Unpredictability

dice     So, Tuesday was “comatose” day because of the chemo and the heavy dose of Benadryl. Wednesday was “wax the cat day” because the steroids had kicked in. Yesterday was going to be the “what if” day. What would Thursday bring? Well, here it is! 

Wednesday night, the steroids were still holding on so I had trouble getting to sleep at a decent time. I read until 12:30AM- 2 ½ hours AFTER I went to bed! That meant only about 6 hours of sleep instead of the 8 ½ or 9 hours I was anticipating. And yet, I woke up not feeling too badly. I made it to nap time just fine. I took a decent nap and then felt pretty good to go to band practices last night.  

So now, TODAY is “proof is in the pudding” day. Will the good feeling continue? Will the “steroid letdown” have happened? Will the effects of the chemo finally hit? Only time will tell. By the time YOU read this, I will know the answers to those questions. We have family coming in today and tomorrow to do a late Thanksgiving/early Christmas celebration that I am REALLY looking forward to. So, I am hoping that any “letdown” is minimal.  

Chemo is an interesting thing. Just when you think you have it all figured out and can predict the day-to-day impact as it unfolds, you get a curveball. This curveball probably has to do will a new “cocktail” of drugs. So far, it hasn’t gone anything like I thought it would, 4 days in. And that is EXACTLY why we continue to hang on to the “one day at a time” approach. It’s the only way you can truly remain sane in the midst of the roller coaster that is cancer and chemo. 

I will keep you posted over the next few days as this next round continues to unfold. Tune in each day, same bat-time, same bat-channel. To find out the latset exploits of the Gloved Avenger! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Benadryl and Steroids

safest-steroidsDrugs and time- what a difference they can make! Yesterday, I shared that I was nearly comatose from the massive dose of IV Benadryl they give you proactively before they start the IV chemo drugs. Yesterday, it hit me exceptionally hard- within minutes of it going in the port, I was looking for my blanket and reclining my chair. I ended up sleeping most of the 6 hours we were in the Infusion room. And it felt like I was trying the get beyond anesthetic the whole time. The techs would come in to check on me, take my BP, change a chemo bag, whatever. I would wake up, sort of, and I would even answer their questions. But I couldn’t remember what they asked me and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around…anything. And as soon as they left the room, I was back sleep. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I beginning to feel more like myself. I went to bed early that night and slept pretty hard.  

Then yesterday dawned. The Benadryl had worn off and the steroids had kicked in. I felt like my old self. I had lots of energy. I went to work at the normal time. I got TONS of stuff done. I took a shorter nap. I went in for the opening of our Wednesday Night Fellowship event, which I haven’t done for MANY months. It’s amazing what 24 hours and a shift in medication can do.  

The REAL test will be today and tomorrow. The steroids will have also worn off and we’ll see what the chemo- the only drugs from Tuesday that will still be with me, bless their hearts- will be doing to me!  

People say, “If the steroids make you feel that good, why don’t you stay on them?” Ironically, long-term steroid use is REALLY hard on your body. And you might be saying, “Wait! You’re dumping poison chemo drugs in your body every week and you’re worried about a little steroid use?!” But extended steroid use starts to GREATLY negatively impact your internal organs. And there will be, in the end, a trade-off between the “high” they give you and the damage they do to you. And with my immune system struggling so hard to keep up, the last thing I need are internal organs failing on me. So… 

If all goes according to plan, I will be on this Round of chemo until March- 3 weeks on and one week off for 4 Rounds. If I make it that far, then we will assess whether we can take a break or go for Infusions 5 & 6, which would run us into May. I have never done more than 4 Infusions in any one Round yet.  

It’s very surreal to be talking about March and May of NEXT year. We NEED to consider those dates. But we continue to set short-term goals. And our next short-term goal is Christmas- we are 26 days away. When that day comes, will set our next short-term goal. We continue to find that they are a more helpful, more healthy approach for us. When you go from “perfectly healthy” to “6-8-month death sentence” in 24 hours, it changes your perception, your priorities.  

