Today, as I sit in chemotherapy with my incredible wife and about 20 other cancer patients at Florida Cancer Institute, I’m reflecting on how “lucky” I’ve been throughout my life. I’ve survived lightning strikes, serious head injuries, broken bones, car accidents, many burning buildings as a volunteer firefighter, driving NASCAR solo at Atlanta Motor Speedway, whitewater rapids on the Chattooga River and other stuff that I don’t want my Mom or kids to know about 😉 The Lord has clearly preserved and prepared me for this cancer journey. He determines all of our longevity.

In the chemo treatment room today, I see patients from every walk-of-life, affluent, dependent, very old, too young, terminal, funny, grouchy, determined, defeated, dedicated, anxious and peaceful. The full gamut of the human experience.

I don’t want to waste my cancer. I know that my experience is meant to be shared. Those who know me, know that I’m a private person that prefers to encourage over promoting oneself. Since I know God doesn’t make mistakes, He must have chosen me to for a specific reason. He has a plan for each of us.

We began this morning dropping the boys off for school, quick breakfast, at 9:15am for blood draw in the phlebotomy room, vital signs (BP, temp., pulse), weighed, medical oncology examination/consultation with Dr. Robbins, then IV (Aloxi & Prednisone), two Amifostine injections (ouch!), chemo drugs (Taxol & Cisplatin). Lisa brought me fruit salad, olive oil sea salt almonds, Raisinettes and chocolate covered pretzels and green tea. Chemo should be over just in time for radiation. Basically, I get bolted to a table by the mesh head mask for about 10-15 minutes five days a week @ 2:10pm (most days). Tomorrow, I plan to attend my monthly C12 meeting at Tampa Palms Country Club. I’ll need to leave early ($10.00 fine) to get radiation back in New Port Richey.

Thankfully, on Saturday I had just enough energy to take my three sons and their friend Luke to All Pro Dad at Raymond James Stadium to listen to Tony Dungy and the Family First team. It was a great experience.

Well, it’s now 2:40pm radiation is over and we are going for an early Sushi dinner (the steroid makes me very hungry).

Whew, one week and one day down, less than seven weeks to go.

Press on friends!

Below is a picture that I shot today with my iPhone of the ceiling directly above the radiation table. The lasers are used for alignment.

First Chemo

Hey friends!

Today, I had the first round of chemotherapy and second radiation treatment. We checked in at 8:45am for blood work, medical oncology consult with Dr. Robbins, then IVs and injections for 4.5 hours. Followed by radiation, which was much shorter and tolerable. Then, radiation oncologist consult. Dr. Hochman decided to only radiate the left side of my neck and face.

We discovered a few ministry opportunities today. Details to follow..

A patient brought everyone Klondike ice cream bars!

Lisa and I celebrated my appetite by getting sushi!

Please pray for a good friend, Miranda who is pregnant with twins. She has been hospitalized until the babies are born.

Thank you for everything and press on friends, Rich

Weird experience

Today, I received the first of forty radiation treatments. The staff at the Florida Cancer Institute are incredibly nice. The experience of being bolted to a narrow table by my face was… scary. This treatment was longer than the successive ones as they needed to shoot some x-rays and consult with medical oncologist. The technicians were pleased with the initial procedure.

Tomorrow, morning we start chemotherapy at 8:45am. It’s expected to last five to six hours. At 2:15pm, I receive the second radiation treatment.

Thanks for the prayer support. I appreciate the cards and notes of encouragement. I apologize for not being able to follow-up with everyone directly. You are a huge part of my care team. Thank you!

Here are a few photos that Lisa took today.

Press on dear friends, Rich

Basic, simple faith!

It’s been five weeks (yesterday) since I was first diagnosed with a very rare, Stage IV CxPA cancer. After three surgeries, CAT and PET scans, injections, blood draws and intravenous therapies, radiation preparation and a multitude of doctor consultations and oncology visits, Lisa and I are overwhelmed, over-informed and very thankful.

We have been incredibly blessed by the support and random acts of kindness to our family and company by our wonderful friends and business colleagues.

Through greeting cards, this Blog, Facebook, email and CaresPages (search richardhayes) website we have received many encouraging notes about our strong faith during this wild storm in our lives. Jesus said in Matthew 17:20 “He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Well, I haven’t moved any mountains yet, but my little faith has sustained me and given me great confidence to press on to whatever God has in-store for the balance of my life. I pray that its a long life, but none of us knows the hour, year or duration of this life.

Next week, I will begin intensive radiation therapy (5 days a week for 8 weeks) on my the left side of my face and both sides of my neck and chemotherapy (once a week (4-5 hours) for 8 weeks). The pathology and post-surgery reports were not what we were expecting.

We know that everybody has problems, difficulties and challenges and many are much greater than ours. I pray that many people come to know the Lord perhaps for the first time or more intimately due our story.

