Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Power of the Tongue

Please do not read these next words as a slick attempt to get you to donate to my fund. I want to tell this story because out of absurdity, wisdom, life lessons and more can emerge...

The short story:  After my January "brush with death" (systemic sepsis, pneumonia and respiratory failure) the hospital charged my insurance company over $80,000.00 for my ICU care. Group Health adjusted the bill with the hospital and I was billed the balance, which was over $5,300.00. I had asked for financial consideration towards the remainder of my bill by filling out a long application as well as providing profit & loss statements for my business as well as personal and corporate tax returns for 2011 and 2013. 

After reviewing my application for help, I was told "No", I would not receive any help whatsoever. The reason? Because I had earned a good wage in 2012, I should be able to make a good wage now. I told the adjuster, "Ma'am, I am a public speaker who has lost half of his tongue..."

She interrupted me and said, "Yes, but you made a good wage back in 2012 and you should be able to do that now..." 

I asked her, "Ma'am, if I were a professional baseball player that lost his throwing arm in an accident, do you think that might affect my ability to earn a living playing baseball?" My logic didn't get through and I realized that I was getting more stressed as I continued to try to get the woman to understand. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to let go.

I tell you all of that to say this... You cannot force benevolence, and sometimes, you have to let go and realize that there is a bigger lesson to be learned in what we are traveling through. I tell others that God will provide for our needs, but I wasn't believing that for myself. There I was, trying to convince the woman that I couldn't earn as much as I had before and I started to believe my own words. If I cannot see a way out of this, then I have truly convinced myself that I will fail. My words direct my thoughts, and my thoughts direct my actions... I was believing my own words.

I am not talking about speaking reality into existence or quantum physics. What I am trying to say is that we are prone to believe our own negative talk. If I believe I am damaged goods and I am unlikely to earn an income capable of supporting myself, I will make choices that will support that belief, or just stop trying. On the other hand, if I believe that losing half of my tongue has given me a new vantage point in life or that the lessons I have learned will make me a better public speaker with a more amazing story to tell, then I will act accordingly. Our words have power.  That was last week.

This week, as I write this, I am just days away from leaving for Des Moines, Iowa, to teach my injury treatment seminar with my lead assistant, Charity Lisherness. Have I fully returned to my old self, able to speak with a resounding voice that fills the room? No. Does my message have more intensity and is it delivered by a man that has a changed view on life? Absolutely. 

Truth be told, as I write this, I am also in a great deal of pain. The pain is different from a few weeks ago. Until this past Friday, March 28th, pain had been building in the left sublingual part of my tongue. I say "tongue", but it is the part that was rebuilt from my forearm. How could I have pain there? It is the same spot that the cancer had returned so many times before. I had my local ENT take a look at it and he was concerned. So concerned that he referred me to my surgeon at Virgina Mason. 

When I felt that pain, in that place, I grew more and more fearful. A near-paralyzing fear. Had the cancer returned? My mind was spinning and traveling through every possible outcome. In the days before March 28th, I changed my life insurance policy so that my girls would all receive equal proceeds as beneficiaries. I went on Amazon.com to order software so that I could write my will. My mind was racing. 

On the 28th, I traveled up to Virginia Mason for a biopsy. With the suspect area so difficult to get to, I had to have general anesthesia and have the work done in an operating room. It wasn't a simple tissue excision. It seemed like only a moment had passed from when I climbed onto the operating table until I began waking up in the recovery room. The words from the nurse sitting by my side were the first sounds I heard as I emerged from the haze of anesthesia. She kept repeating, "You need to breathe, Robert... breathe... take a deep breath for me... Robert? I need you to breathe..." Apparently I was so relaxed I wasn't breathing much at all and the oxygen sensor was picking up dangerously low blood levels. Breathing deeper became easier as I became more and more conscious. When I finally felt completely awake, it was then that my surgeon walked around the corner and with a big smile he said, 

"There is no cancer. You are cancer free." 

