Vulcan Stev's Database

It's a BLOG Captain, but not as we know it.

Cancer Crisis an Epilogue: Thank You

Last night I spent the evening writing out thank you cards to everyone who gave monetary gifts, flowers, cards, and gifts of time and services.  We knocked off at 9:30 and we’re still not done.  The fund started by Daniel Perez raised nearly $1,000.  That money has come in very handy in paying off the bills that piled up during my many trips to and extended stays in Iowa City to be with my wife.  My thanks goes out to the entire RPG community.  Those of you who provided addresses with your donation will be getting a hard copy Thank You card.

We appreciate all the kind words, messages of support, and when folks started making baseless accusations, the stand of solidarity.

Virginia will be missed by those whose lives she touched.  We’re slowly but surely getting back to a “normal” existence.  I can’t say that I like the “new” normal, but it’s nice to know that this community that I am proud to be a part of has got my back.

Thank to all those who have made my life a little more bearable these past three weeks.

Pictured the Vulcan Stev family (Clockwise starting with the handsome character in the Jimmie Johnson jacket: PIT #2 Gerrit, Me, Virginia, Pvt Black Spartan Janae`, PIT #3 Chris).

The RPG community was absolutely fabulous in posting, tweeting, and reposting the news about Virginia’s hospitalization and death.  Please pass this thank you around.  I don’t want anyone to miss this.

Again, Thank You

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Memories of Virginia, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight, News, Reviews and Culture, RPG | , , , | 3 Comments

What’s going on with the Database?

You may or may not have noticed a new feature that ran this week.  The Destination Iowa article is going to be a regular summer feature (we haven’t decided if it’s going on past that or not as yet).  My boss and I decided back in April that he would foot the cost for transportation of my family and I to and from various Iowa tourist destinations.  I would then photograph the spot and write up an article for the paper (The Record: Serving Beaman, Conrad, Liscomb, Union, Whitten and Central Iowa).  The idea behind this was two-fold: One I would get paid to take my family around on mini-vacations and Two I would spend as much time as possible with my family while still providing for them.  This was desgined so that I could be with Virginia during what we knew to possibly be her last summer.

We were not expecting Virginia to pass before this assignment began.

Towards that end, with my boss’ permission and blessing I am sharing our adventures across Iowa this summer as written for The Record.  This is my way of fulfilling one of Virginia’s last requests.  She wanted these mini-vacations to be memories.  I’m sharing these memories with you.

For those of you wondering why I’m posting this article under the RPG: News, Reviews and Culture, simply put you have been more than generous and this is one way I have of sharing Virginia with you.  The second is that the next installment is one of Iowa’s two annual Renaissance Faires.

If you have already checked out the first installment, I urge you to check it again as I have now provided the links for the photo album of all the photos I shot in Pella.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Memories of Virginia, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight, News, Reviews and Culture, RPG, Vulcan Stev Family Journey | , , , , , | 1 Comment

What do I do now?

It’s 8:00 am Saturday morning.  I don’t have anything in the queue.  I do have posters picked out just not ready to be posted (unlike the canned ones from the previous 2 weeks).  I should have stuff back up and running on a normal schedule sometime next week.  For those of you who discovered the blog due to Virginia’s fight, you are welcome to stay.  I will get our Iron Man review done soon.

I’m not sleeping well at night.  There’s a great big empty space in the bed.  I wake up whenever I nudge into Virginia’s half of the bed and she’s not there.  The song “Sleeping Single in Double Bed” although half-remembered and certainly not about my circumstance springs unbidden from mind.

The dog is confused, he keeps looking for Virginia.  In fact I know how the dog feels.

I’m picking up Virginia’s ashes today.  The funeral is tomorrow.

If I didn’t have my kids around, I’d go stark raving loony.

Oh God, how am I going to survive without her?

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Memories of Virginia, Vulcan Stev Family Journey | , , | 8 Comments

Thoughts as I enter my 43rd year as a widower.

It’s 12:30 in the morning on the 14th.  I have been 43 years old for thirty minutes now.  In another fifty minutes I’ll have been a widower/single parent for exactly forty-eight hours.  My brain is mush but I can’t sleep.

I’m writing this mainly to try to make some sense of things.

I’ve had folks who have told me that they were praying for Virginia’s healing and that they were so sorry that God chose not to heal her.  Stop right there.  God has healed my wife.  She is in a place where the cancer is no longer part of her.  She is once again whole.  She has been healed just not in the way we might have expected or wanted for that matter.  I have been told by every doctor we talked to that liver cancer is one of the more painful cancers a person can endure.  If that is true than I am thankful that Virginia did not have to suffer long.  I miss her but we’ll have very few memories of Virginia’s shell, unlike my Grandmother Nibbelink who spent most of my life confined to a couch and barely able to move.