So, on December 25th, we’’ set the next short-term goal. And then, once we make that, we will set the next one. We honestly don’t talk about the NEXT goal, just the current one. I would imagine we THINK about it, but we don’t talk about it. 

On the other hand, we continue to be very candid with each other about what the future holds, medically speaking. Again, we are hopeful pragmatists. We continue to put our trust in God and here we are, 18 months later, still plugging. Here we are, having doctors ask, with genuine amazement and incredulity in their voice, “How are you still alive?!” But we also have done a TON of work behind the scenes to make sure that we are in the best position we could be in should this all go south one day.  

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Chemo Round #4, Infusion #1

chemo 3     Well, Chemo Round #4, Infusion #1 is done. It took quite a bit longer than was expected. The pharmacy made two mistakes that added about 2 hours to the process. I slept almost the whole time, feeling like I was trying to come out from under anesthetic the whole time. Finally, they finished up, took the needle out of the port and we were good to go! 

A reminder- this was one drug I had and one I haven’t. I THINK I got the repeated drug first and the new drug second, but again I slept through most of it, so I COULD be wrong! I feel pretty good coming home because the Benedryl has worn off and the steroids have kicked in! 

BP was GREAT, pulse ox very good and blood a bit high in some places buy within limits they feel they (I) can live with. Next week’s tox screen with tell them how I am handling the chemo. I appreciate how easy it is to stay in the loop with them.  

We’ll see how these next few weeks go. If I am able to tolerate it, the plan would be that this Round wouldn’t’ end until March-3 weeks on and 1 week off for 16 weeks. If I’m still on it as we near the end of this Round, we will assess whether I can take #5 and #6 or we simply put a pin in it earlier and give my body a chance to rest.  

Please pray for this Round. As we have no other options left besides chemo, and the fact that we have blown through the bulk of potential chemo treatments, it’s pretty imperative that we find the right “cocktail” for me. And yet, it amazing to consider that, 18 months in, I still here and having conversations about next March! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Chemo- Here We Go Again!

chemotherapy      First off, a bit of housekeeping. No, there was NOT a blog yesterday. Quite simply, the blizzard we had knocked the internet out. No internet- no blog! But we’re BACK, Baby! No, to today’s topic- chemo. 

Today, I start what will be my fourth round of chemo in 18 months. Some have been fairly “easy” (A relative term) and some have been rather hard. (An understatement.) Time will tell where this one falls! I believe the entire infusion is supposed to take about 4½ hours, if I heard and remembered correctly. This round will be once a week for 3 weeks and then a week off.  

There are two chemo drugs involved this time around. One of them is one I have had before, while the other one will be new to me. There will be NO oral chemo meds this time around. (I am NOT going to miss 8 pills/days every day!) 

The way it works is that they will put a line in my port- which is SO easy in comparison to having to find a viable vein and getting a line started there. They will run saline through it. Then some anti-nausea meds. (a “pre-emptive strike”, if you will.) Then, they will hang the first bag and let it run its course. After that first bag, there is some protocol that has to be followed before they can hang the second bag. Once that is going, it’s simply a matter of waiting for the whole thing to be done.  

As I said, this one, if I am correct, will take about 4 ½ hours. During that time, we will talk. We’ll read. We’ll listen to music. I’ll probably sleep some. And we probably eat a little lunch. And then, hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off for home we go! 

Chemo is not the most pleasant thing one can do. But walking through it with my wife is much a blessing. And having such awesome techs supporting us is great as well. There are many people who do this alone. I am grateful! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

John’s 3 Letters: Diotrophes the Unwelcoming

Johns 3 Letters Diotrophes the Unwelcoming.png      Everybody has heard of Star Wars. Even if you’re one of the 13 people on the face of the planet who have never seen any of the movies (And what, by the way is WRONG with you?!), you have HEARD of the franchise. (If you were teenagers when the very first one- Episode FOUR my eye- came out, you are pretty fully steeped in the mythos of Star Wars.) As there are 10 theatrically-released movies (with #11 out soon) and countless animated TV spinoffs, there are a TON of characters in the Star Wars universe. Because of that, you are bound to have some goofy character names. And BOY is that true! 

