High Marks for Ryan!… that’s a good thing right?

Well not exactly.

You see, I’m almost done with my radiation treatments and as my kids are happy to point out… I’m half bald (or, as I like to think about it, I have half a full head of hair) [I’m a glass half full kind of guy].

Anyway… I haven’t had a seizure in about a month. Which, if you’ve ever read any of my previous posts you know that’s kind of unusual.

 

I started radiation about a month ago. My seizure levels were already dropping by then. I started taking new supplements about the same time. So take your pick as to the reason why my seizures have stopped.

Of course my radiologist thinks it’s because of the radiation treatments (although he has no idea why and seizures are a common side effect of radiation).

My wife thinks it’s the supplements or the fact that my seizures were already dissipating. If you want to see something funny, watch Jamie go the rounds with my doctors. Sometimes it’s quite entertaining. I once had a doctor tell me to leave her home for the next visit, and that was before we were even married!

Ahh, but I digress…

So back to my story. Jamie says I can be long winded when telling a story. Sometimes when we’re with friends I get a little nudge on the knee or poke in the side. That’s her way of telling me to get to the point. No doubt if she were sitting next to me right now I’d be getting poked and prodded.

Also about the same time I started radiation I had to change and get my anti-seizure meds from the Huntsman Cancer Institute for insurance reasons. I’m still on the same meds and the same dosage but the pills are a different size. Technically that shouldn’t make a huge difference.

The confusion came in when Jamie was talking to the new pharmacist and thought she said that the only version of the one drug they could get, Keppra, only came in the extended release (XR) but that I should stay on the same dosage.

monkey

When I met with my Oncologist last week he was very concerned about the dose. Apparently if you’re on extended release you should cut your normal dose in half. Who knew? I normally take 2500 mg of Keppra am and pm. Some may call that breakfast and dinner. So my Oncologist immediately ordered a blood test to see how much Keppra was in my system.

When my blood sample results came back as it turns out I’m more than double the highest recommended amount! And I confirmed with the pharmacy that I’m NOT on the extended release version.

So why are my counts so high? Because I’ve been amped up on a higher than average dose of Keppra for over three and a half years. I guess it finally caught up with me. I don’t really feel any different other than I’m always tired but that’s probably because of the radiation. That’s also probably why my seizures have finally gone away.

The docs now want to start weening me off the Keppra and “if” I have a seizure, they’ll put me back on a higher amount. I’m not a big fan of the “if” part. It’s a well documented fact (especially if you’ve been reading my posts) that seizures are no fun.

Now that I’ve gone a month without them I’m extra nervous about having one and how intense it will be if I do have one. Especially if I start messing around with my dosage.

Oh well, I guess I need to get off these drugs eventually.

What’s the monkey have to do with anything?  Nothing, I just thought it was a funny picture.

Posted in Brain Stuff | 5 Comments

And now, for my latest disappearing act…

I’m about a third of the way through my radiation treatments and its finally happened.  When I  met with my doctor on Thursday I asked him when my hair was going to start falling out.  He said, “my bet is you’re not going to have that question by next week”.

Ha! I thought, I’ll show him.  My hair is entrenched so deep in my scalp that not even my kids can yank it out in our wrestling matches.  I hardly think a little radiation is going to do it.

Well, I’m glad I’m not a betting man…  It was literally “hair today, gone tomorrow”.

I went to bed last night feeling and caressing my beautiful head of hair to taking a shower this morning while getting ready for church and noticing hair coming off my head in handfuls.  My hair was literally hanging on by a… well… hair.

Now I feel like David Lee Roth when he left Van Halen.  I used to be a gigolo, now I’m just some dude with a clump of hair missing from the side of my head.

The funniest part this morning is when my wife and my mom (who has been visiting from out of town) both said, “oh it’s hardly noticeable”.  Then my 9 year old comes around the corner, takes one look at me and yells, “Bahhh!!” (and a child shall lead them).

