Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Walking...

A lot of the time you don't miss something until you need it or can't do it. I love to take long walks, especially in the woods and mountains, and used to do it every chance I got. Our dogs, Abby and Milo, and I would regularly take a 2 or 3 mile walk in a nearby park/reserve on Falls Lake where they were off the leash and running and swimming. On trips to Boone, any regular day would find me rising early and taking the pups for a long walk on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We would walk in any weather and especially liked the cold, as it kept most other walkers at home and we would have our designated walking venue to ourselves. Then came my back pain and the cancer diagnosis and the long walks stopped. In February and March, the leg pain increased and on March 29th I couldn't put any pressure on my legs. The pain was so severe that I was admitted to the hospital and for the next 31 days was in a hospital bed. Due to the damage that the myeloma had done to my sacrum, going through the sitting position to even try to stand was almost impossible due to the pain.

In late April, a young therapist used a special lift unit to get me to my feet and for the first time in 26 days I was able to put weight on my legs. Walking was a different matter due to the neuropathy in my feet (numbness in the toes and soles, and super sensitive on the top) and muscle atrophy in my legs. Basically I would have to learn to walk all over again.


By the time I left the hospital, I was walker enabled:



Abby and Milo accompanied me as they faithfully walked with me even when it was just up and down our long hallway ....up and back and up and back with them shadowing me every step of the way. They are so faithful and loyal. They are probably thinking the old guy has lost it, walking in circles instead of going for a long walk in the woods.




With the help of Anna, my physical therapist, I graduated from walker to crutches and was allowed to walk outside for the first time:

Soon, it was time to get off the crutches and let the legs to all the walking....so got a new walker that could handle the outside terrain:
I am now up to doing laps in our circular driveway and have moved from the walker to a cane. Each lap is 0.1 mile, and I am up to four laps in the morning and four at night.

This picture was taken in Boone this last weekend where I was walking the decks of the cabin for 0.25 mile three times a day. Of course the pups were still walking with me every step.

As we left Boone, we decided on one more trip to the Valle Crucis park and Linda and I walked just under a mile. Progress!! My goal is to once again take the dogs on a long walk at the reserve/park.

Walking: Something most of us take for granted until we can't do it anymore. For me, I have a new appreciation for walking and if anyone is looking for me and can't find me, well, I am probably with my cane........just walking!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Big EZ "Dominates" Multiple Myeloma!

*Many thanks to former UM placekicker Phil Brabbs and his organization, http://www.cancerkicker.org/, for all his efforts to get the word out and fund research in MM. His mission is to kick cancer...for good!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fun with Heads

I posted some of my Dad's emails and pictures to the kids here, but recently, we've been receiving about 1 picture per day. They love getting emails from Grandpa! My kids fell over laughing when they got this one:


And these next two had to be printed out so that they could see them all the time:


They were especially intrigued with this one:


And then Dad sent out this one to the "grown ups" in our family as a little joke:


Can you tell that someone is having a lot of fun with head cutouts? Who knows what he'll think of next?

WE LOVE YOU DAD! THANKS FOR MAKING THE KIDS AND I SMILE EACH DAY!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Kyle!

There once was a college guy named Kyle,
Who ran around ASU with a great big smile,
On the way back from the gym after a grueling workout,
A feisty blonde named Leah did give him a shout.

That was the beginning of talks after class,
Bagels, ice cream and a friendship that grew fast.
Trustworthy and true, a consistent man was he,
And soon her heart fell for brown eyed Kyle G.

He supported her dance, and was there for her,
During times of tummy troubles and cold temperatures.
He taught her to hike, snowboard and bike,
For these things we didn't ever think she would like!

Time passed and soon into a couple they grew,
True love emerged, and both families knew,
For the dancer from Raleigh and hockey player from Apex,
Engagement and marriage would surely come next.

So December sixteenth he said “I do”,
They married in Binkley and to Puerto Vallarta they flew.
Four years later, a dad he will soon become,
An awesome father to a daughter or a son.

