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35th Engineer Battalion

John Meeks - Passes

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March 13, 2011
 
Dear friends,

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of John's death.  He went very peacefully this afternoon with our family at his side.  Two days ago his kidneys began to fail and he was too fragile for dialysis.  This morning the ICU doctor told us that everything possible had been done, but we had lost the fight.

His funeral will be at Collierville UMC this Saturday, and there will also be a memorial service at Andrew Price, hopefully the next Saturday.  Times are as yet undecided.

Thank you so much for the many prayers you sent up for John...and for me.

We love you all,
Marilyn

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January 26, 2011
 
When we saw Dr. Reddy on Monday, she did not like a couple of his lab numbers and ordered a bone marrow biopsy to see what was going on.  She called yesterday afternoon to tell us that the leukemia was showing up again in the marrow.  The result is that John will be admitted to Vanderbilt tomorrow for another round of induction chemo (4 weeks).  Needless to say, we are very disappointed.  Although, I have to admit, I was concerned that John had not had a consolidation round (maintenance chemo) for well over two months.  Initially Dr. Reddy told us that consolidation would be given every 3-4 weeks to keep him in remission until a donor became available.  I think the glitch in the whole process was donor availability.  Dr. Strickland had told us the last time John was in the hospital that recent studies had shown that transplant outcomes were more positive if the transplant did not follow closely on the heels of a consolidation treatment.  We think that the docs were reluctant to do consolidation because it appeared that the transplant was imminent.  Of course, that turned out to be wrong.  Dr. Reddy told us yesterday that donor #1 failed again to show up for a physical, and, since no one has heard anything from donor #2 since he/she was asked to come in for "typing" (whatever that is) on Dec. 20th, John is now considered to be without a donor.  The only bright spot in all this is that Dr. Reddy told us a donor is coming available in April.  Of course, if it's donor #1 or #2, that's nothing to get too excited about.

Anyway, that's how things stand now.  Tonight we are going to eat our last meal before "incarceration"--dinner with Matt, our son who lives here, and his wife Libby at a Mexican place.  When John does have the transplant, he will not be able to eat out at a Mexican restaurant for a year, so we're enjoying Mexican cuisine as much as we can now.  Tomorrow we are going to have breakfast at Waffle House before we go to the hospital.  He just loves those hash browns "scattered, covered, and smothered"!

We covet your prayers.

Blessings,
Marilyn
 

 John & Marilyn Meeks
1101 Bob White Lane
Mount Juliet, TN 37122
H  615-288-4161
C  615-681-3592
email: meeksmaj@comcast.com


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November 6, 2010

When Dr. Reddy came this morning, she seemed very hopeful that a new donor for John would be found.  We already knew that more than one "preliminary" match had been found the first time around, and
Dr. Reddy indicated that that was a good sign.  Of course, at this point we are grasping at anything that sounds positive, and we may be reading more into what she said than is warranted, but we felt a lot better about John's prospects after she left.

Our oldest son, Marcus, wanted us to ask again why children weren't tested, so she explained to us the genetics of sibling matches and offspring matches by drawing circles and stars on the whiteboard in John's room.  We tried to nod at all the right places, but I think she saw our eyes glazing over and put a merciful end to our misery.  Suffice it to say that children are no more likely to be a match than anyone else in the general population.

Several of you have asked about being tested.  Unfortunately, there is no way to be tested to see if you are a match for a specific person.  The only thing you can do is sign up with the bone marrow donor program (national registry).  To do that just involves giving a little blood, but once you are on the registry, then you could be called on to donate stem cells to someone you don't know. We have no way of knowing what happened to our donor--even Vanderbilt doesn't know--but I wonder if they signed up because a friend or loved one needed a stem cell transplant, and then, when they were called on for John, just decided they didn't want to go through the hassle of donating to someone they had no connection with.  Just speculation on my part...

As of now (8:30 p.m.) John has had a little over 24 hrs. of his second round of consolidation therapy.  This will keep him in remission for a while longer--until another donor is found.  He still feels fine and enjoyed the Alabama-LSU game earlier.  We are both looking forward to "falling back" tonight, since we are getting our usual broken sleep here in the hospital.  Every hour counts!