Would Grandma N. say that her life was wasted just because she spent the better part of two decades unable to breathe without oxygen or unable to walk more than the few steps from her bedroom to her bathroom and back?  No, she’d be the first to tell you that she lots of time to spend talking to God.  However her children and (most of) her grandchildren have plenty of memories of Grandma at her most vibrant.

I am very thankful that P.I.T. #3 (Chris) does not carry the burden of most of his “Mommy Memories” being of her as an invalid in a bed or on a couch.

Pvt. Black Spartan (Janae) has matured in the year that she has been in Uncle Sam’s (that would be the army and not Virginia’s brother) care and tutelage.  She has stepped in and taken some of the burden of dealing with life off of her father’s shoulders.  I thank God for my baby girl.

PIT #2 (Gerrit) has been somewhat of an enigma during this time.  I can tell he’s hurting but he’s got his father’s mis-guided notion that “Men Aren’t Supposed to CRY”.  I know my son and can tell when he’s not happy, right now he’s not.  I haven’t seen him cry yet but then he  probably is thinking “Dad is falling apart and I need to be strong for him”

Most of the immediate family from both sides are in town.  My brother will get here tomorrow and Virginia’s brother Sam finally got here today, in his haste he mis-booked a flight and was stuck in Denver for a couple of hours.

The boys and I have taken a pledge to keep the house from looking like it was the sole domain of three bachelors.  I don’t know how we’re gonna pull that off.  We’ve had friends (thank you) over helping us make it look nice now.

I honestly cannot comprehend the outpouring of love and generosity from all walks of our lives.  PIT #3’s school has taken it upon themselves to make sure that not only are me and the kids fed during this time but my parent and siblings and Virginia’s parents and siblings as well.  Thank you to TCS

Churches that we have attended in the past are taking up collections to help with funeral expenses.  The RPG community has set up a fund for donations (Dudes and Dudettes, I’m touched).  Each of the schools that Virginia interpreted for is getting unsolicited donations from their students.  I don’t know if I’ll EVER be able to thank every one individually for all they have done, are doing, and have pledged to do.   Each of those donations will be a very big help as Virginia missed the last month of her contract and I’ve basically taken a two-week unpaid vacation.  I’m overwhelmed and humbled, may God bless each and every one of you.

We found out that Virginia did have a life insurance policy.  Enough that once it comes through some of the larger recent expenditures (medical, funeral, etc.) can be paid off without my having to sell myself and the boys into slavery.  We might even have enough to take a vacation with Pvt Black Spartan to a gaming con (any suggestions?)

I’m still not excited about raising two boys by myself.  I’m not excited at all about the loneliness at night.  I’m realizing just how much of a rock Virginia was in my life and I don’t look forward to the future months once the flush of her passing has been forgotten.

I do not expect, nor do I want meals to continued to be provided for us, our home cleaned by others, the laundry done….  Eventually the extended family needs to return to their lives.  Gerrit, Chris and I will need to learn to get by on our own.  I’m not looking forward to that either.

So here I sit in (now 1:00 am) my chair.  My kids are taking me to see Iron Man 2 for my birthday.  I need my sleep for today will be busy.  I don’t want to go to bed because I’m getting lost in the queen sized area without my partner to snuggle against.  I’m trying to make myself sleepy enough now so I can go to bed without having to read one of my comic books to wind down.  (I ruined a Batman graphic novel because I wound down enough I fell asleep in it and drooled).

I miss my wife.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight, Vulcan Stev, Vulcan Stev Family Journey | , , , , | 12 Comments

Memories of Virgina

I remember about twenty-five years ago, I walked into the student union at Central Bible College.  My dad was inside with his study group (I was a senior in High School).  Dad introduced me to his classmates.  My attention was drawn to the striking redhead.  I wasn’t paying a lick of attention to my Dad at that point.  I was just wishing I had caught her name.

I remember about three weeks later, I found her working at the shoe store at the local mall.  It was near closing time so I went over and began talking with her.  I introduced myself and was delighted to discover that she remembered me.  I was even more delighted when she admitted that her car was broken and she needed a ride home.

I remember that Thanksgiving when I invited her to my family’s house for Thanksgiving dinner as she wasn’t going to have the time to go home to her family for the holiday.  She demurred saying she had nothing to bring.  I insisted.  She got a chocolate pie from her landlady.  I remember my younger siblings falling in love with Virgina because of her cooking skills.

