Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Ninjas Are Home

Ninjas are back home in Edmonton, but don’t like the weather!

After 3 weeks in Mexico for treatment, both Loretta and I were super excited to head home. We managed to get the Ninja clan across the US Border and over to Palm Springs. Our last hurdle was just the 3.5 hour flight from Palm Springs to Edmonton, but a food poisoning incident in Palm Springs the evening before departure made for a long and terrible travel day. Between bouts of vomiting for most of the evening and numerous diarrhea episodes at the airport, it was a minor miracle that we we made it through the flight quite painlessly. While we had both hoped to get back to normal routines upon arriving home, we have both struggled to regain full health as the bug lingers. I was told to expect up to 3 weeks of recovery time as the Ninjas reproduce, but I hadn’t expected to feel this listless. I guess losing 8-10 pounds in a week will knock you back a bit.

While the whole trip was a challenging ordeal with treatment and travel, we are still convinced that God directed us to the Oasis of Hope and that the treatments and things we learned there will be part of God's healing plan for us. It was very affirming for us that the doctors there were very supportive and encouraging of the alternative treatments that we initiated here on our own and were very surprised and encouraged by my present level of health.

We were also reminded of the the gift that our chief oncologist, Dr.Easaw, has been, as he has supported our Mexico trip and the alternatives that we have wanted to try. We found out that most North American patients at the Oasis were disowned by their local oncologist by going to the Oasis. In other cases, they were there without the knowledge of their oncologist. My oncologist actually reviewed my treatment plan from the Oasis, gave me feedback on it and promised that he would continue to support my treatment here upon return. When I expressed my thanks to him for this, his reply was simple: “Doug, until all of my patients get better, I had better be open to other treatments and therapies.” We thank God regularly for placing Dr. Easaw into our lives as he has been a sign of God’s direction and leading in my healing! Another armed angel!

So what’s next?
  • 3 weeks of laying low and letting the Ninjas proliferate and get nasty and then turn them loose on the cancer. We had a family dinner celebration on Friday night after arriving home on Thursday. I was very pleased to see that the family had conspired to print up "Slay the Beast" Ninja t-shirts to celebrate the occasion. What a great surprise and I look forward to wearing mine for decades, with the family, on the annual celebration of beating the beast! 
    I am guessing that I will need to upgrade in size in a year or 2 as I hope to gain back some of the 35+ pounds that I have lost! One of the grandsons will likely be moving into my existing shirt by that time!
  • Ongoing MRI’s to monitor the tumour/brain. I had a welcome-back MRI 2 days after arriving home and we have the follow-up meeting on Thursday at 10:00 MST, so if you recall or have time, set an alarm and join us in prayer for a positive report. I’m still praying that this will be the “No more tumour” MRI!! These meetings are still nerve wracking so please pray for a good rest on Wednesday night.
  • Pray for strength and courage for our family as we continue to try to find the energy to fight the beast! We came home very inspired and awed by fellow patients from the Oasis of Hope who have battled and remain hopeful after years of beast-fighting. God does provide!
  • A likely return to Oasis in early June, for booster Ninja vaccines, along with the repetition of their other alternative therapies and treatments. A likely stay of 7-10 days! More beach time in Tijuana! And also a chance to reunite with friends made during our initial visit.
  • We were also blessed to celebrate the baptism this past Sunday of our newest grandson, Arie Jan! What a blessing those special days are for me and our family now. Thank you God. Bad news: with the loss of weight and a now bony butt, I needed to use a pillow to make it through the service, provided by a friendly senior from the church!
  • Lesson learned - don’t make “Depends” diaper jokes on the way to the airport after an evening of food poisoning! And pack extra underwear and a change or two of clothes in your carry-on!
  • Please add the Oasis of Hope Hospital to your prayer list. It is a place of extraordinary miracles with a staff of gifted and compassionate health care workers who embody the body of Christ and humble ministry. Starting with Manny, the head of maintenance, who personally hugs and blesses every patient prior to breakfast. He did promise to take me surfing but we ran out of time! Maybe in June when the water is warmer!!!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Finding Ninjas in Mexico

