What a week I had. Surely, I had guardian angels watching over me this past week and weekend. The short story is that I had a heart attack at some point during the week (or throughout the week), spent three nights in the hospital, discharged on Monday and back to work on Tuesday. Does that sound nuts? Read on.
Last Tuesday evening, I finally acknowledged that something was physically not right with me. I realized that after slight exertion I could hardly breath. It felt like when I had Covid pneumonia except my lungs did not feel water-logged. I confessed to my wife that I was not feeling good. She asked if we needed to go to the ER and I assured her that it was probably indigestion, given that I finished some spicy (very delicious) Louisiana style seafood earlier in the evening. She made me promise to call the doctor, adding a sticky note to my workstation so I would not forget to do so. The incident seemed to pass with some rest and relaxation.
The next day, reminded by my sticky note from my wife, I called my doctor’s office and scheduled an appointment for Friday at 2 pm. I then continued through my week, avoiding too much exertion, and trying to stay calm and relaxed. I managed to muster through a week filled with Zoom meetings, numerous emails, a variety of tasks, choir rehearsal and other home activities. In addition to cleaning, laundry, shopping I also managed to cook a delicious corned beef and cabbage meal on St. Patrick’s Day.
Friday afternoon finally arrived. I made it to my doctor appointment at 1:45pm. After completing the usual office paperwork, they called me in for an exam where I explained my short-breath episodes and what I noticed about my pulse rate on my Fitbit when walking. They placed an oximeter on my finger and lead me around the office a couple times and observed the data. Based on that test and a physical exam (listening to my lungs, checking blood pressure and pulse), my doctor sent me directly to the ER with clear instructions that my condition could be serious. He told me there could be several different causes for these symptoms, all of which are critical issues.
I called my wife as I was driving to the ER at Oaklawn Hospital and briefed her on what my doctor said. She met me in the ER parking lot, and we walked in together. They were busy on a Friday around 2:30PM. They immediately called me to register, as my doctor had called ahead and shared his findings with them. First was the Covid test, then back to the waiting room. Then an EKG and back to the waiting room. Next, a blood draw and back to the waiting room. It seemed like a pattern was emerging.
A little after the blood draw they called me back again. This time they gave me four baby aspirin and explained the cause of my shortness of breath was my heart. The enzyme Troponin was highly elevated, indicating that I was suffering a heart attack. Mind blown! I didn’t think you could have a heart attack without feeling pain. I seriously did not feel any pain at all. I wondered if maybe the diagnosis could be wrong.
This time, they led me to an ER room (no more back to the waiting room). The doctor met me in the room and explained that the next test would be a CT exam, to see if there were any blood clots. After the CT scan was complete, she reported back that I had clear lungs / no blood clots. She proceeded to explain that I needed to be transferred to a cardiac unit. After some discussion with my wife, we agreed to go to Ascension Borgess. I naively asked if we would be driving to the hospital. They explained that I needed to be transferred by medics so they can monitor my condition.
The ambulance finally arrived around 9pm and the paramedics quickly strapped me into a stretcher. I kissed my wife goodbye and as she was going to follow to the hospital. The paramedics loaded me into the ambulance, and we were off.
It was a bit of a bumpy ride on a rainy evening. The young paramedic accompanying me in the ambulance was very nice to talk to. We discussed our families, she had two daughters (a newborn and a seven-year-old). She also teased me that I’d better not code because it was a lot of work. The ride to the hospital seemed to go by quickly. We were soon rolling through the halls of the hospital on our way to the cardiac short stay ward.
Two nurses met the paramedics as we rolled up to room 25 (our destination). The nurses and paramedics exchanged signatures on paperwork as the paramedics officially passed me into the care of Borges Hospital.
The two nurses receiving me into the cardiac unit were cheerful and joking with me as they proceeded through their process. They introduced themselves as good cop (Kathy) and bad cop (Pam). As they were asking questions my wife called. I answered the phone on speaker and my wife explained that the ER was not letting her come up since it was past visiting hours. The good cop Kathy, jumped into the conversation and told my wife that they would be down to escort her up as soon as they finished the intake procedure (in about 15 minutes).
