Thursday, November 12, 2015

Looking Back...

Greetings Everyone,

~A brief note~ 

Have you ever noticed how November changes us? People get three shades lighter, five times more irritable, and infinitely more tired. On top of it all, this month is also filled with memories of lost loved ones for my family. A year ago today, my amazing dad joined the ranks up in heaven. Just writing that sentence makes my head spin. All I intend to do with this post is to remember him  and update you on where my family is at. Hopefully I can make some of you chuckle, give you a little bit of joy and maybe you'll cry along with me at the same here it goes.

Time has always been a curious thing. When you want it to slow down, it clips forwards at an alarming rate. Sometimes, time can become distorted and you forget what day it is or how many months its been. That sensation and a fantastic array of feelings have brought us to the one year anniversary of my dad's death.  As for me, time has proved that memories are the most interesting things of all. Good and bad, they have raced through my head and I'm sure you've experienced that as well. Whether it was a place that we had been or a glimpse of an old maroon Ford, I can remember such stories! Most of the time, the memories are so strong that they have the power to steal my breath away. In moments like those, I tell myself how its okay to cry. I remind myself that I can get through the pain because there is joy intertwined and I just have to find it again. My dad was such a strong man. If you can recall, he rarely complained about his situation. Even before his sickness, he was a "tough as nails" person. One story that I can share is about a very eventful day at work. For those of you who knew my dad, you can remember how busy he was! If you caught him without a project, you knew that wouldn't last for long.

One time, he was working on someone's house with a few other people and had been using a nail gun. My dad, being the prankster that he was decided it would be funny to pretend that he had shot himself with the nail gun. He would cry out and act like he had been hurt. Next thing you know, he'd bend over laughing. Well, pretty soon, the guys got tired of that little stunt and wouldn't you know, my dad actually did manage to shoot himself through his pointer and middle finger. Everyone was shocked that it had actually happened and my dad probably was too. He came home that day and said that he had just pulled out the nail and continued working. I will never forget how that finger was crooked from then on.

Another memory that I have is from when I was a little girl. My dad loved music and he did have quite a talent for drumming. One night when my mom was at work, he took out the record player and put in an old vinyl. He took me and my sister and the three of us danced around our basement. My sister and I were laughing so hard and we were all having so much fun. I can still see the smile on his face and the merriment in his eyes. I have many memories like that. I never knew what gave him the motivation to do those things but I am so grateful because they are filled with the purest joy imaginable.

Its so hard to realize that I won't get to dance with him at my wedding and I will never see him smile again. He was so witty and sharp. He had such a huge presence and it was almost impossible not to get sucked into whatever story he was sharing. At family functions, I can always think of how he would talk to almost everyone. He'd listen with his head cocked just slightly to the side and a hand in his pocket. You could tell that he truly cared about what they had to say. His heart was so big. Even from a young  age, I knew that he would go to impressive lengths to help out those who needed him. His temper too, frightening as it could be, just made him who he was. At times it was hysterical because he had such road rage! He could come up with some impressive comments and could get my mom, sister and I laughing so hard we couldn't stop! Either that or we would duck down in embarrassment:)  How can you thank someone for such simple moments? Why did he have to go? These and an assortment of other questions that have developed over the first year of my life without him. Ill pick up the phone on occasion to call him and I'll remember that I don't get to do that anymore. I think no matter how much time passes, I will forever feel his absence.

Despite such inner turmoil, life has continued to move forwards. Birthdays will be here, Sarah will be finishing up her junior year of high school and I will be never be a sophomore again:) I will be majoring in elementary education and minoring in art. I feel so happy with my decision and I know my dad is proud. My family has had such support through all of this as well. I cannot express how much you all have helped get us through. Each time we stumble, there is someone to send a text wishing us well. Each time we shut down, we get visits from people who have something that prompts us to start up again. The Katchmark's  and my mom's friends from work have been especially helpful. Everyone has been so ready to assist in whatever needs doing. My friends have been so kind as well. I am so thankful and so blessed to have such phenomenal people surrounding us all.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone, give those you love a huge hug, realize that time is such a precious gift and please remember my dad today.

Best Wishes,
Laura Katchmark


Friday, November 7, 2014

In These Final Days

Hello to Everyone, 

~Today I post very upsetting news. I would only ask you all to remember that this is a terrible thing for me to write as we are still living it. It is only fair for you to know what is happening as you have read my blog from the very beginning and that I thank you for.~ 

As you all know, my parents made the trip down to Houston, Texas on the 13th of October. They came down with the intention of participating in a clinical trial that showed promising results in other patients. He did not qualify for this trial because the doctors found plaque building up behind his eye and this increased his risk for a stroke greatly. They also found a subdural hematoma (bleeding in the space between the brain and the lining that covers the brain). This was a major and unexpected set back for my dad. Instead of focusing on destroying the cancer, the doctors turned their attention to stopping the bleeding in his brain. 

