Wednesday, July 22, 2009

One Step

July 23rd:

This video contains pictures and memories of our journey and what we have endured, together. As this chapter of our life closes we look to the future with eyes focused above in anticipation and excitement of what is yet to come.

Thank you to all for your prayers, support, and encourgage. We could not have done it without you guys!

Tim & Christa Harriman


video

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Victory is ours!!!

Well - here we are in what seems like the blink of an eye. On Monday the 13th I was officially discharged from hospital with a follow up appointment the next day on Tuesday. It felt great walking into clinic that day. There was a total different feeling and vibe floating on Christa and I. About a month prior we had just walked into that very same building and seeing the big blue block letters on the front which read - TOM BAKER CANCER CENTER. So many thoughts went through my head that day as we walked into that building hand in hand to learn what my exact diagnosis was. I remember meeting one couple that day who was just finishing up treatments. He had stage 4 and a stem cell transplant as well and they were doing great - however it seemed so far away, not even worth dreaming about.

But walking into that building this past week was refreshing, and now we had a chance to talk to people who were just starting this journey and to give them a glimpse of hope when everything around them seemed so hopeless.

I know I've spoken a lot about attitude; and it's true, attitude does go a long way and does play a vital role in recovery, but...it isn't everything. We still have other responsibilities in looking after ourselves and doing what the doctors, nurses, and staff say. I remember one morning that I just wasn't feeling up to anything. Just leave me alone, let me sleep, don't talk to me, just pop some gravol into my line and knock me out. I felt like I wanted to hibernate for a month and wake up when this is all done. In walks the nutritionist to see how I was holding up and if I was eating enough - which was obvious I wasn't. I was dehydrated and had lost about 10 lbs and just didn't feel like eating squat. But she came in a bagged me to drink a protein smoothie. Knowing that they weren't the best taste in the world I knew though that this was for my own good. I had to try. Pinch my nose and do anything I could to get something into my stomach - I knew that the sooner I started eating and getting my weight up, the better chance my body would have at fighting off this infection and then the sooner I would be released.

I cannot just lay in bed all day and tell myself 50 times that I am going to do well and feel better. Nope, I have work to do to. I have to get out of bed, shower up even when I feel like being a slob, go for a walk around the unit even when my body aches from the medications, order my meals even when I feel like crap, and eat my meals even when my stomach just wants to hurl...I have to fight too! And let me tell you - it ain't always easy.

It blows my mind away at how much the body can take. Even though I had my treatments almost 3 weeks ago, still my body is recovering. The first round of chemo didn't even touch me. We went for walks, ate lots of food, went camping, biking, throwing the frisbee around, I was driving everywhere...you name it. This round of chemo - not so much. I still have dry mouth from the chemo and radiation which feels like Ive been sucking on a mouthful of soda crackers all day. Everything I ate yesterday ended up in our city's sewer lines. And I feel like I have weighted bean bags hanging from my body - I move like a snail. But each and everyday will get better. I will get stronger. I will continue to stuff my face with food and keep it down. And life will return to normal.

It was a great feeling leaving that clinic on Tuesday. The doctor and nurses all said how shocked they were to see me so soon and that I just had to go and prove them all wrong. Even on Friday I had my central line removed and the nurse who was helping do the procedure said, what makes you so special to get your line our so soon? haha!

Friends - it has been a blast and a half. Thank you for your support and love. Thank you for checking in and fighting this battle with us. Thank you for the visits and phone calls, emails and messages. I feel honored to have done the things I have done. I never thought my life would include 2 battles with cancer, a ride across the country, speaking to thousands all over, and inspiring many. And who knows - maybe a jog across Alberta will be my next adventure...just to prove yet again to myself that cancer cannot get me down. Wherever my future leads me, I am excited to do it now with the most amazing person ever - Christa who has a powerful story herself. We are people, we are human - and we are being molded and crafted each and every single day...and we just want to be tools to build what we are called to build!

And remember: Victory is ours...and yours :)

Tim Harriman

Monday, July 13, 2009

Code: Red - July 12

Code Red! Code Red! Code Red!



As I lay there in my almost deepest form of sleep I can hear fire bells but I think I'm dreaming. All of a sudden I hear what sounds like a very loud drum roll sound through the hallways which turns out to be every single door in the building slamming shut from the fire bells. Half drugged I open an eye trying to gain my senses. Over the intercom I hear it again: Code Red, 3rd floor and then again...and again. Am I dreaming? What's going on? I don't hear a thing. I don't hear screaming, yelling, or other people scrambling around...I must be dreaming. Just go back to sleep Tim, it's probably like 2AM - these sleeping pills are really getting the best of you. And in about 2 seconds this is what goes through my mind: Wait a minute...3rd floor! That's below me. Fire = heat. Heat = rise. Fire burns up. Floor caves in. I'm on top floor. That's a long fall. Oh dear!!!