After we finished intake, my wife arrived at my room. Shortly after the attending doctor came in to meet with us. The doctor explained in no uncertain terms that I was having a heart attack and proceeded to summarize the process. First, I was to have an ultrasound. Based on the ultrasound results, the team would most likely do a cardiac catheterization procedure. And if all went well, the issue might be addressed in the procedure using stents. She also reviewed my blog during my past cancer episode and she was impressed with the chart showing all the chemo I was given. After reviewing the different chemo drugs, she reported that these types of treatments correlate with calcium buildup in the coronary arteries.
My wife left the hospital around midnight, and I attempted to rest up for the next days challenges. I don’t know if I slept much at all as I was worried about what was next to come.
Just as the attending doctor described, I underwent an ultrasound first thing Saturday morning, around 7am. Some time after the ultrasound I was scheduled for the cardiac catheterization procedure. There was a bit of confusion on exactly when I would be taken in as there was a potential emergency case that might have been taken ahead of me. As it worked out, I was sent to the lab around 11am and the procedure was completed a little before 1pm.
The report-back from the cardiologist was the very best news we were praying for. They found the issue. My right coronary artery was 100% blocked. And they were able to address the issue during the procedure, implementing three stents. My heart was fixed; however, there were long-term care impacts as well. I must take a variety of pills (blood thinners, cholesterol medication, etc.). Additionally, I am now committed to diet adjustments and more physical activity.
I had to stay in the hospital through Monday. They wanted to monitor me for heart arrhythmia. Monday morning came and it was time to go home. The only restriction given was to not lift/pull/push over ten pounds with my right hand/arm as the right wrist is where the catheter was inserted. They explained that I may have fatigue for a while, however, I was cleared to work (desk job) as long as I could take rest breaks if required.
I will have a follow-up meeting with my cardiologist in a couple weeks. After that I will likely start cardio rehab. I’m sure there is a long road ahead as I need to change my diet and exercise to better battle the coronary artery disease.
A few key take-aways from my experience.
- You can have a heart attack without pain. In my case a “slight” tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing (shortness of breath), mainly with minimal exertion was the only symptom. No pain in left arm, back, etc.
- Sometimes a heart attack (stoppage of blood flow to the heart) happens in an instant. Other times it can come on slow and gradually (like in my case).
- A blood test for the Enzyme Troponin is a clear indicator for heart attacks.
- Modern cardiac catheterization procedures are miraculous – to say the least. I literally went into a procedure on Saturday and returned to work the following Tuesday. That is Amazing!
I am once again very blessed and need to embrace this new day and the new normal! Thank you to family and friends who sent prayers and positive thoughts throughout this ordeal. And thank you to all who will keep me and my family in your prayers as we navigate a full recovery over the years ahead. I hope to do some more blog updates throughout this new journey.
It’s been a while since my last post and I thought I might take a break from cooking and cleaning to reflect on the many Blessings in my life and to share my Thanksgiving with you, on this special Thanksgiving Day.
My last scans and blood work was done in February 2019 and my next appointment is scheduled for March 5, 2020. I’m on an annual surveillance cadence and only have to do blood tests now (no more CT Scans). December 5, 2019 marks five years since my last operation; FIVE YEARS NED (NED = No Evidence of Disease)!
I am very thankful for being NED from stage 4 colon cancer. God has allowed me this additional time on earth and this truly was a most graceful gift from our Father in Heaven.
What am I most thankful for on this day? This is a rather easy question for me to answer. I’m most thankful for all the wonderful people in my life. For having this time to watch my family grow, learn, and Love. And for having such great friends. And for so many wonderful colleagues. I am VERY BLESSED to be been surrounded by so many beautiful and wonderful people!
