t make sense to this world.
Bud tackles every day with energy and enthusiasm. He is able to to everything that he was before the symptoms appeared. Projects are on track–well, as on track as an easily distracted person keeps them. He is not hindered in serving families at the funeral home.
Thank you for your prayers through this process. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Him who holds the future. And He is entirely trustworthy.