Hodge – Pronounced Dead – 10:45 am Pacific Standard Time

February 12, 2007

This morning I received very good news.  The results from the bone marrow biopsy and my PET and CT scans that were performed last week showed no trace of the Hodge.  I am officially in remission.  Chemotherapy is over, and I just have to check in with my oncologist every three months for the next two years.

The Hodge has been banished, I will not miss him, and I pray he never returns.  That said I am grateful for the lessons he taught me while we struggled.  He taught me that the only thing that truly matters in mortality is my relationship with my God, with my family, and with my friends.  Wealth is not measured by gold, fame, or power but by the depth, strength, and integrity of our relationships. 

I quickly discovered that the greater battle was not in enduring the pain but in maintaining faith.  This greater battle could not have been fought without you.  Daily I received strength from your prayers, phone calls, emails, letters, cards, packages, visits, texts, and a DVD compiled by friends and family.  The collection of your efforts to sustain and strengthen my will has resulted in a miracle that has granted me a second chance in this life.  I am indebted to you and cannot thank you enough. 

I am and always will be indebted to a God who operates in the details.  He is aware of my pains and struggles and has lightened my burdens.  This lightening effect often came in the form of a thoughtful gesture from one of you. 

As for the future, well Lance won 7 Tour de Frances so I thought maybe I should win 10 Iron Man World Championships or maybe just get back in shape.  Really I just hope to live a life worthy of the miraculous second chance I have been given.  Thank you.   

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Amendment to The Medical Update

January 7, 2007

I received some pretty good news last week after I made my last post.  The oncologists at Stanford reevaluated my PET and CT scans and decided that an MRI would no longer be necessary.  They feel that all of the new activity in my bone marrow was drug and chemo induced and not an indication that old Hodge is fighting back.  I will complete the fifth and sixth 3-week cycles of chemotherapy in early February.  At the end of my sixth cycle the doctors will perform another bone marrow biopsy.  If the sample of bone marrow is cancer negative then I am done with Chemo and will welcome back a full head of hair!

The medical update

January 2, 2007

Happy New Year to everyone.  I hope that you all had a great holiday season.  Mine was fantastic.  Thanksgiving and Christmas both fell during recovery weeks, so I was strong enough to spend the Holidays with my family with little disruption from the Hodge.  These timely respites also allowed me to capitalize on drinking lots of delicious eggnog.   I am currently in my first week of my 5th 3-week cycle.  Last week I received news from the latest set of PET and CT Scans. 

The scans showed that the cancer in my lymph system has continued to show regression which is great news.  The scans however

were not clear regarding the cancer in my bone marrow, specifically in my spine.  As a result, next Monday I am scheduled for an MRI of my spine.  This MRI should clarify whether the activity in my bone marrow is due to cancer or bone marrow regeneration.  We are hoping for the latter.   The results from this MRI will help determine how many more cycles of chemo will be necessary to annihilate the Hodge.  The minimum is 6 cycles, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.   Jared thanks for the last blog update.  Round 4 with the Hodge was a real scrap and I just didn’t quite have the strength to put together an understandable post.  I must also thank all of you who have continued to support me at this time.  Your, emails, texts, letters, prayers and more have had an incredible impact on my spirits.  I do not think I could muster the strength to fight this battle alone.  Thank you.

New Pics

January 2, 2007

Here are a few Pics from this Holiday Season:

derek_pirate.jpg papa_clippers.jpg

For Halloween I decided to go with one of the classics.  Grace seemed to like the idea of a pirate as well. 


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The fam, as well as the extended fam, at Thanksgiving.

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I’ve labelled the first of these two pics the “Three Stooges” for obviously reasons, and the second is me enjoying the pristine beauty of good old Lake Tahoe.

It’s hard to stop a Diesel Duelly

December 8, 2006

Hello everyone, this is Jared, Derek’s brother.  He has asked me to give you all a quick update—so I will attempt to do this to the best of my abilities first in straight forward English…as I remember it, and second in Montaneese for all those who are concerned about Derek here in the north land.

 

At the moment Derek is going through the “rough” part of this his 4th chemo cycle.  The good and the bad news is that his blood counts were high enough on his last trip to Stanford that he was able to get a full dose o’the good stuff.  Each cycle that Derek goes through becomes harder as his body gets progressively weaker. In order to give you some idea on a scale you might be able to comprehend—on an average day before cancer, Derek was easily as strong as any ten men put together.  Now after going through the roughest part of his 4th cycle of treatment he might be down to the strength of 6 maybe 6½ men.  Apparently Derek and my dad have been taking some slow walks around the neighborhood to get out of the house every now and then.  For a moment there the neighbors went into quite a panic thinking that the Reno chapter of the Arian brotherhood had been expanding.  One suggestion fellahs… hats.

