Settling In

February 11, 2016

Just wanted to keep you up to date on how things are going….

We got home on Saturday, and we have slowly begun to settle in to a new routine at home. I’m currently under home hospice care, which means a team of folks are stepping in to assist Ellie with my care. We’re certainly grateful for their support! Also, my sister has come for a visit this week, and it has been great to have her in town with us.

I’m thankful for the fact that overall I’m feeling good physically, however weakness and shortness of breath continue to be major issues for me. I’m on oxygen around the clock, and that’s a significant help in my comfort.

I wish that I had the energy to visit personally with each one of you, but I know you understand and appreciate the fact that I’m just not up to all the visits. Your prayers, your cards, and your emails are awesome, and I love reading them all. Thank you so very much!

I’m not sure how much personal reflecting I’ll be doing in this blog…. I’m still sorting through all those reflections myself…. But I do want you to know that even in the midst of my illness I consider myself blessed in so many ways.

I started to list off my blessings, and perhaps one day soon I will, but I realized that the list goes on and on and on…. Too long for me to enumerate right now!

I’ll keep you posted on how things are going, but for now I want you to know how much your love and support means to us


A Difficult but Faithful Decision

February 5, 2016


Many of you know that for the past week I have been a patient at Northside Hospital undergoing tests for my cancer.

Yesterday, in consultation with my doctors, we made the difficult but faithful decision to suspend further treatment for my cancer.   Please know that this decision has not come easily or lightly. I have been battling cancer for 16 years, and in recent weeks it became clear that the there is no further treatment effective in dealing with the progression of the disease.

I’m headed home this weekend, and we will be transitioning into home hospice which will provide me comfort and palliative care in the days ahead.

I plan on writing more on my blog in the days to come to update you more on this decision, but I wanted to go ahead now and get the word out to you.

In those upcoming blogs, I’ll have the opportunity to express my thanks to you for your incredible support, your prayers, and your encouragement that have meant so much to me and my family over the years. In the meantime, I continue to solicit those prayers for me and for all my family.

Thanks so much for your care for me and for my family in the midst of these important decisions.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning: Great is your faithfulness.   Lamentations 3:21-23 


Steps Backward… Steps Forward

January 15, 2016

I’m in a time of transition with my cancer treatment, so I wanted to take a minute and keep you up to date.

As you may know, I started a new chemotherapy about four months ago. Unfortunately, this chemo was ineffective in stopping the progression of my disease. My latest PET scan showed slow, but persistent progression of the disease. Fortunately it has not spread to any new locations, but it is more intense and active in the existing locations.

Complicating things, my symptoms have grown worse as well. Weakness and shortness of breath have now become major limiting factors in my life. I am on oxygen virtually around the clock, and walking from the bedroom to the den is an exhausting adventure

Life is interesting around the Alderman household! Three times a day Ellie irrigates my two kidney drains, a rather simple procedure that only takes about 10 minutes each time. Staying up for the late night draining is the biggest problem! Every evening, however, Ellie has to drain my two lung drains, a procedure which takes about 90 minutes! Welcome to our world!

Just this week I started a new chemo which we hope will reverse the progression of the disease and ease my breathing. They also put me on a regime of steroids which should help improve my symptoms.

So on we go… Throughout my sixteen years of dealing with cancer I have continually been reassured that my disease is progressing at a slow rate. We’re grateful, as well, that research continues to discover new and exciting treatments for my cancer.

We’re in the middle of some tough days right now, but as we begin this new chemo we’re hopeful for good results and better days. Thank you for your continued prayers, support, and love. They mean more than you can ever know!

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:21-23


Home… Again!

December 5, 2015

I feel like a broken record in saying this, but it feels good… once again… to be home from a stay in the hospital. Ellie brought me home this afternoon after six days at Northside Hospital dealing with breathing issues.

As you probably know, one of the side effects I have been facing over the past year and a half has been the build up of fluid in the pleural sac – the area around my lungs. In recent weeks the situation became severe enough that I was winded merely walking across the room at home. Something had to be done.