Sleepily yours,
Marilyn


 John & Marilyn Meeks
1101 Bob White Lane
Mount Juliet, TN 37122
H  615-288-4161
C  615-681-3592
email: meeksmaj@comcast.com


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                                              November 5, 2010

I am forwarding this email that John sent to our family.  It says it all, I guess.  I'm too depressed to write more right now.  At least we were admitted to Vanderbilt in a timely fashion--and on the 11th floor, too!

Blessings
Marilyn

The nurse practitioner assigned to monitor my case, called me this morning and told me that I had lost my donor.  As a result I will be admitted to Vanderbilt Hospital tomorrow morning to begin another round of "consolidation" chemo therapy.  She also told me that they would put my name back on the national bone marrow registry to begin the process of searching for another donor.  I must admit that we allowed ourselves to get excited about the prospects of the coming days only to be very disappointed.  I also have to admit that I, too, feel like I have taken a "shellacking." 
 
We will let you know when we know any other substantial information.  
 
Grace and peace,
John
 
John & Marilyn Meeks
1101 Bob White Lane
Mount Juliet, TN 37122
H  615-288-4161
C  615-681-3592
email: meeksmaj@comcast.com

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September 29, 2010
 
We have just finished two exhausting days of "hospital activities" but feel positive about the way things are moving along.  John had his last meeting with Dr. Reddy, his hematology oncologist, last Monday, and she told him that, from now on, he would be treated solely in the Stem Cell Transplant Clinic.  Our first appointment with them was yesterday, and we were given a two-day schedule for yesterday and today that included, lab work, an EKG, a chest x-ray, bone marrow biopsy, bone density test, and an assessment by a physical therapist (yesterday) and meetings with the transplant social worker, a financial counselor, the nurse practitioner, and the transplant doctor, a lung function test, and echocardiogram (today).  We arrived at Vanderbilt this morning at 8:30 and got home a little after 5:00, and both of us were ready to fall in the bed!

The good thing is we got a lot of our questions answered.  Unless there is an undue delay in the actual transplant, John will not have to have another round of consolidation.  We were pleased about that, since he ended up having a week of unexpected hospitalization after the first round.  So, we will probably have about three weeks of "peace" before preparations for the transplant begin.  Ten days before the day of the transplant (Day 0), he will start chemo as an outpatient.  On Day -3 he will be admitted to the hospital to receive stronger chemo over the 72 hours before Day 0.  He will be allowed to go home the day after the transplant, but we will return to Vanderbilt everyday for 30 days for evaluation.  For the next 100 days we will return to the SCT Clinic 2-3 days a week for evaluation.  After that, our visits will get further and further apart, if there are no complications.

One shocker is that John can't drive while he is on this one particular medication, and he will be on it for A YEAR!!!  I don't know if he can take the stress of my driving everywhere...and I don't know if I can take the stress of his telling me how fast to go, how close to follow, where to park, etc.  One of us may not make it to the end of the year!

He will be receiving a peripheral blood stem cell transplant rather than actual bone marrow.  The donor will get shots to build up his/her white blood cells and move the stem cells into the bloodstream.  The stem cells are harvested by drawing blood from the donor, and John will receive the transplant just like a blood transfusion. 

Joyce (his sister) and I are going to a caregiver's class next Tuesday from 9:00 - 12:30 to learn how to take care of him.

Thanks, once again, for all the prayers and good thoughts you are sending our way.

Marilyn




 John & Marilyn Meeks
1101 Bob White Lane
Mount Juliet, TN 37122
H  615-288-4161
C  615-681-3592
email: meeksmaj@comcast.com


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August 31, 2010
 
John was admitted to Vanderbilt yesterday for his first round of consolidation therapy.  We were so proud of ourselves--got here at 8:15 for his lab work, saw Dr. Reddy, and had the picc placed all by 11:00.  We were almost two hours ahead of schedule, so we had a leisurely lunch in the hospital cafeteria, then headed to admissions, where we proceeded to wait in the lobby for almost five hours because there was "no room in the inn."  Finally, after about 4 and 1/2 hrs., I went up to the 11th floor (hematology/oncology) to see what the deal was, and the charge nurse very sweetly told me there were no rooms available and we would be put in a room on the 8th floor, where chemo is also given to patients.  We got in the room a little after 6:00 pm.  What a bummer!!  No refrigerator, DVD player, coffee room, nor  "nutrition room" stocked with ice cream, sherbet, milk, juice, etc., for the taking.  Oh well, John will only be here until Thursday afternoon (about two days less than we thought), so we can take it.

