Saturday, January 23, 2010

Final Salute

It was a beautiful morning on Thursday, January 21, 2010 as we gathered to say a final goodbye to my dad. The weather forecast said it might be sleeting rain and possibly even snow, but it was clear and sunny. Same as it was when my mom was buried in early March. I'd like to think they both had a hand in keeping things pleasant those days, to remind us all they're okay and to be warmed by their spirits. On Friday at the same time the service was, there was sleeting rain and I couldn't help but appreciate this final gift to us all of a beautiful day.

Earlier in the week, I also felt warmed by my dad's spirit when they sang the very same song in church as the priest sang during Vivian's baptism. I've never heard that sung in our church before, and I do think it was my dad letting me know he's still with me. He was very much there at the baptism and is still here today. I am sure he knows how much I miss him.

Annette, Jackie and I were so grateful to those who made the effort to come to the service. And we know there were so many others who were with us that day - even without their physical presence. Annette's son-in-law took beautiful photos of the service and it was such a fitting tribute to a true patriot. Please view the slide show at this link.

I don't anticipate future posts, outside of adding a picture of the headstone when it is finished. But if any other reason warrants, I certainly will.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Notes From the Service

Thank you to all who came out to show support to those my dad left behind. It was nice to hear so many kind words from so many people. It was once again clear how quickly he made an impact on the local community. Many have asked for an address to mail donations in his name. He would have appreciated support for the local Red Cross chapter where he was honored as "Volunteer of the Year" back in March.

Their address is: American Red Cross, Highlands Chapter, 807 Carol Street, Fayetteville, NC 28303.

My dad was remembered by four different speakers, including myself (Robin). If you would like to read the eulogies, I am trying to get them all posted here. The first was given by longtime friend, John Kwietniak. Followed by friend and golfing partner, Ralph Robertson, who provided these words. Son-in-law Rick Parrish spoke about the father figure my dad was to him. And I spoke last, click here for my eulogy.

The service concluded with the baptism of my daughter, Vivian. I know my dad wanted to be there. It was a beautiful ceremony and I wish I also had a copy of some of the words provided by the priest. He did an amazing job connecting the love of God with the circle of life. Here are some pictures from that service.

Please know that the service at Arlington is open to all and we would love and appreciate everyone who would like to attend. Again, his burial with honors will be Thursday, January 21 at 11 a.m.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Remember Him Always

He fought a valiant battle until November 15, 2009. And as this blog has proven, he never stopped living...even when the outlook wasn't so bright. He has left a lot of broken hearts behind. If you would like to share in the celebration of Drew's life, all are welcome.

Visitation: 6pm-8pm, November 18th at Jernigan Warren Funeral Home, 545 Ramsey St., Fayetteville, North Carolina

Funeral: 1pm, November 19th at the Main Post Chapel, (Building 1-1510), Sedgewick & Jackson Streets, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia will not be until January 21, 2010 at 11a.m. due to the overwhelming number of burials there. But mark your calendar for a final salute.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to turn a simple operation into two weeks of pure hell in one easy lesson

Hello All

I know many of you are wondering how my simple little operation went and how I am doing. Well the answer is not good and not good, but slowly improving. Let me explain.

We checked into Duke on Sunday, October 18th which was supposed to be only a four day hospital stay. I had a tube stuck down my nose the first day which went all the way into my stomach. I then had to drink some barrium sludge solution which was to help light up my organs and show the doctors a good pathway into my stomach so they wouldn't perforate anything while installing my feeding tube the next day. On Monday I had the operation which was supposed to take around 30 minutes but ended up closer to two hours. While back in my room, recovering, when the drugs started to wear off I was thinking "what the hell, is it supposed to hurt this bad?"

That was the beginning of the next two horrific weeks. I was acutally discharged on Thursday afternoon, for about 12+ hours and stayed overnight locally to see my doctors on Friday when I was scheduled for my next round of chemo. Well when I saw my doctors, and they saw the pain and condition I was in, I was admitted right back to the hospital immediately. The pain was awful but they got it under control, I started to retain some fluids in and around my body cavity which required two "drainings" before I left the hospital. I had a terrible bout with constipation. I've continued to have "no" appetite and have been taking liquid nourishment orally or via the feeding tube. And, you may have heard, the black plague hit the area killing thousands and locusts struck the area whipping out all of the local tobacco crops, (officials are pretty much blaming these last two on me also.)

On the upside, I was finally discharged last Friday and have been at home recovering very slowly. I have the amazing love, and support, and nursing skills of my lovely wife to help me every step along the way. Additionally, you will not believe the amount of visitors I had and where some of them came from. First and foremost I had my two daughters (Pensacola, Fla and Richland, WA) one son-in-law, and two newest granddaughters come to support me and spend time with me. Robin is on maternity leave from work right now and is staying, along with Marjorie and Vivian for an extended period of time. Mark and Jackie had to go back last Friday as Mark was starting a new job on Monday and Jackie had to get back to tend to her kids as Rick had to go back to work flying.