Let’s see- you have the curmudgeonly little rat-like character named Salacious Crumb. George Lucas was having an off day that day! There’s Therm Scissorpunch. There’s one that makes me laugh every time I heard it. There are ALL these Rebellion fighter pilots who are slim, trim and good looking with cook space names. And then there I the one token “big fat guy” Rebellion pilot whose name is…ready?…Jek Porkins. Porkins. Really? The ONE fighter pilot who is on the portly side and his name is…Porkins? How unoriginal! There is. Of course, Jar Jar Binks- Hall of Fame goofy name. But perhaps the goofiest name of all comes from the live-action holiday special that came out on the heels of the very first movie- before anybody was sure where this qhole thing was going. In that special, Chebacca, maybe the coolest character of them all, had a son. And his name was…Lumpy! Lumpy the Wookie! I just shake my head! 

But Lucas saved some of his BEST worst names for the main body of villains in the Star Wars universe- the Darths. Darth is a title and then there is a name that accompanies that title that distinguishes that particular villain. Some of those names are really cool- look no further than Darth Vader and Darth Maul. But some a bit…silly. Instead of fear and grudging respect, they draw chuckles and head shakes. There’s Darth Ferb- sounds like a Cartoon Network kid’s show! There’s Darth Kallous- a bit too overt and heavy-handed for my taste! There’s Darth Ravage- again, over the top. There’s Darth Ruyn- misspelling it doesn’t help! But the most unintentionally funny one is this one- Darthensmirtz. All one word. Darthensmirtz. Sounds like a tailor in the garment district of New York City! Saul Darthensmirtz…and his wife Ida. Saul and Ida Darthensmirtz…oooohhh, scary! May the Darthensmirtz be with you…always! 

Our current sermon series- John’s 3 Letters- focuses on the 3 letters of John (Makes sense!) found near the tail end of the New Testament. They’re rarely read, rarely referenced, but have a lot packed into their short length. Three different letters, written at three different times, to three different people- yet they’re all tied together by the same ideas. Week 1, we started by talking about Love and Hatred. Week 2, we moved to Water and Blood. Week 3, we considered the Lady and Her Children. Week 4, we moved to Don’t Lose What You’ve Worked For. Last week, we looked at Gaius the Faithful. Today, we bring it all home with Diotrephes the Unwelcoming, where we meet a new character and consider what it means to be faithful to God. Here is today’s Scripture: 

3John 1:9-14 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. 

John clearly doesn’t think much of Diotrophes. He LOVES to be first. We does not welcome us. He spreads malicious nonsense about us. He refuses to welcome other believers. He stops people who want to welcome others from doing so, going as far as kicking them out of the church.  

Now, we may chuckle about this and say that John is exaggerating. But I have gone to church with Diotrophes. He just called himself by a different name. I warn new people I hire to be my office administrator that they are about to see a side of people they have never seen before in the church. I tell them, “You will come to me in a month and be amazed that people would act this way in church.” Diotrophes doesn’t live as far away from us as we might think. 

On the other hand, John says, there is Demetrius. He is well spoken of by everybody. And he speaks well of everybody. It’ like the Goofus and Gallant strip from the Highlights magazine at the doctor’s office. Demetrius models that which is good, not that which is evil. Demetrius is of God. Diotrophes is not. 

Her closes with the same thing he said early- “I have much more to say but I don’t want to put pen to paper. I would rather talk to you in person. I hope to do that soon.” And with that, John’s 3 short letters come to an end.   

So, what do I carry away from these three short letters, written at 3 different times to 3 different people in 3 different places? This- what you DO reflects how you see God. Did you hear that? What you DO reflects how you SEE God. Anyone who does good reflects God- is FROM God. But anyone who does evil has not even SEEN God. John sets the bar high here. But he doesn’t do it because he wants us to fail. He does it because that’s where GOD sets the bar. God also doesn’t want us to fail. Instead, he wants us to reach for the highest goal attainable. He KNOWS we won’t always attain it. But it doesn’t mean we till shouldn’t SHOOT for it. Aim high- that way, if you miss the mark, at least you will hit higher than if you aimed low in the first place.

