Being Thankful

The important thing to me is maintaining a thankful spirit even in difficult times. I experienced several things this month that included getting test results back, more experience with seizures, and the inevitable waiting game.

It was important for me to focus on the good things in my life instead of the problems. In the end, I was blessed; even though it was a dreadful time that was scary.

List of events

  1. March 5, 2009 — Being Thankful
  2. March 11, 2009 — Standing Firm – Faith
  3. March 17, 2009 — Focused on the goal
  4. March 26, 2009 — Intentional Thoughts Pay Dividends

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  1. March 5, 2009 — Being Thankful
  2. This morning I woke up early wanting to post an update on my blog. I often tell people I wake up every day feeling as though my cup is half-empty. Then I pray and ask God to correct my way of thinking so I can proceed into my day by realizing my cup is really more than half-full. Today is no different.

    I started out by reading the verse of the day which said: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6 (New International Version) I continued by reading the entire chapter. That gave me the correct perspective to start my day then I continued to mediate on something that is important to me.

    From: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?version=31&search=Deuteronomy+6:+6-7

    I have been thinking a lot lately about a topic I heard a well-known man speak about one time. He referred to his “Wall of Gratitude.” In my life I realize I have a wall like that created in my mind.

    After doing a quick search on the Internet I found information about the man I am talking about. I bet many of you will know his name Zig Ziglar. On the Webpage I located today I found some words of encouragement from Mr. Ziglar that I want to share with you. He said, “This year I will develop a strong attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions, and the more you express gratitude for what you have, the more you will have to express gratitude for. On the other side of that coin, the more you complain about your problems, the more problems you will have to complain about.”

    As I continued to read that story I found an explanation about the motivation for having a Wall of Gratitude: Mr. Ziglar said, “In your life there have been certain people who did some wonderful things for you. It could have been a teacher, a preacher, a next-door neighbor, your boss, an associate on the job-possibilities are limitless.” I certainly have some of those people in my life and I pray you have them too! Excerpts used from:


    I will not name names here for you today, but I want you to know the people in my life that I hold in high esteem for their contribution to my life fit into the description Mr. Ziglar used. Without every one of them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am certainly thankful none of those people gave up on me. And I pray I made a difference for them too!

    While I was doing research on this topic this morning I found another person that used “Wall of Gratitude.” I really appreciated the quote I located there: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” This quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt. These words ring true to me and I am sure they will also help other people that live lives filled with illness. I find them challenging and inspiring. I also realize they describe the way I have faced my life filled with cancer and treatments to save my life.

    Quote used from: http://karensyed.blogspot.com/2009/01/wall-of-gratitude-eleanor-roosevelt.html

    Please take on your day in a similar way. While everyone that reads my blog is hopefully not a cancer patient or a person with any major illness, each and every one of us that live in today’s culture face problems. All we have is today and I believe I have shown us all how to face this day and enjoy the time we have with loved ones, friends, and each other.

    Next week I have a PET scan and will see the doctor for results. I am doing well and enjoying every moment of my life. Please remember to pray for the people you know that need your love and support. And don’t forget to send a note of encouragement to that special person you are thinking of. I am thankful you stopped by HOPE in the Heartland. Thank you for caring!

    Remember the little things you do for others mean so much to the person on the receiving end. You, my friend, are the most important person in the world and never ever forget that God loves you!

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  3. March 11, 2009 — Standing Firm – Faith
  4. This morning I want to assure the people that regularly visit HOPE in the Heartland that I am standing firm on my faith. Yesterday brought with it a new PET scan and the inevitable waiting for results. Everyone that deals with any type of illness knows how this works on a person’s mind.

    In my case I laid in that machine that was slowly moving me through the scanning process yesterday in total comfort that no matter what the results are I know they are for a reason. I decided years ago to trust in God’s unfailing love and his plan for my life. Even as I live with all the tests and medical procedures.