My 11 year old covers his face and tries to pretend he doesn’t know me.  Kind of like how I used to slump down in the car passenger seat so no one would see me while my mom would drive sporadically down the road.  We’ve all been there…

Now Jamie treats me like a shedding St Bernard and I’m no longer allowed on the furniture.  Meanwhile our little dog Patches (Maltese Poodle) curls up on the sofa and licks himself.  That just ain’t right.

So now I do internet searches for things like “how to make a comeover not look like a comeover”, or “Just for Men”, or I’m considering stealing my kids’ brown crayola markers (too bad they’re all dried out, put the caps back on for Pete’s sake!)

Ahh, it’s all in good fun…  Just glad I don’t have to be the one looking at it.

Posted in Brain Stuff | 11 Comments

The Mask

So in May I went in for another MRI.  It was the first one since January ’13.  My Oncologist said it showed “considerable growth” of my tumor.  Really?  That wasn’t the best news in the world to hear because I physically felt better than ever.  Even my right hand has been recovering it’s strength and dexterity.  The seizures are still a problem but they seem to be less frequent and less intense.  Sometimes anyway…

I actually believed that he was going to say something like it’s smaller or has stayed the same so “let’s see you in another 4 months”.  Well, such was not the case.  So he looked on his handy, medical school “to do” list and the next thing listed was six weeks of radiation followed by an aggressive chemo treatment called PCV.

Soon after that MRI I met with a radiologist who wanted to start the radiation treatments right away.  I even went in to make my radiation mask.  It’s a pretty horrifying experience for a whimpy claustrophobic guy like myself.  The mask starts out as a sheet of plastic.  Once dipped in hot water the plastic becomes pliable and the techs put it over your face making sure there’s a hole for your nose and mouth.  Then they leave you alone while the mask hardens and shrinks around your head.  The hardening process takes about 20 mins and it took all my relaxation powers and techniques to refrain from totally freaking out.  Something about having my head bolted to a table while hot plastic was being molded to my face was not very fun.

And I mentioned to them that I was prone to seizures so they velcroed a big belt around my chest to keep me from falling off the table in the event that I had a seizure during the process.  That didn’t help my claustrophobic issues.

After the masked hardened and I could feel blood pulsating through every capillary in my head, they finally came in and took the dang thing off.  It wasn’t even a cool looking mask.  In my mind’s eye I was picturing a Jason Friday the 13th type of thing.  This was more like something you’d expect to see in a hospital… figures.

After they made the mask and got the appointments set up for the next six weeks of radiation I called them the next day to cancel everything for 3 months at which point I’d take another MRI and if the second MRI showed tumor growth, I’d do the radiation thing again.  Well, a family member showed my MRI images to some of his doctor buddies and they said that they wouldn’t wait more than a month.  So I had to call my doctor again and say “just kidding” and decided to schedule an MRI appointment out for a month.

Well that second MRI appointment was July 8th and sure enough there was slight tumor growth.  Bummer…  So after another round of discussions with doctors, family, and friends together with much prayer and fasting we decided the best course of action at this time was to pursue the radiation and chemo route.

We had a few last family vacations that we wanted to get in first before the summer was over so we did that, had a great time and yesterday was my first day of the new treatment plan.  We drove back up to the Huntsman Cancer Institute.  Other than the fact that they really need to work on getting a new logo for their hospital, it really is a great place.  All the doctors and nurses I have ever worked with seem competent and have always been kind and considerate to my family.  Regardless, I was not excited to be back.  Who would be?  But people come and go all day long from there making the best out of the hand they’ve been dealt.  I have a lot of respect for the other patients I see there.  For the most part, they are much braver and are more positive than I may ever be.  I should probably work on that…

After a few minutes of waiting I found myself again strapped down on the table (I don’t think I should have mentioned the seizure thing but now it’s recorded in their notes to always strap me down).  They pulled out my lame looking, wannabe Jason mask and informed me it might “feel tighter” than before.  I thought “of course it’s going to feel tighter after all the milkshakes, brownies, and other treats I’ve indulged in during the last week”, but they were referring to the fact that the mask shrinks after it’s made.  Awesome.  Just put my head in a vice and squeeze until my eyes pop out!