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4

Press on! Love, Rich

Thankful & Blessed

Wow! Finally able to work a full week, albeit shorten hours. Fatigue and pain have lessened throughout the week.

Digital Lightbridge acquired new business and new ministry opportunities this week. Our friends at Cornerstone brought the entire staff a wonderful lunch on Thursday. We enjoyed their fellowship and warm hospitality.

I also received a UPS package of incredible books and cancer resources from former Major League Baseball player and author Dave Dravecky.

Our three sons had a great time on Spring Break at Green Key Beach, canoeing on the Chassahowitzka River, disc golf and movies with their grandparents and friends.

Next Tuesday, we visit with the oncologist and begin radiation on my face and neck. My scars are healing enough to begin the treatments and I’ve gained 9 pounds in anticipation of losing quite a bit of weight during the eights weeks of treatment. Ironically, next week (April 12-19, 2010) is Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week. A month ago, I wouldn’t have cared or known that cancer that arises in the head or neck region is sixth-most-common form of cancer in the United States. If you discover a lump or bump, please get it checked out immediately.

Being an entrepreneur and employer for the past nine years, has typically allowed me to be in a position to give and provide. I truly enjoy serving and leading my staff, their families, clients and strategic partners. I have been overwhelmed with the generosity, compassion, acts of kindness, and selfless-love lavished upon me, my family and company since my diagnosis of Stage IV Carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma (CxPA). Receiving these blessings has increased my faith. Thank you dear friends for everything.

At the conclusion of my 31st day of surviving cancer, I am feel thankful and blessed.

Press on! Love, Rich

Stitches Out!

Yesterday, after working from early morning to noon, Lisa and Mitchell (he’s on Spring Break) took me to lunch, Chili’s. Afterward, we went to my doctor appointment. I had the eyebrow stitches from the March 29th eye surgery removed by my primary surgeon Dr. Steiniger. He also told us that he and Dr. Alidina remove 75 lymph nodes and additional tumor from my neck during the March 23th neck dissection surgery. The tumor and 10 of the lymph nodes were cancerous. The scars are healing very well and the cancer doesn’t appear to be outside of the face and neck. On Tuesday, April 13th we go back to the Florida Cancer Institute and meet with Dr. Hochman to begin radiation treatments. I believe they will first create the radiation mask. I will undergo 40 treatments over the course of 8 weeks, 5 days a week. The treatments should last about 30 minutes. Next week I also start physical therapy to regain full range of motion and feeling to my upper left arm, neck and shoulder. Still trying to gain weight in anticipation of losing weight during radiation.

Thank you again for the overwhelming, beautiful support and warm encouragement of our friends and family. Your prayers mean a lot during these strange times.

Great News! Yesterday, we were presented by the agency with the beginning of the adoption package for our foster son. The process is months, perhaps years away, but its great progress within this very slow and challenging system.

As we strive to walk closely with the Lord, I was reminded this morning in my quiet time that God goes before us, He stands beside and behind us to provide protection and comfort (Psalm 139:7-12). Even in the midst of bewildering circumstances, the Lord is there.

That give us confidence to press on.

Lisa posts updates from her perspective on www.CarePages.com, search for RichardHayes (no spaces).

Reflections on Easter

Here is the latest from Rich!

Reflections on Easter

Wow! I’m glad March 2010 is over. I’m really looking forward to the balance of this year. Three quarters, nine action-packed months, 273 days, however we look at 2010, twenty-five percent of this year is gone. Time is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems slow, short, not enough or too much. Circumstances often effect my perspective on time. Recovering from these cancer surgeries has given me extra time to just think and reflect. Being still and patient is not easy for me (or most people I know).

As my family and I look forward to this year’s Easter celebration weekend, I’ve been thinking about God’s process of really glorifying Himself throughout the Old and New Testament. He creates a scenario that appears to be a death or a near-death experience to then reveal a miracle of life. Jonah and the whale, Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:12), Moses and the Red Sea and Lazarus (John 11:4) come to mind. Then the biggest miracle of all, God’s plan to save the entire world required His own son to die to pay for the sins of the whole world (Good Friday, Luke 23:46). Three days later, surprise, not dead, alive (Luke 24:6)! What appeared to be the end, death and tragedy, God turned into the most incredible demonstration of His love for all of His children (us, you and me).

So, what does this have to do with my cancer journey (Day 23)? Well, God has allowed part of me to die (facial nerves, neck muscles, lymph nodes, etc.). Some pride has been cut away and my perspective on the “future/time” is markedly different in a way that I could never have imagined without this cancer journey. These scars and paralysis will always remind me that God is absolutely in control of my plans and my every breath (and yours too dear friends).

As I continue to walk out this journey with fear and excitement, I hope to honor and please the Lord. Thank you for following my story, I look forward to the next chapter.

Happy Easter friends! Celebrate both the crucified and alive Jesus.

Press on, Rich

He said it so I don’t have too!  God is Great!