    Recently I shared on a friend’s blog that I believe faith is the fuel for hope. That is because I have personal experiences learning about the decision making process. I learned that my heart and mind can flutter and struggle with things or I can make a decision and take action based upon that decision. In that, I have learned that not everything in life can be quantified in scientific terms, but faith is the basis for many things I cannot see.

    For example electricity is something I cannot see that works for me each and every day of my life. Another example is gravity because I cannot see it but if an object of any kind is placed in mid-air it is going to move in one direction – down to the floor. And in my lifetime I have been given the choice to believe God has control of everything or that he doesn’t. The neat thing is he gave me that choice. I have experiences after believing that he does.

    I have seen bad things happen to all different kinds of people and when I have heard their stories I have seen the hand of God at work in their lives. During my last thirteen and one-half years as a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient I have met and befriended many people with different diseases and those who shared their faith always were at peace. Those who did not were troubled throughout their entire soul.

    And recently I had a cousin that got deathly ill. Had he not been where he was at the time he had a medical emergency he would have died within a few minutes. But because of faith family and friends that prayed for this person over and over had him shielded from the worst outcome. After being transported to the proper facility a surgeon performed major surgery to fix the problem and a few short days later he is recovering and expected to be back to normal very quickly. Faith made all that possible.

    With faith we can have hope because today is not the end of things as we know it. Oh, I know, people like me will tell you our lives were turned upside down when a disease or an accident happened that changed our worlds. But again, I can tell you those things drew many of us closer to God and gave us the benefit of knowing him in a more personal way. That is because people, no matter how much effort they put into something, cannot be there for us when the going gets tough. But God is!

    Faith, and our lives experiences with good and bad, always makes things work out better in the end. Our attitude is the one thing we can add to the equation. Building off a rock solid faith and choosing to see the good inside a bad situation takes many of us forward in our maturity and in our successes in life.

    One day I listened to a speaker tell a story about a meeting he attended. During that meeting the presenter provided the group with three words that are very meaningful to me. I believe they are “Intentional traits that come from a person’s heart,” after they make a choice to live a life of faith.

    Remember you can do like I did, and many other people have done in their lives. You can have faith then live intentionally with a rock solid purpose. These three words describe what I am talking about: Attitude, Character, and Enthusiasm. It is easy when you believe that God is in control of everything in our lives.

    Now later this week I’ll hear the news from my PET scan. I know the last one showed some problems in my abdominal area. My recent blood tests also show things are progressing. But my goal is to intentionally move forward with a good attitude; live my life with character; and be enthusiastic about each and every opportunity I have. I pray you will join me.

    If you doubt what I am saying here I would simply ask you to do one thing. Seek the truth. Get past all the hype in our society and go back in history to find the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because I have it on good authority that faith will help us see that, “The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6 (New International Version)

    From: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=5&chapter=7&version=31

    Thank you for visiting HOPE in the Heartland! I pray you will seek the truth because I know that the truth will set you free. I have a lot to be thankful for today and I am glad I had an opportunity to share it with you.

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  5. March 17, 2009 — Focused on the goal
  6. In my last post I promised to give everyone the word on my PET scan results. If you recall my blood tests showed a slight elevation in one of the cancer markers and I was told to expect some progression of the cancer. The question was how much progression would the scan show?

    Before I give you that outcome I would like to share another story about what I got to experience last week. I found out just how tightly I was wound up on Wednesday evening just as I finished my routine thirty minute walk.

    It had been a stress filled time at work and I found myself putting in a few extra hours like many people do on a regular basis. My team was quite busy and I was dug in leading the charge as usual. There were several occasions when I woke up early and got out of bed to start my day ahead of schedule, which led me to be more tired than usual. And I just never seemed to get that to-do-list caught up – everything was a priority. Does that sound like a story you have heard before?

    I got the opportunity to drive into my office for the first time in over one-year to meet our new manager and participate in a couple of meetings with her. Then I got up the next day and drove to KUMED where I had the PET scan run without incident. I was really enjoying my new found freedom to be able to get out on my own and drive my car.

