Monday, December 19, 2011

December 2011
Best wishes to all of you for a happy Christmas Season as we remember the reason for our celebrations. We have been blessed greatly again this year and are so grateful for knowing and having you as an important part of our lives. We have received many wonderful visitors this year including some of Frank's St. Johns high school classmates. It has truly blessed and lifted his spirits.

Our children are doing well, all are very busy and trying to do what's right. Wendy, Dave and their 4 children still at home moved about 5-6 miles away to Pinetop and are getting settled in a new Ward. Their oldest son, Skyler, just this week was operated on (14 hours in two surgeries) in Flagstaff for severe scoliosis of the spine and now has a permanent rod there. The S curves are gone and he will be 2" taller--7 feet tall! Hopefully his recovery will be speedy and he'll be back to normal soon. Right now the pain is pretty severe but he's a trooper. An ongoing problem is finding shoes, pants, etc. big enough to fit his tall frame. Their oldest daughter, Summer, was married in Las Vegas to Tarik Kojah in June and they are very happy and doing well. Autumn stays at home babysitting occasionally and helping her mom. Skyler is a junior in HS and will be home-schooled during his recuperation. Hunter is a freshman, plays basketball on the team and loves life. Clay does well in 6th grade and keeps them on their toes.

Lance, Shannon and their five children manage to keep afloat in their busy lives. Lance was just released as Bishop of their ward and is now on the High Council. He opened his fourth hearing clinic this year, this one in Hurricane and has started a new enterprise, Intra-operative monitoring, for which he hired a new audiologist who is expert in this field and will operate this procedure at the St. George Regional Hospital. Skyler had this done during his surgery to monitor if the knife was getting too close to nerves in his back. It can also work for brain surgeries. Shannon is the new Stake YW President and Vice President Elect of the school board and keeps their kids on track at school and elsewhere. Their three oldest, Kayla-8th grade, Hailey-5th, and Carson, 3rd, excel on swim teams and at school and Brinley does well in Kindergarten. Their baby Porter, 1 year, is such a cute happy little boy and keeps them all laughing.

Kristal's husband, Jason graduated from the U of U in SLC in architecture and obtained a good job with a firm there. They moved out of student housing into a duplex in south Salt Lake (Midvale) just before their 3rd little girl, Allie, was born the end of November. Regan-5 and in Kindergarten and Sophie-4, love being the big sisters to such a sweet little baby and sing primary songs to her often. They are also getting settled in their home and adjusting to their new ward.

Kandra, Jared and boys are keeping busy in Las Vegas. Jared is now working for a law firm after two years as a law clerk for a judge. He loves his new job and is doing well at that as well as Executive Secretary for their ward. Their two little boys are live-wires, so funny and active and just what Kandra needs to keep her on her toes. Three year old Gavin is already in soccer and loves it; one year old Brett just started walking and is into e-v-e--r-y-thing. Those funny boys always lift Frank's spirits on their frequent visits to Heber.

An update on Frank for those who haven't heard lately: He transferred his care to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale this summer as it seemed his oncologist in Show Low had hit a brick wall and didn't know how to proceed, as his previous treatment had proven too toxic and lowered his blood count dangerously low. The doctor at Mayo said he had ”many weapons in his arsenal" and said it's possible for Frank to live a number of years. Currently he is taking Thalidomide every other night and a steroid once a week; these have knocked his malignant cell count down by 2/3 and allowed his good blood cells--red, white and platelets--to rise to an acceptable level and protect his immune system. He was hospitalized twice the first half of this year with lung infections but managed to fight them off each time. (He's learning where the best and worst hospitals are located!) Though he doesn't often have an appetite and has lost 100# in the last 3 years, he has started to gain a little back. He has also lost 6-8 inches in height because of compression fractures in his spine due to the cancer but the pain is managed pretty well with pain meds. A nice aspect to the new treatment is that it is in pill form instead of IV's which had to be administered in the doctor's office. A lot less travel! Hooray! We are really impressed with this new myeloma specialist, a doctor who is not only very knowledgeable but really seems to listen and is willing to adjust his treatment to Frank's wants and needs.

In June we were invited to go to Puerto Vallarta to stay at a time-share at the beautiful and relaxing Rancho Banderas Resort with Bill Beecroft and family and other friends. So nice!!

In July we travelled back to Upstate New York for the third time to be Hosts at the Peter Whitmer Farm in Fayette during the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Another great experience meeting thousands of visitors to the site!