Montaneese translation – (to begin to understand this you have to know two things, 1 that tractor analogies work pretty well to explain just about anything up here, and 2 there never was a male tractor in the history of tractors)

Well the diesel she’s still run’n strong, but sometimes she’ll be stuck in the ditch clean to her axles noh.  Takes a week or two to dig her out, but she’s usually right back to plow’n the back 40.  No need to worry, because she is a diesel duelly, and she can take the punishment, but up ahead she still has some rocky fields to plow…noh. 

Anyway, Derek’s spirits are up as usual, but he is really going through a tough and grueling part of this.  I would venture to say that all of your calls and messages mean more and help more than you might guess.  Keep it up

Hodge is on the Retreat

November 8, 2006

I have great news. On Monday we met with the Doctors at Stanford. After reviewing the PET and CT scans the doctors reported that I have made considerable progress. The Hodge has retreated in the majority of my bones and lymph system. When the doctors told me the good news I said, “So maybe I only have to do four 3-week-cycles instead of the original six.” The doctor looked at me and laughed as if to say “you naive little boy” then she explained that the minimum number of treatments is 6 cycles. You can’t fault me for trying. As of right now I will be done with Chemo by the end of January.

Some may look at the progress I have made and say it is strictly the result of modern medicine. I know that people who take this stance see only a small portion of a more miraculous occurrence. I have been extremely humbled by the prayers and acts of kindness offered on my behalf. Your faith is a tangible force that has provided me with the strength to fight and the power to heal. In the midst of pain and trial your faith has provided me with hope. Ultimately this hope has enabled me to more clearly see and understand a loving God. Thank you for your support.

I thought that you might enjoy a few of the pictures below.

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This picture was taken the day that I decided to cut my losses and shave my head. This rash decision was made when I woke up to a blonde, hairy pillowcase.

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This picture is proof that I’m tougher than my dad (notice he only dared go half way… but you do have to give him credit for that much).

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This picture is of my nurse Julita. Julita is the head nurse in the infusion room. She can best be described as a little ball of energy bouncing from patient to patient-giving encouragement and love while she administers chemo. She is magic with the needles and is a person who really makes a difference in the world.

derek_baby.jpg

This picture is of my niece Kennedy and the back of my head.  Previous to my change in hairstyle, Kennedy would greet me with a big grin and a few laughs.  After the hair was gone so were the smiles.  In this picture I was attempting to get her to touch my head in hopes that with some luck the smiles would return.  It took her a few weeks and a few more close encounters with the hairless one but her happy disposition has returned. 

Hodge the Hilarious

November 1, 2006

I know that I have been a negligent blogger.  I am sorry; I have just been so busy checking out all these great TV shows that have been recommended.  Thank goodness for Hollywood and their diligent efforts to entertain.  Last Monday I created a bit of a scene in the infusion room – the area of the hospital where members of the BBA (Bald and Beautiful Association) meet.  We congregate in the infusion room to receive our various chemo cocktails by IV.  Generally the mood in the room is somber, and most people are trying to sleep or focusing on going to their happy place.  Well, last Monday I decided to take my iPod (Thank you Mr. Steve Jobs) to my BBA meeting and watch a few episodes of the highly recommended series The Office.  I could not control my laughter because my good friends Dwight, Jim, Pam, Michael and other characters were simply on fire.  The nurses and my fellow bald associates thought that either the chemo or the cancer was inducing a fit of temporary insanity.

Now for the medical status report, I think things are becoming quite difficult for Hodgey.  This is week three of my second cycle, which means for the most part I have the week off and I am feeling great.  Tomorrow I have an appointment for a PET and CT Scan, which will enable the doctors to determine how the Hodge is reacting to the chemo.  This discussion will take place this Monday with the docs at Stanford.  I am confident the results from the scans will be positive, and I will update the blog with the results at my soonest opportunity after Monday’s chemo treatment.  I will also post some pictures of my shiny pate.  Thank you again for your continued love and support.

Round 1 with old Hodge

October 13, 2006

This Sunday will mark the end of my first 3-week cycle, only 5 more 3-week cycles to go and old Hodge and I will go our separate ways.  So you may ask, “Derek, what is it like to complete your first cycle of Chemo?”  Well I am glad that you asked

On Monday of week 1 I receive an IV cocktail of various drugs.  The remainder of week 1 I take Chemo pills every morning.  This week is when we get real serious about napping in the Swanson household.  My Dad has even started to take the occasional mid day snooze just to show his support.

