|Posted by Mark Liederbach on September 13, 2011 at 12:45 PM||comments (0)|
The Cancer Fight Organization has been very active these last couple of weeks! With our first meeting last Tuesday, where we had a wonderful turnout, we welcomed everyone to the group and talked over plans for the year. This week was full of awesome happenings. I was interviewed for the Royal Purple (our university's newspaper), and had a photo shoot a few days later.
Wednesday is our Involvement Fair, where organizations all over campus set up a booth to promote their groups' presence. You can very well bet The Cancer Fight will be among those people! We plan to provide brochures from Livestrong, pamphlets regarding our organization, and membership flyers as well. We may have other fun things in store as well! Our main goal is to attract more members on campus, so we can full-heartedly bring the cancer awareness and support we aim for! I will certainly post an update about the fair as it happens tomorrow.
In other news, The Cancer Fight's expansion onto multiple social mediums is really taking off! Most of you know about our Facebook page; but recently I have been revamping the page to include some cool new features. Its new domain name is www.facebook.com/TheCancerFight . And I invite you to go check it out, and if you want, "like" us to hear more up-to-date posts regarding each week's play-by-play's. That's all from me for now. I am writing this while waiting for my chemistry class to start! It is shaping up to be a very busy semester - and likely year - for me. With 18 credits, two jobs, and starting up this organization, I have a lot on my plate to contend with. However, I am very confident in the mission of this organization, and I know that this will be a very good addition to the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater community!
Until next time,
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on August 13, 2011 at 6:30 AM||comments (0)|
This is our last day in Astana. Tomorrow begins our trip to Uzbekistan, with a stop in Almaty. We traveled all around the city these past few days, and I’ve taken loads of pictures (all of which are being posted on Facebook and Google+). I was able to try some unique Kazakh food (though no horse yet, yet). I have also learned a few Russian basics, though not enough to really hold a conversation on my own.
Today we went into the old part of town to walk around a great summer location here in Astana. Along the river is a park where there are old carnival attractions and street vendors. Erik, Deanna, Adelaide, and I walked around, had ice cream, and great burgers. I also had the opportunity to get a picture with a steppe eagle! I’m sure that picture will be somewhere online shortly. I have already maxed out my memory cards capacity and continually have to dump a lot of my pictures onto the computer, so assuming uploading can proceed smoothly; these photos will become available shortly!
I will try to get another post in here shortly, though I am not sure where my next internet connection will be coming from.
But until next time,
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on August 11, 2011 at 10:45 AM||comments (0)|
So I will be typing these next few blogs over the course of my trip to see my brother Erik and family in Kazakhstan. I will be gone for a total of two weeks, seeing places like Istanbul, Astana, and Uzbekistan. I am looking forward to have some quality time with Adelaide!
This first blog is somewhat interesting, as I am typing it from about 37,000ft over the Caspian Sea. I am on my flight into Astana. I have been traveling for roughly 20 hours now, and am definitely looking forward to sleeping in a comfortable bed. So far, the travels have been rather good. My flight from Chicago to Istanbul was not crowded at all, and there was room to lay across the row and try for some decent sleep (key word: try). After a small layover in Turkey, I am on my final leg of the journey for now.
I will certainly keep updating all of the happenings during the course of the next two weeks, and I will post plenty of pictures on Facebook (if you have added me on there), as well as Google+.
Until Next Time,
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on July 22, 2011 at 9:52 PM||comments (0)|
I’ve been extremely busy these last few days. I work all morning shifts at Esker and have not had a day off (including weekends) for two weeks! With 900 people per meal, it’s been hectic. I do absolutely love the money from it, however.
I don’t have much to report as far as the blood thinners, because I’ve been incredibly stable with the Warfarin, so no changes. As for the organization, we have drafted a preliminary budget which will serve its purpose for the start-up funds we have received.
I also managed my way to the Harry Potter midnight showing! Call me dorky but I was in line 3 hours early for the movie premiere in Whitewater. Nicole joined me after she finished work in Milwaukee. It was fantastic! We saw it in 3D, which there were mixed reviews for, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. I will hopefully see it again sometime soon.