In August we went to St. George to a resort with all our children and their families and it was great seeing them having fun together. Lots of good memories were made as we swam, ate and played at the Worldmark Resort.

We have enjoyed visits from our children and especially Kandra and her two little boys who came from Las Vegas in November to stay with her dad as he wasn't feeling well enough to go to Salt Lake City with me to help Kristal at the time of the birth of our 15th grandchild, a precious beautiful little girl. All are doing well.

Frank and I are going to become "Snowbirds" for the first time ever and spend a couple of months in Mesa where its nice and warm and get out of the frigid snowy winter weather that began earlier than I can remember. We'll leave after the first of the year.

There have been many good friends, neighbors and family who have provided so much service to us this year and it is truly appreciated and means everything to us. We love you all and hope the true spirit of Christ abides in your heart this holiday season and through the new year. We are so grateful to our Heavenly Father for his many tender mercies throughout the year.

*Photo: Frank and I in Hawaii in the fall of 2010 having a wonderful time exploring the island of Kauai.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Some thoughts to ponder. . .

Einstein once said, 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.'

"You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence.

You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Come what MAY

I've been trying to post for a week or so but at the top of my blog where the sign- in bar is supposed to be there was only a blank white space. . .:( Don't know what that was all about. Anyway things look back to normal now so I hope I can remember what I was going to blog about.

Let's see--the wind continues to blow and blow most of the time which makes it pretty miserable to get outside to work in my yard or garden. Uhg! However, every time I feel like complaining, I think of the people in the midwest who have lost their homes or even lives and I feel very grateful that we and our homes are still intact.

I had managed to put 3 dozen sixpacks of flowers into pots ready to put out in the yard (grass and weeds don't seem to find their way into the pots--yeah!!) and then last night it froze good and lots of vinca and marigolds suffered accordingly. I'll have to replace them. Rats. I've been working on getting a water line (drip) to my newly planted grape and berry plants so I don't have to hand water them, but I keep having problems with too many leaks, etc. Will keep working on that. We bought a new riding lawn mower so now Frank does the mowing--nice. I also got a new weed-eater as my old one had completely worn out so now now there's no excuse I can't continue to do that job regularly.

We will leave for Las Vegas tomorrow and the wedding of our oldest grand daughter, Summer on Friday. We're looking forward to that. Before we leave Frank has a doctor's appt. in Show Low to see what direction he wants to go with his treatment. Always that hanging over his head. . .

We were looking forward to seeing all our kids in Las Vegas for the wedding but Kristal has been too sick with her pregnancy (has a feeding tube in which bypasses her stomach and goes into the small intestine)in order that she can get any nourishment to herself and the baby. The tube is VERY uncomfortable in her throat, making it raw and swollen and we're hoping she won't have to have it in the 4 to 8 weeks the doctor indicated. Anyway she won't be able to go to LV. Bless her heart!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bone Marrow Biopsy, Fathers' and Sons' Outing in Pine Valley

The day after we returned from Puerto Vallarta, Frank went to the hospital for a bone marrow biopsy (BMB), the first since his multiple myeloma diagnosis the beginning of 2009. Since the cancer is of the newly forming white (plasma) blood cells in the bone marrow, it is important to occasionally see how it is progressing. The procedure, done under general anesthesia, was uneventful but he was quite sore for a few days.

A couple of days later we drove to St George where he planned to go with our son, Lance and his son 7-year-old son Carson on a Father and son's outing to Pine Valley, where their ancestors had helped settle. They had a great time and Saturday after the outing which included about 60 or more men/boys, Frank, Lance and Carson went to Enterprise Lake and fished, catching many large 12-16" trout which they brought home and cooked for us. Yum!

While they were gone, we girls all went to the movie "Gnomeo and Juliet" for our Mother Daughter date. Lots of fun! We also attended the Hershey track meet and Kayla took third place in the long jump. Hailey also participated. We had an enjoyable time in St George and were glad for the opportunity to spend time with family.