We are over halfway through our medical excursion in Tijuana and looking forward to heading home.  The Oasis of Hope ( is a great place with incredible staff and treatment, but it is still a hospital and three weeks in a hospital (getting poked and prodded) will be more than enough.  There are about 25 other cancer patients here, all with interesting stories and many miracles.  However, often times you really just want to have some daily life conversations, about things other than cancer and treatments. Day-by-day living, which includes a communal treatment room and three communal meals, has been taxing for both Loretta and me.  
Loretta has been busy reviewing files and organizing work for the office while here.  Meanwhile, I have been hooked up to treatment IV bags for about 3 hours/day.  We met with the doctors today and they had finally received the notes of the MRI I had on February 1.  They didn’t get the images but they were thrilled with the results and that there has been no evidence of growth.  That is usually not the case, so they both congratulated me!  They also both think that what we have been doing with the diet and the blood work have been very effective, so we are feeling very thankful for all of the angels that have led us to these alternative treatments.  Yesterday morning I gave a whack of blood that they will now customize in the lab here to raise a squad of super t-cells that will be reintroduced back into my body in four vaccines during our last week here.  I am calling them my ninjas!  Please pray that the creation of these ninja fighters is done effectively in the lab and that the reintroduction of them back into my body is effective.  We need them to be prolific in reproduction so that the small ninja group becomes an army of killer samurai that are trained to recognize my cancer profile, hunt the cancer cells down, and slay the beast.  Pretty cool science stuff.  In order to let the ninjas do their job, I’ve got to stop taking my daily chemo for the next three weeks.  After that, I’ll resume the usual chemo schedule.

If you are interested in learning more about this ninja treatment, you can read about supercharged t-cells here:
Treatment room
Morning devotions
Prayer requests:
1. Ninja warriors grow with an intense desire to kill my GBM cancer cells.  And then that my body accepts these ninja warriors and they grow quickly in my body.

2. Good health for both Loretta and me during our last days in Tijuana.  And then that the vaccines work powerfully when we get back home.
3. The tax season work for Loretta and her co-workers goes well in March!
4. We may continue to be nourished by the daily devotionals here.
5. Strength for the daily routine here.  
6. Thank God that He directed us to this place.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Oasis of Hope - Day 1

Travel: planes were all on time.  Long lines everywhere, which were so bad that there was no time for Loretta to get Starbucks prior to the flight.  The car and driver from Palm to San Diego was brilliant.  It saved us about an hour versus connecting flights.  First class BMW 7 series sedan - leather seats and great driver.  Plus In-N-Out burger for lunch.  The shuttle van from San Diego had another stop so we waited at a small airport for a patient, coming from a private jet.  And then the border crossing.  And then way too much traffic in Tijuana!  The day got tougher when we got to Oasis.  We were reminded in a powerful and emotional way about the beastly battle we are in, as daily life in Edmonton is quite close to "normal" with routine and cooking/working/hanging with family.  It was a tough emotional day, especially after the long travel day.  But now we are hanging with all of these "sick people", hearing all of their stories, many of which are a blessing.  Lots of great people from around the world - Nigeria, Scotland, Canada!  Many inspirational stories and people, many who are back for their round 2 treatments.  Their passion for this place is so evident, which is affirming for us.  Almost everyone has a "how did you hear about Oasis" story to tell and it is often asked early in the conversation.
Hola from windy Tijuana!
All treatments are done in a community treatment room so there is a great sense of community.  All communal dining as well.  Full days with treatments all morning, plus educational stuff in the afternoon.  Food has been good.  Tons of really fresh salads and veggies.  Fish twice a week seems like the extent of our meat-eating while here.  Accommodations are certainly not as nice as they look on the website.  But if you consider it's a hospital, it's certainly better than most.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Angels - Winged and Armed

This blog is intended to be our thank you to all of you for being important members of our “Slay the Beast” team.

We thought that it was important to celebrate God’s faithfulness and healing to our family over the past 14 months and decided to host a house concert party with Steve Bell, a well-known Canadian recording artist.  The house concert theme was “May there always be an angel by your side”.  We wanted to invite all of you to attend.  Unfortunately, space was fairly limited and so we were only able to extend the invitation to some of our local Edmontonian angels.  However, some video links from the night are shared below.  Please feel free to watch and join in on the thanks and celebration!  Here's the introduction video and here is the blessing videoThe words that I spoke to the group are also directed to you as our way of thanking you for being such an important part of our daily lives over the past months, through words, prayer and thoughts.  We continue to be so grateful for you and your ongoing
love and support.

