Friday, August 7, 2009

Pray for Lee 8-7-09

Dear All:

One other item I wanted to post pertains to a beloved friend, colleague and boss. As life has dealt an unfortunate hand to Lee, please pray for him and his wife and family. Lee has been diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic cancer. What are the odds of two executives from the same company, who sit next to each other, one who supported me so much this last year on my own AML journey, of being touched with cancer? We can all say that Life isn't fair, etc., etc. However, praise God that Lee is a Godly man and his life is in the hands of our Lord.

Currently, Lee is going through chemo treatment and, unfortunately has no hope of his cancer being treated through surgery or a transplant. He does have the hope of his faith in our Lord and Savior. Lee's attitude is fantastic. He is positive and motivated to continue working. His wife and him left on a cruise today. Pray for a restful and inspirational time together. He has the hope of a miracle. Pray for that miracle. Most importantly, he is a "shining light" to me and others around him with his attitude and testimony. Whether it is in God's will that Lee be healed or prepare him for heaven, that is in the Lord's control. Medically, this is one of the nastiest of cancers and medically, there is no "cure". Please pray for him.

I want to thank Lee personally for his ongoing support of me. I just hope that somehow through my own AML journey that God has taught and prepared me to encourage and support Lee and their family. Lee and his family have a different journey than me. I ask each of you to join me in helping to pray and provide encouragement and support to them.

Thank You
God Bless You All

I'm Back 8-7-09

Hi Everyone:

OK, I will first apologize for being so neglectful on keeping my blog up to date. Several of you have hinted (very directly) that I should update my blog and keep you informed of my status. My sincere apologies for not doing so.

Here is the status:
I had a Stem Cell Transplant on January 14, 2009. Was in the hospital for the typical 3 and1/2 weeks, spent a month or so at home, and am fully engaged. The great news is that I had a bone marrow biopsy about 8 weeks ago and I am CLEAN. There is no sign of leukemia and the donor's cells represent greater than 95% of my bone marrow. My family and I are naturally very pleased and we give the glory totally to our Lord Jesus Christ.

All along this journey, I have felt well and have continued to work and exercise. All I need is my laptop and cell phone and my work gets done. Being an executive at Essential Group has been a total joy, made possible by my colleagues and friends there who have been so supportive in my journey. I thank each and everyone of them personally. I thank each and every one of you who have consistently prayed for me. I could mention names, but this posting would be very long. You know who you are. I thank my family. My daughters and sons-in-laws have been an inspiration. I can't tell you how much I love Amanda, Jackie and Elizabeth, not because of their prayers and support, but for the fine examples of Godly women that each have developed and continue to grow into. Finally, my wife Gail is the cornerstone of my foundation. She is my rock! Without her, I don't know what I would have done or how I would have handled this journey to date. I love her so much and she is a person who gives so much more than she ever wants to receive. Thank you sweetheart for who you are. I love you!

The journey is certainly not over. That nasty cancer called AML doesn't like to be defeated. I will continue to be monitored with occasional biopsies. I am still on immunosuppressants trying to keep the GVHD (Graft Versus Host Disease) in check. I am being dialed down on many of the medications and hope to be completely off the immunosuppressants withing the next 2 months. Meanwhile, I have my little pill box I use to routinely pop my pills.

Technically, on a medical front, the doctors won't declare a cure for five years. As for me, it is one day at a time. I know that God has given me each day of feeling good because of his grace. It is totally in his will as to how long I am in remission. I can tell you that I feel 27 again. That is, my donor is 27 years old from somewhere in eastern europe. After one year, I will be able to communicate directly with him and thank him for his contribution of life to me. If any of you can qualify to be a donor, please do it. Thank you.

I will try to post an occasional update. Until we meet or talk or email or tweet again, please know that each of you have been my strength, encouragement, energy source, and inspiration. I still where my wrist band that has "relentless" on it. That is what I am. I just hope and pray that somehow my journey has and can be an encouragement and inspiration to you.