And my Prayer on this Thanksgiving Day is that our Lord continue to guide me and help me to become a better servant for Him. I offer my mind, voice, hands, and heart to our Lord; and ask him to shape me as He wills.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! May our good Lord Bless you today and all your tomorrows! And may our time and deeds on this earth give Glory and Praise to our God; who alone gives Light to our days.
A couple years ago, on Feb 25, 2016, Connie and I arose in the early 4am hour and proceeded to drive to Ann Arbor in cold, 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 evidence of disease.
Today we left at 8:30 AM heading to Ann Arbor for an appointment with Dr. Krauss (pictured with me in this post). We were looking forard to discussing scan and blood test results and next steps.
In stark contrast to two years ago today was sunny, warm, no snow, and no rain!
The results of these latest round of tests have once again fulfilled our hopes and prayers. The CEA blood test continues to stay under 1.0 (indicating no cancer activity) and the scan results (lungs/chest and abdomen) show no signs of metastasis. Dr. Krauss also reported that I will move to a six month surveillance cadence and he is going to schedule removal of my port as well.
It is so hard to believe where my battle is today. Beyond my wildest expectations, I have landed in the best possible place. I am truly Blessed and grateful beyond expression.
Of course we thank God for this glorious news. And we also thank the many people that God works though every day, helping many cancer patients all over the world. We especially thank Dr. Krauss and the University of Michigan Health Care team. They were most awesome for us and we are forever in debt to them for their dedication and excellence.
In discussion with Dr. Krauss today he pointed out that over his career there have been substantial gains in cancer survival rates overall, citing a study posted on axios.com. The chart from this study is included below. Colon cancer has seen an increase in the five year survival rate from 49.8% in 1970s to 66.2% today. Most cancers have seen significant increases in the five year survival rate.
While we all would love to see cancer eradicated entirely, it is very important to recognize the significant gains that our medical field has made in a rather short period of time. This is especially awesome news to someone newly diagnosed with cancer. There is definitely hope! And even hope for being cured from Stage IV colon cancer.
It is very important to point out that YOU have a role in making sure these gains continue. Eat healthy, exercise, quit smoking, and do what you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Additionally, if you have symptoms YOU need to seek out medical attention sooner rather than later. Do not ignore symptoms. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better odds of being cured!
Please pray this prayer of thanksgiving with me…
Thank you Jesus for the additional time you have granted me on this beautiful earth. Thank you for the wonderful medical care that you have brought into my life. Thank you for allowing me to hold two new beautiful grand babies this past year. Bless all those helping to make such great progress in the care and treatment for all cancers and help them to accomplish break-through improvements in the upcoming months and years! And guide me in using my time wisely; in service to my family, friends, colleagues, and fellow mankind.
Today is the day the Lord has made; Let us be glad and rejoice in it! Psalm 118:24
Hello family and friends,
It’s been a little while since I provided an update. So I thought I would do a quick check in with you and share an early Thanksgiving Day greeting.
As last reported Bryce had a primary spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung). We went in for a follow-up and his surgeon gave an “all clear.” He has healed quickly and completely! And thank you all for your prayers and support during that unexpected event.
Connie and I met with my oncologist yesterday (11/2) and we received all good news regarding my recent scans and blood tests. The remission continues.
I have a colonoscopy scheduled for later this month and CT scan / blood tests scheduled for February (another four month check-up). If these upcoming tests are all clear I will move to a six month surveillance schedule and have the chemotherapy port removed. Woo Hoo!
I have to admit, I really don’t like going in for scans, so having more time in between scans is very welcomed! Not only is there the anxiety wondering about results and such, the actual scan causes me physical sickness. Another fun thing I get to do is colonoscopies every couple years and time is approaching for another one of those.
However, I will not complain about the colonoscopy procedure for fear of discouraging someone. If you are over fifty PLEASE make sure to do this!!! This is not simply a test to detect if you have cancer it is potentially a PREVENTATIVE procedure. It just might literally prevent you from having to go through chemo, surgeries, and all the tests in between. Please be smart!