    Wednesday (3/11/09), started out in the same fast paced manner and I felt extremely tired because of the change to daylight savings time over the weekend. But I really thought I had things under control. Or did I?

    As we arrived at the community center to do our normal exercise routines I remember telling Deborah perhaps I should just sit in the truck and listen to the radio and relax. I was so tired, but I didn’t surrender to those feelings I just pushed my way into the gymnasium where I proceeded to walk for my normal one-half hour. And you would be pleased to know I finished that walk!

    On my last lap, after having already finishing my time goal, I suddenly felt what they tell me is an aura. In my case, it begins when my right hand starts moving up over my head as if someone has taken control of it. Then just a few seconds later I am out cold for varying timeframes.

    This last seizure only lasted an estimated three or four minutes, but I was not aware of anything for approximately two more hours. Then, for about one-hour, I was in a fog so to speak because I was just starting to become aware of my surroundings and able to recall what was going on and talk to Deborah. And, in this case, just as in my previous seizures, I had very few seconds warning before I totally collapsed.

    The good thing is I was able to tell someone what was happening to me and I was able to direct my fall down onto the floor so I wouldn’t get hurt. Thank goodness a lady that was in the gym that evening with me was able to go get Deborah in another part of the building so she could come take care of getting me home. It was a real blessing that my doctor had given us the OK not to go to the hospital this time.

    My last seizure was approximately nine months ago and even though I was on medication we are pretty sure the stress and my recent lack of sleep caused this one. But my wonderful doctor took the precaution of adjusting my medication slightly. And I am going to have to do a better job managing my stress and getting the proper rest. (I hate daylight savings time changes – especially now!)

    My doctor tells me the seizures I have are called Complex Partial Generalized Seizures. The word that made a real impact on me when I had my second seizure was being told I have epilepsy by definition. In my case this is a result of an allergic reaction to a chemotherapy agent called Ifosomide back in November 2007.

    The rest of the story is that my PET scan test results came back as expected. I have additional growth at the locations we are watching in my abdominal area. Our goal is to watch and wait on that perfect bone marrow donor to be located. I am responsible for listening to my body and telling my doctor the very second I think something is going on.

    We also talked about looking into an umbilical cord blood transplant that is in clinical trials at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. My doctor is going to make some contacts to see if I am even a candidate for that. But we are still looking for a 100% unrelated donor match to do a bone marrow transplant here at KUMED.

    I am still feeling a bit weak from last week’s activities. I was scheduled to see my doctor at the Epilepsy Center at KUMED on Monday for a routine follow-up visit that was scheduled before last week’s event. This is all difficult to deal with, but I am doing my part by focusing on God and him being in control of every aspect of my life. Let me tell you that when that aura hits me and I go down for the count I am totally dependent on God’s grace and his mercy. The feelings and emotions I experience for just a few seconds are so scary because for that period in time I know for sure just how much I do “not” control.

    May I please ask everyone to say a special thank you prayer for me? I won’t go into what could have happened if things had been even the slightest bit different. I have a lot to be thankful for today and I hope that rings through loud and clear in my words. To God be the glory great things he has done!

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  7. March 26, 2009 — Intentional Thoughts Pay Dividends
  8. It always amazes me to realize what I find my mind focused on. Do you ever think about that?

    I have had several scary situations to deal with in the last two weeks – two different times my body has gone into a seizure, and I can testify to the fact they are stressful. This stress also impacts my beautiful bride that has thankfully been there to care for me each time I have taken this journey into unknown – and me – the guy that takes the trip.

    My most recent seizure happened on Tuesday, March 24, 2009, while we were driving down the street. Just as before, I realized it was coming and told Deborah in time to get us off the road as I went to la-la land. We had just finished our day, and finished our exercise routines then headed off for a nice Greek meal to start our evening. But things didn’t turn out that way. We ended up coming home and getting a bite here after I came to.

    The good news is this seizure was a short one. It lasted about one minute and I seemed to be almost immediately able to communicate with Deborah. By the time we drove the short distance home I was able to get up and walk into our home with a little help. And I called my Uncle Gary and talked intelligently with him. In the past that has taken several hours (the intelligent part).

