As I mentioned in yesterdays blog, it was a hard day. The afternoon took a sharp positive turn when Zack and Sarah arrived. They just returned from their honeymoon in Costa Rica last week and this was the first chance we really have had to be together and catch up on life. The laughter began as they arrived and continued until we left this morning. Zack has lived with us for 3 years and we both love to fish. Yesterday afternoon, we had one of the most amazing times that either one of us has had on Whidbey fishing. It was clear skies, 70 degrees plus and calm waters. After taking Heather and Sarah for a ride to view the sea lions, Zack and I got down to business. After fumbling around a bit with the depth we hit on trolling at 90 feet in 110-120 feet of water directly in front of our beach house. We caught 7 Salmon and kept 4. I had a huge hit that stripped out almost all my line. I assumed I had snagged a dogfish (small shark) in the tail. As I finally got him to the boat we realized I had the biggest salmon we ever hooked on the island- maybe 12-15 lbs. Zack made a valiant effort to net the salmon but he was too large for the net and rolled out breaking off the hook in his mouth. We were more than a little sad as we saw the salmon give us a sly smile and swim away. We will be back!

There always has to be a good fish story and I’m sure by next week the salmon will have grown to 25-30 lbs. Zack had a similar experience with another large salmon that snapped his line. We had so much fun it really took my mind off the news of the tumor in the colon.

Heather and Sarah picked up some live crab at the store as well since we didn’t have time to set the crab pots. Zack was taking his time getting the crab into the boiling pot on the stove while I filleted the salmon next to him. Finally I said “Zack, this is just taking too long!”. I grabbed the crab as I have done 1000 times from behind and somehow he got his claw around to my thumb. There I was, eating crow, with the crab clamped down on my thumb unwilling to let go. After shaking my hand and yelling a bit he finally let go and I let Zack handle the other two crabs! I sipped a glass of wine and returned to my work on the salmon. We had quite a laugh at my thumb’s expense. To top it off our neighbor Ron came over because they had read the blog and were concerned and wanted to check up on me. Here I was out fishing then horsing around with the crab. We gave him a couple of salmon filet and I’m sure he left with a very different impression on how I was doing!

Today I am very dehydrated so I came into Puget Sound Cancer Center to get some IV fluids. I was so dehydrated that they were unable to hit a vein in either arm- so we used the leg. In fact that is where I am right now as I write this blog. I saw Dr. Doug Lee when I came in and he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was not very happy about the news of the tumor. He said he would come in and talk to Heather and me about it.

He went over the same things Dr Alex Read did. He also said we really need to do the surgery now more than ever to remove the tumor in the colon and liver. They have been talking to another great liver surgeon, Darlene Barr at Swedish in Seattle who is reviewing my case and we should have her assessment on the risk of surgery by next week. It does not feel great to know that the top liver surgeon in the NW, Jorge Reyes, will not operate because of the risk. This is going to be a huge decision and I told Heather that we won’t operate unless all of the team, family and closest friends feel that it is the right decision. It is especially hard since I have been feeling so normal these past few weeks to even believe I have a tumor.

As Heather left me and headed to the lobby, she ran into a dear friend and pastor of Community Life at University Presbyterian Church, Renee Sundberg. She came to say “Hi” to me after Heather left. We talked about the surgery and I told her the hardest thing about this was that it was so intense– when I go to surgery I won’t know if I will wake up with my family or in Heaven. I think you know by now I have no fear of dying and I have a very clear picture of Heaven and Eternal Life. That is not the issue– the hard thing is the potential of not growing old with Heather, seeing our boys complete college, get married and have children. I so much want to be there for them that I know It will be hard to allow myself to actually be anesthetized for surgery.

I broke down, as I seem to do on a fairly regular basis– either with great joy or great sadness. I have to say that when I do break down it always feels so good, like the tears are Jesus’ tears and we are one. I asked Renee why she was here– she said she was taking Doug to Lunch– he is an elder at the church. I asked if she would pray for me and she did. It was a wonderful, uplifting prayer and it felt like God had sent her to be here for me today. When I opened my eyes Doug was there as well. He had some very encouraging words for me– reminding me that we wrestled with removing the liver tube for over 3 months and when we finally removed it I have been healthier than ever. He also indicated there was a top liver panel that was featured in the NY Times at Johns Hopkins that we could consider as well. They have an excellent web site that reviews liver resections. He assured me that between he and Alex they were on top of this and we should have some answers next week. Doug also felt that while radiation is a definite option, it would make the surgery more difficult. He also reminded me that as we learn more the decision will become much more obvious just like pulling the liver tube.

I was so dehydrated today it took 3 nurses and 5 sticks to finally get a vein to add the IV fluids. Doug came in and said we need to think about putting the port-a-cath back in. You might recall I have had 2 of them, both removed because of infection. To proceed with a new port-a-cath we need to first go off my last antibiotic, Flagil. So I will come back in tomorrrow for a blood test and if the cultures are negative for infection we will stop the Flagil and plan on another port-a-cath with Dr. Pat Moore in a couple of weeks.