Kayla on the stand receiving her award

This Monday we returned to the doctor for the results of the BMB. The first one he had done in 2009 revealed that 50-60% of the cells were malignant. This time the percentage was 40, which is not good but the chemo had decreased them quite a bit. Since he hasn't been able to continue the chemo beyond 2 treatments in the last 6 weeks because of neutropenia, (see previous post) his M-spike continues to rise. He had had 4 Neupogen shots the past month which had raised the neutrophil count but it dropped on its own and this week when we found out the results, he is neutropenic again. Uhg!! He got another Neupogen shot and we will have more labs next week to see if the neutrophils have risen and he can get more chemo. The problem is, he was feeling quite good until he got the shot. It made every bone in his body hurt and he feels like he has a terrible case of the flu. Each time he gets the shot that happens. (The chemo does the same thing). The doctor is concerned about the effect the chemo (Velcade/dexamethasone) will have on his white count and feels it is time to start looking for another option. He feels that exposing him to a high risk of infection would be asking for major problems. Dr. T is checking into a suitable (if there is one) clinical trial at the Mayo clinic in Scottsdale and will find out if he can qualify for it, based on what has/is happening and the chemo he has already received. We'll return to see him in a couple of weeks and see what he has found out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

No Chemo, Loss of Great Grandchild, trip to Rancho Banderas

A lot has happened since my last post. Frank has been off chemo for about 6 weeks to give his body a chance to recover. Dr. T. is very cautious which is good as too much could be toxic to Frank. He got myeloma labs last week and will have a bone marrow biopsy tomorrow (under general anesthesia) and then next week we'll go find out the good/bad results and go from there. In the meantime we have been busy--can't let moss grow under our feet, as he would say!

Kandra brought her two cute little boys and stayed a week before Easter to give Gavin a chance to run around in the woods playing with cousins, etc. instead of indoors all the time in LV. Those boys are sure cuties. Check Kandra's blog for more info. on that!

Unexpectedly, Wendy and I went to Las Vegas just before Easter when we found out that it was determined that Summer's baby (our first great-grandchild) and 34 weeks in utero, had no heartbeat. We made it to the hospital that night and after a LONG labor, she delivered a precious little stillborn son named Eric Ryan, weighing 3#15 oz and 19" long. We planned a memorial service there in her ward with her bishop presiding and speaking. Lance also spoke, gave a very touching talk and there were several beautiful musical numbers. Tarik's family was there as well as Kandra and her family and Lance and his. When the paperwork was completed, Wendy, Summer and Tarik drove home with the little body and a graveside service was held in Lakeside and he was buried in the cemetery there.It was nice to get to know his family better and find out what special people they are. Tarik's family with Summer, Wendy and myself after the memorial service.

The next day Frank and I flew from Phoenix to Puerto Vallarta and then traveled to Rancho Banderas where we spent a week relaxing with several friends from Heber and had a great time relaxing on a beautiful beach with amazing sunsets, great waves for boogie boarding and yummy food.

View of the beautiful gardens at Rancho Banderas Resort

Frank and Ron Squire looking out from our balconyMore shots around the resort:

Sunsets at the resort were spectacular when it wasn't too cloudy or hazy to see them.

I'm getting buckled in ready to go parasailing! What an adventure!

Up, Up and away!

All and all, a wonderful vacation with special friends! Frank was ready to just stay there, said he feels better at sea level--who wouldn't!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


That word means having an extremely low neutrophil count in the white blood cells which is definitely not good because those little tiny beggars are the body's heroic infection fighters. They are the immune system. When they drop out of site then extreme precautions must be taken to stay alive and reasonably healthy. Since chemotherapy happens to have as a nasty side effect the ability to wipe out the good cells as well as the bad, that explains why Frank's labs (expecially neutrophils) this week were too low for him to get chemo the third round. That didn't hurt his feelings at all but instead he was given injections (neupogen) two days in a row to help stimulate his body to start making more of them. Those gave him flu-like symptoms--achiness all over, etc., so he might as well have had the chemo for how it made him feel. Anyway, Dr. T has decided to give him the chemo two weeks on and one week off with the neupogen injections starting the day after his second chemo dose. In a couple of weeks he'll find out if the chemo has dropped the bad myeloma count (M-spike) at all. Certainly hope so. He still does remarkably well considering all that's working against him. He's my hero! Kandra drove all the way from Las Vegas on Thursday with her two little boys so she could get to spend some time at home, especially with her dad. Jared will fly here this Thursday and they will spend Easter weekend (and Jared's birthday) in town. Saturday Frank was feeling well enough we drove to the lovely stream and lakes in Greer (founded by his great-great grandfathers) in the White Mountains two hours away to do a little fishing. Gavin had a great time throwing rocks in the water, throwing out the fishline and reeling the bobber back in and having a picnic lunch. It was a beautiful day, one of the best we've had and we were reminded that if the only reason you go fishing is to catch fish, you've missed the point. Frank has meetings in Phoenix this week (Tech Prep [vocational education]) so we all will go down for two or three days and shop or whatever while he is in meetings. Gavin will probably get to stay with his Grandma Owens in Heber since he does better having a whole outdoors to run around in instead of being put on a leash (figuratively) while we're trying to do our thing in the big city. It looks like the funding for Frank's job will end soon and I think he'll actually be kind of relieved not to have to worry about it any more, though we have enjoyed having a little extra income to be able to go on a trip or so a year.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring has sprong!!

