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.