One of the big differences will be that John won't feel the effects of the chemo until a few days after we get home.  Then his counts will bottom out and he will be very vulnerable to infection again.  In fact,
Dr. Reddy told us if his temperature hits 100.4, we are to come straight to the emergency room.  Guess we won't be going to the movies next week!

Sunday afternoon John met with the new pastor who will be at Andrew Price Sunday for about three hours.  He had known her through some programs the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences had held jointly before he came to Nashville.  She is also a member of the Nashville Emmaus community--another plus.  He said it was a very productive meeting and he feels good about having her replace him.  She is very open to our continuing to attend Andrew Price when we can.

Our next big hurdle is finding a bone marrow donor.  John's angiogram last Monday showed no blockage, so his heart is OK.  He has been recommended by the transplant committee and has signed the consent forms.  Now it is just a waiting game.  Dr. Reddy said it usually takes a month or two to find a match, sometimes longer.  Many thanks to all who have volunteered to be tested, but such random testing is not done because it is very expensive.  Jenn Newman has talked to me about organizing a bone marrow drive at church to correspond with our next blood drive, so we may do that if a match is not found in a timely fashion.  To be a match, 10 protein markers on the white blood cells must be the same.  Blood type is irrelevant.

Please pray that a donor is found.

Blessings to you all,
Marilyn




Rev. John E. Meeks
Pastor
Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church
2846 Lebanon Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
O  615-882-2321
C  615-681-3592
email: j.meeks@apmumc.net

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August 21, 2010
 
Well, we have good news and some not-so-good news.  The good news is that John's biopsy on Monday was clear, so he is set to start consolidation therapy on Monday, Aug. 30th.  The not-so-good news is that neither his sister nor his two brothers were a match.  We knew that there was only a 25% chance that one of them would be, but we had heard so many stories of those who had matches with siblings having a good outcome that we had really been optimistic...a little too optimistic, apparently.  The transplant committee will meet next week to decide whether or not to submit his name to the national registry to see if a match can be found there.  We suppose that if the committee thinks he has a good shot at a successful transplant, they'll submit his name, but we are not really sure how this works.

On Monday he is going to have an angiogram because of some scarring the cardiologist saw on the front of his heart when they did the stress test last week.  At least we'll know if he has any blocked arteries.  The docs want his heart to be in good shape going into the consolidation chemo.  A little good news on the heart front...his ejection fraction is now 53%, which is almost normal (55-70%), so his heart seems to be recovering from the damage caused by the first round of chemo.  The scarring the doc saw was old, not related to the chemo.

We are enjoying our few weeks of peace and quiet.  We had thought he would be back in the hospital by now for consolidation, but the heart business has delayed that a little.  John's been working in his garden a bit, and we went to a movie.  Tonight we are going to celebrate Libby's (daughter-in-law) birthday.   We have many blessings in our life, and we appreciate every one of them.

Love to you all,
Marilyn




Rev. John E. Meeks
Pastor
Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church
2846 Lebanon Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
O  615-882-2321
C  615-681-3592
email:
j.meeks@apmumc.net

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Greetings to all...

John has been home from the hospital a little over a week, and things are going well.  We did some running around today (Lowe's, Home Depot, and his office) and are back home.   Last night he trimmed some bushes in front of the house.  He hasn't taken a nap since Friday, his appetite returned about three days ago, and he seems to be getting stronger each day.  I cannot tell you how thankful we both are to have this period of respite at home. 