A final piece of news: I am now on Google Plus! In case you have not heard about this, it is a social networking site like Facebook, but – in my opinion – much better! It has video chat called ‘hangouts’ that can connect up to 10 people at once, plus a whole bunch of other new features. It is by invitation-only as it is currently in a limited field trial. Though it is hard to call it a small sample, because it already has over 20 million users since it started just 4 weeks ago! Either way, I really like it. And if you would like to see what all the fuss is about, and since you are all so supportive of me and The Cancer Fight’s purpose, I can email you an invitation.
Until next time,
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on July 5, 2011 at 7:08 AM||comments (0)|
A very happy Fourth of July to everyone! On Sunday, I went down to the lakefront to see the fireworks downtown. Whereas most people went near Summerfest to see the show, I ended up watching from a more secluded beach farther south. It was a lot of fun! There was a moderate crowd there, and most of them had built campfires. The show was a very cool spectacle, especially from our perspective. The fireworks seemed to be in near slow motion, and the sound that followed came roughly 20 seconds after the event! I sat at the beach for another minute after the show officially ended to listen to all of the bangs that finally reached our area.
On the fourth, I watched the Greendale parade for the first time in 12 years! Normally, I would be up north around the fourth of July. Afterwards, I went to the Brewers game on a $6 ticket. That was a great price considering $1 hot dog day as well! I finished up the fourth with watching the Franklin fireworks at the Duffy’s house. I had a great fourth of July, and I hope you did as well!
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on June 12, 2011 at 10:41 PM||comments (0)|
This week is a busy one! Most days this week, I start work at 7am to serve breakfast to summer camps here at UW-Whitewater. Though they are a little more rowdy than college students, they are much more grateful for the food we offer! Anyways, it will be full of work and study on the physics project.
On the topic of the physics project, I will be heading into Janesville with my professor to purchase our last few items. It feels nice to finally have materials and instruments to work with. Before now, most of my work was online and doing research. Now is when I am able to finally get my hands dirty. Last week, I went down to the machine shop where I will be cutting up the metal parts and putting many of the pieces together. I will start that process this upcoming week.
In case you were wondering, my hair is actually getting to the point where I need to cut it! It seemed like forever, but it came back. It is the same color as before, but it is a lot softer this time around. I think that the fact that my hair is essentially normal again, I am changing my perspective of dealing with cancer to (hopefully) recovering. I can only hope that this trend of normality continues!
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on June 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM||comments (0)|
This past Thursday was quite a humbling day. I was invited to the Greendale High School Theatre Department picnic. It was really nice to see a lot of my theatre friends there – many of whom I had not seen since I began the treatment process. At this event, many traditions are celebrated. Senior roles such as The Notebook – a book of traditions, duties, and guides to making the Greendale Theatre as special as it is – are passed on to the next generation of senior leadership. I also had the opportunity to see who won such awards as “Crew Member of the Year”, “Best Dancer”, “Best Singer”, and “Thespian of the Year”.
Perhaps the most amazing part was near the end of the event. Notebook-Holders Sara Weiss and Carly Gaeth spoke to the group. They talked about how the theatre family is a very close group that is always there to support each other. They mentioned that if someone were to need assistance for some kind of tragic circumstance, the theatre is there to lend their support; be it through compassion, a very large “Get Well” card, hugs, and in this case, financial aid. Over the course of this show season, the cast and crew had donated a little extra money out-of-pocket to raise funds in support of my situation. It was an enormously kind gesture for them to do so. Never in my wildest imagination did I expect the amount they had put forth. The Greendale Theatre family raised $700 towards the support of my charity, The Cancer Fight Organization, and in honor of other local and national cancer funds! I was blown away! The generosity of this act was simply astounding.
When I was in high school, theatre was a place that I knew I could let go of my fears, be comfortable around people, and learn life lessons that – and believe me when I say this – are useful for the rest of your life. I always remembered how the GHS Theatre shaped me, gave me the strength and will-power, and taught me how to be a good human being. I met friends that I couldn’t imagine life without. To know that they have done something like this for me only empowers these opinions. I will not forget this gesture, and I can only hope that one day, I can repay the GHS Theatre for their kindness and their unending support. THANK YOU GREENDALE THEATRE!