What do I do.? No one's come for me? How do I unhook all this stuff on me? Do I stay here and turn on the news and watch myself die on TV (which could be interesting) or do I make an escape for it?! Tim - WAKE UP! The place is on fire and your in it....GET OUT! Oh, right. This is a fire. Stop, drop, and roll baby!

As I roll over and get out of bed feeling like an astronaut walking on the moon I make my way to the door. I can't open it. Did they lock me in here? Those sick, cruel, people! Alright, nice God. Good plan. So I'm not gunna die of cancer. No way! I'm going to die in a fire where I am supposed to be treated for cancer. Great.

Finally I summon the energy and grab the door handle and just reef it open, drag my IV pull into the hallway for a little observe. Everything seems normal. No smoke. I don't see any flames. But the doors! Everything is locked down. The people...where is everyone? Did they forget about me? Elevators - your not supposed to take those during a fire. Stairs! I'm on the top floor. AND I'm hooked up to this thing! Is this actually happening? Am I in the rapture and just missed the man himself - what's happening?!

Just as I was getting ready to call my people and tell them I am breaking a window and jumping out on the back side - bring a trampoline or something to catch me cause it's a long way down...I see life. A nurse walks around the corner. Are you wondering what's going on? What's going...I have a good idea of what's going on...but maybe we should think about leaving! (I felt like James Bond now - on a mission to save the girl). It's okay Tim, it's just on the third floor, you can go back in your room. We will let you know if anything changes - she responds.

Okay...phew. Building isn't on fire Tim, but you just go sit and your room and everything is gunna be alright now. In an way, as I lay there in my bed - I was thinking man, that would be awesome if this place burnt to the ground. 1. I'd be done with this crap and just go back to life and act like it never happened. 2. I think that it would be some good entertainment for some good stories...and 3....well I don't know - I survived cancer....twice...and a fire all at the same time!

Ha-ha...until next time!

Tim Harriman

July 9 - Day 39

Deep thoughts:

As fast as this whole process has gone – even though some days feel like eternity – it has been a time of many ups and downs, questioning, learning, embracing, feelings joy and at times even feelings of anger.

I don’t think I will ever be able to put this experience into clear, detailed, understanding words for one to even grasp slightly what this journey means to us. As we prepare to meet with a book publisher in the near future my mind begins the planning process of writing a book. How many chapters, what is our overall theme of the book, what’s our message, what things we will share and/or keep to ourselves for our own personal memories...these questions all lead me to excitement as our future unfolds and we see where new things take us. I am pumped!

I will admit that this course of treatment has been a little harder than the last course – which doctors explained to me. I knew walking into this round that my faith would be tested and this would be a challenge against myself to practice what I preach. Waking up some mornings just gasping for air, trying to find the energy to roll out of bed and brush my teeth even though the sink was literally two feet away, ordering my meals for the day while feeling nauseous just by looking at the menu, sitting with my head buried into my heads which hold on so tightly to my IV pole repeating to myself – I CAN do this, and I WILL do this over and over.

Still, compared to what I have been through in the past – this course is still a walk in the park. I remember my treatments last time (when I fought Leukemia) and how every single day was a battle to keep pressing on. 365 days a year for nearly 3 years I fought day in and day out to just keep going. To get one more breath of air, to keep one more meal down, to keep myself from losing weight, to keep myself from throwing up, to stay strong, even through the pain, to be joyful when life was hell, and to choose to be a fighter when everything in me wanted to give up. A few weeks in a hospital is nothing compared to the years I called Children’s Hospital my home away from home and considered the doctors and nurses part of my family.

This round has had its challenging moments that at times remind me of those painful years. I have to remind myself to take time to sit and reflect and sometimes even allow myself to be mad and not bottle it in dealing with it on my own – because it’s okay to be mad and ask questions sometimes. Why again? Was the first time not good enough? What am I being taught; did I not already learn something? Is this my fault? Could I have done something to prevent this? But at the end of the day when I really focus and ponder the day’s challenges – I remember this: Life is good – Always!