Last Wednesday we met with the oncologist and found out that his only hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant.  His sister and two brothers will be tested, but if one of them is not a match, we will have to go to the national registry.  Since the whole process takes about six months, including recovery time, he told the church yesterday that he will be going on disability leave as of September 1.  Their excitement at having him back turned to dismay with his announcement, but we both feel that it is not fair to the church for him to try to continue serving as pastor when he would be out so much during consolidation therapy and totally unable to work during the transplant and its aftermath.  His last sermon will be this Sunday.  We have loved serving at Andrew Price Memorial and have many friends there, but APM needs a full-time pastor to guide it as it seeks to be the Body of Christ in the Donelson community.

The next big thing, which I have mentioned before, is the bone marrow biopsy scheduled for next Monday (8/16).  If it is clear, John will be hospitalized for the first of his consolidation treatments.  Those will be for 5 days, followed by three weeks "off," then 5 more days of in-hospital treatment, followed by three weeks off.  That will continue until preparations for the transplant begin.  That could be soon--maybe as early as September if a sibling is a match--or several months down the road.

Thanks again for your continued prayers,
Marilyn




Rev. John E. Meeks
Pastor
Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church
2846 Lebanon Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
O  615-882-2321
C  615-681-3592
email: j.meeks@apmumc.net


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We got good news today, July 7, 2010.  The echocardiogram he had yesterday afternoon showed John's heart function is back up to 49% and his "wall" is moving like it should.  Apparently, with some kinds of heart damage, the wall of the heart has places that remain stiff and don't "beat," but his is working like it should.  I will say, though, that if you want to get the attention of the medical staff, just say you're having some pressure in your chest!  We have seen 6-7 different cardiologists since that episode on Saturday evening, and from what the doc said this morning, they intend to keep following him as an outpatient.

He's on his last bag of chemo and will finish about 6:30 tonight.  Then it's just a waiting game until the next biopsy, about a week from now, which will tell us how effective the 2nd round of chemo has been.
Still no nausea, but he does have a buzz cut now.

Blessings,
Marilyn

Rev. John E. Meeks
Pastor
Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church
2846 Lebanon Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
O  615-882-2321
C  615-681-3592
email:
j.meeks@apmumc.net


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Vanderbilt University Hospital
c/o Mr. John Meeks
1211 Medical Center Drive, Room 11010
Nashville, TN 37232.
 
Cell number 615-681-3592  

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I just received an email from Mrs. Marilyn that John was diagnosed with acute mylogenous leukemia on June 17th and entered Vanderbilt hospital to begin chemotherapy the next day.  He had gone in for a routine blood test because of a condition he has had for several years and the next morning the doctor called him to come in for a bone marrow biopsy.  Within an hour the doctor had given them the diagnosis and arranged for John to be admitted to the hospital.  He will be in for 4-6 weeks and then have four months of follow-up treatment--5 days each month.  Hopefully, that will put him into remission.
 
The good news according to Mrs. Marilyn is that John is not nauseated from the treatment, nor has he lost his hair--two things we were told would happen.  As the doctor says, though, this is a marathon and we are only at mile 4-5.  John has begun to feel achey and his appetite has waned (if you can imagine that!).  This is normal at this point in the treatment.  The purpose of the chemo is to kill off his red and white blood cells and his platelets, then hope his marrow makes good stuff to replace them.  They will give him red cells and platelets from other people, but he has to make his own white cells.  While his white count is down so low (basically 0), he will be very vulnerable to infection.

John is scheduled for another bone marrow biopsy on Thursday to see how well the chemo worked.  If he still has blast (cancer) cells, they will tweak the chemicals a little to better match the genetics of his particular blast cells, and he will go through another round.  They did the genetics test the day he was diagnosed, but the results didn't come back for five days, so this first round was the standard protocol given to everyone.  According the the booklet on AML we were given, it is pretty common for patients to have to go through the second round of chemo.

Mrs. Marilyn is making up a list of people to get updates on his condition, and I ask her to put me on the list.  Then I will forward the info on to the 35th group and you to keep updated on the website.  Please put updates on the website and ask for all those that can to put John in their prayers.  Also include Mrs. Marilyn in their prayers for strength in helping John through this hurddle.
 
Respectfully,
Rick Lee