They were continuing this treatment up until my dad tripped and fell on November 3rd. This fall has ended all hope of recovering. He fell on his head very very hard which has caused even more bleeding. His brain is swelling and being pushed to one side as the bleeding continues. It is also causing him to be in a state of confusion. Because of his headaches, the doctors have him on major pain medications (which I am very thankful for). Due to these medications, he will go through periods of sleep and when he wakes up he can answer questions, recognizes his family, and has even made a few jokes. He doesn't always remember what happened to him and he sometimes isn't able to speak in complete sentences or very clearly for that matter. It just depends. As the bleeding progresses, his platelet count will drop and this will cause even more bleeding. This process has already begun. We have consulted every doctor here who specializes in leukemia and they have said that giving more platelets at this point would just be more cruel than beneficial. It would prolong what we have all dreaded. At this point, his comfort is all that matters. 

I am so sorry to deliver this news. My dad had every intention of surviving. He is such a brave man and such a wonderful, wonderful dad and husband. He tried everything he possibly could have tried. His body has been through so much, and looking at him now gives me physical pain. Despite feeling so sick, he has been a dutiful and sweet patient for two years. He told us before coming down to Texas that the only way he would go, is to go down fighting. This is just horrible, and it is a huge, huge loss for all of us. Yesterday, when my sister and I arrived in Texas we thought he was going to die. He was sleeping and nobody believed he would wake up. The three of us, (my mom, sister, and I) talked to him and held his hands and kissed his face. All of the sudden, his eyes opened and he knew exactly who we were. He told all of us how much he loves us and how proud he was to have such a wonderful family. That was one of the most precious memories I will ever have. It also proves just what a strong spirit he has. The doctors believe that the bleeding will progress pretty quickly from here on out, but they said that because of his spirit he could have up to a week left. Nobody knows for sure. 

Please remember who my dad truly was. He was passionate, dynamic, funny, loving, kind, creative, hard working and always up to something wonderful. He had a giggle like no other, loved telling stories and for me, his bear hugs were the best things in the world. He was a wonderful cook, an excellent teacher, and my biggest fan.  He loved the outdoors more than anyone I know and some of my favorite memories are of us hunting or working outside. A dad is irreplaceable in a girl's life and my dad is going to hold a special place in my heart forever. I love him, I always will but his journey here on this earth is almost over. 

Please pray for peace, for his comfort, and for a quick passing from this life. There is no need for him to suffer. 

Thank you all for your love, and support. It has meant everything to us and my dad wouldn't have gotten as far as he did without you holding him up. 

Laura Katchmark  

Forever, and always in my heart. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Down to Texas

Good Evening Everyone, 

Its been a long time since I've written anything in the blog and my hands are a bit rusty! As usual, plenty has happened from the last update and this includes a ridiculous amount of homework on my end. Because of this homework, and the (VERY) busy lifestyle that college has to offer, I will only post if there is something either wonderful or truly serious to share with you. I will also post a status update on Facebook just to help spread the word:) So before I get into more recent events, I will give you a brief overview of what has happened in the past few weeks.

After my dad got out of the hospital, he met with his primary doctor at the Mayo (Dr. Hogan). Because of how much weight my dad has lost (around sixty pounds) and how much chemo his organs had to endure, he is in a rough position to attempt a second stem cell transplant. For MDS leukemia, this is the only known cure available. Dr. Hogan told him that he can either continue treatment with a high possibility of dying from the side effects of more chemo, or he can stop treatment and have a limited amount of time left. Of course, none of us were satisfied with these options. Dr. Hogan recommended that we seek a second opinion from the number one cancer facility in the country. M. D. Anderson is known for specializing in rare cancers and both of my parents flew down for a week of solid appointments and any hope that there was a way out of this nightmare. Meanwhile, the Mayo sent in blood samples to a special lab that had the ability to sequence his DNA. After my parents got back from Texas, and after the test results of the DNA sequencing came back, we discovered that he may be eligible for a clinical trial that focuses on one of his genetic mutations. Fast forward to now...

Yesterday, my parents flew down to Texas again. This time around, my dad will get tested to make sure that he is qualified to be in the clinical trial. This includes heart tests, blood tests, bone marrow tests etc. Everything needs to be in working order before they expose him to this new option of treatment. This is both great and distressing news all at once. It would be a miracle if this drug could knock back his cancer to the point where a second stem cell could be attempted. He would have the opportunity to gain back weight and strength (mentally as well as physically) as the cancer died.  Lets pray for some healing!!! Every prayer, every well wish, every hope that you have for my dad's survival, let it be known. Thank you all for your support, all of your kindness, and most of all...all of your love. 

Laura Katchmark 

Your road doesn't end here daddy. Keep walking:) I love you! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Jail Break

Good Evening Everyone,

Things have settled down a bit in life. I am moved into college, my mom and dad are together again (mom had mono recently), and my little sister is back at school as well. My dad is doing well especially compared to where he was at only a few weeks ago. He is eating, his intestine has healed and the chemo succeeded in bringing his blast count down to about 5%. Another important update is the fact that he is no longer in the hospital. He is being seen everyday and still needs more care than normal but it is such a comfort to know that he is out in the world again. I wish I could provide more detailed information, but this is what my family and I know. The only thing I can add is the reassurance that the doctors are still hoping that my dad will be cured. Any prayers or positive wishes are always appreciated. Thank you.