Connie and I are on vacation next week. We are super excited to go and meet our first grandson Franklin. We scheduled this vacation for couple weeks after Sarah’s due date but she went ahead and had Franklin a couple weeks ahead of her due date. So as it turns out we will meet Franklin and celebrate his 1 month birthday with him.
Life is good and we have much to be thankful for. And I am especially thankful for your continued prayers, positive thoughts, and support. For me and my family. God is good and He truly does answer every prayer. Not always exactly what we ask for, but always exactly what we need!
God’s grace has given me additional time on this great earth and I pray to use it wisely, in service to all my brothers and sisters. Glory be to our Father in Heaven!
Prayers for the people affected by the recent tragedies in Las Vegas and New York. May God shower much Love down on all those hurt by such senseless and evil acts.
Bryce will undergo surgery today, Sunday 7/30 (started surgery at 2:00 pm), at Bronson Children’s Hospital in Kalamazoo. Your prayers for the medical team and for Bryce are requested.
As some of you know Bryce had a Spontaneous Primary Pneumothorax (collapsed lung), most likely occurring on Friday 7/21. Of course we contribute his “OK” performance in three baseball games over Friday and Saturday to the fact that he was playing with a “slight” handicap. Then again, a two RBI single and pitching for a couple outs was not really that bad. 😉
When he continued to complain of shortness of breath we (the bad parents) finally took him to prompt care in Marshall. Prompt care ordered an x-Ray and soon thereafter we were in an ambulance headed to Kalamazoo Children’s Hospital.
The good medical team at Bronson Children’s Hospital inserted a chest tube on Saturday 7/22 allowing his lung to reflate. They explained to us that in fifty percent of the cases the patient heals and no other treatment is required. He was discharged from the hospital with the hope of putting this behind us.
Unfortunately, on Saturday 7/29 we returned to the ER as Bryce was again feeling shortness of breath. The Pneumothorax recurred. Bryce was in the “other” fifty percent that required additional treatment. This condition is not uncommon and tends to occur in young adult males, tall and thin. In cases like his the patient has blebs (balloon like tissue) that usually forms on the top of the lung. This tissue can spontaneously pop causing the lung to loose air. The surgeon will remove the blebs and help the lung reattach itself to the pleura.
Bryce met with the surgeon today and Dr. Leinwand was impressed with Bryce’s research. Bryce read all about the Surgeon’s credentials and also discovered that he was recognized as a doctor that gives 110%, treating his patients as a fifth child.
Additionally, we learned that Dr. Leinwand was somewhat famous for singing to a patient. The patient posted a video of the singing doctor and it went viral.
We are happy that Bryce has a doctor who truly cares about his patients.
Please Pray with us that the Lord’s healing is delivered through Dr. Leinwand and the Bronson medical team. That Bryce is fully healed. That his pain is managed throughout this ordeal.
Your prayers are truly appreciated.
Love and Light to you all.
The test results are in and once again all good! Thank you Jesus for a continued remission. 🙏
So many Blessings to ponder during this Easter season!
On March 31, University of Michigan blogged about my battle with Stage IV Cancer (link). A theme in the article was about trust. How I trusted in the experts, a hunch, my family, and community. In retrospect I believe that the author of this article detected Trust during her interview with me; however, she may not have understood the foundation of this Trust.
I really didn’t know how these past years would actually turn out. I knew the odds; after all, I’m a numbers person. I knew that I had a 5 to 10% chance to live five years from diagnosis of stage IV cancer. But I also knew (trusted) that no matter what transpired; that the Lord would watch over my family and keep them safe, even if I was called home to heaven.
Even though I didn’t know what the Lord’s plan was, that didn’t stop me from hoping and praying for continued time here on Earth. And for asking you all to pray on my behalf. To raise me up in prayer.
I remember a time in 2012 (link), with tears rolling down my face, I wrote about my wife Connie and our plans together. I wrote about wanting to see our children become independent and about wanting to spoil our grand children together.
At the time I was writing this I asked for you all to pray for Connie and my family instead of me. I simply was not sure how things were going to turn out. And I was heart broken at the possibility that I might not ever hold a grand baby in my arms.