And rather I like it or not, life will always deal me its share of challenges. Sometimes challenges seem to be so painful and lengthy and when I think i’ve had enough it just keeps going and never seems to end. But through all chaos my purpose never changes, like the 5 dollar bill illustration I had talked about. My value is still the same. And why do bad things happen to good people? Because they are just that...good people making a difference in the world and the devil don’t like it. A friend of ours taught us a very powerful thing and I want to add an extra bit to it: If i’ve learnt one thing about the devil in this battle and what he thinks of us, it’s that when our feet hit the floor in the morning, he says, “Oh crap, their up”.

I sometimes picture this battle not only like a walk through the park but a walk through the deep woods. I can see the peak of the mountain and where ive been and where I am I headed, but between me and the peak is unknown as the deep woods are filled with mush, debris, valleys, hills, rivers, and ponds – which I must trek through. The peak is appearing to be closer but there is still a little bit of the unknown to trek though.

i’ve had very few bad days and for that I am very thankful. And even with the bad days that i’ve had – they have been few and far in between and I am still able to say – Life is good...it could be a lot worse.

Though it sounds bizarre I am so grateful for this experience and the things that it has once again reminded me, taught me, and help me learn what challenges Christa and I might endure as a married couple.

I will continue to press on and the day will come when I will stand on top of that mountain peak and shout to the valleys below – I am victorious! I am a winner! I am strong! I WILL WIN!

Until next time,

Tim Harriman

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 8 - Day 38

Hi Friends,

The past few days have been a little rougher so I am only getting to you now. Thanks for hangin in there ;)

The doctors did say before starting this round of treatments that they expected it to be slightly rougher than the first - and since I received radiation on top of the chemo it only intensifies the effects that much more.

When I was released last weekend I felt great on Friday and then Saturday morning the effects hit me. But again, I wasn't brutally ill. I felt a little more tired and weaker then usual and slightly nauseated but overall was still doing fairly well. However, at my appointment on Monday the doctor said I had lost 10 lbs and said if I didn't pick it up and wasn't feeling better by my next visit (Wednesday) then she would want me to stay over night. So, long story short Tuesday morning I was still feeling a little rough and decided that instead of trying to fight this on my own to just come into the hospital and get the fluids and meds I needed to speed up my recovery.

Doctor was in this morning and said she sees light at the end of the tunnel. I start my G-shots (which help stimulate my cell growth) tomorrow morning and should be back up at at er by next week. This is a very serious part of the whole treatment though since I've now received my transplant and don't want to screw anything up. I'm not supposed to be around anyone under 10, avoid camping and intense outdoor activities for one full year, no mowing the lawn or any outdoor yard work, no flowers and plants in the house (poop, I sure love my plants...if you know what I mean...kidding people...geez.) So basically life will return some what the normal but still have to be very cautious that I do not get any infections or viruses.

As for that, the past week or two has been interesting. Even though I've had a few rough days it still is not like anything that some patients go through. I've definitely had the good end of the stick and pray that things continue to go well :)

We thank you all for your support, cards, letters, emails and phone calls. Even though we haven't had a chance to respond to everything know that your love, support, and encouragement means the world to us! We are so grateful for friends, family, and even strangers who are rooting us on!

Cheers to you :)

Tim Harriman

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

12:55pm

Hey guys, just a quick update. Tim is sleeping beside me, his toes are twitching, and we are back in the hospital. The doctors have put him on some fluid because he hasn't really had an appetite the past few days, he is starting to bounce back though! (I just watched him gobble a pb&j, soup, tea and some fruit!) The chemo he had last week is hard stuff on the body, but at least we know it is working like it's supposed to.

I'm sure he will write an update soon with more detail, but otherwise things are good!!

-Christa

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 2

Now as Tim shared his view on camping...I want to share with you mine. What is camping to me? Well, something I’ve only done one other time up until our camping trip last week. The last time I went it was warm, we went swimming, and I didn’t have to wear my WINTER COAT all weekend. So, we’re driving down the highway and in the distance are some Chronicles of Narnia\Harry Potter rain clouds hovering over the very mountain we are supposed to camp below.

We pulled into Mount Kidd’s parking lot and headed for the office to check in. The sun was out, but the air was chilly. After checking in we drove to our beautiful site and began to set up. As we pulled out the tarps and the tent, Tim pipes up and says “I know the rain is going to hold off, I know it...”

It didn’t.

It poured, I don’t know how long it poured for, but the two of us sat in our car waiting out the rain, soaking wet from attempting to set up the tarp to protect our tent.

From that point on, I had a chill, deep into my bones that didn’t leave until hours before we left our camp site two days later. Tim was fine, strutting his stuff in shorts while I suntanned in my red and white winter jacket.