This time wasn’t actually radiation, it was what the techs called a “dry run”.  They bolt the mask on, take a few xrays, and then I was done.  It really wasn’t a big deal.  I think they just wanted to see if I was really going to freak out or not.  That way they’d know how much time to schedule for all my follow-up appointments.

Fortunately I didn’t freak out and everything went smoothly.  After the procedure I walked out to the nurse’s counter and they asked me the best time slot for the next six weeks.  Seriously?  Jamie wasn’t allowed back where I was and I don’t even know the schedule for today let alone the next six weeks.  I gave it my best shot and politely informed them that my wife would most likely be calling them back to change everything.  My first brain zapping appointment is today.  I’ll have to ask Jamie to remind me of the time.

So there you go… What could have been a short story drug out way too long.  I should have just tweeted, “I’m starting radiation today”, but what fun is that?  Besides… real men don’t tweet…

Posted in Brain Stuff | 6 Comments

Latest Brain Update

I really need to spend some time coming up with more creative headlines but this is all I have when I’m in a hurry…

Today was another MRI day.  It was my first MRI in 4 months.  Before that nothing too exciting was happening.  The tumor seemed to be behaving itself and not changing much so we pushed the MRI out to 4 months.

I’ve been feeling really good lately.  The seizures, for the most part, have been dying down and the use of my right hand is still slowly regaining its strength.  So we really didn’t think much was going to be different going into this MRI.  The same or maybe a little smaller was my guess.  I was wrong…

After the MRI we met first with my doctor’s PA.  He showed us the images and we could tell right away that there was “significant growth” in the tumor.   We discussed options but he mostly said that the doctor would be coming in soon and he would go over everything in more detail.  When our doctor did come in he showed us the same thing.  There was no mistaking it, that sucker has been growing.  We discussed several options with him.  Some were ultra conservative and others were more invasive.

We left the meeting with the decision to set up an appointment with the Radiologist who also works in the Huntsman Center and someone that we’ve met with before.  So far it seems that the best course of action would be to start radiation followed by PCV.  I’m too tired to look up and tell you everything about PCV.  Basically it’s radiation everyday for 6 weeks followed by PCV which is 3 different chemo protocols.  I have a copy of a report showing that this procedure has proven to lengthen the mortality rates compared to other options.  We’ll find out more info about it when we meet with the Radiologist.  Until then, my doctor will again bring up my case to the tumor board and get every doctor’s opinion.

Needless to say that this isn’t the news we were hoping for but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  After the appointment Jamie and I decided to celebrate by going to JCW’s burgers for lunch and then going to see Ironman 3.

I take great comfort in the following scripture, “Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore,  fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.D&C 122:9.

 

 

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What’s new with the seizure activity and my brain tumor?

Well I’ve been on the same level of medication for about 1 year.  I’ve tried several times to lower my doses in order to decrease my dependency on the drugs several times during the year but the increase in frequency and intensity of the seizures has been too great to bear so I always go back to my normal dosage.

Currently I’m at .5mg Clonazepam 3x /day, 2500mg Keppra 2x /day, and 150mg Vimpat in the am and 100mg Vimpat pm.  The only recent change I made with the drugs is that I now take my morning Clonazepam right when I wake up at 5:30 or 6:30 am.  The frequency and intensity has been somewhat sporadic but overall I’d definitely say that the seizures are getting better.  My right hand strength is slowly returning.  The brain tumor size has not changed significantly during my last several MRI’s.

Also within the last month I started incorporating the use of essential oils more heavily into my daily routine.  I would always put a drop of Frankincense under my tongue in the mornings and at night when I would remember but that was really about it until recently.

A few weeks ago I read that the use of Clary Sage and a blend of oils called Balance on the back of the neck, navel, and over the heart would help with the seizures.  I started doing that 2x /day.  I also read that for Brain Cancer it’s recommended to mix Frankincense with Clove and Coconut Oil and massage along the spine 1x /day along with diffusing Frankincense and Clove 3x /day for 30 mins each time.  There’s also a variety of natural supplements that I take sporadically when I remember.  I’ve been pretty faithful with everything except for the supplements.

