Vulcan Stev's Database

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

Cancer Crisis: the Aftermath

Don't let cancer steal second base.

As I write this it’s been less than a week since Virginia’s funeral.  I’ve spent the week at work, mainly because I needed to get back and spending the time at home in an empty house does no one any good.  In that time frame I have worked on putting Virginia’s affairs in order; paying bills, getting the death certificate, and dealing with the estate.

I have been accused of being responsible for her death, that my lack of attention and “caustic enviroment” caused her to pass so quickly.  I have been accused of whining over her death “Too #%@&-ing much”.  I’ve also been accused of using her death for personal financial gain.

To the first, I respond that the move to Holland was not a popular one with my immediate family.  Virginia and I agreed at the time that it seemed like the right thing to do but were troubled over why we had to do it.  Virginia, the family and I shared frustration over the circumstances of our situation, however never once did she accuse me of “Lording it over” the family.  In her last week of life, Virginia came to the conclusion that one of God’s reasons for having us in Holland close to my family was for the support that I’d need after she passed.

To the second, when you’ve lost your spouse of 22 years then you can tell me if I’ve been whining too much.

To the third, I never asked for the Vulcan Stev solidarity fund.  That was started by the RPG community completely of their own volition.  The news paper added the line to her obituary about memorials can be directed to the family, that was not my doing.  Am I thankful for the funds that have poured in? Yes! Are times going to be tough for me and the boys?  Yes, we lost half of the family income.  But I have asked for only one specific thing for financial help and that was after the specific request of the individual over what immediate financial help was needed.  Aside from that I have NOT asked for money.

Money can not and will not replace what I’ve lost.  Most of my tears have been in private.  If there’s one recurring phrase I’ve been hearing from everyone else it is how much my wife and I truly loved each other…

The picture posted with this blog comes from one of my Facebook friends.  Virginia lost a breast to the cancer.  Did I stop loving her? no.  I married Virginia not her boobs.  Virginia lost her hair due to the radiation treatments.  Did I stop loving her when her crowning glory vanished? no.  I shaved my own head in solidarity.  I loved and still love the person, not the shell that housed her.

When we received the diagnosis that Virginia had in fact developed breast cancer we were shocked but yet relieved.  Breast cancer was “curable”.  We were going to beat this.  Looking back at the year and a half since that diagnosis it is more obvious to me now that the cancer was taking its toll on her body.  She was tiring out more frequently.  Things that had once been easy were no longer.

The thing is now that I know more about breast cancer, I realize now that my wife was at a higher risk.  Back in the 80s Virginia’s doctor put her on birth control to help regulate a hormonal imbalance.  She took those tablets right up until the time we started actively trying for a family.  From what I’m reading the cancer that killed Virginia had been estrogen fed.  Did those birth control pills contribute to Virginia’s cancer?

Virginia had always wanted to breast-feed her children.  We determined early on when Janae was a baby that her left breast had some sort of defect the precluded milk production.  Was this defect a cause of the cancer?  We don’t know.  It is my hope that whatever scientists and doctors are working on developing a cure for cancer will take these facts into consideration.  Do not let my wife’s death be in vain.

It is my firm hope and daily prayer, that I am the last husband to lose his wife.  My children the last to lose their mother.  Mom and Dad Young the last parents to lose a daughter.

Once the bills have been payed and the children provided for, we will be taking a portion of Virginia’s life insurance and starting a fund for cancer awareness.

Don’t let cancer steal second base….  or anything else for that matter.

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May 25, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Memories of Virginia, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight, Vulcan Stev Family Journey | , , , , | 11 Comments

Cancer Crisis: Her Journey is Over… and ours has just begun.

Good Morning World.  It is 11:00 am Wednesday May 12.  I wake up this morning as a single father.  I am simply overwhelmed by the support, love, and friendship… (how do you translate tears all over the keyboard and screen?)

Virginia took her last breath at 1:2o this morning.  I stayed around doing the normal paperwork shuffle until about 3:15 this morning.  I got home at about 3:45 and shut off the phone, the alarms and went to bed.  I woke this morning to a very wet pillow and an empty bed.

Virginia’s folks and sister made it to Iowa in time to see her.  Pvt Black Spartan (Janae) made it home in time to see Mommy.  We had a ad-hoc family reunion in Virginia’s hospice room as we all shared stories of our favorite Virginia memories.

The family (especially PIT #3) started to get tired about 10:30.  11:00 I wrote the “Counting down the hours” post and read each of the 113 e-mails.  I hope everyone will forgive me for not replying personally. 😎

Pastor Ken of my church and Pastor Troy (not my Pastor but I’ve worked with him on a number of occasions) sat with me and talked from 11:00 – 12:30.  I shared with them stories of Virginia and I.  We watched Virginia’s breathing get shallower and further apart as I held her hand.  Pastor Troy left at 12:30 and Pastor Ken sat with me.

At 1:20 this morning Virginia breathed her last.  My wife is now healed.  Praise God!  The shell she lived in on this earth is at rest.

I’ll probably be saying this a lot in the next few days.  THANK YOU!  I don’t remember who started it but the Vulcan Stev family fund is appreciated.  I never would have asked, but I’m man enough to admit we need it and I certainly won’t turn down the assistance.  Posting the link here seems a little self-serving to me (besides in all honesty I’m not sure I remember who started it or what the link is)  Again thank you.

Virginia Nibbelink is at peace.  She has fought the good fight.  She has finished her race.  The Cancer Crisis is over.

Right now plans are for her memorial service to be held Sunday morning at New Hope Fellowship in Holland, Iowa.  You are all certainly welcome to attend.

I plan to write up a post (when I’m feeling more articulate) about what Virginia meant/means to me.

