2009-April

The Importance of People

Throughout the long detour of my third recurrence of cancer I faced many things that required the help of other people. I reminisced about things of the past, things that were currently holding my attention and the things that were yet to come.

It was very encouraging for me to see some of the accomplishments of people that I had known and loved for many years. Perhaps I should emphasize the fact, that getting my mind off of my problems and onto other things that I held onto as part of my life, helped me tremendously.


List of events

  1. April 2, 2009 — Memories That Encourage
  2. April 3, 2009 — From The Heart
  3. April 5, 2009 — People Helping People Get The Job Done
  4. April 9, 2009 — Faith – The Fuel for Hope
  5. April 20, 2009 — Catching Up
  6. April 28, 2009 — Simply Catching Up – Again

  1. April 2, 2009 — Memories That Encourage
  2. In my book, Once Was Not Enough: A story of hope in the heartland I tell about my life and what I learned about expectations. I go into length about my Uncle Garland who was a blacksmith. While the story is about my life as a medical patient and how my uncle’s plight before me impacted my lives expectations as a patient, I also share how much I loved this man and the positive influence he had on me.

    This morning I read a passage in Isaiah 54 and came to a verse that brought back those memories. It simply said in verse 16:

    “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work…”

    Today is a wonderful day and I am so blessed to wake up and have an opportunity to work with my fellow teammates. I get to attend a luncheon for my supervisor as we sent her off into retirement. Oh how much I will miss her! But God answered my prayers and he gave me the opportunity to get to work with her as she finished her final years. This lady gave me so much through friendship and mentoring.

    And I also get the opportunity to do what Job did in his story. If you check Job 42 it says that:

    “My servant will pray for you…”

    I get to pray for many of my friends who have confided in me about things in their lives. And I know God will answer my prayers for my friends like he did for Job’s. Just think how awesome it is to be a part of someone’s life like that!

    In my medical case I am still watching and waiting with no ill effects to report. I am excited about life and having today.

    I pray that everyone that reads my words will have a wonderful day. I also pray that you will reach out to someone and encourage their soul today. Remember “you” are the most important person in the world! And you can help another person by simply encouraging them.

    My trip down memory lane truly encouraged me today. I have stood beside my Uncle in his blacksmith shop and seen him fan the flame and forge a piece of iron then form it into what was needed for many a job. He explained how the colors told him a story about the metal he was working with. And I believe that each of us has our own story to share just like the colors of the metal as it changed temperatures in that forge. I pray you will share your story to help someone today. It is the best accomplishment you could achieve.


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  3. April 3, 2009 — From The Heart
  4. This morning I am focused on my heart. I want to see things from the perspective of God and be a humble person that is blessed by him. I was drawn to a scripture that explained that worshiping God is not merely following the rules of men in their attempt to practice religion. It is being humble and truly getting to know God by acknowledging his holiness.

    I was focused upon that relationship because of my life-long study of the person that really makes a difference for me each and every day of my life. And yesterday I was blessed to spend some time with people that I believe God placed in my life to teach me meaningful lessons so I could better serve him.

    You might remember that I told you last time that I was getting the privilege of attending a retirement luncheon for my supervisor. That special occasion brought with it tears of joy and memories of years of heart to heart communications. You see Carla took me under her wing years ago and taught me lessons that only someone who really cares could teach another human being.

    In order for her to mentor me she had to speak to me from her heart and I had to learn to listen and trust her. And more importantly to do what she told me to do. I was blessed that she had a forgiving heart as well and when I goofed things up (and believe me — I did that often) she straightened me out then kept working with me to teach me important life lessons.

    When I learned about Asperger’s Syndrome I shared the information with Carla. We were both set back in our chairs as we read the information in light of the struggles I had faced over the years as she had worked with me. While I don’t have a full blown diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome I certainly have a few traits that are significant to my ability to interact with people.

    The short version is that I got to see my coworkers and have lunch with them all. I also got to see a couple of our other friends who had already retired and catch up with them. As I sat there remembering I remembered what each person had done for me over the years and the lessons I learned from them. I took time to tell each of them thank you as I got the opportunity. You see there is a reason I often remind you that you are the most important person in the world. I look to other people to learn about life and living it in a meaningful way.

    The luncheon culminated by our wonderful friend and supervisor being showered with gifts from our group. And boy oh boy was she surprised. Let’s just say she got some high-tech gadgets that she will enjoy and they will help her remember us of all as she uses them. It brought tears of joy to many of our eyes.

    I also spent several hours at the office and saw many of my close friends who took time to encourage me and let me encourage them. Relationships with people are the most important thing in life. And I am truly blessed to have many people that I can share my life with. Deborah and I had a wonderful day together and I am thankful we got to spend it with friends.