On Thursday evening I heard the CEO, Dave Sterling, from doTerra speak and he talked about his daughter who has epilepsy.  They use 12 drops of Frankincense under her tongue each morning to help control it.  Under the tongue is the fastest way to get the oil to the brain as it’s one of the few ways it can pass the blood brain barrier.

After he was done speaking, I tracked him down and told him about my predicament.  He recommended that since I’m an adult I do 12 drops of Frankincense under my tongue 2x /day.  This has been the most recent change to my routine so it’s still too early to tell if it’s working or not.  He also uses prescription drugs to treat his daughter, showing that there’s still a place for typical western type medicine.  The natural oils just don’t have all the negative side effects that come from prescription drugs which is why I’m tyring to get off of them.

My next MRI is scheduled for April so I hope it should be pretty clear by then if all this is working or not.  After 3 years it would be nice to get my normal life back.

Posted in Brain Stuff | 5 Comments

Ouch

Just a quick update on how things have been going…

There hasn’t been much to write lately concerning my health as it’s been pretty much the same old story over the last several months.  I have mostly a series of daily, mild seizures that don’t really bother me and are hardly noticeable to anyone around me.  My head gets a little fuzzy and my right arm kicks out just a little bit and that’s pretty much it.  I can take those all day long and if that were all that happened to me I’d be a happy camper.

It’s the ones that come along about once a week that are a little trickier to live with.  These are the ones that I’d rate about a 5 on my scale.  They usually take me down but the pain is still manageable.  Having one of these bigger ones while swimming a couple of months ago probably wasn’t the best idea on my part.  Thanks to Ben Tillman and a few others, I managed to live another day.  Needless to say, I haven’t been swimming since.

It’s been 3 years since my brain surgery and we’ve tried everything imaginable to get these seizures to stop completely but so far, no dice.  I don’t know why I’ve had to deal with this for so long but it’s been a humbling experience to say the least and I’ve learned to appreciate things in my life that I don’t think I could have otherwise.

However, last Friday and Saturday is something that is probably worth writing about for those that are interested.  On Friday I kind of went on a sugar binge compliments of Kneaders restaurant.  I normally stay away from refined sugar since everything I’ve read says sugar is like tumor food.  Their raspberry bread pudding is like, “oh daddy, come to papa!”  But I figure “what the heck” and indulged myself a bit.  Then Jamie and I stayed up til 1am watching “Burn Notice” and “Psych” on Netflix.  I woke up early Saturday morning at 4am and tossed and turned until about 6am.  During this time I had a few small seizures but was too tired to do anything about them.  Not that there’s a whole lot to do anyway other than just ride them out.  That’s also when I felt a fever coming on and that’s never a good thing, mainly for my wife since I’m the biggest baby ever when I’m sick.

I finally fell back to sleep and I missed taking my meds that I would normally take at 7am. At 8am, I then felt another seizure hit.  I originally thought no big deal, it’ll be over soon.  But before I could even finish that thought my whole right side locked up and started convulsing hard.  Fortunately Jamie was nearby and was trying to calm me down.  It was pretty painful and I started dripping with sweat and breathing hard.  My heart was racing and it felt like I was running a marathon (even though I’ve never done that).  Probably the scariest thing was that my eyes pulled way far to the right.  That’s when Jamie said, “Ryan, are you still with me?”.  She’s never said that before so I knew I must have looked as bad as I felt.

She then grabbed the Frankincense oil that was on the night stand, held it under my nose  to breathe in and I immediately felt the seizure lose its grip and I started to settle down.   Overall I’d rate that one an 8 and it was probably the second hardest seizure I felt in the the last 3 years.  On my scale a 9 rating is to dial 911 and we were almost to that point.  Later that day my fever continued to rise, nothing to alarming for the average bear but I think when I’m sick it lowers my seizure threshold and they come more frequently and with greater intensity.  I rode a few more hard seizures out on Saturday and had my neighbors come over that night to give me a priesthood blessing.

While the whole experience is really difficult to deal with and I don’t know why I have to endure such a trial but I feel very blessed that it happens to me and not anyone else in my family.  I don’t think I could deal with watching my wife or one of my kids have to go through such a difficult thing.