Wow. Those words can bring tears to your eyes, peace to your mind and a drop in blood pressure, all at the same time. But there it was, my pain wasn't from cancer. 

Apparently the tissue is not healing well due to the effects of radiation and the lack of circulation in my "new tongue" impedes the healing process. I am still waiting for confirmation from my physicians, but it looks like the suggested treatment is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Not once, but 5-days-a-week for 6-weeks for a total of 30-treatments. Virginia Mason is said to have the largest hyperbaric chamber in North America.

So now I sit at home in pain recovering from my biopsy. But this pain is worth putting up with. After all, I am cancer free. I can handle anything.

~Robert B. Haase,
A Blessed Man

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Second Belly Button

As the signs of spring become present just days before it officially arrives on March 20th, I can't help but be grateful for all that surrounds me. I was walking through the grocery store a couple of days ago and saw some flowers on sale. The buds were small and unopened and I could not visualize what was yet to come or how they would look when they would eventually open. I've purchased flowers before that never opened which made me sad. Potential of something that was unable to reveal itself. My mother's name is Violet, and I've always been fond of purple, so I purchased them anyways and two days later, they opened and really were amazing.

The point is, I was unable to see what the flower would look like when I bought it, but I knew something amazing and beautiful would likely emerge soon, and it eventually did. That's how I have been feeling about my life lately... I'm in this situation, recovering from cancer, not knowing what lies ahead for me, but I cannot help but know in my heart that something amazing will emerge from it.

I have been able to eat entirely by mouth for the past month, not having to use my abdominal PEG tube whatsoever. The best part is that I can actually keep my food down. That's amazing. I was unable to visualize the day coming that would allow me to actually eat enough food by mouth to sustain me and keep it down at the same time. Such a huge blessing that I would have taken for granted just a year ago.

I have to be transparent though. Seeing that tube dangling from my belly every morning when I woke up was disheartening. I felt like a freak of nature. A broken man that would never be whole. It was like an umbilical cord that wouldn't go away.

As the silicone tubing started so show it's wear and tear months after it was installed at Virginia Mason, the tube filled with debris from my stomach. It looked more disgusting as each day passed. Then I realized that I really was done with it. After meeting with one of my oncologists, he said it was time for it to come out. He would make arrangements. It was scheduled for March 4th.

My Second Belly Button, post tube removal
My daughter, Ashley, picked me up to drive me for the big procedure at St. Peter's Hospital. I really didn't know what to expect. My name was called as we sat in the waiting area and I was led back to a procedure room. The nurse used a syringe to remotely deflate the bag that was holding my stomach lining tightly to my abdominal wall. She made small talk as she drew out some air and clear liquid and then she said, "Ready?" It was literally pulled out in a matter of 2-seconds. It just slid out. She pressed a piece of gauze over the whole and said, "This will seal itself up in 24-hours. Don't eat or drink too much."

And that was it. After removing the bandages the next day, I couldn't help but grin. There it was. I had a second belly button.  I now have a daily reminder that I was never a freak of nature. Rather, I was being given a reminder of a second chance, a new beginning in this life. My original belly button was a lifelong reminder of the first half of my life, when my parents brought me into this world. My new belly button is a symbol of the second half of life. Now, the question is, what do I do with that second half?

My first "wine" painting, not
yet complete

In the pasts weeks I've not just been feeling better, but trying to get out of my comfort zone, doing things I've always wanted to do. Most recently I have begun painting. Except for Mrs. Ward's art class back in Junior High, I have never painted. The first thing I did was turn on my Apple TV and started watching Bob Ross' painting videos that streamed from YouTube. Remember him? Skinny white guy with the big Afro hair style who would talk in a soft voice and talk as he painted? He would usually say things like, "Let's put a little tree here. It's a happy little tree. He loves being in the sunshine, next to the gentle brook in the calming breezes coming off of the mountains we just created..." I could watch him for days. Truth is, I'm not really a guy who likes painting, or even photographing landscapes. Nevertheless, I started painting and did try a landscape. It was of a photo I took in the mountains of Sedona, Arizona. I also painted my daughter and son in law on the beach after their wedding ceremony. 