On a bit of a side note...

College!! Its already been such an adventure. Before I left I was still thinking I was in a dream, but now that classes have started and my dorm smells all too real, I know that I can believe it. My roommate is awesome, and my professors seem very nice despite their quirkiness. I have one professor who wears a Hawaiian shirt everyday and another who says "Hella" all the time. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it makes class so much more amusing. My only wish is for my family to begin to heal now. I believe my dad will make it through and what a gift that would really be for us all. Have a wonderful rest of the week.

Laura Katchmark

" We don't spend time examining the doors that have already closed, we open new ones where they didn't exist before and walk through with immeasurable strength, and love. "
- A quote I made:)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Up For Company

Good Afternoon Everyone,
So here is the dad is better than he has been in the past week, but there are some really difficult problems that the doctors still need to solve. The first most immediate problem is his intestine. It is still very inflamed and he is feeling lots of pain in his stomach. He is on antibiotics and tons of other medications that have started helping him feel like he can visit and move around a bit.

The second more underlying problem is his leukemia. The chemo that he just went through was one of the most intense regiments that the doctors had to offer and it barely made a dent in the percentage of blast cells in his body. This is going to complicate things greatly for a second transplant. The doctors still have a few ideas and aren't planning to give up any time soon. Dr. Hogan, the main oncologist at Mayo, said that as long as my dad is willing to fight, they are as well. All I can tell you is that my dad has so much to live for and wants to be here for all of it. If you have time to go visit in the next few weeks, please do. He isn't too chatty but is in a better place to enjoy a visit even if its only for a couple of hours. Remember that he is the same person inside. Thank you for all of your support and love. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

Laura Katchmark


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ten Things...

Good Afternoon Everyone,

I know you have all had concerns recently and I am going to stick purely to facts and let you determine how to feel about them. If you have questions it is best to either ask my mom or me as my mom is at the hospital daily and I get updated daily. I can be contacted through email, facebook, cell phone etc. and my mom has access to her email and cell phone as well.  

1) My dad has been in the hospital since August 1st.
2) Since then, he has had fevers, nausea, and went through six days of intense chemo.
3) The chemo was given for six days but he received three different types of the drug.
4) He has been suffering severe stomache pains and has eaten very little for more than a month.
5) Yesterday (August 8th) my dad had a C.T scan and the doctors determined that 40cm of his lower small intestine was inflamed.
6) This inflamation could either be an infection or a side effect of the chemo he was treated with.
7) Since he was moved into intensive care, his blood pressure has been measuring very low and his heart rate has been elevated.
8) My dad has been tired
9) His phone is off and he doesnt feel like talking due to his condition
10) His room number is as follows: 10th floor Unit 3 Room 14.

These are the basics that you all should be aware of . I apologize for any bluntness but sometimes it is simply more effective to convey the bare minimum. Thank you for your continued love and support. It is difficult to hear about, and it is even harder to see and for those of you who have been with us from the beginning you are Gods hidden angels here on earth. All my love in return.

Laura Katchmark

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Biggest Mountain Still to Climb

Good Evening Everyone,

Technically it is 12:11 AM and I am dutifully typing up the most difficult post I've had to write in quite a while. To begin with I would like to say that my dad is not doing well. At all... It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly things can change. After the benefit my dad starting feeling a bit more under the weather than usual. It got progressively worse until he was admitted back into the hospital this past Saturday (20th). He went in with a fever that spiked over 101 degrees. He has been down at Mayo ever since with these fevers, and severe nausea. He also hasn't been eating very well because of the nausea so his potassium levels are not doing great either. Besides these symptoms he is also having trouble with infusions of red blood cells and platelets. The doctors believe that because of numerous and frequent transfusions his body has developed antibodies to combat any blood or platelets they give him. This is not good. His life has been saved over and over by these transfusions and without them I don't care to think about what could happen. Another major issue, one that could also be linked to the blood products, is his insanely high fevers. This is mostly just a hypothesis given out by the head of the Oncology department at Mayo, but for now it is the only explanation we have.

As for my dads spirits, its challenging for me to put them into words. I know my dad very well and through this he has been relatively good at vocalizing his fears and his hope. As you can imagine though, the hospital turns even the most respectful and kind person into a bit of a grump.  That would be accurate in describing my dad right now. Things are very very serious and I personally think that he has every right to be mad at the situation. The only bright spot during this week was my dad's 51st birthday. Thank you to everyone who mailed him a card! It was so awesome to open the mail box and see it filled to the top with birthday wishes!

I will continue to keep you updated on this situation. I have to warn all of you that it could get progressively worse so any prayers, thoughts, or words of love you have to offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much. A big thank you to those of you who donate blood as well. You save lives every day. Remember to give someone you love a hug today.

Laura Katchmark

He always has and he always will...