    With that I dedicate today to my friend Carla and ask that you pray for her as she finalizes her career and starts into the next phase of her life. She has big plans and will impact many other people just like she impacted me and my life. I owe her a lot and I truly believe God placed her in my life so I could learn many things from her including just how important speaking from the heart really is.

    God speed my friend. Thank you for everything you have done for me over the years. Thank you for caring when I needed you the most. With Love from my heart to yours!


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  5. April 5, 2009 — People Helping People Get The Job Done
  6. In the old days a magnetic bulletin board hung just inside our branch office doors with a sign hanging over the top of all our employee’s pictures. Today, it hangs in a much less conspicuous location inside the mail room. Those words (people helping people get the job done) are inscribed on it.

    Our management team wanted to keep us focused on the reason we were all there. And with that sign right there in plain sight it was easy to do. Then later, after they moved us from one building to another, the sign ended up in a different location. One could wonder why things like that change, but today we don’t have peoples pictures posted inside the door like before and that little magnetic sign with those important words has found a new location where it is probably never noticed by most people.

    Yes, the words “people helping people get the job done” has a lot of meaning to me because I am from the old school and believe that the reason I am here is to help other people.

    This past week I was asked for assistance with a problem by one of my team members and we visited as we worked the issue. I alluded to my little saying that simply says “There is no need for customer service without customers.” That was because we both observed some people don’t seem to care if people have the tools they need to do their work anymore. But in reality we all pretty much have jobs that require us to do something to help other people in some form or fashion. Not a bad thing to remember!

    I have already shared that my wonderful supervisor retired on Friday. And that has me reminiscing about her career, our friendship, and working together. It is because of that I dug out a one page story that she shared with me a long time ago. I needed help learning another lesson so she gave me the story to help me learn the lesson.

    How to Read a Face

    By: Anne Underwood
    Oct 22, 2006

    That is precisely the point that science writer Daniel Goleman makes in his new book, “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.” As Goleman contends, human brains are “wired to connect,” and to a much great-er extent than we ever realized. It’s not just that laughter and bad moods are “contagious.” Empathizing with a friend, whether in grief or elation, can activate the very same circuits in our own brains as in our companion’s. Eleven years ago, when Goleman published his best seller “Emotional Intelligence,” no one understood on a neuronal level how social interactions actually worked–how the brain processed rejection, for example, or experienced loneliness. Now, thanks to brain imaging and other advanced technologies, scientists from many disciplines are joining forces to decode what Goleman dubs our “neural WiFi.” Their findings could have profound implications for the future.

    The fledgling field devoted to these questions is called social neuroscience. Already researchers are learning how conscious and unconscious processes help us scan a person’s face for emotions, calibrate our own responses and manage nonverbal communications. And they’re confirming things we’ve known only intuitively until now–for example, that rejection hurts….

    From: «How To Read a Face»

    The reason this is weighing so heavy on my mind is that people today are so busy and so stressed out that we all need a reminder that it’s not just about us. Not one single person can make it in this world without other people in their lives. And that takes a lot of work.

    I believe the story Miss Underwood wrote helped me learn about people in a different perspective. Perhaps the short excerpt I provided will help you as well.

    After you finish reading that story (assuming you decided to do so), and you have thought about how those truths ring out in your life, please share it with someone else. We all need to know how important the other people in our lives are to all of us.

    And, if I may, I would like to share with you that over the years I have purposely shared my life’s story with people. That includes posting at several different cancer survivor blogs, creating websites to cover the story at that point in time, writing my book Once Was Not Enough, and now creating this website to tell The Rest of My Story. I want to contribute to other people’s lives in the one way I can; by sharing my experiences with you.

    I have also participated in organizations like the Kansas City Federal Executive Board’s Disabled Federal Employees Council, the Heartland Combined Federal Campaign, and various other support groups to help people learn there is hope. I know many other people that do the same things for the same reasons. And I add to my story how my faith helps me through the storms I face.

    I also strive to live, work and participate in the things I do without anyone being able to see that I have a medical issue. My focus has been to show people that there is such a thing as a “Hidden” or “Unseen” disability. You have to understand that, as my friend Jim says, “No one knows, when they too, will become a person with a disability.” Don’t ever take today for granted!

    Let me be honest and tell you that the night back in 1995, when I went to bed and couldn’t go to sleep because I was hurting so badly, wasn’t something I planned on. I can also attest to the fact that the day back in November of 2007 when my right arm started to tremor because of an allergic reaction to a chemotherapy agent called Ifosfamide and Mesna I had no idea that was going to happen. And I can guarantee you the grand mal seizure I had just three weeks later, shortly after the same chemo agents were started, was not on my calendar for the day. The other seizures I have had since that time weren’t either. All these things were outside my control.

