Posted by: davidalemmink | September 9, 2009

Wednesday, September 9

I ask that you please continue praying for strength as these days go on.   I will post more later when I am able.

Thank you all for your continuing, loving support.

Love, Connie

Posted by: davidalemmink | September 2, 2009

Wednesday, September 2

So here I sit in David’s room at the Lack’s Cancer Center.  The last week has been a difficult one and I thank everyone who has come to visit.  David’s mom, Carol has been here almost non-stop.  So many have come by to visit and  even though David might sleep a lot while you are here, I know he enjoys seeing you and he appreciates the time and effort you have taken to come up and see him.

Each day blurs into the next.  David’s condition has remained virtually the same.  He has pain in his abdomen.  He sleeps a lot.  He is weak.  He is not eating a ton, although he WANTS to eat…when he does find something that sounds moderately good, he fills up fast.  Cottage cheese and peaches, chocolate milkshakes, soup and raw milk from the farm are his main foods of choice.

Dr. Brinker has told us twice now that the x-rays and scans have shown that the tumors have shrunk.  We are so thankful for that.  The nurses have been so amazing.  They are kind and caring and loving and we truly appreciate them for all they do for David.

Please keep David in your prayers.  Pray that he regains  his appetite so he will get stronger.  Pray for healing.

I am so thankful to everyone who has been there for me.  So many are there with their words of wisdom and thoughts and it truly is so helpful.  Thank you for all your kind words and prayers.

Love, Connie

Posted by: davidalemmink | August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 27

Hello!

Wow!  When things happen, they happen fast!

Life was just moving along.  David started to have some “stomach” pain Monday so we contacted Dr. Brinker who set up a CT scan for that day.  We got ourselves together and headed down to St. Mary’s to get the scan.  One of the stipulations that David had that day was that he said he would NOT drink the “chalky” contrast stuff.  He said he felt bad enough without drinking that “junk” and feeling worse.  They told him that would be fine.  We got to St. Mary’s and signed in, waited our turn, and when they called his name followed the nurse back.  As we headed down the hall, she said they would be using the intravenous contrast.  He started saying “no! no! no way!”  Well, that was it!  We headed out without getting the scan.  For those of you who know me, I was furious, to say the least.  Speechless would be what some would be, but of course, I am rarely speechless.  (I’m not sure he knew what hit him!) WOW!

So home we went.  Life moved along (without a lot of words out of this Greek woman).  He didn’t say much how he was feeling.  Tuesday night, we didn’t get much sleep.  David was agitated and out of sorts and did not sleep very much.  That means I didn’t sleep either.  I finally got up around 3:30 or 4 and headed out to the living room.  I think with me gone, he finally was able to sleep, which was a good thing.  Later, I went to work and he did his new normal.  When I got home around 5:45, he was having much trouble breathing.  Short of breath and labored.  I asked him what he wanted to do.  He said, let’s head to the ER.  So, that’s what we did.  We got to St. Mary’s and were ushered in immediately.  Shortness of breath is grave and they take it seriously.  Our nurse, Bob was amazing.  He was on top of everything immediately and they got him hooked up to monitors and worked to stabilize him.

We spent the next 4 hours in ER.  He got an x-ray which didn’t show much.  They were able to slow down his respiration a bit, but not enough to make him comfortable.  After all that time, the decision was made to admit him.  When admitted, they took him for a CT scan (yes, he had to have it anyway, and he didn’t complain at all!!!) That of course is what showed the pulmonary embolism in one lung.  SCARY!  They immediately started him on blood thinners and also gave him fluids.  Today because his hemoglobin was down again, they gave him 2 more pints of blood. I guess it’s been a very interesting last couple of days, and I would love to get back to boring!

At this time, they are not saying when he will be released.  I guess when his respiration is normal and they see that the clot is gone.  They may decide to keep him on the blood thinners to avoid this happening again.  They are now talking about having Physical and/or Occupational Therapists come here and work with him a couple of times a week.  I am all for that.  The stronger he gets the faster he will heal.

So as you see this week has been a not very fun week!  Please pray the blood clot dissolves and David can come home.  Praise God for the care from the nursing staff at St. Mary’s.  They are loving caring people who take great care of David.  We are so thankful for them!

Thank you so much for your kind and loving words and of course for your prayers for David.