This week has been kinda crazy but actually very typical of this time of year here--warm sunny weather one day, wind the next (I'm not talking a little breeze here) and snow the next! After nights of little or no frost, last night was 7 degrees! The daffodils had been so pretty and perky and now have droopy little heads down on the ground. I picked a bouquet of them and put them in a tall vase to prop them up--a quick salvage to enjoy them indoors for a few days.

The last week or so I've dug 22 holes in my garden to plant grape vines, raspberry bushes and yes, even blueberries in this high altitude alkaline environment. This meant modifying the soil with lots of amendments--peat moss, vinegar water, elemental sulfer, water crystals, pine needles, dead leaves and anything else I could think of, all to help acidify the soil for the blueberries especially, which require a ph of under 5. Our soil as I tested it was 7.0, very alkaline. No surprise there. The day I finished adding all these things to the holes and watering them good, it tested at about 6 so I am making progress. With the lovely rain that came all night Wednesday and then the rain and snow on Saturday, I'm thinking it will be lower still, especially as the mulch breaks down. I collected pure rainwater and it tested at about 5. Keep the rain coming! I am still waiting on the plants to arrive ( I have a notice of a package at the P.O. so maybe they're here). I'll test the soil again before I plant them to see if the ph has improved. I ordered the most cold hardy varieties of each so hopefully we'll be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor eventually.

Frank had his second dose of chemo last Tuesday and the reaction was totally different from the week before. While the first round caused extreme tiredness and some fever for a few days, this week the stuff (Velcade and dexamethasone) made him jittery, sleepless and he had two scarey bouts of nosebleed (one and a half hours non-stop each time). His platelet count (measure for blood clotting) was better than the week before so don't know what the deal is. He'll go in for blood tests tomorrow and then get the third dose Tuesday in Show Low.

We were able to attend the wedding of his brother Paul in Mesa on Friday evening, which was lovely, and the weather decided to cooperate at the last hour. He had the ceremony outside in his back yard by the pool but it was so windy all day that the decorating couldn't be finished until the last. His bride told him she had been praying for the wind to stop all day. There were many friends and family in attendance and lots of well-wishes for their happiness. They seem a perfect couple. She's a welcome addition to our family.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Counting Blessings

After listening to general conference today from Salt Lake City and feeling inspired by the uplifting messages of hope, encouragement, and many other needful topics I feel an urge to resume blogging. We have as a family and couple, been blessed in so many ways. Its always easy to complain about our problems and trials that tend to get us down, but there are so many blessings to more than offset them--all we have to do is look and they are everywhere. Another year has passed and Frank is still able to get around and do many enjoyable activities, despite his diagnosis of multiple myeloma more than 2 years ago, a cancer of the blood, located in the bone marrow. A year ago he found it had invaded his spine and had made multiple large and small holes in it. He started chemotherapy and then because of severe pain, was given 10 radiation treatments. Many more months of chemo followed to knock down the malignant count (M-spike). In between treatments however, we were able to do lots of fun and enjoyable activities.

The end of May we gathered as a family with our kids at the Worldmark Resort in Tucson (Oro Valley) for a 5 day vacation which was fun and memorable for all as we swam, ate, visited Kartchner Caverns, took family pictures, played games and other relaxing activities. During the time we were there, our oldest daughter Wendy was able to connect with her birth mother, Shawn, with the help of a volunteer organization called Search Angels. What an exciting time for her and us. She had desired this for years but had hit only dead ends.

