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.  

July 30, 2017

A 2017 Family Reunion in Iowa

A 2017 Family Reunion in Iowa 
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 30, 2017

On Sunday night, we drove to downtown St. Paul to CHS Field to watch the St. Paul Saints take on the Salina Stockade.

We went with our good friends, Jen & Scott Fowler.  None of us are huge baseball fans, but we are fans of drinking beers and eating stadium food on a sunny Sunday in St. Paul.

We made some new friends along the way, although they ended up proving to be just a little bit annoying.

The home team played well and ended up defeating the visiting team from Salina by a score of 7-2.  That'll Learn 'em.

On Monday night, we took a late afternoon boat ride with our old buddies, the Zitzewitz Family.

We've been telling them about the island with all the crazy birds on it, but they wanted to see it for themselves.  They weren't disappointed.  The birds were still there.  And they were still crazy.

We even saw a loon which is a relatively rare event on Prior Lake as they usually hang out farther North than us.  Not sure if this guy was sick or something because he wasn't doing a lot of moving around, but maybe he was just sleepy.  That's what we were hoping anyways.

We stopped at Charlie's on Prior to get some pizza and appetizers to give us some more energy for the rest of the boat ride.  It takes some stamina to conquer those waves.

We let the food properly settle and then took a dip at Candy Cove.  We had the lake pretty much to ourselves which was nice.

On Friday, we drove down to Iowa for the 2017 Timmerman Family Reunion.  We had family members from California, Colorado, and New Mexico make the trip.  It was a ton of fun seeing everyone!

Miss Sheri's mom, Leona, was a Timmerman and had 7 brothers and sisters which make for a lot of cousins, nieces, and nephews.  Unfortunately, we lost three of those siblings over the past few years which made things bitter sweet, but it was so nice having the chance to see everyone again like we used to at great family reunions from the past.

Luke and I had fun taking Blue for walks around the farm.  We were a little nervous when we got there because the corn was so tall that we feared if he went into the fields we might never find him again, but we had nothing to worry about.  He had no interest at going into the corn.  That's where the Children live.

We also had fun walking along the river in Rock Rapids.  We've been doing this since the boys were all very little, but they never seem to lose the fascination of traveling across the rocks in front of the falls.  I still get nervous about them falling in even though they are much, much bigger than they used to be when we'd do this.

  Here's some of the fun people who made it to the reunion:

It was great seeing everyone!!!