Love, Connie

Posted by: davidalemmink | August 19, 2009

Wednesday, August 19

Hello,

As I post, David is spending the day at Lack’s receiving blood.  The last couple of weeks have seen slight improvements, but not as many as I had hoped to see.  David is still weak, tired and unsteady.

Last week Monday, David had an appointment with Dr. Brinker at the Lack’s Cancer Center.  His appointment was for 9:30 and was just a check up which we thought would not be lengthy.  We we got in to see the doctor, he did his usual thing.  Listen to heart, lungs, etc.  Also, he checks his legs to see if there is swelling.  He did notice swelling in David’s left leg, so he ordered an ultrasound to see if possibly there was a blood clot.  He also, while listening to David’s lungs, thought he heard some fluid in one lung.  He then ordered a chest X-ray to check that.  The one hour appointment stretched into 6 1/2 hours and when all was said and done, we arrived home around 4:00!  The ultrasound did not show any sign of a clot so that was good news.  Even though Dr. Brinker asked for the results of the X-ray STAT, and we waited around for those results, they did not come in so home we went. The next morning, Dr. Brinker called us at home to tell us that the X-ray showed that there was not fluid in the lungs, but that he could see from that lowly X-ray that the tumors HAVE SHRUNK!  Thank God!  That is such encouraging and fantastic news!  Thank God!

As he has since before our trip to Basel, David has been home recuperating and trying his best to get his strength up.  He is beginning to eat more each day, even ASKING for food, that makes this Greek lady super-happy.

Yesterday, his mom picked David up and took him to Lack’s for a blood draw to determine his hemoglobin levels.  Low levels are a typical side effect for the Y90 treatment, and one of the follow-ups is having blood drawn every 2 weeks.  Following that, they went home and as David headed up the front steps, his foot missed the step and over he went in the (very weedy) flower bed!  YOUCH!  He hit his hip on a rock, but fortunately no serious damage done!  While all this was going on, I was receiving a call from the cancer center telling me that his hemoglobin levels were at just about 7.  The normal range for a man is 13-17, so 7 is considered very low.  That explains why he has had trouble breathing, gets short of breath when he walks and generally has been feeling exhausted!  So, now you see why he is at Lack’s getting blood.  I hope and pray that this will be the thing to start getting him more energy and being able to do a bit more.

Posted by: davidalemmink | August 4, 2009

Tuesday, August 4

Happy Birthday, David!

Today is David’s birthday.  It’s not a day like other days.  Usually we are together as a family and go out for dinner, have cake & ice cream, and presents.  We usually do our best to celebrate each birthday and make it as special as possible.  This year, it’s a bit different.  We’re having a quiet day here at home.  David is just not up to the usual celebrations.

Since we got back from Basel, life has been pretty quiet.  He has spent his days sleeping, resting and recuperating from the treatment and going through what has been explained to us as “tumor kill”.  When the Y-90 treatment uptakes into the tumors, it then swells them and as the swelling subsides, it kills them.  We are hopeful that that is exactly what is happening.  We also hope that David will be getting a scan in the next few weeks so we can actually SEE that result.

So that’s about it.  Lots of rest.  Sleep. More rest.  Sitting around.  Lying around.  (Me pushing as much food into him as he will accept.)  More sleep and so on.  That’s all.

Thank you for your calls checking up on David!  He appreciates hearing from each of you….it brings the outside world in and your loving thoughts and prayers are so welcome!

Love, Connie

Posted by: davidalemmink | July 24, 2009

Friday, July 24

Hello everyone!

I am finally posting!  The fog is lifting from too little sleep and jet lag.  It has been a difficult week and I am thankful that it is Friday.

So, our trip to Basel.  We left on Thursday, and we found that traveling to Europe is exhausting!  Lots of changing of planes, and waiting in airports and not enough sleep.  We arrived in Basel Friday morning and headed right to our hostel.  Unfortunately, I gave the cab driver the incorrect address, so he dropped us off and left.  We went in to what we thought was the hostel, and realized that we were in the wrong place.  We weren’t too far from OUR hostel, but with David being overly exhausted and all our luggage, we called another taxi and waited to be picked up and dropped off at the correct place.  Wow, were we glad to just CRASH!