That said, I do like wine. Well, I used to like it until my treatment changed how my palate perceives what wine tastes like. But I love the look of wine in light whether in a glass or bottle, so I have given that a try and it has been relaxing and fun. But it still doesn't answer the question... what now?

My Spokane, Washington class. 29 students who blessed me.
Three weeks ago, I sent my lead assistant, Charity Lisherness, off to Chicago to meet up with another one of my assistants, Evelin Zagone. I sat at home going stir-crazy, wanting to be there. Last weekend I decided to travel with Charity to Spokane, Washington to teach my Secrets of Deep Tissue program. Going was: 1) against the advice of a few of my friends, 2) less than three months from when my chemo and radiation therapies were complete,  and 3) less than two months from when I almost died from systemic sepsis and respiratory failure, but I wanted to get back to work and the idea of sitting at home didn't sit well with me.

It is humbling to think that potentially millions of people across this country have been helped through the trainings that my staff and I present. Thousands of therapists and physicians have learned techniques to help get patients out of pain over the past 13-years and those thousands of therapists and physician's have each helped thousands of patients get well. It is staggering when I sit back and think about it.

On Friday morning, March 7th, Charity and I packed up our materials, drove to SeaTac, and flew east of the mountains to Spokane. The seminar was not only better than I had hoped, but it blessed me in ways I never had expected. The students blessed me far more than I blessed them and it was overwhelming. I felt humbled. What was even more a blessing is when a woman named Sarah Wood came up to me at the end of the weekend and told me that God gave her a word that she was to gather a few students together, lay hands on me and pray for me. I did not hesitate. When we wrapped everything up, a half-dozen students came to the front of the room and prayed for me, blessing me and encouraged my heart. I was truly touched. We should have brought tissues.

So now what? Where do I go from here? I do not have an answer to that question yet. I feel as though I am supposed to use my story and what I have shared in this blog to bless others, but how? I was talking to a friend this week about how I see me versus what others see when they see me. Everyone seems to see something different. Some see hope, courage and fortitude while others see an example of some sort. Others, however, see cancer when they look at me or when my situation comes to mind. I don't have time to focus on cancer, but they do. It scares them. 

I have friends pulling away because they do not want to draw close to me only to find out that the cancer returned later, tearing their hearts apart. I don't have time for that. I have the remainder of this life to live and a fixed number of days to live that life. The message of my life is not that I have fought cancer valiantly or that I am winning or won a battle. That is not my story at all. We all have battles. The message, what I want to share with others, is the answer to this question: "What Will YOU Do With The Gift of Life That You Have Yet to Live?"

Are you looking through a telescope so that you can view what you yearn for only to realize you are surrounded by an amazing destiny that lays right in front of you? Will you allow the broken dreams of your past and the scars on your heart to be anchors that stifle your future? Does the the lack that you perceive in your life define you? What if I told you that you have everything that you need at this very moment to take the first step to a new future?

You don't need a new "belly button" to realize that something amazing can begin within you. Are you keeping your eyes open? More importantly, are you ready for what lies ahead?

~Robert B. Haase,
A Blessed Man

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Depression, Mending and Finding the Blessings

A friend asked me the other day about how I was doing and how my state of mind was... Was I "depressed"...

I guess I am blessed to say that I've never succumbed to depression. Regardless of why people get depressed, whether from brain chemistry, biological factors, hormones, DNA or life events, I have been fortunate to have never experienced it.

While I've met people who have struggled with depression their entire lives and truly need medication to cope, I always wondered, "Why not me?" When I was going through divorce and feared losing my children, I was scared, but never got depressed. When the economy tanked and I lost my business, my home, my car... when my second wife left with her boyfriend... still, no depression.