We respect who he is and love him so much,
Hardworking, athletic, with a caring touch.
So we send to him our hardy cheers,
On this his birthday of twenty seven years!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY KYLE, WE LOVE YOU!!
B & Big EZ

Saturday, September 25, 2010

DOT+30!

This is a big day for anyone who has had a transplant. It marks the point after which the doctors say we can become a bit more relaxed about Ern's exposure to people, as long as they aren't sick. We are celebrating today from the beautiful NC mountains where we are counting our blessings and enjoying some continued rest and relaxation.



At this point Ernie's platelets stand at over 316,000 from a low of 8,000. His white blood cells are now 4.2 up from a low of <.1. He has never run a fever or had an infection during this process. His kidneys continue to function great, he never developed mouth sores, and his lungs remained clear. And now, he is walking with only a cane, and seeing an increased ability to sit for short periods. Thank you Lord for being his Great Physician, and walking with him every step of the way!


And now, we are off to see if he can sit in the front porch swing...it's worth a try!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Daddy came over!

Yesterday, I had the biggest TREAT! My Daddy came over to my house! This might sound like something "little" or "trivial"... but, let me assure you, its not!  The last time that my Dad was at our house was on March 6, the day before he stumbled on the way to church and began having intense sciatic pain down both legs (which then led to walking with crutches, not being able to walk at all, a month-long stay at Rex Hospital, learning to walk again with a walker, spending the majority of day in bed, etc!).  It has been over 6 months...but yesterday DAD CAME TO MY HOUSE!!!! 


And not only that, but Dad kept showing off his increasing skills! Look at this: He is SITTING in my rocking chair holding my babies! (He hasn't been able to sit in MONTHS!!!)


And, Leah, this video is for you! Dad started walking up and down my hallway with just his cane and I said, "I've got to get this on video for Leah to see!!!!"  You won't believe it! Here is a video just for you:

video

I am SO EXCITED (if you can't tell by all the exclamation points in this post!)... God is continuing to answer our prayers!  Thank you, friends, for praying for our family!!!! They are working and God is to be praised!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Facebook | Messages - prayers from Kenya


From: Mimi Huff Brummitt September 22 at 3:55pm

"Hi Big EZ. I am in Kisumu, Kenya. I want you to know that the group of women in the photo are praying for you and will continue to pray for your strength and healing! I told them all about Linda and your family and how much you love the Lord. I told them what a strong witness you are in a time of struggle. They care very much for your health and I have promised to keep them updated on your progress. Much love! Mimi"


Our hearts were so moved when we received this message from our dear friend. We are honored to know that these precious ladies in Africa have our picture, and are lifting Ernie up. We just don't have the words to describe what this means to us. This is what the body of Christ is all about...loving one another as sisters and brothers, even if we live worlds apart. Oh what we would give to meet them one day, embrace, and tell them face to face how awesome God is, and how much we love them and appreciate their prayers. Thank you Mimi for such a precious gift...

Hebrews 13:1 - Keep on loving each other as brothers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Answered Prayers

I was looking back to when our blog began on 1/29/10 with a post by Tara called "Prayers for My Dad". Ernie had begun radiation, he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, I was no longer working and he had lost his job, we were scared of losing our home, and our whole world as we knew it felt like it was falling apart.

Tara quoted Psalm 91:14-15 Because he loves me, says the LORD, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him, with long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation. What a wonderful scripture to cling to in times like these and God has, as always, proven himself to be faithful and true.

Tara asked for prayer for Ernie and our family, that his treatment would be effective and that God's glory and power would be revealed in our lives. We will not know if his transplant was effective in erradicating his cancer for another 3-6 months, but we sure are hopeful that it has, and we pray that our walk has truly revealed God's power at work in us. He has gone above and beyond in caring for us and answering the prayers of so many who have lifted us up. Here is a partial list (I could go on and on and on, but you may have other things to do!)