Then I had a couple more total shockers, two old Coast Guard friends, both of whom I was stationed with in San Franscisco in the mid-80s came to visit. John from Kenai, Alaska, and Jeff from Seattle. What a pleasant surprise to see them both. On top of that Annette's sister Margaret and her husband Hall came all the way from southwestern Oregon and visited with me 3 times. Many of Annette's other brothers and sisters a nephew, and her two sons came as well (Oscar, Ike, Dianna, Bill, Myra, Lee, David, and Kelly) I hope I didn't miss anyone in my drugged up state. Thank you each and every one for the effort you made to visit this partially broken down machine.

Unfortunately, we came away from this stay with some not too great news. They said my body is too beat up from all the treatments to have any more chemo treatments, at least for now. In place of this they have hooked us up with some "home health /hospice care." I know what kind of connotation those words carry with them but we aren't thinking that way. However, and I've said this before, your prayers are even more important as they are about the only bullets left that I have to fight this awful disease.

My pain is less here now, the feedings are going fair, I still throw up a lot, the constipation is better but only with medicine to make me churn and burn. I still have no appetite, and I am retaining some body fluids but hey, other than that, I still look marvelous!

Annette and I are certainly enjoying the visit with Robin and her girls. They have brought some needed joy to our household. It is always nice to hear a childs laugh or a babys coo.

Well, I guess that is about it for this blog update. I know the news wasn't too great to hear but it is what it is. Your prayers are needed, don't forget us, please, while we continue this battle.


Drew & Annette

Note from Annette: As you can see, his humor remains intact. It is a great tool in this fight and we do our best to laugh every day. As the summer draws to an end and the trees begin to don their glorious palette of fall colors our thoughts turn to hot cider, and lemonade is enjoyed less often. However, lemonade is also enjoyed hot and spicey! Please hold us close and continue to lift us up. More now than ever .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A New Twist in my Path to Recovery

Hello, Again, Everyone:

I know this update is a sudden one after my last one but there is some news I felt worth sharing. Yesterday, Annette and I were back at Duke to see if I could have my scheduled treatment. I wasn't confident that I would be able to get it due to how I was feeling pretty much all week. Ever since returning from the Outer Banks I have not felt well. In fact I was throwing up again last Sunday night and then Thursday night I had a miserable night with very little sleep as my stomach was killing me, much worse than normal. I have had a sore, sensitive stomach and back aches for quite a while now causing a lot of discomfort. And for the past week I have had zero appetite, I mean none at all.

Well, low and behold, while my white blood cell count had rebounded a little (1400 vs 800 with normal being between 5-6,000) my platelet count was much better (171 vs 87 where they want it >150). As a result, I was able to get my treatment yesterday. Additionally, and this is the new twist, we are going back up tomorrow to be admitted to the hospital and I will have a feeding tube installed in my stomach on Monday. I will likely be discharged on Wednesday and back up there again for treatment on Friday, a busy week for sure. Knowing how weak I feel, with no strength, I think this is the best idea. Since I have no desire for food I can't get enough nourishment and this should rectify that, hopefully. They said it will likely stay in throughout the remainder of my treatments and when I can eat I will and when I can't it will go in via the feeding tube. Oh well, just one more little twist in the road to recovery. Like I said before, Cancer sucks.

This a.m., as suspected, I threw up about 6 times until it finally passed. It usually happens about 8-10 hours after my treatments. Please continue to pray for both of us as this is a battle we are both fighting 24 x 7. One of these days we are going to get some good news to share with you.

With love
Drew & Annette

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Great Vacation but No Chemo:(

Hello All

I know it has been a few weeks since my last posting but you will understand why very shortly. On October 2nd (my birthday - 59) we were scheduled for starting my second round of two treatments out of 3 rounds total (or 6 treatments in total). Well my blood work done right before we meet with the doctors was not good. Both my white blood cell count and my platelets were too low and not safe for giving chemo. The doctor said lets put it off for a week and let my counts rebound. We were scheduled to go on to Elizabeth City that day (where I was stationed in 1973-74) and visit the area before we headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX for those of you that know).

We arrived in E-City Friday afternoon and stayed the night there as we couldn't check in out at our timeshare at OBX until Saturday late afternoon. We cruised the area and I showed Annette the Air Station I used to work at, toured the helos and C-130s, saw the house that Linda and I used to live in, the school where she taught, and went to a new museum there that featured a lot of the Coast Guard as that is the biggest employer in the area. A very nice display.