Black Friday

blackfridaykarloffToday is (cue the ominous music)…Black Friday! Some people think this is the BEST day of the year! Others (i.e. ME) would rather have a pointy stick jabbed at them than to have to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. (Although, if I’m honest, I don’t REALLY like to shop the other 364 days of the year either!) Here are some interesting tidbits about this phenomenon known as Black Friday:
It’s called “Black Friday” because it traditionally marked the day retailers move into profitability for the year — from “in the red” to “in the black.” (It’s also used derisively by many retailers to mark a very long day of impatient shoppers, boorish behavior and adults elbowing one another to get a cheap video-game system!)

Everyone thinks that Black Friday is the biggest money-making shopping day of the year…but that’s not necessarily the case. It is almost always the biggest shopping traffic day of the year, but it doesn’t always generate the most sales. In some years, the most sales are generated on the last Saturday before Christmas.

66% of Black Friday shoppers say they are actually shopping for themselves the day after Thanksgiving, according to Consumer Reports.

45% of ALL consumers will shop on Black Friday.

The most sought-after technology on Black Friday LAST year included iPads, Samsung 4K TVs, and LG TVs. In addition, people are shopping from their smartphones more than ever before. About 60% of website traffic and 40% of purchases came from mobile phones. Best-selling toys include drones, mini vehicles for kids, and Lego sets.

In 2015, Black Friday online sales hit a then all-time high of more than $2.9 billion, representing basically 100% growth over 2014. In fact, some companies rebranded Black Friday “couch Friday” since so many people shop without leaving home. $67.5 billion MORE was spent that year in stores. And $617 billion dollars was spent on retail in November-December in 2015! And yet, even with the popularity of today, 35% of American adults start their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. Roughly 190 million people will visit retail stores and websites over this weekend. 7 people actually lost their lives in Black Friday-related stampedes in 2015.

We ARE shopping today, but I THINK where we are shopping will pretty much guarantee that we will avoid long lines and big crowds. Since our older son is home, we are going out to the Christmas Tree, as in the middle of nowhere to cut down a tree! (I DON”T anticipate MASSIVE crowds!)

Are you going out to shop today? Perhaps you’ve already BEEN out. If you ARE going, please be safe. If you already went- glad you made it back safely! I pray you have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving weekend!

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Warming Up Electronically!

remote start     October was Pastor Appreciation Month. I know- you’re thinking, “Why are we talking about that NOW?!” I get that. But there IS a reason. You see, just yesterday, we used a decent portion of the generous gifts that were given to us then. We purchased a remove start for our van! 

We had talked about it for some time. In fact, we began talking about LAST October! (We seldom “knee-jerk” bigger purchases!) But we decided that this was the year for it. You see, I get cold SO easily these days. Everybody else is in jeans and t-shirts and I have gloves, a coat and a stocking cap on! (Not even kidding a LITTLE bit!) My immune system is so out of whack that I just can’t seem to get warm. 

So, about 10 days ago, I called a company about 45 minutes away and talked to them about what they had to offered and how much it would be. We settled on a package and then decided that installation would be on the day after Thanksgiving- yesterday. It was a “drop of first thing in the morning and lick it up later in the day” sort of proposition. So, all 4 of us piled into our two vehicles EARLY yesterday and headed out. We dropped the van off and then took the other car to cut down a Christmas tree. (Another blog for another day!) 

They ended up having the van all day. About 3PM, they called and said it was ready. The four of us again plied into the car and headed out. They boys dropped us off and went to get haircuts while we went in to pick up the van. One tutorial later, we were on the road. 

The immediate “payout” will be on Tuesday. I have chemo that morning and it is supposed to be VERY cold. It will be especially great to stay in the warmth of the house and start the van! We are SO grateful for the generosity of this congregation and will reflect on that every time we warm the van up this winter! Thank you again for your generosity and caring! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!