I remember Virginia’s recollection of the day.  My family is blessed with natural volume to our voices.  Time with my side of the family can be a noisy rambunctious affair.  Virginia recounted to me that her landlady asked how the dinner went.  Virginia replied that she never wanted to marry into a LIKE mine.  I smiled at her admitting this to me after we’d been married and told her she didn’t marry into a family LIKE mine she married into my family.  She smiled back and said shed’ put up with my family’s noise if it meant she got to keep me.

I remember Valentine’s Day 1988 when she had invited me to Chicago to apply for a job where she worked.  I remember the bear hug I got from her when she met me at the Greyhound bus terminal in downtown Chicago.  I remember “Cupid’s Arrow” (her words not mine) striking that weekend.

I wish I could say that I have years and years of good memories about Virginia.  Unfortunately a head injury in the summer of ’97 has robbed me of many of them.  Memories come and go.  Memories have been altered.  I only post here what memories have been confirmed by others.

The Cancer Crisis is over.  I will begin chronicling my journey coping without Virginia and raising my boys.  I will continue posting memories about my wife and share them with you.  I have not stopped writing other posts and will continue those as well.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Memories of Virginia | , , , | 8 Comments

Cancer Crisis: Counting Down the Hours.

It is 11:20 in the morning Tuesday May 11.  I am sitting in the chair that I have basically occupied for the past 48 hours.  Yesterday Virginia’s dietary intake went from solids that she couldn’t eat on her own, to fluids, to liquid, to nothing as of this morning.

Her last (as of now) spoken sentence was to the boys last night.  She told them goodnight as I held the phone to her ear.  Sometime between that phone call and 6:00 am, Verizon decided to shut down our phone service.  I’ll admit that I had promised to get them some money last week, but God forbid that I be given any slack because I’ve sitting in the hospital.

/begin rant/ I couldn’t call anybody this morning.  My daughter was en route from Colorado without a phone.  I couldn’t call the boys this morning so they could tell Mommy good morning.  I couldn’t call Virginia’s family to let them know to get here sooner rather than later.  I spent three hours jumping through Verizon’s hoops before I actually got to talk to a real live person.  (No I don’t have my blasted account info handy.  I wasn’t expecting to be in Iowa City for 72 hours straight.)  Verizon compassionately informed me that for only $15 per line they would have my cell phone service reconnected in about an hour.  *sigh* /end rant/

I’ve called her family.  I’ve called my family.  Pvt Black Spartan is on her way and should be here about 8:30.

Virginia is not eating.  She is sleeping most of the time and will occasionally open her eyes.  Her breathing is somewhat labored but not the “Death Rasp”.  I asked the doctor about an IV for nutrition.  Imagine my surprise when I was told that food and water is counter-productive at this point.  Apparently the body works harder to process the intake and hastens the body’s demise.

We’re waiting on the ambulance to take her Hospice care at the home where my sister works.  It’s in the same community where I work and is only 10 miles south of the house (as the crow flies, call it a fifteen mile trip).  I’m on FB when I’m in the room (until the ambulance picks her up).  I don’t know what kind of coverage I’ll have at Hospice.

I appreciate all the kind words, prayers, buddy pokes, IMs, phone calls, text messages….  My eyes are currently dry but only because I’m cried out.  I’ll close off this update with the lyrics to a song that has been constantly running through my head these past three days.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , | 15 Comments

Cancer Crisis: What Cancer Cannot Do

What Cancer Cannot Do…

This is not an update on Virginia per se.  It is something that I’m going to put down as a catharsis of sorts.  I’m not finding the enthusiasm to write about Stev or about Chris DeHart or a lot of witty thoughts about the last movie I watched.  I do feel like writing something.

This little card fell out of on of Virginia’s “Get Well” cards.  I do not know who sent it but it brightened my day.

Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple Love
It cannot shatter Hope
It cannot corrode Faith
It cannot destroy Peace
It cannot kill Friendship
It cannot suppress Memories
It cannot silence Courage
It cannot invade the Soul
It cannot steal Eternal Life
It cannot conquer the Spirit… Author Unknown

Virginia is my friend, my lover, my partner and my wife.  I thank God everyday for her and will cherish the time we have had and continue to have.

Sweetheart I don’t know if you are listening right now as I type these words and read them out loud, but I LOVE you.  I always have and I always will.