 

 

 

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“Same size, maybe smaller”

This is what the doctor told me after my latest MRI today.  

It’s strange, I guess a guy with a brain tumor and daily seizures should be slightly concerned about what this tumor is doing.  The doctor could easily have said, “That thing is enormous.  Let’s dig it out now!”  But no, all I get is, “it’s the same or slightly better.”  We decided to wait another 3 months and then take another MRI.

Not to sound ungrateful or anything.  The news could have been much worse and I’m thankful that the tumor hasn’t budged in the last 3 months.  Three months ago they decided to pull me off chemo because it lost its effectiveness.  Thank goodness!  I hated that stuff!  Nothing like popping poison pills right before bed.  Yuck!

My diet has changed during the past couple of years (almost 3 now).  I’ve almost cut out red meat entirely since my brain surgery except for the occasional dinner with family and friends or cheeseburger run to Five Guys (thanks Jack!).

I only drink water.  No more sugary drinks or juices.  I rarely drink cow’s milk and have substituted it, and now prefer, coconut or almond milk instead.  Jamie is big on a natural, holistic approach to things and while I feel fortunate to live in a time with such great medicines and doctors, I’ve come to the realization that they don’t have all the answers.

We’ve been eating tons of food this summer from our orchard and garden.  Jamie is a pro at dehydrating food, making kale chips, and turning just about anything into flour for baking.  Her raw “healthy” treats tastes better than anything I’ve found in the store.  She’s organized a group-buy program in our neighborhood so instead of paying the high prices for all the healthier food we can get them at prices that are much more reasonable.  I don’t know how she does it all.  She’s done a ton of research on using essential oils to treat all kinds of sicknesses in our family and our chiropractic friend has been very generous with his time and efforts as well. 

She’s been asked several times to teach classes on preparing green smoothies, how to dehydrate and prepare healthy food that your kids will even love, as well as using the essential oils for the over all well being of our family.

All in all I think we’re doing pretty well on the health front.  There are still those occasions when we’re all tired and a Little Caesars pizza does the trick or we go out with family and friends and splurge a little but those times are the exceptions.  I guess there will always be room for improvement.

She’s getting smarter and learning a lot, while I’m still as dumb as a box of rocks.  Ah well, at least I’m smart enough to listen to her and do what she says… most of the time :-)

So yes, I do have seizures every day.  Most of them are so minor that people sitting next to me won’t even notice.  My arm just twitches a bit and my brain gets a little fuzzy.  About once or twice a week I have a more intense seizure that lays me out or the floor and takes about 30 mins to a hour to fully recover.  Of course then there’s the time I forget to take my meds and 4 hours later all H.E. Double Hockey Sticks break loose and it feels like my vertebrae is going to crack in half. So fun.  Then I don’t forget about that for at least a month.  It hurts more than giving birth, that’s just my guess any way.  I need to learn the Bradley Method for dealing with seizures. 

So what’s it like to have a seizure?  I get asked that all the time.  I’ve probably have answered it several times on previous posts but even I’m too lazy to go back and read them so I can’t expect you to either…

Well I can always tell when one is coming because it feels like my brain has lost its connection with my arm down to my hand.  It’s like it is firing signals and not getting any responses.  Sometimes rubbing my hand helps to restablish the connection and put my brain at ease but other times it seems like my brain just panics and doesn’t know what to do.  This process takes about 3 seconds.  After that, if it hasn’t settled down, my brain then decides, “well, I better freak out and have a seizure!”.  I don’t get the mechanics or reasoning behind it really.   That’s just the way it works and it’s on my top 10 things to ask God about when I die.

I could write more but it’s late and I’m tired.  And yes, I  realize my blog is bland and boring.  If there are any mormon mommy bloggers that want to help spruce it up then I would be most grateful.  I don’t have any money for the project but you could plug your own blog all you want and I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of how to change it.

Posted in Brain Stuff | 6 Comments

The 5K Revisited

Ok, so I’ve been attemtpting to run a few 5K’s (3.2 miles for my American readers) last week and this week.  I’ve tried this before with fairly poor results.