In July we flew to New York for the Hill Cumorah Pageant and again served as volunteer hosts at the historical Peter Whitmer farm in Fayette for two weeks. What an enjoyable time we had. Its good to know that even though Frank's health isn't such that he could serve a full-time mission, yet we can still offer our services in a small way to help the thousands of people who come through at that time have an enjoyable visit. We enjoyed spending time with Lance and his family when they flew back to NY and had the opportunity to go with them to Palmyra to watch the pageant, Niagara Falls, cruise the Erie Canal as well as travel to Kirtland, Ohio and surrounding area, and many other scenic and historic places. We also enjoyed visits from Dustin Franco and family and Paul and Chantel Reidhead while we were there. We again signed up to return this year, have made our plane reservations and are looking forward to that assignment.

During August we traveled by car to Salt Lake City to visit Kristal and her family a few days and then went to Orem to stay with long-time friends, the Judds, while we attended the annual Education Week classes at BYU in Provo in the Marriot Center. That is a choice opportunity to sit in the presence of very knowledgeable scholars of Church History, ancient religious studies, etc. and to be edified and rejuvenated by them. This year we have made campus reservations and will stay in an apartment with my sister Carol and her husband Pat as we attend classes.

Frank was taken off the chemo in October because he could no longer fight off infections. Not only does it wipe out the good cells with the bad but it turns out that the radiation had basically paralyzed the right lower lobe of lung and diaphragm which allowed fluids and infection to build up and he was unable to fight it off. The reprieve from chemo was a welcome break and by continuing to take antibiotics interspersed with the many (uhg!) alternative supplements I have researched and determined to be helpful to him, and with his great determination, he has kept relatively healthy most of the time and has continued to go and do many worthwhile things.

With October came the birth of another beautiful grandson, Lance and Shannon's baby Porter Dallin, and another opportunity to travel to St George to help out for a few days and then to return in November for his blessing. New babies bring such a sweet spirit into the home! The kids all came to Heber in the fall to help with the annual wood splitting-and-stacking-under-the-patio project for good ole' Mom and Dad. It is so nice to have it stacked neatly just outside our back door instead of having to worry about getting wheel-barrow loads from our woodpile all winter and splitting kindling regularly. It was good to have a visit from most of the family at home again for Thanksgiving. There is nothing like family!!

December was busy and eventful, this time for Kandra in Las Vegas as she gave birth to Brett Franklin, our 7th grandson and 14th grandchild. We were privileged to be in attendance and witness this exciting occasion. The Christmas season was special and again reminded us of the importance of the birth and life of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. When we consider what he sacrificed for each of us that we might obtain Eternal life, our trials seem trivial in comparison. Visits from children and grandchildren helped to keep our spirits bright!

Because Frank seemed to be doing better and said he felt good, we agreed to go to Lance's in St. George in January to babysit his four older children while they made a brief get-away in San Francisco to celebrate his landmark 4-0 birthday. It was to be a surprise to him. However the night we arrived, Frank began feeling ill, got the chills then high fever and began coughing up blood during the night. Needless to say, he ended up in the E.R. and was admitted to Dixie Regional Medical Center where he spent nearly a week. . .and Lance and Shannon stayed home :-( We were very impressed with the care we received at DRMC and were glad that we were there when he became sick.

For several months our ever-scheming children planned a surprise 70th birthday party for Frank which happened the 19th of March. They used a 50's theme with lots of nostalgia. To get the scoop, go to Kandra's blog. They did an awesome job and Frank claims he was truly surprised. It was very uplifting for him to have many family members and friends there for him.

The last three months have been filled with doctor appointments and other usual activities including regular attendance at our usual Sunday meetings, frequent visits to Mesa to witness the courtship of Frank's brother Paul to a wonderful lady, Lee, and her baptism into the church. They will be married this weekend and we're really happy for both of them and the opportunity for happiness together.

Frank has resumed chemo this month and it will continue indefinitely because the M-spike is rising (not good). Even though he has frequent ups and downs, yet we feel very blessed that he is still with us and not confined to bed or with severe disabilities. We look at our children and are so grateful for the love we all share and for their good and productive lives. We feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity and privilege of being their parents and the wonderful grandchildren we have been blessed with. We are thankful for great neighbors that are always here and willing to help out whenever needed. We appreciate the warm spring days that are finally arriving and the cheerful daffodils blooming outside our door.

We know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us and loves us unconditionally. We trust Him and can accept that our time on earth may be shortened but are willing to accept His will. I've been blessed with a wonderful husband for nearly 46 years and counting. . .

Maybe next post, I'll try to add a picture or two here or there but that seems to be where I got into trouble before--they wouldn't upload after waiting and trying over and over so I finally gave up.

Life is good.