Monday, December 31, 2012

Going Home

I wrote the following during my ride in a twin turbo-prop plane over middle America on our way back to South Bend. Mom's fight was well fought and is finished, but these words helped me reflect on our journey.
— — —
Going home

We get to go home today. It's been such a long time. We left 16 days ago. 16 days that the world around me has been put on hold. Well, I put it on hold, but it continued on without me.

It's been so difficult. I feel so dramatic saying that. But this has been the most difficult thing I have EVER done. To see this cancer ravage my mom's body. To see her struggle to just sit up in bed. To see her sleeping a day away in ICU. To see her cry because of the unknown, because of weakness, and because of a fear of dying. I've cried at times. Facing our mortality is a humbling experience.

Even through the pain and difficulty I have found so much Good News. Today Mom showed an eagerness and awareness that I have not seen for more than a week. I would not be here flying home today were it not for my awesome God and my friends, no they're much more like family, who have lifted our burdens in prayer. He pulled people together to get this organized sooner than later. I celebrate joy because my mom asked me to pray for her. Lastly, there are so many people to thank.

Being 8 hours away from home was tough. In this difficult time so many people have shown us so much compassion and love. God is Love, so God has been with us the whole time. It goes back to the woman in South Bend who put Mom's shoes on. Then there was Ishmail who pushed us through Detroit airport. The friendly bell boy in the hotel lobby is from South Bend. The nice people throughout the Mayo Clinic who always had a smile and a greeting. The doctors who gave us their undivided professional attention. Even the crews who transported us to the airport and the flight crew caring for us were amazing. And, I believe most importantly, I cannot say enough about the wonderful nurses who gave such patient loving care. Cheryl, Jolie, Mallory, Jordan, Heidi, Laura and there were more but I didn't write their names down.

I don't know where we're going from here. God has his plan. I just pray for the patience and understanding to follow His plan.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day reflections

I wrote this on Christmas Day.

During the 4weeks leading up to Christmas we prepared for the coming of Christ. He prepared me in more ways than I can realize. Not only am I ready today to welcome him here on earth as a babe, but I'm ready for when he calls on us to come get our final treasure.

I miss my bed. I miss Purl St. I miss my comfort.

However, I have what I need. I have Brandi, three wonderful kids, and time with my mom Mary. Christmas is in our hearts and with us in our family.

We welcomed Christ at mas last night. The priest asked, "Do you believe?" Then he asked "Why?" Then told us we need to be receptive as well.

I believe because God has always been there and has shown me although I may not have always known it or realized it. I was not always receptive.

But then I heard Matt Maher sing

"Late have I loved you
you waited for me,
I searched for you…
what took me so long?

I was looking outside
as if love would ever want to hide
I’m finding I was wrong."

Then I found St. Augustine. He said God is always there.

"You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace."

I believe because -

He is

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Riding the roller coaster of monotony

Roller Coaster Ride?

It's a roller coaster.  It's up.  It's down.  It's good times and bad.  The times good or bad can last seconds, to minutes, to even longer.  

It's like a roller coaster that you can't see more than a few feet around you.  I can't seem to find perspective.  The more we stay on this ride I gain a better perspective day after day.  

It's become a waiting game.  Except I'm still looking for the game part of this waiting.  We are waiting to see if the doctors and nurses can help stabilize and improve my mom's condition in order to move on to the next step to fight the cancer.

How to break up the monotony? do you win a game that doesn't have rules and the winning means you can get out of where you are?

  • One- We've been doing the exercises to help Mom build up her strength so that we are ready to go home when the time comes.
  • Two- Even though we're less than a week away from the birth of Christ, it doesn't feel like it in the room.  The nurse's station is decorated with garland and bows.  

The exercises are very simple and it's a good distraction to help us pass the time.  By the end of our time here my mom should be lifting and pulling a small small truck.

The decorations are simple.  Something borrowed, something new and something green. They're nothing special, but they do bring a bit of color to the room.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What's for dinner?

I love watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.  He goes on adventures experiencing the cultures, customs, and culinary fares of different countries and different regions of the United States.  Now I'm nowhere near as smartly acerbic as Bourdain, nor do I have the finely acute culinary taste.

While I lack the burning intellect of Bourdain, I do love to travel and I do like to eat.  One of the silver linings of this little trip to the land of Vikings is that I am somewhere I've never been.  I also get to try out restaurants and food. I've tried out 4 restaurants since I've been here.