On Monday of this week I checked into the hospital to begin a surgical procedure on my right lung called pleurodesis, and also to have a new drain inserted into my left lung cavity. The plan is to seal the right lung to the pleural sac so that fluid can no longer accumulate in that area and for Ellie to drain both chest catheters on a daily basis.   Following the pleurodesis operation, x-rays suggested that my right lung was trapped, meaning that it wouldn’t re-inflate to full size.

For the last three days I have undergone an around-the-clock series of treatments to help the trapped lung expand. It’s going to take several weeks before we know whether or not the procedure is a success, but early results seem favorable. I’m still very winded when I walk around without oxygen, but my oxygen saturation levels have risen significantly.

Just to add to the fun, one of my kidney drains clogged this week, so on Thursday afternoon I had a surgical procedure to replace both kidney drain tubes.

So for now, it’s good to be home. Basically I’m feeling okay, but breathing continues to be an issue. I have oxygen here at home, and use it as much as necessary. Hopefully soon this week’s procedures will pay dividends, and I’ll be breathing comfortably on my own.

In the meantime, thanks again for your prayers and your support as we continue through this Advent Season. I’m excited for you to get to know Mark Brewer, your new Interim Pastor. He’s an outstanding preacher, pastor, and leader, and you’ll enjoy getting to know him!

Thanks again for your encouragement and your prayers. I’ll keep you posted.



Thankful Along the Journey

November 21, 2015

As we head into Thanksgiving week, I continue to be thankful for the prayers and support of each of you which undergird my ongoing medical treatment. My hope is that the next few weeks will be less eventful than the past few.

Let me update you….

Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with a touch of pneumonia and also began having issues with my kidney drains clogging on several occasions. The week culminated with a spike in my fever and a late night trip to the emergency room which ended with a two night stay in the hospital where it was discovered that my kidneys had developed a yeast infection. This past Friday I had a surgical procedure to replace all of my internal kidney drains/tubes to ensure that all of the yeast infection was eliminated.

Last Sunday we flew to Pittsburgh for my every three month check up with my neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Getting to Pittsburgh was quite an ordeal! I’m still struggling mightily with shortness of breath, so wheelchair transport in the airports was greatly appreciated. I am now on oxygen at home, primarily at night, so we were fortunate that oxygen was able to be delivered to our hotel room for use while there.   Draining my chest catheter daily and irrigating both of my kidney drains three times a day takes many medical supplies… which alone took up an entire suitcase! Our son, Daniel, drove over from DC to help us out, and Ellie was once again amazing in all of her nurse duties!

Thankfully, the effort was worth it! Tests with the neurologist confirmed that there are no brain tumors present. All of the previous treatment has been effective in keeping them from returning. Needless to say, we are extremely thankful for the good news.

While in Pittsburgh we also had the opportunity to meet with an oncologist who is the head of the Breast Cancer Center at UPMC. His consultation was also very reassuring. He confirmed that my current course of treatment has been very appropriate, and he discussed with us a number of options which are coming down the road for future treatment.

So… on we go in this journey. Needless to say, we were relieved with the good reports in Pittsburgh. At the same time, I’m still dealing with continual fluid buildup around my lungs and the extreme shortness of breath that accompanies it. Because of my breathing issues my lifestyle is significantly impacted…. even going up the stairs at home is a monumental effort!

Nevertheless, on this Thanksgiving week, I continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude for so many blessings in the midst of this disease. During my sixteen year battle with cancer your prayers and encouragement have been invaluable along the way.

Along with that, I continue to be grateful for amazing medical treatment, for an incredible family, and, most of all, for a God who never deserts us even in the midst of our struggles.

Thanksgiving is a time for being grateful, and even in the midst of my illness I am keenly aware of all of the blessings surrounding me. We live in a broken world, and I join you in praying for all those whose lives are affected by that brokenness. May God be present in each person’s life to bring hope and comfort and peace.




Challenges Along the Journey

October 31, 2015

It has been over a week since I have been home from the hospital, but I have to be honest and let you know that my recovery has been slow at best.