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on June 8, 2011 at 1:13 PM||comments (0)|
In my new apartment out in Whitewater, I am currently internet-less. That is why I have not been around the website lately, but nevertheless, I am moving forward with my health! On the 27th of May, I went to Kenosha for a chest X-Ray, which I found out the results of on Monday. I returned from my long trip to the oncologist to hear these results … and … I’m HEALTHY! As far as all tests, scans, and blood-work show, I have no visible signs of the cancer markers that were previously there. This is a really good sign, and I hope that it continues to progress as it is now. Aside from a quick blood test later this month, I do not have an oncology appointment until August 30th! After this appointment – should there be no other signs of blood clots – I will continue with my plan to have surgery to remove my chest port. The port has served an invaluable purpose during treatment and my hospital stays, but with it in my chest, it has limited my athletic ability. So I am anxious to be able to get back to my old sporty self again!
Hopefully I will fix this internet issue in my apartment so I can update my site more frequently than I can now. If so, I will be on here very soon!
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on April 19, 2011 at 2:24 AM||comments (1)|
The next two weeks are going to be a very interesting one. This week, my brother Erik came back from Kazakhstan. It’s the first time I have seen him in-person since this whole ordeal began. I am really happy to be able to spend time with him (and also look forward to time with my niece!).
I am slowly but surely starting to see some hairs poking through the top of my head! To me, this is a true sign that things CAN come back from this disease. Though I have liked the salute to my "Annie" days, I am ready to feel the soft newborn hairs growing back. My medicing is currently a very low amount compared to what I have previously been on. I take four pills per night for my blood clots, which is about 20 short of my previous dosages during this treatment! I guess the next nice thing that would happen is to maybe feel some spring air finally blow upon my bare head? I would not mind that, mother nature.
I have been trying to figure out what to follow the last post with. That essay took about three months to write. So theoretically in order to top that piece, I might have a post ready by July (just kidding!). I spent a lot of time thinking about where to take this blog after treatment. I am determined to keep the site running for a lot of reasons – such as I will always have a place to go should (God forbid) this has some sort of reoccurrence; but there are many other reasons. I remember the whole situation as being THE MOST challenging experience of my life. Never before has something taken not only a physical toll on my body, but also a mental strain as well. I think about others who are continuing this agonizing journey, and how the littlest things given to me during this time really helped (if not saved) me. . I have on the site a “Donations” page – which people can give money towards various charities listed there, or be directed to their websites to learn more about them. And as I sit here at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, where clubs and organizations thrive, an idea occurred. Starting in May, I – along with Nicole, Jordan (my friend/roommate), and John (our neighbor) – am starting The Cancer Fight Organization. Its objective is to run fundraisers, spread the awareness of cancer, and organize events for charity. I’ve put a lot of thought into this program, and I think that this is the next steps I need to take in my life. I do not consider my journey to be complete yet – I may have finished chemo, but there is still a long road to follow. I want to spread what I have learned from first-hand experience with this monster, and also lend a helping hand to those still being beaten by it.
This organization will always be here to support those fighters. This has a lot of potential to truly make a significant difference among the community. It may not be the first cancer charity, but there is certainly no competitive spirit in this venture. This non-profit group will work with other charities and partner with them to raise money and awareness of all types of cancer.
As for the website, I have no intentions of either closing it or stop blogging my personal journey. This idea is more of an add-on concept to the site. There is already the “Donations” page – which to date has raised about $300 to LiveSTRONG, Susan G. Komen, and the MACC Fund – and I know that more support is out there somewhere. From what I have experienced, I feel very strongly that this fight is not one to fight alone, nor is it one that should destroy lives. Cancer patients face a number of different challenges; this includes physical, emotional, and financial oppositions. I can attest to all of these. Our fundraising ideas range from t-shirt sales to community events. Outreach might include things like visits to local high schools to talk about cancer; making homemade food to bring to oncology clinics for chemotherapy patients; and creating informational packets for people to find different types of support and aid in their journey. Between the four of us who are beginning this organization, I think a lot of good can come out of this.