You see, the problem I have is that I have too many Facebook friends that are triathletes. I used to be a triathlete myself and I even owned a triathlon shop once upon a time.  So now that we’re full swing into triathlon season I see all the FB updates, get all the emails, and hear about my friends winning this race or that.  Meanwhile I sit around eating bon bons (do they still make those things?  If not, they should, so yummy) and get fat and lazy.

I’ve tried running on the treadmill off and on during the past 2 and a half years since my head was cracked open and part of my brain was strategically removed (guess I could have just said “since my brain surgery” but this other way sounds more fun). 

The problem before is when I’d run on the treadmill and hit that 20 minute mark I would usually have a very hard seizure.  It would be quite painful and it would take me a few months to want to try it again.  When I would try again, I’d end up with the same painful results.  A few of these types of seizures and a guy just decides to call it quits for awhile.  I know all may triathlon friends are out there thinking the answer is simple, “just run a sub 20 min 5K”.  Umm ok, did I mention the bon bons? 

Lately my seizures have been on the milder side (as long as I remember to take my meds) so I decided to give it a go again.  Any more bon bons and I’ll be in the Clydesdale group. That’s not too cool… for me anyway.

Early last week I hopped on the treadmill.  Our treadmill is pretty old so who knows how accurate it really is.  Most sprint distance tri’s aren’t exactly 5K’s either.  The first 800 meters I walked, somewhat briskly I might add to warm up.  Then I’d do 400m at a 10min/mile pace.  It’s a bit embarassing to even write about this now that I think about it.  A 10 minute mile is boderline a fast walk.  After the 400m at that blistering speed, I’d then need a 400m “recovery” lap.  By this time I’m sweating bon bons from every pore.  After my recovery lap was over I’d crank the treadmill back up to level 6 (10min/mi) again.  The treadmill would be smoking, house was shaking, neighbors were like “what the?”.  I’d have to explain to them later that “no” it wasn’t the Canadian parade going by, just me on my treadmill. 

I hit the 20 minute mark and sure enough I’d feel a seizure coming on.  I found that frankincense oil helps calms my nerves and makes my seizures less intense. So I’d slather that stuff all over me. Kind of like basting a turkey…

The seizure was fortunately a mild one, enough to kick my right arm out a couple of times but not enough to take out my legs so I just kept going along at that blistering speed.  My final time was 44:45.  I know, I know awesome right?  Well now that I’m in the over 40 year old class that’s almost fast enough to win an award.  I’d definitely win something if I were in the Clydesdale division.   

A few days later I tried it again.  Embarrassed by my previous results and add to that my 13 year old daughter crushed my time, I decided to give it another go.  This time I dug out my old tri clothes.  I ran a bit faster, opened my window up more, and turned the fan on a higher speed.  At around 20 minutes I had a seizure but it was mild again and so I kept on running.  This time I pulled off a 38:57 time.  Improvement from before but still on the lame side of things.

So now we come to today.  I added another fan because it’s been so hot even at 7am.  With 2 fans on me, the window wide open, and actual work out clothes I’m sweating my guts out.  This time the 20 min mark came and went.  I felt that I might get throught it with no seizures.  Then around 29 mins a seizure came on.  It was stronger than the others so I stepped off to the side for a bit but not far enough away to pull out the kill cord.  So help me I was not going to start over!  After about 15 seconds I jumped back on the treadmill while the seizure was still winding down.  In the end I finished at 33:47. 

If I can get into the mid to low 20’s I may start thinking about doing another tri.  I’m not too worried about the swim because I think the cool water helps keep the seizures away.  Of course I could drown if a big one decided to hit.  That would kind of suck.  Maybe I should start with a pool swim first. 

The bike could still be a problem.  My right hand is still weak so shifting and braking might be problematic.  Not to mention my feet would be clipped into the pedals so I’d have to unclip at the first sign of a seizure whether it’s a mild one or not.  I never really know what kind of a seizure it’s going to be until it’s too late.