Fatigue and weakness have been my primary issues, and my shortness of breath and accompanying cough have kept me from being able to do much exercise in my recovery. The shortness of breath is primarily the result of fluid which continues to build up around my lungs. I have a chest drain on one side which Ellie and I drain at home every 2-3 days.   I go to the hospital every Friday to have the other side drained in a procedure known as thoracentesis.

I’m also having to learn how to live with external kidney drains which I will very likely have for the rest of my life. To top it all off, I have just begun a new chemotherapy which is more toxic and causes more nausea and fatigue. Our hope, however, is that after a few rounds of this new chemo I may be able to internalize my kidney drains and not have to deal with the external drains anymore. That’s the hope!

In the meantime, there are bright spots in the midst of my physical issues. I continue to be overwhelmed by the level of medical care I am receiving. I’m so grateful for the insurance you provide to all your full time staff through the PC(USA) Board of Pensions. It has been invaluable.

I hate to single out particular people, but I will say that the professional care as well as the personal attention I have received at Georgia Cancer Specialists as well as Northside Radiology at Northside Hospital has been incredible. I have no doubt that I am surrounded by a team of competent, caring medical personnel.

On top of that, I’m grateful for the continued support and prayers I receive from each of you. The cards, the emails, the texts are all confirmation that I am not facing the battle alone. That means more than you can begin to know!

My family has been wonderful through this, and I’m so grateful for their support and encouragement. But most of all, I want to make sure you know how amazing Ellie has been. She is an outstanding nurse… irrigating my kidney drains daily, draining my lung fluid several times a week; checking and redoing bandages regularly; driving me to far too many doctor’s appointments. Caring for me is more than a part time job for her!

But even more, she has been my greatest support throughout this journey. She is there when my tears flow, and she is there when I need an encouraging word. She continues to be my rock, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I am absolutely confident that God is at work in all of these ways…. Through the medical staff, through each of you, through my family, and through the incredible care Ellie gives to me.

Cancer is brutal, but I’m not finished fighting it. This current setback is just that… a setback. It’s taking longer than I had wanted, but I am confident that I will regain my strength, and I will be back to some semblance of normalcy in my life.

In the meantime, thanks for allowing me to be honest with you! We’re family, and we share the celebrations as well as the challenges. I’m facing one of those life challenges right now, but with God’s help there will soon be a time of celebration.

I remind myself every day, and I hope you remember as well, that God is with us every step of the way!


In the Hospital… Again!

October 18, 2015

Except for visiting church members, I have carefully avoided hospitals for most of my life… until the past month, anyway!

I need to update you on my latest hospital stay.   A week ago last Friday I came in for some outpatient procedures which included a routine follow-up to my echocardiogram. The follow-up proved to be anything but routine!   It turns out there was a large amount of fluid in the sac around my heart which was making it difficult for my heart to pump effectively.

I was immediately admitted for monitoring, and on this past Monday I had surgery to cut a “window” in the sac around my heart to let the fluid drain off. The surgery was successful, but a by-product of the process was that I ended up retaining over 40 pounds of fluid throughout my entire body!   I’ve always been a little overweight, but by Wednesday I was looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy!

For the past few days, they have been carefully monitoring my medicine as they allow my body to get rid of that fluid. I’ve lost about 45 pounds in a little more than two days!

For now I’m still a patient at Northside Hospital, and they are continuing to monitor my kidney function and make some decisions about internalizing my kidney drains. I’m weak, but I’m working hard at walking regularly to keep some semblance of strength! Hopefully, I’ll be going home sometime the middle of this week.

The good news is that all of my current issues are entirely treatable, and I have an incredible team of medical folks working hard to restore a measure of health to my life. I’m so very thankful for the amazing medical care I am receiving.

I was grateful that you were able to give your new Interim Pastor such a warm welcome this morning. Mark Brewer is an outstanding minister, and I am so glad he will be leading this special family we call the Roswell Presbyterian Church!

In the meantime, Ellie and I continue to give thanks for your prayers, your support, your cards, and your words of encouragement. I wish I could thank each of you individually, but I hope you know how meaningful all of your love and concern has been. This continues to be a challenging journey, but with your support and God’s strength we’re going to make it… one day at a time!



%d bloggers like this: