August 20, 2017

Prayers Answered. Luke Swank Moves Into College in Mankato

Prayers Answered.  Luke Swank Moves Into College in Mankato
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 20, 2017

Great news!! We just started moving Luke into his dorm room when we got the call from Rochester. The doctor said there is no evidence of malignancy in his biopsy. Thank God!! This doesn't mean he's out of the woods as when Luke asked if that means he doesn't need a transplant and the doctor replied "You want a black and white answer and I can't give you that." He then followed up with "the only thing I want you focused on right now is getting a good report card!" We have always known that Luke would probably need a transplant at some point in his life, but the longer we can wait, the better! Right now he gets to focus on being a college freshman and we can worry about those things later. Thanks so much to all of you for the prayers and positive thoughts!! We truly believe your support has carried us through to where are today!!

Long time readers of my blog will know about our history with albino squirrels.  Since our boys were born more than 18 years ago, we've had numerous encounters with albino squirrels and often times we'd see them when we were having concerns with their medical situation.  I think people think we're a little bit crazy when I tell them this, but it just keeps happening.  When Luke arrived home from his biopsy in Rochester on Tuesday, he saw this albino squirrel across the street from our house and Miss Sheri was able to snap a quick picture of it.

When we arrived home after dropping Luke off at college, Avery and I took the dog for a walk and this albino squirrel ran out in front of us.  Some people like to tell me this is just a series of coincidences, but we like to think of them as our Guardian Angels.  They just appear to be magical creatures telling us that everything is going to be OK.

This was Luke's first trip to St Mary's Hospital at the Mayo Clinic.  It's a very interesting place with so much medical history having been made there.  I find it fitting that Luke receives the treatment to make his life better at the same hospital where doctors created my thumb for me back in 1970 when I was only 6 weeks old.

According to Wikipedia, William Worrall Mayo settled his family in Rochester in 1863 and opened a medical practice that evolved under his sons into Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic is widely regarded as one of the United States' greatest hospitals and ranked No. 1 in the country on the 2016–2017 U.S. News & World Report List of "Best Hospitals" of the United States, maintaining a position near the top for more than 25 years.

While we were waiting for Luke in recovery, we went outside to take some pictures.  I was surprised to run into an old friend, Kurt Lippert, who has been in Rochester for the last month or so with his wife who has been rehabilitating form a brain surgery to remove a tumor.  Her story can be seen here for friends of Kurt and his family:

Please keep the Lippert family in your prayers also.

Avery had his annual check up with the cardiologist to see how his surgically repaired heart is doing.  We are pleased to say that his appointment went very well and there doesn't seem to be anything new to be concerned about.  Thank God for that as I don't think our family could have handled anything new with Avery this week.

Luke and one of his oldest friends, Jackson Walters, started school at Minnesota State University Mankato this week.  Luke isn't quite sure yet what he wants his major to be but has indicated interest in business and science.  He's focusing on general ed classes for the time being while he figures out what he wants to do with his life.

It's only about an hour drive from us to see Luke on campus, but everyone keeps telling us he's not supposed to come home until at least Thanksgiving.  He's only been gone three nights so far, but I already miss him.  I think he misses us too, but I wouldn't know as he hasn't really been calling us yet or anything.  I suppose that's a good thing.

We had fun with the Walters family helping the boys move in to their room.  I was pretty impressed with how nice they have it.  Way better than where I lived in college.  I literally spent two years living inside a walk-in closet.

The nice thing about Mankato is that there's lots of people from Prior Lake who go there so we see people we know.  Like our old friend Dayna Bunker who's going to be a junior this year and was helping the freshman with move in day.  We thought that was pretty nice of her.

On Saturday night, Avery and I took Miss Sheri out to dinner to celebrate her 50th birthday.  I can't believe my wife is 50 and I'm so close behind her.  I still feel like we are in our twenties!

We weren't sure if we were going to be in a celebratory mood or not giving the news we were waiting to receive on Luke so we waited until the last minute to plan a party for her.  She decided she wanted to sing Karaoke for her birthday and a bunch of really fun people showed up to participate.  We're so lucky to have so many good friends in our lives.

We pretty much closed down TJ Hooligans and sang and laughed with each other until after midnight.  

Miss Sheri got to sing with Elvis which always makes for a fun night.

We also  had several of our good friends up there singing as well including Sue and Dan-o doing a duet.  A good time was had by all!  

Nice Email of the Week - August 20, 2017

I used to publish nice emails that were sent to me from time to time.  You can see some of my favorites at this link.

I received this email the other day from a co-worker I haven't met yet.  I'm going to withhold his name since I haven't had the chance to talk to him yet, but I thought the message was a nice one to share with all of you:

Attitude of Gratitude

I don’t think that we have ever met, but I have been meaning to reach out. I came across your website a while back and found myself there for more than an hour. I wanted you to know that you have been an inspiration to myself and my girlfriend. Your strength, positivity, and your ability to constantly punch adversity in the face is absolutely mesmerizing. The bottom line is that you have inspired a new way of life for my girlfriend and I as we now remind ourselves to constantly live our lives with an “Attitude of Gratitude”. You and your family are a constant reminder to us of how powerful positivity can be. There seems to be only 1 Todd Swank in this world in a time where we could use millions more. For what it is worth, you are impacting the world in a positive way and I now ask myself if I am doing the same. You are truly an amazing person!

Take care and I hope you have an amazing week!

August 13, 2017

Facing Our Fears - Luke's Upcoming Liver Biopsy

Facing Our Fears - Luke's Upcoming Liver Biopsy
Todd Swank's Diary Update for August 13, 2017

We spent all day Monday & Wednesday at Mayo Clinic.  After our visits and a conference of liver doctors, they have decided to do a biopsy of the nodules in Luke's liver.  So we have a glimmer of hope! Apparently Luke's heart condition can cause nodules like this to appear that "mimic cancer" and they've been "fooled before". Biopsy is tomorrow and everything hinges on that. Good results and he goes to college on Thursday and has to do quarterly scans of his liver. Not good results and then a whole new series of events will need to take place. So please pray for good results!! Thanks so much for everyone's support! It is so helpful to know so many of you are saying prayers and sending positive thoughts for him.

Luke also had to do a stress test to see how his heart is doing.  We were pleased that his results were about the same that they were last year.  I'm thinking about getting him a mask like this to wear more often because it makes him look like a stud!

The Mayo Clinic is an incredible facility and we are quite blessed to live so close to it.  US News & World Report just ranked them the #1 hospital in the country and we are hoping to help add on to those positive statistics.

Our friend, Nathan Wangness, and his mom were also there to visit his heart doctor so it was nice for us to have a chance to connect with them in Rochester.  Nathan is also dealing with some new challenges in his life so we will be praying for him also.

On Thursday night, I had the chance to take a tour of Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.  The home of the Minnesota Timberwolves is undergoing a $130 million remodeling job.

They're making a  lot of changes to the arena itself, but nothing that really stood out to me that will make the experience fundamentally different.I guess we'll have to see what it looks like when it's finished.

The main changes are notable outside the arena where they've opened up several walls and added windows including this 5 story atrium that will look directly downtown.  It sure brightens up the place when compared to how it used to look.

I went on the tour with one of my Oracle co-workers, Ryan Pearson.  He's a big hoops fan and we spend a lot of time talking basketball so I thought he would be a great candidate to join me.  We had fun.

In just a few more months, this new locker-room will be occupied by Jimmy Butler, Karl Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins.  I kind of wanted to find a place to hide out and stick around until the season started, but thought better of it as I'd probably get pretty hungry waiting.

On Saturday morning, I went to a Fantasy Football convention and saw Mike Golic and Mike Golic Jr from ESPN along with a bunch of other local sportswriters & personalities.  They spoke a lot about Fantasy Football and the upcoming season.

Mike Golic talked openly on a lot of things including the time his son was arrested for underage drinking while he attended Notre Dame.  It was a pretty interesting experience watching the two of them being interviewed.

On Saturday afternoon, we went to Sand Creek Adventures in Jordan, Minnesota to go zip-lining.

Here's some videos of our adventures.

It's Miss Sheri's 50th birthday this coming Saturday and she's always wanted to go zip-lining.  So we found this place close by and bought tickets.  We had to go this weekend as Luke is scheduled to go to college on Thursday and she wanted us all to be able to go together.

A couple of hours before we went, we started getting nervous about actually doing this activity.  Luke is not supposed to go on roller coasters and we started questioning if this would be too much for him.  We discussed it with the staff first and she re-assured us that everything would be just fine.  And it was. 

Luke had no personal fear in jumping.  He just had to overcome his parents fears before we let him make the leap.  He loved screaming in fear as he flew through the air, but I think that's just because he likes to yell.

I also had to face my own personal fears.  I know it may be shocking to hear, but I don't always have a lot of confidence in my upper body strength.  Especially when it comes to gripping something that will prevent me from plummeting to the earth.  Again, I didn't need to worry.  The harness held me very well and I mainly had to brace myself on the rope and not actually carry my weight.

Avery thought we were all crazy and making way too big of a deal about being scared to do it.  He was a natural and leaped off each ledge without any fear whatsoever.