I will say up front, David was tired before we left and after all this, all he did was spend his time in the hostel, resting and sleeping.  John and I spent Friday hanging out with him and then Saturday morning headed out to explore Basel.  We found a flea market in the park nearest us and enjoyed ourselves wandering around and listening to all the German being spoken.  We did encounter one family speaking English, and of course, I had to speak up and say hello.  Her name was Robyn and she was so friendly and gave us a bunch of tips for getting around Basel.  Being newbies, we really appreciated her willingness to help us out.  We spent Sunday together and prepared for David to enter hospital on Monday.

Monday came and we called a cab to get us the few blocks to the hospital.  We went there, and I will say it is very different from what we are used to here in the United States.  We went up to the 4th floor and were buzzed into the radioactive area.  David’s nurse Martin met us, introduced himself, we introduced ourselves and he led us to David’s room.  That’s it.  No forms to fill out, no name band around the wrist, no gowns, no nothing.  He showed me where to stash David’s bag and led David to the hospital bed.  Following a bit of instruction, John and I left.

First, David was given something intravenously to protect his kidneys from the radioactive isotopes.  Then they gave him the shot of Y-90.  That was it.  He basically just had to be there because he was radioactive, and they of course wanted to see how he reacted to all of this.   There wasn’t much to do.  TV, but of course most of it was in German, or French, or other languages.  Not much in English.

John and I headed out to explore Basel.  It is a lovely city that is easy to get around in.  We walked all over and were a bit timid to try the public transportation.  We got a little lost, but with maps found our way back to the hostel.  One of the places we did find was the Co-op.  They are all over the city and are very nice grocery stores.  We spent a lot of time shopping there  because everything is so expensive, including eating out.  We ate sandwiches, and pizzas that we baked in the oven of the kitchen on the first floor in the hostel.  Our room had a nice little area where we could sit and eat.  Or we would take our sandwiches with us and eat picnics around Basel.

Tuesday morning, we headed up the the hospital to see David.  He had tolerated the treatment pretty well, although he did have some kidney pain that made him quite uncomfortable.  That is one of the side effects of the Y-90 treatment that many patients experience.  He also experienced extreme exhaustion which made him sleep a lot.  We spent some time there and then left again for a while, to return later in the day.  We didn’t want to spend too much time there as David WAS radioactive and, well, we just didn’t want to hang there too much.

Wednesday, we went back to the hospital to check David out.  He was still exhausted, and instead of calling a cab, we borrowed a wheelchair and wheeled him back to our room.  Fortunately, the hospital and hostel were very close so that wasn’t a problem.  I think it did him good to be out in the fresh air for a bit, anyway!

John and I spent the rest of our time in Basel wandering around, heading back to the hostel to hang with David, wandering around some more, spending more time with David.  Back and forth,  so we got our time to be tourists!  We went to the town square, the marketplace, the zoo, the Rhine River where John took his shoes off and played.  We walked and walked and walked.

On Friday, I had the good fortune to meet Karalyn who was there with her husband, Jim (he was in the hospital) so he could get a similar treatment for carcinoid.  Jim has had carcinoid for 5 years and they both were a wealth of information.  One thing she did for us was get us familiar with the public transportation.  She took us on our first ride on Bus #33 into the marketplace and from there on, John and I got a lot braver and started learning the system.  Both Karalyn and Jim gave us so much information regarding carcinoid, which we have implemented since we returned home.  We are so thankful we met them.  God puts people right where you need them, and I thank Him for that!

We did learn that David has another appointment in Basel September 23.  At that time, instead of the Y-90 treatment they will administer Lutetium 177.  It is another radioactive substance that is more gentle on the kidneys.  It also has had excellent results.  My job now is to get him stronger.  I will work as hard as I can to build him up in the next 2 months.

We headed home Monday morning.  We left our hostel around 10:30 a.m (4:30 a.m. Grand Rapids time) and arrived at the GR airport at approximately 10:30 pm Grand Rapids time.  That adds up to an 18-hour day and we all (David especially) were whipped and ready to be home and in our own beds!  My parents were there at the airport to greet us and Elisabeth and Angela showed up a couple of minutes later.  It was great to see them all and we grabbed our bags and headed home.

Since we’ve been home, David has been so tired.  As explained to me, along with the exhaustion from too little sleep and jet lag, he is experiencing “tumor kill” from the treatment.  That is a good thing, but not much fun to experience.  He’s been sleeping and resting and trying to get some food in him (well, that’s me trying to get him to eat more!)  In the last couple of days, I can tell he is beginning to come out of it.  He is more alert daily and sleeping less.