Thank you for bearing with my thoughts and propositions. I am very curious to hear what your feedback is on our idea!
|Posted by Mark Liederbach on April 5, 2011 at 12:49 PM||comments (2)|
The following is a research paper I wrote about Cancer and it psychological effects. Normally, I would be a little more protective of my work, but this is something I feel needs to be shared.
I lay here, in my bed, feet carefully cradled to create just the proper angle at my hip. For the very brief moment, the pain subsides. I think about how it came to this point. How did something as simple as a doctor appointment lead me here? I then try to picture where I would be if I never brought it up. I would probably be relaxing in a cabin in northern Wisconsin – where I always end up around Christmas time. I remember the white snow cleansing the mind of my schoolwork, my job, my life. It was therapeutic to me. Deep breaths of cold winter air warming in the depths of lungs, filling my torso with pure, clean oxygen. Then, seemingly unprovoked, the familiar sharp slice of cringing pain shoots through my body in a crippling manner. My face folds in on itself, but the rest of me cannot move. The slightest budge of anything below my chest only yields more excruciating pain. I lay my head back on my pillow and slowly whimper until the pulsating agony dies down. I could only imagine what it will be like to sneeze. I suppose it is only fair to see this from the other prospective. Had I not told anyone about the lump I found, the implication would be far worse. After all, Lance Armstrong failed to tell anyone early on, and his spread throughout his body including his brain. Had I not told my doctor, my prognosis would have much more bleak. Days earlier, the official sentence was uttered by my Urologist: You have developed a form of stage 2 testicular cancer.
I consider this moment when I was confined to a bed, battling the painful recovery of an orchiectomy the most stressful moment in my life. Never before have I had so much pain to cope with until now. I am not a person to normally cry, but I have no shame in sharing that this period of time induced more water works than the Bellagio fountain show; and I only had more to come. In January, I began three cycles of chemotherapy. This procedure is effectively pumping poison into one’s body to kill off everything – both cancerous and benign. It causes blood counts to drop, immune systems to diminish, hair loss, nausea, and much more. A typical day at in the Oncology clinic consists of accessing my vascular port – a surgically implanted pod connected to a vain in my chest to provide easier access and less pain – and pumping saline through the tubing to cleanse it. Saline is perhaps the nastiest taste one can encounter during this time. It is essentially salt water injected straight into the taste buds. It causes me to shiver uncontrollably. Ever since I was exposed to this solution, I physically shutter to the thought of it being pumped into my body. This phenomenon led me to research what psychological effects chemotherapy has on the body – both short and long-term. According to the National Cancer Institute, “35% of all cancer patients receiving treatment acquire Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder normally induced by Military Combat, Rape, and Natural Disasters.” This statistic did not surprise me, because I felt myself developing this very condition. I would find myself almost in tears thinking about going to the clinic the next day. The image of hooking my body up with a pumping machine like an iPod to a docking station disturbed me greatly. I felt I had lost all control of myself. My hair was thinning, my stomach a non-stop churning mixture of ingredients poised for expulsion, and my hands were starting to swell. I began accumulating up to five different prescriptions to combat my side-effects.
Depression was sinking in, and I was not sure how to handle it. I felt like a shell of my former self. I used to be a very active athlete involved in both theatre and music. I was not accustomed to feeling tired from a flight of stairs. I could not picture myself as I used to be. I was once the healthiest example of self-conditioning, capable of undertaking any physical task with little doubt in my mind as to success. Now, months into my downfall, I have become reliant on chemicals and poisons to flush my body of all energy and comfort. According to the Cancer Supportive Care Programs, 18-21% of cancer survivors develop clinical depression at various points in time. I worry about this figure, because I can often find myself thinking about the toll this treatment has taken on me, and I find it overwhelming to cope with. There are support groups offered from many institutions, including the Aurora Health Care Oncology clinic. This is where I have been involved in receiving chemotherapy treatment. Every week the nurses, doctors, and general staff ask me specifically whether I am feeling anxious, sad, or anything else. In the beginning, I was able to easily answer “no” to these questions, but times have changed me. As the weeks wore on, treatment after treatment, I began to slip down a steep hill towards anxiety and depression. Luckily, they caught onto my warning signs early. One of my nurses that particular day – Donna – offered to give me the email address of someone who went through similar circumstances, and who had been a survivor for over a year. His name is Brandon, and he helped me find my inner strength to take control of my emotions (to the best one can regarding the situation).