On to OBX where we checked into our timeshare. It was nice, old, but clean with lots of room. We were close to the beach. We stayed busy doing lots of fun things like, walks on the beach, reading our books and relaxing on the beach, buying and flying kites on the beach for over 4 hours (I also bought a controllable kite and it is fun). We took a couple of driving tours down to Cape Hatteras in the south and some other place to the north that I forget the name of the town. We saw or visited 3 lighthouses including the famous Cape Hatteras (picture attached). We played golf one day and Annette had her best round ever (52-45=97). It was the first time she broke 100 - way to go babe!

The last two days we really had fun, we did pier fishing at the Nags Head pier for about 7 hours and caught around 15 blues - it was a blast when they were hitting. Then on Friday (we got our next scheduled treatment delayed until yesterday) we went deep sea fishing on a great charter boat - 52 footer. There were 5 of us, not counting the Captain and Mate, and we had an all day charter. Left the dock at 6 am and returned near 4 pm. The weather was fabulous, the seas were relatively calm (3-4 feet), the boat and crew were 1st class, and the fishing was GREAT. We ended up catching 12 yellow fin tuna, near our limit of 15 (3 each), and they weighed in at 250 gross and 120+ net. Our largest one was 31 lbs. Annette and I got 2/5s or almost 48 lbs. of tuna steaks. We rushed home Saturday morning and got them all cut up and packaged and in the freezer by Saturday afternoon. Annette even canned 12 pints of the smaller pieces to use for tuna fish salads. It is fabulous. We ended up with 80 steaks and I love tuna. It was a great experience for me as it was my first time. Annette is an old hand at off shore fishing. We will do it again maybe in the spring.

Back to my health thing - I started feeling "out of sorts" Saturday afternoon. I layed low and lost most of my appetite. Sunday we went to church but I couldn't wait to get home and back to bed where I stayed the rest of the day. One upchuck and just a general lousy feeling overall. Went back to Duke yesterday, and, after more blood work, my counts are still way too low to get my treatments (white cell counts even lower but platelets were a little better). My doctor put me on a oral antibiotic and we go back this Friday to see if I can get my chemo. This 3rd round of treatments is really not going very well, not nearly as originally planned, and this white blood cell count is a problem. As that is needed to help fight off illnesses. I probably had a bug over the weekend but still don't feel very good and still have a poor appetite. This is starting to suck but what are you going to do? Just have to hang in there and take it when I can. I will be staying home a lot so as to reduce my changes of catching something from someone else.

Our weather is turning much cooler now and so I don't miss my golf quite as bad just now. Well, I guess that is enough for this update. I will attach some new pics too. Till next time, keep those prayers coming my way. Trust me I need them.

Drew & Annette

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Round 1 of 3 done

Hello All

I just wanted to provide a little update on my progress moving along in this the 3rd round now of my treatments. This will be chemo infusion treatments only (two very powerful ones), given once a week, on Friday's, for three cycles of 2 weeks in a row then a week off, then repeat. I finished the first round this past Friday. The infusions went well, but take a long time, around 4.5 hours total. However, by about 10 pm on Friday night I started to have some of the expected side effects, by throwing up most of the night until around daybreak. While that is fun in itself, it is followed up by a day of just feeling fairly crummy and can't do much. Unfortunately that Saturday was Annette's 39th birthday and I couldn't do anything with her - sorry Babe.

I improved on Sunday and on Monday I even played golf with my brother-in-law Oscar. My appetite is fair at best with lingering nausea but it is mostly controlled with oral medication. Needless to say you don't feel great but not terrible either. Just something we have to deal with in order to get the medicine in you that you need. I am losing a little weight again and definitely muscle tone but "I will be back!"

Annette and I did get to celebrate our 3rd Anniversary last Thursday night wherein we went to a local Chop House which was very good. I will attach a picture from there as well as several of our newest grand daughter, Vivian Fracine Lane Bunch. She's a looker huh? Kind of looks like her grandpa.

My sister, Darla, stopped in here briefly Monday evening while enroute from NY to Florida. Then the crazy nut continued her drive all the way down to Florida. A total of about 24 hours on the road. I thought she had more sense than that - Darla what up?

Speaking of golf for a moment, last Thursday I played for the first time in a month due to some soreness I have had in my stomach and restricting me from swinging. Well, I was invited out, with comp passes, to play one of the famed 8 Pinehurst golf courses. They are numbered 1-8 and we played #8. #2 is the most famous and it is where they have held the US Open twice I believe and will be again 2014. Anyway, it was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks again to Tommy, a friend of a friend who got us on. Annette has also been playing more lately with a group of lady friends and I am happy for her to have some girl company. She doesn't care for my coaching style!

Well enough about the local news around here. I will probably not do another update for a few weeks after we return from the Outer Banks around the 9th of October. Take care and keep those prayers coming our way. They are desperately needed, trust me.