I've always wondered if my lack of depression was due to my perspective on life. Now that I have...
  • Lost 1/2 of my tongue
  • Have a huge crazy looking scar on my forearm that everyone think looks like a giant sperm
  • Had my neck permanently disfigured from the removal of my lymph nodes
  • Have a tongue that screams with pain from most foods
  • Found out that I have dozens of permanent titanium clips embedded into my throat from surgery
  • Lost my resonant radio voice in exchange for a voice that makes me feel less confident in how others perceive me
  • Went from having a strong, muscular physique to being a skinny lightweight, having lost 60lbs because of all of my cancer treatment
  • Been unable to sleep more than a few hours without waking up in excruciating pain from a dry tongue from loss of my salivary gland function...
You would think I would be depressed. Geez... even I think I should be depressed, right? When my friend asked about depression, I told her that I have never been depressed before because of how I see my situation. I am never angry about what has happened nor do I feel self pity. Don't get me wrong... I really wish this hadn't happened to me, but I wouldn't want my worst enemy to have to deal with this either... so, as I've said before, "Why not me?"

What have I gained from tragedy? I am now:
  • No longer dealing with borderline diabetes and my blood sugar levels are completely normal
  • At a healthy weight and my heart is less stressed with my new body size
  • Living with blood pressure that is actually low 
  • Not in a house I cannot afford
  • Not driving a car worth less than I owe
  • Completely loved by my three beautiful, intelligent daughters 
  • Blessed to have found healing between my girl's mother and myself and am able to demonstrate true forgiveness with her as an example to others
  • Forced to slow down and contemplate life while I take time to write my next book and learn to paint
  • Most importantly, I AM ALIVE
I really am blessed.  The good news is that I am mending. Where just a few weeks ago, my immune system was shot, compromised because of the ravages of chemo and radiation therapies, my white blood cell count is now in the normal range, showing that I can once again fight off disease and other life-threatening illnesses. 

For now, I am "taking one day at a time"... currently writing my book entitled, It Cost Me A Million Dollars To Write This Book: The Insiders Guide to Business Marketing. After I finish that, I will begin writing about this journey I've been on, drawing much from the blogs I've written so far.

I would have never chosen this journey if it was offered to me at any price, but the journey has transformed me.

Thank you for sharing in this catharsis with me. Thank you for sharing in this transformation of my heart and soul, and standing beside me as I process all that has been thrown at me. I cannot tell all of you how much your love, encouragement and support has meant to me. You have truly blessed me. Thank you.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Giving Credit To God Vs. Science and Medicine

It has been a difficult process being laid-up at home recovering. If you know me, you will know I don't do "down time" well unless I am on the beaches of a tropical island somewhere on a bed of white sand with a tropical drink in my hand... but I am not.

I have been wondering what to write about this past week. Wondering what I could possibly share when nothing is really happening. When your assignment from your physician is to stay quiet, the ideas for blog posts are along the lines of "watching a pot boil" or "watching paint dry." Not much to really write about.

I received a question from someone regarding an October blog post last night and I realized that my question had been answered. This is what I was to write about this week... The question comes from someone named "Nic"..

"I accidentally stumbled on your blog by accident, when reading an article on the news regarding mesh squares being sewn to women's tongues to aid in losing weight. Upon further information, looking through photos - your 'new' tongue came up, and I was intrigued. 

I read some of your blog, and am wondering how you give so much credit to a 'god' over science & medicine, which had enabled you to be where you are today. Can you please explain why you have such faith in a deity that offers no help or aid in your skin grafts, medicines, radiation therapy - the list goes on. 

If you were to only 'pray' yourself well, do you think you would be where you are now, without medical intervention?

I am not disrespecting you, I just would like an honest, unbiased non-bible related answer. 

Thank you & all the best."

I’m glad you stumbled upon my blog, Nic. Those are great questions.

You are asking me for an “unbiased non-bible related answer”, but you are also asking me to respond to a question about “god” vs. science and medicine… I can’t really do that, as the two are intertwined for me. Please forgive me in advance for interweaving my answer.