I have had a number of folks tell me that my posts about the battle have been a source of inspiration (Berin, I think I understand a little how you feel).  Towards that end, I will also probably blog about how the family is coping with the transition.  I figure if what I wrote has helped folks going through similar experiences with cancer then what I write might help folks who have lost someone.

I apologize if this has been rambling.  I’m still coming to grips with the fact that Virginia isn’t coming back to this house.  She has gone home.

Virginia Nibbelink b. October 25, 1963.  Born into Eternity May 12, 2010.  Godspeed my love

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight, Vulcan Stev | , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Cancer Crisis: 11:30 at the Conrad Hospice unit.

Virginia left the UIHC at 12:00 noon on Tuesday.  It was exactly on week ago from that moment that I picked her up in Waterloo for a three-week check-up regarding her chemo pills.  The slippery slope has been chronicled here on this blog.  I’m not going to rehash the whole week right now.  I will state that her prognosis has deteriorated rapidly.  We went from “These labs are a little out of whack” to “Steve I am so sorry” in the course of seven days.

The deterioration has been on a seemingly exponential slide.  We’ve gone from months, to weeks, to days and now hours in the space of 48 hours.

I’m sitting here in the corner writing this and talking with a couple of friends.  Virginia is currently running a temp of 104 breathing about once every 6-8 seconds and her lungs are rapidly filling with fluid.

She has been unresponsive since breakfast this morning.  I’m going to sit with her until the time comes.

Her journey is almost over.  I have found this series of articles to be a catharsis.  I do not enjoy sharing all this “bad” information but it helps me deal with the emotional upheaval.  It also serves as on stop clearing house for “How is Virginia doing.

I’ll let everyone know how things continue.   I appreciate all that has been said, re-posted, tweeted, blog, and IM’ed.

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , | 16 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: So Doctor, what exactly is causing this?

I’m sorry I didn’t get this posted yesterday, but we had friends stop by to help us with some house cleaning.  It’s kind of difficult to sit on one’s butt whilst others are cleaning your house.

We got the results of the X-Ray and the urinalysis.  Both came back clear.  This means that there is no infection causing her temperature spikes.  According to what I’ve been able to piece together by what Dr. S. is NOT saying this is not a good thing.  It means to sole cause of Virginia’s temp spikes is the cancer-infested liver.

As long as the spikes do not go above 100.4 we’re stuck until the next appointment for some answers.

Next Doctor appointments: April 30 – Naturopath, May 4 – Dr. R in Iowa City

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Surviving the Cancer Crisis: Coping

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 is going to be a day I’ll remember for a very long time.  By now most of the regular readers of this blog know that my wife, Virginia (Mrs Vulcan Stev) has been diagnosed with a fast-growing cancer.  Tuesday the sixth, is the day the doctor gave us the diagnosis.

Needless to say our lives have been turned upside-down.  We (my wife and I) went from “We’re cancer free and recovering” to “I’m sorry but she may be gone within five years”.  This is not the type of news designed to make one sleep well at night…  I’ll keep posting about her progress but today I am following the advice of friends and putting my own thoughts and fears down on “paper”.

Fears:
I may end up raising two boys by myself.  This isn’t as scary as the fact that we’re barely making ends meet on two full-time salaries.  How am I gonna afford the things a family needs without sacrificing the time my sons will need from me?

I’m supposed to be the strong one here.  How am I supposed to be a comfort to my wife when little things set off a steady stream of tears?  Songs on the radio, male enhancement commercials, anything that reminds me of the fact that it is very possible that I won’t be growing old with Virginia, all set me off.  The man is supposed to be the strong one in the relationship.  (bear with me I know this is sightly sexist and a little old-fashioned but it is the way I was raised)  I’m supposed to take care of my wife.  How can I fight off something that is attacking her from the inside?

I consider myself God-blessed to have a woman who loves me for who I am.  We’ve been together for 22 years.  Yes we’ve had our arguments but Virginia has been a major part of my life for more than half of it.  I do I go on without her advice, love, comfort, support….  I’ve been having nightmares about her being gone and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her.

My faith tells me that God will heal my wife.  Either on this Earth or in eternity.  I believe that God is in control of this situation but that does not change the fact that I fear it.  Can God heal my wife completely?  Yes.  Will he?  I don’t know I am not God.

Medical science tells me that my wife has 50% chance of dying within five years from some other disease that the liver can no longer  fight off.  She has 10% chance of living five years or more.  She also has a 10% chance of being gone within two months.  Is my God capable of miracles? yes.  But, I know many Christian families who have lost someone to cancer.  Is there a plan?  Again my faith says yes.  I just don’t see it.

I’m faced with the distinct possibility that my wife may not live to see our oldest son graduate from high school, let alone share in the wonderment of grandchildren.  Do I sound self-pitying here?  Believe  me I’m not trying to be.  Do I want Virginia to live out a full life? Yes.  I want to grow old with her.  I want her to see her children grow up.  I want her to become the “coolest grandma” in the universe.

However right now she’s in pain, constant pain.  I know I’d take the pain in a stone cold second if it was possible.  Will we deal with the pain if that’s what we need to do? yes.

On a related note:
Many folks have asked what they can do to help the family out right now.  Honestly, right now keep Virginia in your prayers.  That’s what you can do right now.  The only thing that has currently changed (other than our emotional state) is that we know Virginia’s cancer has returned.

She is still able to go to work.  We’re still able to get done what needs to be done.  So right now there’s not a lot that we need help with.  Thank you though to everyone who has offered.

That said, if things deteriorate rapidly then I’ll need all the help folks are willing to send our way.

We have another appointment on Tuesday for a second opinion.  I’ll have an update from that as soon as I can.

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