Thank you all so much for your kind wishes and prayers.  It’s what keeps us going!

Love, Connie

Posted by: davidalemmink | July 16, 2009

Thursday, July 16

Hello again,

I will do a quick post today.  We are having a quiet day.  John seems to have come down with a bit of a cold, so today we have just lazed around the room with David.  We all had naps, and boy did that feel great!  It gets quite warm here in the afternoons, so we pull the shades down in the late morning, and the fly shields let in the breezes, but not the bugs (of which there are not too many.)   

David seems to have perked up a bit.  Yesterday he was experiencing pain in his left kidney.  They did a scan in the morning before he was discharged to make sure there were no obstructions and it all look pretty good.  The kidney looked somewhat inflamed, but the doctor said that was not abnormal.  Possibly it was enlarged a bit and pressing on some nerve endings.  Fortunately today that pain seems to have subsided and he is resting much more comfortably. Thank God for that! 

Basel is such a lovely, clean city.  The public transportation is wonderful and you can get anywhere you want using it.  Most people do not have automobiles, so they walk to the nearby shops or use their bicycles.  EVERYONE has bikes! There are shops and Co-ops nearby, wherever we happen to be.   Most people are friendly, and if we have had any questions, we just say “excuse me, do you speak English?”  Practically everyone we have asked DOES speak English and they are generally willing to help us decipher signs, or find our way around.  We have also met some very nice, English-speaking people who go out of their way to help us. 

I think John is a tad homesick … he misses playing with his friend Morgan …. but John and I have been playing a lot of Rummy, so that keeps him occupied when we have down time.

Thanks for all of your posts.  It is so helpful to know that everyone back home is thinking about David and praying for him! 

Love, Connie

Posted by: davidalemmink | July 15, 2009

Wednesday, July 15

Guten Tag  …. Hello!!

I am finally able to post, and I am so thankful for that.  Please excuse any errors, the keyboard is a bit different than I am used to, so it makes it a bit more difficult….not impossible, but definately challenging. 

It is 11:30 a.m. here in Basel and we have just brought David back from hospital.  He received his treatment on Monday and it was well-received by him.  He was a bit ill from it, but he told me he felt somewhat better immediately.  I am not sure if that was psychological or what, but all I could think was YAY!!!  He spent all day Monday and Tuesday sleeping on and off, he would say mostly off and not getting the long, restful sleep he wanted.  The doctor came in on Tuesday and told us that the Y90 treatment had been taken up into the tumors.  That is EXCELLENT and exactly what we were hoping to hear.  Occasionally that is not the case, but we thank God that it IS the case for David.  He is experiencing some kidney pain, and they are not exactly sure why, but it could be that other, non-carcinoid tumor is a bit inflamed and pushing on nerves.  Hopefully the pain meds they have prescribed will help alleviate that pain.  He is still weak and not eating a ton, but the doctor said that was not a problem, just that he should be trying to drink a lot of fluids. 

The staff at the University Hospital has been exemplary.  They are friendly and helpful and will do whatever is needed to make David more comfortable.  We are so thankful for the ability to be here and take part in this treatment. 

We brought him back to the hostel by way of wheelchair.  The hostel is near the hospital, so that was not a problem.  John and I will take it back a bit later.  Our hostel is so nice and clean.  They have a lovely continental breakfast for us each morning, Monday through Friday.  The staff is so friendly and we are enjoying our stay here.  Our room is large enough for the 3 of us, and the bathroom is also adequate.  All-in-all, it is a lovely place to be and near the  Co-op we can get the food we need and nearby the bus and tram lines, and anything else we might want.

John and I have been wandering the city of Basel.  We have not done too much, but it is fun to just be here and see a city that is so beautiful and different from what we are used to.  Yesterday we picked up sandwiches at the Co-op (we have learned that eating in restaurants is very expensive in Basel, so we pick up sandwiches and Coke and have picnics) had a picnic and then we took a walk along the Rhein.  John had his feet in it to cool off and play.  We took a boat across to the other side and wandered there a bit.  Following that, we got on Tram #16 and took a ride through the city.  We met a lovely woman who is originally from the UK and now living here.  She gave us a few pointers of what we could see while we are still here, if we are able.
 