On Monday of week 2 I go in to receive another IV chemo boost (similar to the boosts you get at Jamba Juice but not really).  At this point in the cycle I think I probably have a blood to chemo ratio of about 50/50 in my veins.  Apparently this condition takes its toll on the body because for the next few days of week 2 I am a walking zombie.  This catatonic state is the toughest part of the match.  In order to bring me back from the dead, I receive a shot for the next 7 days, which increase my white blood cell count.  I don’t know what having a high white blood cell count does other than it makes a person feel real good. 

Week 3 in the cycle is my week off.  No chemo, no shots, and no hospitals.             

Your next question may be “So Derek how do you feel?”  Well thank you so much for asking.  I feel blessed.  Now please don’t stop reading because you think I am a liar and please don’t call the mental hospital.  I feel blessed for many reasons most of which I will not be able to express.  I am blessed because this is the one time in my life that I can watch a full season of Smallville in one week and not feel the least bit guilty.  On a more serious note, I am blessed becuase my body has reacted with relatively few side effects to the chemotherapy. In fact, other than the occasional impromptu boxing match with the Hodge, I have not felt a great deal of pain.  My appetite is strong and my body weight has remained constant due to my mom’s delicious home cooking.  As for the hair, my father keeps asking my mother “Anne, do we have a blonde Collie running around the house?”  Yes, the hair is beginning to go, but if Lex Luther can handle it so can I.  The strength I have received is a miraculous answer to prayer; your faith on my behalf has lightened my burden.  I cannot thank you enough for your support.  I am truly blessed to have met and developed friendships with so many amazing, good, and thoughtful people. 

I know that I have only completed the first round of six, but so far so good. 

Hodge the Ferocious

October 5, 2006

Thank you to all who have written and been so thoughtful.  Your messages of support have been a source of great strength in my battle against Hodge the Ferocious.  I am in my second week of treatment and am fairing well.  My hairline is holding strong and my internal body clock has adjusted to my intense napping schedule.  As I pondered this post, I thought that maybe a few pictures would help in the sharing of this experience.  The pictures below document our last visit to Stanford.  As can be seen below the mood in the hospital room was very tense.  The feelings of anticipation regarding the forthcoming final diagnosis were suffocating.  I was grateful that I had my brother along to help soften the blow.

 glove1big.jpg  glove2.jpg glove3.jpg

Life is good.

Death to Hodge

September 28, 2006

Please forgive me if this first entry is a little long, but I have had a lot on my mind lately.  If you get bored I apologize and would suggest splitting up the read over a few days. 

            First things first, I still have my hair and I guess I should have it for a few more weeks, so it may be a while before I can post any good bald pictures.  Kristin, thank you for the support regarding the baldness and I agree that Shauna should shave her head too.  Overall, I am feeling pretty good.  I had my first injection of Chemo on Monday.  On Tuesday and Wednesday instead of Chemo by IV, I have taken about 15 Chemo pills.  In addition to the Chemo pills I take about eight pills a day to handle the side effects of nausea and other neat treats.  I have found that the best way to handle old Hodge so far is by taking frequent catnaps.  Really life isn’t all that bad.

            I have been truly humbled by the support and concern that you have all shown in my behalf.  Ever since word spread that old Hodge (Hodgkin Lymphoma) and I have been hanging out, I have received a seemingly unending number of phone calls, emails, cards, and of course messages on the blog.  With a support group like this and the prayers and fasting of so many, I know that the Germans (creators of the Beacop Chemo regime) will not loose in their battle against old Hodge. 

            I feel that I must thank a few people specifically for their help.  First Micah, thank you for setting up this blog so that I can keep in touch with everyone.  Ryan Andrus, thank you for introducing me to the first season of Scrubs on DVD last year.  Darrin Harris, thank you for watching the second season of Scrubs in one Saturday with me.  Due to my Scrubs training I am so much better prepared to deal with the rigors of hospital life.  Matt, (the Bullshark) Jones, thank you for all those years in college when you dutifully and routinely displayed how to properly take a mid-morning and mid-afternoon nap.  You are truly an inspiration.

            On a more serious note I must say that I am most grateful for the knowledge of a loving God.  As the doctors sit in front of me and provide me with my percentage survival rates, I am grateful to know that those do not apply to me.  Over the last few weeks I have felt a calming assurance from the true Healer that I will be fine.  I know that this calming assurance is the result of many prayers and fasting in my behalf.  So once again I must say thank you for all of your love and support.