Miss Sheri is also way up there on the bravery scale, although she's not a strong swimmer so going up high over the creek was a little stressful for her.

The location was beautiful and we went back and forth over a small river and a whole bunch of trees.  There might of been some animals down there also, but I couldn't see any.

Gravity is a wonderful thing.

The staff at Sand Creek Adventures was very friendly, helpful, and re-assuring that we were going to have a blast.  I'm so glad we listed to them because we certainly did.

August 6, 2017

Suddenly Planning for a Heart & Liver Transplant

Suddenly Planning for a Heart & Liver Transplant
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 6, 2017

We learned some devastating news this week.  During Luke's annual checkup, there were some new "nodules" discovered during an ultrasound of Luke's liver.  They decided to take a closer look and he had a CT scan on Thursday.  On Friday, we received a call where the doctor told us the results of Luke's CT scan were very concerning. They discovered more nodules in his liver and they look "highly suspicious". The doctor said he was going to recommend Luke receive a heart & liver transplant as soon as possible. We go back to Mayo Clinic on Monday morning to start discussing the plan.  Luke is being incredibly brave as we now face a very uncertain future. We appreciate all the prayers and positive thoughts that have been given to us so far and ask that you please keep them coming.

We thought this week's visit to Mayo Clinic was going to be just for Luke's annual check-up.  Last year when he went to the Mayo Clinic, we were so encouraged by the progress he's been making.  Here's the post from that visit.  

If you're not familiar with Luke's medical history,  here's a few posts that show what he's been through in the past:

Focus on the Sunshine and Not on the Clouds. Update on Luke Swank for October 11, 2014

This is Dr. El-Youssef and he has been Luke's hepatologist the past couple of years.  He's the one we met with to discuss Luke's prognosis on the liver.  He seemed pretty shocked when he had to deliver us the news on Friday because Luke has been appearing to be doing so well.

This is Dr. Johnson and he was going to be Luke's transplant cardiologist, but apparently we will have to transition to adult doctors now since Luke recently turned 18.  I'm guessing we'll be meeting a lot of new doctors in the coming weeks.

We cried a lot on Friday, but as Saturday rolled around we asked Luke if he was feeling like being around friends.  We were thankful when he agreed to go to a party he was scheduled to attend.  It's so hard dealing with his situation, but it makes him so much happier when we can just get back to being normal as quickly as possible.

It was the year end party for the robotics team and the kids had a lot of fun playing in the lake.

We connected with our good friends, Ron & Sue Korkowski, and went boating.  We even crashed the party for awhile which was fun.

Sue told me her dream was to win a pageant of some kind and then be paraded around a lake on the back of a boat.  We couldn't find an actual pageant being held anywhere on the lake on Saturday so we just had to make due the best we could with what we had handy.

On Saturday night, there was a celebration at Mystic Lake Casino for the birthday of our old buddy, Mike Bailey.  There were a bunch of Hornbuckles there which always makes for a great evening of fun!!

I didn't catch how old Mike was turning, but I can only think it's gotta be up there.

We had a special treat seeing Alyssa Hornbuckle.  It's been quite awhile since we've had the chance to see her.  She was there with her friend, Junie, and they are college girls so they answered a bunch of questions for Luke and Avery of what they should expect when they get there in a few weeks.  

Since Luke & Avery turned 18 a few weeks ago, they are now legally old enough to gamble.  So Jason and I staked them and gave them a chance to play some blackjack for us.  Luke got a blackjack on his very first hand ever and ended up with three of them in the short time he played.  Avery ended up doing pretty well also.  I tried to explain to them that this is not a common result of gambling at the casino, but I'm not sure if they believed me.

Luke wasn't our only medical visit this week.  Although Avery's heart condition hasn't caused him any issues in many years, he also has an annual check-up coming up next week.  He had an MRI on Tuesday to prepare for it.  I thought he looked pretty good in his gown.

When I get home from work, Blue sometimes likes to jump up in my lap after I sit on the couch.  Luke thought that was pretty cute and took this photo.

On Sunday, our good friends, The Castor Family, came over for a visit.  Ken is a local pastor and he offered to come over and pray with us for Luke's situation.  We were very grateful for the opportunity and it helped us all feel a little better after we were through.  

We all know we have a long and uncertain road in front of us.  But we don't have any choice but to face it head on, have faith in the doctors and believe that Luke is a warrior and he will get through this situation.  We are so blessed to have such great sons and we know God has a very special plan for both of them.

 We appreciate everyone's prayers to give Luke the strength to face this battle, give the doctors the wisdom to make the right decisions, and for all of us to be able to support him to help lessen his fears and to heal through the process until one day he can be the healthiest he's ever been in his entire life.