The rain eventually stopped and we finished setting up, only to have it rain once more. We then moved into our tent for a nice picnic on our mattress. Tim made us tuna sandwiches, which somehow became completely soggy, Tim liked his . . . I could only stomach one half.

That night, we were pumped to start a nice warm fire, roast marshmallows and chat..but it rained AGAIN. We decided to drive into Canmore for dinner, and after driving around forever and testing Tim’s patience with my indecisiveness, we finally chose the good old Boston Pizza.

O by the way, did I mention I wore my winter coat the entire time we ate?
I’m a baby.. I know.

The rain let up, and even though it was a little bit chilly, Tim and I decided to make the best of our time together and like I said before, start a toasty warm fire and talk! Unfortunately, the store was closed, so our fire would have to wait until another night, plan B; A walk!

As I grabbed more warm clothes from the car, I swear I don’t know how it happened, but I locked the keys in the trunk! I searched my pockets, the tent, and even under the car. HOW could I do this? I never do this! We’re in the middle of the mountains!! O! My spare key, is in. . my wallet in the CAR!

A little girl who was camping with her family across from our site overheard our dilemma and told her mom, who then told her husband a firefighter from Edmonton. As Tim dug around in the car with a marshmallow roaster attempting to get in, our own personal fire rescue team (including two little girls) came and got us back into our trunk.

Because of my silliness we met an amazing family who welcomed us with open arms, and showed us what camping is really about. We’re going to hook up with them next year and camp at Mount Kidd!


Okay, so from there it really wasn’t so bad.

Tim and I sucked up the cold nights and enjoyed the sun when it was out. We went on a beautiful hike, bike ride, drive, roasted marshmallows, cooked on our Coleman Stove, read, and discovered qualities in each other we never knew existed. It was an awesome trip. I would do it again in a minute babe, believe me!

In a way, even though it wasn’t everything we expected, I was sad to leave. I can’t wait to go back and stay longer. Maybe I’ll leave my winter coat at home next time.

Today, I’m sitting beside Tim as he reads the bible; it has been an exciting day! Last night my amazing friend Amber let me stay at her apartment which is a two minute drive from the hospital. I woke up early and arrived just in time for Tim and I to head down for his one and only dose of radiation. We’d been prepped, but the process was so interesting. They packed Tim from head to toe in Vaseline and tapioca held in plastic. That is to equalize the radiation so it hits each part of his body without one area getting more than the other. We then headed into the radiation room where they got Tim into position and we all left. The staff taught me so much about the dose, the machine, what all the numbers meant and what exactly the radiation does to the cells in Tim’s body.

Later on, the team arrived for the transplant! Today was really his “second” birthday as he received his new immune system. We decided today that Tim and I would from this point on always celebrate his June 15th birthday and the birthday of his brand spankin, always healthy NEW immune system!
You can check out pictures of the camping trip, transplant, chemo and radiation at:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=135900&id=567125201&l=9ef205f5a5

The smell on the other hand is dreadful. If Tim even turns the wrong way I get a horrible whiff of cream corn. The preservative they use to harvest the stem cells stinks as it leaves his system through his pores. It’s honestly like really strong, hot and steamy cream corn. I just have to keep remembering my vows “for better or for worse...” in good smells and in really really bad.

What a relief all the treatments are done! Its time to relax and recover and everybody on staff expects Tim to do incredibly, so do I! God is bigger!! Dr. Stewart says Tim will be fine, and everything is going exactly how he wanted it to.

It blows my mind every single day that all the things I’ve been taught the past few years at Springs Church are really truth. I grew up thinking that God’s will was to sometimes heal, but his perfect will is healing ALL the time. Not sometimes. Not maybe. Tim and I are seeing that each and every day. The cancer is gone, the side effects are zilch, and God is growing us into people of purpose. Tim has adopted a new mind set too, so have I, our faith has stretched, and we cannot wait to help others who are facing the same thing.

The doctor just came in and Tim and I are outta here until Monday! He is doing so well they are letting him leave. We will keep you all updated! Don’t stop reading.


-Christa

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1 - Day 31

Well here are we are - heading in for battle number 2. The past few weeks off have been amazing spending time relaxing and just hanging out - and finally being able to go out instead of being locked up.

Last week Christa and I went for a little camping trip in the Kananaskis Country and who would have ever thought camping could have such a unique twist on marriage and teach you things you never knew. But it doesn't take camping to realize this one. You know you are married when...