I have to go back to questions you haven’t asked to answer the questions that you have asked. The biggest question is usually asked is something like “how can you believe in a ‘god’ especially with all of the horrible things that happen on this earth… a ‘loving’ god wouldn’t allow for such atrocities to happen…”

The answer comes down to the fallacy of a child saying “ I exist because I do… no parents were involved. I don’t believe in parents, especially parents that would allow for me to fall off of my bicycle or be bullied on the playground at school. I exist because of science, not parents.”  Our perspective on this earth is immersive… we see the trees, but we cannot see the forest, let alone the many forests, mountains, lakes and oceans… we see what we see due to our limited perspective.

Nic, I believe in an all-powerful, loving God who sent his Son, Jesus, to be sacrificed for my sins. It was a one-time forgiveness and it is done. I believe that God gives humans free will, which means there are the results of that free will, both good and bad, all around us on this earth. That free will brings about art, love, beauty, acts of kindness, education and the discoveries of the capabilities of scientific truths regarding how this earth and our bodies work. Science explains gravity, but scientists didn’t create gravity. I didn’t need a scientist to invent my ability to fall out of a 40ft. tree when I was a kid, but scientific discovery can explain why I fell down versus up. If I plant a seed in the earth and add water, I didn’t “invent” germination and the subsequent growth of that seed, but I can study the amazing facets of reality that are unique to this planet, which allows for the process to take place.  Taking the branch of one tree and splicing it into another tree takes experimentation and discovery. Scientists discover which unique properties of our earth are present, but they do not create the universal capabilities inherent in our earth. But I really haven not answered your questions…

The truth is, I believe in science and the product of science, which is medicine. I am thankful for the doctors and scientists that have researched and found that cutting out half of my tongue is a way to fight the disease of tongue cancer. I am also thankful that some imaginative physician tried taking someone’s forearm tissue and it’s related arteries, veins and nerves and “spliced it” into someone’s tongue to help create a mass that replicated the tongue’s original shape. Believing in science and the amazing features that are unique to our world and/or universe has no bearing on my belief in God. It actually reinforces my belief in God. He created the process of life and it’s inherent ingredients to support life…. Scientists discovered the properties of life and how to experiment in the playground of those properties. Science allows for women who were barren to be able to deliver a beautiful baby… science did not create the DNA that scientists are experimenting with… scientists only are playing with the building blocks that they discovered as existing beneath the lenses of the microscopes that other scientists “created”, which were based on the model of the human eyeball’s lenses.

Nic, you asked “why you have such faith in a deity that offers no help or aid in your skin grafts, medicines, radiation therapy…” I would say that your question assumes that my God offers no aid, yet He created the very substrate in which science is able to use in efforts to send me on my way to heal and recover. Science does not guarantee my healing. Science only gives me options to potentially delay my eventual death. If you read my previous blog posts, you will see that I’ve actually addressed this issue in part. I will die. From cancer? Possibly. From a car accident? Maybe. Heart disease? Statistically plausible. All science can do is take the mechanisms it has discovered and use the body’s inherent abilities to find its way to recovery.

The same Creator that made life and aided a seed’s ability to germinate aided in the ability of my tongue to accept the graft of my forearm tissue. Just because God uses human’s to be His hands does not mean that He is not behind the result of what healing comes next.

God ultimately holds my every breath in His hands. When my time has come, I will move on from this life. I will not blame science for my eventual death anymore than I will give it credit for the life that I have lived.

I hope that helps answer your questions, Nic. God bless you in your quest for truth.


To all of my supporters, readers and friends, thank you for your continued prayers as I am continually on the mend.

~Robert B. Haase,
A Blessed Man

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Video Blog Post: The Healing Continues

Hello, my friends. I am posting my first video blog update since my respiratory failure "incident" that occurred a week ago. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers! Your support blesses me dearly.