So for now I’ll put it on my vision board and keep dreaming about it.  I’m off of Chemo for the next 3 months which means I’m not going to have that to deal with for awhile. 

Could be fun!

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Looking Backward Moving Forward

 I gave this talk to the Harvest Hills 3rd and 6th Wards in May 2008 while serving as a High Councilor for the LDS Church. Based on President Thomas S Monson’s talk in the Apr  2008 General Conference.

Letter from an old Roommate – Ricks College ’90-’91:

“Ryan,
Well, I am sorry to say I haven’t kept up with anyone. Things did not go to well for me after that year. If you remember, I was engaged to [Sue], one of our Family home evening sisters, but that didn’t not happen. I went home and just kinda got lost in depression. For years I, just played racquetball and just spent my life living for the moment. I fell into inactivity pretty quickly. I met [Becky] whom I married and have one son (now 10yrs old). About 6yrs ago I decided to get reactivated and did so. Unfortunately, the different lifestyle changes in me started to weaken the already shaky foundation that my marriage had. Last year we divorced. But, All is good. I am dating again and this time doing it according to the gospel standards and have a very nice prospective lined up for a possible future wife.

In some ways I feel as if my life has been on pause for several years. I have done a few things but have struggled to gain back the ground that was lost so early in my 20’s when I should have been working on my future.”

[Fred’s] story is nothing out of the ordinary. Many of us know people in our lives whether they be friends, family, or even ourselves that at one point or another have strayed from the gospel path. Some may feel that the gospel is too hard to live by, or they begin to question and doubt its teachings, or for many it may be that they’ve simply allowed the fire to slowly burn out. Having forgotten their testimonies, they turn to the world to fill the emptiness they feel.

Many of us can relate to the story of the Prodigal Son. For some we can relate to the Father, or the resentful brother, or the prodigal son himself or perhaps all three at different stages in our lives. The son had rejected the teachings of his parents, squandered his inheritance, lived a riotous life and who seemed lost to all except for his kind and loving parents and a watchful Father in Heaven. So pleased was the father upon the return of his prodigal son that he killed the fatted calf and welcomed him back home.

Our loved ones that have strayed from the gospel path are never lost to our Father in Heaven.

Elder Orson F Whitney said, “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”

The Adversary is waging war against the Family

Our youth are being bombarded with all kinds of temptations. Inappropriate and destructive material is present everywhere and easily accessed through a click of the mouse or as a message on our smart phones. As Satan has perfected his tactics and techniques our youth need to be stronger and more valiant than ever. As parents it is our responsibility to give them the armor they need to defend themselves in this increasingly wicked world.

Remember what the Lord said in the 68th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

As parents we must teach our children even as Alma did to his son Corianton that regardless of what the world may say, “Wickedness was never happiness.” If you give in to the enticing of the Adversary he will eventually lead you to your destruction for we know that the “Devil will not support his children” (Alma 30:60).

President Monson taught, “Throughout the journey along the pathway of life, there are casualties. Some depart from the road markers which point toward life eternal, only to discover the detour chosen ultimately leads to a dead end. Indifference, carelessness, selfishness, and sin all take their costly toll in human lives.

“Change for the better can come to all. Over the years we have issued appeals to the less active, the offended, the critical, the transgressor—to come back. ‘Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints’.

The Atonement is meant for all and all can become clean again.

President Boyd K. Packer has taught: “There is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ”.

Live life to the Fullest!

“Adam fell that man might be; and men are that they might have joy” (2N 2:25).

What is the best way for us to find joy?

President Ezra Taft Benson, “That man is greatest and most blessed and joyful whose life most closely approaches the pattern of the Christ. This has nothing to do with earthly wealth, power, or prestige. The only true test of greatness, blessedness, joyfulness is how close a life can come to being like the Master, Jesus Christ. He is the right way, the full truth, and the abundant life.”

President Benson, “Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.”

Service brings Joy, what can we do to serve?

  • Home teaching/Visiting teaching
  • Magnifying your calling
  • Attending your meetings
  • Visiting the sick, comforting the needy

If you’re feeling down and depressed go out and serve.