The restaurant cafe... Our first night here we weren't up for traveling ver far. So we just took the elevator down the hotel restaurant. Next time I will heed the recommendations on Yelp*. The moat interesting thing about the restaurant was the cliental. Nearly every table seemed to be occupied by someone being reared across the street at Mayo. Since I'm all about taking photos you can tell how much I wanted to share my food. I have not been able to go back.  

The singing pancake... By far this has been my go to restaurant. I think it's a quirky little place.

And... you get a dinner and a show.  The restaurant's name is Pannekoeken.  That is a Dutch/Belgian pancake(or so according to Wikipedia). This is a decent restaurant on the corner near the hospital.  After the lackluster meal of the first night, I pushed my mom to this restaurant(Literally - She was in a wheelchair)  I checked it out on Yelp* and the reviews were moderate.  I went anyways.  Big stuffed pancakes sounded good.  The restuarant had a quaint diner feel with a twist.  The interior was painted creamsicle orange and a light minty green.  There was a nice friendly feel.

I ordered the cranberry and rum pannekoeken.  My mom ordered potato pancakes.  As we sat waiting for our food, I enjoyed my coffee.  Every few minutes there was a muffled voice over a loudspeaker.  I swear that it started to sound like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.  A short while later I heard singing and turned to see one of the waitresses singing "pannekoeken, pann-e-koo-ken." I guess they bring out the dishes to a song.  Stuffed pancakes turned out to be pretty good. Just look at the photo!.  The pannekoeken was tasty with the butter rum sauce. My mom's potato pancakes were also nicely done.  I'd go back. 

And I did.  Mary, my mom, had an urge for fried fish.  I went back and ordered a fried fish plate.  I also picked up some of their muffins.  For getting carry out fried fish it was pretty good.  The best part were the muffins.  Ooohhhh...yum.

Church and American-Greek Comfort Cuisine... I went to church.  It was Sunday, I needed to go to His house, and I needed to have a nice talk with God.  i had to because He was telling something because the church has the SAME name as my parish back in Goshen.  St. John the Evangelist.  When God talks you can't ignore him.  Just ask Jonah.

Church was a needed respite.  It was nice to hear his word and get a spiritual pep talk.  Also the Deacon was a real character and spoke wonderfully.

After church it was time to look for a new place for grub.  I walked the cold and blustery 3 blocks to a row of restaurants near the Mayo Hospitals.  Today I picked out a place because it was the first one I saw(after Pannekoeken).  

It was a place called Mac's Cafe Restaurant.  Their tagline is "Iconic American and Greek Comfort Cuisine".  I couldn't pull the trigger and order anything Greek(well except for dessert).  I was feeling kind of plain and seeking some comfort food.  What's more comforting than a Budweiser and a burger.  It hit the spot and made me feel just a little bit better.  The perk-up did me good.  I wanted dessert so I decided to go Greek.  Nothing is much better than baklava. I brought back the baklava and a piece of chocolate cream pie.

Hospital food... When I was growing up hospital food was much maligned. I think it's still placed on a level equal to ---well I'm not sure there is anything that come down that far.  I haven't had the food that my mom's been eating, but I've eaten out of the cafeteria here. Actually it is pretty good for food that has to walk the tight rope of health, taste, and mass production. I've had several lunches here. I think the fell of the tight rope compensating for taste and mass production. It's good in a pinch.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A day to stumble

Throughout this journey, I've tried to be the rock, the one who is there to guide my mom as she's gone through her diagnosis and treatment.  I've tried to be the one to take notes, offer translations/clarifications for my mom.

Yesterday I stumbled.

  • Kick in the gut 1 - 
    • Mom's doctor with the Mayo Clinic came in and told us that her cancer has made a "robust" return.
  • Kick in the gut 2 - 
    • He wanted to admit her to the hospital and get her started on a new chemotherapy regimen so that we can get to a Stem Cell Transplant.

My brain was swimming as the doctor talked about these two new realities.  How bad is "robust"?  What does that mean? What does admission mean? When will my mom get better?  How difficult will this be for her?  How long will we be here?  What will this mean for the rest of my family? What does this mean about more time off?  What does this mean about getting home for Christmas?

I stumbled and it scared me.  Now you'll tell me, "It's OK, Brian."  Maybe it is, but this hasn't happened to me before.  I've been shocked throughout the process, but I've been able to keep my wits about me. Not this time though.