As you can imagine, all of these things are pretty intense and raw for me right now. I thought about not sharing this with you but why stop now. I think it is also helpful for you to know how to pray. I have three very specific prayer requests:

  1. That we could find an excellent liver surgeon who is skilled, willing and optimistic about the surgery.
  2. That all of us, medical team, friends and family would get a clear sense of discernment as to how to proceed.
  3. The peace of God during this time that transcends all understanding.

Please know that the bulk of my days I am doing well, we are all doing well. I am looking forward to going back to Whidbey over the weekend to do some stone carving, yard work and just relaxing. I continue to have energy all day and tonight we are going out to dinner. Monday night we are going to Canlis Restaurant with the boys and our nieces Heather and Chris, a generous gift to us from Chris and Alice Canlis.

At the end of the day I know our family has been blessed. We have been given the gift of living life in the present with a vitality that comes from not knowing the future. We should all live this way really, but we have been given the gift as a family to love deeper than we ever have and to cherish one another in ways that would not have occurred without this illness. I am so grateful that I am the one with the cancer in the family, not Heather or one of the boys. And I know that we have a larger family of miracles with Heather’s mom Mary Ann, Heather’s dad Jack, our niece Heather, our brother-in-law Dave all overcoming difficult odds to fight and overcome cancers and serious accidents. I continue to be lifted up by the certainty that:

God is good, all the time, God is good!

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7 Comments so far

  1. jennygiles on August 23, 2007 8:59 pm

    Thank You for good times, thank You for relief, thank You for hope.
    Lord Jesus, I ask You for peace that passes any understanding or comprehension.
    Thank You for Love. You are the author of Love, You are love. You have bound this family together with love.

    Lord, show Don and his family how to follow You, where You are leading them at this point in thier experience.


  2. jim crowell on August 23, 2007 9:12 pm

    Don (and Heather) Rest assured that our first prayer after the request for real peace is for you. Yes, Don, rest assured that we all want to hear the whole story, not a varnished version. Only then do we know what special request to Our Lord to make each day. Keep that chin up as we pray for your recovery.

    jim & terri

  3. Randor on August 23, 2007 9:51 pm

    Dear Bald Brother, Debbie and I are in prayer for you tonight, that God (Who is Good-All the Time) will give you a great surgeon, a unified “team,” and a peace that passes all understanding. Jeff V, my daughter Alise, and I were at Jerry’s praying for our upcoming Malibu trip. As the waves pounded on the beach, we talked and prayed for you. We wondered if we could see your Whidbey fishing grounds from Jerry’s living room, but I don’t think so. You are an inspiration to us all and we continue telling your story to all we meet (people keep asking about my hair).
    So brother keep up the good fight, we all want to go fishing with you some day and that means alot of “gone fishing days.”

    With love and prayers, Randy and Debbie

  4. stan on August 23, 2007 10:38 pm

    Yes, as Randy said, Bald Brother, you keep up the good fight and we will do the praying. You have been inspiring and almost right where the Lord wants you……total surrender with only His desire as our desire….yes there are many things in life we would like to do, and it seems the good Lord will grant those after, we really let go, much like when Abraham was going to sacrifice his only son….right before that scary stab…..almost, almost ,with total trust that all is well and will be well……after all we are His children…….
    thanks for sharing and willing to be the light through this ordeal, with so much more eyes to witness……and on your side……

    Keep it going….strong…you will have your wishes…..


  5. stan on August 23, 2007 11:02 pm

    just read today’s devotion from Os Hillman……and thought to pass it on…. part of it:

    God’s Recruitment Strategy for Leaders
    by Os Hillman, August 24, 2007

    When God calls one of His servants into service, there is often much travail. There are many examples where God makes His presence known through circumstances that tax the individual to his very soul.

    It may seem strange to us that God uses incredible adversity to prepare His servants for greater service, but this is God’s way. God knows that the human heart is incapable of voluntarily stepping into situations that take us beyond our comfort zone. He intentionally brings us into hard places to prove us and to drive us deeper into the soil of His grace.

    In arid regions of the world, trees cannot survive unless their roots grow deeper to where the water table can be found. Once they reach the water, these trees become stronger than any tree that can be found in tropical climates. Their root systems ensure that they can withstand any storm. In the same way, God brings us into extremely difficult situations in order to prove His power and drive our spiritual roots deeper.

    Friend, God may take you through times when you will question His love for you. In such times, you must cling to His coattail so that you see His purposes in it. Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

    You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him” (Hebrews 10:36-38).


  6. sean dimond on August 24, 2007 10:12 am

    Lord – may Don catch a 30lb Salmon. Amen.

  7. Connie on August 26, 2007 9:24 pm

    Don and Heather,

    You are in my prayers morning and evening. I will pray for your specific requests. I absolutely believe what Sean has written, that you are being perfected and that God is pleased with you both.


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