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , | Leave a comment

Cancer Crisis: 5:30 am at the UIHC

I hope folks will forgive me for this as this post is only tangentially about Virginia and her cancer.  It’s still dark outside as I begin this.  Virginia is sleeping right now.  Her breathing is heavy and a trifle labored.  She is hugging tightly the most recent acquisition to her stuffed critter collection, a large green frog holding a heart that says “Kiss Me”.  I’m awake answering e-mails, thinking, and praying

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail and phone calls.  The words of encouragement are, well, encouraging.  Some of the e-mails have asked me blunt questions, one in particular asked “How could I still post those Demotivational Posters during this time?”

My answer to that is that I’ve got to do something to keep the smiles coming.

One e-mail from an online buddy struck a chord.  I won’t re-post his e-mail because he revealed some personal information that I assume is for my eyes alone.  As I read through my response to him, I realized that it very nicely summed up how I was currently coping with the whole situation.  S.L. I wrote this to you but I hope you don’t mind my sharing it with everyone…

At 43 years of age I have seen careless death, needless death, folks who have spent years in pain wishing they could die, and more senseless tragedy than I really care to.  I’ve lost both sets of grandparents.  Virginia and I have had a miscarriage.  I also lost a cousin when he was 10 due to drowning.

I have also seen pregnancy where the doctors said it couldn’t be done.  I’ve personally witnessed miracles of healing that defy common wisdom (I wish cell phone cameras had been invented the day I witnessed of boy with a serious birth defect grow his face back in front of the entire church).

My faith has always carried me through the toughest parts of my life.  I’ve been told by many people that my faith is a crutch.  That may be true, but then everyone has a crutch of some sort.  I just happen to replenish mine at church instead of the liquor store.  Please be aware that in no way am I representing those as the only two options and am by no means placing you or anyone else in a category. 😎

Yes, my faith tells me that someday after she passes from this life, I WILL see Virginia again.  I will see my grandparents.  I will see the child who never even had a chance.  I will see my still-born sister.  I do believe that the human soul is an eternal creature and will spend eternity in one of two places.  However Virginia’s eternal soul will not help me feed the boys.  She will not help in keeping the house clean.  Once she’s gone, I’m faced with some things on this plane of existence that truly scare me.  We are barely making ends meet with both of us working.  PIT #3 is only 11 years old, he’s not taking the whole “Mommy is going to heaven” thing very well.

Even though my faith gives me comfort and hope it does nothing to change some of the very real problems I’ll be facing once Virginia has left her cancer ridden shell.

Why does God allow things like this to happen?  Why is a young mother torn from the embrace of her husband and children?  Why does $h!t happen, God?  Believe me, even though I have my faith I still ask these questions.  They’re not easy to answer and folks who have asked these questions are faced with two choices; one to abandon that faith or two to accept that there is more to this existence and that we as humans do not comprehend everything.

We have never met face-to-face but I do number you among my friends.  If your conclusions about life, the universe, and everything are correct then my faith costs me nothing and provides me comfort in the time of a serious crisis.  If my conclusions about what’s going on are correct then again I have lost nothing but have gained something in the long run.

When I wrote that I was scared about the future, I may have unintentionally given the wrong impression of my thoughts regarding what will happen after Virgina has passed from this life to the next.  Yes, I am scared.  However, it is not the scared-out-of-my-wits-unable-to-do-anything-but-piss-my-pants sort of fear.  It’s the type of fear I had as a child, the “Daddy the thunderstorm is really scary is it going to get us?  No Steve, we’re safe inside the house.  C’mere, Daddy has a hug for you” fear.  I’m still scared but my faith tells me something larger than I has things under control.  I don’t see the whole picture.  I don’t know the reasons for “WHY?”.  But Daddy did and I believe that God does.

Science does not have all the answers.  Science cannot explain that spark of life.  Science cannot explain everything.  Every scientific FACT out there has yet to disprove God.  Scientific THEORIES abound that try to explain things that science cannot test for.  The thing is that faith does NOT require proof.  I believe that God exists.  I believe that He is in control of a larger plan that I do not understand.  This plan requires that my wife have cancer.  The future is not set, she may recover, she may not.  I do not know what the future has in store.

Pain is temporary, pain is something we have to endure here.  When Virginia leaves us she will leave the pain behind.  Someone will still have to feel it.  We live in an imperfect universe.  I will happily share my faith you if you ask.  I hope am not now and will not ever be seen as shoving it in front of you.

To answer your implied question, What is Truth?  Is it what the doctors tell us?  Is it what Televangelists tell us?  Is it what the Media spoons out to us in carefully measured sound-bites?  No, Truth is something that each individual must find for themselves.  There are guideposts for that journey.

…..

That in a nutshell (ok a very large nutshell) sums up why I am both afraid and unconcerned about the future.