1. We prayed for Ernie's tolerance for radiation and chemo and praise God he did really well with his treatments!

2. We look back on that terrifying Sunday in March when the nerve pain down both legs was so bad he could no longer bear weight and walk, and we had to call 911 and have him admitted to the hospital. After 26 bedridden days in the hospital, pneumonia, and many failed medical attempts to relieve the pain, we all prayed for God's help. A young PT thought outside the box, helped Ernie to stand, and the shooting pain down the legs was gone!

3. We look back on the prayers of many that we might be able to find a way to stay in our home, even if we had to sell many other possessions to do it. God opened doors we never expected and we are still in our home.

4. We wondered how we would ever afford Ernie's medical expenses. Then there was Standing in the Gap for Ernie Baker, and the generosity of so many provided funds beyond our wildest dreams.

5. With unemployment running out, we prayed that Ernie would get approved for disability. Seven months later, without the aid of an attorney, he was approved!

6. We look back on the prayers that Ernie would be a candidate for bone marrow transplant, and they were answered...he qualified!

7. We prayed that I would not get sick so that I could be Ernie's caregiver. I've remained healthy and well!

8. We prayed for the whole transplant process to go smoothly without complications such as severe vomiting or diarrhea, infection or mouthsores. Ernie's side effects were very minimal and he had no infections or mouth sores and his numbers continued to rise.

9. We prayed that I would be able to get Ernie to the Clinic every day from the apartment and that his mobility would remain strong. Those prayers were completely answered.

10. We prayed we would be able to go home in 2-3 weeks after transplant. We went home on Day of Transplant +16!

Today we have a follow up appointment with our home oncologist, Dr. Kritz. We fully expect more answered prayer for good bloodwork showing a red blood, white blood, and platelet count that continues to rise.

Ernie is now able to walk with only a cane and is having to take much less pain medication. His ability to sit and bend is improving, little by little. He has never fallen or had a fracture with his disease, which is a rarity.

All of these things point to a God who loves us, cares for us, strengthens us in times of trial, and ANSWERS PRAYER! Thank you for being faithful to pray. Please continue to lift Ernie up and to God be all the glory!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Big EZ featured on MM for Dummies

Phil Brabbs, former placekicker for the University of Michigan Wolverines, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma when he was 28...I can hardly imagine. Linda and I find his blog to be brutally honest, encouraging and educational as he chronicles his journey with this cancer. He features others with MM on something he calls Myeloma Mondays, and today our story is told. (Click here to read our story.)

Thanks to Phil for his organization, CancerKicker.org, for his blog, and for all his efforts to find a cure and dominate MM!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mom Turns 80!

What a joy it is to wish my mother a Happy 80th Birthday today! Though we aren't celebrating in quite the fashion we would like, (with her recovering from shingles and Ernie just home after a bone marrow transplant!), there is still much to celebrate! We will simply have to take that much dreamed about cruise to Alaska next summer, and we have a whole year to plan, save and look forward to it!

Born Virginia Patricia Koch, my mom was the second oldest of five sisters. She married her high school sweetheart, David Stout, when she was just 18 and moved clear across the country from New Jersey to Seattle on a greyhound bus. The wife of a career Army man, she faithfully followed wherever the orders led them, enjoying life in faraway places like the Panama Canal Zone and Naples, Italy. She spent one year of her life as a single mom to us three kids, wondering if she would ever see her husband again, as he served in Vietnam. Praise God he came home!

My mom was a trained lifelong secretary, proficient in that strange looking "shorthand" and typewriting, long before computers. Some of her favorite years were spent working at Florida State and University of Central Florida. She is now very technologically advanced and the proud owner of a Macbook Pro and an iphone, she knows how to text, she is on Facebook, and she uses Bluetooth in her car!

Losing her lifelong mate to lung cancer on June 12, 2009, after 60 years of marriage, was the hardest thing she has ever had to go through. It's hard not to have the companionship of someone you literally grew up with. However, her resilience is evident to everyone who knows and loves her, and she is persevering, one day at a time.

She is a caring sister, a great friend, a wonderful mother of 3, an amazing grandmother of 7, and an awesome great-grandmother of soon to be 8! Her children by marriage are just as special to her as the biological ones. She now goes by four names: Ginny, Mom, Grandma, and GG. She is a role model to all of us of enduring love, loyalty, faith, selflessness, strength, perseverance, and joy. We all want to be like her when we grow up!