I know I was only being human.  I couldn't think.  I was freaking out.  My "reptile/fight or flight" part of my brain kicked in and took over.  It's like all the cliches.  Everything was moving in slow motion.  The doctor was talking, but it wasn't making any sense.  The words weren't getting from my ears to my brains.

He took a breath and a moment to ask us if we had questions.   Thankfully my higher order thinking kicked in and I was able to get my bearings.  I got back on track, shakily resumed my notations, and the processing of the information coming at us.

So, here we are day 2 of the hospital.  I still don't know what our near future holds, but I am slowly gathering my wits and trying to figure out how to best help my mom and be as useful as possible. We're doing better and trying to focus on what we need to do to get better.

Just say a prayer for me all of us.

Friday, December 14, 2012

In the Mayo

While we went to get answers, today was only a day to take tests and give answers for the doctors.  Therefore it wasn't a heavy day.  That likely comes in the morrow.

It's very impressive to walk out of the tunnels connecting our hotel with the Mayo Clinic. High, polished marble walls and blown glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling let you know your in a place that has reached a place of high stature. However, it's not the cover of the book, but what's inside that counts. Every person we meet is pleasant and helpful. Our doctor sets to our task at hand and lays out the possibilities in front of us. Then he gets us started on the process to find out how the cancer is affecting my mom and what our treatment holds.

However, some of the most lasting moments in my mind have nothing to do with doctors, blood tests, or even PET scans.

It's funny what stress does to your brain. In addition to thinking about what the day holds, I wonder if my Bears jacket will bring taunts from Vikings fans. Not to be let down, I'm in the Mayo Clinic for 10 minutes and a Packers fan is telling me it's a big weekend coming up. And before the day's half over a hospital employee and Bears fan is telling me about all the grief he has taken over the week.

I finished the day looking for a race. I have never seen so many people in wheelchairs. Most of them are probably dealing with serious ailments,(my mom included) but how much fun would it be to get a running start and hop on the pegs of the chair. That might be something to put on one of the comment cards. A little stress relief for caregivers?

And what would a trip to another state be without taking in some of the local culinary fare... Try out Pannekoeken if you come to Rochester. Pannekoeken are Dutch baked pancakes. I had one. I also got a serenade when the waitress brought out my baked, round gastronomic masterpiece. Mmmm...pannekoeken!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Journey

This is it. His is the day when we get some answers... Hopefully. I know there will relief. I know there will be questions. I know there will be fear, because I feel it right now. I know though that God is with us and to that Rock I will cling.

I wondered how travel would go. Mom's had struggles handling the enormity of our challenge. The anxiety has blocked our ability to understand the true pains from the minor discomfort. I questioned how much the cancer had sapped her resolve, strength, and ability to make it through these travels.

The first leg went well. Mom was put near the front of the plane but the activity seemed to help quell some of the hesitation and ailments. They were there but again nothing gets a challenge behind us like taking it on and moving through it. We made our connection through Gods fleet feet in the person of Ishmail. It's amazing how big an airport becomes when you have carry two bags and change terminals. Gotta cut back on the fatty foods.

Where is God?

This journey has helped cement my help me build upon the solid foundation of the promises and truth of Christ. Even with a renewed and strengthened faith I've wondered, as I've travelled this journey, where to find God. Of course he's there in prayer, but where is He in a tangible form?

He's there in the prayer. The prayer of friends seeking His healing powers. He's there when a colleague prays over me for safe and answer filled travels.

He's there in the hands and feet. The helping hands of the Delta employee who put my mom's shoes after she had to take them off for the security check point. It's these little glimpses that tell me The Lord will be there the whole way. It's these glimpses that give me the courage to carry on, the knowledge to help, and the strength to support those around me.

On the road

On the road...

We loaded up and hit the road to the airport. The tasks of preparing for the trip to the Mayo Clinic masked the quiet anxiety facing us. How else can you feel when traveling 400+ miles to find out what the doctors say can be done for the cancer peppering your body? The cancer that returned and spoke with a vengeance when it came back from it's temporary defeat.

It's going to be a long day of travel. Two plane rides over 4 hours and an hour long car ride. Time to reflect on the past year.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls and Busted Chops

“Are you sure we’ll eat those two cinnamon rolls?” I asked the boys.

“Yeah, they’re big, but we’ll eat them,” they seemed to reply together.

Our eyes grew big as the woman behind the counter brought us our cinnamon rolls.  I started to wonder if we would indeed clear our plates.  Good thing there were us three boys and only two of those humongous rolls.

            The trip was dual purpose:  I wanted to explore the downtown shops of our new hometown, and I wanted to spend some time having fun with my sons.  I’ve not been very good about getting one-on-one(or one-on-two) time with Benjamin, 12, and Jeremy, 8 so I took the opportunity to use a gift card for the Electric Brew just blocks from our new home.  We moved to our new house in Goshen Indiana just 3 weeks earlier.

            We took our two hot chocolates, two cinnamon rolls (one cream cheese frosting and one with caramel frosting), and one cup of the Bald Brothers Blend coffee to the outdoor seating.

            “What are we going to do?” Ben asked as we sat down.  He’s not one to sit still and enjoy the moment.  I had some work to do. “Can we take these and go?” he asked, pointing to the mis-matched ceramic plates holding our morning snack.

            Knowing this would lay the groundwork for future relaxation opportunities,  I had to act quick to make sure my boys understood the art of chilling.  “No, we’re just going to sit here and eat our rolls.” Looks of incredulity… -‘Think harder Brian’, my brain was telling me. When the going gets tough go for the potty humor: “We’re just going to sit here and relax eating our rolls and talk – ‘Shoot the bull’.”  That got the snickers and quick exchange of glances from the boys I was looking for.  We sat there and made our small talk.  So small that even now just a day later I don’t remember specifically what we talked about.  I do remember just enjoying the time spent with my two sons enjoying each other’s company and probably learning a little of how to bust each other’s chops.

            Mission accomplished – a little relaxation and building the foundation of greatly spent guy time.  All I know is I better have my “A” game, because those boys are quick studies and I could have my chops easily busted next time. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Cooking by email

How we started this mess.
     We may have missed the October Snowmageddon of 2011, but we were looking for some comfort food to warm us up on the cold weekend.

    I have this great recipe for chicken and dumplings from the wonderful Chef Mike Stephens. However, I was looking for speed, simplicity, and low cost.  I found a recipe on for Aunt Faye's Chicken an' Dumplings.

That's not steam, that's visible aroma!
     I love to cook, but I'm not yet to the stage where I can create a dish from scratch.  I can make a mean breakfast sandwich or even prepare steak and chicken, but I just don't have the experience to create a dish like this.  

    I do love the challenge though of taking a dish like this and adding some of my own touches to liven it up.  I added some ingredients from the in depth recipe.  A little onions, and other vegetables to give it some flavor.  Comfort food is big on filling you up and being warm.  While I wanted the warm filling carbo-load, so I didn't want it to be a bland carbo-load.
Wanna bite?  The finished product.

Stirring it up - the simmering is almost complete.

Um... and to my friend Matt B. No I don't have any left. I'll work you in on the next batch of somethin' good from the Sapp kitchen. Maybe some BBQ!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

School Snacks

You know how you run your tongue over your teeth after you eat popcorn?  Trying to find those last little pieces of shells stuck along your gums?  That’s how my day ended at school. 

Although it wasn’t popcorn I was trying to find…nope I was trying to get down the last of a larva.  Yep, larva.  Luckily it was prepared for consumption, which meant some sort of baking and seasoning.  There were Cheese Flavor, BBQ, and Mexican Spice flavors to choose from(if you wanna buy some -- they're made by Hotlix or on sold Amazon.  I went with the last.  The kids “dared” me to do it.

Courtney Franke(pronounced frahn-KEY), InterpretiveNaturalist with Elkhart County Parks is giving another one of his stellar educational “performances”.  Over the next few weeks he will teach 6 sessions about how scientists classify animals.  We will learn how they are put into the different classes.

Rumor had circulated that Mr. Franke  would have a little snack with him.  The kids cornered me, “Mr. Sapp, are you going to eat one?”

I smiled, trying to be coy, but I couldn’t hide the fact that this would be one challenge I would love to take!  When the time came for our snack half of the students took one of the larvae and popped them into their mouth.  I took a Mexican Spice baked worm and chewed it.  It wasn’t oozy or anything.  It was crunchy and really just disintegrated … leaving little pieces of shell that 20 minutes later I was finding and waiting for a drink to wash it down.