Health update and prayer requests

  • We are going through another round of MRI results - which usually take a week and that brings a lot of nervous tension.  Sleepless nights and pitted stomachs rule the day until the MRI update meeting, which happened at 8:30 this morning  The MRI result was quite positive - the MRI looks very stable, which is a good thing at this time!  Very little swelling, which is great because swelling usually means growth.  A little thickening on the outer edges, which is consistent with the last pathology report and is likely dead cancer cells amassing.  I’ll have another MRI in a month but for now, I will continue with another monthly chemo cycle, as it seems to be having a positive effect.  Stay the course at this time.  We are still praying for the MRI that says the beast has gone missing.  We are encouraged to pray with “shameless audacity” - Luke 11:8.  Please join us in this prayer for a “No more beast MRI!!” 
  • Celebration - most days are still a gift, with little side effects from treatment.  
  • Celebration - a new grandson has arrived to brighten our days - what a gift!  In my opinion, a new grandchild is far better cancer treatment than chemo!  Check out the cutie - Arie Jan - now just 2 weeks old - with big brother Kase.
  • Next treatment steps - we plan to head to Mexico in February for some additional treatment.  Please pray for successful treatment and good health while there.  And safe travel! 
  • Please pray for daily strength for Loretta, my favorite angel by my side.  On the night of my initial diagnosis, I told Loretta that she was the best person for me to travel this journey with.  She continues to be my key angel and is very gracious on a daily basis as she encourages me to take care of myself, challenges me to be better tuned-in to daily living, and is a great prayer support every evening.  She is strong and rock-like and so faithful. She also selflessly carries many of the family and work burdens.  She is patient even when the chemo brain malfunctions at 3:00AM and I turn on loud blaring music in the house while writing this blog (not a good thing at all when she is sleep deprived).  Add all of this to the fact that the man she is living with daily is not the man she married or lived with for the past 35 years and even more needy than usual.  That takes a lot of patience and love, for which I am thankful.  An angel by my side!!  Living with an angel is a good thing but please pray that I don’t clip her wings too much.  Please also pray that she and her accounting staff are able to get through tax season speedily and healthily this year.
  • Pray that the beast may be slain!

To read my original blog post about Steve, click here 

Steve’s recent album “Where the Good Way Lies” is a great album of celebration and gratitude and whole living.  It has been a real blessing and a daily listen for me. Click here to check out Steve's website.

Monday, 22 January 2018

January 19 Update

I have decided that I have been starting too many of my blogs with an apology for the delay since the previous post.  I need to improve this as the blog is my way of thanking you for your prayers and thoughts.  Promise!  (Shoot - now the promised blog is already 3 days late from when I started writing it!)

My last blog made reference to the miracle of my last MRI - post surgery #2.  I did suggest to Loretta that I finally found my special life skill: post brain surgery recovery!  She suggested that I don’t need to practice or prove it again.  Agreed!  At this stage, especially with my hair growing back in, you can hardly see the scar! Part of me is thankful but part of me was also looking forward to the tougher guy look. I thought the scar could be an advantage if I ever end up back in the classroom!
Early in the new year, I was starting to experience more regular headaches and constant ear-ringing (not sure which was worse).  I was also losing some control of the left side of my body – dragging my foot so badly that I needed new shoes weekly!  Any weird muscle twitch or headache at this time and I can almost imagine or feel the tumor growing. Bad imagination!  Then my Mom recently shared a devotional challenge to use the gift of imagination for positive images, like cancer cells exploding, which causes the headaches.

My surgeon was concerned about infection or growth so he sent me for a CT scan to see what was going on in there. Good news from the scan as it showed no infection and normal levels of swelling.  It also showed that there was no change since the last scan.  No changes at this stage are what we are going for.  Thanks again to God the healer! Headaches/etc. are now being controlled with a steroid, which has its own set of challenges, primarily anxiousness and sleep challenges.  Three to four hours a night is now a long, deep sleep!  I am also back on chemo – one month at a time and thus far side effects have been tolerable.

I have been trying to frame my prayers around a model suggested by Max Lucado in his book “Anxious for Nothing” - using a CALM acronym.  There is a great video.

C - Celebrate - by starting with a celebration of God’s goodness in my life.  I am reminded of how He loves and cares for me.  It helps me to honour and praise Him.  It also reminds me of all that He has promised and is capable of. This takes me/us to a peaceful place of trust and gratitude.

A - Ask - be very specific in your asks. God knows, of course, before I speak a word or a thought forms, but this is a good way then to recall and focus on how prayers are being answered!

L - Leave - pray that God will help you leave it with Him!  Call on His promises!  