Glod Bless You All
Love Dennis

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Friend Nick 1-10-09

I don't really have much of an update. They started chemo a couple of days ago and I am feeling fine. So I won't add much more.

The only thing that I did want to point out is that some of you (you know who I am speaking of); many of you out there really have "sick sense of humors'. When I read Nick's comment to Gail from my 1/7/09 blog, she asked "who in the world is that?". I responded by telling her Nick is our friend in Atlanta, at which point she said "Oh yeah, Him!

What I love about Nick is that during times when people are "down" and going in for Stem Cell Transplants and looking for encouragement, Nick has the courage to remind me about the last time we played golf and "he kicked my butt". Isn't that nice? Furthermore, he proceeds to tell me that he also got an SL500 Benz and that his is "probably" better than mine. This my friends is the sign of true friendship. As for Nick's family, they are all the sweetest people in the world.

As for you Nick, I love you buddy!

All my Best

P.S. May God strike your golf club on the backswing on # 18

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I'm Back!! 1/7/09 I Have to Believe

Hi Folks:
I hope the past few months have been as good for you as they have for me. My middle daughter (Jackie) got married in Wichita, KS and we had a great time. All my daughters were home for Christmas along with my two Sons-In-Laws; again, a great time. I feel great and am in remission. I have a great wife and three loving daughters and a bunch of friends praying for me. A great feeling.

Well, the New Year has started and guess what. I was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital today (this was planned) to undergo a Stem Cell Transplant. Regardless of whether you think I have a sick sense of humor, this is not exactly my idea of fun although I am going to do the best with what I have to work with. It is a decision that we made (we being my family). You see the problem with AML, as I may have explained before, is that it "hides in the weeds". While I am in remission which means that there is no sign of leukemic cells from my bone marrow biopsy, the probability of it relapsing in 12 - 24 months is actually quite high. And if it does come back, I am in trouble. So we decided to go for the cure and not sit around for next 12 - 24 months wondering and worrying about whether it comes back or not. The cure, of course, is a Stem Cell Transplant (not guaranteed of course). This is where your part comes in. My family and I would appreciate lots of prayers!!

Let me try to give you a summary of what is going to happen. First of all, out of several hundred thousand in the Bone Marrow Registry, I had two individuals pop up that are a 10 for 10 match to my bone marrow genes. This is a good thing as it means that there is another person in this registry, who lives outside the U.S., who is willing to give me a donation of their Stem Cells and their Stem Cells are the closest match to mine for purposes of conducting this transplant. God Bless this person! I am prevented from knowing anything about this person for at least one year, but I will be able to write anonymous notes thanking them. The only thing I know is that the donor is a 27 year old male that lives outside the United States. Now if any of you want to sign up to the Bone Marrow Registry (doesn't mean I will get your cells), I would be happy to send you the Web site. What drives someone to register for this donation is beyond me, but I thank our Lord that there are people like this.

Now back to the transplant process. Beginning tomorrow, I will receive Chemo treatement for the next four days consisting of two different drugs. This will be what they call a full ablative transplant, which means that the chemo will kill off all of my cells in my bone marrow. It usually takes 2-3 weeks for the cells to die and hit the Nadir, but they will be exposed to this toxic chemo formula. I will then have 72 hours of rest. On January 13, my donor will be harvested of his Stem Cells through a transfusion process and his cells collected will be shipped to Chicago. On January 14, I will be infused with his Stem Cells, once again through my PICC line (transfused) into my veins. BTW, God designed our bodies and cells in a way that these Stem Cells will know to go directly to my bone marrow and take hold. Pretty cool, huh.

After the infusion of his Stem Cells, there will be some conflict between my own cells and his cells. It happens with ALL transplants of any sort. His cells will engraft to my marrow and my cells will fight these foreign cells. Even though he is a 10 for 10 match, his cells (we will refer to him as John Doe) and Dennis Cavender cells will fight each other. How appropriate to have a little conflict in my life. The Doctors will administer immunosuppressants (medication) to reduce this conflict but with no intent on eliminating this conflict. Because this is where the magic happens. The whole idea is to inject the John Doe's cells that are healthy and for the combination of the chemotherapy and the John Doe's cells to kill off all of my cells and take over my bone marrow and produce healthy cells (without leukemia) in the future. Voila!

