No Regrets (02/26/2016 Update)

Putting the words together for this blog update took more time than usual. I’ve had mixed emotions this past week and I had to sort through them in order to finish this update. Death seemed to inundate the news this week:

Then the sad news hit home Wednesday – Kari Searles Jolink passed away. Kari’s story was well publicized throughout Marshall and it was very easy to see how well loved she is (see game dedication). Kari was Bryce’s teacher in middle school. I meet her face-to-face during parent-teacher conferences and open school events. And even though I really only knew her as Bryce’s teacher I felt so much more a connection after hearing about her stage IV cancer diagnosis about a year ago. Kari was a fellow-patient at University of Michigan Healthcare Systems (UMHS) and reading her blog (link to Kari’s blog) gave me a window into an all-too-familiar battle with cancer.

Kari Searles JolinkKari was certainly in my prayers and thoughts from the first time I heard about her diagnosis. Along with so many others praying for her; I was so hoping to follow her story until it ended with her beating this ugly disease. Thirty-three is simply too young to die. And she was a mother of two beautiful children and had so much to offer this world.

It seems natural to ask the “why” questions in the wake of so much sad news. There is a lot of suffering and dying in this world. There is very real evil in this world as well. And it is hard to imagine a world absent of disease and hatred. Our limited human perspective makes it nearly impossible to understand how these ugly realities might fit together into a beautiful master plan.

While we may not know how all the pieces fit together the bible does tell us that there is a perfect master plan. It also tells that we will face trials and tribulations before we see paradise. And it tells of death coming like a thief in the night.

None of us know exactly when our time on this great earth will be completed. The simple truth is that we could be gone tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Or we may be lucky enough to live a hundred years.

Kari’s last words echoed loudly in my mind this entire week. “I have no regrets.” What beautiful words from a beautiful soul. And what a wonderful motto to live by. I pray that I will be able to say these same words when I find myself facing the end of time on this earth.

I think the key to saying those words is to Love as fully as you can; which in turn will lead to you being loved as well. So my prayer is to learn to love a little better with each passing day. That at the end of today I will “love” a little better than I did when I stepped out of bed. And maybe I will be as beloved as Kari was to so many people.

Thank you Kari for sharing your journey and your story. You have truly touched many more people than will be counted. And the way you fought the fight was so inspirational. May you be at peace and may your family be showered with Love from heaven above; through the many souls that you have touched along your journey.


Treatment 24 of 24

The day before the last Erbitux treatment. What? It was snowing like crazy outside. Announcements of school closings were being sent out by 5 PM. Unheard of… Am I going to have to reschedule chemo?

In four years I have never missed an appointment at UMHS. And I wasn’t about to miss the LAST treatment. I didn’t want to delay it even one day! No, we would simply have to leave a little earlier and drive a little slower…

So that is exactly what we did. Connie and I woke up around 4am. We left the house a little after 5am. I won’t blog about the fun we had dragging the garbage to the curb, through the foot high snow drifts (ask Connie about it sometime but remember to have a little sympathy for me as she tells of my failures).

2016-02-25 Gas PumpAfter successfully “taking out the trash” we stopped at the gas station. No way did we want to chance being stranded on the freeway with a half filled fuel tank. And I have to admit; I never saw gas pumps covered in snow like they were. I really wondered if I should turn around while pumping the gas. The ride to Ann Arbor was certainly slow and somewhat stressful; but we arrived safely and on time.

The technician accessed my port as usual. Then another obstacle encountered. The port decided that it was not going to work. When I told the technician that this was my last chemo treatment she assured me “this glitch will not stop my treatment.” She proceeded to find a vein and drew blood the old fashioned way. And then sent us onto the infusion area.

After getting checked in and led to the infusion chair the nurse tried to draw blood from the port. It was simply not happening. So she ordered the “drain-o” stuff to dissolve the blood clotting and started an IV the old fashioned way (in my arm). Nothing was going to stop this final 24th Erbitux treatment.

A half hour after administering the “drain-o stuff” the nurse managed to get the port working. Soon the Erbitux was connected and flowing. And a few hours later we were done!

The final treatment was concluded. In spite of the snow. In spite of the fickle port. Yes, the final treatment was done!

The ride home was sunny and clear; a stark contrast to the ride there. And the CEA test came back as <1.0 once again.

Thank you all for your continued prayers. As we now enter the surveillance phase of this cancer battle we ask you to pray for a continued remission. Surely this is the real test; can we stay in remission? That is our hope. And yes, there is some anxiety as we face this next phase of the battle. But there is also a quiet resolve that whatever lies ahead will be faced knowing the Lord is with us.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second most important commandment is this:
‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’
There is no other commandment more important than these two.”
Mark 12:30-31 GNBDK

“And we ourselves know and believe
the love which God has for us.
God is love, and those who live in love
live in union with God
and God lives in union with them.
Love is made perfect in us
in order that we may have courage
on Judgement Day;
and we will have it because our life in this world
is the same as Christ’s.”
1 John 4:16-17 GNBDK

Treatment 24 of 24

7 Comments on “No Regrets (02/26/2016 Update)”

  1. Sue Kellay says:

    Phil, my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family that you remain in remission. Keep the faith and I’ll be saying prayers for you. Sue Kellay. (WKKF retiree 2009)

  2. Carole MacKay says:

    Let’s pray this isn’t just the last in a series, but the last in your lifetime!

  3. Carol Laird says:

    Phil, you are blessed with faith, love, family, and friends. By sharing your journey you are inspiring us all. Praying for your continuing return to good health. It has been 24 years since I was diagnosed with cancer and I am thankful for each and every day. We share that gift.

  4. Jim Carr says:

    Phil, beautiful writing and congrats on 24 of 24! Will continue to keep you and your family in our prayers!

  5. Mary Salens says:

    THANK God and all those angels and saints especially Father Solanus Casey and Father Singer who helped you out through this battle. If we live each day as well as we can with gratitude and appreciation of those who share the world with us we should be able to say ‘no regrets’ on the last (and easiest) day. Love to you all. M

  6. […] marks the one-year-anniversary since my last chemotherapy treatment for cancer. On 2/25 last year I received my last Erbitux treatment. Thanks be to God I continue to be cancer free (or NED as the […]

  7. […] darkness, during a terrible snow storm. We made it there and I received my last Erbitux treatment (read the post). Fast forward to today and it’s been two years without any treatments.  And three years with no […]

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