On April 9, 2017 Blakely Jean was born to Anna and Charles.
We are so blessed. Beyond anything I could have imagined. These past years were filled with weddings, a baptism, the birth of our first grand baby, birthdays, anniversaries, more weddings (nieces and nephews). And a confirmation is coming up in less than a week. So many blessings. So many moments.
Google is an incredible tool for sure. I’ve turned to google many times to find a perfect image to include in a blog update. But today when I went looking for an image to express Happy Easter to you all I was a saddened at what I found. There were hundreds of images of Easter bunnies, colored eggs, baby chicks, and chocolate baskets. I fear that for some these secular images are all that Easter is to them? I hope that this is not the case. While these images are a part of Easter that is not what it’s all about!
I did find one image that represent the Easter I know.
To me Easter is about eternity. It is true that our human bodies will die. Some of us will live longer than others but our bodies grow old and eventually give out. Some people sadly believe that human beings only exist for a short time on Earth and then slip away into darkness, die into nothingness. How can anyone believe that they don’t have a soul inside of their physical body that is as young as the day they were born? A soul that will live beyond death!
The message of Easter is that death is not the end of our existence. We are created with a soul that will endure beyond death. We are created in the image of God. We are created for an eternity of time with Jesus. Jesus paid the debt for all of our sins. Then He rose up and conquered death! And paved the way for us to live eternally with Him. Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is Risen!
Happy Easter to you all!
Today 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 cancer survivors call it — No Evidence of Disease).
I went in for a CEA test and scans last Thursday morning. All the results are in and once again, all good news. The CEA test (the blood marker for colon cancer) continues to be under 1.0 and scans continue to show no evidence of metastasis!
The contrast injection for the CT scan proved again to be a challenge for me. I honestly don’t know how I managed all those other scans without getting sick. These last two scans were pretty rough. Even though I did take an anti-nausea medication this time it simply didn’t help. Hopefully we can figure this out before the next scans.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. Your prayers lifted me up to our Lord and his mercy has brought me through this battle thus far. Words can not express how grateful I am!
May our good Lord look upon you today, may Love warm your heart, and Jesus’ smile guide your way.
God Bless and Keep You Forever!
Imagine how I felt when I learned that I’ve been encountering carcinogens two (sometimes three) times per day, everyday, for as long as I can remember. Well, lets say I was not happy. And my first instinct is to make sure and share this newly gained knowledge with all of you…
One of the carcinogens is Titanium dioxide. It is also commonly listed on the ingredients as E171. There are other chemicals used in most toothpastes that are also considered dangerous.
Reference the following articles:
I’m going to pick up some new Toothpaste today. Check out this site for a complete report on safe toothpastes.
Also, as a friendly reminder – Colonoscopies can save your life! A colonoscopy can prevent cancer. During this 15 minute procedure the doctor may encounter and remove precancerous polyps. And because more and more people (over 50) are getting colonoscopies, colon cancer is one of the few cancers that is trending down in people over 50. Very Important! If you are 50 or older, make sure to get this done.
As I contemplate what a wonderful birthday it has been…
This morning, after my 53rd birthday, I sit here enjoying an awesome cup of coffee. And I gaze out the window into the early morning darkness.
Ever so slowly the light reveals a beautiful field covered lightly with a fresh blanket of snow.
A majestic deer cautiously treks across the white carpet. The quietness of the moment seems like an orchestra playing an overture to a new wonderful play.
Although there are clouds I believe in the sun.
I ponder the numerous phone calls, text messages, emails, social media posts, birthday cards.
The delicious home-cooked meal. The yummy vanilla cake and the sweet chocolate frosting.
The wonderful birthday movie date (Hidden Figures).
So much love!
As the light emerges the darkness is driven away.
A new beginning.
I’m thankful for countless blessings. Especially for all the loving family and friends that make this a glorious world.
Thank you all for kindness, well wishes, and most of all, for being you!
And may God Bless you today on this joyous, fresh, wonderful new day!