The Doctors are optimistic for a positive outcome, however they do throw in their caveats about how the mortality risk is 20-25% in the first 100 days. I won't have much of an immune system so there is the risk of infection. Additionally, there is also the risk of "Graft versus Host" disease resulting from the transplanted cells fighting, thus the need for medication. But I have something that will override all of these risks. That is a promise from God in Jeremiah 29:11. Go ahead, read it. It can apply to you as well. Because our God is full of grace and mercy. Without my personal relationship with him, I really don't know what I would do going into this procedure.

Without getting too technical, I hope that helps explain the process. Please pray for me and my family and I will update you as this new chapter and journey unfolds.
God Bless all of you.
Love, Dennis

Saturday, September 13, 2008

9-13-08 Being Released Today

I weathered the Chemo well this week and feel good. I am being released today and will go home as my blood counts drop to low levels over the next 7 - 10 days. So I will need to be careful about exposure to infections. My plan is to work primarily from home and wash my hands a lot. Given my counts will drop, I will most likely need to do some outpatient blood and platelet transfusions. After the next couple of weeks, my counts should beging to come up nicely and I should be in good shape by the October 18 wedding in Wichita.

Thanks again for all of your prayers, comments, and suggestions about improving my driving skills given the SL500 bumper incident. God Bless all of you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I'm Back 9-8-08 In the Hospital that is

I am back in the hospital, but this is actually a good thing. Part of my chemo treatment envisioned a few rounds of "consolidation" treatment for a week at a time in the hospital. Praise the Lord that I have had three bone marrow biopsies and all show that my bone marrow is clean and no leukemic cells can be seen. This is a very good thing.

For the three weeks that I have been out of the hospital, I have felt great. My blood counts have climbed up into the normal range, I have spent the last couple of weeks in the office, caught up little lost time by driving my fleet of cars, and even managed to rip my front bumper on a parking curb on my SL500 baby (Mercedes). At first I whined a lot ($2800) to replace and paint a bumper!? But then my daughter Amanda reminded me that it is only a car. True! However, the younger female generation just does not understand the male mindset of my generation as to what cars, in particular, our special cars mean in our lives.

The consolidation or "clean up" round of chemo this week is intended to go after any leukemic stem cells that "may be hiding in the weeds". My treatment this week will consist of six infusions of Cytarabine "AraC", of which two will be administered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each. The expectation, barring no complications (please pray for that), that I will be released either late Friday or on Saturday. I would then recuperate at home as my blood counts go down over the following several weeks (the predicted nadir is 7 - 10 days). So I will neutropenic, which means I won't really have an immune system again and will most likely have outpatient blood and platelet transfusions. But I will be home! I don't plan to attend any social gatherings and will probably do my work from home for the following several weeks just to mitigate any risks related to infections. I do plan to build my counts up within 3-4 weeks and be totally fit as a fiddle ready to walk Jackie down the aisle on October 18 at her wedding.

I feel great and continue to stay busy with my work, workouts, reading and sundry other things regardless of whether I am in the hospital, at home, or at work. God is so good when we totally look to him.

I continue to thank many of you for staying in touch and for all of your thoughts and prayers. May the grace of God and the peace that he gives all who know him personally be an encouragement to your own lives and whatever trials that you may be experiencing. Our pastor a couple of weeks ago gave a sermon with regard to all of us at some time in our life experiencing a (several) crisis. The take home message is "to never waste a crisis". God has something planned for each of you if you allow him to work through you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Day 60 - 8-15-08 I'm Going Home!

I'm going home today everyone. Not much more to tell you than that. I will continue to update the Blog and keep you informed as to how I am doing. As for right now, thank you for all of your prayers, thoughts, emails, text messages, phone calls, and other support.