I met Randy on line in Late October, 2012. I must admit, of all the stories that have been sent in, Randy's is perhaps the most amazing. It took a brain tumor for Randy to find the Lord Jesus. Wow!
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Good morning Frank, Hope you had a pleasant trip out of town. Still no headaches worth mentioning (I attribute those I'm having to the Temodar). A few weeks ago I had a very busy Saturday for someone who is supposed to be resting . . . my wife and I went to the recyclers with cans, bottles, etc, and we had to sort out all of them, which took some time. I had gotten to bed late (past 11) and was up at 6, so I was tired to begin with. Following the better part of two hours at the recyclers, plus a trip to Wal-Mart, the grocery store and some other places, I was pretty well done in. So done in, in fact, that when I fell asleep, I was REALLY out it. My wife couldn't wake me, I was mumbling, etc. She related this on successive days to the docs at the three places where I've been receiving treatment, and the consensus was since I hadn't had any episodes like that before, or since, very likely I wore myself out thanks to the Temodar (I'm still on the 400 mg; it is no picnic). I have an appointment with a neurologist anyway, which is fine with me. If there is something else wrong with me, I'd like to know about it.
Speaking of doctor visits, I had two of them last week, one went good and one went VERY good. The first was my medical oncologist. My lab work was, in the words of his nurse, "Great". He also confirmed what the doc at the MRI facility knew--so far there seems to be no recurrence or residual. He still wants me on the Temodar and I'll see him at the end of the month and we'll discuss what comes next. Hopefully since things seem to be going well he'll either cut back the Temmy or discontinue it.
The very good visit was Friday. The docs walked into the room and both of them had smiles on their faces. (They were part of my surgical team from February). They said I looked really good and so far there didn't seem to be a sign of recurrence. I found it telling that in February they gave me a grim diagnosis (two years); the June MRI didn't show any sign of it, but I was told it was just a matter of time. Then from the September MRI (also clean), they switched from "when" to "if". I know I am by all means not out of the woods, and likely will never be--I am a marked man for life and I know it. This cancer is the most evil, murderous thing I can imagine, and I can imagine a LOT.
So how did I become a believer? It didn't happen overnight. I was never one of those "angry" atheists. I didn't know a lot of atheists but those I knew really weren't all that different from believers, they just believed in one less god than believers did. Two years ago I attended a coworker's church and his pastor spoke about how atheists couldn't possibly care about anything since they didn't believe in anything.
Hmmm . . . at that point I was an atheist. A few months earlier we had adopted three dogs from two different animal shelters. (In the past we had adopted two cats) At Christmas time we always donated to the Salvation Army kettles, and my wife and I went one strep further--if time allowed we'd invite the bellringer to have coffee or lunch (on us). They are volunteers or being paid very little to do pretty much a thankless job. (I brought coffee to one bellringer, and she told me I was the first person who ever offered to that. I found that ironic considering how many Christians are in my area alone). Then there are the time bank donations I've made in the past. I heard about a woman who works for the sheriff's department (Riverside County), whose daughter was suffering from . . . brain cancer. I get four weeks of vacation a year, which I think is very generous on the part of the county, so I was glad to donate two weeks to her. Then another time a coworker got hurt very, very badly in an auto accident, so I donated a week. Then last year two coworkers had cancer issues--one woman had a husband who was dying (I don't know what type of cancer he had), and a coworker whom I knew much better had throat cancer. It was Stage Four. You know what stage five is. So I split it up the middle and gave them each a week. Then last year on Christmas Eve I went to pick up my daughter. On the way I saw an elderly woman outside a supermarket; I thought she was waiting for a bus. I retreived my daughter and when we were driving home the woman was still there. Her family had sent her down there to purchase alcohol for them. I was ticked off up to my eyebrows. We offered her a ride home. Otherwise she would have been forced to walk (uphill; we live near a mountain), and it was getting dark. So we took her home and didn't leave until she was safely in her apartment (she lives in a senior center). I was ready to give whoever was there a piece of my mind, but can you believe she was spending Christmas Eve alone? Her "relatives" sent her out on a beer run, on foot. They weren't even coming until the next day. Apparently they didn't know, or didn't care, that there are liquor stores open even on Christmas.