    After telling my nurse practitioner about the episode the next day my doctor upped my medication yet again. Now I am on 3,000 mg a day of a fairly new anti-seizure medication called Keppra.

    I had been contemplating writing a story to share some things with you, but that got postponed when my brain got focused in a different direction. Tonight I want to approach this subject, and tell you what I was thinking about.

    Over the weekend I had an opportunity to talk to a friend that is a counselor and I was pleased when I asked about relaxation techniques. It was good to know that is one of the things I need most and the primary method to achieve total relaxation is deep breathing exercises. I actually learned some things over the years. And, yes, relaxation takes focus and intentional effort.

    Just a few weeks back I also wrote and asked for an opinion about a story idea I have had floating around in my mind for some time now. It is the title, “Stories Really Do Make A Difference.” I keep thinking how neat it would be to get several people to work together on a project and compile stories that would help other people, and perhaps raise money for a foundation we all believe strongly in. (I have always dreamed of starting, HOPE in the Heartland in a formal way.

    I got the best answer and the most exciting gift in the world that day, and just reading it inspired me to relax. I was told, “You have the intelligence, energy, and heart to do whatever you set your mind to. Thank you for all you do and all you are…” That helped me focus on the fact that I don’t have to struggle to do anything else special – just keep doing what I am doing and being who God created me to be.

    This isn’t the first time I have been given this advice. I must tell you I often struggle thinking I am not doing enough and I feel like I am falling short of goals I should accomplish. Readjusting my focus helps me a lot (thank you friend).

    One other fact still sits top and center in my mind about relaxation. I am so glad I listened to a man I enjoy learning from and made notes while he was speaking a long time ago. Let me share them with you tonight as well.

    Back in February, 2005, I wrote down these notes as Dr. Charles Stanley taught on Biblical Meditation. He started off by mentioning what God told Joshua to do. Meditate on my word day and night not turning to the right or the left. (Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”) Isaiah 30:21 (New International Version)

    Then Dr. Stanley taught the practice of Biblical Meditation takes time, silence, and quietness; and you must be committed to it. It is the only way a person can cultivate a meaningful relationship with God; a relationship that will last for all eternity. He used a compass as an illustration to help us learn the importance of people having a sense of direction for our lives. I have a goal of doing this every day.

    I also jotted down ten items that Dr. Stanley taught were important for us to expect when we are all alone facing challenges in life:

  1. Learn to have a quiet spirit.
  2. To purify your heart, focus on the Lord God and his word.
  3. Cultivate a deepening hunger for God by asking, “How did Jesus operate?”
  4. When we do these things they enlarge our view of God and we learn to see things “from God’s viewpoint.”
  5. This practice helps us sharpen our discernment and we become confident in our ability to see things and think in God’s way.
  6. Learn to clarify direction for your life. God guides us to the place we are and he leads us from there.
  7. It is always as good practice to seek confirming council to clarify what we are learning or perhaps even to provide caution if we get off course.
  8. When we do these things we see our confidence increase because we know the source – the man who gets his orders from heaven teams up with omnipotence.
  9. We are able to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit and we absolutely have him available to help us accomplish the goal God has in front of us.
  10. We are able to be sensitive to the presence of God in our lives and his leading.

Now I know talking about my faith in God may make some people uncomfortable. I merely want you to know how I deal with the day-to-day frustrations of illness. Prayer works for me and reading the Bible always calms my spirit. I have also found a steady diet of radio and television programs that teach about God helps me too. And there is the Internet which provides another source for learning.

I can testify to the fact that intentional thoughts pay dividends for me as I face each and every new day. I know I am not alone in this universe and that there is someone that really has control of everything – even things I cannot understand – like seizures and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Let me thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers. I am so blessed to be able to report many of my friends are doing well and there are a bunch of us bone marrow transplant patients having birthdays as we pass the one year mark for our transplants. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, but most of all for your prayers. I am so blessed to have today!

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