To this I add that I do not make friends easily.  Once made, I do not give them up easily either.  I have been disappointed many time by people who claimed to be my friends.  When I say that someone is my friend please be aware that this is not a title I bestow lightly nor is it a title I take for granted.

I’m not going to apologize for sharing my faith in this post.  If it offends you, it offends you.  I do not claim that I have discovered THE TRUTH, only that I believe that I have.  Truth is a personally journey for everyone.  I cannot make your choices for you.  I can only give you a glimpse of my journey and hope and pray that it helps you along yours.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Cancer Crisis: an update

Updated 6:00 pm 5-9-10

This is an update of what I know as of right now.  Yesterday J.V. (Virginia’s best friend in the whole world) came and sat with Gin most of the day.  She reported to me that Virginia was sleeping most of the time.  She was concerned about the difference she saw in Virginia in just a week.

I got to the hospital this morning.  I was encouraged by the difference I saw in her from Thursday night to Friday night to this morning.  Her speech has improved and she’s not slurring her words.  She is sleeping more but given her condition that’s to be expected…

That’s when Dr. R. hit me with the news.  According to Dr. R. the cancer is VERY aggressive and is overwhelming the liver at an accelerated rate.  This is what caused the apparent drug overdose, the liver is not processing the medication as it should.  The swelling of the liver is what is causing Gin the pain.

Dr. R. is currently suggesting taking Virginia off the chemo because it is now doing the body more harm than good.  Dr. R. is no longer recommending the SIRS-Spheres.  What she is recommending is hospice and keeping her comfortable.  My Grandparents entered hospice in their last months of life.  I’m not stupid, “keeping her comfortable” is doctor-speak for “There’s nothing else we can do, death is coming.”

Hospice is coming to talk with us this afternoon.  More info as it becomes available.

added: 5/9/10 6:00 pm CDT
Hospice has been by.  Dr. B. has informed us that we are looking at 2 weeks to 2 months.  The cancer is VERY aggressive.  Virginia basically has a tumor where the liver is supposed to be.  I’m spending the night with Virginia at UIHC.  PIT #2 is watching his brother at home.  Pvt Black -Spartan has been put on Red Cross alert.

Virginia is sleeping more often than not.  Her speech is slow and slurred but it is an improvement over Friday.  They aren’t watching her vitals anymore.  They are keeping her comfortable and will be looking to put her into hospice nearer to the family.

I am not handling the news well.  I’ve been in tears most of the afternoon.  This is my wife we’re talking about.  I’m trying to be clinical about but I’m choking up as I write this.  I’m afraid that this series of articles will be ending sooner rather than later.  The thing is I believe that I will see her again some day.  That does not change the fact that I’m hurting like H*ll.  I don’t want to think about losing my wife of 23 years.  I don’t want to think about raising two boys alone.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Cancer Crisis: Spending the night at the UIHC

Tuesday May 4, Virginia and I both took off early from work to transport her to Iowa City.  We had the three-week follow-up after her first round of Xelota, a chemo pill.  The appointment was scheduled for 2:30.  We arrived at 2:00 pm and Virginia was taken to the lab area for some blood work.

We waited until almost 3:00 before we were called back to talk with Dr. R.  Almost as soon as she entered the exam room she expressed concern over Virginia’s fluctuating temperatures and uneven white cell blood count.   Dr. R. wonders if Virginia has an infection of some sort.  The cause for concern is that if ‘Gin starts the next round of Xelota, her body’s immune system will be compromised and unable to fight off the infection.  Dr. R. admitted Virginia yesterday afternoon to run some tests.  She wants to determine the cause of the fluctuating temp and white blood cell count before starting the next round of chemo.

This caught us completely by surprise.  We were expecting to be heading home no later than 5:00.  Suddenly we’re scrambling to make contingency plans to get the kids fed, cars picked up, work called, relatives notified….  I finally left UIHC at about 6:30 and after retrieving the T-Bird made it home about 10:00 pm.

Yesterday after I left, the doctors ran a chest x-ray, conducted lots of blood work and took an MRI of Gin’s head.  Right now we are waiting on an ultrasound of the liver.  Last word was that the white blood cell count was high, protein levels were low, and sodium levels are low.

Dr. R. and Dr. H.(the resident)  just stepped in.  The MRI preliminary result came back clear.  The chest x-ray came back clear.  Dr. R. is thinking that depending on the results of the liver ultrasound, we should be able to head home today.

We’re upping the dose of the Xelota and Dr. R. thinks Gin should be able to finish off the school year.

More later.

May 5, 2010 Posted by | Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , , | Leave a comment