~Robert B. Haase,
A Blessed Man

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Death, Driving and Tomorrow

About a week and a half ago I climbed behind the wheel of my car to grab something at the store. Having gone off pain meds for a about 8-hours prior to driving, I was safe, so don't worry. What I realized when I entered the open roads was how much I enjoy driving. The freedom to go where I want to go. The way my car can corner. The realization I can control my destination. Kind of a metaphor for life, really. 

I love to drive in a fun car. A lot. It is near the top of my list of joys in life. I love a sporty suspension that feels like a go-cart when rounding a tight corner and the centrifugal force pulling me into the side of my sport bucket seat. All the better if done in a convertible. Although I can control the car, I cannot control the road hazards or the behaviors of other drivers on the road. Those who text and drive or drive on "mental auto pilot", not paying attention to what they are doing, drifting off mentally and losing their focus. A road without other cars is far more enjoyable to drive on, but those interactions are part of the process. Again, as in life, the actions of others affect our experience and can rob us of the joy we seek. The smallest of potholes might cause you to spill your morning coffee while a larger, deeper one, might break your axle.  This past Saturday, I hit a pothole in life so big that it nearly swallowed my entire car. I'll break from the metaphor and be direct. This past Saturday, I nearly died.

As I mentioned in my last post, my best friend and I were headed to Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. We really had a great time and saw lots of technology. I love technology and it was awesome. Although my doctor cleared me to travel, in hindsight, it probably was not the best of ideas. Being around over a hundred thousand people, walking through airports, flying in a packed plane with recycled air while having an immune system that had been challenged by chemo and radiation was a recipe for disaster.

We arrived late on Thursday night of last week and I didn't get to bed until 3am Friday morning.  Because I had to transport cans of "formula" to use in my PEG tube, I checked a bag which weighed nearly 50lbs. Using some food and then replacing the weight with heavy materials from the show, my bag was still 50lbs when we returned. I was fatigued as I attempted to unload the suitcase in the dark from my car in the wee hours of the morning. I lost my balance and fell backwards, hitting the concrete garage floor hard, but I shook it off and went right to bed. 

I really am not good at sleeping in, but after waking a few hours later, my friend Gary and I went out and ran some errands. With my mother's 80th birthday just a few days away, there were cakes to order, a planning meeting to attend and groceries to buy. That afternoon, I received a massage for my aches from the fall and then I was off to meet friends for a quick dinner at a local pub. All I could really eat was soup, but soup was not on the menu. The waitress actually called the manager at home and received special permission to let me have a bowl of minestrone. I could almost taste it. It was about 7pm when I left the pub and I headed home. Three hours later, the soup decided it wasn't staying down and I lost it in the sink. Thinking nothing of it, I put some "formula" in my PEG tube, took my medications and made my way to bed. That was the last thing I remember. Going to bed on Friday night. 

The next thing I remember was coming out of a fog with a huge set of tubes going down my throat and nearly a dozen bags of chemicals and medicines being forced into my body via a central venous catheter/IV, just under my collar bone. Electrodes were all over my upper body with supporting wires, providing the doctors with vital information on my status. I was in St. Peter's Hospital's Intensive Care Unit and I didn't understand. I was confused and scared. 

As I became more coherent, my friend, Tamara and my oldest daughter, Ashley, were at my side, explaining what had happened. Although they apparently had explained it the day before, I had no recollection of being awake prior to that. Thanks to the miracles of medicine, I was given a drug that would cause me to forget the trauma of the preceding 24-hours. In total, I was in St. Peter's for 4-days, coming home just two days ago. During my stay, I was told the specifics and details of what had happened. I cannot help but cry retelling the story as it was told to me, but here goes...

On Saturday morning, Tamara, a dear friend of mine, was trying to contact me to see how I was feeling after my trip. She knew I was trying to decrease my medications and was concerned when I did not respond to her emails, texts or voice mails from that morning. She knows my iPhone is nearly always close by and had an uneasy feeling when I was not responding. 