    Let me close by mentioning that a friend Lori Hope has written a book help me live, 20 things people with cancer want you to know. In her book, Lori provides specific information people need to know in order for them to connect with people that have cancer. I also follow Lori’s blog.

    Information about Lori and her book: «Lori Hope»
    Blog: «What Helps. What Hurts. What Heals.»

    When I read her posts I learn that I have something in common with a lot of other people that were diagnosed with cancer. And I can always pick up Lori’s book and learn something that helps me see those commonalities. The thing I would ask you to remember is that many of us do survive this and many other life threatening diseases and many of us are doing our best to show other people that there is hope.

    It is especially easy when we stick together and help each other. It is especially easy when we take time to share our lives with the people we come into contact with on a regular basis. Remember you do have a circle of influence and you are the most important person in the world!


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  7. April 9, 2009 — Faith – The Fuel for Hope
  8. I have often told people the fuel for hope is faith. That is because I believe strongly in that statement.

    As I often do I turned to the dictionary today to read the definition of faith. When I opened the Internet site for the Merriam-Webster Dictionary I found the definition: Allegiance to duty or a person; loyalty; fidelity to one’s promises; sincerity of intentions; belief and trust in and loyalty to God. I found all of the definitions to relate to a personal relationship between people, and most importantly, a personal relationship with God. Isn’t that interesting!

    Next, I looked up the word hope. Again I would like to share what I found there as the definitions: desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment; expectation of fulfillment or success; someone or something on which hopes are centered; something hoped for. You can see the definitions presented here all point to desire and expectations. There is also a unique tie-in to relationship from my point of view.

    It makes sense to me that faith and hope must go together because of the way they are interdependent upon a common elements of belief and expectations that are both focused upon a personal relationship. Again let me point out the phrases “faith – belief and trust in and loyalty to God” and “hope – someone on which hopes are centered.”

    Drawing from that perspective I wanted to see what the Holy Scriptures teaches about faith. I read where Jesus took an opportunity to teach his disciples about faith.

    “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:21-22 (New International Version)

    Finally, I found it very encouraging to read the following words:

    “…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (New International Version)

    I think it is fitting for me to say my faith is based upon the facts and truth about the Easter story. It is my desire that you, too, will search out the truth about faith and hope and determine what you believe down deep in your heart and soul then cling to it and you will be able to fully understand what I mean when I say HOPE for me is “Holding Onto Promises Everlasting.” You see I believe in “belief and trust in and loyalty to God,” and I have expectations because of my faith and hope. And I don’t doubt them one bit.

    This study was important for me today because I have had to refocus myself on my faith this past week as once again I have dealt with the uncertainty of a seizure. On Tuesday evening after doing my exercise routine it happened in the car. The difference is this time I did not completely pass out and go unconscious so I was aware of exactly what my body experienced. It took all the faith I could muster to survive that experience.

    I pray everyone that reads my words will receive a special blessing and that they will take this opportunity to seek the truth for themselves. Don’t be fooled by all the rhetoric going around the world today. Look to history and the facts and make up your own mind. And always remember, “You are the most important person in the world!”


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  9. April 20, 2009 — Catching Up
  10. I bet I’m not the only person running behind on my to-do-list. Last week I was so overwhelmed with things to do that I totally missed posting an update. So let me take just a few minutes to catch up.

    The one single question I am asked over and over is how I am really doing. I think I will let my hair down a little for you tonight and give you the inside scoop. I am doing this in an effort to give you an understanding about what it’s really like to be in the situation I have been living in for several years.

    My spirit is strong and I spend as much time as I need to searching my heart and soul and reading the Bible and praying. That is the highlight of my day as I maintain a relationship with my best friend in the universe.

    Back here on earth I spend my time with my beautiful bride, and Deborah reminds me if I get too far off course. I tend to spend too much time on my computer at times working to communicate with other people that I have established relationships with over the years.

    If you ask how I am doing in this body I would have to be honest and tell you that I feel tired a lot, and beyond that, something that many people that read this will not understand, I feel fatigued. It takes all I have to keep going some days. But I have learned you cannot give in to that or you won’t accomplish anything. So I use my famous word balance and try to push the envelope to keep going.

    The one thing that seems to get me down is the uncertainty of the seizures. If you don’t recall that, I had one on 3/11, 3/24, and 4/7/2009. That was after we got me stabilized on my anti-seizure medication and things were going along fine. We honestly think sleep was my main issue because of stress that kept me waking up early in the morning. I got up and got going even when I didn’t feel like it then daylight savings time hit and I went down for the count.