We have such an incredible potential for doing good in this world. We’ve been given much and where much is given much is required.

President Brigham Young said, “There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God’s people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him his will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in respect, we live far beneath our privileges.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. and arr. by John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co. 1973, p. 32; emphasis added.)

President Ezra Taft Benson also taught:
“God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the second coming of the Lord. Some individuals will fall away; but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head—even Jesus Christ. While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. It is that God has saved for the final inning some of His strongest children, who will help bear off the kingdom triumphantly. …

“…Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 104–5).

It’s not enough to just be content with not “sinning”. We must be actively engaged in a good cause. We will find strength and energy as we serve our fellow man and rise up to our true potential as sons and daughters of God.

We come to Church to be uplifted and edified. To teach and share with one another how we can all better our lives. Let us all help each other to reach our true and full potential.

Joseph Smith, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

Posted in Church Stuff | 1 Comment

Latest Tumor News

Jamie and I got up early to be at the Dr’s office first thing this morning for my MRI, blood test, and Dr’s apt. 

All went pretty well.  I about fell asleep in the MRI machine.  I used to call it a “Death Tube” but after so many scans I’m used to it and now it sort of lulls me to sleep.  Plus I had my share of essential oil (Citrus Bliss anyone?) on my gown.  I still can’t get that thing tied right.  Don’t laugh if one day you see me at the hospital and you get a view of me that you weren’t expecting.  Just warning you now…

Then to the blood lab we went where they can never find my veins on the first try.  This nurse got it on the second try through my hand.  Not bad.  The record is 5 tries.  That time I called for an air med nurse to come in and do it.  Anyone that can poke a vein while flying in a helicopter should be able to get mine.  And it worked.  “Squeaky wheel gets the grease”… or so the air med nurse told me as she was leaving.  I gave her high marks for nailing the vein, low marks for her smart A attitude. But that particular instance was a long time ago. I digress…

After bloodwork I got my vitals taken and I still don’t know what the blood pressure numbers mean.  Something over something.  Just tell me if it’s good or bad.  There’s a reason why I didn’t go to med school.  OK, my chemistry grade was the main reason but other than that the blood pressure thing confused me too.

Then Jamie and I waited in a little room for the PA and Dr to come in.  The PA usually comes in first and shows us my MRI images and gives us his “unprofessional” opinion.  Then he leaves to get the DR.  This is the part where I jump on their computer and try to make sense of my MRI scans.  Meanwhile, Jamie gives me a scolding the entire time and reminds me that they could come walking in at any moment and see me on the computer.  “Big deal”, I always tell her.  It’s not like I’m planting a virus on their machines or anything.  Besides, if they didn’t want their patients to be on the computers while unattended they should password protect them. Right?

Here’s where I get to play Dr.  I may not be able to figure out the blood pressure thing but I can read an MRI like nobody’s business.  Actually, I really have no idea what I’m looking at.  I think it’s my brain.  Could be my stomach.  And that thing that looks like a tumor could be a leftover Beto’s carne asada burrito from the night before. 

I’ve found that if I select one of the 3,000 pictures of my brain and roll the mouse dial back and forth it’ll scroll through all the slices of that particular picture.  So, all I need to do is find the right image to look at for today’s MRI, scroll through it until I find someting that looks like a tumor (not a burrito) and then pull up past images and do the same thing.  I can then compare the two and see if we’re making any progress on the tumor.

Today’s results, as confirmed by the actual Dr who came in just seconds after I got off the computer (much to Jamie’s relief), showed that while the chemo initially hit the tumor hard and looked like it was doing it’s job, it has had basically no effect over the past several months.  The tumor images look almost identical from Feb until today. 

The plan now is to take one more dose of chemo starting this Saturday then I’ll be off it for 3 months.  After that we’ll take another MRI and hopefully see some shrinkage or at least the same size tumor. Meanwhile Jamie has a whole diet of healthy food planned out for me and by the looks of our growing garden, we’ll have no shortage of green smoothies.  Bye bye Betos, or better yet, adios mi amigo.    

Posted in Brain Stuff | 4 Comments