This from Don as of about 8:30pm tonight. The meeting with Doug Lee was a difficult one. Doug is a tremendously caring doctor, but the discussion was not easy. Heather tells me that after Don told Doug about his conversation with Johnny, he broke down and sobbed for several minutes. Don said it was ok to pass this on to you. I think it is important for you who love the Valencias to know not only the physical ups and downs, but also some of the emotional upheavals as well. If we are to bear one another’s burdens, I think we should know something about those burdens.

Skip, for Don & Heather

I woke up this morning with my feet feeling pretty good. Good enough to forget the morphine for a few hours

Heather and I met with Dr Doug Lee at 9:30 this morning. All my blood tests were normal. The focus of the discussion was the neuropathy in my feet and my next chemo. In some ways this was a very difficult conversation as he reminded me that conventional medical wisdom says this cancer is considered incurable. As much as he hates to take me off Taxol when it is working, he is very concerned that the pain could be permanent and I could end out permanently crippled in a wheelchair. I reminded him of our first meeting when I told him I am completely at peace with dying. My faith and the faith of our family is strong. I shared with Doug the conversation I had with Johnny, our 16 year old son a few weeks ago. He was sitting at the kitchen table when I came in the room and asked him out of the blue- “Johnny, do you ever get scared about me dying?’. “No dad.” “You don’t?” “No dad, I know you will be happy either place- with Jesus or with us. I would really miss you and I pray for you every night”.

My point to Doug was that I am completely at peace with dying, my family is at peace, but during the last several months I have experienced many dreams and visions. Early in the diagnosis I began to feel like I was already in Heaven and it actually scared me. Since that time I have become accustomed to this feeling and I seem to go back and forth between being present here on earth and the next moment feeling like I am in Heaven next to Jesus. I know this sounds a little crazy but I describe this feeling as “Dancing on the Edge of Heaven”- one foot in, one foot out, with an amazing sense of joy. This is not wishful thinking, or the power of positive thinking- it is the peace of God that transcends all understanding. Many of the dreams and visions I have had have actually happened. The sense I have from all these dreams and visions is that I have a lot of work left to do- it may take 10 years, it may take more. I can accomplish this in a wheelchair and I can accomplish this with pain. So, it is all a matter of perspective. We need to really think carefully before we change from Taxol to another chemo. Doug agreed and said he wants me to be cured and to live a long life pain-free. At the end of the day it is our choice and he will do what I want but he really wants me to live without pain. He repeated this several times in our conversation. We also talked about surgery and he said he would be concerned at this point because we have made so much progress and for surgery we would have to drop chemo for 8 weeks. In addition we don’t know how effective surgery would be. We will get the assessment from Jorge Reyes and have more discussion once we have his recommendations.

We also reviewed the TGen recommendations and decided that Irinotecan would be the best alternative to Taxol in conjunction with Carboplatin, which we have been using with Taxol. Also I am going on a high dose of Cymbalta which has been shown in some cases to reduce neuropathy. I am also going to begin taking L-Glutamine. The hope and prayer is that this may reduce the pain in the next week and we can possibly stay on Taxol. Worse case scenario we switch to Ironotecan and Carboplatin. Of course there is also the possibility that this combination of drugs is more effective with less side effects. It reminds me of some of my earlier e-mails when I said I felt like Jesus gave me a chance to go back before the various stages of the diagnosis, as if nothing happened, there was no illness. The question posed was, would I trust him and live in the uncertainty, trusting Jesus in all things? My answer then was Yes three different times, my answer now is Yes. After all I have been through trusting Jesus through the entire journey filled with joy, I just can’t imagine ever saying No.

We also moved my next chemo from next Thursday to the following Monday (3/5) so I can participate in the Governors Prayer Breakfast (next Friday), Washington Student Leadership (next Thur – Sat), which I am co-hosting with Jack McMillan, and GLOCAL (next Wedn – Thur) – a step toward Functional Unity, sponsored by Bakke University and the Coalition for Community Development. Needless to say Wednesday through Saturday will be busy so it will be nice to have a few extra days before my next chemo. Dan Jessup will also be visiting from Colorado Springs Saturday afternoon to Sunday.

Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your encouragement to write these e-mails, thank you for simply caring for me and our family,

God is Good-all the time-God is Good!



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3 Comments so far

  1. Darrell Johnson on February 22, 2007 1:44 pm

    Yes, I/we hold you dearly in our hearts. Your confidence in Jesus is such a powerful tonic for the rest of us. His peace does pass understanding.

    In Him,


  2. Kris Lethin on February 22, 2007 1:47 pm

    It strikes me in an almost cynical and maniacal way; that Dr. Doug wants you to be pain free almost as much as he wants you to live. I guess I understand the cultural desire to be free from pain; but maybe Jesus just wants you to live and live it to the full, as you are doing. I find your “F$%! the pain!I just want to live!” attitude encouraging in a very delightful way. My mental twist maybe a bit juvenile delinquent; I guess that’s where I am.

    Living is painful but the peace you have in Christ is far more attractive than the lethargic comfort of painlessness. You are a walking testament to Paul’s statement “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

    Imagine if that were “the abomination that causes desolation, standing in the place it should not be”. Pain and peace strapped together in utter aloneness before the most powerful and glorious one, who fills us with himself. Wow… I scare myself sometimes.
    I will continue to pray for you. That His glory, already revealed through you, would be increasingly obvious to those you meet, as His Spirit in you, gives generously of the fullness of His life to you, resulting in something magical that I should not pretend to understand.

    Would you pray for me? My pain is not in my physical body in so much as it is in my heart, mind, and emotions. I do not have the degree of peace you have expressed. I struggle to throw off everything that hinders and run this race as to win. I continue to work through reconciling my own life in Jesus, wrestling with the temptation to avoid my pain and just LIVE. To be loving toward my wife in a merciful truthful way “as Jesus is toward His church”. I am wrestling with being responsible and free; at the same time. I am torn between my past and my future and struggle to stay NOW. I am mostly ignorant of how to stay NOW (inside my own skin) and identify with the blind men shouting “SON OF DAVID HAVE MERCY ON ME”!!! My doubts tie me up and keep me from really being with those whom I am most called to be with; my family.

    Thank you for sharing your story with me.



  3. Glen Murray on February 22, 2007 1:50 pm

    Thanks for the regular updates, Skip.I don’t reply to them but wanted you to know that they are appreciated and I am sharing them with folks down this way…many are praying for Don and his journey as well as his family and friends who are touched by this struggle.

    Thanks, again! –


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