    My neurologist, Dr. Hamond, has been working with me on that problem by making adjustments to my medication. Then last Friday, I had a MRI to double-check my head. After close to an hour of clanking and banging and all sorts of noises, being shot with some type of contrast so they could get better pictures of the blood flow through my head, and being inside that little cocoon it was finally over. And we are still waiting on the results of that test.

    Perhaps one of the huge blessings is that I get to work every day from home as a special accommodation to my medical condition. I have a large balance of time in the leave donation program so I don’t lose a paycheck when I have to take off work. Both of those things help me use my training, skills, and experience as an information technology project manager. That makes my emotional state more stabilized because I feel useful in society. The days are busy, but they are busy doing what I love to do – working with people and helping our customers. What else can a person ask for!

    The one thing I have learned is the importance of building in slack time so I don’t get too stressed out. I stand back and look at all the things on my plate and prioritize them and let the low priorities go. I am not superman! No need in trying to be. When I do that it works well; when I don’t, well the seizures get my attention.

    See, you’re not that surprised are you. I’m pretty normal. But the neatest thing is the fact that the two beautiful young ladies I met over one-year ago (Lindsey and Emily) are both passing their transplant dates and doing well. It encourages me so much when I hear from them.

    Let me close by sharing that one of my fellow transplant buddies and members of our KUMED Bone Marrow Transplant Support Group set up a Web site for us. I have been helping Tom put together content there. If you want to see what that looks like you can visit http://www.badbloodclub.org. I’m excited that he asked me to help and we both have a goal of helping other people learn about this treatment option and the successes we have because of it.

    Please keep the people that are sick, our caregivers, and our medical teams in your prayers. I often tell people that you are the most important person in the world. Just think about that for a minute and remember how much it means to me that you care enough to stop by and check in on Deborah and me. And your prayers make a lot of difference for both of us. Thank you.


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  11. April 28, 2009 — Simply Catching Up – Again!
  12. Over the past couple of weeks things have been very hectic at the Sprague residence. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I think a couple of them are noteworthy.

    Every now and then I try to do something special with Deborah and I took the risk two weeks ago of going to Oak Park Mall on a Sunday afternoon. The trip was very quick to use a coupon she had for some makeup. I loved seeing all the people there and especially the families that were together.

    This past weekend was also busy. And the next exciting event was seeing my teenage love. I spent approximately three-years dating a lady I truly loved with all my heart. She was beautiful in many ways, but especially her heart of gold. Perhaps one of her greatest assets was how much she cared about people.

    I believe God has always had his hand on my life guiding me through his plan for me. So it makes sense that, after Toni and I were together for so long, things would change. I met Deborah and she met Jack. It was me that brought our relationship to an end and the way I acted as a teenager, I was probably a jerk when I did it. However, that heart that cares for people saved me, and Toni located me and asked if she and Jack could visit Deb and me. We agreed and this past weekend we got together for a long heart-to-heart talk and a wonderful visit.

    We all had to agree life had thrown us many ups and downs, but we all had stuck it out with our mates like God intended for us to. I was especially proud to hear that Jack had served our country with a career in the military. And I cannot begin to understand the stress and strain that would place on a relationship. But they made it, and today are very happy with children and grandchildren.

    You may or may not understand this, but I was thrilled to see my old friend. And I was thrilled that she cared enough when she heard of my illness that she wanted to reach out to Deborah and me and encourage us. Toni was just as beautiful as I remembered her all those years ago when we were young, and her stories reinforced the huge size of her heart and how much she cares for people. I must say she made a difference for me and helped me grow up and into the man I am today. Thank you Toni and Jack!

    Our weekend ended up with us paying a visit to one of our other friends whose son was graduating from high school this year. It was good to see everyone, and to feel so old in a good way. We were all best friends when they got married. Then the two children came along, and I got sick so we didn’t get to spend as much time together as we used to. Now the youngest is graduating, and next fall both kids will be in college together. Congratulations Will!

    To top everything off I still have people writing me on my blog and I really appreciate that. I wish I could muster the energy to write everyone personally, but that is simply not possible these days. I pray everyone understands.

    Before I forget the MRI results showed everything the same as it was approximately one-year ago. That is good news! And so far I am blessed to be in my third week since my last seizure and I am working diligently at managing my stress better.

    The next round of testing is blood tests, a PET scan, and a doctor’s visit all in mid-May. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

    Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement. It is wonderful to see spring arriving and all the life springing up around us. I pray you and your family have a wonderful spring along with us.


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