Besides being a friend and someone who has assisted me in my business, Tamara also happens to be an RN. As time passed and I still was not responding, her gut told her something was wrong and she contacted Brenda, my landlord, begging her to let her into my town home to make sure I was okay. It was a "God thing." Brenda agreed and met Tamara at my unit.  Brenda entered first and yelled out, "Landlord... Robert, are you here?" There was no response. Tamara looked in the garage on the ground floor and saw my car in the garage. They knew I must be home. Still calling out, there was no response from me. As the two entered my master bedroom on the 3rd floor, they found me under my covers in a position described as "decerebrate posturing." I was unresponsive. Tamara was even more concerned from my posture as it most often indicates severe, irreversible brain damage.  My upper body/head was arched back and I was rigid as I laid on my left side. My legs were fully extended with feet and toes pointed down. My arms were curled and rotated away from my body. The medics were called and on their way.

As they waited for the medics, Tamara tried but couldn't get my body to move. Eventually, she was able to straighten my torso and arms into neutral position, but when she let go, my rigid posture and positioning returned to how they found me.

The medics arrived and more tests began... my pupils were pinpoints and nonreactive to light. With Narcan given to reverse effects of my prescription narcotics, my pupils still did not change indicating potential stroke which can lead to the decerebrate posturing.

My oxygen saturation was not registering for the EMT's pulse oximeter, which cannot read below 50%.  When they found me, my head was covered deeply into the blankets and it is likely that I had re-breathed  CO2 for some time. Not good. I was hot and pale as well. My first temp was 103.5, but I didn't sweat until I was uncovered and they had given me numerous painful sternal rubs. Worse yet, I wasn't breathing initially, but once I started, my breaths were almost described as "agonal" or "dying breaths", but not quite.

With my tongue/throat having gone through surgery and radiation treatment, the medics had a difficult time both intubating me and locating a vein to start an IV. Thankfully, they eventually did and rushed me to the ER.

Test after test was performed throughout the day on Saturday and the official answer as to what happened was septic shock, pneumonia and respiratory failure. When I finally woke, there were no signs of brain damage.

I truly believe that the prayers of Tamara and Brenda at the scene in addition to those of my family, friends and Facebook friend's saved my life. I should not have the capacity to even write this blog, but I am still here, a walking miracle. I will live on for something of great purpose, something bigger than myself. It isn't about "me"...  I truly believe I have been allowed to endure so much so that I can draw upon these experiences to be a blessing to others.

I began this blog post talking about driving and I cannot help but think about the Carrie Underwood song, "Jesus Take the Wheel." I truly do not believe that Jesus wants us to give up control of the wheel. He doesn't want to control, but I do believe that He wants us to stop sometimes and ask for directions. My choice to go to Vegas with a compromised immune system put me into an unsafe situation. A dangerous one and I "crashed"... but He heard the prayers of so many and chose yet once again to keep me around for a while. I still do not know exactly what lies ahead for me, but I do know that while I still have the gift of life, I want to use this life to bless others and encourage them in the trials that they face.

What about you? What if you go to bed a week from now and never woke up. What would you do different with the time you have remaining until then? What would you do differently today? What is your purpose? What choices might you make differently? You don't need to give up the wheel... just don't forget to stop and ask for directions. 

~Robert B. Haase,
A Blessed Man

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It's a New Year

It's been just a week since my last post. Seems like a month to me. I've still been throwing up daily, but I'm learning to decrease the frequency as I get to know my own body and what makes me mentally nauseous as well as physically. Did you know that swallowing my "regularity pills" with room temperature water will make me throw up but cold water won't? I didn't either, but I'm so glad I do now. Or that if I eat every hour I will usually be okay but if I wait two hours, my food is doomed to return via the route it entered. My life feels like a daily lesson. That is a good thing, I suppose. 