(Little did we know that in this picture Tara was expecting two more and Leah will add another one in March...the great-grandkids keep coming! Two sisters and a daughter-in-law are also missing here, so as you can see, she is Matriarch to a big family!)

Here is to you Mom, on this your 80th Birthday. We are so very grateful for all the years the Lord has given us with you, and look forward to many more! WE LOVE YOU AND WISH YOU A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

The New "Normal"

Everyone recovering from an illness wants things to return to 'normal'. With cancer, it's no different. For me, returning to normal starts with what I call the 'new normal'.

Today's post will be about my 'new normal' as I begin my recovery, post Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT).
  • Sleep: I do this alot! At any moment, I can be found drifting off throughout the day. Used to be an early bird waking up naturally by about 5:30 or 6:00. Now I find the clock occasionally reading 8:30 when I wake up. The experts say fatigue is the number one side effect following transplant...they're right!
  • Shampoo: Don't need that anymore...no hair to shampoo!
  • Shaving: Used to shave with a razor every morning and still got a 5 o'clock shadow... now it's electric only, face and head, and a whole lot less often.
  • Long Walks: What used to be a couple of miles walking in the woods with my dogs, has now been reduced to a few laps around the driveway with a walker. I miss that alot and hope that gradually over the next couple of months my endurance will build for longer walks, sans walker!
  • Sitting: I used to sit to eat, sit to watch tv, go out to the movies and sit, sit at meetings for work, fly around the country sitting on airplanes, sit to drive and on and on. Well the new "sitting" is in my lift chair, very reclined, or in the bed, horizontal with head on pillows.
  • Driving: Haven't done this since March...Linda is now my chauffeur.
  • Dressing Myself: Putting on socks and tennis shoes are out of the question since I can't bend over. I'm pretty good with my grabber to help with shorts and shirts though, so they are no problem.
  • Eating: I stand up to eat, though this is improving! No fresh fruits (I miss strawberries and blueberries) and raw veggies for now unless they are thick skinned. Some of the foods that taste really good to me include Cheetos, cantalope, watermelon, Whole Grain Cheerios or Honey Nut Chex cereal, English Muffins, ice cream, Italian Ice, and popsicles.
  • Weight: Well, the new normal is alot less! I have lost about 45 pounds since my diagnosis in January. Another 30 and I might have to look into a new swimsuit!
  • Work: Was a pretty big part of my life, from 20 years at IBM, to CEO of start-up companies, to starting a handyman business. Now I am forced into an early retirement and on disability, but I sure hope to exercise this brain for a long time to come, whenever the opportunity presents itself. Hey, I changed a doorknob out today and no telling what I'll accomplish tomorrow!
  • Outlook: I don't know if I will be here three or thirty more years. I do know that I have turned my life over to the Lord and I am very content with His plan for me. He has carried us and provided everything we need. One thing I do know, I will enjoy every moment He gives me, I will try to live it joyfully, and hopefully bring glory to Him in the process.

The new normal isn't a bad normal...just different. Things continue to improve every day and I hope to return to driving, traveling, long walks beyond the driveway, using shampoo, sitting in church, a restaurant or movie theater, putting on my own shoes and socks, using my power tools, sitting on the floor with the grandkids, and sleeping better at night so I can once again be an early bird. Only time will tell...

"...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What You Might Not Know About Multiple Myeloma

When Ernie was originally diagnosed with a single myeloma tumor, called a plasmacytoma, on January 19, 2010, I can honestly say we had no idea what that was. So began our journey with cancer, and an education in Multiple Myeloma. Here are some Fast Facts about this disease we hope will educate you and possibly help with earlier detection:

1. Myeloma is a cancer of the blood, along with Leukemia and Lymphoma, and it is the second most common type after non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

2. American Cancer Society estimates 20,580 cases were diagnosed in 2009. It represents 1% of all cancers.

3. It develops in the bone marrow, or soft spongy center, of most bones, and is more commonly found in spine, pelvis, ribs, shoulders, hips, causing punch outs or holes, called lesions.

4. Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to fight infection.

5. It is more common in men than women.

6. It affects about twice as many African Americans as Caucasians.

7. 96% of the cases are diagnosed in people older than 45.

8. It attacks and destroys bone, often going undetected until one has a fracture.

9. It is not curable, but it is treatable.

10. To date, no cause has been identified. However, certain professions have a higher risk factor. Exposure to pesticides, nuclear radiation, and petrochemicals are considered to be important trigger factors.

Be smart and pay attention to your body. If you have persistent bone pain, you are very prone to infections such as pneumonia or shingles, you are anemic or extremely fatigued, and especially if you meet any of the risk factors, try to get to the bottom of it! Other than low back pain, Ernie had no other symptoms. Three sets of x-rays with one chiropractor and two different orthopedic doctors did not pick it up. It wasn't until an MRI was done, that abnormal cells were detected. By then, the myeloma cells had been multiplying out of control possibly for 9-12 months, forming a tumor that pretty much took over his sacrum.

Please help raise awareness of Multiple Myeloma. To find out more go to:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Grandparent's Day 2010

Sunday, September 12 was National Grandparent's Day. In honor of this special day, I made Mom and Dad a picture book of their grandkids. All the pictures featured in the picture book were taken by Emily Collins Photography, and I hope they will enjoy having the family pictures bound in a book to carry with them wherever they go.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stop to Smell the Roses...


Aren't these roses just beautiful? It was a gorgeous September day as we were leaving the Clinic, so we decided to take a little drive over to the Duke Chapel. I found these roses blooming their hearts out right in front of the chapel. I hope I never stop marveling in God's creation, and of course I never want to be so hardened or busy that I don't stop to smell the roses and thank the Creator.


I have always loved the architecture and beauty of the Duke campus and hopefully these pictures will show you what I mean. It brings me back to the months our family spent in England when Ernie worked for IBM...castles, wooden doors, archways, spires, flowers, leaded glass, and stonework. The craftsmen who create such structures amaze me and I never want to take them for granted. Just look at the detail...even if you're not a Duke fan!








I wonder how many students, faculty and staff walk through these doors every day and take them for granted...






On another note, there is a very recognizable part of the Durham landscape. It is often called the "Green Pickle"... I have no idea why. Being directionally impaired like I am, I was thankful whenever I saw this building as I knew that at least I was in the vicinity of the apartment! As we navigated Durham during our time there I often said to Ernie, "See, I would literally be lost without you!" and it is the honest to goodness truth.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Welcome Home!

There truly is no place like home! After 18 days in the apartment, we finally arrived home and were greeted by an awesome poster from the Dew clan. Nathan's renderings are on the bottom right, and Natalie's on the bottom left. It was such a nice surprise!


(Though we are home, Ernie's system is still severely susceptible to everything, with very little immunity. So, the docs say it should be another couple of weeks before we entertain visitors.)



We were also welcomed home by a custom hand rail for the front and side steps! Our friend, Bob Ussery, built this for us with the help of Buck Warren. After it "cures" for a bit, they will paint it to match the trim on the house. This hand rail will make it much safer for my Mom, Ernie and anyone using our front steps. Many thanks to Bob and Buck for getting this done before we came home.


And to top it off, our master bedroom had been painted a wonderful tan and custom white faux wood blinds had been hung while we were away! After 6 years of original yellow walls and ripped, broken, dirty cellular shades, we have a new clean, crisp look free from dust! We haven't really focused on our bedroom since we initially moved in, but Ernie's illness caused us to spend much more time there since he couldn't 'sit' in the family room. Making it more masculine, with working blinds that open and close to keep it cooler on hot days and darker in the morning, became more important.




MANY thanks to Allison (Jamie's sister) of Allison Reid Designs and Mike Selna of The Louver Shop for doing the blinds, and to Juan Zapata of Premium Painting Company for painting all our trim and walls. We love the new look of our bedroom! (No more flowers and yellow walls for Ernie!)