Your clothes have gone missing from their usual spot and have now been placed elsewhere, making room for "guess who's" clothes. When your closet used to be yours but now it is taken over by purses and clothes which definitely aren't yours. When the bathroom cabinet is filled 2/3 with products that aren't yours. When the toilet paper roll for some reason always seems to be empty. When the mail box is full - but not one piece of mail is for you. Ha-ha...but it's all good...it is absolutely worth it!

I am sure Christa will share her experience of camping on her blog - but I personally thought the trip was awesome. But this is what I discovered about the word camping. When a man says or hears the word camping - he thinks of tenting, BBQing some burgers, cooking over the fire (he created), exploring the wilderness, and enjoying it no matter what the weather. This is what women think of when they hear or say the word camping. Having internal chills, miserable weather, sleeping in a spider filled tent, eating food that taste like charcoal, and using toilets that appear to lead us to the core of the earth but are actually so filled with waste that it just so happens to appear like a distant black space.

Thursday we pulled out and we weren't far down the road before the rain started. This isn't bad I thought as I played back the memory of when myself and a few buddies went camping in Kananaskis a few years ago and it poured rain on us almost all weekend but yet we cooked outside in the pouring rain, played some football, and even brought out the guitars for a little koom-by-ya.

However, setting up the tent in the rain and cold condition isn't quite what Christa would call ideal camping conditions. However we made the best of it, shared some laughs, and put the weekend in our book of never to do again (in the pouring rain that is...) and our other book of stupid memories (which I'm sure will be refreshed into our minds quite often).

Mind you, the rain and colder conditions wasn't the only thing that brought a unique twist. On Thursday evening Christa and I thought we would kick off our romantic retreat (or so I thought) with a nice hike in the wilderness before sun set. Nope. Not happening. While dressing in layers and bundling ourselves up (I will refrain from using names to protect the sacredness of our marriage), somehow our wilderness tour turned into a scavenger hunt for our car keys. Back tracking our way through the campground they were no where to be found. By the grace of God there just happened to be a little girl skipping just along our campsite and heard me asking Christa where our cell phones were - in the car of course. I knew we were in the middle of no where and a tow truck would cost 4 arms and 4 legs so I tried the old man's trick with a roasting stick and a screw driver. No luck. Next thing you know...Fire and Rescue pulls up (the little girls father who so happens to live up the road from us in Edmonton) and by my amazement happens to somehow peal the rubber back on the driver window and to push his roasting stick in far enough where he managed to loop it around the trunk lever and pop it open. Where were the keys - sitting right there in the trunk. How did they get there? I have no idea :)

The rest of our camping trip turned out to be decent as the sun came around and we built a great friendship with our lifesavers who invited us over for a fire and tea as we learnt each others stories and shared some good times.

Camping is definitely one of my getaways as it gives me time to reflect and enjoy the peace of the outdoors and it surely was a great time to spend with Christa and recharge ourselves for battle again.

This morning I received my last dose of Chemo which I must admit - was so strong that as it was going in I could taste the strong sense in my mouth and felt like my body had a 100 pound weight thrown on it. The feeling eventually subsided but showed me how powerful this drug really is - but like before, we are continuing to believe for a power and strength to keep fighting and push through this round as strong if not stronger than last time; with minimal to no side effects and hopefully be released earlier then expected.

And as for the good news your all waiting for me to share: During my check up last week at Tom Baker the nurse kept referring to me as their poster boy as she says they have never really seen anyone push through everything so easily before. She was shocked to hear that I haven't been sick, I've been maintaining my diet and weight - in fact I am actually starting to get a little chunky in the face and the belt seems to be switching holes every so often. Besides from loosing my hair I have been feeling great and actually feel better than before I was diagnosed - strange. Not only is that good news but we also learnt that my PET/CT SCAN came back showing that the cancer has been killed and the Doctor thinks I will cruise through this round again with very little symptoms - this is play stuff compared to what I've been through in the past. AND, when once thought I would have 4 -6 months of follow up treatments I could now possibly be released by end of next week with no more chemo treatments and will have my central line out in a month or two and be back to living a normal life. Wow!

So thank you for your continued prayers and support. We greatly appreciate them. This has been a softening time on my heart and has been an experience that I will never forget for I have learnt SO many things in such a short time frame. My hope is that our story will continue to inspire and encourage us all to live life to it's fullest, appreciating it for what it really is, and even continue to remind me of some very important but simple things that help bring such a greater meaning to life!

As for now, 1 chemo down, 1 radiation to go tomorrow morning, stem cell transplant in afternoon and score board says:

Tim 2
Cancer 0

Cheers friends!

Tim Harriman