You get the idea. For someone who wasn't a Christian I was busy doing good things--I know what Ephesians 2:9 says ("not of works, less any man should boast"). I knew already that just doing good works was no way to get into Heaven . . . I hadn't really even considered it. I'm just glad I've been in the right place at the right time to make a difference.
So much for being an "uncaring atheist". Just for grins, after I returned home I sent the church an email thanking them for an enjoyable sermon (the pastor also bagged on "Twilight", which is one of my guilty pleasures, along with "Dexter" and "Walking Dead"). I mentioned some of what I just told you, above, and invited them to write back, if they wanted. I know they got the email, because the return message said simply, "Thank you, Randy, and if a personal response is required we will get back to you". That was July 2010 and I'm still waiting.
Also I volunteered for our annual "Holiday Event" at work. It wasn't about who believed in what; it was about supporting my coworkers. One of the women volunteers (there were no men volunteers besides myself) asked me if I minded if it was called a Christmas party. I laughed and said I didn't have a problem with it. In the lobby of the building we work in there is a brass plaque with a quote from Ephesians (popular book, I guess), and even though it is prominently--and publicly--displayed I didn't have a problem with that, either.
So life went along until my little life-changing surprise. Surgery came and went, I went home to recuperate ( and die, though I have NO intention of that happening). Shortly after I returned home I began to have this "feeling" that I was being prepared for something. (I'm still having it). I still was an atheist . . . then I realized that all along I was an agnostic, which was really a better way to describe myself. After all, I haven't looked in every single corner of the Universe, or multiverse, depending on which Hawking book you're reading this week, so since I hadn't looked, how was I to know what was out there, or where God was?
I also began to get little "signs"; I listen to a lot of music. One day I was at the market, and out of nowhere, in my head, I began to hear "Part of the Plan". It's by Dan Fogelberg, on his "Souvenirs" album. Then another time I parked on a street across from the hospital. Across the street is a small business. I looked up and saw the sign: "A Gift of Time". I had been in Loma Linda a lot and had NEVER noticed that before then. I had asked God for more time. I didn't try to play "Let's Make A Deal"--read Ecclesiastes 5:5 and you'll see what I mean. I did ask that if I were given more time I would do my best to put it to good use--emphasis on "ask".
I'm not afraid of dying--we all go at some point, but I don't want to die from brain cancer, because that would be so . . . wasteful. There should always be some meaning to death. Dying of bed from old age, however, is a fate I'd like to avoid, but cancer is not what I had in mind.
Anyway, following the "Gift" incident, I felt a door gradually begin to open. When I felt it was wide enough . . . I stepped through. Just as I gradually became an atheist, same with becoming a believer.
I visited a friend's church on April 1st. (She and I have been talking for years about our "differences"; I've never tried to "deconvert" her. I wouldn't do that to anyone. She never once invited me to her church. After February, I asked her about it. She said she thought I wouldn't go. Actually I would have gone. I like her and respect her). No church visit since then. Once I'm cleared for activity, and this chemo is out of my system, I'll start looking around. Oh, and I have two Bibles, the King James, and an NIV study Bible, plus various study guides. Not to be boastful, like Peter, but I've surprised a few people with my ability to quote chapter and verse. They had assumed because I was an atheist I had never read the Bible. Actually I've read it several times, and some parts of it more than that.
I don't have anything on the computer, but you can go to my Facebook page if you'd like--I'm standing there holding a green lorikeet. We were at the Long Beach Aquarium that day. Say hello when you show up :) I'll ask my daughter if she can show me how to attach a picture--she's the computer whiz in the house.
God bless. Hope to talk to you soon!
About this time a year ago I began to "slow down". I'd come home from work and I'd be tired. Same thing when I went to my taekwando class. I attributed it to the aging process (I was 53, figured Father Time was catching up with me). As time went on I began to forget things. My sense of taste was off (my wife is a great cook). There were a few other things. I never had a bad headache, or a seizure (it's been eight months since my surgery and I still haven't had a seizure; more on that later). I never had blurred or double vision, nausea, vomiting, etc. My wife was concerned and that quickly turned to alarmed. We went to the ER (following a tearful intervention by my older daughter). They gave me an MRI and discovered a tumor the size of a golf ball.