Either way, I am growing stronger every day. When friends stop in, they often have this look of being horrified at my 50lbs of weight loss while trying to be supportive and smiling. Some just lose it and start to cry. I'm still smiling though... I am improving from the inside out. Others might not see it, but I am healing and that's an awesome feeling.

A week ago, I was in exquisite pain from the radiation burns on my neck. My girl's mother, Debbie, works at Western Washington Oncology and has seen so very many patients who have gone through the treatment I have endured. She told me this past week that she didn't honestly believe I would be able to complete my treatment from the sheer pain and disfiguring damage that occurs to the tissues of the neck from the type of cancer I was being treated for. She was in tears when she told me how proud of me she was that I got through... For me, it wasn't a choice. If I wanted to remain cancer free, I needed to trust my doctors, especially when my radiation oncologist told me that I would need the most aggressive regimen of treatment she has ever prescribed. She said I would "hate" her towards the end of my treatment and beg for it to stop. "Them's fightin' words" where I come from. Just like most kids, I hate being told what "I'll probably do." I would rather prove her wrong than take the easy way out and feel hatred.

The good news is I did finish, but the pain was crazy bad. I hate burns in general, but when you are burning as much on the outside as you are on the inside, that is a whole new experience. I don't recocmmend it, friends. Since then, I've alternated the use of "Silvadene" burn cream and Emu Oil... I've had all of you praying and lifing me up in prayer, even those of you who never prayed before.  I want to thank you for those prayers, because they worked. I'll spare you the photo of the weeping wounds and scabs, but here is the "after" photo... just two weeks after completing treatment:

That, my friends, is a miracle. Thank ALL of you for praying for me. Your prayers, however long or short, are working. Remember, even Jesus was against pontificating when it came to prayers. I'm a blessed man and so much so because of the knowledge that I am being lifted up daily by so many of you. 

In this new year, I am excited to look forward while learning from the past. I may have lost a few friends during this journey, but I have gained so many new ones. I am truly blessed by that alone. 

One of my blessings is the improvement in my general health. It sounds odd that cancer helped me get healthier, but the 50lbs I have lost has balanced out my blood sugar issue and given my joints a chance to relax a bit. FIFTY pounds! That's crazy for me. I haven't weighed this much since I was trying to make weight for wrestling my freshman year in high school. This is a photo of me this morning...
I know I need to gain some of that weight back, but it feels nice to "lighten my load" a bit, even if temporarily.

Today I am also beginning to paint for the first time. I don't count art class in Junior High as really painting. I mean really paint. As some of you know, I have been a photographer for years and love creating art by using my camera to bring out the extraordinary from what may appear to others as ordinary. You can see some of my work at www.robertburtonphotography.com. If you are wondering why "Robert Burton", it is because I try to keep my photography separate from my business work when people "Google" me, so I use my middle name instead. All that said, I hope to be able to explore my vision of the world through my hands and a brush, in addition to a lens and Photoshop.

I have two exciting things coming up as well. First, attending CES with my best friend, Cory. For nearly three decades, I've watched the news in mid-January and have seen the special reports from Las Vegas at the world's largest technological conference. The newest technologies have always facinated me. Each time I've seen the reports, I've said, "I want to go to that someday!" Well, I finally received tickets to go, and you guesed it, I received them before this cancer thing was even on the horizon. 

Since last summer I have been planning this trip with Cory. The cool part is that I was able to use my Alaska Airlines credits to take care of the airfare, and we are getting a $300 a night hotel for only $50 a night because of my connections down there. Sure, I get to pack my food in "formula" cans and bring them in my suitcase, but it will be a lot of fun. 

As for the second exciting adventure... I will tell you more in my next post.

Things are looking up every day, my friends. Amidst the craziness of life and the aches and pains we feel, good things are happening. It may be the smallest of things, but you and I are still blessed so very much. Cherish the moments as they come and make it a point to thank God for his blessings each day. You won't be able to help but smile amidst the storms that will come when you do.

~Robert B. Haase,
A Blessed Man

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