M - Meditate - on all the great things that God is doing in the world.

Prayer support for the next while:
- Pray for sleep!
- Pray for wisdom for choosing the next steps of treatment as we look at different options.  Pray that the doors will be “swung wide open” on the God-ordained path while the doors be “slammed shut” on others.  Slightly ajar doors are exhausting!  Thanks, Pat, for those strong praying words!
- Continue to pray that the beast be slain!
- We are also eagerly expecting the arrival of a new grandkid in the next week.  Please pray that kid # 2 for Tara and Derek arrives soon and is a bundle of health and joy!  New babies are more effective than chemo at destroying cancer cells!!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Bold Prayer and Almighty God

Yesterday morning, my Dad, my Mom and I met with the oncologist at the Cross Cancer Institute.  We were expecting that our discussion would focus around the chemo options for my Dad going forward.  When the oncologist had told us that the tumour was growing at our last meeting, he had also said that my Dad would need to switch to a new chemo because the chemo he was currently on obviously wasn't working.

So the three of us were shocked yesterday to hear that there was definitely something killing cancer cells!  The oncologist told us that the pathologist had to analyze my Dad's results twice because they were so irregular.  When the oncologist, pathologist, and surgeon had gotten together yesterday morning, they couldn't believe how unusual my Dad's tumour was - in a good way!  These types of tumours are notoriously hard to beat because the cancer cells aren't very sensitive to treatment, so we were surprised to hear that 50% of the tumour that they removed was made-up of dead cancer cells!  This means that some combination of chemo, ketogenic diet, and other natural supplements, in conjunction with everyone’s prayers, is working!  God has been putting all of these different options to work and they have been doing their jobs!  The oncologist wants my Dad to keep taking the same chemo for the time being but instead of taking it for 5 days in a row every 28-day period, he will take a smaller dose everyday.  My Dad has been tolerating this chemo well so we pray that he continues to respond and tolerate it well when he is now going to get a daily dose.

The oncologist also told us that they can't be sure if the cancer cells that were still alive are residual cells left from his first surgery or if the cancer is growing.  But when we heard that the surgeon was very confident in this surgery (our oncologist told us that if the surgeon was the bragging-type, he would definitely be bragging), it gave us more hope that all of the cancer cells were removed this time and that going forward, the treatment can prevent cancer growth instead of killing off the remaining cancer cells.

It was an awesome day with a HUGE answer to prayer.  A couple of weeks ago, my Dad said that he was praying that the surgeons would open him up and find no evidence of cancer.  We started to pray for the same thing, knowing that God can perform miracles but also realizing that this was a bold plea.  So to hear that 50% of this treatment-resistant tumour was dead cancer cells?  MIRACLE!  God's touch is evident in every area of my Dad's treatment thus far and to have such a loud answer to such a bold prayer is amazing.

- Tara

Sunday, 26 November 2017


My Dad was discharged from the hospital yesterday afternoon.  Great news!  He can finally get some good sleep now that he is out of the craziness of the hospital.  We are so thankful that he is already home and doing so well.

After family dinner this evening, we talked about flowers and weeds for the week.  A huge flower for the week was the success of the surgery and the amazing healing that my Dad has experienced thus far.  We thought that he had been stellar coming out of his first surgery, but this time he was walking around earlier, pushing Ben around in a wheelchair earlier (yep, you read that right), and he was discharged from the hospital earlier.  It is so cool to see my Dad doing so well - what an amazing answer to prayer!  My Mom is also thankful that my Dad greeted her post-surgery with the words "An angel!" instead of the words he used the first time: "Who are you?"
My Dad shared tonight how neat those first words out of his mouth actually are.  He said that right before he was taken into surgery, he was thinking of things to say to my Mom and decided to say something about angels.  But he didn't actually expect that he would remember what he had planned to say in his post-surgery, post-anaesthesia state.  So the fact that he remembered what he had planned is a testament to how well my Dad has been doing post-surgery.
We ask that you continue to pray for healing, for bold courage, and for a miracle.  We also ask that you pray for strength and comfort for my parents as they "start fresh" with the healing process.  Life had gotten into a bit of a normal rhythm for them and surgery throws that upside-down, with my Dad being unable to drive, run errands, and do as much around the house as he has been doing.  So we would love for you to pray for peace and comfort for them as they adjust to a different daily routine for the next few months.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers - we feel them on a daily basis!

- Tara