Three days later I had surgery. I don't remember much of the pre-op phase, because by the time I was wheeled into surgery, I'd been awake over 60 hours. (A hospital is no place to sleep). I remember putting out my right arm so the nurses could strap it down, and then I put out my left arm . . . and then I awoke to find my wife standing over me. "They dug the kryptonite out of your skull and now I have my Superman back," she said ("Superman" is a nickname I've acquired). She had touched me on the arm and I snapped awake. I was awake enough to text some people, and I even ate a solid meal.
Three days later I went home. I was referred to Loma Linda here in California for followup treatment. They are one of the top centers for treatment ; I met people there from all over the country. I had 33 proton treatments, and initially, Temodar (140 mg) for about 40 days. Then in June I began a higher dose, 300 mg, on the 5/23 schedule. Same for July and August. How was I holding up under all of this? Well, I was driving myself around until the doctor pulled my license . . . said I was a "high risk for seizures". Hmmmm . . . . eight months so far and no seizures. Never had one before, during surgery, or afterward. It's more annoying than anything else, especially because he didn't bother to examine me. (He hadn't seen me for over a month, and my last visit to his office was July 18th). I go back to see him on Friday. Wish me luck :)
I began 400 mg in September. I handled the 140 ok . . . I'd swallow a time-release capsule around 4, then have dinner. I took a Zofram at the same time. The 300 was about the same. We even went on vacation; we had to have our house fumigated, and since we'd be out for about four days, my wife planned some fun things for us to do. We went to Universal Studios, the Queen Mary, and the Aquarium of the Pacific.
400 . . . now that has been a bit of a rough ride. I hate this constant "weak" feeling I have. I'm still doing at least a mile every day on the treadmill. I called my boss the other day and she told me that people keep coming into her office and asking when I'm coming back. I've been out 8 months. I'm one of these people who might use a sick day if I really needed it. As a result I had over 750 hours when this nightmare began, so I've been on full pay, thank God. And if sick time runs out, I have around six weeks of vacation. Not that I want to use any of it.
So as it stands, I had surgery 8 months ago on Sunday. I've two MRIs since I began treatment, one in late June and another in late September, and both MRIs have said there is no evidence of recurrent or residual growth, which is certainly welcome news. Of course I know it's possible it may come back (a possibility which comes up every time I go see this one particular oncologist, whom I've lovingly nicknamed "Dr. Doom". I will give him credit for being honest. I should have another MRI in December, if not sooner, and then we'll know more. So far, two for two.
Currently I'm slated for one more round of 400, beginning November 5th snd concluding on the 9th. I see this doc tomorrow (I'm seeing six different doctors at three places); he's my chemo doc. Odds are he'll just keep me on the Temodar for November, and if that's what it gotta be, I'm OK with it, because so far it seems to be working.
(I heard something from another doctor. I saw him back in May. First he had me do a few things that neuro patients do--squeeze the fingers, lift the knees against pressure, so on. I didn't have a problem with any of that--my strength began returning almost immediately following the removal. Then he asked to see my scar. You can see it, but it's very faint across the top of my head, and there isn't anything at all on my left side. Then I walked around, which I think surprised him--I think most cancer patients are usually pretty weak, especially those that are doing both chemo and radiation. I showed him my balance and coordination were fine. He left the room for a few minutes to consult with someone, came back in, asked me a few questions ("Are you a spiritual person?" --yes I am--"Are you a positive person?"--yes I am--) and he just shook his head and said, "I don't know what it is you're doing, but whatever it is, keep doing it, and I think you'll be fine".) I wonder if he'll be there Friday).
Oh, by the way, when this . . . adventure . . . began, I was an atheist. No longer. I'd be glad to share that story with you.
So . . . so far, so good. God bless you and yours.
And the adventure continues . . .