Brandon is twenty-one, in college, and is one of my inspirations. During the last week of chemotherapy, we met in person to talk more in depth about treatment and recovery. He described one of the most important aspects of this whole ordeal – hope. I was told to keep my spirits high and not allow chemo to overcome me. It certainly was very difficult, but talking with him was very beneficial. Each day, I grow a little stronger. He told me that I must “remember that all this will go away someday. Soon enough, your life will be as normal as anyone’s – and that’s what we’re going for here, isn’t it?” Chemotherapy’s psychological effects on me just met a strong resistance – the power in numbers.
As if the treatment itself was not enough, the weekend prior to my final dose of Monday Bleomycin saw a sudden situation requiring me to undergo four days of hospitalization. The culprit: Blood clots. I was diagnosed with multiple pulmonary embolisms – blood clots in the lungs. This was causing me sharp, stabbing pain; especially when I inhaled. I was rendered immobile, consumed with pain. My days cooped up in St. Luke’s Hospital were spent injecting blood thinners and pain medication. I was forced to miss my classes and fight to give my lungs oxygen. This condition is a common effect of cancer. According to Dr. Qamar of Aurora Health – who was also my hospital physician – said “the tumor markers in the blood stream thicken the blood cells and cause the buildup of clots to become much more likely to occur”. I was stricken with pain. For the first couple days, no amount of narcotic pain medication could distract me from the pulsating attack on my ribs and left arm. The main result of this setback is the prescription of blood thinners I must take every day for the next year. I learned that no matter how much optimism and hope you have, blood clots and other complications can happen for no apparent reason. I was looking forward to the day when I could look back on all these medications and feel relieved to be done with them. Unfortunately, that day will now be far away. This is just one more example of the kinds of mental effect cancer can bring onto a patient. It is situations like this that victims must learn to cope with, unless they become overwhelmed with grief.
As I continue my follow-up tests regarding the chemotherapy, blood clots, and future surgery to remove the chest port – a device inserted into my chest which gives easier access to draw blood – I remain vigilant of any warning signs that I my PTSD may be increasing. I still find myself shuttering upon thinking of certain medications or procedures that were routinely performed during treatment. I try extra hard to suppress these when they occur, but it is very difficult. I consider it my own type of therapy to help me overcome what was once controlling my life. I work on thinking of the medicine, remembering what once caused terrible thoughts of chemotherapy to course through my head, and trying to associate it with some other feeling – like the sensation of satisfaction or completion. In my perspective, the root cause of my condition is caused by what was originally correlated with these thoughts. For example, every time I walk into the Vince Lombardi Clinic – where treatment was held – I smell that familiar scent of a sterile, hollow smell. This does not seem like much, but day after day of walking through those doors, breathing in that odor, and going on to get my medicine had left the scent in bad taste for me. This will be one of my biggest challenges. To date, I have no way of getting rid of this unity of scent and chemotherapy. I believe that this will likely be my final and most challenging hurdle on relinquishing my possible PTSD. If I can do so, I feel that I will be on the final leg of my recovery.
Since treatment, I am slowly trying to regain my normal life. Chemotherapy brought my life to a stand-still. It has been four months of challenging hardship – an experience I would not wish on the worst of enemies. It can destroy one’s life unless there is the constant presence of hope; hope that things will return to normal, life will go on, and someday it will all be a good story to tell. That hope is what I am clinging onto for dear life. It has been battered and bruised, tried and tested, but it still remains – and that is what will save me