Today, we will just hang out with David, make sure he is comfortable and try to get him to eat.  Hopefully he will be able to sleep!  I will end for now.  I’m sure there is much more I could post, but John is here now and saying he is hungry.  I guess that means it is time to head back to the Co-op for sandwiches!

Thank you for your well-wishes, prayers and good thoughts.  We so appreciate it!

Love, Connie

Posted by: davidalemmink | July 8, 2009

Wednesday, July 8

Hello,

We are busy packing and anticipating.  So happy the wait is over, but also anxious about the trip over.  There is a lot to coordinate and I hope I have done everything necessary.

Today will be a day of work, running those few last-minute errands, and finishing up packing. We are getting a bit nervous, and we truly look forward to just being there, with the trip behind us.

Also, I wanted to let you know I will not be taking my computer with me.  I am hoping the hostel might have a computer for me to use, or maybe I will find an internet cafe in the area.   I also will have my iTouch, but posting from that will be much more difficult.  So, if that is my only option, then the posts will be short!  The decision not to take my computer came with we realized that David would need oxygen on the flight.  That means another carry-on with all that goes with that machine.

So, I will sign off for now.  I WILL post when I can.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and ongoing, loving support.  We appreciate it so much.

Love, Connie

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:13-16

The practice of the Orthodox Church today:

To this day, the Orthodox practice of prayer for the sick follows the New Testament instruction of St. James.  The Orthodox Church has a special service of healing, which may be performed at any time.  The presbyter prays for the ill person, anointing him with oil and saying, “O Lord Almighty, Healer of our souls and bodies, who put down and raise up, who chastise and heal also, visit now in Your mercy our brother, David, who is ill.  Stretch forth Your arm, which is full of healing and health, and raise him up from this bed, and cure this illness.  Put away the spirit of disease and every malady and pain and fever.  And if David has committed sins and transgressions, grant remission and forgiveness, because You love Mankind.”

As Orthodox Christians we pray, neither commanding God to heal nor doubting His ability to heal, but pleading for His promised mercy on all who are ill.

Posted by: davidalemmink | June 29, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello all,

Ahhhhh, where do I begin?  ……… We are going to Basel!  That sounds like a great beginning!  We received the call this morning.

Now, let me backtrack.  The day started out normally.  Today, we had a 9:30 appointment with Dr. Brinker at Lack’s.  We did all the usual morning things, which seem to take a little longer these days, and headed out a bit late.  On the way there, my phone rang.  I picked it up, looked at the number and said “that’s an odd number.”  I answered and on the other end was Brigit from the hospital in Basel. In her darling Swiss accent, she was calling to invite David to Basel for treatment and also to give us other pertinent information.  She then proceeded to tell me that she had emailed me last week, but the email had bounced.  She went on to say that because of that email snafu, and also a mistake she made last week in scheduling, that David’s appointment would be July 13!!  THAT IS IN 2 WEEKS!!! If all of these little mistakes had not happened, we would be heading over there sometime in September.  July is a much better choice as far as we are concerned!

Now on to all I have to do.  Get tickets. Do laundry and pack.  Keep feeding David to get him as ready as possible for the long flight.  Figure out the method of payment for the treatment.   The list goes on and on.  But it is with a happy heart and I am so glad to be doing it!  There have been many tears of joy shed already by both of us!  Those tears will continue as I do all I need to do because we are GOING!!!!  GOING!!!  BASEL HERE WE COME!!

I have been thinking ever since 9:46 this morning how amazing it is to actually SEE the Hand of God at work.  All those little “mess-ups” and “mistakes” were designed by God to make this wonderful gift happen.  God had a hand also in bringing together all of YOU who so generously shared of yourselves to give us the resources to make this happen.  We praise and thank God for each and every one of you who were so willing and generous and loving.  It has been a source of comfort for us to know that when the time came, we would not have to worry about “how” it would happen!

Please keep praying for David.  The next two weeks will go by fast and he needs  to build up his strength as much as he can.  I will keep working to bulk him up.  He will continue to get fluids at Lack’s whenever he feels the need.  That is so very helpful.

Thanking you constantly for your prayers and support.

With all my love,

Connie

“Lord, I praise You for Your faithfulness and love towards us.
Thank You for volunteering to take charge of our problems in every
difficult situation.  Please continue to help us to walk in Your truth.  Amen”

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